January 23, 2022

Last week, the journalism world was abuzz with the story of a one-woman band MMJ who was hit by a car during a live shot but popped back up to say she was OK and that the same thing had happened to her in college.

Some outlets immediately took issue with her safety. One female TV journalist faulted the station’s next-day video with a  tweet that said, “I’m glad you’re ok, but please know this ISN’T ok.”

I, however, was still fixated on Yorgey’s remark about her previous experience with auto-peds. “This happened in college, too?” I thought. “Pray tell, where did you get your degree?”

Penn State, it turns out. Yorgey told Philadelphia magazine that the first incident happened not while she was on assignment but as she was walking back from the library — and she’d mentioned it on air to keep the woman who hit her calm.

I wanted to find out how Penn State journalism professors reacted to this viral clip from one of their recent grads, so I reached out to Steve Kraycik, director of student television and an associate teaching professor at Penn State. He said via email that Penn State is incredibly proud of Yorgey, not only for how she reacted when the accident happened, but also how professionally she handled it after the clip went viral. He called her a great person and an excellent young journalist.

“As you can expect, the on-air incident has been the big talk … around campus and our media center and it’s been great to see how proud everyone is of Tori,” he said. “Everyone is relieved that she wasn’t seriously hurt and we’re all impressed with how she’s handled the attention, the viral video and the aftermath.”

He said that he’d always been impressed with Yorgey’s love of hard news and journalism.

“She has such a passion for it and she works very hard,” he said. “We pride ourselves here at Penn State in giving our students good opportunities and real-world experience and we love it when we see someone like Tori have success in the business. She has a long and great career ahead of her.”

I also tried to reach Yorgey herself. I didn’t hear back before my deadline, but that’s OK. After all, she was working her last day at the West Virginia station before heading back to Pennsylvania for a new job at a station in Pittsburgh.

The incident brings up a variety of issues that we should discuss with our students now: toughness, safety, responsibility and power. Check out this week’s Professor’s Press Pass for a curated discussion about the incident and some thoughtful questions for an engaging classroom discussion.

I’ll leave you with one more tweet: “Penn State journalism makes you tough enough to shrug off getting hit by a car.”

News of note

The BBC Television Centre in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

I thought this was a super interesting read: “It’s time for a new contract between journalists and public contributors: here’s a proposed 11 point-code of conduct.” I wonder what your students would think about it. How does the term “public contributor” strike them vs. “source”? Do they see some good points in this essay? Maybe talk to them about the source/journalist relationship and how it’s changing. What obligations do journalists have to make a potential source understand the ramifications of going on the record, if any?

Protesters demonstrate calling for police accountability in Media, Pennsylvania, in January 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Thanks to Bill Freivogel, director of the school of journalism of Southern Illinois University, for flagging this 2021 work, “Roadblocks to Police Accountability.” I hadn’t seen it before!

Created in partnership with the Pulitzer Center, the project’s description reads in part, “A team of 15 college journalists is digging into cases where misconduct has been swept under the rug. … The student reporters are diverse and drawn from universities around the country — Stanford, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Washington University, Hampton, Spelman, Baylor, Case Western. Some are TV or radio journalists, and others are newspaper or website journalists. They are collecting video, audio and still photos in addition to creating graphics.”

Here’s an additional report.

I’m always interested to hear about student projects like this one.

Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, leaves a news conference in December 2021 after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating George Floyd’s civil rights. (AP Photo/Nikolas Liepins)

Speaking of police accountability, here’s an upcoming event that your students might be interested in.

“Police Accountability: How to get hidden records,” presented by The National Press Club Journalism Institute, is set for 11:30 a.m. Eastern on Monday. Here is the registration link, which also includes information on speakers. The description says, “Since the murder of George Floyd by police, there has been renewed attention to police misconduct and growing momentum for holding law enforcement accountable. But journalists struggle to get access to public records that could be used to reveal police conduct. The outcome of police discipline proceedings across the country are among our nation’s best kept secrets.”

UNC Daily Tar Heel General Manager Courtney Mitchell (right) and Duke Chronicle General Manager Chrissy Beck. (Screenshot)

If you’re in student media, are you cashing in on your rivalries yet? If the answer is no, please, I beg of you, look toward this success story in North Carolina.

For the fourth year in a row, the Duke Chronicle and the UNC Daily Tar Heel are joining together in a fundraising challenge to get people to donate money to each student media organization in advance of the big rivalry game between the two basketball powerhouses Feb. 5.

The two organizations heavily promote the competition online and in print in the weeks leading up to the game. In the past, they’ve raised more than $75,000 in a year, no small sum for student media. “While nonprofit fundraising often depends on the love that supporters feel for an organization, the Rivalry Challenge is also successful because of the deep competition and good-natured animosity between the schools that sit just nine miles apart,” said a release.

The Tar Heel won the competition in 2019 and 2020, but Duke pulled in front in 2021.

Whoever is your rival in any capacity, I implore you to pick up the phone and call them up. Any rivalry competition, no matter the size of your school or the nature of your rivalry, could be explored for a potential fundraiser.

Other news of note

  • More than 100 student body presidents have signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris asking them to cancel all federal student loan debt. Is your student government leader on the list?
  • NBCU Academy — a journalism training and development program to prepare college students for a career in the news and media technology industry and to help professional journalists gain new skills — announced 13 new academic partnerships. You can see the list of schools here. Organizers told me the best way for interested schools to stay up to date on future opportunities is to subscribe to “The Weekly Rundown” newsletter.

Headlines about higher ed

Great journalism to share with your students

Diversity, equity and inclusion

This week in fact checking

Last week, my colleagues launched MediaWise en Español to help the Spanish-speaking community separate fact from fiction online and find trustworthy sources. The session is based on our highly successful fact-checking workshops (delivered to some of you by Campus Correspondents) in MediaWise’s ongoing efforts to help people of different generations tell fact from fiction online.

If you work with Latino communities or students, here are some free resources:

  • Quick lessons on WhatsApp
  • A self-directed online course
  • A series of informational videos on YouTube with our newest MediaWise ambassadors and internationally known journalists José Díaz-Balart and Julio Vaqueiro

Lessons learned

Rachel Layne. (Courtesy)

Rachel Layne, who describes herself as “reporter/editor/writer/instructor at Emerson College,” shared this with me last week about helping students prepare for interviews, focus on follow-up questions and push past nervousness.

For an interview remember to:

  • Write down five or six keywords to spark your memory on topics at a glance during the interview
  • Don’t be afraid to veer from your list of questions and topics to follow the conversation.
  • It is OK to ask the interviewee for a moment while you review your questions.
  • Remember to listen — silence is your friend — interviewees want to fill the space.
  • Do. Your. Research. Before. The. Interview.
  • Be polite and respectful — to everyone.
  • Ask short questions. Subject-verb-object.

Follow-up questions that can be useful (keep them to five words):

  • How do you know that?
  • Why do you say that?
  • Who else knows about this?
  • Are there documents to see?
  • How can I get them?
  •  Where did this happen?
  • When did this happen?
  • What am I not asking (that is important or that people miss about the topic)?

(If you’d like to be featured in this section, please email me at ballen@poynter.org. Be prepared to send a blurb, a photo and pertinent links.)

The Lead

Last week marked the start of our series examining the role of sports and sports journalism in student newsrooms. From the first piece: “Sports journalism is about much more than just sports, and student publications need to recognize that. It’s only by fully integrating sports that college newsrooms can cover athletics to their full potential.”

Subscribe to The Lead, Poynter’s weekly newsletter for student journalists, and encourage your students to do the same.

One last thing

Some cleverness for the music fans.

Resources for educators

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Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Poynter.org. She spent two decades in…
Barbara Allen

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