Media industry news & commentary. Send tips.

New Yorker cover artist says resemblance to August cartoon is unintentional

The New Yorker’s new cover is a beautiful, understated take on the unrest in Ferguson this past week.

It also bears a strong resemblance to an Aug. 21 editorial cartoon by R.J. Matson. (courtesy Cagle)

Bob Staake, who illustrated the New Yorker cover, writes on Facebook that he hadn’t before seen Matson’s cartoon.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Daryl Cagle, who publishes the Cagle cartoons syndicate, told Poynter in an email that many New Yorker political covers follow in the footsteps of editorial cartoonists: “It would be more unusual if a New Yorker cover hadn’t been drawn by a political cartoonist first,” he wrote.

Staake also told The New Yorker’s Mina Kaneko and Francoise Mouly he used to live in St. Louis and “At first glance, one might see a representation of the Gateway Arch as split and divided, but my hope is that the events in Ferguson will provide a bridge and an opportunity for the city, and also for the country, to learn and come together.” Read more

1 Comment

Lessons learned: TV-newspaper partner on investigative project

Dallas TV station KXAS (NBC5) and the Dallas Morning News teamed up to investigate complaints of harassment by hundreds of soldiers at the Army’s Warrior Transition Units (WTU’s) that were designed to help the injured heal. In the process of documenting the poor treatment of Army veterans these separate media outlets learned about how to work together.


The story 
The project, called “Injured Heroes, Broken Promises,” took more than six months of work, relied on hundreds of pages of government records and interviews with dozens of injured veterans who said they had been “ridiculed, harassed and threatened by the commanders of Army units created to help injured soldiers heal.

Three of the nation’s 25 WTU’s’s are in Texas. The units are supposed to manage the care and treatment of wounded, ill or injured soldiers, whether they are physically or mentally injured, or both. 64,000 soldiers have used the treatment programs since 2007. “Hundreds of America’s active duty soldiers have complained about harassment, verbal abuse and mistreatment at the Army’s Warrior Transition Units that were designed to help the injured heal,” according to the investigation.

The team examined five years of complaints involving soldiers from three Texas Warrior Transition Units at Fort Hood, Fort Bliss and Fort Sam Houston. The story produced a hefty 210 inch 5600-word display in the newspaper, two interactive web displays and a nearly 10-minute local TV story on a Sunday night newscast followed by a nearly seven minute piece on Monday.

One of the key interviews in the project was with Sgt. Zach Filip, an Army combat medic who served in Afghanistan. He returned to the States suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder only to be re-traumatized by the 2009 shooting that killed 13 people at Ft. Hood. Filip saved the life of a police officer in that incident and The Army Times named him the 2010 Soldier of the Year. Filip said the WTU he was assigned made his problems “a lot worse, physically and mentally.”

 KXAS’s Website
The Dallas Morning News website

Key lessons of a partnership
The team also valuable lessons about how to work across platforms and even across ownerships to produce the investigation. Among the lessons they say they learned:

Share everything. If you are going to be partners, you have to commit to the idea and hold nothing back.

Negotiate the release. Newspapers and TV stations have different cycles and a Sunday release might not be what a TV station would choose but it is perfect for newspapers. There’s also the online release, this team broke the first round of stories online, a day before the material appeared in print or on the air.

Visit each other’s newsrooms. Get to know the cultures your partner lives in. It is also a show of respect when you “go to them” as much as “they come to you.”

Share bylines. The contributors show up on all platforms. It honors each other’s contributions. It might sound small but it isn’t.

Stay open.  Both the newspaper and TV journalists in this project said their partners made useful suggestions about content and style that each adapted. The partners said the other media’s “fresh set of eyes” made the stories sharper.

It’s a lot more work. This is one consistent phrase I have seen over the years with the many combined projects has examined — partnerships require more work than going it alone. Partnerships require roughly twice the communication, scheduling headaches and you negotiate everything that you normally would not have to from the title of the project to when to roll it out and how. But, as you will read below, the partners say the additional work is not only worth it, it has been key to reaching audiences, landing interviews and maybe getting results. So much so, the partners are already planning the next project.

Choosing the journalists
Both KXAS and The Dallas Morning News said “who” does the job is nearly as important and “what” they will be investigating.  The journalists had to be able to share information and credit. They had to be willing to allow their partner to publish first and they had to be willing to allow others to critique, edit and suggest ways to improve stories. It is not for everybody.

I talked with team members of the team by phone and email.

Scott Friedman-KDFW

Scott Friedman-KXAS

KXAS/NBC5 investigative reporter Scott Friedman and investigative producer Eva Parks have covered other stories about the treatment of veterans. Friedman has been honored for his aggressive use of public records to prove his stories. Parks and Friedman met some of the first sources for this story during their reporting of the aftermath of a 2009 shooting at Ft. Hood. They filed their first open records requests for this project more than a year ago.

The Dallas Morning News provided Dave Tarrant, an experienced narrative storyteller who has written extensively on soldiers returning from war.

Tom Huang-Dallas Morning News Sunday and Enterprise Editor

Tom Huang

Tom Huang, the DMN Sunday and Enterprise Editor said, “Dave was the lead writer on the newspaper stories, but Scott and Eva’s reporting was so integral to the stories that we knew we wanted to give them bylines – there was never a question in my mind. They also had a lot of feedback for Dave when he showed them early drafts. He did quite a bit of rewriting of the second day’s main story based on some ideas Scott had.”

Why form a partnership with another media outlet?
Parks:  “We knew that we wanted to do a partnership investigation when the partnership formed a year ago.  We had filed a Freedom of Information request with the Army June 2013.  When we finally got word this summer that we were getting closer to receiving the records we thought this would be the perfect joint project for us to present to the Morning News.  We weren’t exactly sure what type of records we’d get but we knew it would be voluminous and when they assigned Dave Tarrant we were excited because of his strong military background that he’d add an extra layer of reporting.”

“Doing a story like this with a print partner brings your story to a whole new audience.  It was exciting to start receiving feedback before the report aired because of the buzz created by releasing Dave’s version in the Sunday paper. The print version also goes into more depth that a TV report could never do.”

Tarrant: “To begin with, collaboration is a major value in itself. Instead of just sharing each other’s finished products, we had a chance to work together, share insights, develop reporting strategies and discuss storytelling techniques. That kind of collaboration leads to creative ideas and new ways of thinking about stories. In no small way, a partnership like this can begin to change the culture at the institutional level. In a digital world, that kind of fundamental change, if done right, is a very good thing. At the team level, Scott and Eva are battle-hardened investigative reporters, very organized and able to focus like a laser beam on the key issues. I learned a lot working with them, and I tried to bring my experience in reporting and writing narratives to look for ways to tell the story through central characters.”

Friedman: “Our investigative team had already filed a FOIA request asking for the Army documents – and we had talked with several families who had concerns about treatment they received in these units – prior to us approaching the DMN with the idea.  But they were on board before we shot any interviews and before we received the FOIA records.  So Dave was involved in conducting all of the interviews and examining the records with us.”

Eva Parks, Dave Tarrant, Scott Friedman (Left to -Right). Each document represents a complaint filed by a solider about treatment at an Army Warrior Transition Unit.

The Logistics 
Huang: “Injured Heroes, Broken Promises” was our first major investigative project that we collaborated on. We worked as a true team from the beginning, sharing ideas, going to planning meetings, mapping out what the print, digital and broadcast stories would cover. Dave, Scott and Eva did all their reporting together, sharing all their notes and documents. I shared drafts of Dave’s stories with Executive Producer Shannon Hammel, Scott and Eva; and Shannon shared Scott’s scripts with Dave and me. Our lawyer and their lawyer read all of DMN’s stories and NBC5’s scripts ahead of time.  We even had a session where we all got together to brainstorm the name of the series, “Injured Heroes, Broken Promises,” and the hashtag #InjuredHeroes for Twitter.  Dave and I went to planning meetings in NBC5’s newsroom several times over the past few months, and Executive Producer Shannon Hammel visited the DMN’s newsroom pretty much on a daily basis. Having that face-to-face time was really important and helped us feel comfortable in working with one another.”

Friedman:  “We agreed in the beginning that everyone would share equal credit.  Dave would have producer credit on our TV story – and we would be part of the paper’s reporting team.  We spent a lot of time with Dave throughout the project talking about the major findings and discussing narrative for both the TV and the print stories.  As we wrote print and TV copy we shared it with each other and offered suggestions and tweaked each other’s work.  The biggest challenge was understanding parts of each other’s internal timelines and processes.  We held weekly or bi-weekly meetings along the way.”

Joint interviews and shared information
Friedman: “The one major agreement we had from the beginning was that Dave and I would try to conduct every interview together.  In most cases the two of us would meet for a phone call with the interview subject before we shot the TV interview.  This helped us get more of the details and color we would need for the newspaper story – and helped us prepare for the TV interview.  Dave attended all the TV interviews either in person or on speaker phone so he could listen and ask questions.”

Tarrant: “We did nearly all the interviews together, going over what questions to ask.  When Scott was filming an interview, I would sit on the side taking notes and wait until he was finished. In some cases, I conducted interviews beforehand, while the KXAS photojournalist, Peter Hull, was setting up equipment. In other cases, I would wait until Scott was done and ask follow-up questions. In a few cases, I called back later to get more details. In a few ancillary cases, we did interviews separately but shared transcripts.”

Huang: “Because Dave is a narrative writer, he also had to spend time hanging out with the soldiers and observing their daily lives, and he did most of that by himself. Vernon Bryant, DMN’s photojournalist, would often visit the soldiers days later, because we didn’t want to have both our photographer and NBC5’s photographer be there at the same time.”

Timing is key and negotiated
The investigation rolled out in waves.

The Dallas Morning News’ website published first, on Saturday. Then the newspaper published on Sunday followed by the in-depth TV story Sunday night following a highly-viewed Dallas Cowboys game on KXAS. Keep in mind, television stations across America are in the midst of the important Nielsen November “sweeps” period” that lasts until November 26th.

The website didn’t include video, at first but did include detailed stories, photos and documents to support the story.

Huang: “We typically post those interactives online on the Friday or Saturday before Sunday’s print publication. Friday is ideal because we capture more online readers then. In this case, we negotiated with NBC5, and they were OK with us posting our online interactive late Saturday afternoon.”

The folks added NBC5’s video story and cross-linked to their online package after they aired their story Sunday night.

Friedman:  “The two organizations wanted to put the story in front of as many potential eyes as possible. So the combination of a Sunday edition of the DMN – and big Sunday night audience following a Dallas Cowboys game seemed to provide the best.  DMN launched Saturday night – releasing the online interactive story and then publishing part one of the series in the early edition of the Sunday morning paper. We aired a preview piece on Saturday night. The full DMN story hit the paper on Sunday morning and we followed with part one of the TV series on Sunday night.”

 Measuring success
Huang: “We’re hoping our stories will get the attention of lawmakers and policy folks who focus on how soldiers are cared for when they return home from war. It will be meaningful if some change happens for the better, and if the Army seeks to improve these Warrior Transition Units. Of course, it would be nice to get good newspaper sales, online page views and broadcast ratings. But I think the project has already been a success, because this was the first time that DMN and NBC5 partnered on a major investigative project, and we were able to make it work really well. NBC5′s Executive Producer Shannon Hammel and I are already talking about what we’d like to do next.”

Parks: “For us, doing a report like this is all about making a difference and shedding light on how the Army cares for injured soldiers.  The people we talked to were brave to share their story with us and we hope the report will lead to some positive changes so that other soldiers may not have to go through that type of experience again.”

Tarrant:  “It’s been seven years since The Washington Post broke the stories that have come to be known as the “Walter Reed scandal.” Since then, we haven’t heard much about the program that was set up in the wake of that scandal. We’re hoping that our stories draw attention to the fact that there are still problems with how the Army cares for its wounded and ill soldiers when they return home from war. We hope the stories will help lead to changes that will improve this vital program.”

The team said that it is still awaiting more than 6,000 additional pages of documents from the federal government and that already it is following up on additional leads from veterans and families who have stories to tell.

“We have heard from the families we covered,” KXAS’ Eva Parks said. “They said they were pleased with the coverage and they thanked us for listening.” Read more


Fergus Bell leaves AP for startup that helps newsrooms verify content

Fergus Bell, who helped the Associated Press develop standards for verifying user-generated content, will become the head of newsroom partnerships and innovation at Social Asset Management Inc. SAM sells software to newsrooms that helps them build verification of UGC into their workflows.

“Moving to a startup was something that was pretty difficult, but I think it was a natural extension of the work I’ve been doing,” Bell said in a phone call. He’s SAM’s first employee with a news background and will visit newsrooms considering its product, as well as help his coworkers figure out what newsrooms need.

Bell will remain in London. He said SAM’s small size (he’ll be its sixth employee) was a major enticement to move from AP, where he was international social media and UGC editor — “I’m really excited to be a part of a team where an idea can come up in the morning and be executed in the afternoon,” he said.

At SAM he’ll also apply some of the thinking he’s developed as co-leader of the Online News Association’s ethics working group, which examines the ethical dimensions of gathering content from outside traditional news sources. He intends to help the company “build an ethical product” that will be mindful of both those sharing content as well as people sifting through it.

One issue: “Vicarious trauma,” he says, when journalists have to look at disturbing content. Newsrooms working with SAM can “tag that content in a newsroom so perhaps junior staff don’t have to see it if they don’t want to,” he said. Another thing: Making sure the originators of content are credited — SAM makes it easy to “bake in” credit to originators — and making sure newsrooms can communicate with them.

Yet another dimension: Considering the impact that sharing content may have on its creators. “That’s something that I’m thinking about in my ethics working group, but it’s also something I can bring to SAM,” Bell said.

SAM is not a direct competitor to Storyful, Bell said: It doesn’t verify content for newsrooms; it gives them the tools to do that themselves, and Bell may be able to help them design workflows. (One nice feature: the software allows people in the same newsroom to see what others are working on, so they don’t all descend on someone with a killer piece of UGC.)

“This is the first time that I’ll get to work with newsrooms that have audiences as well,” he said. He looks forward to seeing “how the UGC best practices that I’ve been preaching can be used.” Read more


Jian Ghomeshi charged with sexual assault

Toronto Police Service | Toronto Star

Police in Toronto have charged former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi with four sexual assault counts and one of “Overcome Resistance – Choking.” He surrendered to police and is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday, the police say.

Ghomeshi withdrew a planned suit against the CBC Tuesday. The broadcaster fired him last month after it saw “graphic evidence” that he’d injured a woman in what he described as consensual rough sex.

Other women came forward with allegations against Ghomeshi, including the actor Lucy DeCoutere. Read more


Here’s why food editors don’t mess with Thanksgiving (but some would like to)

You can always call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, which is still a thing, at 1-800-BUTTERBALL.  (PRNewsFoto/Butterball Turkey Company)

You can always call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line(TM) at 1-800-BUTTERBALL. (PRNewsFoto/Butterball Turkey Company)

It was around the Jewish High Holy Days, actually, when Sheryl Julian learned not to mess with people’s recipes. The menu was pretty much the same for the Jewish community in Boston, Julian said, who were then largely Ashkenazi.

“One year I found a Sephardic Jewish woman raised in north Africa and she gave me this wonderful menu,” said Julian, food editor for The Boston Globe.

About a month later, a woman stopped Julian after she gave a talk “and she said, ‘I have a bone to pick with you. What where you doing printing that recipe on the High Holy Day? That’s not what the Jews in Boston make.’”

Yes, Julian replied, but wasn’t it interesting?

“And she said, ‘it was different and i wasn’t interested.’”

Don’t you have your own recipes? Julian asked the woman.

“And she said, ‘of course i do, I just want to read everyone else’s.’”

Julian realized something just then. It doesn’t matter if someone knows how to cook a turkey. They still want to see how somebody else does it.

“If I decide I’m tired of the same recipes, I’m being a damn fool,” Julian said, “because nobody else is.”

With Easter, you can stretch a bit, she said. For Fourth of July, anything American is game, and people have different traditions for Christmas.

“Thanksgiving is the same menu every year,” she said. “You can add lemon rind to the brussels sprouts and you can add Dijon mustard to the brussels spouts and you can mash the potatoes with a special masher and make them more mashed, but essentially, it’s pretty much the same menu.”

I emailed several other food editors and asked them all the same question — what’s the one Thanksgiving food feature you’d love to stop running? Here’s what they said:

Bonnie Benwick, deputy food editor/recipe editor, The Washington Post

“I can’t think of any Thanksgiving features that I’m tired of doing – must be a rare bird, in that respect. (Stop the presses! Just thought of something – riffs on the crunchy onion-strewn green bean casserole. Over it.) But if I never had to edit or write another “Ham or Lamb?” episode for Easter, I’d be a happy camper.”

Kristen Aiken, executive editor, HuffPost Taste:

“‘Light Thanksgiving Recipes.’ It’s ONE day, can’t we give ourselves a break for ONE day? Though it’s a holiday that’s supposed to revolve around being thankful for the blessings of a good harvest, let’s be real — it’s all about stuffing. Ourselves. With food.”

J.M. Hirsch, food editor, Associated Press:

“I took over as AP food editor about 10 years ago. One of the Thanksgiving features I inherited was an annual roundup of cooking hotlines for home cooks to call when they need help roasting their turkeys or rescuing soggy pie crusts. It was awful to assemble. There were so many numbers, and at least half of them would change every year. I muscled through it for a couple years until it dawned on me just how outdated a concept it was. If people need help with their birds or baking, they’re going to Google it on their phones. So I killed that feature and never looked back. I haven’t run it for years now, but I still get the calls every September by the hotline people asking if I’ve changed my mind. And that would be a no.”

Miriam Morgan, food editor, San Francisco Chronicle:

“Thanksgiving in general is a real challenge. And that’s an understatement. How to say something new each year, when there is very little new and readers really just want you to hold their hand through the basic meal. Every year we go round and round about what to do differently, and it can seem forced. We always seem to come up with something fun, though. This year it was Tyler Florence’s spatchcocked turkey with stuffing under the skin. A real winner.
One year, we tested about 30 turkeys to compare and contrast the best way to roast (brined, air-dried). That was probably 10 years ago, and it’s still our fall-back, foolproof method. But bottom line? I wish we could skip Thanksgiving entirely!”

Sheryl Julian, food editor, The Boston Globe:

“I hate to say it, but the dreaded story is every holiday.” Read more


3 early food editors who did a lot more than share recipes

For about 10 years, Kimberly Voss has studied women’s pages. The newspaper sections that predated lifestyles sections started in the 1880s and have largely been dismissed as fluff.

They covered fashion and food, she found, “but they also had really important hard news,” said Voss, an associate professor at the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida. Voss found stories on equal rights, equal pay, and she knew there were more.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 2.51.21 PM

Her book, “The Food Section: Newspaper Women and the Culinary Community,” came out in April and in it, Voss tells the stories of women she got to know well who did way more than just share recipes in their sections.

“These were journalists who were doing important things that went well beyond the perceived fluff of their sections.”

I asked her to choose three favorites.

Jeanne Voltz, food editor, The Miami Herald, 1950s, The Los Angeles Times, 1960s:

Jeanne Voltz, photo courtesy Kim Voss.

Jeanne Voltz, photo courtesy Kim Voss.

Voltz was a hard news reporter during World War II, like a lot of women journalists, Voss said. She married a sports reporter and had two children. After moving to Miami, she went to the doctor, Voss said, “and the doctor said, Jeanne, I think staying home is too strenous for you. Why don’t you go back to being a reporter?”

Voltz worked as a copy editor for women’s pages until her editor called her in one day and told her she was going to be the food editor.

“And she said, ‘but I don’t cook,’ and he said, ‘learn how.’”

Voltz spent the 50s learning her beat. She and her husband moved to the Los Angeles Times, and in her contract negotiations, she asked for a test kitchen and to write under her own name instead of a pen name. Voltz started writing about barbecue and became and expert on it at a time when food writers only wrote about foreign cuisine.

“It was an untold story,” Voss said. “It was really the news peg that drew her.”

Jane Nickerson, food editor, The New York Times, 1942-1957, The Ledger, 1970s:

Jane Nickerson, photo courtesy Kim Voss.

Jane Nickerson, photo courtesy Kim Voss.

Jane Nickerson was the food editor at The New York Times from 1942 until 1957, but in Voss’ research, she rarely saw Nickerson mentioned. Voss found that Nickerson had a daily column called “News of Food,” where she interviewed home cooks and great chefs. Nickerson’s work came during World War II, when rationing, victory gardens and meatless Mondays were part of the times.

Nickerson was married and had two young children at home when she resigned from the Times, although news at the time said she’d retired, Voss said.

By 1973, Nickerson was divorced and living in Florida when she became the food editor at the The (Lakeland, Florida) Ledger.

“She represented some of the women in my book,” Voss said. “Their career paths weren’t the same as men. Many didn’t marry. Many didn’t have kids, but the ones that did had their own way of juggling things to make it work.”

Ruth Ellen Church, food editor, The Chicago Tribune, 1936 to 1974:

Ruth Ellen Church, photo courtesy Kim Voss.

Ruth Ellen Church, photo courtesy Kim Voss.

“I can’t imagine another beat at a newspaper where a journalist would stay in that position for decades,” Voss said.

But Ruth Ellen Church did. She was the food editor at The Chicago Tribune from 1936 until 1974. When we think back to the 50s, many people assume teaching and nursing were the only career paths, Voss said, but home economics was another, and Church got her degree in home economic journalism.

“They went into their jobs not just with the home economics part, but understanding what journalism was.”

Church, who was married and had two children, wrote cookbooks at night, Voss said, and became the first newspaper wine columnist in the U.S. Like many of the women food editors, she also spent time abroad, “because if you wanted to say that a local restaurant was serving authentic Italian food, you had to go to Italy to find out.” Read more


News orgs want to help fix Ferguson

Good morning. Here are eight media stories. (No newsletter tomorrow or Friday — happy Thanksgiving, and see you Monday.)

  1. News orgs seek your ideas on Ferguson

    #FergusonNext is a project from the opinion shops at The Guardian, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,, Colorlines, The St. Louis American and Riverfront Times. (#FergusonNext) | Darren Wilson spoke with George Stephanopoulos. (ABC News) | Freelance reporters Emily Molli and Marcus DiPaola got robbed in Ferguson. (Riverfront Times) | Post-Dispatch employees covering Ferguson: Sorry, no Thanksgiving break for you. (Poynter) | Post-Dispatch front: "Smoldering"

  2. Why do people react so strongly to CNN?

    Ferguson protesters in New York last night chanted "Fuck CNN." The network showed the chants. "Hats off to CNN for showing as much of the chanting as they did," Erik Wemple writes. "But they may want to consider why it is that people seem to react so strongly to this news provider." (WP) | Maybe it's Don Lemon? A catalog of his weirdest moments. (WP)

  3. First Look kills its business publication, cans staff

    The Pierre Omidyar-backed media group dispatches Racket, the publication Matt Taibbi was supposed to edit, and its staff, with a five-sentence post. (First Look Media) | Employees of FLM talked anonymously to Chris Lehmann. Among the complaints: Everyone's salaries got posted by mistake to the company intranet, and "For all their talk about ‘iterating,’ ‘blue sky,’ and the rest," managers are "not interested in any of the difficult stuff of leadership." (In These Times) | Racket staffers who need jobs. (@pareene)

  4. Jian Ghomeshi withdraws CBC lawsuit

    Disgraced radio host will not pursue damages from his former employer, will pay CBC's legal costs. (The Globe and Mail)

  5. How to explain to your family that you work at Gawker

    J.K. Trotter: "It’s this news website thing in New York ... Um, I write about media ... It’s called Gawker. ... Yes. With a ‘G.’" (Gawker)

  6. The lines are crossing at MailOnline

    Digital ad-revenue gains at the Internet juggernaut in 2014 had the effect of "almost completely offsetting the advertising and sales decline at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday." (The Guardian)

  7. But nothing about #grapegate?

    NYT says its Thanksgiving dishes feature had "numerous errors." (Poynter)

  8. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare

    The Virginian-Pilot shows Darren Wilson's red cheek. (Courtesy the Newseum)

Ben Mullin's job moves is off till Monday. Load up his inbox in the meantime: Corrections? Tips? Arguments about apple pies vs. pumpkin? Please email me: Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here. Read more


NYT corrects: Thanksgiving dishes article ‘contained numerous errors’

No, it’s not backing down on #grapegate. But The New York Times found numerous other issues with its Nov. 18 “The United States of Thanksgiving” feature:

An article last Wednesday recommending a Thanksgiving dish from each state, with a recipe, contained numerous errors.

The recipe from Connecticut, for quince with cipollini onions and bacon, omitted directions for preparing the quince. It should be peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks. An illustration with the West Virginia recipe, for pawpaw pudding, depicted a papaya — not a pawpaw, which is correctly depicted above. The introduction to the recipe from Arizona, for cranberry sauce and chiles, misstated the origin of Hatch chiles. They are grown in New Mexico, not in Arizona.

The introduction to the Delaware recipe, for du Pont turkey with truffled zucchini stuffing, referred incorrectly to several historical points about the Winterthur estate. It was an ancestral home of the du Pont family, not the sole one; it was established in 1837, not in 1810; the house was completed in 1839, not in 1837. The introduction also misstated the relationship of Pauline Foster du Pont to Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. Pauline was the wife of Mr. du Pont’s grandson, not his daughter-in-law.

And, finally, the label for the illustration for the nation’s capital misspelled the District of Columbia as Colombia.

Read more
P-It's an Honor

Today in Media History: Jimmy Breslin’s 1963 JFK column: ‘It’s an Honor’

On November 26, 1963, The New York Herald Tribune published “It’s an Honor,” one of the most memorable newspaper columns of all time.

Jimmy Breslin tells the story of President John Kennedy’s funeral from the perspective of Clifton Pollard, a gravedigger at Arlington National Cemetery.

This is how Breslin’s story begins:

“Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9 a.m., in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call he had been expecting. It was from Mazo Kawalchik, who is the foreman of the gravediggers at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where Pollard works for a living. ‘Polly, could you please be here by eleven o’clock this morning?’ Kawalchik asked. ‘I guess you know what it’s for.’ Pollard did. He hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment so he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

When Pollard got to the row of yellow wooden garages where the cemetery equipment is stored, Kawalchik and John Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, were waiting for him. ‘Sorry to pull you out like this on a Sunday,’ Metzler said. ‘Oh, don’t say that,’ Pollard said. ‘Why, it’s an honor for me to be here.’ Pollard got behind the wheel of a machine called a reverse hoe. Gravedigging is not done with men and shovels at Arlington. The reverse hoe is a green machine with a yellow bucket that scoops the earth toward the operator, not away from it as a crane does. At the bottom of the hill in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pollard started the digging….”

In this newsreel report, we see a more straightforward perspective of the event.

Breslin approaches the burial of John Fitzgerald Kennedy from the perspective of his grave digger. It’s a plainly told story — no breathtaking sentences here — but the style is effective in its Hemingway-esque directness. Breslin moves from the gravedigger’s perspective, to a more omniscient view of the funeral, back to the worker. We like the passage about Jackie Kennedy, its moving description of her particular, telling gestures. But the piece’s central power lies in Breslin’s juxtaposition of the cemetery workers, the small details of the scene’s sounds and sights, with the enormity of the event.”

— “Digging JFK Grave Was His Honor
Nieman Storyboard

Read more

Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014

No Thanksgiving holiday for St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalists who cover Ferguson

Some journalists at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch won’t be able to take Thanksgiving off, Post-Dispatch Editor Gilbert Bailon tells Poynter.

“Only those who are directly involved in covering the Ferguson story,” Bailon writes in an email. Affected journalists work in the metro, business, photo and design and production pods. “That includes editors,” Bailon writes. “A few people already are on vacation. Features and Sports are unaffected.”

Read more

1 Comment

Judge orders Connecticut publication to hold story

Connecticut Law Tribune

Stephen Frazzini, a judge in New Britain, Connecticut’s Superior Court, has forbidden Connecticut Law Tribune to publish an article, Thomas B. Scheffey reports. The article, by Isaac Avilucea, concerns a document published, apparently by mistake, on the Connecticut Judicial Branch’s website.

The Law Tribune says the order is unconstitutional prior restraint, and has filed a motion asking it be lifted. The publication’s lawyer, Daniel Klau, tells Scheffey “I am actually under a restraining order about what I can tell my own client” and that “in a child protection case on the juvenile court docket, the court granted a party’s request for an injunction barring the Connecticut Law Tribune from publishing information that it lawfully obtained about the case.”

Earlier this month a judge in Fulton County, Georgia, lifted an order that forbade news outlets from publishing a story about a school-cheating case, realizing it was made in “error.”

Avilucea, who has turned up in Poynter stories before (1, 2) said in a phone call that Monday was his last day at the Law Tribune: He’s headed to The Trentonian. Read more


Fox News reporter talks about getting camera busted in Ferguson

Fox News reporter Steve Harrigan was covering the unrest Monday night in Ferguson, Missouri, when someone in the crowd busted his photographer’s camera.

“When we got there initally we were surrounded by eight or 10 young men calling me Darren Wilson,” Harrigan said by phone. But then glass broke on a nearby store, and that “distracted people,” Harrigan said.

Harrigan in Ferguson.

Harrigan in Ferguson.

He tried to show some of the goods getting looted when a smaller group — maybe four or five people — set upon him and camera operator Dutch Wargo. “I think there was some unhappiness we were showing looting,” Harrigan said.

One person shouted “Fuck Fox!” Another smashed the camera to the ground, disabling it. Harrigan and Wargo broadcast from iPhones while Wargo got his backup camera operating.

Steve Harrigan, who is normally based in Miami, has been in Ferguson for 11 days and also covered Ferguson in August. “Preparation was really lacking on the part of law enforcement” Monday night, he said. “It didn’t seem like they knew their opponent.” Later that night he and Wargo were near gunfire.

Watch the latest video at

Harrigan said how long he’d stay in Ferguson depends on the protesters. I asked him if there were other stories he reported last night more important than the busted camera. “I don’t know, I think we just try to tell what we see, and that’s a part of it,” he said. “It’s chaotic and if you step into the swirl, you could get knocked over.” Read more

1 Comment

How David Beard plans to promote’s ‘journalistic city states’

David Beard’s first task as executive editor of will be to promote the public media organization’s “journalistic city states,” he said in an interview.

That won’t be a small task. PRI is a Minnesota-based digital media company perhaps best known for “The World,” a show put together in Boston. Its newsroom operates out of WGBH, a PBS affiliate. It has partnerships with “Frontline,” “Nova,” GlobalPost and Global Voices. Beard will be its first executive editor.

Beard told Poynter his primary goal is to grow PRI’s reach by making potential audience members aware of the “treasures” the company has to offer, including Radio Ambulante host Daniel Alarcón, “Studio 360″ and “The Takeaway with John Hockenberry”.

“I think its audience, like so much of journalism, is just a tiny fraction in the universe of people who want to see and hear it,” Beard said. “My job will be to make that a bigger fraction.”

Over the summer, PRI’s website attracted an average of 1 million unique visitors, compared to 390,000 over the same period the previous year, said Michael Skoler, general manager of PRI. Most of the traffic came through social media; more than half of it was from mobile users. And the audience is young. 66 percent of users are under the age of 45 and 50 percent are under 35.

Beard said growing PRI’s audience will likely mean thinking up new traffic drivers rather than rely on “hour-by-hour obeisance to Facebook.” He wants to embark on a listening tour of the newsroom before finalizing his plan, but says it will likely involve tweaking the existing newsletter strategy and coming up with new ways to interact with PRI’s audience.

Beard will work out of PRI’s “The World” newsroom at WGBH in Boston, where he’ll supervise a staff of 10 editors, producers and social media managers.

It won’t be Beard’s first job in Boston. He was previously the editor of and assistant managing editor of The Boston Globe. He also did a hitch as a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press in the Caribbean and Latin America, which Skoler said makes him a good fit for the internationally focused PRI.

“David is pretty darn close to what our ideal was,” Skoler said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the relationship between PRI and “The World”. The two are not separate organizations. The story also misidentified the “treasures” incoming executive editor David Beard plans to highlight. They include “Studio 360″ and “The Takeaway with John Hockenberry”. Read more


NYT urges staffers to avoid holiday clichés

The New York Times

Via New York Times standards editor Phil Corbett, Mark Bulik reminded staffers Tuesday to cut the holiday clichés:

As yuletide clichés go, “Christmas came early for so-and-so” is nearly a match for “’tis the season.” We’ve done a fairly good job of avoiding the latter. But it seems that every year, Santa checks his list in advance and brings an early Christmas present to someone via The New York Times. A few ghosts of clichés past:

Bulik lists phrases to avoid, including “early Christmas present,” “Christmas came early,” “’tis the season,” “all the trimmings,” and “the white stuff”.

Last week, NPR standards editor Mark Memmot warned NPR staffers against using a few holiday standards, including:

  • “Twas the night before…”
  • “Over the river and through the woods …”
  • “Bah, humbug.”

If you’re looking to eliminate all traces of Christmas from your vocabulary, The Baltimore Sun’s John McIntyre has a good list of clichés to avoid here. Read more


How the Southern press foiled FBI’s attempt to smear MLK

Is it possible that we have to thank the white Southern press of the 1960s – even the segregationist press – for its restraint in resisting FBI attempts to smear the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., with sexual scandal?

That question is raised, but not sufficiently developed, in a Nov. 11 New York Times piece written by Yale historian Beverly Gage. She discovered in the files of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover an uncensored draft of what has been called the “suicide letter.”  The letter was part of an elaborate effort to discredit King, who was about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Based on wire taps and audio tapes, the one-page letter, supposedly sent by an outraged black citizen, described in the vivid language of the day examples of King’s marital infidelities and sexual adventures.  The writer, actually an FBI agent, threatened to go public in 34 days with details of King’s affairs.  “There is only one thing left for you to do,” it read near the end.  “You know what it is.”

The letter is considered one of the low points in the history of the FBI.  Tapping phones and bugging hotel rooms, Hoover became outraged at what he considered to be King’s moral hypocrisy.  “FBI officials began to peddle information about King’s hotel-room activities to friendly members of press,” wrote Gage, “hoping to discredit the civil rights leader.  To their astonishment the story went nowhere.”

We might expect that the FBI could have found some editor at some paper in the South – especially one with segregationist leanings – to try to expose King’s moral failings.  “Today,” wrote Gage, “it is almost impossible to imagine the press refusing a juicy story.  To a scandal-hungry media, the bedroom practices of our public officials and moral leaders are usually fair game….Faced with today’s political environment, perhaps King would have made different decisions in his personal affairs.  Perhaps, though, he never would have had the chance to emerge as the public leader he ultimately became.”

The best inside look at how the Southern press restrained itself – and why — is offered by the late Eugene Patterson, who was editor of the Atlanta Constitution from 1960-1968.  Patterson would become editor of the St. Petersburg Times and a powerful force in the creation of what is now the Poynter Institute. He hired me to become one of America’s first newspaper writing coaches.

On May 1, 1965, Eugene Patterson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., appeared together on a panel at “Law Day U.S.A.” at the University of Pennsylvania. Patterson was the moderator. (Poynter Photo)

On May 1, 1965, Eugene Patterson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., appeared together on a panel at “Law Day U.S.A.” at the University of Pennsylvania. Patterson was the moderator. (Poynter Photo)

When I arrived in St. Pete in 1977, Howell Raines was political editor of the Times, an immensely gifted reporter and writer who would one day become editor of the New York Times.  That same year he would publish a comprehensive oral history of the civil rights movement titled My Soul Is Rested.

It is in that book that Patterson describes to Raines how he was approached by the FBI to smear King, a deeply troubling narrative, not just about the nightmare of American apartheid, but about the dangers of intelligence agencies that pry into the private life of its citizens.

Here’s my condensed version of Gene Patterson speaking to Howell Raines, used with Howell’s permission:

“An FBI agent was sent to see me with the bugging information that Dr. King had been engaged in extramarital sexual affairs.  The FBI agent, obviously under orders of the director, Hoover, because nobody acted without his direction, urged me – he said, ‘Gene,…here you on this paper have raised Dr. King up to be some kind of model American, some kind of saint, some kind of moralist.’  He said, ‘Now, here’s the information, and why don’t you print it?’  The FBI, the secret police of this country! And I had to explain to him, ‘Look, we’re not a peephole journal.  We don’t print this kind of stuff on any man.  And we’re not going to do it on Dr. King.’  And I said, ‘Furthermore, I’m shocked that you would be spying on an American citizen, whether it’s Dr. King or some other person because if it can happen to him, it can happen to all of us.’ And I asked him if he thought this wasn’t a misuse of the FBI. But he was highly offended at me, seeing us as an immoral newspaper for not printing back-alley gossip that the secret police of the United States were trying to ruin this man with.”

That agent had provided Patterson with the name of a Florida airport where King and a woman would be leaving, perhaps for the Caribbean, for a sexual affair.  He encouraged Patterson to send a reporter and photographer to catch King in the act: “Get a picture of this as well as a story on this man and expose him to the South and to the world.”

Patterson replied:  “Well that’s dangerous stuff, and it’s not our kind of journalism.” Undeterred, the FBI sent the agent back a second time, and once again, Patterson showed him the door.  By that time both Patterson and his mentor Ralph McGill were known for their progressive positions on racial justice in the South, and might have been expected to fend off J. Edgar Hoover and his minions. But Patterson revealed something deeper, and, I think, more inspiring about the response of the Southern press.

Patterson told Raines that one of the editors contacted by the FBI was Lou Harris of the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, a paper that supported segregation on its editorial pages.  Patterson recalls:

“So I had a phone call from Lou Harris one day, and he said, ‘Gene, I had a call from an FBI agent over here, and you’d be amazed at what he told me about Dr. King.’ And I said, ‘Lou, you mean sex exploits.’ …He said, ‘Have you heard about this?’ I said, ‘Yeah, the FBI has been to see me, too.’ And I said, ‘What are you gonna do with it?’ he said, ‘Hell, I wouldn’t print that stuff.  That’s beyond the pale.’ And this was a segregationist editor talking to me.  And I said, ‘Lou, I’m proud of you.  I’m not gonna mess with it either.’”

Patterson concludes, “I’m sure that story was spread to other Southern editors.  It’s a tribute to the press in the South, the segregationist press of that period that not one word of this ever came into print until after the death of Dr. King.  There were certain fences beyond which the press would not go in vilifying and damaging a man, and we didn’t do it to Dr. King.”

As I have thought about Patterson’s actions a half-century ago, I wondered why he didn’t do something to expose the reckless actions of the FBI.  Why not expose J. Edgar Hoover?  It occurred to me, of course, that such disclosure was a double-edged sword.  It could not be accomplished without evidence, and that evidence would include the smears against King.

But Patterson, it turns out, did take action, which he recounts in his interview with Raines.  One night, Patterson found himself on a plane to Atlanta with John Doar, one of Bobby Kennedy’s top aides in the Justice Department.  Hoover was a powerful man, but supposedly subject to the direction of the Attorney General.  “I want you to tell the attorney general about this,” said Patterson.  “He should know what the FBI is up to.”

“Because the more I thought about it,” Patterson said, “the more worried I’d become about the misuse of secret police powers.”  Patterson remembered that throughout his narrative, Doar never looked at him, staring straight ahead in stony silence.  “And all of a sudden,” said Patterson, “it hit me like a thunderclap that Bobby Kennedy knew about it.  I had made Doar very uncomfortable by relating it to him. Not one expression crossed that deadpan face of his.  He just did not respond.  It was like talking to a dead man.”

(Coincidently, Doar just died at the age of 92 on Nov. 11, the day Gage’s article on the “suicide letter” appeared in the Times.)

There are powerful lessons to be drawn from this story that involve race, politics, privacy, and power:

  • Patterson admired King and was, for a white Southerner, considered liberal on matters of race.  He accepted no credit for his action in the case.  As was his personal and rhetorical habit, he shined a light on the segregationist editor who did the right thing, the man whose professional ethics, however unsophisticated, would hold sway over political ideology.  (Something we need more of these days, I think.)
  • A half century after these incidents, the American intelligence and security apparatus have snooping powers well beyond anything that could be imagined by Dr. King, Patterson, and their contemporaries.  Imagine the corruption of a J. Edgar Hoover armed with the weapons of the digital age.  His original bugging of King, whom he hated and criticized publicly, was not in search of sexual indiscretions.  Hoover’s goals were measured by the paranoid politics of his time:  that King had consorted with Communists.  Patterson’s concerns about our secret police snooping on our citizens are more pertinent than ever.
  • Patterson articulated for Raines an ethic of public and private life that is worth revisiting, perhaps re-mounting on the wall:  that as long as a person’s private life did not impinge directly on his public service, that it was nobody’s business.  That is the ethic of secrecy that protected JFK and many other leaders from exposure of their irresponsible behavior. If the FBI leaked the indiscretions of a contemporary American leader, how long would it take to get to my Twitter feed?
  • The library at the Poynter Institute is dedicated to Gene Patterson, along with a Patterson chair – an actual leather chair – that once rested his body, and now his soul.

Read more