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Archive for April, 2008

Completing my collection of Clinton campaign coverage

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Today I got to cover the last of the Clintons. This one is the one that really matters, at least for now. Hillary Clinton was here in town. She spoke for about an hour in Riehle Plaza in downtown Lafayette.

Hillary Clinton talks about jobs in downtown Lafayette, Ind., on April 30, 2008.

Previously, as you’ll recall, I wrote about our coverage of Bill Clinton when he visited a local high school.

In the intermediate, as Indiana has become a Democratic political battleground (no seriously, someone pinch me because I never thought I’d see that happen when I took this job), we’ve also hosted Chelsea Clinton.

(Barack Obama came too, but he came the day I went home for my mother’s birthday. I told her that was how much I loved her that I gave up the chance to cover a potential future president to spend time with her. She told me I should have stayed. Ungrateful. Er proud? Several others have also stumped for Obama, but other than covering his economic policy advisers in a Q&A discussion, I haven’t been assigned to any of those. — Rumor mill is telling me that Obama may be back this week, so perhaps I’ll get my chance before next Tuesday?)

Well, I got my chance today to cover a potential future president (no I’m not taking sides here, I’m just saying, regardless of which side of the partisan isle or which Democrat you support, they’re all potential until one of them folds or loses for good). My assignment to cover Hillary Clinton was the same as bill: fast and frequent updates online preceding and during the event.

With Bill Clinton, it was our first attempt at live blogging. I’d say it was a success, but it was imperfect.

Since then, when I covered Chelsea, I couldn’t send as many live updates because of the set-up. I offered a few updates before, as it started and immediately after. It was a much smaller event, so not worth blowing out of the water like the others. I was also tasked that day with writing the A1 package about that event, unlike with Bill & Hillary, where my main role was simply keep the content fresh and help if other reporters need it.

At Obama, we threw the kitchen sink again. They sent live updates, but I was on vacation and wasn’t paying attention so I’m not sure how frequent or what they consisted of in terms of writing. They also tested live video streaming for the first time that night and it was, er, less than successful.

Tonight, again, I was tasked with the live updates (the time stamped ones in the middle of the page). And tonight, we had live video playing on the homepage. (We were actually working with a local high school student to do the live video. A great example of working with the talents of your citizens!) Throw in a video package and a photo gallery plus three other reporters — and Clinton got the kitchen sink as well.

More as an aside to the “real” journalism, but I also updated twitter throughout. I’m looking at Twitter in that case as more stream of consciousness and scene setting. The meat and potatoes of the speech was definitely going (quickly!) into jconline.

I noted last time that pressure for quick turnaround hampered my creativity and that nearly ever update began “Clinton discussed.” I’m proud to report not a single update tonight began with those words. In fact, because I was self-conscious about it, only four of the 16 updates I sent began with any form of “Clinton said…”

I tried to make it more engaging by not starting everything the same way. I also spent more time writing through some of the items rather than try to get everything verbatim. I’m not a court reporter in this case, I’m still a journalist. And a reporter’s job is to help readers make sense of not simply transcribe an event. I had a few typos, but overall, I’d still put this in the win category.

I think this is the type of thing you get better at as you do it more. I hope. I still felt a bit overwhelmed trying to get it all processed and written so quickly. It was fun, but I mean, literally it was non-stop for an hour. And that was all after I’d come in and reported and written the local page centerpiece this afternoon — plus already written several updates at the scene.

While I don’t anticipate any political powerhouses will be visiting the Hoosier state beyond next Tuesday’s primary election, I do think the groundwork we’ve laid during this campaign is vital.

We were training our own reporters and photographers to create this online content. That is definitely important. We know now what works and doesn’t, and we know what we are capable of when it comes to this type of coverage for other things down the line.

Perhaps even more important than training our staff, we were training our readers to expect it and to look to us for it. At points more than 250 people were watching jconline’s live video. I don’t know how many stopped by our live updates, but I suspect it drew at least some. I know I gained a few twitter followers during the event.

Long post short: Another win for the future of journalism. Another awesome adventure in reporting.

Journalism in six words

Monday, April 28th, 2008

How would you sum up journalism in six words? Poynter asked this question a few weeks back (maybe not even). I meant to comment on this earlier, but now’s as good a time as ever. You can go vote on which if the finalists you think is the best six-word summary of/motto for journalism.

Here are the top 10 finalists to choose from:

  • Doing more with less since 1690
  • We’ll always have Paris … or Britney
  • It’s how I change the world.
  • Get it right, write it tight
  • They’ll miss us when we’re gone
  • Feed the watchdog, euthanize the lapdog
  • Who, what, when, where, why, Web*
  • Facts, schmacts … how is my hair?
  • Dirty commie latte-sipping liberal scum
  • Please stop griping, now start typing

I bolded my personal favorites. The asterisk is the one for which I actually cast my vote.

Also, on the Poynter story there are several honorable mentions. Here are my favorites among those:

  • We’re sorry about all the trees

  • No news is not good news
  • How many inches is the truth?
  • Seek the truth, not the money
  • We don’t make this shit up
  • Dead wood floats. So can we
  • A journalist’s work is never done
  • History’s first version, updated every minute
  • It beats working for a living
  • Speak truth to power, or else
  • But this IS my day job!
  • Mainstream media: We’re your grandfather’s blog
  • Filling the space between the ads

So, what’s your favorite? (Vote at the Poynter story. Right now it looks like “Doing more with less since 1690” is leading, followed by “They’ll miss us when we’re gone.”)

I didn’t submit any to the contest, but here are a few humble attempts I just came up with:

  • Been there. Done that. Rinse. Repeat.

  • Every day something new to learn.
  • Speak up or hold your peace.
  • Who’s watching your government?
  • Nothing is worth more than today.
  • Tomorrow this will be forgotten.
  • I couldn’t make this stuff up.
  • As read about on Romenesko.
  • Blogs: Repurposing real journalism since 1997.

Have any contributions or ideas for your own six-word motto for journalism? It’s harder than it seems.

Ohio papers to share stories

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Ohio is one of those states with lots of cities. I grew up in Akron, which is a respectable size city, but is just one of several in a state of many. There’s Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown. And those are only the largest. And they all have a major daily paper, many which aspire to be more than just the local paper of record.

So in a time where state capitol bureau’s are being cut, where getting someone to break the news half a state away isn’t always financially viable and where the locals can probably lend better context to that story anyway… Ohio’s newspapers are taking a step forward.

They’re sharing their stories. Yeah, there’s the AP. But if my reading of the PD’s editor column is right, this goes beyond that.

So the ultimate winner is you because, under this system, you will be able to see the best work written by the best reporters in Ohio’s largest cities in The Plain Dealer or on Cleveland.com. And you’ll be getting it at the same time as the folks in those cities do.

It took a bit of doing because the competitive instinct is in every good journalist’s DNA, and most of us would swallow our notebooks before we’d share what’s in them with another reporter. We’ve spent our professional lives trying to keep other newspapers from getting our good stories. Now, we’re giving them away.

Here’s why:

The way that news from The Plain Dealer and other big papers used to find its way around the state was this: We would report and write our stories, wait until late in the day, and then turn them over to the Associated Press. The AP would then either rewrite them into wire service story format for general consumption; report and write its own stories later; or decide that the news was not of statewide interest and do nothing. If we had a breaking-news story all to ourselves, we would try to keep it away from the wire until the following day. So did everyone else.

That’s not good enough anymore. In fact, I’m not sure it ever was. Competition is a wonderful thing. It keeps everyone sharp. But we don’t compete for readers with the newspapers in Cincinnati or Columbus, except in the most tangential way, and never did.

We almost always break our stories online now as soon as they happen, so they’re not exactly a secret from the other newspapers anyway. So why not give readers all over Ohio the benefit of the best work from each corner of the state?

In today’s world, breaking news is measured in minutes, not days. It’s important that we provide our readers with the best news report we can, as soon as we can, on our Web site and in the best and most current newspaper possible each day.

I’m all for spreading the content and breaking down barriers to good journalism. Kudos to the news orgs for recognizing and addressing that. This is good news for Ohioans.

QOTD: … On a given day, I learn something that you didn’t know …

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

I stole this amazing quote from the Facebook of a good friend. I just had to share it.

“For that alone, I can have no regrets. Nah, son, fuck law school. And fuck the M.B.A. I’ll never have. And fuck all that Chaucer and Cervantes and Proust I might never get around to reading. On a given day, I learn something that you didn’t know and then, my authority drawn only from scrawl on pages of a pocket notebook, I write it up clean so the rest of you can get your hands filthy with ink, reading my righteous shit. In the less fevered lobes of my brain, it was as pure as that.”
— David Simon

Simon, btw, is an author and former Baltimore Sun reporter. He’s the brain behind HBO’s The Wire (which I’ve never seen but sounds cool). The quote is from his recent Esquire essay, “A Newspaper Can’t Love You Back,” which is worth the read.

The “Why journalism?” question

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Recently, I’ve been asked by several people — job-shadowing teens, co-workers, friends, sources, strangers — “Why journalism?”

I always spout off a half-dozen reasons I love my job, love my beat, love this business.

In thinking about it, I’ve come up with a single line that I think kind of sums up what’s at the heart of my desire to do this. It incorporates everything, my love of meeting new and interesting people, being the first to know, seeking out answers to my questions, getting out information important to people’s lives and trying new experiences.

Here’s what I’m telling people keeps me doing this: “I get to experience things that most people, literally, only get to read about.”

So, guys, how do you answer the “Why journalism?” question?

QOTD: If you fell down yesterday, stand up today

Friday, April 4th, 2008

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”
— H.G. Wells

This could be interpreted many ways. Since I like to focus on journalism and blogs and all that fun stuff, I’ll throw out this advice to all the reporters and editors who’ve lost their jobs, to all the sell-outs and dreamers deferred who’ve given up and to all the nay-sayers who believe it can’t be done. It’s always worth getting back up to try again.