Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blog Post No. 2

This week’s set of readings is just another scary reminder of the fact that it’s becoming easier and easier to fall behind in the journalism industry. The rise of social media networks and the ability for anyone to publish content are unavoidable additions to the media world that must be embraced going forward. This doesn’t mean that we must take every single post by simply everyone out there and consider it as news, but we should respect the opinions of others and allow these inputs to better shape our own views.

I think it’s pretty cool that I can now consider myself a network journalist. It sounds like I make a lot of money. But being able to function on multiple platforms is now the norm in this field. Newsrooms are continually advising employees to familiarize themselves with new outlets like Twitter and Facebook, to step behind a camera to snap pictures or capture video, and to learn how to use computer programs like Adobe InDesign and Photoshop.
As an aspiring sports network journalist, I use Twitter to stay connected to the latest news from my favorite beat writers and columnists. The revolution which began with a simply hashtag phrase in each tweet is most often used by the writers I follow. For example, #Gators is one that’s always in my Twitter timeline in regards to all Gators sports news. Some writers use it, and some don’t, especially if they tweet solely about Gators sports, but the hashtag allows any Twitter user to post their input on a Gators game for anyone to see if they choose to research the query. It truly provides for the interaction of complete strangers on a platform where the same interests are present.

With that said, just because someone tweets or blogs about something that is news-related, we should not automatically grant it as news. There still needs to be some levels of traditional journalistic values abided by to even be considered credible. Having superior facts and resources to back prove their validity is one step any blogger out there should master. In the end, it all is subject to points of view, and how a particular writer sees a situation and shares their viewpoint with the world. This is the difference between what some are trying to classify as news versus what it really is – just another opinion.

Case Study 4

This issue is among the most difficult issues that editors deal with on a day-to-day basis. These types of decisions are the kinds I loathe because there is truly no right or wrong answer, as I learned from the times I’ve flip-flopped on so many issues like these when I faced them in Dr. Lewis’ ethics class. But most of all, I’ll never forget what Professor Foley said when he reflected on mornings he would wake up sick to his stomach not knowing if he made the right call on a particular issue. You have to take these decisions to heart, because so many more people are affected than you’ll ever know. With that said, I would publish this image for all the reasons below.  
  • Would you publish if the bodies were of American soldiers, rather than civilian workers?
    • I would, but I would not identify the soldiers (if they could be identified) for respect of the families of the soldiers.
  • If the charred bodies could be recognized as human forms, not just as parts of corpses?
    • A body is a body. Yes.
  • If the bodies were not charred, but were visible as distinctive human beings?
    • If they could be identified, no because of the family respect.
  • If a face on one of the bodies was recognizable?
    • No.
  • If the bodies were not of Americans, but of Iraqis?
    • I would publish, regardless.
  • If the bodies were not charred, but naked?
    • No.
  • If the bodies were women or children, not men?
    • Women, yes. Children, no because it’s an even more sensitive issue.
How to run it
If you choose to run a version of this image, you have many alternatives to express news values and to minimize harm. Consider these questions:
  • Would you prefer an alternate image?
    • Obviously you would want a different photo to tell the story in a less graphic form. Sometimes a photo tells so much more than a description in a cutline or story, and that’s why you run what you have.
  • If you ran it on the front page, where on the front page?
    • I would not at all because of its nature.
  • Would you run it inside?
    • Yes to satisfy that old “breakfast table” rule.
  • What size would you run the image?
    • I would run this as a dominant photo, or as a part of a photo spread if I had enough photos.
  • Would you explain why you were running the image or why not?  In what form would you explain this?
    • I think this photo shows the reader the essence of what is going on in this part of the world. I think an explanation would be disrespectful to the reader’s intelligence.
  • Would you issue a warning about the graphic nature of the image?
    • No. It could be a lot more graphic but in that sense, I would not publish it.
  • Would you be tempted — through cropping or digital manipulation — to alter the image?
    • No. Never.
  • If you didn’t run this image, how would you convey the news?
    • Be as descriptive as possible.
  • How would your media platform influence your news judgment?  What are the differences, if any, if you were making these judgments for a daily newspaper, a news magazine, network television, cable television, a news website?
    • I would feel the most liberal to publish this online than on any other platform. In regards to TV versus print, I would provide a warning just as a heads-up for viewers. I know I said I wouldn’t do this to for print because I feel like it’s challenging your readers’ intelligence more than giving them a heads up.
Consequences of your decision
Any decision you make will have consequences, some of which you can predict, some of which are unforeseen. Which of the following would concern you and why:
  • That publication of the image might turn public opinion for or against the war in Iraq?
    • Our job as journalists is to give readers the information they need to form their opinions. Not a concern.
  • That publication would somehow affect the safety of other civilians or soldiers in Iraq?
    • There are no identifiable people in this photo to have that affect. Not a concern.
  • That publication or broadcast might offend readers or viewers?
    • You can’t please everybody. Not a concern.
  • That it might upset children or the sensitive or impressionable?
    • This is why I would print this on the inside than on the front cover, somewhere children are less likely to see it.
  • That it might hurt your credibility?
    • I don’t think this photo can hurt a publication’s credibility. Not showing this photo does more damage.
  • That it might open you to charges of sensationalism?
    • If you publish pictures like this on a regular basis, than yes. But there must be overwhelming reason of why you publish photos like this so no concern.
  • That your competition might make a different decision?
    • We have to be secure with the decision we make and be able to back it up. Sometimes it might work to our favor, and sometimes it may not, but being able to stand by it is most important.
  • That you might be accused of a political bias in your coverage?
    • This issue might be prevalent depending on what type of story or cutline you publish with this photo, but being unbiased is always a principle to stand by.


The story I ran through Poligraft was about Obama Administration officials saying the President will be addressing the issue of gun control in the near future despite being quiet about the issue since the Tucson shooting incident, especially in his State of the Union address. 

Poligraft cites several sources in this story, among them are:

I think this tool is very useful in regards to sources Poligraft provides when used. I thought it was ironic that Reid, who is a Democrat, has aggregated contributions of $13,950 from the NRA, an organization that traditionally sides with Republicans. This tradition was also cited via a pie chart, which really brings light to the irony of Reid’s position, the fact that both houses are divided and if any progress will be made on legislation on this issue. 

The only problem I had with Poligraft is the array of links it provides. Although Poligraft does a great job of pointing out key facts, when you click on the link provided for those facts, you are not directed to a synopsis of that fact. Instead, you are directed towards a general page or profile on a candidate or organization. If this is changed, Poligraft would become an even greater tool for journalists and even the average person concerned about politics.  

Friday, January 28, 2011


Below is a copy of the FOI letter Team Ace (Myself, Ryan Arens and Emily White) sent to  UF Housing regarding GatorSpace.
January 28, 2010

Pursuant to the Public Records Act, Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes, I am writing to request all records pertaining to the budget for and expenses incurred as part of the development, launch, marketing or maintenance of “GatorSpace” ( This includes payroll records for those primarily employed in the development, launch, marketing or maintenance of the site.

This request includes copies of every document related to the matter, regardless of the format in which the information is stored.

If you refuse to provide this information, Chapter 119 requires you advise me in writing and indicate the applicable exemption to the Public Records Act. Also, please state with particularity the reasons for your decision, as required by Section 119.07(2)(a). If the exemption you are claiming only applies to a portion of the records, please delete that portion and provide photocopies of the remainder of the records, according to Section 119.07(2)(a).

I agree to pay the actual cost of duplication (up to $15.00) as defined in Section 119.07(1)(a). However, if you anticipate that in order to satisfy this request, "extensive use" of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance as defined in Section 119.07(1)(b) will be required, please provide a written estimate and justification.

I request these records be available by February 18, 2011. If you have any questions or need more information in order to expedite this request, please call me at 407-376-7888.

Emily Blake
807 W. Panhellenic Drive
Gainesville, FL  32601

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Friends reunite at the sculpture known on the University of Florida campus as "the french fries" on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2010. PHOTO BY Doug Finger of The Gainesville Sun. 
This photo and its caption have nothing to do with the story on Florida Prepaid College Plans. Unfortunately, this is often done because photos make stories stronger, but it would not have been hard to go to UF’s financial aid office and take a picture of students in line paying tuition. I understand the difficulty in pairing a photo to a conceptual story, but my example makes a little more sense over two students hugging by the French fries.

Better: Students in line at the UF financial aid office on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2010. Parents of future college students are now facing the decision of purchasing a Florida Prepaid College Plan or investing in a 529 savings plan in efforts to keep up with rising tuition costs.

Simon and Tiger, two greyhounds who belong to local members of Gold Coast Greyhound Adoptions, relax outdoors. Photo was a special to The Independent Florida Alligator.

This caption is great, only after you read the story. Before I read the story, I had several questions after reading the caption. What is the Gold Coast Greyhound Adoptions? What is their purpose? And why greyhounds? Reading this story answers these questions but just a quick sentence at the end of this caption regarding the nonprofit organization would have made this better.

Better: (Add) Founded in 2003, Gold Coast Greyhound Adoptions is a nonprofit organization that finds homes for greyhounds that are retired from racing.

George Skeris, a general member of the Gator Motorsports club, poses in the shell of an unfinished student-built race car while the bodies of past cars hang from the ceiling. PHOTO BY Max Reed of The Independent Florida Alligator.
I think the problem with this caption here is that it gives the readers no idea of why they are being exposed to this photo. Adding a quick summation sentence about the story at the end of this caption would do wonders.

Better: (Add) Gator Motorsports is competing in an international student competition at the Michigan International Speedway in May, where they hope to place in the top 10 for a fourth consecutive year.  

AP Terms

Link to AP Terms assignment.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Case Study #3

After looking over the protocol anecdote today, an old adage came to mind. “Don’t assume, because you’ll make an ass out of yourself."

By taking away just one letter, the editor of this story made the Gainesville Sun lose credibility as a respectable publication because of its negligence (to those who know about the mistake). Assuming the writer interviewed a heterosexual couple instead of a homosexual couple also made the writer look bad as well because it now looks like the story was fabricated to satisfy the social norm. 

The editor should have checked back with the writer to confirm the sexuality of all persons interviewed if there was any question. And even if the writer was not able to be reached, he or she should have gone with what the writer turned in originally and not make the change. I know this also has its gray areas, and obviously referring back to the writer is most essential, but writers place certain information in their stories on purpose, not for an intentional mistake. 

This situation reminds me of my first published story, also in the Gainesville Sun. The story was about a charity event being held by the UF football team. It was published with more quotes than I originally submitted because the editor but quotation marks on comments I paraphrased. I’m sure the editor and myself are the only ones to know of this until now, and I didn’t mind at all, but I was obviously surprised that this happened. And I could see why they would do this. After all, people don’t sound that good when they speak. That’s why I paraphrased it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blog No. 1: Copy editing in the digital age

In the few months that I've been copy-editing for the sports section at The Alligator, I can tell you one thing: I take pride in doing my job. I feel like every publication should work together as a team and it is my job to make my writers look even better than they do on their own. I try my best to read with a clear mind, and to be objective to the authors I edit because writing is a process and everyone needs feedback on their work because it's very easy to get off track and become mundane. At the same time, we are moving into a new age in journalism where convergence is key. Being able to not only write, but editing your own work and producing media content are becoming the new tools that can provide longevity to one’s career. And it’s becoming even more important to be diligent as writers and submit flawless work as budget cuts in this industry have shown that if you can’t perform on multiple platforms, you’re gone.  

With that said, the complete extinction of editors will never happen in this industry. Although there might be a decrease in the number, their jobs will forever be necessary to produce flawless news. Editors are not only the trial audience but they also provide fresh eyes to content. And I believe having an open forum for communication between writers and editors is an essential part in every newsroom, aided with the editing protocol like the one used by The Charlotte Observer. The principle that stuck out the most to me in this protocol was: “Copy editors realize it is not our names on the stories, but the reporters’, so we don’t edit arbitrarily. We edit to improve.” This notion is something I believe every writer should embrace because it creates that open forum unlike the protocol at The Oklahoman which discourages it. 

Going back to my mention of this new movement in journalism, the New York Times video featuring executive editor Bill Keller reinforced a point I’ve learned before from Mindy McAdams and Norman Lewis: KNOW EVERYTHING. I know that’s vague, but essentially it is the truth. From software programs like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign to online platforms like Tumblr, Twitter and Delicious, being familiar with these tools makes the difference for journalism graduates in the job market and those who have been in the business for years. The simple frustration that veterans in the business are having working with new media these days was summed up when Keller said: “I’ve been telling people that it feels a little like we just enrolled in graduate school, but we forgot to take any of the undergraduate courses on the way there.”Even more the reason for why students like myself should take it upon ourselves to learn these new platforms so we can help these old people out.