Perspectives in Journalism, a World View

Recently I taught a three-week summer journalism program for high school students. It is the third year I have been part of this particular program. We always had a handful of international students, mostly from China. However, this year half the class was students from China ranging in age from 15-18.  I knew this year would be different,  but I had no much how it would change my perspective on being a journalist.

The students did the usual assignments, we attended press conferences, events, and statehouse hearings. They wrote stories and created video packages. Generally, on the weekend, we have the students research the First Amendment, but this year, we changed it up. The students broke into groups and presented the roles, rights, responsibilities, and risks of journalists around the world. Each group was assigned a country, including the United States and China. During the presentation about China, one student stopped midsentence, saying they could not say something critical. This was a child. I cannot imagine my children, or any American student at that age having to worry about what they say about their government. Just let that set in for a moment.

There was a time when we were discussing LGBTQ rights and how in the United States. The discussion turned to how, at one time, you could be arrested in the United States for being gay, and how the LGBTQ community is treated across the world. Our student from Peru weigh-in, and then a student from China was called on. The response, “we don’t talk about that.” Again let that sink in, this is a 15-18-year-old.

We had a professor come visit and talk about their work across the world as a journalist and mentioned being sent to China for Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. The students from China listened intently and nodded. What we did not know is many of them had never heard of the protests. Only learning about it by looking it up online after that presentation. One of the teaching assistants compared it our nation blocking all information about Kent State.

As Americans we read, watch and listen to news about China and the Chinese government, but do we ever stop and think about the people living that and other totalitarian governments? Maybe you should. I know I am looking at international news with that perspective and reading more international news sources rather than just American based media.  Understanding what the Chinese people are being told is essential for understanding their culture. As Americans, we need to become more worldly in our knowledge.

We are fortunate in the United States. You may love or despise our government, yet we will not be placed in jail for merely expressing an opinion. Reporters in this country can question and hold those in power accountable without fear of being sent to prison, or even death. That is not the case across the world.

 

 

Lessons from the Future

I teach a Television News Producing class. It meets twice a week. The goal of each class to create a newscast. During the semester the length of that newscast grows, right now we are at 13 minutes of content. It may not seem like a lot, but those of you who have produced know it can be a challenge. Two reporters put together a package and do a live shot, there is a weather person, a sports person and two anchors, in all, there are 14 students in the class this semester. The students work together to get the show on the air in just three hours.  Producers, you understand how much of a challenge this can become. The students choose the content, and how it is presented.

I am not here to brag about what a great newscast these students create each class, in fact, there are always mistakes and things that could be done better.  This is a learning experience after all. However, the lessons go beyond proper broadcast style writing, knowing which story is the lead, and a reporter is ready for a live shot. This class is a lesson in teamwork and trust.

The students have learned quickly if one brick falls the walls will come down. If you have a person who does not load video correctly, it will fail, if there is no spell check on lower-thirds you fail, and if the person running prompter does not pay attention, that’s right you fail. Most semester when I teach this course the pressure is high, and it takes several weeks for the students to “click” and learn to work together. Not this semester. This particular group of students has from day one displayed a sense of unity, teamwork, and compassion.

As a group, these students seem to understand everyone learns at a different pace and in different ways, and rather than get frustrated when a student is struggling they pitch in and help. However, they do not do the work for the student; instead, they mentor and explain. They all have the same goal, create the best newscast possible. When a student is having a tough day, they rally and help. There is no bickering, no comments of one person not pulling their weight in the newsroom, just a combined goal to get it done.

There is a lesson to be learned here, that compassion and understanding in the workplace can result in success. How many of us have gotten caught up in the negative attitude of a newsroom and done nothing?  A new approach may make the world of difference. Embracing the individuality of each person on the team, and helping them be successful will benefit everyone.

I hear from so many people that the next generation does not work hard, they are not focussed, and just don’t get “it.” Maybe it is the older generations that need to sit back and learn. I am quite impressed by the character of the students in my classroom each semester.

 

 

The Relationships of Journalism

Journalists know the best stories are about people, and include emotions. In the classroom I often get the question how do you find those stories. My answer, remember journalism is about relationships.

The first relationship is that with your audience.

Television, radio, newspaper, digital each platform has an audience. As a journalist, it is your job to deliver stories that engage and enrichen your audience.  Know your audience!

Thanks to the digital world more organizations than ever have insight into the online audience.

There are plenty of ways to research your audience. Nieman Reports talks about the importance of making the significant relevant by understanding the audience.

Building trust with your audience takes time. The Knight Foundation released a report in September 2018 about why people do, or do not, trust the media. The report called Indicators of News Media Trust shows most Americans believe that trust can be restored. The good news from the Poynter Institute is trust is being repaired, especially when it comes to local media. An article published in August 2018 called Finally some good news: Trust is news is up, especially for local media shows the importance of building that relationship with your audience.

One way to earn that trust is to produce content relevant to their daily life, and show the impact of the story. I have often said my best stories came from the playground. When my children were younger, I would pick them up from school each day and talk with the other moms. Through listening to their concerns about education, the economy, crime in the neighborhood I was able to tackle the issues impacting the community.  Newsrooms may know more about their audience thanks to social media and other digital tools, but that does not entirely replace the reporter who goes into the community and talks with people. That connection to your audience will help build trust and give you a strong understanding of the values and stories that are important.

The second relationship is with your sources.

Similar to building trust with your audience, you need to build trust with your sources within the community. This does not mean only tell the positive side of a story and never report when your sources that may have a negative impact on the community. Building trust with your sources translates to being honest with them, tell the person you are interviewing on the street where and when the story will be published and that it will be online as well. The Ethical Journalism Network has published Ethical ground Rules for Handling Sources. The article covers issues including anonymous sources, and when human rights trump the source’s right to privacy. Journalists have to consider sources at every turn. How you treat your sources will follow you from one job to the next.

The third relationship is with your colleagues.

Journalism does not happen in a vacuum. It takes a team to produce that newscast, newspaper article, radio story or online content. There are editors, sales team members, researchers, and even interns. It is essential to respect each role of the process and understand they are working as a team. Walk into a television newsroom, and you see the reporter working with the assignment desk, producers and possibly others. If there is a lack of trust or respect at any level, it can impact the final product.

Working in a newsroom can take an emotional toll. The stories can be difficult to tell, but it is the job. Having a positive newsroom environment means understanding some days will be tougher than others, and supporting one another.

From RTDNA  here is an article about what news teams need from their managers.

What news teams wish managers did more

The organization then presented the other side, what managers wanted from the news team.

What news managers wish the staff did more

There are a lot of similarities in the articles, most importantly each wanted the other to be a team player.

I am currently teaching a TV News Producing class at Emerson College in Boston.  The key to doing well in that class is working as a team.

 

 

The future of journalism is bright

December 3, 2018

As the fall semester begins to wind down, I am getting some answers from students as to why they chose journalism as a career. The answers are an insight into the future of this profession, and I dare to say the future is bright. Many students see journalism as a way to improve society. It is more of a public service than a self-serving rise to fame. They want to tell stories that matter.

When asked what is the role of journalists in today’s society the answers ranged from, “holding the powerful accountable, “to “giving a voice to those too afraid to speak up for themselves.” The students are curious about the world around them and want to make it better for future generations.

I see this passion in the assignments turned into class, the student who looked at the opioid crisis through the lens of a solution.  Talking to sober houses and former addicts about the ways to combat the stigma of needing treatment. Another student writing about the gender gap in higher education, going beyond covering a meeting and instead talk with a woman who is considering the field and what solutions they would recommend.

Our class discussions about the political environment, how to write about it, and what really matters have been enlightening. The old adage if it bleeds it ledes seems to be gone, the impact to a community is the most important factor.

The students look at news and current events in a different way than seasoned journalists. Just think about this, they do not know a world without mass shootings. They do not remember life before 9-11. Going through a metal detector is normal. Same-sex marriage is normal. If you take the time to listen to this generation, and their perspective, it may change your way of thinking. I know it did mine.

The journalists of the future want to tell the truth, earning the trust of their community, and expose corruption. These are not bad goals and leaves me to have faith and hope in the future of journalism.

Why Journalism?

Dear Students:

Why did you choose journalism? Along with the lessons about writing, reporting, and editing I genuinely want you to answer this question. It is not an easy career, it changes rapidly, and there really is no such thing as job security. So why journalism?

“Fake News” is a term heard and seen daily. What does it really mean to you? Will it have an impact on how you do your job? Are you ready to enter a career that appears under attack? What will you do differently?

During the summer I co-taught a 3-week intensive program for high school students. It was shocking to hear how much mistrust they when it came to the news media. “Everyone is lying,” was a phrase often spoken by these well educated young students. So I asked in return, “why journalism?”.

Gone are the days when mass media was all on the same page. You chose a network for news, read the local paper, and the stories were there. It was a common ground across America. We all worked from a similar set of facts and stories. Today that has changed, people tailor their news to fit their lifestyle, there is no common ground. So what will you do as a journalist to inform your specific audience?

The students this summer talked about a lack of balance in the media, “everyone leans left or right,” was the comment. Is that indeed the case? What can you do to restore faith in the media? Several students cited transparency, adding each media outlet should admit to the bias and let the reader or viewer decide for themselves. It was a worthy discussion.

What is the role of journalism in today’s society? Is it to tell the truth? Inform society as a whole?  I think the more important question is, what do you see the role of journalism in the future?

So why did you choose journalism? I look forward to helping you find the answers.

Sincerely,

Angela Anderson Connolly

Affiliated Faculty Member/Journalism

Emerson College

A Letter to my Graduating Students

It is that time of year, graduation season. I greet the end of the semester with my students with mixed emotions. I am both sad and happy to see the students I have watched grow and learn graduate.

The students graduating from the program this year were Freshman when I began teaching as a member of the Affiliated Faculty. I feel as though they have seen me grow as a teacher, as I have seen them grow as journalists. It is a fairly small program, and I get to know many of the students extremely well. It is exciting to see them win awards for their work leading up to graduation. It is more exciting to hear from each one where they will be headed next.

I often get asked advice about starting out, and I say the same thing to each one, be yourself. No matter the field they chose to enter remaining true to the person, and their values will always be the right choice.  I know there will be times those values are challenged, and that is when you have to dig the deepest.

It is a bit of a scary time to enter the world of journalism. The industry is changing, evolving. The reliance on digital content and the 24-hour news cycle puts more pressure on journalists than ever. It is even scarier for young adults heading out on their own for the first time without the support system of a school or home. It is my hope that first job will offer some support and encouragement as each student grows.

I wish my students well as they step across that stage, I am proud of each and every one of them. They learned to think for themselves over the past four years, and have the skills needed to succeed. It is time for them to spread their wings and trust themselves, I look forward to seeing the great journalism you produce.

Sharing is Caring, Even on Social Media

How do you know what is going on in the world? Do you get up in the morning and turn on the television, or turn over in bed and look at your phone? The answer may depend on your age, still more people are turning to their phones for news than ever before.

A study published in AdWeek shows 80% of 18-44 years old reach for their phone first thing in the morning. The IDC Research report was sponsored by Facebook and claims 79% of smartphone users have the device with them for 22 hours a day. People site connectedness, curiosity, and productivity as the reason. A closer look at the study shows people check their Facebook news feeds on a regular basis, and people spend about 20 minutes a day on Facebook. Think about how quickly you check Facebook on your phone, and how easily those numbers can add up. This study was published in 2013, so you can assume the numbers have only gone up.

Adweek: Digital Study

If you are interested in the latest stats on Facebook check out this blog:

Facebook Stats Blog

Do you share content on Facebook? Many of us do, and that statistic continues to climb. News organizations and marketing companies spend a lot of money trying to figure out how to write a Facebook post so it will encourage people to share. There is no tried and true formula, but researchers keep looking.

Every wonder what makes a person share content on social media? That research still in its infancy but some trends are starting to emerge.

When it comes to social media, there are two types of people, those who observe and those who engage. A study in Journalism and Mass Communications Quarterly looked at those two groups and among their findings, those who spend more time on social media tend to be more heavily engaged. When a person joins a social media network, they often sit back and observe until they are comfortable.

 

When you share news or other content through social media, it is a way to create and maintain relationships according to a study published in Computers in Human Behavior.  News content had a higher social value when it came to sharing information. Those who share news tend to do to so as a sense of social responsibility. They want their “friends” to know what is going on in the world. There is also a sense of increasing your online status when you become highly engaged and share content frequently. Finally, people share information to gain peer acceptance, to show they are “in the know” and can be part of a larger conversation.

 

That peer-to-peer sharing gets shared more often that information put out by an organization or company. There is a level of trust between “friends” when it comes to the types of content that are shared (Mahmood & Sismeiro, 2017).

 

Peer-to-peer sharing is better than organizational sharing, because of the level of trust between “friends” according to a study out of London published in the  Journal of Interactive Marketing. This is why some companies are targeting those primary users with content, in hopes that they share to the wide range of “friends” they have on Facebook or other social media networks. It has been shown, at least on Facebook, that “friends” tend to visit the same websites and can be driven to those sites through shared content.  This definitely has a financial impact to the company because more eyes on a website mean higher ad revenue.

So why do you “share” on social media? How as a company can you tap into that need for people to be social as a way to get more engagement for your audience? This has become the topic of a paper I am writing for a course, and find the questions fascinating.

 

Side Note:

Programs like Facebook’s Instant Articles tends to keep people on the social media network and not visiting those originating websites, meaning a potential loss of revenue for the news organizations. There is a financial arrangement between the news generators and Facebook currently. In fact, a new report claims Google and Facebook account for nearly all the growth in digital advertising, the numbers are still be debated you can read the report from Fortune here.

 

Sources:

Choi, J. “News Internalizing and Externalizing: The Dimensions of News Sharing on           Online Social Networking Sites.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 93.4 (2016):         816-35. Web.
Ingram, Mathew. “Google and Facebook Account For Nearly All Growth in Digital Ads.” Google and Facebook Reap Almost All Digital Ad Growth | Fortune.com. Fortune, 26 Apr. 2017. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
Lafferty, Justin. “STUDY: How Addicted Are We To Facebook Mobile?” – Adweek. Adweek, 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

Lee, Chei Sian, and Long Ma. “News Sharing in Social Media: The Effect of Gratifications and      Prior Experience.” Computers in Human Behavior 28.2 (2012): 331-39. Web.

Mahmood, A., & Sismeiro, C. (2017). Will They Come and Will They Stay? Online Social  Networks and News Consumption on External Websites. Journal of Interactive             Marketing, 37, 117-132. doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2016.10.003
Stadd, Allison. “79% Of People 18-44 Have Their Smartphones With Them 22 Hours A Day [STUDY].” – Adweek. Adweek, 2 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
“Top 20 Facebook Statistics – Updated April 2017.” Zephoria Inc. Zephoria Inc., 11 Apr. 2017. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

 

 

A View from the Sidelines

For the first time in some years, I went to the Boston Marathon as a spectator, not a journalist. There was no need to feed those live reports to radio stations around the country. I was not looking for the wide spectrum of people to speak with about why the braved the crowds. Instead, I was simply one of those people.

 

I dragged my daughter along, she goes to college in Boston. We started at Fenway while the Red Sox were still playing, and stopped to watch some of the runners go through Kenmore Square. These were not the elite runners, but those who have full-time jobs and still manage to train for the grueling marathon. It was inspiring to see the determination on faces of men and women that as a child probably never dreamed they would be running this marathon.

 

We went toward Fenway Park, the Red Sox were still playing, the crowd was huge. There were college students, families and a lot of international visitors. The atmosphere was positive and fun and showed how the city of Boston can come together.

 

One of the highlights of the day, a stretch where the runners go into a tunnel and back out only to have to climb a hill, with one mile left to go. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and the crowds were still there cheering, with cowbells and encouraging each person to just keep going. A metaphor for life, just keep going and encourage others to do the same.

 

Since the 2013 bombings, the marathon has become synonymous with a spirit of perseverance.  It has now become part of the narrative for any news organization covering the event. This year, while the Boston media honored those who died and those who survived, it seemed for the first time it was not the focus of pre-marathon coverage. This could be because the trial is over, and the city has found some closure. There were stories about survivors running the marathon, and the wreath laying ceremonies were covered live.

 

I will admit, seeing large trucks blocking the streets that led to the marathon route was a bit unnerving. Knowing that around the world terror attacks have become more frequent and targeting large crowds. There were security checkpoints along the route, but no one complained about the lines. In fact, many now know the routine, a clear plastic bag or no bag at all.

 

We stopped several times along the route to marvel at the accomplishments of the runners, and the cheer them on. It was nice for a change to be part of the day and not just an observer. It gave me a new perspective on Marathon Monday, that is more than just a day off from school and work and the kick off to the tourism season in Boston. The day is a celebration of unity, because when you looked at the runners and those who were cheering we were all one, celebrating a spectacular event that brings us all together.

 

Next year I am sure to be back in the thick of it as a journalist, and while those press credentials will make it easier to get around, I will have a new respect for those who make the time to cheer on friends and strangers

Is that a Slot Machine in Your Pocket? Some say Yes.

We have all done it, left for work in the morning only to realize you left your phone at home on the counter. What do you do? Some people will turn around, others will ask a family member to bring in, and a small group will just suffer through the day. I say suffer because that feeling of disconnect is sometimes hard to take.

This week’s blog is in response to a CBS 60 Minutes story on “Brain Hacking.”

CBS 60 MINUTES – HOOKED ON PHONES

Companies are developing apps with the specific goal of keeping you engaged, and sort of addicted. They talk about SnapChat and keeping track of streaks to encourage people to use the app more often, which leads to more ads and revenue. What scared me the most about this information is programmers were targeting the individual creating codes that are responding to how you use that smartphone, and when is the best time to give you “rewards” so you remain on the phone looking at ads longer.

CBS 60 MINUTES: BRAIN HACKING

It sounds like a futuristic movie, but it is here. This is one reason it is so hard to “unplug” and especially for teens being away from their phone and access is anxiety producing. If you think this does not impact you, think again… where is your phone right now?

In the CBS 60 Minute story Anderson Cooper talked to Tristan Harris, a one-time Design Ethicist for Google he now spends his time speaking out about the impact of technology on life, and has created an organization called Time Well Spent. His recent essay describes your cell phone as a slot machine, sometimes you get the reward of likes or other interactions, sometimes you do not.

TRISTAN HARRIS ESSAY

I will admit to being conflicted while writing this blog. I am studying Interactive News, and the idea is to get the audience engaged and return to a specific website or app. It is a business, and this technology is what makes it profitable. In fact, you most likely read this blog after seeing a post on social media.

Push notifications from news organizations interrupt your life, so you feel the need to look at your phone and read the story. That is the goal of the news organization, get more eyes on the website or app to sell more advertising. Without that revenue, there would be no place for journalists work to be seen or read. I will continue to study ways to engage the audience and increase page views.

There are good and bad points to social media, it allows people to connect that may not have had the opportunity, it can also be a time waster and reduce productivity. Like everything there needs to be moderation.

SOCIAL MEDIA TODAY: THE GOOD AND THE BAD

Our smartphones are not going away. In the past ten years, they have become part of the daily life for millions. There is a whole generation that cannot imagine not being connected 24/7. I guess what we need to work on is how to unplug, and why.  How to get over the fear of missing something important. Remember you cannot miss something you did not see.

HUFFINGTON POST: HOW TO UNPLUG

I do not believe it is realistic to completely go off of social media, most people feel the need to be informed. It is possible to set some boundaries, no phones at the dinner table, put your phone in a backpack while hiking, or even resolve to call a friend once a week. Knowledge is power and understanding why our phones, and social media accounts, are so addictive could help you make better decisions.

While writing this article I left my phone upstairs, I will admit it is driving me crazy!

The Reuters Way; “Providing news to people so they can make better decisions.” Why do you read the news?

Just the facts Ma’am. It is a phrase most of us have heard. It has been associated with journalism, despite it coming from the television show, Dragnet, a police drama in the 1950s. These days finding and understanding “just the facts” is easier said than done. This was the premise for a panel at Emerson College featuring Stephen Adler, President, and Editor-in-Chief of Reuters.  Adler making it clear to students and faculty the mission of Reuters “providing news to people so they can make better decisions.”

Who is Stephen Adler?

The panel was titled “Finding Facts with Steve Adler” and students as well as faculty were encouraged to discuss objectivity in journalism at a time when the White House is openly hostile to reporters.  You may recall Adler sent a memo to his staff in January about how to cover the White House, it leaked, and Adler decided just to make the document public. Many believed he was comparing the Trump Administration to regimes in places like Turkey and Iraq, but during this discussion, he corrected that misconception.

Covering Trump the Reuters Way

Adler saying they are putting more resources in better places than the White House press room adding “most of the action is not in that room.” Adler saying that has always been the case, not just in Washington but in countries around the world.  Reporters need to develop sources and find a story not wait for it to be handed to them. Adler would argue that is easier in Washington under the Trump Administration than it was under President Obama, saying more people in government are willing to talk to reporters.

When pressed about the decision to remain in an off the record gaggle that other news outlets, including CNN, were not allowed Adler responded, “our job is to get the news, not commit mass acts of journalism.” Adler did say they shared information with the briefing, and there have been discussions about the course of action should a similar decision be made by the White House Press Secretary in the future. Adler says there are a number of organizations that work on behalf of journalists to fight First Amendment issues, and he is a member of those groups.

Reuters Article on Gaggle Ban

When it came to the topic of objectivity, and how some news organizations may not be following that model Adler was clear Reuters will not stray from the practice. Saying Reuters sells stories to other news organizations around the world and need to uphold a certain standard. Adler believing you cannot do an accurate story if you are not fair. He went on to acknowledge this practice does mean fewer “shares” on social media because people like opinion, and do engage when it is included. Adler not a fan of the media model based on clicks, instead wants to focus on journalism.

There was another pressing issue those in the audience wanted to discuss with Adler, fake news. These are stories that appear to be real news stories but are true fiction. CBS 60 Minutes did a short segment on this recently.

CBS 60 Minutes Report on Fake News

The creators are out to make money. However, the practice has made the general public skeptical of news. Not to mention the President referring to fake news on a regular basis. Adler talking about building trust with the audience, and how at Reuters the focus is on accuracy over speed. This means independently verifying every piece of user-generated content before it can be included or referenced in a report. At times this means they are the last ones to go with a story, but upholding the Reuters reputation is worth it.

Adler suggested more organizations be transparent in their news gathering process. Post the court documents or other paperwork if you have it, so there is no question the information is accurate. He also suggested news literacy needs to be increased in America, a return to civics classes for example.  Adler agrees the job of a reporter has changed, more information than ever is to be disseminated. He also believes some things stay the same, like accurate and fair reporting.