Wick Communications

Protecting minors in your coverage

In Ethics on April 11, 2014 at 9:04 am

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Under what circumstances would you identify underage sex crime perpetrators or victims? What if it were perfectly legal to do so? What if other media outlets had already done so? Would you grant anonymity to the mother of a victim? Where would you run such a story in your newspaper?

These aren’t hypothetical questions. They are real-world quandaries that Wick journalists face all the time. For instance, this week alone:

  • In Roanoke Rapids, a 16-year-old boy was charged in sex crimes against younger boys. By state law, those over the age of 16 are considered adults so authorities released the name of the accused. Managing Editor Matt Lindberg had to decide whether it was fair to print the name of a teenager accused of such heinous crimes.

These are not easy questions. We want to be consistent and make defensible decisions. But we also want to take extra consideration whenever juveniles are caught on either side of these questions. …

Making big data useful

In Data journalism on April 11, 2014 at 8:58 am

big data

Today, journalism is more than a series of 20-inch stories from government meetings wrapped around the occasional human interest story. Take, for instance, this fairly amazing database from the New York Times (and thank you, Wick Group Publisher Tom Lee, for bringing it to my attention.)

Go ahead and type in the name of your doctor. What do you see? Probably that your doc makes a lot of money from our government. Hundreds of doctors earned millions of dollars from taxpayers by treating Medicare patients. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, of course, but it sure is eye-opening. And it’s just one way a newspaper with the resources of the New York Times is telling the hidden story of how Medicare works. Why now? This week, the federal government released a slew of information on Medicare Part B payments, which cover doctors’ visits, tests and certain treatments, from the year 2012. It is the first time such information has ever been commonly available. The Times was clearly ready for that wave of information.

It may feel overwhelming and perhaps we aren’t ready to use big data in quite this way ourselves. But there are local numbers you can glean from the data, even by using the Times interface:

  • Which local doctors got the most money in 2012? Just type in the zip code and see for yourself. Call the sweepstakes winner. See what he has to say about it. …

Make sports your toy department

In Ideas on April 11, 2014 at 8:52 am
What if you gave everyone on the high school baseball team your camera so they could take a selfie? What could you do with those photos?

What if you gave everyone on the high school baseball team your camera so they could take a selfie? What could you do with those photos?

I was interested to see what came out of a confab of sports reporters and editors at a New York meeting of the Online News Association. If this roundup is any indication, I’m a little disappointed.

Participants in the panel included folks from the New York Times, SB Nation and other digital concerns. They discussed the magnificent Snow Fall production that should win a Pulitzer, Oscar and a Tony award. It’s that cool. It’s also that far from something we can do by ourselves at the moment. It’s important to think big, but it’s also important to think doable.

The gathering did produce some important, small things, that we can all do. One of them is a reminder to read your edited product. Ask editors why they made the changes they made. Learn from the experience. They suggest we engage readers and not talk down to commenters. Those are good points.

When I worked in sports, we openly acknowledged that it was the toy department of the newspaper. No one ever died at a volleyball game I covered. Your tax bill didn’t hang in the balance of that Friday night football tilt. Sports are meant to be fun so we should have fun with our sports coverage and experiment a little. Here are some ideas: …

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