Internships cause plenty of hardship and woe

Bad internships are like ill-fated summer romances: You go into them with an open heart and all the hope in the world, only to find out after three sizzling months they were using you the whole time.

I’ve been fortunate in my fledgling career — and my love life — to steer clear of these summertime abusers. But like almost everyone working in journalism, I endured my fair share of harrowing situations while I was still figuring out which end of the pencil was up.

In the hopes of finding comfort in shared misery, I sent out a few tweets yesterday looking to hear about your worst internship stories. Here’s what you wrote back, on Twitter and through email:

Poynter reader Robin Roger sent these stories from her business reporting internship at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

I was so nervous/excited on my first day, that I got to the parking garage 30 minutes early. I walked around the building a bit before realizing that I was supposed to park in another garage to get reimbursed. When I made it back to the original garage, I realized I had locked my keys in the car, and my car had been blocking the entrance to the parking garage for 15 or 20 minutes! Needless to say the guys at the garage weren’t happy with me. I called a locksmith, and they were there in minutes to extricate my key. I ended up being only 5 minutes late to my first day on the job, but I was a sweaty, nervous mess, not the calm, cool collected intern I was when I first arrived.

This one is more directly related to reporting:

I was sent out to interview customers of a locally owned pharmacy that was being bought by the Eckerd chain. The Eckerd folks didn’t want me interviewing in the store, so I was approaching people in the parking lot. I didn’t get a lot of cooperation, and one woman who seemed very suspicious even asked me “How do I even know you’re with the newspaper?!” I realized at that point I had rushed out the door, forgetting to bring my hangtag ID, so I had no proof that I worked for the paper. I never left the office again without it.

And one more:

When China changed the way it links its currency to the U.S. dollar, I was sent to a Walmart parking lot to interview customers about how this might affect them. I had to take this very complex economic concept, explain it to people in a Walmart parking lot and then ask them how it might affect their purchasing decisions. It was a longshot at best. I got comments like “I buy all my underwear at Walmart, and I guess I’ll have to go somewhere else.” I got stuck in rush hour traffic for hours, and ended up having to call in the quotes I had gathered. I was also asked to purchase items made in China for a photo to go with the article, and when I came back with a wide variety of items, I was told by the editor that that’s not what he was looking for. He wanted me to bring back the “cheap plastic crap” that they make. I had to tell him they make a lot more than that! I ended up getting to share a byline on the front page for the story, so that made it all worthwhile.

Former Buffalo News intern Brandon Schlager wrote in with this stemwinder about driving through a blizzard to interview for his internship:

My story takes place in January 2014. To appreciate the importance of the setting in relation to the narrative, you must first understand that January in Buffalo inherently means lots of ice, plenty of cold and, well, you know … snow. Buffalo sometimes gets a worse rap for its weather than it deserves, but this particular winter lived up to (and probably exceeded) the stereotypes — two blizzards in a two-month span, the first of which made its way into town late on Jan. 6.

The next morning, Jan. 7, is when I was scheduled to interview for an intern position. I remember waking up, ignorant to the warnings heeded by weathermen the night before. And with no one having called to postpone the interview, I stubbornly set out on my trek to the newsroom in downtown Buffalo (I am from a Buffalo suburb about 15 minutes away), paying no mind to the 30-50 mph winds and the minus 28 degree wind chill that came along with it.

The snow is hardly a deterrent for Buffalonians when it comes to driving. Navigating the flurries becomes second nature in time. So no big deal. The drive was a bit trickier than usual, but I made it to One News Plaza with 15 minutes to spare, proud of my punctuality. I won’t soon forget the look I received when I told the receptionist I had arrived to interview for an internship.

She said something along the lines of, “You could have been two hours late and I don’t think anyone would have blamed you for it.”

When I met with my interviewer, he was quick to share that the newsroom was particularly hectic because many of the reporters couldn’t make it into the office that day. They were stuck at home.

Twelve to 18 inches of snow fell before Jan. 7 ran its course. The Sabres-Hurricanes hockey game scheduled for that night was cancelled. It was the first technical blizzard in Buffalo in 20 years, since 1993. Another one followed in March. We had a great run.

Long story short, the interviews went well, I got the position and enjoyed a great (and sunny) summer with The Buffalo News.

Do you have any terrible internship stories you’d like to be included here? Send me an email at bmullin@poynter.org, and I’ll add it to the article. Read more

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Canadian ban on printing Rehtaeh Parsons’ name extends to advertisements, family finds

Canada won’t allow its journalists to print Rehtaeh Parsons’ name, because she was a victim of child pornography. That ban extends to advertising, too, one of Parsons’ family members has found, even if an ad only includes what could be considered an oblique reference to the court case that invoked the publication ban.

Rehtaeh Parsons (Photograph courtesy Courtesy Glen Canning and Leah Parsons)

Rehtaeh Parsons (Photograph courtesy Courtesy Glen Canning and Leah Parsons)

Rehtaeh Parsons died last year, and last month a young man pleaded guilty to taking a photograph that led to her being bullied and tormented. But Nova Scotia media could only refer to the plea as being in conjunction with a “high-profile child pornography case.”

Rehtaeh Parsons’ uncle, Jim Canning, tried to place an ad in Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Chronicle Herald, the largest newspaper in the province, to make the connection between the conviction and his niece. But the paper refused, concerned such an ad would violate the publication ban.

“I was pretty disappointed,” Jim Canning said. “We just wanted to say ‘Rehtaeh Parsons is her name.’ That’s it. We would have been fine with that.”

Rehtaeh Parsons’ case attained worldwide notoriety last April, when she committed suicide after months of cyber-bullying. Her ordeal began after a photo got shared of her leaning out a window puking while a boy penetrated her from behind.

She claimed she was raped by this boy and three others, but the boys say the sex was consensual and occurred at an alcohol-fueled party.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Nova Scotia investigated the matter for several months but never seized the boys’ cellphones and didn’t speak to the accused for 10 months. When the police finally took their evidence to the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service, the Crown Attorney that reviewed the file refused to prosecute because she didn’t think the likelihood of a conviction was high enough.

After Rehtaeh’s death, her mother, Leah, turned to social media to tell her daughter’s story. The hacker collective Anonymous got involved and intense pressure from them, the public, and the provincial government prompted the police to re-open the case.

New evidence turned up and was given to Halifax police, who laid charges in August 2013 — but not for sexual assault. They charged two boys: one with production and distribution of child pornography and one with distribution of child pornography.

There is a statutory ban on the naming of victims in child pornography cases in Canada, yet the media continued to name Rehtaeh Parsons until April 2014, when Nova Scotia Provincial Court Judge Jamie Campbell ordered the ban. Rehtaeh’s parents opposed the order, as did Alex Smith, an Ontario Crown Prosecutor brought in to handle the case.

Four Nova Scotia media outlets hired lawyer Nancy Rubin to fight the ban, but Campbell said the statute gave him no leeway. Because the law protects the victims of child pornography, he was not prepared to forge a ruling that could be misconstrued in the future.

Martin Herschorn, Nova Scotia’s Director of Public Prosecutions, and Lena Metlege Diab, the Attorney General of Nova Scotia, said they couldn’t promise to not prosecute any journalists who broke the ban until it was violated.

That presented media outlets with a perfect Catch-22: The media couldn’t name Rehtaeh Parsons, and the only way to create a legal path to use her name in covering this case was for a journalist to break the law.

Rehtaeh Parsons’ parents openly flouted the ban. They started a social media campaign and made T-shirts and buttons with the slogan “Rehtaeh Parsons is her name.”

I broke the ban on my blog, and other media outlets picked up the story including Slate, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, and the BBC.

But no mainstream Canadian media followed, which is why Rehtaeh Parsons’ uncle, Jim Canning, took it upon himself to try to place an ad in The Chronicle Herald.

He sent the paper the copy he wanted in the ad:

Her name is Rehtaeh Parsons.
She was raped at 15.
She was bullied and died by suicide at 17.
And then we banned her name.

The Chronicle Herald objected to the last line referencing the ban and asked Canning if he would remove it. He said yes, and then the ad got reviewed again.

“They were still too worried about it, even though basically at this point it’s just saying her name,” said Canning.

He said the advertising executive he was speaking with told him “it’s kind of implied that you’re talking about the ban,” Canning said. “I thought that was just ridiculous.”

Chronicle Herald Associate Publisher Ian Thompson told me it was purely a legal issue for the paper.

“We got advice to say that we would be in violation of the ban if we ran that ad,” Thompson said. “We would have been happy to run the ad, but we don’t want to run afoul of the law.”

Days after rejecting Canning’s ad the Herald ran a story by The Canadian Press on Oct. 1 in which it named Rehtaeh Parsons.

“We’ve run her name many times, but it’s in the context of that particular court action where the ban comes into play,” Thompson said.

When asked how the wire story about an anti-cyberbullying curriculum was different than the ad proposed by Canning, Thompson said when it comes to the law “there are often gray areas, and that’s why there are lawyers.”

Put simply, the Herald asked these questions when considering Canning’s ad: “Would it be seen by the court as an attempt to overcome what Judge Campbell had said and was this an attempt to do from the back door what the court said you can’t do in the front door?” Thompson said.

Toronto lawyer Brian Rogers says you have to consider Jim Canning’s intent, which Rogers says is to get around the ban.

Photograph courtesy Glen Canning and Leah Parson

Photograph courtesy Glen Canning and Leah Parson

“Even taking that last line out, that’s still the intended purpose of the ad,” Rogers said. Even though the CP story mentions that Rehtaeh was the victim of cyber-bullying, and that this entailed the taking and distribution of the photograph, which is the crux of the child-pornography case, it’s different.

“I can appreciate that some people may scratch their heads and wonder about the distinction, but it is one,” Rogers said.

Rogers stressed that he wasn’t prepared to second-guess the advice the Chronicle Herald received, but he does understand the basis on which they made their decision.

“It’s clear that the intent of the ad is to subvert the ban, whereas the other is an article talking about cyber-bullying legislation,” he said.

He also agreed that the words in the ad, which echo those in the social media campaign by Glen Canning and Leah Parsons – an open defiance of the ban – would also be a factor worth considering.

“This is by no means a simple black-and-white situation and you would take into account all kinds of factors,” Rogers said. “It’s really a matter for the client to decide what risk they are prepared to take. There are circumstances in which clients are more prepared to take risks than others.”

In this case, The Chronicle Herald decided it wasn’t prepared to take the risk.

“Lawyers are always going to take the most risk-averse approach to most things, so the advice isn’t surprising,” Jim Canning said. “But when you make business decisions or moral decisions, you don’t just solely base it off of what your lawyer tells you or no one would ever do anything.”

Two Chronicle Herald journalists, Selena Ross and Frances Willick, shared a national newspaper award for their investigative work into the Rehtaeh Parsons case, so it’s unfortunate that their coverage has been hampered by this ban.

“I do personally hope the ban won’t be enforced and that we can get away from this stilted, ineffective coverage,” Ross said.

Thompson said, “Rehtaeh Parsons’ name will appear in our newspaper again – obviously.”

It’s a name that carries power and brings weight to any discussion about sexual consent, cyber-bullying or suicide prevention, Canning said.

“I think the name is important, just like my brother [Rehtaeh's father, Glen] does,” Canning said. “I just wanted to kind of make a statement: ‘Don’t forget her.’ Read more

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The Globe rolls out red carpet for documentary film

This year, editors at The Boston Globe noticed that they shared something important with Hollywood’s biggest night: three directors, all trained at nearby Harvard University, each got Oscar nods for documentary filmmaking.

That got the paper’s attention. Globe editors had known for awhile that New England was a hotbed for documentarians, with big names like Ken Burns and Errol Morris calling the region home. The arts staff, under film editor Janice Page, had long discussed expanding the paper’s coverage of documentary filmmaking; now they had a newspeg.

Now, a few months later, The Boston Globe is rolling out a red carpet of its own for the region’s filmmakers and cinephiles. On Thursday, the paper announced GlobeDocs, a bid to celebrate the city’s nonfiction film scene. The initiative, headed up by Page, will include a series of free screenings (at least one every month) at independent theaters throughout Boston that will include panel discussions with filmmakers and industry experts. The paper is currently working to identify advertisers to sponsor the screenings, said Boston Globe CEO Mike Sheehan.

In an effort to become a hub for the film community, The Globe is also planning to put on a film festival sometime in 2015 and has begun a fund “to support up-and-coming filmmakers,” according to a release announcing GlobeDocs.

In the weeks leading up to Thursday’s announcement, the paper was already beefing up its documentary coverage. Earlier this month, The Globe began devoting a full page of its Sunday arts section to nonfiction film. The paper brought aboard Peter Keough, the former film editor of the now-defunct Boston Phoenix, to anchor the section; he writes a weekly roundup of the region’s documentary news called “Doc Talk” and asks a prominent movie-lover for recommendations in a feature called “Documania.”

Close watchers of The Globe will notice this isn’t the first time the paper has invested in specialized coverage of the city. This year, the paper rolled out two standalone sites — BetaBoston and Crux — to chronicle the startup and Catholic communities, respectively. In June, the paper added a Friday print section, “Capital,” dedicated exclusively to politics coverage. And there will likely be more specialized verticals to follow, Sheehan said.

The homepage of Crux, The Boston Globe's new vertical for Catholic news.

The homepage of Crux, The Boston Globe’s new vertical for Catholic news.

And as with the other new initiatives, The Globe is planning to kick off GlobeDocs with a live event — in this case, a screening of “The Irish Pub,” featuring a discussion with director Alex Fegan moderated by Globe columnist Kevin Cullen. This echoes other launch events held for verticals like Crux and Capital.

The business thinking behind these live meetups — from next year’s film festival to events the paper’s has been putting on for years — is to position The Globe to become a convener of the community in addition to its chronicler, Sheehan said. The events, which build and showcase the verticals’ respective audiences, have the potential to indirectly drive revenue by making them more attractive to advertisers.

“Newspapers were traditionally experienced in someone’s hand, something someone read,” Sheehan said. “At their best today, newspapers are something that bring people together.” Read more

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From AIDS to Ebola: Journalism, disease, and the mentality of fear

I remember a day back in the 1980s when I first met a person who I thought had AIDS.  I was sitting at the front desk of the old storefront building of the Poynter Institute when a tall gaunt man entered through the glass doors and approached me with a question. I have forgotten his question, but I do remember being frightened by his appearance.

He had several lesions on his face, the kind that people got after their immune system had been compromised by the AIDS virus. I did not reach out to shake his hand, my usual gesture, but babbled some reason to direct him out of the building. I am not proud of this. I just want to establish my credentials as someone capable of panicky, irrational fear.

About a decade after that meeting, 1996 to be exact, I published a month-long series in what was then the St. Petersburg Times called “Three Little Words.”  It told the story of a seemingly normal Midwestern family in which father died of AIDS. I learned a lot during the reporting and writing of that narrative. The most important lesson: Be not afraid.

I learned, for example, that HIV was much harder to contract than I had originally thought. Turning back the clock a decade, I could have shaken hands with that man that came into Poynter; I could have embraced him like a brother; we could share a meal without fear of infection. It would have been different if we had shared a needle to shoot up drugs or if we had engaged in anal intercourse.

There is that phrase. Anal intercourse. The one that so many news outlets were afraid to use, paralyzed by their inhibitions over what was possible to publish in a “family newspaper.”  So they resorted to euphemism:  “the exchange of bodily fluids.”  As a result of such squeamishness, I believe that ignorance was spread and that lives were lost.

In addition, we unleashed a decade of hate and discrimination. Two groups felt it most harshly:  poor people of color who looked – in the eyes of suburban whites – to be drug addicts; and gay men, all of whom were suspected of dangerous sexual practices with dozens if not hundreds of partners.

While my series on AIDS was running, I was invited by Times sports editor Hubert Mizell to appear on his morning radio talk show. A couple of prominent athletes had been diagnosed with the disease, and Mizell thought the conversation would have news value. I remember one phone call from a hockey fan who said he would no longer attend games because he might become infected with the AIDS virus. We looked at each other, puzzled. Here was his rationale:  hockey players get into fights along the boards and if they bled, their blood might splatter into the stands, infecting fans with AIDS.

I can remember my response years later, almost word for word. “Yeah, you might die as a result of attending a hockey game, sir. You might get hit in the head with a puck!”

I am no expert on Ebola, just a concerned American and writer who has been following a lot of the news coverage. Much of it has been very good. But even the best, most cautious, most nuanced coverage, I fear, has a hard time gaining traction.

Journalists, medical professionals, political leaders, people of reason and good faith everywhere must remember that we are fighting one of the most powerful forces in human history: the narrative of the leper. To be called, even metaphorically, a leper means that you are someone who is despised and feared. You will wear a bell around your neck. At your approach, people who fear you will stone you or put you in quarantine to die: leper colonies. Only holy men and women – Jesus, Damian, Mother Teresa – owned the moral courage to comfort the afflicted.

To move from the sublime to the ridiculous, even our popular culture reinforces the ignorant fear of infection. Exhibit A: the zombie. How many thousands and thousands of cinematic zombies have had their heads cut off, their brains blown out, or their bodies torched?  If I lived in Zombie Land, that, no doubt, would be my reaction, too. Why? Because if I am bitten, I will become infected, and, after infection, I will join the legions of the living dead. At their core, most horror stories are allegories about disease.

There is another old narrative that has raised its ugly head, one that I have known as a boy, but existed much longer than that. It is the story of Darkest Africa, and it expressed the worst fears of a privileged white race. As great a literary artist as Joseph Conrad succumbed to it in his novel Heart of Darkness. In this narrative, the Dark Continent is a place of primitive and pervasive dangers, where wild animals abound and dark-skinned humans engage in barbaric practices such as cannibalism. Even the cartoons of my youth played out versions of this theme.

I do not believe the irrational public fear of Ebola would be nearly as great if the disease had not come “out of Africa.”

So there is a lot of work to do, my brothers and sisters in journalism. The more we learn, I will predict, the more reason and proportion we will bring to the process. It took me a decade to overcome my fear of AIDS. I know we can do better than that.

When I began this essay, my plan was just to compare Ebola to AIDS. That move led me to something much deeper, the narratives of the despised leper and the primal fears of the Dark Continent.  Fear of disease has always been linked to the enemy, the scapegoat. In Shakespeare’s time, the English called syphilis the “French disease.” European Christians blamed the Black Death on Jews, even as they would eventually carry diseases, such as smallpox, to the inhabitants of the New World.This is the mythology of disease. We blame its transmission on people we despise.

In many cases, it is the role of the journalist to point the public’s attention to things they should be afraid of: that hurricane brewing in the Gulf; air bags that blast shrapnel onto drivers; that sinkhole near the bridge. But there is another – I am tempted to say more important – role. That is to take corrosive fear, the kind that leads to prejudice and hate, and apply the disinfecting light of cool reason and reliable information Read more

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NBCUniversal settles intern lawsuit

Los Angeles Times

NBCUniversal will pay $6.4 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by former interns, Daniel Miller reports in the Los Angeles Times.

The suit was originally brought last July by Jesse Moore and Monet Eliastam, who interned at MSNBC and “Saturday Night Live,” respectively, and “grew to include plaintiffs from other states,” Miller writes.

Related: Poynter’s list of paid internships

They’ll get “special bonuses,” and “a handful of plaintiffs would receive $2,000 to $10,000 each,” Miller writes. “Other unpaid interns who qualify to be included in the settlement would see far less — $505 on average, according to the legal filings.”

In 2012, Rachel Bien, a lawyer for the firm that represented Moore and Eliastam (and has helped lead the charge on lawsuits over unpaid internships), told Poynter, “The fact that interns get some benefit from the internship doesn’t mean the company doesn’t have to pay them for work that provides an advantage to the company.” Read more

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Career Beat: Callie Schweitzer is editorial director for Time Inc., Time magazine

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

  • Callie Schweitzer has been named editorial director of audience strategy for Time Magazine and Time Inc. Previously, she was director of digital innovation at Time magazine. (Poynter)
  • Peter Lattman will be deputy business editor at The New York Times. Previously, he was media editor there. (The New York Times)
  • Paul Greenberg is chief executive officer at Nylon Media. Previously, he was CEO of CollegeHumor.com. (prnewswire.com)
  • Stefano Fusaro is now a sports anchor for WTVJ in Miami. Previously, he was sports director at KXLN in Houston. (TV Spy)
  • Roxane Gay is a columnist at Guardian U.S. She is the author of “An Untamed State” and “Bad Feminist”. Jeb Lund is a columnist at Guardian U.S. He has written for Rolling Stone, GQ and The New Republic. Trevor Timm is a columnist at Guardian U.S. He is executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Steven Thrasher is a columnist at Guardian U.S. He is a contributing editor at BuzzFeed. Jess Zimmerman is a columnist at Guardian U.S. She is a technology essayist. (Email)

Job of the day: Euclid Media Group is looking for an editor-in-chief for the San Antonio Current. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org Read more

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N.Y. tabs met in secret lovenest

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories, then let’s get to the weekend.

  1. A New York Post/New York Daily News collaboration? Joe Pompeo reports the rival papers had unsuccessful discussions about “a number of potential business deals that would have made unlikely bedfellows of enemy combatants.” “Many deal points were on the table,” a source tells him. Another source tells Pompeo talks about a digital-only Daily News are “not about if, they’re about when.” (Capital)
  2. Earnings: Broadcast ad revenues way up, print ad revenues down nearly 8 percent at Meredith. (MediaPost) | McClatchy had “a rocky third quarter,” plus what it called “important events that have sealed our financial flexibility” — some substantial assets sales. “An unfriendly commentator might describe those ‘events’ as a yard sale,” Rick Edmonds writes. (Poynter)
  3. Some less-than-worshipful takes on the Dave McKinney affair: His now-former Sun-Times colleague Neil Steinberg writes: “I sincerely believe that had McKinney managed to just step around this mess and gone back to doing his job, an important life skill in journalism, instead of pouring gasoline over himself, and the paper, and striking a match, the whole thing would be over by now and he’d be back to kicking [Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce] Rauner’s ass, which is what this is supposedly all about.” (Every goddamn day) | Erik Wemple on the “monster ethical issue” underneath all this: “Either the Sun-Times should have bumped McKinney from the race early on, or it should have run disclaimers on his stories.” (WP)
  4. AMC buys half of BBC America: The deal may help the BBC World News channel get on U.S. cable and satellite systems, Brian Stelter reports. (CNN)
  5. Guardian’s lawyer honored: The National LGBT Bar Association will honor Gill Phillips, who runs editorial legal services at Guardian News & Media Limited. The Guardian’s Edward Snowden stories were “one of many challenges the openly lesbian Phillips has faced during her tenure at the paper, which has also included breaking the phone-hacking story, The Trafigura Super Injunction Saga and the Leveson Inquiry.” (PinkNews)
  6. The Queen sent a tweet: “It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R.” (@BritishMonarchy) | Other tweets by royals. (Twitter UK) | One used an iPad: “Here’s a photo of the man who actually typed the tweet and prepared the iPad for the Queen.” (Business Insider)
  7. National Report defends bogus news reports: “We like to think we are doing a public service by introducing readers to misinformation,” National Report publisher Allen Montgomery (whose name is also fake, but let’s move on) says. Craig Silverman: “They may say this is an educational effort, but all the education has come from the other people debunking their stuff.” (Digiday)
  8. “Sometimes the size is so overwhelming, it’s hard to find a picture”: NYT photographer Ozier Muhammad takes Deborah Acosta with him on assignment as he tries to get (and transmit) photos from last month’s People’s Climate March. He finally gets an image through by hitting a Starbucks and using its WiFi. (NYT)
  9. Front page of the day, not curated by Kristen Hare: A great photo of yesterday’s solar eclipse from The Plain Dealer’s John Kuntz, with a solid headline: “Moon takes a spectacular bite out of the sun.” (Courtesy the Newseum.)

    plain-dealer-10242014  

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Callie Schweitzer has been named editorial director of audience strategy for Time Magazine and Time Inc. Previously, she was director of digital innovation at Time magazine. (Poynter) | Peter Lattman will be deputy business editor at The New York Times. Previously, he was media editor there. (The New York Times) | Paul Greenberg is chief executive officer at Nylon Media. Previously, he was CEO of CollegeHumor.com. (prnewswire.com) | Stefano Fusaro is now a sports anchor for WTVJ in Miami. Previously, he was sports director at KXLN in Houston. (TV Spy) | Roxane Gay is a columnist at Guardian U.S. She is the author of “An Untamed State” and “Bad Feminist”. Jeb Lund is a columnist at Guardian U.S. He has written for Rolling Stone, GQ and The New Republic. Trevor Timm is a columnist at Guardian U.S. He is executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Steven Thrasher is a columnist at Guardian U.S. He is a contributing editor at BuzzFeed. Jess Zimmerman is a columnist at Guardian U.S. She is a technology essayist. (Email) | Job of the day: Euclid Media Group is looking for an editor-in-chief for the San Antonio Current. 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-Space Photos

Today in Media History: In 1946, the media reported on the first photos from space

There have been news stories about rockets since the earliest newspapers, but reports about the use of former German V-2 rockets after World War II marked the beginning of space news as we know it today.

And what better example of early space news than the October 24, 1946 Universal newsreel story about the first photos from space.

Screenshot from 1946 newsreel

Screenshot from 1946 newsreel

“On October 24, 1946, not long after the end of World War II and years before the Sputnik satellite opened the space age, a group of soldiers and scientists in the New Mexico desert saw something new and wonderful — the first pictures of Earth as seen from space.

The grainy, black-and-white photos were taken from an altitude of 65 miles by a 35-millimeter motion picture camera riding on a V-2 missile launched from the White Sands Missile Range. Snapping a new frame every second and a half, the rocket-borne camera climbed straight up, then fell back to Earth minutes later, slamming into the ground at 500 feet per second. The camera itself was smashed, but the film, protected in a steel cassette, was unharmed.

….When the movie frames were stitched together, Clyde Holliday, the engineer who developed the camera, wrote in National Geographic in 1950, the V-2 photos showed for the first time ‘how our Earth would look to visitors from another planet coming in on a space ship.’”

– “The First Photo From Space
Air & Space Magazine, November 2006

This silent film footage is from a British Pathe newsreel:

“WHITE SANDS, N.M., Oct. 24 (AP) – The Army fired a German V-2 rocket sixty-three miles above the earth today and, although the altitude fell far short of the 104-mile record, an Ordnance Department spokesman termed the results of the test ‘fairly good.’

….Army experts had said they expected today’s rocket to supply information which might cause ‘serious revision’ of existing cosmic ray theories.

Lieut. Alexander Szabo of the proving ground’s public relations office said ‘high hopes of recovery’ of instruments carried in the nose were entertained.”

– “V-2 Rocket Is Fired To 63-Mile Altitude”
Associated Press, October 24, 1946

Screenshot from 1946 newsreel

Screenshot from 1946 newsreel

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Mitt Romney

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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Tough times at McClatchy — A quarterly loss and four assets sold

McClatchy closed the books today on a rocky third quarter with an earnings report yesterday showing a small loss of $2.6 million (1 percent on revenues of $277.6 million).

But CEO Pat Talimantes instead opened the conference call with analysts offering commentary on a much bigger issue, what he described as “important events that have sealed our financial flexibility.”

An unfriendly commentator might describe those “events” as a yard sale. So far in 2014, McClatchy has sold four separate and substantial assets. The largest of them, in a deal with Gannett closed the first week in October, was a 25.6 percent stake in Classified Ventures’ Cars.com, which will bring in $631.8 million before taxes, $406 million after.

Earlier this year McClatchy sold its stake in Apartments.com (another part of Classified Ventures)  It also sold its half of McClatchy/Tribune Information Services to Tribune and the Alaska Daily News to wealthy investor Alice Rogoff.  Those transactions generated another $181 million.

Talamantes said the cash infusion will go to investments in “digital transformation” and to pay down some high-interest (9 percent) debt.

On the operating side McClatchy had a year-to-year third quarter decline in advertising of 8.2 percent. Print advertising was down 11 percent. Though national advertising makes up only a small part of the total (about 7 percent), it was off 23.2 percent for the quarter compared to 2013, which was not a good year for national either.

Trends were better in audience revenues and remaining digital businesses, Talamantes said. With continuing diversification the company now gets 64 percent of revenue from categories other than print advertising.

Under questioning from analysts, Talamantes said McClatchy was unlikely to acquire any of the 76 Digital First papers or others up for sale. “We would rather invest n opportunities in our markets … (with) greater digital resources.”

McClatchy continues an affiliation agreement with Cars.com and Apartments.com., but going forward it will need to split some the proceeds of sales with the new owners, thus reducing the revenue it realizes.

Also, while McClatchy will continue to look for savings, he declined to predict that expenses will fall in t he fourth quarter or in early 2015. Digital transformation is essential, Talamantes said, “and that requires some investment.”

For the day, McClatchy shares were up slightly in mid-afternoon trading. However they have now lost roughly half their value from a 2014 high April 2 of $6.81. Other newspaper-only stocks including the New York Times Company (which has sold many non-core assets in recent years)  and Lee Communications have declined in value since the spring but not nearly so much. Read more

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