5 journalism tips from Mark Leibovich

Leibovich. Credit: Ralph Alswang

Leibovich. Credit: Ralph Alswang

Mark Leibovich says his 2013 book, “This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital,” did not make his job harder.

“Its actually been easier,” The New York Times Magazine’s chief national correspondent said in a recent phone interview. “One of the interesting things about the book is everybody seems to think it’s about everybody else.”

The book certainly didn’t seem to affect his relationship with former GOP nominee Mitt Romney. In fact, Romney — who himself gets 11 mentions in “This Town” — recently invited Leibovich into his summer home for a nearly 2,500-word profile that ran Sept. 30.

So how does Leibovich maintain access to contacts like Romney in a town he spends his professional life turning upside down? Liebovich offered tips on running a precarious beat, conducting productive interviews and holding onto his outsider status while chasing insider information.

  1. To get access, think carefully about your pitches
  2. Leibovich still remembers scoring an interview with Sen. Marco Rubio in 2012, when rumors abounded he was mulling a run for president. Rubio was a highly courted interview subject back then, due in part to the presidential hype, and so was stubbornly “resisting a blitz of news media interest“. Like the rest of D.C.’s press corps, Leibovich wanted access. But unlike them, he had an edge.

    “I knew he loved football,” Leibovich said. “And not only did he love football, but he had this incredible, obsessive interest with the Miami Dolphins.”

    So, Leibovich reached out to Rubio’s camp and asked: Would the senator be interested in attending a Dolphins game with him? To sweeten the deal, Leibovich agreed to a ground rule not to ask questions about politics. Rubio agreed, and the trip resulted in a 2,500-word takeout that added personal dimensions to a national political figure.

    When Leibovich snagged an interview with Romney for his recent profile, the strategy was similar. Knowing that he and the former GOP nominee shared a sense of amusement over the unforeseen demand he’d found himself in as the election creeped closer, he reached out to Romney’s people with a pitch along those lines and got a green light.

    The lesson? When crafting pitches for sought-after subjects, do your research and think of an angle they’ll be receptive to, Leibovich said. They might not agree, but there’s a chance you’ll get lucky.

    “It’s hit or miss,” he said. “Many, many people say no. And I’m always surprised that as many people say yes as they do.”

  3. During interviews, keep your options open
  4. When Leibovich agreed to take politics off the table during his interview with Rubio, he was making a rare exception, he said. Leibovich tries to go into interviews with as much freedom as possible.

    When handlers or press people ask him whether he can submit questions in advance, Leibovich demurs, preferring to see where the interview goes. Though he researches his subjects in advance and has some idea of what he wants to ask, Leibovich leaves his conversations open-ended in the hopes he’ll find something to seize upon.

    “I’ve always been, for better or worse, a big proponent of winging it and sort of trusting that your experience or your holy terror will lead to something that’s worthwhile,” Leibovich said.

    Take, for example, the time he was watching the Dolphins game with Rubio. Right before an important play began, Leibovich decided to ask the senator point-blank whether he was running for president, clearly flouting the one ground rule for their conversation: No questions about politics. Although Rubio didn’t announce his electoral plans then and there, he didn’t abort the interview, either.

    “Trust your inner wiseass if it feels right,” Leibovich said. “Because you never know what it’s going to yield.”

  5. When writing, ‘keep your ass in the chair’
  6. Leibovich’s writing process — if it could be called that — goes something like this: he sits down to a blank screen without an outline, confronted by the empty space in front of him. Then, he writes the top of the story, something he’s perfectionistic about. After that, he pounds away at the keyboard until he has a draft.

    Although he prefers to be immersed in a busy newsroom while reporting, Leibovich says he likes to be left alone while writing. And he resists giving his editors a sneak peak at his work before it’s ready because early feedback will “stick in his head” and make turning out a draft more difficult.

    “Don’t be afraid of a really really shitty draft because it’s always preferable to empty space,” Leibovich said.

    When writing, he tries to cut down on distractions, leaving only dictionary.com and an online thesaurus open on his browser, rewarding himself with the occasional peek at Twitter or ESPN.com. This simple act — “keeping your ass in the chair” and gutting out a story — has “never been more important from a pure, getting-over-procrastination standpoint,” Leibovich said.

  7. Hold on to your independence
  8. Leibovich frequently acknowledges that he belongs to the media-political class he’s made his professional bones dissecting. In his 2010 profile of Mike Allen, Politico’s chief White House correspondent, Leibovich fesses up to being part of the insider-y Playbook community, having once alerted Allen that he “spotted” former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at an organic Chinese restaurant.

    And in the beginning of “This Town,” Leibovich writes that he is “part of this culture” that “reinforces my worst tendencies at times — vanity, opportunism, pettiness.”

    Journalists everywhere battle to separate their own values and allegiances from those held by the people on their beat, and that battle can be particularly difficult in D.C., where there’s “so much cross-pollination between the media class and the political class and the PR class and the business class,” Leibovich said.

    The solution? Struggle against it, Leibovich said. Yes, there are basic rules: Don’t accept outrageously valuable gifts you can’t pay for and avoid conflicts of interest. But ultimately, remaining independent is “more a matter of psychic discipline than anything else.”

  9. Focus on the next story
  10. One of the most common myths of reporting is that the work is easier for the journalist in the cubicle next to you, Leibovich said. In fact, it’s a slog for nearly everyone.

    Even with a well-received book, a portfolio of trenchant profiles and a job at The New York Times, Leibovich says he constantly fears doing crummy work. And that — combined with an appreciation for the fun he gets to have — gets him into the office every day.

    “What gets me out of bed is the next story,” Leibovich said. “I live very much in fear of not doing good stories. So I guess there will always be that.”

    The best journalists are restless, never satisfied, and thirsty to prove that their record of accomplishments isn’t just dumb luck, he said.

    “On some level, all of us tend to believe that every success we’ve ever had in the field has been a fluke,” Leibovich said in an email to Poynter. “We need to work even harder the next time to prevent this fraud we’re perpetrating on the world from being exposed.”

    Mark Leibovich is the author of the forthcoming book “Citizens of the Green Room,” due out Nov. 13

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Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, Anders Gyllenhaal, Alexandra Zayas among additions to Poynter’s National Advisory Board

The Poynter Institute announced Thursday the addition of five journalism leaders to its National Advisory Board, including Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, senior editor for strategy at The New York Times and Anders Gyllenhaal, vice president of news at the McClatchy Company.

Each of the board members have gained widespread recognition for their work and developed reputations as journalism innovators, Poynter president Tim Franklin said in a release accompanying the announcement.

“They’ll be invaluable partners for Poynter as we transform the institute to make it even more relevant and useful for media executives, practitioners, educators and students,” Franklin said. “We’ll benefit greatly from having their expertise and knowledge on the advisory board.”

The new members will each serve two-year terms on the 10-person board, which advises Poynter’s faculty and staff on trends shaping various media industries. They replace current board members whose terms expire at the beginning of the year.

Here’s the full list of new board members:

  • Arthur Gregg Sulzberger: Sulzberger is the primary author of The New York Times innovation report and the senior editor for strategy at The New York Times.
  • Anders Gyllenhaal: Gyllenhaal is the vice president of news at the McClatchy Company and former editor of the Miami Herald (2007 to 2010) and the Minnseapolis Star Tribune (2002 to 2007).
  • Lori Bergen: Bergen is the dean of the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University and was named 2014 Journalism and Mass Communication Administrator of the Year by the Scripps Howard Foundation. She is also the incoming president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
  • Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: As managing editor of digital at The Washington Post, Garcia-Ruiz is The Post’s chief strategist for digital execution and the newsroom’s top liaison with business operations for digital programs.
  • Alexandra Zayas: Zayas, a reporter for The Tampa Bay Times, has won several prizes for her investigative reporting, including the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. She was a 2013 Pulitzer finalist for a series of stories that investigated abusive conditions at unlicensed religious group homes.

The following members are leaving Poynter’s National Advisory Board at the beginning of the year:

  • Philip Bennett, director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke University.
  • David Boardman, dean of Temple University’s School of Media and Communication.
  • Mónica Guzmán, a columnist at The Seattle Times.
  • David Nordfors, president and co-founder of IIIJ.
  • Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute.
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Callie Schweitzer named editorial director for audience strategy at Time Inc.

Time Inc. has named Callie Schweitzer its editorial director for audience strategy, Time Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs and Time Inc. EVP Todd Larsen tell staffers in a memo (below).

Schweitzer joined Time last August after hitches at Vox Media and Talking Points Memo. In her new role she’ll “continue to oversee the social team, editorial technology, content partnerships and newsletters at TIME while working on a variety of digital initiatives at the corporate level,” the memo says.

RELATED: Fortune magazine triples amount of online content even as Time Inc. cuts costs

We are delighted to announce that Callie Schweitzer has been named Editorial Director, Audience Strategy for TIME and Time Inc.

In a remarkably short time, Callie has come to play a unique role across departments, and, increasingly, across brands at Time Inc. Though based in TIME editorial, she has from almost day one worked with executives and editors throughout the company to help identify new digital opportunities and expand our existing audiences.

This promotion for Callie formalizes that role. She will continue to oversee the social team, editorial technology, content partnerships and newsletters at TIME while working on a variety of digital initiatives at the corporate level. She will have a dual report to Time Inc. Chief Content Officer Norman Pearlstine and to Time.com Managing Editor Edward Felsenthal.

Since joining TIME last year, Callie has been a key leader on the team driving the expansion of Time.com. In overseeing the social team, she has led the site to a record 20 million monthly social referrals, a 227% increase over last year. TIME’s combined social followings now exceed 20 million, the largest at Time Inc. Its daily newsletter, The Brief, has more than 600,000 subscribers with open rates averaging 40%, nearly twice the industry average.

Prior to joining Time Inc., Callie was Director of Marketing and Communications at Vox Media, publisher of The Verge, SB Nation and Polygon. There, she helped introduce and launch Polygon, the video game vertical, and Vox Creative, an in-house creative services wing. Before that, Callie was Deputy Publisher of Talking Points Memo, responsible for mobile, video and content partnerships and increasing audience growth. She has written for a variety of outlets. Named two years in a row as one of Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 in Media, Callie is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism—and was for two summers an intern at People.

Please join us in wishing Callie every success in her new role.

Best,

Nancy and Todd

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Peter Lattman named deputy business editor at The New York Times

New York Times media editor Peter Lattman will be deputy business editor at the paper, according to a memo from New York Times Business editor Dean Murphy:

Peter will come back to the 2nd floor wearing two hats. He will direct our media coverage along with Bill Brink and Craig Hunter, while also applying his smarts and journalistic skills as deputy editor to our broader business report.

Here’s the full memo:

About a year ago, Peter moved upstairs to become media editor. He quickly combined a hotshot crew of Times veterans and newcomers who have continued to make the media report essential reading across the paper. None of that is changing, except for the upstairs part.

Peter will come back to the 2nd floor wearing two hats. He will direct our media coverage along with Bill Brink and Craig Hunter, while also applying his smarts and journalistic skills as deputy editor to our broader business report. Peter’s knowledge of business, Wall Street and beyond is deep, having been a reporter for DealBook, The Wall Street Journal and, back in the day, a money guy at Goldman Sachs (and even a lawyer before that).

Media reporters will continue to write for BizDay, Culture and other sections, with Mr. Media himself, David Carr, anchoring the Monday business report. More broadly, the media team will benefit from greater interaction and crosspollination with reporters and editors from tech, DealBook and the other clusters — and vice versa. In short, we’ll see collaboration, elevation and innovation among a whole new mix of talented reporters and editors.

I’m very excited to have Peter at my side as we think ambitiously and creatively about how best to tell the story of business and the economy in our changing media landscape. Equally important, we both feel great responsibility as stewards of our storied media report, ensuring that it grows only stronger, more vibrant and remains central to the journalistic mission of The Times.

Dean

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Former AP editor sues over dismissal that followed retracted story

Style Weekly

Dena Potter has filed suit against the Associated Press, saying “she was unjustly fired for an error in a story edited by another staffer,” Ned Oliver reports for Style Weekly.

Potter was Bob Lewis’ editor in Richmond, Virginia, but says in the suit she did not work on the story that led to his dismissal, which claimed that then gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe lied during a federal investigation.

AP retracted the story. AP fired Potter, Lewis and another editor, Norm Gomlak.

Potter’s suit says Gomlak and Lewis worked on the story, and that she was “busy working with a reporter on another story, a shooting at a courthouse in West Virginia,” Oliver reports. She is seeking damages of $950,000 plus court costs, he writes.

Reached via email, AP spokesperson Paul Colford had no comment. Read more

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Could Sun-Times reporter’s resignation affect governor’s race?

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Will Sun-Times reporter’s resignation shake Illinois governor’s race? Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney quit publicly yesterday, saying the paper suspended him after Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner — a former investor in the Sun-Times’ parent company — tried to get a story squashed because he’s married to a Democratic consultant. (Dave McKinney’s blog) | Sun-Times EIC Jim Kirk responds: “I call the shots. While I’ve been here, our ownership and management have never quashed a story and they have always respected the journalistic integrity of this paper.” (Poynter) | To make this story even more gothic, the Sun-Times endorsed Rauner last Friday, breaking a policy it set in early 2012. | “But, at a minimum, the ongoing story certainly will give the [campaign of Rauner's Democratic opponent, Gov. Pat Quinn] an enormous platform to charge that Mr. Rauner is against not just poor people but freedom of the press,” Greg Hinz writes. (Crain’s Chicago Business)
  2. OK, it’s time to pay attention to Gamergate: The online movement, which opposes…something “has declared another victory after software maker Adobe implicitly condemned a recent series of tweets from Gawker writer Sam Biddle that made fun of the Gamergate movement.” (Re/code) | Gawker Editor-in-Chief Max Read writes: “I’ve been told that we’ve lost thousands of dollars already, and could potentially lose thousands more, if not millions.” Read says he feels like “went to sleep in the regular world and woke up in an insane new one where ‘bullying’ is something that it’s possible to be seriously and sincerely ‘for.’” Nevertheless, brands like Intel and Adobe have proven themselves “willing to distance themselves from independent publishers over the spurious claims of a limited but dedicated group of misogynists and trolls.” (Gawker) | “Adobe walks into Gamergate, staggers around confusedly” (Boing Boing)
  3. A little bit more on Ben Bradlee: He struggled with issues of race and sex in the newsroom. (Maynard Institute) | Rachel Jones remembers how Bradlee pushed her to take a Washington Post internship and basically willed her into employment as a journalist. “We have GOT to make an effort to include voices besides our own in this goddamned newspaper,” she remembers him saying. (LinkedIn) | “If there was one happy facet of the [Janet] Cooke affair, it was that the mistake of one young reporter cleared the way for the success of another,” Jon Campbell writes: The Village Voice got its first Pulitzer after the Post returned Cooke’s prize, for Teresa Carpenter‘s story about Dorothy Stratten, “Death of a Playmate.” (The Village Voice) | Bradlee’s tenure at the Post should be viewed in relation to his slimly acknowledged competition with Jim Bellows at the Washington Star. “Bellows might have gotten a bigger send off when he died at the age of 86 in 2009 had Bradlee had preceded him in death,” Jack Shafer writes. “But, no, Bradlee was the last giant standing, and according to the rules of the game, he who dies last gets the biggest funeral pyre. Bellows would understand completely.” (Reuters) | Media myths creep into Bradlee obits. (Media Myth Alert)
  4. Anderson Cooper swats reporter who asked for selfie with him: Vandon Gene requested a photo with the CNN anchor at the site where a Canadian soldier was killed yesterday. (The Blaze) | “I can’t believe any station employs you, and if you want to be a journalist, learn how to behave when covering a story.” (@andersoncooper)
  5. NYT may have lots of takers for buyouts: Guild rep Grant Glickson tells Keith J. Kelly “There were over 300 requests,” by members to look at the company’s severance packages. (NYP) | The company is looking to shed 100 jobs. (Poynter) | “‘Some people who were undecided about leaving, or just curious, didn’t want to request the paperwork because they worried (correctly or not) that it would put targets on their backs,’ Times higher education reporter Richard Pérez-Peña, a Guild vice chair, wrote Thursday in a post on Facebook. ‘To protect those people, some of my colleagues suggested that EVERYONE should ask for it. Suddenly, the number soared, but most of those people have no intention of leaving.’” (Capital)
  6. Why did Politico Magazine let a BP PR exec write a story about pollution in the Gulf? Geoff Morrell‘s story, “No, BP Didn’t Ruin the Gulf,” is “Free native advertising,” Erik Wemple writes. (WP) | “As of Wednesday afternoon, Morrell’s piece is now filed to the ‘Opinion’ section of Politico Magazine. The story was earlier filed to ‘Environment’ and not clearly marked as an Opinion piece.” (Newsweek)
  7. Roman Mars’ advice for indie radio producers: “The most fundamental thing is own your work.” (Capital)
  8. A road trip in North Korea: Eric Talmadge took a monitored trip through the Hermit Kingdom: “At the best hotels in cities such as Hamhung, Samjiyon and Chongjin, the places where we stayed as our journey proceeded through the hinterlands, the rooms, replete with doilies and cushy velvet-covered chairs, were clean, the decor retro Soviet and the food plentiful. But the vintage TVs, when they worked, offered only one channel.” (AP)
  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare: “Attacked,” on the front of the Globe and Mail. (More Canadian front pages here.)

    globeandmail-10232014  

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Rachel Zarrell is now news editor at BuzzFeed News. Previously, she was a weekend editor there. (‏@rachelzarrell) | Ben Calhoun is now director of content and programming at WBEZ in Chicago. Previously, he was a producer for “This American Life.” (Robert Feder) | Ada Guerin is now creative director at The Wrap. Previously, she was design director and associate art director at The Hollywood Reporter. (The Wrap) | Jose Zamora is now on the board of directors of the Online News Association. He is director of strategic communications at Univision Network. (ONA) | Carla Zanoni will be global audience development director at The Wall Street Journal. Previously, she was director of social media and engagement at DNAinfo.com. (Carla Zanoni) | Tara Adiseshan is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at The New York Times and The Washington Post. Previously, she worked on search design at Autodesk and conducted research focused on harvesting rainwater in India. Juan Elosua is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at La Nacion. He is a telecommunications engineer and data journalist. Livia Labate is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at NPR. Previously, she led Marriott’s digital standards and practices group. Linda Sandvik is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at The Guardian. Previously, she worked in local government. Julia Smith is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting. Previously, she was a designer and developer on news sites and mobile applications. Francis Tseng is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at The New York Times and The Washington Post He currently teaches at the New School’s Design + Journalism program. (dansinker.com) | Jon Garinn is now medical editor of the radiology administration department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Previously, he was managing editor of CURE Magazine. (email) | Job of the day: Politico is looking for a lobbying reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

Suggestions? Criticisms? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Read more

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P-Pod

Today in Media History: Apple’s Steve Jobs introduces the iPod in 2001

The iPod, Apple’s hard disk-based digital audio player, was introduced by Steve Jobs on October 23, 2001.

“‘With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go,’ said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. ‘With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.’”
– An excerpt from the original Apple iPod press release

Screenshot from iPod introduction video, 2001

Screenshot from iPod introduction video, 2001

“Now, with the introduction of the sleek little iPod, a $399 personal digital-music player, Steve has finally built a widget. About the size of a pack of cigarettes, the iPod is more than just a portable sound machine, however. It’s a new kind of gadget that has the potential to change how we think about personal audio-entertainment gizmos, much as Sony’s first pocket-sized transistor radio did in 1958, and the Sony Walkman portable stereo tape player did 20 years later. The progeny of an eight-month crash-development project, the iPod also vividly illustrates how Apple’s engineering and software skills could make it a force to be reckoned with in the consumer electronics business long dominated by leviathans like Sony and Matsushita.”

— “Apple’s 21st-Century Walkman CEO Steve Jobs thinks he has something pretty nifty. And if he’s right, he might even spook Sony and Matsushita”
Fortune Magazine, November 12, 2001

A video of the Steve Jobs iPod introduction:

“Steve Jobs noticed something earlier this year in New York City. ‘I was on Madison,’ says Apple’s CEO, ‘and it was, like, on every block, there was someone with white headphones, and I thought, Oh, my God, it’s starting to happen.’ Jonathan Ive, the company’s design guru, had a similar experience in London: ‘On the streets and coming out of the tubes, you’d see people fiddling with it.’ And Victor Katch, a 59-year-old professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan, saw it in Ann Arbor. ‘When you walk across campus, the ratio seems as high as 2 out of 3 people,’ he says.

They’re talking about the sudden ubiquity of the iPod, the cigarette-box-size digital music player (and its colorful credit-card-size little sister, the Mini) that’s smacked right into the sweet spot where a consumer product becomes something much, much more: an icon, a pet, a status indicator and an indispensable part of one’s life. To 3 million-plus owners, iPods not only give constant access to their entire collection of songs and CDs, but membership into an implicit society that’s transforming the way music will be consumed in the future.”

— “iPod Nation
Newsweek, July 26, 2004

Here is a 2006 Discovery Channel documentary about the iPod. (This clip is part two. Click here to see the rest of the program.)

The iPod era, which began on October 23, 2001, is coming to a close. Recently Mashable posted a story called, “Requiem for an iPod Classic.”

“Amid all the new products it introduced on Tuesday, Apple also quietly but officially retired the iPod classic.

This was more than a little ironic, considering U2′s appearance alongside Tim Cook with a splashy new Apple video that recalled the iPod silhouettes campaign from the mid-2000s. Indeed, the U2 ad feels like an homage to what is still one of the most successful consumer electronics products ever (which also came in a U2 edition).

Although the end of the iPod classic hardly comes as a surprise — Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff wrote a eulogy for the device back in January — we can’t help but greet the reality that Apple has retired its hard disk-based MP3 player lineup with a twinge of sadness.

Sure, the iPod nano, iPod touch and iPod shuffle still exist. But for many of us, the traditional iPod still holds a special place in our heart. It’s not a stretch to say that without the original iPod, Apple as we know it would not exist.”

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‘Attacked’: Newspapers in Canada on the Ottawa shooting

Newspapers in Canada led with big images and headlines about Wednesday’s shooting in Ottawa. Here’s are a few of them, via Newseum.

Ottawa Citizen, in Ottawa:

CAN_OC

The Globe and Mail, in Toronto:

CAN_TGAM

Montreal Gazette, in Montreal:

CAN_MG

The Hamilton Spectator, in Hamilton:

CAN_HS

The Calgary Sun, in Calgary:

CAN_CS Read more

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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

Reporter quits Sun-Times, cites ‘chilling effect in the newsroom’

Dave McKinney’s blog | Crain’s Chicago Business

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney has resigned from the newspaper, saying, “I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me” in a letter to Michael Ferro, chairman of Sun-Times owner Wrapports LLC.

McKinney was the paper’s Springfield bureau chief and was suspended for five days last week after a Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bruce Rauner, complained about a story on which he co-bylined, because he’s married to a Democratic consultant.

In his post, McKinney calls that suspension “a kind of house arrest that lasted almost a week” and says “It was pure hell.” The Sun-Times later broke with its recent tradition of not endorsing candidates and endorsed Rauner, who is a former investor in Wrapports.

“Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper,” McKinney writes. He continues:

They need to know a wall exists between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published. A breach in that wall exists at the Sun-Times.

It’s had a chilling effect in the newsroom. While I don’t speak for my colleagues, I’m aware that many share my concern.

“It is with reluctance that I accept Dave McKinney’s resignation,” Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk said in an email to Poynter. He continued:

As recently as this Monday on our Op/Ed page, I stated that Dave is among the best in our profession. I meant it then and I mean it now. The pause we took last week was to ensure there were no conflicts of interest and was taken simply to protect Dave McKinney, the Sun Times and its readers as we were under attack in a heated political campaign. We came to the right result, found the political attacks against us to be false and we stand by our reporting, our journalists and this great newspaper.

I disagree with Dave’s questioning the integrity of this newspaper and my role as editor and publisher. I call the shots. While I’ve been here, our ownership and management have never quashed a story and they have always respected the journalistic integrity of this paper.

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Billy Penn launches desktop, mobile sites

Billy Penn

Jim Brady’s new local-news startup, Billy Penn, launched Wednesday, carrying a note saying its site is still in beta.

The homepage currently features Philadelphia stories mostly drawn from other news outlets, although there are two stories reported by Billy Penn reporters and curators.

The homepage of Billy Penn's desktop site.

The homepage of Billy Penn’s desktop site.

Although the site debuted Wednesday, Billy Penn has been building a following on email and social media in advance of the launch. The news organization has been on Twitter and Facebook for a couple months and has been delivering a weekday newsletter to subscribers for the past five weeks, according to an introductory letter from Billy Penn Editor Chris Krewson and Brady.

RELATED: Brady takes another shot at local journalism with new venture

The letter also lays out a few fundamental guiding principles for the site. Among them: the staff will link out to stories rather than over-aggregating the work of others; the site will allow audience members to track specific stories using a “follow” button that will send out relevant email alerts; and that it will eschew comments for the time being (“It’s our opinion that interaction is moving into a ‘post-comments’ period”). The site’s advertising section notes that Billy Penn will offer native advertising as well as “in moment” ads and themed sponsorships.

This is Brady’s second attempt at starting up a local news site in a large metropolitan city. He presided over the creation of TBD in 2010, but that venture did not last very long. Read more

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‘It ain’t necessarily so’: 7 quotes from Ben Bradlee in 1986

In 1986, Poynter’s Newsleaders series filmed an interview with Ben Bradlee, then editor of The Washington Post. Bradlee died on Tuesday, October 21, at the age of 93.

You can see the full interview, in which Bradlee talks about Watergate, the Pentagon Papers and his partnership with Katharine Graham.

Here are seven things he said from that interview in 1986. Let’s begin with the introduction, because, well, you’ll see.

1. “It ain’t necessarily so.”

2. “… A better informed world is a better world.”

3. “The power of The Washington Post lies first and above all in the fact that it is published in the capital of the free world. It’s a geographic power. I mean, if we were in Omaha, we would not be as powerful as we are.”

4. “If I meet someone new, it’s odds on that they’ll say, ‘well you don’t look like Jason Robards.’”

5. “I’m more worried about the relationship of the press and government, to working that out, rather than I am worried about the relationship of the press and the public. I think the public eventually works that out pretty well, it seems to me.”


6. “We’ve got a lot of jobs to do but one of them is not be loved. We don’t have to be loved. We have to be respected, I think.”

7. “I hope people will be sorry that I’ve gone, will be appreciative of what I’ve tried to do, but I think it will be a blip.”

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Jessica Hopper is the new editor of Pitchfork’s print magazine

Pitchfork has named Jessica Hopper the editor-in-chief of The Pitchfork Review, a quarterly print magazine about music and culture. Hopper will also be a senior editor at Pitchfork’s daily site, she said in a phone call with Poynter.

Jessica Hopper (Photograph by David Sampson)

Jessica Hopper (Photograph by David Sampson)

“It’s a very special, novel thing,” Hopper said about The Pitchfork Review. “It’s a music magazine about music.”

“We’re definitely excited for Jessica to join the staff full-time as senior editor of the website and Editor in Chief of The Pitchfork Review,” Pitchfork Editor-in-Chief Mark Richardson told Poynter in an email. “She’s known quite a few people on staff for years from being in Chicago, and we’ve all been following her writing for a long time before that. Beyond her talent, she’s a fountain of ideas and enthusiasm.”

In its first year the Review was edited by J.C. Gabel, who will still contribute to the magazine, Richardson said. Hopper’s first issue at the top of the masthead will feature a 20,000-word oral history of Jawbreaker written by Leor Galil, a photo essay about an open-air punk market in Mexico City and a piece by Eric Harvey that draws a connection between the early days of “reality rap” and the TV show “Cops.”

Hopper said her plan is to do stuff “that’s like real music journalism, stuff that’s not even doable anymore because it doesn’t fit into people’s verticals.”

The magazine will also do “longer pieces on contemporary artists that we think are going to be canonical,” Hopper said. Pitchfork President Chris Kaskie and Creative Director Mike Renaud, Hopper said, originally saw the magazine as “the kind of magazine where you pull it off the shelf in 10 years and you know who everybody is.”

The Pitchfork gig is Hopper’s first full-time job as a music journalist; she’s been writing music criticism for nearly 20 years, beginning as the proprietor of the fanzine Hit It Or Quit It and collecting lots of freelance bylines along the way, at outlets like Spin, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Reader and Minneapolis City Pages. From 1995 to 2003, she ran her own music PR company, representing acts including the Dismemberment Plan, the Gossip and At the Drive-In.

She will no longer be Rookie’s music editor once she begins at Pitchfork but will still write about non-music stuff for that publication — “Rookie is my spiritual home, always,” Hopper said.

A collection of Hopper’s criticism, “The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic,” is due out next May on Featherproof Books, which is run by Tim Kinsella, a member of the great Chicago bands Cap’n Jazz and Joan of Arc. Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield will write an intro for the book, Hopper said, whose title is “kind of a joke” that also points out “the absurdity that at the very least, [NPR music critic] Ann Powers and half a dozen other people should be ahead of me on this one.”

The magazine has a print circulation of 10,000 and a single sponsor for each issue. The Pitchfork staff is “very democratic,” Hopper said several times. I asked her about the preponderance of dudes on its masthead. “My experience has been that it’s a place that’s been very welcoming to women and to feminist ideas,” Hopper said. “I wouldn’t be there otherwise. I couldn’t be there otherwise! I feel very respected there.”

Hopper called criticism her “nerd depot” and said she looks forward to helping inexperienced writers refine their voices, giving them the types of edits that are hard to dole out at hyperactive Web publications. “I was lucky that I was getting top edits from Kiki Yablon that made me cry for two years,” she said, referring to the Chicago Reader’s former managing editor and later editor.

Other editors she credits as influences: Will Hermes, Charles Aaron, Steve Kandell and Alison True. They taught her “how to write by showing me what I was doing wrong,” she said. “Because of the state of music journalism, you’re lucky if you get a top edit that’s more than somebody running spellcheck on your stuff.”

The Review doesn’t review records. When it does do criticism, it will tend to be longform, Hopper said, something that benefits artists as well as writers who want to stretch out: “What fun is it having a record come out and feeling like no one understands it enough to write about it properly?” she said. Read more

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Pew: 4 in 10 Internet users have experienced online harassment

Pew Research Center

Women are more likely to experience severe forms of harassment online, according to a Pew survey, and 65 percent of both men and women between ages 18 and 29 have experienced some form of online harassment.

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Overall, 4 in 10 Internet users have experienced online harassment, while 73 percent have seen it happen to others.

Online harassment is especially pronounced at the intersection of gender and youth: women ages 18-24 are more likely than others to experience some of the more severe forms of harassment. They are particularly likely to report being stalking online (26% said so) and sexually harassed (25%). In addition, they are also the targets of other forms of severe harassment like physical threats (23%) and sustained harassment (18%) at rates similar to their male peers (26% of whom have been physically threatened and 16% of whom have been the victim of sustained harassment).

Most online harassment takes place on social media sites: “66% of internet users who have experienced online harassment said their most recent incident occurred on a social networking site or app,” Pew reports. The second-most commonly mentioned source of recent harassment, at 22 percent, was online comment sections. Women were more likely to cite social media as a source of harassment:

Fully 73% of women who have experienced online harassment said their most recent incident occurred on social networking sites or apps, compared with 59% of men. Men were more likely to cite the comments section of a website as the site of their most recent harassment – 21% of harassed men vs. 11% of harassed women.

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While 63 percent of respondents agreed the Internet allows people to be more anonymous, fully 92 percent said it allows people to be more critical of others. Over half of those who have been harassed online said they didn’t know the identity of the person who harassed them. Reducing anonymity is a controversial way some news organizations have attempted to cut down on comment section vitriol.


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Hysteria or proper precaution — a conversation with Michel du Cille

Michel Du Cille

Michel du Cille (Photo by: Julia Ewan/TWP)


Kenny Irby interviewed Washington Post photographer Michel du Cille about his work in Liberia covering the Ebola virus, but before we get into his work, we will address Syracuse University’s decision to disinvite the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner from its S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications Fall Workshop.

Each side stands firm that they were considering what would be best for the students on the campus of Syracuse University.

Last Thursday, du Cille had “cleared the 21-day monitoring window for Ebola and was symptom free,” when Syracuse officials told him not to come to the journalism workshop.

It is “pandering to the hysteria of ignorance,” said du Cille. “The most disappointing part of this bad decision is the disservice to the fine journalism students at Syracuse’s Newhouse School. What a missed opportunity to teach future media professionals how to seek out accurate hard facts; backed up with full details about the Ebola crisis,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

RELATED: “Covering Ebola: A Poynter Conversation”

Lorraine Branham, Dean of S.I. Newhouse, told Poynter via email that what du Cille “has not made clear in his criticism of us is that he was not coming to Syracuse to show his work from Liberia or discuss the Ebola crisis. If he were, I might acknowledge that my students missed something — that would have indeed have been a missed opportunity. But this workshop had nothing to do with Liberia or Ebola. He would have critiqued portfolios and reviewed student work.”

For Branham, the decision was more about the general greater good of the university then her personal position. Branham told local media on Friday that if it were just about her she would welcome him into her home for dinner and not fear for her safety.

“This was a tough call but I still believe it was the right one for us,” said Branham. “We did not make this decision lightly. We did so after talking with health officials and local medical doctors who suggested we exercise ‘an abundance of caution.’  A primary concern for us was the issue of the incubation period. While du Cille had not shown any signs of infection by the 21st day — the same day he was schedule to visit Syracuse — we knew that some people have a longer incubation period.”

The issue of how long the incubation period lasts is an open question, said Branham, who sent articles to back up her claim, including one from The Washington Post.

Poynter: How and when were you informed that you were being disinvited to the Syracuse workshop?

Du Cille:  I flew in from Atlanta and headed up to Cap Hill to photograph Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Thomas Frieden at a noon hearing. Got a text from home to call Bruce Strong.

Poynter: Was Nikki, your wife, disinvited as well? (Nikki Kahn is also a photographer with the Washington Post)

Du Cille: By the time I received a phone call from Bruce Strong the SU University leadership had already been in direct meetings before directly discussing with me…It seemed they did not want hear debate from me. Both Nikki and I were disinvited.

Poynter: Why do you think that the hysteria around potential Ebola contamination is so high?

Du Cille: It is a number of things. The mistakes centered around early control of the virus; the mounting deaths in West Africa; the misinformation by some of our own media colleagues; an irrational hysterical public; And I’ll have to say there is a great deal of xenophobia especially, from political leaders.

Poynter:  What alternatives might you have offered if given a voice in the process?

Du Cille: I would have offered to speak publicly about what I saw; offered personal detailed accounts on how the disease spreads. I simply would have offered the University an option to present an informational public forum. There had to be better ways to deal with their fears.

Girl with Ebola

Pearlina stands at the screen door while others talk outside on Sunday, September 21, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. Pearlina’s mother died in an ambulance on the way to Redemption Hospital two weeks ago; the child was rescued by Katie Meyler and is being care for by the NGO called More than Me. Pearlina is under observation for signs of Ebola.
Photo by Michel duCille / TWP

Poynter:  How did you draw the Ebola assignment in Liberia?

Du Cille:   I volunteered. I love working in West Africa and thought the Ebola story was historic. I didn’t want to miss it.

Poynter: Tell me about your research and preparation for this assignment.

Du Cille: This was my fourth trip to Liberia. I had great familiarity with the people and region. I also read everything I could find about Ebola.

Poynter: What precautions were you able to take in advance of your journey?

Michel du Cille in his Tyvek suit.

Michel du Cille preps in Tyvek suit; Liberia Sept 29, 2014.
while on assignment covering the Ebola crisis in Liberia. (Photo By: Katie Meyler)


Du Cille: Beside the normal medical prevention vaccines and meds, I consulted with photojournalists who had recently been there: John Moore and David Gilkey, both had just finished rotations. They advised me to get Tyvek suits, good gloves and masks, rubber boots.  They warned that vigilance on washing hands and spraying was critical.  But I also read everything I could find on how to get out of the suits to prevent contamination.

Poynter: Tell me about your biggest challenge will covering this story. Was it physical or mental?

Du Cille:  It was mental … I believe that the world must see how horrible and dehumanizing are the effects of Ebola. After eight trips to the African continent, I never tire or complain about the harshness of life. To me each journey there is an almost spiritual experience. I guess partly because I relate so well to the West African way. Growing up in Jamaica was very much the same; the cadence, body language of the people are pretty very similar.

Poynter: Was there a similar story that prepared you for such a risk?

Du Cille: No, nothing in my 40 years as a photojournalist was ever like this.

Poynter: Were there other international journalists covering this story?

Du Cille: Yes, but not the usual hordes. It is expensive and dangerous.

Poynter: How did you care for yourself and your gear during this assignment?

Du Cille: Vigilant cleaning and spraying with chlorine solution. The new Liberian handshake is elbow-to- elbow bump and no touching of any kind.

Poynter: Tell me about the frame of mind of the people that you met at the church on that Sunday morning?.

Du Cille: Strangely they were upbeat and almost normal. I expected sadness and emotion. I think after years of war and struggle, Liberians just focus on survival.

Poynter: What’s your most vivid memory now that you are back in the U.S.?

Du Cille: Sadly, I photographed a very ill woman who I presumed was too far gone. She was bleeding from the mouth. That situation really touched me. Her family arrived with their arms, feet and torso wrapped in plastic. They seemed so desperate. (Du Cille wrote a piece about the photograph for News Photographer, which will appear in its next edition. )

Poynter: How did you prepare for the multimedia requirement and what gear did you use most?

Du Cille: I did Instagram as much as I could and a small amount of video with my Nikon gear.

Poynter: Do you have any advice based on your lessons learned for visual reporters as the coverage continues?

Du Cille: Yes. Don’t go if you are not prepared to take the risks. It is different from bullets and guns. A simple dab to wipe your eye could get you infected.

Correction: Previous versions of this story spelled du Cille’s last name inconsistently. Read more

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Hotel hiring reporter for ‘long hours, bad pay’

Any takers? The Wells Inn in Sistersville, West Virginia, is hiring a business and political reporter for its twice-monthly paper for “long hours” and “bad pay,” according to a listing on JournalismJobs.com.

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The listing, which boasts salary somewhere between $15,000 to $20,000, says the job would be “great for someone who is looking to get back in the game after being ‘downsized,’ needs a change of pace or simply wants to hide from their ex or other people they have pissed off.”

The job requires the ideal candidate to balance reporting and writing with being stationed at the hotel’s front desk and assisting in “in minimal guest services”. Oh, and no drinking on the job “without prior permission”.

The hotel has a history of humorous ads. When it was starting a newsletter last year, it listed a position for a reporter who was OK with checking in guests and dealing with “self promoting ‘pillars of society.’” Read more

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