Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Democracy’

Unpublic records

In First Amendment on 4 May 2017 at 12:56 pm

Many thanks to Christianna Silva at the University of Arizona for this report on the state of public records in her state. Sadly, it won’t surprise anyone engaged in the daily struggle to pry public records from public agencies.

Here’s her lede:

PHOENIX – More than a month ago, 19 Arizona agencies were given simple public record requests seeking data on the numbers of those requests those agencies received in 2015 and 2016. Less than half responded.

Of the 19 agencies requested, nine responded, three on the same day it was sent.

Only one agency — Arizona Attorney General’s Office — provided everything requested. Officials there explained they did so because their response was required by law.

So to recap, only one of 19 public agencies in Arizona followed the law when given a very simple public records request. Most didn’t even acknowledge the request, even though it came from someone at the state’s flagship university and not some trouble-making news organization.

If ever there was cause for alarm in the populace, here it is. Again, from Christianna’s terrific piece. … Read the rest of this entry »


The value of real news

In Accuracy on 1 Dec 2016 at 3:01 pm
These were the headlines from the fake news site, American News.

These were the headlines from the fake news site, American News.

You might have seen that the Ne York Times reported a bump in the number of print subscriptions in the days after a contentious presidential election. While many believe as the president-elect does, that the media is biased and can’t be trusted, others continue to believe a robust, independent, professional press is a hallmark of any democracy and a necessary check on the power of government.

In fact, The New York Times reports 132,000 more paid subscriptions to all its products — print and online — since the election. It remains to be seen how many of those new subscribers, many of whom undoubtedly took teaser deals to get started, remain after the churn, but this is really, really good news.

It reminds me that this is the giving season. Perhaps there is a campaign for holiday subscriptions in here somewhere for an ambitious circulation pro. “Real news” is important at the national level, and that is just as true in your community. I was completely taken with Josh Stearns’ post recently about finding worthwhile local news sources to support. You may want to support some of these yourself by making holiday gifts out of them.

In the meantime, what can we do to deliver on the promise of real news for our patrons? … Read the rest of this entry »

A day at the beach

In journalism on 7 Jul 2016 at 2:24 pm

day at the beach pic

Amid another week of police shootings, another week of protests in the streets, another week of debate over race and violence and our seemingly infinite capacity to misunderstand each other, a magazine bearing this cover slipped into mailboxes across the country.

It is both a simple, obvious slice of life and a profound statement. For us news and magazine types, it is a lesson in inclusion.

The image is the work of artist Kadir Nelson. It features a father and his children at a sun-drenched summer beach – a scene playing out along our coastlines from Wilmington, N.C. to Half Moon Bay, Calif. That the family is black is no accident.

“As a young kid I didn’t really see a lot of representations of African-Americans,” Nelson told CBS News recently. “I felt like I had a self-appointed responsibility to tell that story. That children who would go to museums, or art galleries, or open their books and see images that look like them and be proud of those images.”

Nelson has portrayed Nelson Mandela and produced children’s books full of images of Duke Ellington and Harriet Tubman. He gives extraordinary Americans their due, but he also wants to portray ordinary Americans … like that family on the beach. … Read the rest of this entry »

How was your election night?

In Elections on 6 Nov 2014 at 2:45 pm


What do you do on election night? I ask because I sincerely want to know what we might do better.

For the most part, this week’s election night in the Half Moon Bay Review newsroom was pretty darn similar to my first election night with the newspaper in 2004. In fact, it was only significantly different in one respect from the way I covered elections in the 1980s.

We divvied up assignments. Mark took the City Council and Harbor District, Julia got the Fire District and school board and I resolved to write about a tax measure. We made sure we had cell numbers for all the players. We wrote our B matter ahead of time. That’s the soft, gooey center of civic journalism, with candidate ages, a sentence or two about their positions and history, etc. (If you aren’t doing this ahead of time, see me. I’ll be happy to tell you how to go about it.) And then we waited for results to start rolling in. In keeping with newsroom practice since the Paleolithic era, we ate pizza on election night. (I highly recommend the meaty Montara Mountain at It’s Italia on Main Street…)

The only substantive difference from, say, the mid-1990s, is that there are now reliable online numbers that make waiting around the county elections office sort of quaint.

Sure, we do more than plop it in the newspaper for next-day consumption. We tweet the winners, put photos from election parties on Facebook and update the website as quickly as possible. … Read the rest of this entry »

Themed opinion pages

In Opinion pages on 14 Nov 2013 at 2:09 pm


One of the great things about visiting other Wick newsrooms is harvesting ideas that can improve my own home newspaper. The truth is that I learn as much from the dedicated employees at our newspapers as they learn from me.

Last week, I had the pleasure of being at the Montrose Daily Press. There are many great things about the Daily Press, and one of them is a strong tradition of weighty, important, community-shaping opinion pages. The newspaper employs a well-maintained editorial board system that assures feedback and that other voices are given their due in the Daily Press. In the past it has even invited prolific letter writers in for a summit of sorts – a way to recognize the contributions and encourage more.

And the walls of the building are adorned with award-worthy photographs and some page layouts that stand the test of time. Above is one set of those layouts.

As you can see they are opinion pages, but opinion pages unlike I’ve ever seen elsewhere at our papers. They focus on a single theme – the costs of war, the history of walls separating peoples, the struggle for the vote. They aren’t intrinsically or solely local, which is a little different, but they concern issues that are crucial to our democracy. And they are filled with compelling art. (Art is a constant challenge for all opinion pages. I very much encourage you to use photographs like these to illustrate a point.) … Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s a taxing idea

In journalism on 5 Oct 2012 at 7:36 am

Should we ask government for a handout?

Not for the first time, someone is floating the idea of a tax to support newspapers. This time, it comes from a columnist at The Guardian in the United Kingdom (via the Nieman Lab.) David Leigh’s argument goes like this:

“When the day comes that the newspapers are forced to stop printing altogether, it will be a disaster for democracy. The lean pickings from web advertising on a free newspaper site will only pay for a fraction of the high-quality investigative journalism that commercial newspapers generate. … A small levy on UK broadband providers – no more than £2 a month on each subscriber’s bill – could be distributed to news providers in proportion to their UK online readership. This would solve the financial problems of quality newspapers, whose readers are not disappearing, but simply migrating online.

There are almost 20 million UK households that are paying upwards of £15 a month for a good broadband connection, plus another 5 million mobile Internet subscriptions. People willingly pay this money to a handful of telecommunications companies, but pay nothing for the news content they receive as a result, whose continued survival is generally agreed to be a fundamental plank of democracy. …”

If we were limited to considering the raw logic of his argument, I would say that Leigh makes a good case. The provider of broadband has a vested interest in seeing that the content provided over its lines is robust. The democracy also has an interest in a vigorous press, though taxpayers may not see it that way. … Read the rest of this entry »

The government springs a leak

In Online media on 30 Jul 2010 at 9:01 am

An awful lot has been said and written about WikiLeaks. I’m not sure I have much to add, but here goes.

I think it’s a noble experiment in the grand tradition of whistleblowers and anonymous leaks like the release of the Pentagon Papers, which helped to end the Vietnam War. Time magazine noted (as is displayed prominently on the WikiLeaks Web site) WikiLeaks “could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

I think that’s true. I also think it can be a whole lot of nothing. From what I read, that’s the case with the 92,000 documents released recently pertaining to the war in Afghanistan.

I should emphasize that I don’t really know that, because I have no intention of slogging through anything like a representative sample of the documents. But consider what you probably already know about the war, things you know from the popular press. Is it a surprise to learn that things aren’t going as well as military and civilian planners hoped?

There will undoubtedly be other, perhaps more, revelatory leaks on the site and others. In general, I think that’s probably a good thing for a democracy. There are many more secrets than there are good reasons for secrets… Read the rest of this entry »