Al Tompkins provides best practices & story ideas that you can localize & enterprise.

John Henry

Sox connection to Boston Globe could raise conflicts for journalists

When Red Sox majority owner John Henry takes ownership of The Boston Globe, its newsroom is likely to feel the glare of an old familiar public suspicion: that cross-ownership leads to favoritism.

This is not new ground for the Globe, since the New York Times Co. owned a minority share of the Red Sox from 2002 to 2012.

Red Sox and soon-to-be Boston Globe owner John Henry in his box at Fenway Park on Friday. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

“During that period,” The Globe’s Beth Healy writes, “the Globe continued its normal coverage of the team and routinely disclosed in news stories that the Times Co. was a partial owner of the Red Sox.

The Globe-Red Sox history also goes back further — all the way to the early 1900s, when members of the Taylor family owned the Red Sox and built Fenway Park.

Even so, the deal is sure to spark debate in journalism circles and among Globe readers about whether the Globe’s coverage of the Red Sox, which regularly includes critical commentary, will be affected.

Read more

Thursday, Aug. 01, 2013

Navigating the challenges of covering Ariel Castro hearing

Live television coverage gave worldwide audiences a peek into the horrors that unfolded for 13,226 days at the Cleveland, Ohio, house owned by Ariel Castro. Journalists have an obligation to cover the story thoroughly and carefully, knowing the graphic testimony will be hard for the public to handle.

While the hearing was going on, I asked fellow faculty member Kelly McBride, who has led Poynter seminars on covering sex abuse, to offer advice to journalists covering the story. McBride explains how journalists can help the audience digest the details of the hearing, and why journalists may ethically air the information about these rapes.

Today’s hearing reminds journalists that victims sometimes want to be heard. Michelle Knight, one of the young women Castro kidnapped, told the court: “After eleven years, I am finally being heard, and it is liberating.”

In a piece published in May, McBride offered a number of other guidelines for covering rape and sexual abuse:

Read more

Monday, July 15, 2013

San Francisco Airliner Crash

What KTVU-TV did right after its slip-up

It has been great sport all weekend for media critics to excoriate KTVU-TV in Oakland. There’s no denying KTVU made a big mistake. But when admitting to its mistakes, the station took an approach that other journalists should replicate.

Friday, KTVU aired the names of what it believed were pilots involved in the Asiana Airlines crash. The names were fake, offensive puns that slur Asians and insult victims.  KTVU did not say where the names originated but did say it confirmed the names with the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB later apologized and said a summer intern had confirmed the names.

Today, KTVU News Director Lee Rosenthal (whom I’ve known for several years) told me the station cannot say more about the incident because Asiana Airlines says it plans to sue the station for harming its reputation. It’s worth noting that he could have sent me an email denying my interview request, or he could have had a third party call me. Read more


Saturday, July 06, 2013


Helpful tools journalists can use to monitor Asiana Airlines crash

When news broke that an Asiana 777 airliner crashed at San Francisco’s airport Saturday, I used some remarkable tools to start nailing down what happened and what would happen next. Here’s an overview of some of them.

Live ATC

LIVE ATC, a site that records and monitors Air Traffic Control towers, posted the audio of the last transmissions from the plane and the tower. You can listen to it here.


As you listen to the audio of the last transmissions from the Asiana Airlines pilot after he crash landed, it can be difficult to know what all of the lingo like “heavy” means. Flightpath offers a helpful glossary of aviation terms. The Federal Aviation Administration has a pilot/controller glossary.

Here’s a link to the official first report of the 1993 Asiana crash from ASIAS, the FAA Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing data file.


One of the most invaluable tools was Geofeedia, which allowed me a draw a circle around the tarmac and airport terminal to find people posting pictures, tweets and Facebook posts. Read more


Tuesday, June 04, 2013


Miami Herald reporter covers Guantanamo Bay for 12 years, with no end in sight

Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg has been covering the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba for twelve years.

“The only people who have been at Gitmo longer than me are the prisoners,” she said in a recent phone interview.

As she packs her bags to return to Cuba in the coming weeks, she will arrive for the start of hurricane season. Her cellphone video of Hurricane Sandy shredding her tent at Gitmo last year is still fresh on her mind. She has no hopes of breaking a huge story or landing a newsmaking interview — at Gitmo, stories come in the form of tiny details.

It was her short video of a garbage can that helped prove the existence of a growing hunger strike at the detention camp. When that’s your beat, the little details are all you have to work with.

Covering a story with little to no access

Rosenberg cannot interview the prisoners. Read more


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mary Fallin, Albert Ashwood

Oklahoma governor thanks media for tornado coverage

Okla. Gov. Mary Fallin thanked her state’s media Tuesday for saving lives with early storm warnings and non-stop coverage of the recovery efforts. “I just want to thank the media for all that you’ve done to help our community get information that’s critical at a time like this,” Fallin said in a press conference. “So thank you so much for helping with the weather and disaster services and being able to help in our search and rescue. We appreciate you.”

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb called TV station meterologists “top notch and first-rate.” KFOR, KWTV, KOCO, KOKH along with local radio and news websites like NewsOk have, as the governor said, no doubt saved lives.

The storms found two Oklahoma City TV stations between news directors. KOCO is advertising for a news director and KFOR’s new news director arrives next week from Tulsa. But neither lacked for leadership.

The Vital Role of Online and Mobile

When I spoke with him Tuesday morning, an exhausted-sounding KFOR Interim News Director Steve Johnson was juggling the demands of coordinating another day of storm cleanup and what will likely be another afternoon of heavy storms. Read more


Friday, Apr. 19, 2013

Police Coverage Mass

How journalists are covering the news unfolding in Boston

Boston journalists were awake through the night as they covered the tragic news unfolding in and around their city.

As the country awakes today, it will discover that the person who police believe is “Suspect #1″ in the Boston bombing is dead. The man believed to be “Suspect 2″ is on the run. The men are reportedly brothers.

A timeline of what happened

Around 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday, an MIT police officer was shot and killed. campus officer was shot multiple times while in his cruiser. A transit police office was injured from gunfire. A door-to-door 20-block search was underway at dawn. The MTBA transit service is closed.

Only six hours after the FBI released photos of the two suspects in the Boston bombing,  someone reportedly robbed a convenience store and Cambridge police responded. To get a sense of the chaos that ensued overnight, listen to these chilling police radio transmissions. Read more


Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013


Let’s remember Richard Jewell as we cover Boston ‘suspects’

The New York Post is running a front page headline “Bag Men” with what is reported to be an image of men it says feds are looking for. One of the young men in the Post’s front-page image has since spoken out to ABC to say he was “shocked to see his face pop up on television and all over social media.”

The story accompanying the Post’s front page article says:

“The attached photos are being circulated in an attempt to identify the individuals highlighted therein,” said an e-mail obtained by The Post. “Feel free to pass this around to any of your fellow agents elsewhere.”  The tabloid goes on to say that authorities have “identified two potential suspects.”

Gawker’s Max Read reports that Redditors “managed to figure out pretty quickly that the guy in the blue track jacket almost certainly isn’t a bomber.” Reddit, one of the places where the photos were first seen, has a list of innocent suspects and has been pleading with users not to use the pictures or name the people in them.

Read more

Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Explosion

Covering what comes next in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon explosions

In the days ahead, journalists will need to be excellent as they cover the aftermath of the Boston Marathon explosions, which have injured more than 100 people and left three dead.

Here are some ingredients of excellence, along with related tips.

Clearly tell the public what you know and what you do not know. With a story like this — one that changes by the hour — do not assume the public is up to date.

Don’t just keep adding information to your online stories. Every once in a while, do a total rewrite, not just a new top to the story. Otherwise, essential information can get pushed down in the story. When you make corrections or changes to your online stories, bring attention to them. For example, as the number of injured or fatalities changes, mention that you have updated that figure. If you have reported information that did not pan out, point that out. Read more


Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013


Daytona crash video tests fair use, copyright for fans and journalists

NASCAR’s attempt to have a fan video of Saturday’s horrific Daytona crash removed from YouTube is a perfect example of the pressures that journalists face daily, says Mickey Osterreicher, a former news photographer who is now a lawyer and general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA).

Fans like Tyler Andersen, who recorded the crash video, are signing over their rights to do whatever they wish with the still images, videos and audio they record during sporting events. If they read their tickets, “fans can see that they [may] give up their copyrights,” Osterreicher said by phone Sunday. “The tickets say NASCAR owns anything the fans capture as pictures, video or sound.”

Similarly, journalists feel forced to sign over their rights to cover all sorts of events — from high school competitions to professional sports. The American Society of News Editors lists the most common restrictions, which, increasingly, are tilting away from free and open coverage and toward severely restricted access. Read more