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Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism: This American Life’s Harper High School

“This American Life” reporters Ben Calhoun, Alex Kotlowitz and Linda Lutton spent an entire semester embedded in Harper High School in Chicago — where the previous school year, 29 former or current students were shot and eight died.

Working with producers Robyn Semien, Julie Snyder and Ira Glass, the team created two hour long documentaries that captured daily life in a school and neighborhood racked by gun violence.

The story earned a Peabody Award, the Jack R. Howard Award for Radio In-Depth coverage and the Dart Center prize for journalism and trauma. Peabody judges called the work “vivid, unblinking, poignant and sometimes gut-wrenching;” Dart judges said the story was “profoundly moving” and “extraordinarily comprehensive and compassionate.”

Shortly after “This American Life” aired the story, President Obama hosted Harper students at the White House and Michelle Obama spent an afternoon at the school.

In an interview with Poynter’s Ellyn Angelotti Kamke for Poynter’s e-book Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism, Calhoun, Kotlowitz and Lutton discussed their extensive reporting process, and how they created a narrative that embraces an array of compelling personal perspectives. Read more

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Most memorable stories of 2014

S. Mitra Kalita is the executive editor of Quartz, on Poynter’s adjunct faculty, and a Spencer Fellow at Columbia University. She tweets @mitrakalita.

A friend of mine recently pondered the role of memory in journalism, saying an information overload has robbed his recall. Sometimes it feels like stories aren’t read as much as Facebooked, tweeted, toggled all day long. What actually gets absorbed, retained, understood?

This was my dilemma as Poynter asked me to compile the top 10 stories of 2014. Insecure about whether the best journalism had actually reached me, my inclination was to crowdsource the list. That felt dishonest. Key takeaway of my transition to digital media: only authenticity wins the internet.

So here are my picks, based solely on the top stories I remember from 2014. I whittled it down to the 11 that stayed with me long beyond the last line or my share. Note that I wrote this before newspapers began trotting out ambitious, investigative packages to make the Pulitzer deadline. Read more

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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Julie Drizin will be executive director of Current

American University | Current

The American University School of Communication announced Friday that Julie Drizin will be the first executive director of Current, the news organization devoted to covering non-profit media in America.

Drizin is the director of the Journalism Center on Children and Families at the University of Maryland, which announced earlier this year it would close due to lack of financial support.

Current is seeking to expand its coverage, according to a release from American University. It currently has a team of five editors and reporters, along with “a corps of freelance contributors.”

Here’s the release:

The American University School of Communication has hired public media journalist, producer, and critic Julie Drizin for the new position of Executive Director of Current, as the newspaper and website seeks to expand its coverage and impact in U.S. public and nonprofit media spaces.

“I am thrilled to be coming home to public media as the Executive Director of Current,” says Drizin.

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Guardian: NYT makes ‘big move’ into London

The Guardian

The New York Times will move “up to 100″ staff to a new digital center in London, The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade reported Friday.

Greenslade writes that the new outpost, which will be based in the Bloomsbury borough of England’s capital city, will “become the newspaper’s European digital hub and centre for the paper’s international issues.”

There is no question of the Paris office itself – home for so long to the iconic International Herald Tribune – being closed. It is simply believed that London is a more appropriate place from which to cover the European continent.

According to a Property Week article, the paper’s owners have signed a deal for the entire 9,000 sq ft building at close to the asking rental fee of £50 a sq ft.

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Tips from a fact-checker: ‘Ultimately it’s about the care that you take with a piece’

Pen

Fact-checking is about both the big and the small, the grit of details and the arc of story.

“What checking does is similar to so many other types of editing,” says Yvonne Rolzhausen, head of the fact-checking department at The Atlantic. “Ultimately it’s about the care that you take with a piece.”

Rolzhausen first interned at The Atlantic during her senior year of college and started as a proofreader there in 1993. Early in her career, she had to head to the Boston Public Library to go through microfiche for her work.

“It wasn’t pre-Internet, but it wasn’t too far off,” she said.

We spoke about the work of fact-checkers and lessons the rest of us can learn from them.

1. It’s about the details.

The only way you can look at any piece, whether it’s a paragraph or a 20,000-word story, is in detail — every word, every phrase, every connection. Read more

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Washington Post commenter speaks gibberish

A commenter Friday began deciphering the gobbledygook posted underneath a Washington Post story that was published in error.

WashingtonPost

The story, which was labeled “Test — delete this,” consisted of a series of random keystrokes with no apparent meaning.

But that didn’t stop a commenter named “Rob_” from parsing the bogus copy for deeper truths:

The first two instances of “asdf” are easily attributable to the four left hand home letters on the QWERTY keyboard. But in the third instance, the letters are transposed to “sdaf.” Exactly what the author intends by this is unknowable, but it cannot be denied that it evidences a narrative arc, a challenge to our preconceptions. In spite of the passage’s minimalism — perhaps because of the passage’s minimalism — the author establishes himself as a modernist force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps worried that his or her opus wasn’t yet ready for the public, the modernist recluse promptly deleted the post, then replaced it with an editor’s note posted in 2010 in the National section explaining the error. Read more

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Gawker’s New Year’s resolution: Make some sub-blogs

Gawker

On Friday, Gawker’s Editor-in-Chief Max Read posted a memo about his plans for 2015 at Gawker. The way Gawker’s homepage is set up has been frustrating, Read wrote. And so they’re going diagonal.

The basic structure is simple. Rather than publish everything directly to the home page, we’ll publish our stories to a set of beat-focused sub-blogs, some of which already exist and some of which will be launched in January. From those “diagonals”, the best and most representative work—original stories, reported news, personal writing, smart arguments, breakout viral, breaking news—will be shared to the front page, which will update at a somewhat slower rate than it currently does. Everything will be pushed to Facebook and Twitter, as well as to a comprehensive Gawker “news feed.”

The sub-blogs include and will include Valleywag, Defamer, and ones on the Internet, media and justice. Those larger topics could be spun off into more specific ones, Read wrote. Read more

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Company takes out ad for departing New York Times reporter

On page B11 of Friday’s New York Times, you’ll find a full-page ad, taken out by Interpublic Group in honor of advertising reporter Stuart Elliott, who took a buyout from The Times. It reads:

For more than two decades, you’ve asked the tough questions — often twenty at a time. Through it all, no one explained our fast-changing industry with more enthusiasm and insight. Or captured as clearly just how much fun it can be to work in advertising.

Thank you for your encyclopedic knowledge, your fair-minded skepticism, and some memorable headlines along the way. Not bad for a guy from Brooklyn.

All of us at IPG wish you the very best, Stuart.

Here’s the ad:

NYTad

IPG wished Elliott good luck on Twitter, too:

I would be remiss if I didn’t note that that ad doesn’t strictly follow AP style (Oxford comma, 20 spelled out), but I’m sure Elliott won’t mind. Read more

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Turkish journalist on arrest of colleagues: ‘After awhile it starts to feel like a Kafka novel’

Ekrem Dumanlı, editor-in-chief of the Zaman newspaper, waves to his staff and readers as he is taken for interrogation. (Credit: Selahattin Sevi, Zaman)

Ekrem Dumanlı, editor-in-chief of Zaman, waves to staff and readers as he’s taken for interrogation. (Photo by Selahattin Sevi, Zaman)

After days of detainment, Ekrem Dumanli, editor of the Turkish newspaper Zaman, was released from prison today for lack of evidence. Dumanli was held under custody for an article that was published in his paper. However another detainee, Samanyolu TV General Manager Hidayet Karaca, was arrested on charges of forming and leading an armed terrorist organization. Alleged weapons of crime? Broadcasting a soap opera. In a highly politically motivated trial, Turkish journalists are paying a heavy price.

As a technology journalist, following the industry beat the whole week keeps me quite busy. That is why I do my best to keep Sundays only for my family. But on Dec. 14, my whole plan changed. I woke up to the news that my newspaper — Today’s Zaman — was raided, and I rushed into my office. Read more

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Buy the journalist in your life a drone. Or a selfie stick

Good morning. Thanks for hanging in there with me this week. We’re taking a newsletter break for the holidays but will return on Monday, Jan. 5, brimming with news and probably an extra five pounds from all that day drinking. In the meantime, Poynter has a lot of great stories lined up for your holiday reading pleasure. For now, here are 10 media stories.

  1. What to buy your journalist friends, because they’re probably not getting a bonus this year

    How about an "Is it plagiarism?" pillow? Or a cassette recorder for when digital devices fail us? (Poynter) | A bandolier for your iPhone? A picture-taking aerial robot that's not really a drone? (Mashable) | Buzz Bissinger's Gucci schwag? (New York) | Grammar dessert plates? A Superman lunchbox? (AJR) | A studded USB necklace? (TechCrunch)

  2. Now Cuba needs to take care of its journalists

    Cuba is 10 countries away from the bottom of Reporters Without Borders' 2014 Press Freedom Index, and on Thursday, RWB called for the release of jailed Cuban journalists and bloggers.

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Career Beat: Joel Lovell joins ‘This American Life,’ The Atavist

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community.

  • Joel Lovell will join “This American Life” and The Atavist. He was editing special projects for The New York Times. (Huffington Post)
  • Hernán Rozemberg will be editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current. He is metro editor for the Lafayette Journal and Courier. (Media Moves)
  • Mike Wilson will be editor of The Dallas Morning News. He’s the managing editor of FiveThirtyEight. (Poynter)
  • Byron Pitts has been named co-anchor of “Nightline.” Pitts is chief national correspondent at ABC News. (Huffington Post)
  • Ben Pershing will be editor at National Journal Daily. He’s the Washington editor at National Journal. Tim Alberta is now a senior political correspondent at National Journal. Previously, he was senior editor of National Journal Hotline. Shane Goldmacher is a senior political correspondent for National Journal. Previously, he was a congressional correspondent there.
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Today in Media History: First successful PC goes on sale in ’74 and helps launch Microsoft

On December 19, 1974, the first successful personal computer went on sale. They called it the Altair 8800.

Popular Electronics magazine profiled the new PC in their January 1975 issue. Readers learned that for $395 you could order a kit to build the Altair yourself or buy it assembled for $495. The Altair 8800 came with 256 bytes of computer memory and Intel’s 8080 processor.

“For many years, we’ve been reading and hearing about how computers will one day be a household item. Therefore, we’re especially proud to present in this issue the first commercial type of minicomputer project ever published that’s priced within reach of many households — the Altair 8800….”

Ed Roberts, the creator of the Altair, worked with Bill Gates and Paul Allen to develop the PC’s first programming language.

The partnership between Gates and Allen marked the beginning of the Microsoft company, which officially started on April 4, 1975. Read more

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5 holiday gift ideas for the journalist in your life

Journalism is great, but doing Christmas shopping for my colleagues often feels like a back-to-school trip to Office Depot.

If you, like me, think Christmas calls for more than paperclips and Post-It notes, try out the following gift ideas this year:

  1. Selfie stick
    SelfieStick
    These telescoping vanity poles get a lot of bad press, and with good reason. If you’re not familiar, selfie sticks allow you to increase the distance between the camera and your duck face, making it easy to contort your body into appealing shapes.

    But unlike the average citizen, who would use this gift to snap thousands of pictures of their food, or their face, or their food entering their face, journalists have an actual professional justification for owning these remote-controlled narcissism rods. He or she can use it as a monopod, which come in handy to take pictures of a march or protest, or as a video stabilizer.

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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

National Press Photographers Association moving to Grady College

NPPA

The University of Georgia

The National Press Photographers Association will move its headquarters to Grady College at The University of Georgia, the university announced Thursday.

The NPPA, which is currently based in Durham, North Carolina, will offer Grady College students access to “visiting professionals, participation in workshops taught by NPPA staff and members, and employment opportunities,” according to the release.

NPPA and Grady College also plan to embark on joint fundraising campaigns and apply for grants for visual journalism projects, according to the release.

Here’s the announcement:

The University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication announced that the National Press Photographers Association will relocate its headquarters to the Athens, Georgia, campus in early 2015.

NPPA is the voice of visual journalists, representing photographers, videographers, multimedia journalists, editors, designers, visual managers and academics, with nearly 6,000 members nationwide and around the world.

“UGA’s Grady College and NPPA share a deep commitment to excellence in journalism,” said Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

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Goodbye, Stephen Colbert, love, NYT

The New York Times

“I think it’s gonna leave a hole in my night,” The New York Times’ David Carr says in this farewell video the Times published Thursday. “I really liked getting tucked in by Stephen Colbert.”

In the video, the Times’ Bill Carter, Nicholas Confessore, William Rhoden, Mark Leibovich, and Carr all talk about Colbert’s show.

More goodbyes:

Mashable has a walking goodbye with Google Map Street View studio tour.

Vulture has lots of famous people saying goodbye.

And Time has four enemies of Colbert’s saying goodbye, including Suey Park. Read more

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