Monday, December 8, 2008

The principles closest to me.

Picking just three "most important" journalistic standards is a hard thing to do because they are all important to the practice of journalism in all formats. If I had to choose though, I would say that Transparency, protecting sources and accuracy are at the top of my list.

Transparency for me means that my reader knows what knowledge and biases, if any, I come to the table with. It also means I am open about mistakes I make and readily make the truth available to readers. I like the way the book poses the questions a reporter should ask themselves when considering their own transparency:
  • How do you know what you know?
  • Who are your sources?
  • How direct is their knowledge?
  • Are there conflicting acounts?
  • What don't you know?
  • What was this story, photo or name published?
  • Why were other words, photos and names withheld from publication?

On the issue of protecting sources, I am growing more aware. I came to my Media Ethics(MCOM-443) class this semester knowing that I should protect sources because they had given me information so it was only fair. But moving through the content of the class, I keep asking myself just how far I would go to protect my source. Would I go to jail? Would I defy an editor? Protecting confidential sources is important because many times critical information comes from the inside of an operation. The source is risking a lot by coming forward--it seems only natural to protect them for helping me.

Accuracy is a very important principle to me because without accuracy, I can never really do honest work. I feel finding accuracy and truth in stories is extremely important because if I have no credibility how can any reader trust me to tell them the truth? Magazines which focus on having the most outragous headline over accuracy concern me because I would never want people to consider this format journalism. Further, I could never write for these magazines because I could never stand behind my work. Accuracy gives me the courage to stand behind my reporting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Student takes a stance

While on the hunt for an article about Towson's initiatives to "go green," I came across an article printed in the Moday, November 17th issue of The Towerlight which has helped me to narrow my focus down a bit. In Nick DiMarco's article "Students, community protest coal financers" he writes about a protest by the Baltimore Rising Tide. Througout the article he quotes a Towson student, Amanda Duzak, a senior environmental science and studies major. I am interested in writing a profile piece on Duzak because she obviously cares about the environment and the impacts the human race have on the universe.

Advance Information

I do not have much information on Duzak herself, although I have visited the Baltimore Rising Tide website. There I found the Baltimore chapter is just a small part of the global network to conservation and plans of action to make the planet more sustainable. Specifically about the protest, I know a little about the issue behind the protest on November 14th. A few years ago, I wrote a paper for my environmental science class about the appalacian region. In the paper, I wrote about the working conditions in the coal mines. The protest was part of a chain of protests for Bank of America's investment into coal mining.

Potential Sources
  • Amanda Duzak- She is a Towson Senior and environmental sciences and studies major. She also participated in the protest.
  • Baltimore Rising Tide- The group is working exclusively in the Baltimore area to make the planet greener. They led the protest.
  • Heather Kangas- She is a Towson Junior studying political science. She participated in the protest and may know Duzak.

Potential Questions

  • What inspires you to become active in saving the planet?
  • How important is global conservation to Towson and the surrounding area?
  • Do you feel Towson University is doing enough to "go green"?
  • What are a few simple things each person can do to help the environment?
  • What are your career aspirations?

Photo Possibilities

I would like to take a simple profile shot of Duzak to begin. I would also like to photograph her doing something related to her field. Obviously, I missed the protest, so I probably won't be able get that sort of shot but I would be open to following her to a protest in order to get the action shot. I could also capture her doing something around campus, for example, while she recycles something on the ground.

Audio Possibilities

There are a lot of audio possibilities with Duzak. She has a great deal of enthusiasm for helping the environment so getting her to discuss the importance of this would probably have a lot of emotion for her. I could also get audio of why she got involved with environmental science and conservation efforts. It might also be interesting to have her talk about what her vision of a greener Towson University looks like to her.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Can you hear me now?

One of the most effective ways of giving any story life is to give it sound, or audio. By doing so, readers become listeners and are more likely to understand the message or meaning behind the story. One of my favorite web sites that uses audio is "Living on Earth" (LOE). A non-profit organization affiliated with Harvard University, LOE strives to provide "sound journalism for the planet." What I enjoy most about LOE is how host Steve Curwood uses sources from around the country to get different perspectives on many environmental issues. Recently there have been a few guest hosts to raise good questions.

After listening to quite a few podcasts, I understand how online audio files work to help a web site. One thing journalists can do to make a better podcast would be to make sure there is no background noise to distract the listener such as breathing on the microphone or an ambulance passing nearby. Another way to make audio better for web sites is to not make them too long. Like a long story, a long audio file can cause the audience to tune out instead of in. One thing I will aim to fix in my own audio making is the sound levels of the parties involved. For example, during my own practice using audio with classmate Sabrina Lindsey, I found she was more soft spoken than I had been. During the editing process, I found many parts when she spoke were hard to hear. This was my fault as I should have realized this before and moved the microphone accordingly. I feel moving the microphone closer to Sabrina would have been a simple fix to the problem.

To listen to a podcast of the most recent Living on Earth radio show click here. If you would like to listen to the show as it airs tune into WYPR 88.1 FM on Sunday afternoons from 2-3P.M.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Turning negatives into positives: photography lessons

Cutline: The vibrancy of the Towson University campus can be found even when the clouds are grey and students are waist deep in assignments.

Cutline: The Tiger, the prized mascot of Towson University prowls about campus daring any school to compare to its likeness.

Cutline: Towson student Sabrina Lindsey bundles up in multiple layers for a blustery day on campus.
Notes on photography:
Over the past few years, I have worked very diligently to become a better photographer because I often found myself in situations where I was the reporter and the photographer. Simply put, a bad photo doesn't make the front page...or any page for that matter. Even as the editor, I could not stand to put any photo in just because I needed a photo. Many stories went without unfortunatly because of this reason. Then I met a guy who was a photography major and he helped me out with a few tips. Taking some art classes helped me too. Some things I would like to work on would be getting more dynamic shots. Recently, I have tried different angles and I believe it will come down to trial and error. In the fall is coming photo at the top, I would have liked to get the shot a little more defined by focusing more. I am not sure but this might have been a camera issue. Either way, I still like the shot, but it could have stood to be better. I really like my shot of the Towson Tiger. I feel it is interesting and brings the kitty to life. I also want to work on filling the frame with subjects doing interesting things. For example, in the photo of Sabrina (above) I would have liked to get her doing something interesting instead of simply standing for the photo.

Monday, November 3, 2008

When events turn bazaar.

To give a bit of a background for my multi-media story idea, I want to tell a story. A woman I work with met a man on myspace. He seemed very charming and sent flowers to her at work on numerous occasions. Then one day she came to work and announced she was expecting. No one was happier than this man was of the expectant baby. They set out to build a life together and went in search of the perfect two-bedroom apartment. Then he lost his job. Soon after, his charm disappeared as he became belligerent toward my co-worker and even threw her belongings into the street below their apartment. This was the final straw and she moved back home with her family. She then began to realize she might be a single parent. The man left the apartment to stay with friends and left her with the monthly rent payments. The man who seemed so kind now called her in excess of 100 times a day just to hang up. My co-worker got a lawyer to file a peace order because he was causing her intense stress, which was not good for her now softball sized baby. Time passed and it seemed like the storm was over. The peace ceased when her former lover’s lawyer sent a letter to her explaining the man would petition for full custody of the child after birth, assuming the child is his. My colleague is now due in just a couple of months and is in a full on legal dispute over the child.

The story brings me to my story idea. My pregnant co-worker’s sister organized a shopping bazaar to benefit her sister. The proceeds from the event would help defer the cost of the lawyer. What is important about this bazaar is that the woman’s sister wants to continue this idea to help other women who are facing the same issue. The bazaar was on Sunday, November 2. I attended the event and took a few good shots I believe would compliment my final peace. One shot I took used a mirror to reflect the woman’s face. I plan to interview my co-worker about how confident she feels the bazaar will be in helping her. A question I feel is important to ask is how much she truly needs this money. I want to get more of the emotional experience of her predicament. I also planned to interview the organizer while I was there; however, she was extremely busy and told me that I could call her anytime I needed to for questions. Some questions I would like to ask her include what were the goals, if they were achieved and if she does see a future need for another event like this later. At the event, I asked some of the vendors and customers about their experiences. Many told me they really want to see the whole situation resolved so that all parties can walk away happy and healthy, including baby Tommy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

When Blogging goes Right

As a person in a generation where technology dominates all, blogs have been a part of my daily media consumption for many years. I even had blogs with followers. While most of my posts were saturated with gossip and drama, some actually had content and were based on real news. After reading the chapter on writing for the online world, I realize some of the errors I have made in the past as well as some of the things I was doing right. To organize my discussion on the patterns of a good online story post I will use The Baltimore Sun’s Bay and Environment blog, written by Tim Wheeler.

The point of a blog is to be brief and to expound on an issue that a news story might not have had the opportunity to do. On October 13, Wheeler summarizes his work by using the headline, “Asian Oysters Revisited: a health threat?” The typical pattern for headlines for blogs is to make a play on words or execute some sort of clever word choice. While this does not follow the pattern, I learn a lot from its content. I learn what kind of oysters he will talk about and that the issue is not new. Wheeler grabs my attention by questioning whether or not there lies a health threat if Asian oysters are consumed. Next, I looked at the lead. Coming in at 52 words, Wheeler’s lead is a bit too long for the size of the publication. In the lead reader’s learn that Asian oysters are being used as a method to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. We also learn that the non-native species of oysters may be susceptible to picking up diseases and viruses and passing them along to humans. The lead does a good job in telling readers what is coming in the following paragraphs.

In the body of the blog post, Wheeler uses a handful of paragraphs to give information from sources such as the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Environmental Impact Statement for Oyster Restoration in Chesapeake Bay published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Norfolk, Virginia. He also gives his own opinion on the current situation in the latter paragraphs. Also in the body, the author uses four links to various sources including the Environmental Impact Statement. The use of the links is important to readers because should they click on them, they are likely to learn more than what Wheeler can teach in eight paragraphs, resulting in a better rounded opinion on the subject.

The blog post by Tim Wheeler is patterned after most posts. In just a few paragraphs, he is able to accomplish the following:
  • Grab the reader’s attention in the headline.
  • Effectively communicate to the audience in the lead.
  • Concisely tell the reader what is going on.
  • Give his opinion on the potential health threat of the consumption of Asian oysters, and,
  • Provide readers with enough links to supplement the blog post.

You can find this article at:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Inverting Wachovia

The story, “Citigroup Buys Banking Operations of Wachovia,” written by Eric Dash and Andrew Ross Sorkin by the New York Times is a very good example of a hard news piece featuring the inverted pyramid and its characteristic qualities. The lead, “Citigroup will acquire the banking operations of the Wachovia Corporation, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said Monday morning, the latest bank to fall victim to the distressed mortgage market,” answers the most important part of the lead’s job: the 5 Ws and H. The next step in hard news is to place only the most important information at the beginning of the story and other information less pertinent or more colorful later. For example, the authors did not articulate how much Wachovia would be sold for until the fifth paragraph into the story. Even further down in paragraph ten, information is disclosed as to how long Wachovia has been hurting financially due in large part to bad mortgage practices. The final piece of information given to readers in the article is the impact the addiction of Wachovia to Citigroup will have on the future of customers and outside clients and investors. The information supplied in the last paragraph is nowhere near as important to readers as the lead. The ending information could easily have been left out of the story. An important aspect of news stories is to put information in chronological order. For example, in the article, information from Monday morning, located in the lead is before information about the negotiations from Sunday (See paragraph eleven). Even this information precedes the news about discussions with major banks Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Banco Santander of Spain last week in paragraph fourteen. The point of the inverted pyramid technique in hard news is two-fold. One goal is to help readers get the most important news without having to analyze entire articles and sort information unnecessarily. The other goal is to help writers and editors cut down articles that are simply too long for the space provided in the layout of the news source.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Calling all CSI fans--A Series on Science (My news idea)

Photo courtesy of
After doing some research into a few local events coming up in the next two weeks, I found the perfect event for me. The Title of the event is “Saturday Science Presents: Skin and Bones-Using Science to Solve Crimes.” Hosted by the Hackerman Academy Saturday Morning Science Series, the interactive lecture is scheduled to discuss how technology and science are helping to solve crimes. This event in particular interests me because I am a huge Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) fan! On September 27th, 2008, in Smith Hall Room 326, attendees will get the opportunity to explore the latest advances in technology as presented by Dr. Dana Kollmann, of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice of Towson University. The only information I am supplied is the information provided by Towson University’s Daily Digest. Since this presentation is part of a series, I will conduct research on former productions from this group. Finding out about past discussions could be very helpful in going into a bit more depth in the later paragraphs of my final article. My first source of information will be the presenter, Dr. Dana Kollmann. Next, I could speak to the Department Chairs about the program. While they may not be the most bountiful source of information on the series, I could get some very good quotes for the article. Another good source for quotes would be any volunteers or event attendees. An important piece of any article is the pictures which go along side to give it a human face. The information I already have indicates the event will be interactive so I could get photos of live action. The most important aspect of the article tells readers how this event is important to their lives. I will brainstorm how I can make this really pertinent to the readers at Towson University. My initial thought to relate this article to students is to study the crimes at Towson University itself and how the new technology could help solve, and potentially curb the crimes themselves from being committed. Also, since this event is likely to occur again featuring a new topic, the article will stay relevant time wise. This article could encourage people to attend the next event. The questions I will ask include: why this is important to college students, what this new technology means for the professional world, why was Towson University chosen for the series, what are the beginning and ending dates for presentations and what the presenters want attendees to get out of the program now and in the future. I look forward to attending this event because while it is news, it does not hold the stereotypical boring attitude. The information presented through the Daily Digest also makes me feel as though the new technology will be explained in real terms and not in industry jargon.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tweet, tweet! What are you doing?

While reading the twitter posts of my classmates from the past week, I have become more aware of how much I actually do not say when I write. I find I often write for the beauty of the written word and not so much to answer the almighty five W’s and H questions. The first twitter I looked at was by Rachel2789. Rachel's twitter seemed to fit into the median range of the class' spectrum of information. She was unable to answer all of the questions, but she did paint a picture for the mind to interpret how the game played out. The next twitter, written by DanieljGross, contains most of the information I needed as a reader to understand the story. He used actual names in his twitter which tells me he knows what he is talking about; however, I didn't need to know his name because the player is not very prominent. The final twitter I reviewed is by bwrigh5. This person, while they are able to paint a picture for the mind, does not give enough information for readers. This oversight, makes the information relative to almost any game and not just for the game from the Spiders. Overall, I feel as though my classmates are beginning to hone in on the events happening in and around Towson. As I twitter, I am becoming more aware of the details I need in order to make my readers as aware as possible. While I did not attend the game on Saturday, by combining the information from each of the leads, I am able to figure out the five W’s and H.

Who: Towson Tigers
What: Lost to University of Richmond
Where: Richmond, Virginia
When: Saturday, September 13, 2008
Why: Interceptions and Turnovers rampant
How: Misguided plays by Towson

Print screen Courtesy of Rachel2789 from (Below)

Print screen courtesy of DanieljGross from (Below)

Print screen courtesy of bwrigh5 from (Below)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Attack on US Embassy in Yemen

I just found out that at 9:15 this morning an attack to the U.S. Embassy in Yemen occured. I found this article on Last semester I took a middle eastern history course which has helped me a lot to understand the region, wars and general anger of the people. Below is a link to the article I found.

I will post more about this attack later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Could it be a from a press release? NO WAY! Well, maybe...

Logo courtesy of

As a reporter with a few years under my belt, I have had my share of story ideas presented by an editor based off a press release. While canvassing the and, I found two articles which to me, represent a story that could have been written from a press release and another, which could not have been. The first story I would like to share is headlined, “For O’s, prospects brighter down on farm.” This story could have been written after a press release came out because it is not as timely as say an article of major newsworthiness. The article itself is written as most major league teams are coming down to their last games of the season.

The second story I found through, I feel, could not have been written based off a press release. In “Fed to Loan A.I.G. $85 Billion in Rescue,” reporters simply do not have time to wait for an official press release to announce the deal between the federal government and the insurance company. Further, in order to create this copy, multiple reporters from different cities were used to complete the article.

Hanging out with my Shorty.

“ExxonMobil agrees to $4 million settlement,” is an example of a short report used by the Baltimore Sun. This is a great example because it tells the audience exactly what ExxonMobil will do to make amends for its leakage. A short report more specifically aims to capture the audience’s attention quickly and efficiently in the fewest number of words.

Here is a link to this interesting story:,0,5362850.story

Photo by: Richard Perry/The New York Times
"The scene Tuesday outside American International Group's building in Lower Manhattan." (New York Times). Story below.

In today’s news, one of the best summary leads read, “in an extraordinary turn, the Federal Reserve was close to a deal Tuesday night to take a nearly 80 percent stake in the troubled giant insurance company, the American International Group, in exchange for an $85 billion loan, according to people briefed on the negotiations.” This lead works very well to inform the reader immediately because it answers the ever-important questions we need answers to. Although the lead is a bit long coming in at 45 words, I found the following information:

Who: Federal Reserve
What: a deal to take a stake in the troubled giant insurance company
When: Tuesday night
Why: exchange for an $85 billion loan

Unfortunately, the lead does not include the where or how. This information is found in the next paragraphs. Not having every W and the H answered from the beginning makes me as a reader want to continue reading past the lead. This lead also gives proper attribution to its source.

This article can be found at the link below:

Monday, September 15, 2008

News and its Values

The first story I selected to review for newsworthiness from the is headlined, “People didn’t leave,” by David Zucchino and P.J. Huffstutter of the Los Angeles Times (story published 9/14/08). The lead writes, “Officials race against time to find thousands who defied Ike, evacuation order Power goes out for more than 3 million Texans, may not be restored for weeks.” The following factors substantiate the article’s newsworthiness.
· Impact- the Gulf of Mexico has many oil, natural gas and petrochemical industries, which were ordered to evacuate prior to the storm. Their shutdown has caused gas prices to rise across the country. The article reports that many places now sell gas at over $5 a gallon. Personally, my family is affected by Ike because over night (from Friday 9/12/08 to 9/13/08) gas prices near my family home jumped 28 cents per gallon.
· Currency- The article references the previous hurricane to hit the United States (Gustav) Even though Gustav only happened within a month, its currency to Ike is astounding as people in New Orleans were ordered to evacuate, yet many stayed behind because they feared the aftershocks (Looting, vandalism, destruction of property, ect.) of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
· Conflict- The rescuers face many dangers in trying to say the people who stayed behind after evacuation. Many people are stuck in their homes, which have flooded and can only wait for help. Much of the conflict in this particular story resides against nature and the warm waters of the gulf.
· Timeliness- Hurricane Ike just recently made landfall at about 2 A.M. on Friday, September 12, 2008.
· Human Interest- There is a lot of human-interest focus in this article because rescuers are in a frenzy to find those who stayed behind. Officials are very angry because an evacuation order was put into effect to make sure everyone was safe from the storm and the damages that would follow afterward. The people who did not leave endangered not only their own lives but the lives of the people who had to save them.

The second story I chose to study for the news values studied in the textbook was titled, “With public divided, campaign to pass slots measure heats up.” Written by Gadi Dechter and Laura Smitherman, this story is major news for Major news for the people of Maryland. Let’s look at why.
· Impact- If the state government of Maryland were to pass the legislation allowing slots into local areas, most notably Laurel Race Track in Prince Georges and Howard counties, the new revenue is slated to be injected into the education of school children up to grade 12.
· Prominence- There are many names involved including the Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley.
· Currency- The topic of slots in Maryland has been debated for many years. Former governors have tried to pass this same legislation but were only met with protest.
· Conflict- Although the general public has long since backed the idea of slots, approval ratings are now giving way.
· Proximity- This article and the legislation itself is extremely close to the people of Maryland.

The final story is one less focused on news, but rather the entertainment world. During the premiere of the 34th season of Saturday Night Live (SNL), local Olympic champion Michael Phelps hosted. Although critics say he did not fare so well, others involved made the show shine once again. The story was written by David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun newspaper. The blog post shows much newsworthiness.
· Prominence- Two main names were used in this article which gave it a lot of prominence: Michael Phelps and Tina Fey.
· Unusualness- Critics of Phelps as a comedian say he did only “okay” until his last skit when he clearly lost his focus. Phelps took on 8 skits for the show. His load was incredible.
· Timeliness- The premiere of SNL recently occurred within the past week.
· Proximity- Although SNL is not produced in Maryland, its host for this show was—Phelps was raised in the Baltimore area.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mobile Journalism Kits

After looking at a few of the outstanding portfolios provided by, I found myself particularly drawn to Rachel Youens, an Assistant Editor and Staff Reporter for the Community Impact Newspaper in Austin, Texas. It is probably her young, refreshing perspective on local happenings, which stimulates my sensibilities the most. In my opinion, her mobile journalism kit probably resembles something like Mary Poppin’s famous bottomless bag. I would imagine Ms. Youens spends most of her reporting time hitting the pavement on the streets of Austin to collect information and new sources. In her bag of journalistic goodies, my perception is she brings along with her a minimum of an audio and video recorder, her iPod, a digital camera, and a laptop complete with only the latest software for html formatting, photo editing and internet compression software. I could not find any relevant photos, although I did find a video of her current work (below).

Rachel Youens website:

Example of Rachel Youens current work:

I found the backpack of young college journalist Jared Silfies compelling to say the least. While other classmates have condemned him as nothing more than out of touch with present day students and journalists, I on the other hand, find him inspiring. His mobile journalism kit reminds me of all the old movies I watched as a kid when journalism was all about being at the right place at the right time. I still feel largely this is the way journalism still works today. After all, if I as a reporter get a scoop and I have nothing with me to prepare a package or even a report at the least, someone else just got my story. I am sure my producer or editor would not be pleased with me if this were to happen. On the subject regarding whether Mr. Silfies (or even myself) should carry around a copy of “Elements of Style,” I say, why not? It never hurts to be prepared. I think by carrying around this book, Silfies is trying to separate himself from every other journalist trying to catch the same story.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Welcome One and All to My Blog!

Welcome everyone one to my new blog! I have not used a blog in over a year, so pardon my rustiness. First, I want to tell you a little bit about myself. I am a 21-year old junior at Towson University. I am currently studying Mass Communication in the Journalism and New Media Track. I enjoy doing things outdoors, especially if it is shopping at an open-air outlet center. I have an addiction to purchasing shoes. At one point, I owned over 50 pairs of shoes. I spend most of my time either at school, hanging out at home with my roomie, or at work. Currently, I work for a background-screening agency in the Baltimore area. Many of my projects include verifying employment/education histories for my company’s clients to stuffing envelopes to send reports out to the client’s applicants.

Secondly, there have been many moments in my life where I have doubted not only my abilities as a writer and editor, but also the journalism profession and the direction it is moving in. I ask myself if my name were never to be in print again, but rather on someone’s computer screen, would I still be just as happy as if it were in print. Although I love the print aspect of journalism, I cannot ignore the ever-increasing accessibility of news on the internet. I love to write and informing the public is important to me. My own ego will have to give way to things more important than me. My own background, I believe, has prepared for a career in print media. I spent two years in high school on the newspaper staff, one of which I was Editor-In-Chief. Before coming to Towson University, I spent two and a half years at Howard Community College (HCC), in Columbia, Maryland. There I earned not only my Associates Degree in Journalism but I also got a lot of valuable experience as the Editor of the newspaper (“The HCC Times”) for three semesters.

Finally, I would like to welcome you once again to my blog. I hope my posts will stimulate readers to leave comments. I welcome any constructive criticism of my works. I look forward to reading everyone’s blogs throughout the semester as we all come from different perspectives and show them best when we write. I wish you all good luck.

Amber : )