Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘News reporting’

Illusion of asymmetrical insight

In journalism on 16 May 2018 at 10:48 am

James and Deborah Fallows in conversation with Lenny Mendonca on May 15, 2018.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley discussion with authors James and Deborah Fallows. (Commonwealth Club board member Lenny Mendonca invited me and I quickly accepted.) The Fallows have written a book called “Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America.”

Before I say any more, I haven’t yet read the book, which came out last week. The Fallows are thoroughly impressive people with a long list of accomplishments. They are persuasive optimists and it was an uplifting, interesting hour or so of conversation.

The premise of their book is this: Pilot a single-prop airplane into small airports the rest of us fly over. Stop in places like Greenville, S.C., and Sioux Falls, S.D. Look for stories other reporters miss. They admit — as if this is something terrible — they wanted to find stories of success and renewal in the heartland. Consequently, that’s what they found.

James Fallows is a media veteran and the writer of more than a dozen books. When he mentioned an “asymmetrical bias” as a problem for many coastal reporters, he knows of what he speaks. He maintains that “the media” thinks of large coastal cities as places of terrific innovation, dynamic arts, diverse communities — in short, all the good things for which America is known. What does the media leave for flyover country? Racism, addiction, poverty.

His critique is not without merit. Turn on the TV and watch the discussion on cable news. Before long, you’ll hear reference to this dichotomy. Red states and blue states. Us and them. Good and bad. … Read the rest of this entry »

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Preparing for the worst

In journalism on 10 Sep 2010 at 9:45 am

Recently, some of the Wick Louisiana papers commemorated the fifth anniversary of Katrina. And tomorrow, of course, is the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Hardly seems possible that it can be that long ago.

Those two anniversaries — and last night’s movie-set-like fire just up the road from me in San Bruno, Calif. — got me thinking about reporting through crisis.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time planning for some amorphous calamity that may or may not happen in my lifetime. Here in California, authorities are constantly harping on creating an earthquake kit. And I know I should. I usually have most of the items lying around the house, but I don’t really have an earthquake kit, per se.

This post isn’t about forethought, though. It’s about reacting rationally in the midst of such extreme events. If you can’t make yourself prepare for the worst, you better be prepared to give your best when the worst happens.

There are lots of legends about newsroom leaders taking charge in the chaos of a big story. I have heard several times how Susan Goldberg, now the top editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, jumped on top of her desk at the San Jose Mercury-News to lead coverage following a devastating earthquake in 1989. Her leadership in a moment of crisis helped the newspaper earn a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the quake… Read the rest of this entry »