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Journalism News

Isla Vista shooting resurfaces old debates about gun control, mental health and … the media?

As members of the news media converged to the college town of Isla Vista, a hometown college newspaper decided to withdraw

A screenshot of a Santa Barbara Independent photograph by Paul Wellman showing Isla Vista residents protesting the constant presence of TV crews in the area, according to the photo's caption.
A screenshot of a Santa Barbara Independent photograph by Paul Wellman showing Isla Vista residents protesting the constant presence of TV crews in the area, according to the photo’s caption.

A massacre in the college town of Isla Vista, California, over the weekend has renewed well-oiled debates about gun violence and mental health issues in America. But it has also raised another question: How should the media cover these tragedies?

It is a question that often gets asked in the wake of tragedies of this magnitude — seven were left dead, including the gunman, and 13 injured in the Friday night attacks — but hardly ever this quickly, with bullet holes only just being dislodged from the scene of the shootings and with victims still recovering in the hospital.

For many news organizations, the initial report of a shooting is nothing out of the ordinary: In the Los Angeles region, an hour and a half south of Isla Vista and Santa Barbara, a photographer or TV cameraman is often at the scene of such reports within the hour, if not sooner.

That was the case with the Isla Vista shooting, as photographers from the Santa Barbara Independent and UC Santa Barbara’s student-run newspaper The Daily Nexus, among several other media organizations, were at the scene late that night.

The Daily Nexus has in the past few days since meticulously covered all aspects of the story, which happened just blocks from the campus, in a magnitude and quality that rivals that of the Los Angeles Times.

In another high-profile news event, a reporter and two TV cameramen try to get a view of a protest at the Kelly Thomas memorial in Fullerton, California, in January 2014.
In a similarly high-profile news story, a reporter and two TV videographers (all three from different agencies) were among more than a dozen members of the media covering a protest in Fullerton, California, in January 2014. (Photo by Tim Worden)

The multitude of photographers and TV stations converging on a national story is nothing new, and is fairly common in the competitive news market in Southern California. But news hit Monday of an odd-man out:

The Bottom Line, UCSB’s student government-run newspaper — a rival of the independently student-run Daily Nexus — came out with an editorial: “Why We Have Not Yet Published Anything on the Isla Vista Shooting.”

“Whenever tragedy strikes,” the op-ed begins, “emergency responders and journalists are some of the first on scene and are, consequently, more likely to suffer from emotional trauma because of it.”

The staff needed time to mourn and process the tragedy, the op-ed added.

Media critics were quick to pounce on the no-reporting stance of the newspaper, with some, such as Calbuzz’s Jerry Roberts, saying the paper was skirting “its role as a community news source,” as cited by media critic Jim Romenesko.

But it’s not like there was an absence of news with The Bottom Line out. (TBL did, however, live tweet it on Twitter and now is covering it on its website.)

The LA Times alone, for example, had at least two reporters and seven photographers covering the story in Isla Vista over the course the three-day weekend, according to an analysis of its reporting and photographs.

Dozens of other photographers, as well as TV crews from the region, were also congregating in the area all weekend, prompting some residents to urge the media to respect their privacy, making signs that read things like “Let Us Grieve in Peace.”

Of course reporting from the scene is necessary, as it is the media’s job and responsibility to tell the account of a story to those who were not there, and this, being a national story, carries an even heavier importance.

But what about over-reporting? Part of The Bottom Line’s reason for not reporting on the tragedy is an ethical reason, as it cited the Professional Journalists Code of Ethics’ guideline of “Minimize Harm,” which says: “Journalists should show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.”

The Bottom Line should be commended for its boldness in standing apart from the crowd by not heavily reporting the massacre, as it was attempting to minimize the emotional harm to its staff.

And besides, it’s not like interested residents don’t have half a dozen other media outlets at their fingertips to get the story from anyway.

By Tim Worden. Published May 27, 2014 at 2:45 p.m.

 

Categories
Journalism

The media’s rapid coverage of the #NavyYardShooting

The Navy Shipyard in Southeast D.C. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons via the U.S. Navy)
The Washington Navy Yard (Photo by the U.S. Navy).

Even as SWAT teams, snipers and armed Metropolitan Police officers were swarming the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., news of the #NavyYardShooting was trending worldwide on Twitter.

At least one gunman, but perhaps two more, killed multiple people and injured several others on Monday morning at or near the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters building, according to authorities.

And in the 21st century, American citizens sitting on their couches watching CNN were able to know more information about the shooting than a police officer setting up a perimeter only a block away from the crime scene, who may have only been told generalities of the situation when he was dispatched.

It became national news about half an hour after the initial attacks and even before the Metropolitan Police’s Mobile Command unit reached the Navy shipyard area, which is in Southeast D.C.

It is astounding that, just an hour or two after the shooting, the Navy Yard’s Wikipedia page had already been updated to include the shooting incident!

“This section documents a current event,” a disclaimer on the Wikipedia page notes. “Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.”

The Washington Post, as of around 2 p.m. ET, set up a live stream of updates and allowed full free access to WashingtonPost.com, which is what the Boston Globe newspaper did for the week of the Boston Bombings.

In 2013, information spreads like wildfire. Anyone can get any information from anywhere. This is a slight exaggeration, of course, but the point is that media has infused into our culture so heavily that few people realize how much they take in media information.

This is all because a team of journalists, photojournalists and news organizations have crisis plans years in the making to prepare to broadcast breaking information for situations of the like of, say, the Boston Bombings.

In Southern California, one of the top TV news markets in the country, stocked-up news vans from CBS, ABC and NBC are situated so that they can get to a major incident in the Los Angeles area within, literally, minutes.

But the media is not just news organizations; it is anything that is posted on Facebook and Twitter as well. Your Uncle Jimmy may not work for Fox News, but when he posts an update about what he’s seeing if he, say, was at the scene of the crime scene may be considered news.

Media, it must be reminded, has a Latin etymology that means, “intermediate agency, channel of communication,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

This means media includes things from your Facebook and Twitter friends. Media just refers to the means of how someone told you, or wrote to you, something.

Think about what would have happened if there was exactly NO media covering today’s shipyard shooting; that is, if there were no CNN, Washington Post, Facebook and Twitter.

It can be inferred that not very many people actually saw the shooter and many others only became aware of the situation through hearing either the shots or events of the shooting second-hand. If you were a worker at the shipyard in another building the morning would go something like this:

  • You would hear the fire alarms go off and hear people shouting to evacuate, so you’d join the throngs of people running away from the buildings
  • You would see dozens of emergency vehicles and police cars; initially, the scene is chaos
  • You would wait in the area and continue to see dozens more emergency vehicles swarm the area, with little indication why
  • As time goes on, more heavily-armed police and SWAT teams would come
  • This would last for a few hours and you would wonder what happened; eventually, you may ask a policy officer or paramedic on the scene, who may or may not give any information

If you were living in, say, northern D.C., a few miles away from the Navy Shipyard, but did not know anyone who lived or worked near the shipyard (and therefore none of your friends would post anything about it on Facebook), the morning would be like:

  • You would hear countless sirens in the distance
  • Many emergency vehicles would pass by you en route to the crime scene
  • A nearby school may be placed on lockdown, and there will be police officers securing major areas in the area just in case
  • Sirens in the distance would continue for many hours with little indication why

If you were someone living in, say, neighboring Virginia, and did not happen to know someone living or working in the Navy Shipyard area (and therefore none of your Facebook friends posted anything), it would go like this:

  • You might hear some sirens in the distance, if you live close enough
  • A few police cars might come by, from your city’s department coming to D.C. to assist
  • Not much else

If you were someone living in, say, eastern Virginia, a hundred or so miles away and therefore none of the police agencies in your area would be assisting in the investigation, and you did not have any friends living or working near the Navy Shipyard:

  • Perhaps an increased security presence at government buildings and events for a day or two
  • Not much else

The point is, media in the 21st century almost spoils us with how much information we are able to get so quickly. Fifty years ago, an event of this magnitude may have made the evening news, or, if not, the next morning’s paper.

Today, #NavyYardShooting gets a worldwide trending spot within the hour.

Note: As this was written, little more than three hours after news of the shooting spread, full news of the attack was not available.

Categories
Cal State Fullerton Journalism

The Life and Death of a Bill at a State College

The email policy draft (Photo illustration by Tim Worden)
The email policy draft (Photo illustration by Tim Worden)

“Cal State Fullerton Email Policy” is a bill that was never meant to be.

Its first public appearance, in a Sept. 5, 2002 Cal State Fullerton Academic Senate document, simply informs the senators that an email policy is being drafted.

Its next appearance, two weeks later, however, foreshadows the bill’s muddled future:

“The proposed e-mail (sic) policy is a collective bargaining issue and is yet to be resolved,” then Academic Senate Chair Lee Gilbert reported on Sept. 19, 2002.

Little did Gilbert know that the bill’s problems would not be resolved for another 10 years.

After those September mentions, it went dark for a year before popping up again.

Despite all the odds a bill ordinarily faces in the voting process, it was unanimously approved by the Academic Senate, CSUF’s legislative body comprised of faculty and professors, on May 29, 2003.

By the time it was approved, it had been in the drafting stages for 38 months, from a time when high-speed Internet was barely an infant.

It was sent to CSUF President Milton Gordon on June 24, 2003.

But there it waited. It waited 30 academic days to be signed — the preferred waiting period — but nothing.

There is no mention of why Gordon did not sign the bill, but the minutes of an Oct. 9, 2003, Academic Senate meeting noted: “The document passed by the Senate has not been signed by the President.”

CSUF President Milton Gordon (Photo by CSUF).
CSUF President Milton Gordon, who was highly-regarded by the campus community (Photo by CSUF).

Perhaps Gordon found the bill too obtuse: It would have allowed the university to monitor student email data.

“Account holders should not assume or expect that any use of an account is private or confidential,” the policy sitting on Gordon’s desk stated.

It stayed dead in this awaiting-signature limbo through the 2004 election, through a couple wars, and through the 2008 election.

It surfaced again in 2011, in an Academic Senate document that listed it as one of a dozen other bills awaiting signature of the university president.

President Gordon, who had been CSUF president for 20 years, announced his retirement in September 2011, and in January 2012 he was replaced by Interim President Willie Hagan.

The bill was still there; perhaps the new guy will like it more?

Hagan picked up the bill — a call to life!

But on May 25, 2012, he returned it to the Academic Senate — unsigned, just like his predecessor.

By this time, the bill had been in limbo for 9 years. What will happen? It has seen so many other bills come — the campus-wide smoking ban, the academic dishonesty policy … even its techy cousin policy, the World Wide Web policy — shedding their “ASD” (Academic Senate Document) designation for a classier “UPS” (University Policy Statement).

But not the the email policy, still technically called “ASD 03-69” after all these years.

It turns out, it didn’t have much longer to wait.

Two months after Hagan returned the bill unsigned, the email policy was again mentioned in the annals of Academic Senate meeting minutes.

The note in the August 30, 2012 minutes, from Academic Senate Chair Jack Bedell, says:

“Interim President Hagan signed several proposed policies and remanded a few as well.”

Okay, well what did he approve?

The smoking ban, the faculty office hours policy … boring, where’s the email policy one?

Oh, here:

“He remanded … an old (9 years!) draft policy on email.”

Well, what does ‘remanded’ mean?

Remand (verb): To send back to a lower court.

With this, Hagan sent the email policy back to the Academic Senate to either be rewritten or discarded.

And so, the email policy, waiting for so long, was now dead — but freed from its desk prison, O so free!

It’s been a year, but the email policy has not been mentioned in any Academic Senate proceedings since those August 2012 minutes.

With the remanding of the email policy, CSUF to this day does not have a sanctioned email policy.

“Currently, neither the CSU or the campus actively monitors email accounts that I am aware of,” said Kerry Boyer, CSUF information security officer, whose office would have implemented the policy in its passing.

It remains to be seen whether the Academic Senate will resurrect the old bill, but who knows.

The bill’s seen a lot in the last decade, and if it’s learned one thing, it’s this:

A bill lives and dies many times, and maybe the two really aren’t all that different.

_______________________

Source: CSUF, CSUF Academic Senate, CSUF Information Security Office

The bill can be found online here: Email policy draft.

 

Categories
Journalism

A reporter is being forced to testify against his source

CIA Original Headquarters Building (CIA)
CIA Original Headquarters Building (CIA)

U.S. Circuit Court says reporter must testify against CIA leaker

A New York Times reporter who wrote a book on national security using an anonymous CIA agent who leaked him classified documents is being forced to testify in court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit, in Virginia, said on Friday that reporter James Risen, who wrote the 2006 book “State of War,” must testify in court against his source, former CIA officer Jefrrey Sterling, since Sterling is being prosecuted in a criminal case.

Sterling has been charged under the Espionage Act.

In United States law, national security is placed at the pinnacle of law proceedings, making the stakes “higher” than in ordinary, civil cases.

As a result, a journalist’s normal “shields” are more heavily debated and can be broken in national security proceedings.

As the U.S. Appeals Court said, in its majority statement:

“There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct … even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source.”

While that may be true —and can also be debated— if taken at face value then what is the point of having a First Amendment freedom of speech and of the press?

It’s like saying, “You have freedom of the press for normal cases but for important cases, when you need freedom of the press the most since there is a larger impact on the public, you’re out of luck.”

As noted in the dissenting opinion written by Judge Roger Gregory, if Deepthroat was concerned that what he would tell Woodward and Bernstein would definitely incriminate him in court later on, he may not have leaked classified information.

Information that was of vital importance to the American public.

As Gregory said, “The freedom of the press is one of our Constitution’s most important and salutary contributions to human history.”

Gregory notes that a free press helps America keep public officials and elected representatives accountable.

Whistleblowers, if they want, should be free to talk to reporters if they see something off going on in government. And reporters should not be forced to give up what that anonymous source told them in confidence.

The court said that Risen, a full-time New York Times reporter, must testify with what the former CIA agent told him in confidence.

The court is not ashamed while they want Risen to talk: They do not have a fully persuasive case without his testimony.

In other words, they need him for his information.

The court says, “The government seeks to compel evidence that Risen alone possesses — evidence that goes to the heart of the prosecution.”

The court lays out a lot saying that since this is a criminal case of national security, it is beyond a journalist’s privilege. It even has granted Risen immunity for himself, to try to entice him.

Yawn. America was founded on perhaps the highest amount of personal freedom imaginable at its time, and still serves as a compass for personal freedom.

Journalists, who serve as a public watchdog to tell citizens what is happening, deserve the freedom to dig into “classified” documents, when the situation presents itself (aka a CIA agent who gives a New York Times reporter a document saying that the government is mismanaging itself, which is of the public interest).

As Judge Gregory wrote, dissenting against his fellow judges, “Common sense tells us the value of the reporter’s privilege to journalism is one of the highest order.”

Let’s hope it stays that way.

 


Further reading, from “U.S. vs. Jeffrey Sterling”:

http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/115028.P.pdf

“It is ‘obvious and unarguable’ that no governmental
interest is more compelling than the security of the Nation.”
Haig v. Agee, 453 U.S. 280, 307 (1981).

GREGORY, Circuit Judge, dissenting as to Issue I:
“Today we consider the importance of a free press in
ensuring the informed public debate critical to citizens’
oversight of their democratically elected representatives.”

GREGORY: “A free and vigorous press is an indispensable part of a system of democratic government. Our country’s Founders established the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press as a recognition that a government unaccountable to public discourse renders that essential element of democracy – the vote – meaningless.”

Gregory: “The freedom of the press is one of our Constitution’s most
important and salutary contributions to human history.”

Gregory: “Such reporting is critical to the way our citizens obtain information about what is being done in their name by the government.”

Scott Armstrong, executive director of the Information Trust and former Washington Post reporter, “[m]any sources require such
guarantees of confidentiality before any extensive exchange of
information is permitted.” J.A. 350.

Categories
Journalism

Journalism is adapting in the 21st century

News vans park in front of Cal State Fullerton on December 13, 2012, the day after the lockdown.
News vans park in front of Cal State Fullerton on December 13, 2012, the day after the lockdown.

You don’t have to work at a news organization with a fancy news van to be a journalist.

A journalist is one who writes about current topics, local or national, and can be a blogger, a CNN reporter, or just a citizen writing down government proceedings. The caveat, however, is that a journalist adheres to the ethics and principles of the field of “journalism,” which include objectivity, limiting bias, investigating current events, and avoiding public relations and advertisements.

Looking at the etymology of the word journalism, it comes from French and Latin roots for “a day, daily.” In medieval times journal meant the “book of church services” by way of referring to the daily accounts churches posted, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

By the eighteenth century, journal became known as a daily publication as the rise of newspapers spread.

Today, we have a handy thing called the “Internet,” which is basically this thing that allows anyone anywhere to find information on anything. Pretty cool, huh?

The Internet has allowed information to become diffused to the people. As a result, thousands of bloggers can livetweet, say, a Microsoft video game conference they are streaming online in real time with the exact same facts as a New York Times technology reporter who is present at the event. (There are differences, of course. First, the New York Times reporter is most likely being paid more. Second, the New York Times reporter is expected to be wearing pants at the event.)

Few media experts would disagree that journalism has changed, and must continue to adapt, in the 21st century.

While many of the bloggers updating their Twitter feeds about the new Xbox One are just casual fans or tech guys admiring its cool specs, many are trained “journalists” without being attached to a traditional news organization. They are journalists as long as they are practicing the journalism principles and are avoiding “Microsoft is the best” public relations.

Admittedly, it would help their case if they wrote a more in-depth analysis of the Microsoft conference later in the day to publish on their blog. However, in 21st century journalism livetweeing a story is just as much a news report as a Civil War-era telegraph account of the battle of Gettysberg or a Gulf War reporter giving an update for the evening news.

A Daily Titan reporter, right, talks to a man who was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle.
A Daily Titan reporter, right, talks to a man who was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle.

Many, but certainly not most or all, of traditional journalists do not think blogger Jane Doe, representing JaneDoe.com, is a true “journalist.” But as long as Jane has a proper “journalism” training (which would include taking communications courses and knowing how to write and report), she is a journalist.

I must admit I am writing this to, in part, validate my own reporting since I am currently not employed at a traditional news organization. But I have a strong journalism educational background and have an understanding of the history of the mass media. I can write just as well as any John Doe Los Angeles Times reporter. Well, I do not have John’s sources and do not know the politicians and businessmen on his beat, so I cannot write an article as well-reported as him. But, say if I happen to be at a place where a news event happens, I can take out my phone and camera and have something rivaling the local newspaper.

A journalist is just a guy or girl who wants to write a story about something they see or hear about. Really, we’re just a curious person who can sift through information to compile what we see as the most accurate account of what is going on.

Article and photos by Tim Worden.

Categories
Journalism

Letter to a college journalist

Gov. Johnson answers mine (foreground right) and Chris' (background right) questions.
Gov. Gary Johnson (left), running for president on the Libertarian Party ticket, answers my question before his speech on campus in October.

And 7 tips to become a better reporter
_____________________

I have been a serious journalist for nearly a year now, beginning as a staff writer last spring then moving up to a copy editor this fall for my school newspaper at Cal State Fullerton.

Editing has given me an acute sense of how journalism works and I have begun to notice the same mistakes and poorly-reported stories beginning journalists write. But don’t get me wrong, I still suck and have a long way to go before becoming a great writer myself.

College journalists need to realize they are actually journalists. They must be on the prowl for news and take the initiative to call people and write a story. But they need to be properly trained, and unfortunately the beginning journalism classes at my school fail to train us.

This means it is up to the student to take the initiative in his or her journalism career.

Here are a few tips beginning reporters need:

1) Don’t be a public relations spokesman.

Repeat: Don’t do PR. This fault of journalism permeates the news world. I saw a press release by a local police department copied and pasted onto a local news station’s website just yesterday. Companies prey on news sites to give them this free unchecked publicity.

2) Ask the tough questions.

You are more likely to get the true answers. I’m normally a pretty shy and timid person, but in the past year I have argued with an ROTC army lieutenant colonel and California’s deputy attorney general (the second-highest lawyer in California government). I even spoke to a suicide victim’s mother for 11 minutes a day after her son’s suicide. It was a hard conversation. But remember, a journalist pledges to uphold the truth. Our thoughts and feelings come secondary.

3) Dig. Investigate.

I feel awkward saying this because I have not really done any investigative reporting, but I plan to this semester. Investigative reporting, I have recently learned, is the crown jewel of journalism. And it is what spokesmen and PR types loathe.

4) Relate the news to your readers.

This is important for college journalists since we have a specific niche. The lead and beginning must be relevant to a college student.

5) Take the hard stories.

I was hesitant to do this as a staff writer because I doubted my reporting abilities. I was probably right. But that means that I should have taken the big story. Because as I learned this semester, it is not for our professors to teach us journalism. It is our responsibility.

During our last newspaper editor meeting, someone (who will remain anonymous) said something interesting. It was us, students, who spent hours learning how to edit, cover controversial stories, get a good photo, design a good page, and teach our fellow students, they said. “You guys are so good because you taught each other. Your teachers didn’t have a damn thing to do with it,” they said.

6) Strive to find the perfect sources.

Not just the first people you talk to. Yes, it’s hard, but we’re journalists and a journalist’s life ain’t easy.

My early stories have a lot of random students inserting their thoughts on a subject that should be dwelt with experts. That is because I simply gave up in my reporting and just found a student lounging around the Quad and asked them. A problem journalists deal with is deadlines and time constraints. Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done about deadlines. So you need to know how to find sources quicker.

Know who to talk to, how to get a hold of someone, and contact all the businesses, nonprofits and government agencies involved in a story.

7) Pretend like you’re a professional journalist.

Because the more you imagine it, the more you realize that you actually are a professional journalist, just without the name recognition or fancy credentials.

A college journalist with some reporting experience can cover an event just as well as the reporter for the local newspaper. I saw it with one of our reporters, who covered a hookah lounge controversy. Complaints racked up against the joint, which sits next to a residential neighborhood and gets rambunctious at night. Our reporter covered the city council deliberations and we had three stories chronicling the month-long affair.

I myself wrote a pretty good story on the city mayor hosting a State of the City speech at our university in March. Sitting next to me at the press table, nestled in the back, was the local paper’s Fullerton correspondent. I should have had a business card handy. In fact, for a moment like this, I should have actually had businesses cards in the first place.

_________________________

Now for the fun stuff:

And a friend of mine, as we were running on empty right before finals:

Categories
Journalism

Journalists play word of the day

Fire!

We started playing word of the day at the newspaper. Basically we have a word and try to cram it into the newspaper somewhere. For those unfamiliar, I’m a copy editor at the Daily Titan in and the copy desk edits and proofreads the entire newspaper. We started the game Sunday when our teaser bar had two references to fire, so we made it a fire theme. Oh, so much fun. Here it is:

Daily Titan

We continued this word of the day with “ice” tonight. We managed to use it in a headline:

Ice

Too bad us at copy desk did not think of doing this earlier in the semester since we only have three issues left now. Stuff likes this makes me love journalism. Tomorrow’s word is fresh.

Categories
Cal State Fullerton Journalism Writing

Writing tip: Captivate readers with an interesting lead

Wells Fargo Orange County President Ben Alvarado presents a new car to a Cal State Fullerton student who won a contest. Here’s how I covered the story. Photos by Tim Worden.

Traditionally, creative leads are shunned from hard news stories. Those are for features, we think.

Absolutely not. Creative leads can be used in news stories. A lead is the first sentence or two in a story, around 30 words. The inverted pyramid style of journalism has become outdated with the Internet and 24-hour Cable news. We are barraged with news, so a writer needs a way to set his story away from the pack.

This is a realization that just came to me Wednesday in my Magazine Writing college class. My professor has challenged us all semester and I have learned more about journalism and writing from that class than from all my other journalism classes I’ve taken combined (okay, with the exception of the newspaper writing class last semester).

The traditional news lead is: Who, what, when, where, why and how. Blah blah bla. Those are “basic hack,” as my professor calls them, creating a lead that is “boring bull shit.”

My professor’s advice for leads is make them:

1. Clever
2. Creative
3. Cute
4. Have conflict
5. Compelling
6. Subtle

Bam! Our goal as writers is to get our reader to read the article. It is our responsibility to lure in the reader with something he or she can relate to or enjoy.

I used this strategy in an article I wrote for The Daily Titan, my college newspaper that I am a copy editor on. The article was about a student who won a new car and $6,300 in gift cards from Wells Fargo. In addition, Wells Fargo gave the school $5,000 in scholarships. They were given in a photo-op ceremony at a concert at the school’s amphitheater.

1. The “basic hack” writer would say:

“Wells Fargo gave one lucky freshman a new car and $6,300 in road trip spending money, as well as $5,000 in scholarships to Cal State Fullerton, for winning a national sweepstakes Wednesday at the weekly Becker Concert.”

Obviously, a reporter would have a better lead than that, but fundamentally the lead would not veer too far from that. (The nut graph, which explains the context of what happened, would add that the student won by being selected by opening up a checking account with the bank, and saying what kind of car it was.)

2. Wanting to skip the “basic hack” lead, I went with this:

“Wednesday’s Becker Amphitheater noon concert, to the tune of Los Angeles-based rock band State to State, had 80 people listening in, but one fashionably late concert-goer was a bit unusual. Rolling in at twenty past noon: A black 2012 Ford Fiesta.”

It’s a scene-setter. It starts boring. But it builds momentum: Tune>;Los Angeles-based>;rock band>;fashionably late>;concert-goer>;unsual>;rolling.

Then, protracted with a colon, the punchline: A black 2012 Ford Fiesta. It’s unexpected.

I’m not saying my lead was perfect or amazing, but I do think it is a good lead, and I can say that without any reservations since I accomplished my goal of making a “hard news article” into a “hard news story.” The difference is that this is a story about a girl who won a car plus $6,300 in gift cards as spending money, from Wells Fargo. After the lead, my story has a nut graph that explains what the car is there for and how the student won.

I also use a “River City transition,” a transition that is like a magic trick: It diverts the reader’s attention so they do not realize they are being tricked by the scene changing. It’s in red:

“Wednesday’s Becker Amphitheater noon concert, to the tune of Los Angeles-based rock band State to State, had 80 people listening in, but one fashionably late concert-goer was a bit unusual. Rolling in at twenty past noon: A black 2012 Ford Fiesta.

“The car was the grand prize for a national Wells Fargo student contest won by Cal State Fullerton student Tasia Moore. Moore, 18, an art major, also received $6,300 in gift cards as her prize.”

The transition makes the lead and the nut graph flow seamlessly. The reader did not even know that he was being transported from a rock concert at the Becker Amphitheater to something that resembles a press release that says a student won a car and gift cards from a bank contest.

The River City transition is something feature writer Jon Franklin perfected, which he writes about in Writing For Story, something every journalist should read.

Conclusion: Strive for creativity!

____________________________________

Here’s the full article, by Tim Worden and Chris Konte, in Thursday’s Daily Titan:

Presenting the prizes awarded from Wells Fargo’s swepstakes.

Wednesday’s Becker Amphitheater noon concert, to the tune of Los Angeles-based rock band State to State, had 80 people listening in, but one fashionably late concert-goer was a bit unusual. Rolling in at twenty past noon: A black 2012 Ford Fiesta.

The car was the grand prize for a national Wells Fargo student contest won by Cal State Fullerton student Tasia Moore. Moore, 18, an art major, also received $6,300 in gift cards as her prize.

Wells Fargo Orange County President Ben Alvarado, who runs the bank’s Orange County region, presented Moore the $6,300 oversized check at the Becker Amphitheater stage. He then pointed out her car, which came in behind the audience next to the Clayes Performing Arts Building.

“Today happens to be my birthday, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday than to give a car away,” said Alvarado. “Tasia decided to start a financial journey with us, and we’re pretty sure she’s glad she did that, because she’s the winner of our sweepstakes.”

Students had the opportunity to join the contest, which ran from April 16 to Sept. 30, by opening a student checking account at Wells Fargo or by entering online without creating a checking account on Wells Fargo’s website.

“I opened a college (checking) account, and then they automatically entered me in, and then I got a call saying I won, and I didn’t quite know I was a part of the contest. It was a big surprise,” said Moore.

The 2012 Ford Fiesta has a starting price of $14,100, according to Ford’s website.

Moore, a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority at CSUF, said she will go on a road trip with her roommate or friends, but does not know where she will go.

“Maybe San Francisco. Not somewhere too far, I like to stay relatively close,” Moore said.

But her first use of the car was going to work Wednesday night at Victoria’s Secret in Orange.

While Moore won the contest, she will not be the only CSUF student who benefits.

As part of the prize, Wells Fargo gave CSUF’s Associated Students Inc. a $5,000 gift to be used for student scholarships, Alvarado said.

ASI Vice President Katie Ayala said the $5,000 will be split into five $1,000 ASI student scholarships available for the spring 2013 semester.

“Now what we need to do is decide the name of the scholarship and some of the writing questions… We don’t know any specifics yet,” said Ayala.

These five scholarships will join about 23 scholarships ASI offers students each semester. The scholarships have requirements, such as that the applicant have a 2.5 GPA and be enrolled as a full-time student, Ayala said.

“We’re really excited that we were able to get this from Wells Fargo, they’re a great partner corporation and we’re grateful that we have more money to give to students,” said ASI President Dwayne Mason, Jr.

Nationally, Wells Fargo has a large philanthropic presence. In 2011, according to Wells Fargo’s website, the company invested $213.5 million in 19,000 nonprofits nationwide, its fourth year surpassing $200 million.

Nearly $68 million of this was given to 8,000 educational programs and schools around the U.S., as well as $18.3 million in matched education donations.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a newspaper that covers the nonprofit world, Wells Fargo ranked fourth among companies in philanthropically giving the most cash in 2011.

“We’re constantly doing scholarships and we’re one of the largest non-profit givers in the country, so we’re always doing things locally… We’re constantly contributing to the community through different programs,” Alvarado said.

Alvardo, who started at Wells Fargo as a teller and has been with the company for nearly 22 years, said the company invests in college students so they can be more financially literate.

“This is a time in your life when you are learning about credit… You’re learning how to prepare your finances so that you can go off and do the things you want to do from a financial perspective and put your education to work,” Alvarado said.

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Photo Challenge: Mine (the Newsroom)

This is my newsroom, where I work as a copy editor for The Daily Titan, my college newspaper. I took these tonight during production to show a few of the editors as well as my computer and workspace. The guy in the white with a pen in his mouth in the first and last picture is David, a news editor. The guy with glasses in the third picture is Peter, a fellow copy editor.

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Cal State Fullerton Journalism News

Learning to be a newspaper Copy Editor

No soup for you.

You know the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld? Yeah, this isn’t about him, except I was thinking of him since I now work as a Grammar Nazi.

I am a Copy Editor at Cal State Fullerton’s newspaper, The Daily Titan, where I ensure that the newspaper has proper facts, grammar and style. Journalists are a passionate lot, intent on upholding Accuracy, Truth and AP Style in a world reeking of Laziness, Gossip and LOLs, so copy editing is essential for any news organization.

I have discovered that copy editing is exactly what I enjoy doing. Where runners get runner’s high, I get a euphoria in making sure the newspaper is correct and engaging.

Here is what I look for:

1) Facts– Every proper noun needs to be checked, including names (Lindsay or Lindsey?), places and movies. I have already encountered misspelled names and cities. Also whether a place on campus is called the athletic ticket office, the athletics ticket office, the athletic ticketing office, or the athletics ticketing office. It’s a tad tedious but rewarding. Also, check to see if it a preferred spelling is “theater” or “theatre”.

2) Style– Per the Associated Press Stylebook, certain words need to be used correctly. Here are are a few useful tips:

A) A flag is only flown at half-mast if it is on a ship, otherwise it is half-staff.

B) Over vs. more than. Try to use more than when referring to specific numbers, like “more than $1000”.

C) A homicide is a legal term for slaying or killing. Murder is a malicious, premeditated homicide, and manslaughter is a homicide without malice or premeditation.

3) Grammar– This goes along with style. Two essential components are consistency and clarity. But arguably a Copy Editor’s greatest goal is conciseness. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Here’s how:

A) “He said that” can usually be slashed to “He said”. Readers skim over the extra words (*cough* fluff) so just give them what they want.

B) “The shiny new convertible, which was red and was made in 2012” (12 words) can be shortened to “The 2012 red convertible” (4 words). (Side note: Usually phrases that are offset by commas after a noun can be put as adjectives before the noun. Another example is “Jane Doe, who plays forward on the Titans soccer team” could be “Titans forward Jane Doe”.)

C) Don’t beat around the bush. Make sentences straight-forward.

D) Parallelism and subject-verb agreement- This gets complicated because is a sports team singular or plural? According to the stylebook, a team is singular and has the pronoun “it” when referring to a collective team, and takes a plural verb like “the Mets are”. I still don’t really know much about this without looking it up.

I love Copy Editing so far. I ensure that the newspaper is correct and that writers speak in the best possible tone (formal for news, persuasive for opinion, interesting and engaging for entertainment reviews). It is a team effort to publish a newspaper and the additional, ideally unbiased eyes of a copy editor uphold the paper as a beacon of truth that readers can trust.

Also, copy editors receive two important benefits:

1) Career skills. Being a good writer and communicator is important for every job and editing is one of, if not the, the best ways to improve these skills.

2) Fundamentally, I’m just getting paid to carefully read a newspaper. I get immersed in soccer, politics, movies, social media, the budget crisis, and the newest pastrami restaurant- and that is just one day’s reading!

I still have a lot to learn, but I am up for the challenge.

Here’s my workspace!

(Text, drawing and last photo by Tim Worden, Soup Nazi photo owned by NBC.)