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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > Now Hear This, Spotlighting Brown, No Love for the Copy Editors

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SPJ Leads | 10/9/2008
Now Hear This, Spotlighting Brown, No Love for the Copy Editors


By Gena Asher
Indiana University School of Journalism

HEAR YE, HEAR YE: PROGRAMS WANTED. Be a part of the 2009 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference by submitting your great idea for a professional development program. SPJ, celebrating its 100th anniversary next year, is seeking proposals that contain leading-edge information; emphasize training, learning and performance; are "how to" and hands-on; focus on skill-building; provide personal development strategies; and comprise no more than two presenters. Deadline is Dec. 19. Check out the details and submit your proposal online.

FACS-INATING SEMINARS. SPJ and the Foundation for American Communications will present two tele-seminars examining class disparities on Tuesday, Oct. 14, and Tuesday, Oct. 21. The seminars conclude a series inspired by "The Measure of America," a recently published compendium of data on how Americans live, earn and struggle. The statistics document pockets of middle-class strength or vulnerability in many American communities. Presenters in the tele-seminars will introduce journalists to a number of resources that trace incomes, wealth, education, and the other factors needed to join and stay in the great American middle class, as well as the growth of persistently poor groups throughout the country. Participation is free for working journalists, but pre-registration is required. See FACS Web site for more information.

KNOW WHEN TO HOLD 'EM. If your chapter is looking for a different kind of program, try poker. The South Florida Pro Chapter, through a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, has printed a limited number of Ethics Hold'em decks, and you can get up to three for free. These cards have entries from SPJ's Code of Ethics on their faces. Greed is not only good, it's ethical! To learn how to play Ethics Hold'em, and to receive your free decks, click here.

20/20 IS NOT JUST A NEWSMAGAZINE. "The doctrine of no surprises" fell short for Gwen Ifill and the bi-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates that tapped her to moderate the vice presidential debate. PBS ombudsman Michael Getler, who has fielded many calls and e-mails from outraged viewers, says the commission and Ifill should have been prepared for the perceived conflict of interest due to Ifill's pending book about black politicians. The book isn't a secret; it's already listed on and on Ifill's bio pages. According to Getler, if the commission members had followed the doctrine, where editors and reporters share all facets of a story and try to predict blowback, they could have pre-empted the criticism that Ifill's book was a paean to Obama's success, skewing her objective abilities as moderator.

COMMENTARY, CAMPBELL STYLE. CNN's Campbell Brown says she was sitting in a doctor's waiting room, ruminating about ways to break through the iron door between vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and reporters, when she realized the strategy was a sexist plot. Tearing a piece of paper from a magazine, she jotted down notes that became her self-described "rant" later that night, and an Internet sensation just moments later. Her "Free Sarah Palin" speech may not encourage Palin to stop by CNN for that longed-for interview, but it does show CNN's viewers another side of Brown, one that dips a toe into the commentary waters where her cable colleagues have been treading water for quite some time.

ACROSS THE POND DIFFERENCES. Is it really plagiarism, or are those American journalism ethics just too darned stringent for the Brits? The new movie, "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People," is based on Toby Young's 2001 memoir about a British journalist's stint at Vanity Fair. Now, New York Magazine staffers say they've found that some of the book's passages appear to be straight from a 1996 New York Times story by John Tierney, who wrote about his own gig at Conde Nast. Tierney and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter say the passages are lifted, and author Young agrees, but thinks he's covered his bases with citations. Besides, he says of British journalists and plagiarism, "We're a little less precious about this kind of thing."

Britain's Express is cutting 80 "subeditors" that the organization deems redundant, and instead will have reporters post their material directly on the Internet, with only writers and lawyers to have a glance at the material afterward. Not that we can feel smug on this side of the Atlantic, as our own newspapers consider outsourcing some editing work, including copy editing, to India, or simply are eliminating copy editing jobs even as readers complain about grammar errors and typos. And if you missed it this summer, New York Times' Lawrence Downes' Elegy for Copy Editors deserves a read.

TAL: MASTER OF THE CENTERPIECE. "This American Life," a quiet little public radio show, is a favorite with listeners who enjoy what print journalists would call centerpieces, long-form narratives that break down complicated stories by letting people at the grassroots level share their stories. TAL has been gaining ground since 9/11, a phenomenon producers say may be due to the weekly program's ability to put its arms around topics that seem too big to digest. Poynter Online's Steve Myers writes about TAL's recent piece on the financial markets' meltdown, "Giant Pool of Money," and picks the producer's brain for tips we can all use to be better storytellers.

MORE FINGERPOINTING. When playing the blame game over the financial crisis, you may want to point a finger at yourself. At least that's what some reporters and editors are saying about their coverage of the markets in the past year CNBC's Charlie Gasparino says "we all failed," and others agree that the press didn't follow through on its whistle-blower role. That's not to say no one was covering the developments that led to the implosion of the past three weeks, and maybe readers should have been paying better attention the business pages of the past two years, but journalists from Fortune to "Marketplace" are conducting a little Monday morning quarterbacking.

DEFINITIONS IN OREGON. Is your media organization "institutionalized"? "Well-established"? Does it produce at least 25 percent news content? If you can't answer "yes" to all three, you won't be welcome to cover local government in Lake Oswego, Ore., if the local council adopts a policy that defines members of the news media. When an Oregon blogger demanded entry to cover an executive session, Lake Oswego council members challenged his claim that he is a journalist. The city devised the policy, not yet passed, that has generated heat from several media organizations who view it as arbitrary because it allows cities and counties to decide whom to admit and whom to exclude from meetings and executive sessions.

ABSURDIA IN ISLANDIA. Journalists and the general public on Long Island are scratching their heads after one municipal body, the Islandia Village Board, briefly considered banning audio and video recording and transmission of public meetings. The Press Club of Long Island, the local chapter of SPJ, strongly opposed the proposal. In an interesting twist, the day a public hearing was scheduled for the measure, the Board announced it would be tabled. The mayor later indicated to Newsday columnist Joye Brown that the proposal would not proceed.

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