Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘news’

When you hear, ‘No pictures!’

In Photography on 23 Feb 2018 at 3:36 pm

For Carina Woudenberg, Feb. 22 was an eventful day.

I called her before she even got to the office to say there were reports on Twitter of a shooting in one of our beachside communities. She agreed to head over there and ended up spending the rest of the morning there, doing what reporters generally do after cops close a crime scene. That is to say she waited. While she was waiting for the Sheriff’s spokesman to get his act together, she took some photos from the public street. That caught the attention of the guy you see above in the light-colored shirt. He didn’t like that she was taking photos of a crime scene. So, he berated her. He called her names. He threatened to sue. I’m sure it was upsetting to Carina, who was just doing her job from a public space.

As if that wasn’t enough, she got word shortly after noon that one of the homeless men who lives in a local encampment had died. Carina is a particularly empathetic reporter and has gone to the makeshift neighborhood many times. She got out her camera and began to take photos of authorities at work. She knows the kinds of things we might use from a scene like that. We don’t run anything graphic. Very rarely would we show a body, even from a distance or under a blanket. Nonetheless, she was accosted by a friend of the deceased who demanded she stop taking photos.

That’s two very stressful situations in a single day for Carina, who did her job very well that day, reporting the news and getting photos that only showed what anyone would see should they happen on these public places.

I think partly because there are fewer newspapers and professional photographers around now, the general public no longer understands First Amendment protections, that your right to privacy in many respects ends when you are in public. (That is a little odd since so many of us now have sophisticated cameras in our pockets at all times and it seems people are taking photos of everything all the time.) … Read the rest of this entry »


The future of sports coverage

In sports on 26 Oct 2017 at 2:49 pm

In a recent New York Times piece, Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann left no doubt what they are seeking to accomplish at The Athletic. They want to stomp living hell out of newspaper sports sections.

I say, good on them. Best wishes.

My earliest memories of a newspaper revolve around reading Jim Murray columns in the Los Angeles Times. In the early 1990s, I waited impatiently for Tuesday’s USA Today, throwing away all but the sports section so I could focus on the week’s baseball stats and my fantasy team. That was about the time, I made my living writing sports for newspapers. Tonight, I will gladly cover a high school football game. Sports are never far from my heart.

Ideally, I would prefer the local newspapers cover sports the way they once did. Failing that, competition is good and coverage even better. And it’s great to see someone paying talented sports writers what they deserve for being the local experts on what is often the most interesting part of the town.

Two other thoughts about The Athletic and the threat it represents. It’s one thing to make a bet with other people’s money that you can attract enough paid subscribers in Toronto. It’s something else entirely to do so in Benson, Ariz. I don’t see even a hint that The Athletic envisions taking over the kind of granular coverage that is our bread and butter. … Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook and us

In Social media on 26 Oct 2017 at 2:37 pm

As Halloween approaches, there is a lot of fright over Facebook. Last week, The Guardian ran a story about tests at the social media giant that included the subhead, “New system could destroy smaller publishers if implemented…” (Apparently, Facebook is experimenting with shifting “non-promoted,” meaning non-advertising posts, off the news feed and onto some secondary feed where no one will ever see them. That would leave your news feed to be all ads and those things your friends post.)

Apparently, when implemented in Slovakia, publishers saw their reach drop 80 percent.

Meanwhile, the CEO of an interesting journalism collaboration startup called Hearken said we should not rely on Facebook anyway if, you know, we want to make money.

We all post to Facebook in a variety of ways. Most of us bought into the idea that we should “go where the eyeballs are,” which in the 21st century is Facebook. I myself have argued that smart publishers want to be seen and that means posting on our platform as well as being thoughtful about all the other ways we can promote our journalism — including Facebook.

The problem is that we have increasingly turned over the means of distribution to companies with their own agendas. When we post to Facebook, we give a third party our analytics. We give up the opportunity to differentiate our product from everything else on Facebook. We train our readers to go there first. And we give engagement to a third party. … Read the rest of this entry »

‘Liddle’ Bob Corker

In Ethics on 13 Oct 2017 at 7:32 am

What you see above was a middle paragraph in Peter Baker’s New York Times story about the ongoing acrimony between the president of the most powerful nation in the world and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Or, as Donald Trump calls him, “liddle Corker.”

Friends, these are strange days. When the news isn’t dominated by calamity on a global scale, it is littered with things like this. Small-minded inside attacks that are unworthy of public debate much less public office. In fact, you may ask yourself, is it news at all?

I think it is, when you are dealing with national offices and people who can create wars with a touch of a button. The state of mind of Bob Corker (who started it, I guess, by saying the White House was an “adult day care”) and Trump is of vital national interest. That is true for a range of what might to some seem private affairs. If you are a high-ranking senator or the president of the United States, there is no such thing as private.

But what if the above exchange occurred between, say, the mayor of your town and the city’s development director? Is that news? I think that is a much more difficult question for reasons I have a hard time articulating. Let me try.

For one thing, I think local officials are allowed to have private lives and private animosities. Sometimes. Otherwise, we’ll have a very hard time finding anyone (let alone someone qualified) to run for local public office. … Read the rest of this entry »

Is Tom Petty dead?

In journalism on 5 Oct 2017 at 3:37 pm

Tom Petty died this week. Then he came back to life, for a while.

CBS News, among others, reported that he was dead about mid-day on Monday. Shortly thereafter, one of the most respected names in news reported that he hadn’t, in fact, died. There are a lot of misdemeanors committed in journalism, but to be wrong about a death is pure felony. It’s extraordinarily hurtful to family and friends. It puts a cannonball-sized hole in your credibility. And it will make you the butt of jokes for years to come. (“The report of my death is an exaggeration,” Mark Twain told a newspaperman after another periodical actually printed his obit. That was 1897. The fact that you’ve heard that story before is all the proof you need that these stories stick around…)

The initial erroneous reporting on Petty’s death came from something someone at the Los Angeles Police Department said, apparently in an off-the-cuff discussion with a reporter. My guess is LAPD was on the scene when the famed musician was taken to the hospital, but did not file an official report as it wasn’t really the department’s case. Cops are people too and sometimes they gossip.

So, here’s the challenge: If you can’t believe the police, who can you believe?

Good question. Ordinarily, I would say if you get a news tip from a man or woman in blue, you are golden. For one thing, they tend to be tight-lipped. If they are telling you something, it’s probably true. Most likely. Almost always. … But not always. … Read the rest of this entry »

Too much tweet?

In Social media on 28 Sep 2017 at 2:04 pm

The journalism world is atwitter this week with news that Twitter is doubling — doubling! — the number of characters allowed in a tweet.

What you read there is 136 characters. It’s essentially an old-school tweet. Do I need more space?

Adding characters to the tweet just so characters can ramble on is, of course, a blaspheme. As journalists, we are the most loyal users of the phone-friendly platform. And, as journalists, we know that shorter is better — even if we don’t always practice what we preach. For, I believe it was Shakespeare who held is iPhone X in the air in order to get a better signal in the stuffy Globe Theater to tweet, “Brevity is the soul of wit!” #PlaysTheThing #WhereForOutThou @juliet.

In all seriousness, I think we journalists like Twitter so much, in part, because it forces concise expression and we’re trained to be good at that. Fast and succinct are two words we appreciate perhaps more than the average bear.

Nonetheless, this week Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey caved to the long-winded and announced that his maligned platform was testing 280 characters. Why? Well, whatever he says, the reason is because the social media giant has sort of stalled. He’s trying to see if he can interest more people by allowing, well, more.

Great. There goes one of the last bastions of the edited word.

By the way, do you use Twitter? I like it a lot. It’s easy to follow local schools, first responders, area legislators in order to get a first head’s up. And as a news consumer, once you get the hang of what can feel like an archaic system of @ symbols and #s, you can follow breaking news like never before.

Most Wick papers use it to broadcast breaking stuff and local sports scores. Wick editors @hr_epetermann1 and @brandonbowers are two of my favorite follows because they have mastered the right voice for the platform and they post interesting stuff.

I’d be interested in knowing what else you do with it.


Report for America

In Innovation on 21 Sep 2017 at 3:07 pm

There is a new idea afoot that seeks to make explicit something we all know intuitively: Journalism is as important to the republic as military might and the ready availability of quality, low-cost donuts. Kidding aside, it is heart-warming to see the unveiling of a program that will be known as Report for America.

The concept is simple, though execution might not be. A partnership between Google News Lab and a non-profit called GroundTruth seeks to put local civics journalism on par with organizations like the Peace Corps and Teach for America. It would work like this: New reporters who need the experience and mentoring would apply for positions that are funded 50 percent by Report for America, 25 percent by the local newspaper and 25 percent by local donors the newspaper would help find. These reporters would agree to stay for a year in exchange for inclusion. Sorta like a paid internship making real money.

I was particularly heartened by what one of the program’s founders had to say about the importance of mentorship and the fact that many good, young journalists are now lucky enough to skip the ladder through the ranks of the profession and that that sometimes leads them astray.

“What I think a lot of emerging journalists are missing these days is the experience of being lied to on a local level,” he told Poynter. “You need to go into storytelling and you need to know what it’s like to be misled.” … Read the rest of this entry »

What defines a good editor?

In Editing on 21 Sep 2017 at 3:01 pm

The legendary Ben Bradlee embodied many of the qualities needed to be a good newspaper editor.

Earlier this month, Wick COO Nick Monico asked my help in coming up with some measureable landmarks that would define improvement in an editor. I sort of bailed on the assignment, but not without giving it a lot of thought. Today, I thought I might share the email I sent him owning up to my failure to meet the assignment he’d given me. Here it is, in slightly altered form, and I believe every word to my core:

Thanks for asking me for my ideas for some quantifiable bullet points to use in measuring the progress as editors strive to be even more excellent editors.

After a fair amount of thought, I’ve failed you.

Here’s the truth: The qualities, determination and work ethic that coalesce in the form of a terrific news editor defy quantification. A good editor is a leader. She doesn’t dole out the boring or hard stuff, but rather shows others how to shoulder that burden in the course of the day. She is courageous and unwavering in pursuit of the truth. She is resolute in her commitment to give voice to the voiceless, no matter who threatens to cancel his subscription. She is likely the smartest one in the room though she doesn’t need to prove it. She is well-read. Her writing is persuasive; she seeks to set the agenda for the community rather than being handed one by powerful people. She is efficient and uses all the tools at her disposal — long-form journalism, social media, photography, video, blogs, etc. She is well connected in the community, without being so well connected it conflicts with her duty to readers. She isn’t beholden to her friends at church, in the civic club, at city hall. Her integrity is beyond reproach. She is open to new ideas. She is professional at all times. She is not quick to anger. … Read the rest of this entry »

New survey of local journalists

In journalism on 31 Aug 2017 at 2:52 pm

The last 10 years have not been kind to journalists and the newspaper profession.

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism offers that simple statement to explain the the backdrop for a very interesting survey of local journalists like those working for Wick Communications. You can read all about it here, and you really should. You will see yourself in the results. (And shout out to Dan Shearer at the Green Valley News, who brought this to my attention.)

The survey itself was pretty straight forward. Several hundred mostly editors and reporters at newspapers with circulations smaller than 50,000 participated. By and large, they see themselves as hard-working and optimistic even though they are concerned about their job security and ability to recruit and retain good colleagues. Your peers use an array of digital tools in their jobs, but may be somewhat slow to adopt new digital tools at least in part because they lack the resources to do so.

The report chronicles a shrinking business. Twenty-thousand journalists have lost their jobs in the last 10 years. The profession is said to have shrunk 10 percent in 2014 alone. Last year one online entity called “newspaper reporter” the worst job in among 200 listed. Why? Low pay and long hours, to name two reasons. Many or most surveyed said they work more than 50 hours a week. One poor soul said he or she works 116 hours a week. Another, when asked how many hours he works, replied, “all of them.” … Read the rest of this entry »

Once upon a time…

In Writing techniques on 20 Jul 2017 at 2:57 pm

Have you ever wondered at the enduring quality of, “Once upon a time?” Has there ever been a better way to begin a story?

I got to thinking about the way we begin a story after reading Eric Petermann’s superb yarn about the “kissing bug” in the Sierra Vista Herald. Eric learned there was this woman in Bisbee, Ariz., Lee McElroy, who was driving the effort to learn more about an infestation of these particular bugs in the canyon where she lives. The bugs bite in the night and can cause Chagas’ disease and you don’t even want to think about that!

Anyway, Eric knew the story of the bug as vector for disease was important… but the story of Lee McElroy was better. Much better. So he told it that way, leading with McElroy and her layman’s search for scientific information about these bug bites she was getting.

The first words Eric employed were these:

The story starts just over 10 years ago when Lee McElroy was living in the area of Zacatecas Canyon in the Old Bisbee district of this eclectic mountain community.

Hooked yet? I was. I am a sucker for stories that begin with an everyday Jane whose everyday world is about to be turned upside down. Perhaps that is why I love fiction so much. (“Our story begins” is so good as a literary device that the great Tobias Wolffe even named a short-story collection just that.) … Read the rest of this entry »