- Obama’s Orwellian Image Control by Santiago Lyon, The New York Times, Dec. 11, 2013
- The Obama Administration and the Press by Leonard Downie Jr. and Sara Rafsky, Committee to Protect Journalists, Oct. 10, 2013
- Bloomberg News Suspends Reporter Whose Article on China Was Not Published, by Edward Wong and Christine Haughney, The New York Times, Nov. 17, 2013
- Against ‘Long-Form Journalism’ by James Bennet, The Atlantic, Dec. 12, 2013
- The Guardian experiments with a robot-generated newspaper with The Long Good Read by Justin Ellis, Nieman Journalism Lab, Dec. 3, 2013
Rob Pegoraro is one of a dwindling number of journalists who have been able to make a living freelancing.
Of course, Pegoraro’s 17-year career at The Washington Post helped his freelancing prospects when he left the paper a few years ago.
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Interviewing is the baseline skill of a reporter.
I don’t remember the first interview I ever did, who it was with or what it was about. It was probably in ninth grade, when I was writing for the Craig Junior High School newspaper in Indianapolis. Maybe something to do with the chess club or the cafeteria.
I do remember being an interview subject back then, though.
We were playing floor hockey in gym class. We weren’t wearing any protective gear and I was the goalie.
When the puck shot in front of the goal, I dove on it just as one of my opponents’ sticks came slapping down. I took the full force of the stick in my right eye.
There was an explosion of electric sparks in my head. Putting my hands up, liquid poured between my fingers. I thought my eye had split open.
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WASHINGTON – Photojournalist Tom Kennedy got the bug for taking pictures when he was young. He became so good at it, Kennedy made eventually chose a career capturing pivotal moments in news history.
Kennedy spent his career at the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post and National Geographic Magazine.
His professional life has seen sweeping changes as far as technology advancements in digital photography, photo editing capabilities and photo sharing. And with an eagerness to learn each merging tool, he understands the momentous shift multimedia storytelling has made in news presentation.
“I feel like we’re very much on the front end of this kind of storytelling. I know there are examples of projects out there that reflect people’s efforts to come to grips with what the technology is now affording us and how to tell a different story,” Kennedy says.
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During his 44-year career at The Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr. oversaw many important investigative stories, from the Watergate break-ins to mismanagement at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
When Downie stepped down after a 17-year stint as The Post‘s executive editor in 2006, one might think he would retire and leave journalism behind. Instead, he has continued to give back to the media industry through various foundations and journalism organizations.
With Sara Rafsky, Downie recently wrote a special report for the Committee to Protect Journalists detailing a lack of transparency within the Obama administration.
As a Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, Downie is one of the instructors at News21, an initiative started by the Carnegie Corporation and the Knight Foundation to promote professional training at several journalism schools around the country.
A new seminar takes place each spring, in which a group of advanced students receives instructions in intestigative reporting techniques and plan a multimedia project to be posted online later in the year. Each project is built around a theme. This year it was veterans returning home from war and the services they receive.
“Next year’s topic, which is gun legislation in the state legislatures around the country, another timely topic that the rest of the news media cannot cover adequately enough because they simply don’t have the resources that we’re going to have,” Downie said. “We’re probably going to have 26 reporters all across the country, a number of the them at the Cronkite School, but a number of them, at least 20, at other universities literally from coast to coast, from Florida to Oregon. They’ll all participate in the spring seminar by teleconference, during which we will do research for the project.”
News21’s 2013 project — Back Home: The Enduring Battles Facing Post 9/11 Veterans — contains 26 stories and more than 50 multimedia pieces, ranging from photos, videos to a 26-minute television documentary produced by the students in the program.
“We launch our own website that has everything on it and then all of our partners can use whatever they want to use, which they did last year through September and October,” Downie said.
Part of the goal of News21 is to supplement the coverage of news organizations that don’t have the resources to conduct such a large-scale investigative project.
“The main goal is to prepare these young journalists — and sometimes not so young journalists that come back to school — for work,” Downie said. “They’re already the best in the country. We’re able to select the best in the country. It’s a national competition. They learn an awful lot during the experience.”
Chad Garland, an older student with an interest in business journalism, has been a veteran since 2002. When heard about the topic of this year’s News21 project, he knew he had to get involved.
“I knew when I was applying that I was one of the few people that had veteran’s experience,” Garland said. He used that experience to become an investigative reporter, focusing on charities that were not what they professed to be.
This type of project, where journalism education intersects with professional training, is something Downie thinks more journalism schools ought to be doing, not only to help their students but to foster the future of investigative reporting.
“There are still a relative minority of journalism schools engaged in this kind of professional journalism with state news agencies as some schools have,” he said. “The Cronkite School has a Washington bureau for all the news media in Arizona, staffed by students. American University has the Investigative Reporting Project that produces professional level work. This is what I think journalism schools should be doing across the country.”
Garland agreed. “News21 was a way to get that real world, multimedia journalism experience that I hadn’t had outside the classroom,” he said.
Jeff Sonderman learned early in his journalism career that you have to keep teaching yourself and finding ways to learn outside the classroom: trying new tools, reading about the latest developments, listening to podcasts.
“That’s on you now after you graduate,” he said. “There’s less of a sense of ‘I got a degree, I know journalism, I’m good for the rest of my life.’ It’s only going to keep evolving.”
Jeff is the deputy director of the American Press Institute, an educational non-advocacy, nonprofit organization affiliated with the Newspaper Association of America. He is an adjunct faculty member of The Poynter Institute, and previously a digital media fellow there. He also teaches digital journalism at Georgetown University.
His early awareness of the limitations of formal training and willingness to experiment have taken him far, far from where he planned to end up.
When Jeff came out of journalism school in 2004, social media didn’t really exist yet. Facebook was Harvard-only. YouTube had another year until it rolled out.
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WASHINGTON – Pulling up the rock and seeing what’s there is the concept at the heart of investigative reporting. But finding a great funding source, a great backing, for an investigation can be difficult.
Two of our friends, former podcast producer Jolie Lee and former professor at AU, Mishi Ibrahim work at the Investigative Reporting Workshop and find themselves in this position — having money to do an investigation! They are working on co-creating an investigative piece for a Showtime/60 Minutes collaboration.
“Years of Living Dangerously is an 8-part, 8-hour series. It’s about climate change and putting a human face on climate change and investigating some interesting things that are going on around the world,” says Ibrahim.
IRW was approached 2 years ago to be involved in the project and although Ibrahim says they knew it was a big project to take on, they knew it would be worthwhile.
The project is being executive produced by legendary director James Cameron. Ibrahim talks about finding the balance between creating a beautifully shot, high production value project while still making sure it has investigative integrity.
“Our job is to do all the research and plan everything and be prepared for that to be thrown to the wind when we get out in the field,” Ibrahim says she tells Lee when preparing for shoots.
The biggest challenge, they say, is finding the characters to follow for a period of time who will allow them to tell the story. In the end, it is a visual product but there has to be the content to support it. They also share their process for investigating a project of this size.
The duo are working with actors who are narrating the piece, major directors and lots of equipment — something Lee had little experience with before this.
“It was such an opportunity that just dropped in my lap because I don’t have any film or documentary making experience and a huge part of this is production. We’re working with all these gadgets I’ve never worked with. We use dollies, cranes, even drones. It’s a whole new world. I think the key is being flexible … but you’re still bringing your journalistic eye to everything you do,” Lee says.
Although Ibrahim had her choice of who she wanted as an associate producer, she thought of Lee because of her hard-working reporting background.
“I’m a big believer that you don’t have know tho the technology and everything. You just have to be smart,” Ibrahim says.
The Investigative Reporting Workshop is housed at American University. You can find them online and the series is expected to be completed in April.
&mash; Megan Cloherty
This is the second part of an interview we did with Ben Wikler, a social activist and host of The Flaming Sword of Justice podcast. Wikler got his start in media working for Al Franken, a comedian who now represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. You can listen to the first part of this interview here.
Ben Wikler was working in a shared office space for nonprofits in Cambridge, Mass., when Aaron Swartz, a well-known Internet activist best known as the co-founder of Reddit, moved into the room next door.
The pair’s mutual interest in progressive politics and technology led them to become friends and work on launching the talk show that eventually turned into The Flaming Sword of Justice, a podcast that Wikler now runs on his own.
“Aaron was one of the most brilliant people in the millennial generation. He was 14 when he helped create RSS. He was one of the co-authors of the RSS specification, which is how websites talk to each other basically,” said Wikler.
Last fall, Swartz committed suicide at the age of 26 while facing criminal charges for hacking into MIT’s network and taking academic articles from a database called JSTOR. He intended to make the articles, which were stored behind a pay wall, free and available to the public online.
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Ben Wikler interviews political activists and organizers on his podcast and radio show The Flaming Sword of Justice, which is affiliated with the well-known political advocacy group MoveOn.org. He has previously worked for the well-known online activist communities, Change.org and Avaaz.org.
The host and interviewer got his first big break in media as a student when he helped comedian-turned-activist-turned-elected official Al Franken with the satirical book “Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” Wikler went on to work for Franken, now a U.S. senator from Minnesota, on the Franken’s talk show, which aired on the Air America radio network during President George W. Bush’s administration.
A native of Madison, Wis., Wikler said he was influenced by public radio and The Onion, two forms of media that have deep roots in his home town. He also experienced a heavy dose of political activism growing up.
“My first political memory is my mom taking me to a Jesse Jackson rally on Capitol Hill,” said Wikler, “Yeah. It was the 1988 presidential race and I was seven. Very exciting.”
The activist was always interested in journalism, particularly media with a point of view. While still in middle and high school, he started underground newspapers, including one that was banned by his school administration.
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Few people go into journalism with the expectation they’re going to be rich and famous.
Some do achieve that, but most are satisfied with doing interesting work that has meaning.
But paying journalists enough to sustain them is important, not just for journalists but for society as a whole.
“I really didn’t mean for it to be so novel,” Dupuy told It’s All Journalism.
Back in 2009, the media industry was hemorrhaging newspaper jobs — something like 40,000 over three years or approximately 1,000 a month.
What those unemployed journalists encountered was a new media reality in which it was easy to find a byline but not so easy to find a paycheck.
“Just by the virtue of writing and being published was your payment,” Dupuy said. “If you get to use a byline of a publication, that suddenly was enough for you to make a living. So, there was this proverbial carrot dangling in front of you that if you just get enough readers, become famous enough and somebody’s going to pay you to write, you’re going to get the book deal or whatever. It’s this new model that is just not sustainable.”
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