WASHINGTON – Practicing the tenets of free press in a newly free country was a whole different experience for a young journalist and previous guest of It’s All Journalism.
Julia O’Donoghue joined us a few months ago on the podcast as a guest producer and has just completed a trip to Johannesburg, South Africa working for Business Day. O’Donoghue is a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and a participant in the school’s global scholar program.
She says one of the first things that struck her about the difference in reporting in that country is how its political history altered the perspective.
“South Africa’s only been a democracy for 19 years,” she said. “It’s really only had a free press since 1990. Before that, it was heavily censored. The Apartheid government didn’t let the press report on a lot of things … . So, I was pretty impressed with how professional and how much like the American media that was.”
|Read a transcript of our interview with Julia O’Donoghue.|
“It’s really only had a free press since 1990. Before that, it was heavily censored.”
While there, she interviewed another journalist to better understand the country and it’s approach to free speech.
O’Donoghue interviewed Anton Harber, the founder of the journalism program at the University of Witwatersrand. Harbor is also the editor and founder of the Mail & Guardian newspaper.
“It was an anti-Apartheid newspaper under Apartheid. It got shut down a couple of times. It was sort of — he called it “alternative press.” It’s not quite like our alternative press, but it was operating in a way that was angering the powers that be,” O’Donoghue said.
Our podcast includes O’Donoghue’s interview Harber, in which he talks about the difficult transition his country endured over the past two decades as it tried to establish a free and open press.
May 11, 2013
WASHINGTON – Rick Blum works as an advocate for journalists who may unfairly hear the word ‘no’ from a government agency. As coordinator of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, he champions the rights for transparency and open government provided by Freedom of Information Act.
While FOIA gives journalists the right request the release of government records, Blum says that process can often take time, especially at the federal level.
“It’s not going to force something to happen next week,” he said. “But, if you’re on deadline and you’re expecting to file a FOIA request with an agency, it’s going to be tough. I have to tell you. You’ve got to think ahead.”
In fact, the quicker route for a journalist may be going to his or her sources to track down the information. But, when all the usual avenues are exhausted, the reporter can easily fill out a FOIA request.
|Read a transcript of our interview with Rick Blum.|
“If you can be as specific as possible, you’re much more likely to get a response faster,” Blum said. “If you’re really fighting and you want to see all memos related to how a decision was made to declare a chemical safe, even though you’ve got residents, readers who are concerned about their drinking water or something like that, that might take a little longer and you might want to ask for a broader set of records. So, really try to figure out what you really need.”
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May 8, 2013
Rick Blum, coordinator of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, talks about how journalists can best use the Freedom of Information Act to better inform their stories.
It’s All Journalism is a weekly podcast focused on the changing state of the media. New episodes are posted every Saturday.
May 4, 2013
Editor’s Note: This text has been edited to reflect a change in context. When quoted as saying the Post is “not there,” Downs’ comment was in reference to mobile-first design, not the paper’s mobile presentation. Her quote following that paragraph is swapped for another from our interview to enforce that point.
WASHINGTON – After five years at The Washington Post, graphics director Kat Downs says there is still a growing need for graphics reporters who are not only telling the story but who are visualizing it for the reader. Downs oversees the Post’s infographics, maps, diagrams and the design that goes into each graphics-supported story.
“It’s different than traditional reporting, because you’re really thinking about visual display, explanatory, a lot more data analysis, stuff like that. So, those people are really instrumental in finding the details that you don’t sometimes need in a written story but you need in order to put things on a map or into a diagram,” Downs says.
The graphics coming out of the Post’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings showed not only a timeline of events, but among other things, a map of the significant locations that became part of the investigation.
“We started building a street model that we ended up using a lot over the coming days,” she said. “And we started adding more information. I guess that was the day we had details come out about the pressure cooker bomb lid that was found. … So we started thinking about how we could explain the devices that were used, where they were, how they were put out, stuff like that.”
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May 1, 2013
After we wrapped up our interview with The Washington Post‘s Graphics Director Kat Downs, we realized that we forgot to ask her about her online portfolio, which we think is kind of neat. So, we turned the mics back on and conducted this brief interview.
Rather than adding the interview to our full podcast, we decided to offer it as a bonus feature to our listeners.
Check back on Saturday, May 4, 2013, for our full interview with Kat, when she talks about multimedia design, visual storytelling and how the graphics team contributed to the Post’s coverage of the Boston bombings.
April 27, 2013
“We actually in some ways have skipped over some of the mess that the mainstream media made of themselves in the digital space, which has been so awesome,” said Tiffany Shackelford, executive director of the Association for Alternative Newsmedia. “And, we’re going mobile first, digital first, thinking about smart partnerships with startups. So we are there now but maybe came, as my father said, “went around our ass to get to our elbow.”
|Read a transcript of our interview with Tiffany Shackelford.|
She talked candidly to It’s All Journalism producers Megan Cloherty and Michael O’Connell about some of the challenges alternative newsmedia is facing but also about its many successes.
“What I’ve been saying a lot is ‘smart’ is the new alternative. We’re writing long form, but it’s still popular,” Shackelford said. “Kids love it, believe it or not. And we’re writing really smart pieces that speak truth to power.”
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April 20, 2013
By Michael O’Connell
Anybody who was surprised about the upheaval in newspaper publishing just wasn’t paying attention.
As entrepreneurial journalists create new ventures to bring their work to wider audiences — both online and in print — their pen and brush colleagues are doing the same.
Take Magic Bullet Comics, for example, a self-published newspaper highlighting the work of artists and writers living in the Washington, D.C., area.
“Initially, the project was to just kind of showcase our work,” said cartoonist Matt Dembecki. “You know, we liked the paper format.”
In 2005, he and a group of artists formed the DC Conspiracy, to find new outlets for their comics. Soon after, they launched Magic Bullet, a tabloid-sized newspaper filled with original artwork and writing.
“We just felt like maybe that was our in since newspapers were kind of going out of print, out of style,” Dembecki said. “This kind of left us with an opportunity to showcase our comics in a bigger format too. It appealed to a lot of folks in the group that instead of having mini-comics where you draw fairly large and you have to reduce it, here you can kind of play with a larger format and try different things.”
Magic Bullet’s sixth issue hit the streets in February with a four-color cover and centerfold.
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April 13, 2013
There’s a famous children’s book called “Everybody Poops.” If that title is true, then the inverse is also true — “Everybody Eats.”
The business of what people eat is a $4.6 trillion industry — the largest in the world.
Where there’s a topic of interest, especially one that involves every person on the planet, there will be journalists to cover it — from restaurant critics and cookbook reviewers to publications that focus on food production and regulations.
For almost 55 years, Food Chemical News has been providing detailed information about food regulations to an industry audience, via its print newsletter and website.
“Our audience is a fairly mixed bag of different types of professionals,” said Jason Huffman, editor-in-chief at Food Chemical News. “A lot of our readers are in the food industry, food company executives. We also have government officials who read our publication and consumer advocates, attorneys, consultants who serve the food industry. Some of them sue the food industry as well. It’s anybody who’s concerned with food regulation and that’s a large number of people.”
|Read a transcript of our interview with Jason Huffman and Amber Healy.|
Unlike other industry publications, Food Chemical News isn’t financed by advertising. It operates on a subscription model. That means it has to provide content for which its readers are willing to pay thousands of dollars a year to get.
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April 6, 2013
WASHINGTON – It’s a unique thing in journalism that you find a job on the cutting edge of transition, where your work — in it’s original form — is considered special and your job is not in jeopardy. Now, finding that job is a reality for many journalists in Web design, analytics, video and in multimedia roles. But finding that gig at a traditional news organization? Seems like too rosy a picture. It’s in this glossy pink world of opportunity that we find AJ Chavar.
While I’m writing a little more visually than usual, I do not mean to be trite. Chavar is in an enviable position at The Washington Post as a video journalist. And he earns the secure foothold he has there. We’ll include some of his work later in this post.
I was curious, as a journalist with TV news background, why he got into doing video at a newspaper versus seeking out a visual-first employer, like a documentary house or TV news station. He told me, my thinking was backwards — that unlike broadcast news outlets, newspapers are willing to take more latitude with their video content.
|Read a transcript of our interview with AJ Chavar.|
“When it comes to sort of beautiful documentary stories, you don’t see a lot of that in mainstream broadcast. That’s what I wanted to do. And, newspapers, sort of know that they can’t compete with broadcast stations when it comes to the things that they’re really good at. So, at newspapers, you’re able to work on in-depth, local stories and enterprise stories and you’re able to do things that are a little more beautiful and a little more poetic on occasion than I’ve seen people allowed to do or have the opportunity to do in broadcast,” Chavar said.
“I think what makes a good newspaper video story is one that people are moved to share.”
Video journalists at the Post work on their own, with reporters and with the newsroom on larger in-depth stories. Chavar says unlike a TV news piece that is relatively hard to find online even a few days after it airs, videos on the Post‘s site stand alone.
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March 30, 2013
Most journalists have experienced a variation of the “obituary scenario” at one time or another.
You’re a radio station producer covering the death of a local politician, and you remember interviewing the deceased two years before. He was funny. He was engaging. It would be the perfect audio to accompany the obituary you are writing.
But where is the file?
“There’s a radio station in New Hampshire that we talked to, but it could really be anywhere cause it’s a classic scenario, the obituary scenario,” said Anne Wootton. “And they knew that they had the audio of a particular senator sitting in the station somewhere, but because of the staff turnover that they’ve had, they lacked that institutional memory. They lacked that path back to that audio and had no way of searching for it.”
Wootton and Bailey Smith believe they have come up with a practical solution to the “obituary scenario.”
“Pop Up Archive is a Web application that makes audio searchable, leveraging technology for automated transcription and entity extraction and, as a result, making that audio accessible to many more people than ever before,” said Wootton, who met Smith when they were graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley’s Information School.
“Anyone using Pop Up Archive has the option of adding one or multiple audio files and organizing those files in sort of buckets or collections through which they can track certain projects,” Wootton said. “But whether or not they choose to organize, there is metadata that’s already automatically created and that’s what really makes the audio searchable. And that does include the transcriptions.”
|Read a transcript of our interview with Anne Wootton & Bailey Smith of Pop Up Archive.|