Friday, December 18, 2009

English/creative writing grad loves journalism

SPJ's new edition of Quill magazine has a terrific short interview with award-winning journalist Rosette Royale, whose background is not in newswriting but in English and creative writing.

But today he works for Real Change, a weekly newspaper in Seattle, and enjoys not just the storytelling for which he was educated, but the opportunity to make a difference for society.

"I learned that investigative journalism can be really fun, too," he says. "When you report news, you can still tell stories. As a journalist you can be any kind of writer you want to be."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Senate action moves Shield Law closer to reality

Larry Margasak of the Associated Press reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee last week ended months of inaction on a bill to protect reporters' confidential sources in federal court , clearing the way for a reconciliation with a House version before consideration by the White House.

The bill does not give journalists absolute authority to protect sources. Those rights can be overridden in national security cases.

"After years of debate and countless cases of reporters being held in contempt, fined and even jailed for honoring their professional commitment not to publicly reveal their sources, the time has come to enact a balanced federal shield law," said the committee chairman, Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.).

Conservative Republicans and some in the intelligence community opposed it, citing dangers to national security.

The bill broadly defines journalists to include bloggers, citizen journalists and freelancers. It also relies on court tests to determine whether sources deserve protection.

Most states have either state media shield laws or court cases establishing the protection.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Newspaper readers made iconic Christmas editorial enduring

One of American Journalism's most familiar editorials remains so popular that Macy's is again using it for its holiday advertising and CBS-TV is running an animated prime-time special about the girl who sparked the response by the New York Sun in 1897. However, it was less editors than readers who were responsible for its enduring impact.

“Is There A Santa Claus?” was a response to 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon's letter to the editor asking, "Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?" And American University Journalism professor W. Joseph Campbell says it was reader demand that caused the Sun to start reprinting it annually in the 1920s,

“Before then, it was reprinted only sporadically,” Campbell said. “Newspaper editors are not always as perceptive as their readers in identifying and calling attention to journalism of significance and lasting value."

The piece (read it online here -- ) was written is a few hours by Francis Pharacellus Church.

Its popularity continues, according to Campbell, because
• It offers a connection to another, distant time. It is reassuring to know that what was appealing in 1897 remains appealing today.
• It is a cheery, reaffirming story: one without villains or sinister elements.
• The editorial reminds adults about Christmases past and a time when they, too, were believers.
• It has been a way over the years for parents to address children’s skepticism about Santa Claus without having to fib. They can point to the editorial and its timeless answer to an inevitable question.

Campbell, author of Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies (Praeger, 2001), says dismissing that era of Journalism as worthless sensationalism is a distortion of Journalism's value.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Students still hear J 'calling'

Despite the loss of jobs last year -- besides well-known impressions from newspapers, television news jobs dropped by more than 4% in 2008, according to TV Week -- students are still drawn to Journalism as a calling.

"If I were entering the profession — probably going back to the beginning of the 20th century — there’s no time I’d rather enter it than now," said Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo founder and editor, "notwithstanding the challenges that the profession faces right now, but precisely because of it.

"It’s the people who are entering the profession right now who are going to create the editorial models, the publishing models, the business models, that define journalism in the 21st century," he added.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Women entrepreneurs: New perspectives on news

J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, has released a report outlining some of the ways that people who care about journalism are experimenting and even pushing the envelope by reconsidering the concept of objectivity, for example.

Most importantly, the report showcase how four women's groups started ways to re-define news to include real engagement -- connecting the audience to a sense of their peers, neighborhoods, communities, society and world.

“We are beginning to understand that the kinds of news that are evolving in the new media ecosystem are different from the news that was delivered by traditional news organizations,” said J-Lab director Jan Schaffer. “Yet it is responsible and seems to be connecting with people in their communities in interesting ways.”

The report can be read or downloaded as a pdf file here --

Monday, December 7, 2009

'Journalism isn't going away': Columbia Dean

Nicholas Lemann is Dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, so one could be forgiven for considering his opinion self-interested.

However, in a substantive interview with Germany's Spiegel magazine, Lemann shows that he's also an accomplished journalist. The contributor to the New Yorker and working journalist for the likes of the Atlantic, Washington Monthly and the Washington Post, Lemann demonstrates that he tempers optimism and a love of the trade with skepticism and a built-in BS detector.

"From the standpoint of a student who wants to be a full-time employed reporter and find an entry-level job, things aren't so bad," he comments.

Read the whole interview here --,1518,657957,00.html

Elsewhere, Bill Steigerwald in The American Conservative magazine writes, "despite all the headlines and hysteria, exactly 10 of the country's 1,437 daily newspapers have stopped publishing since 2007.

"To put the newspaper industry's losses in perspective [down some 47,000 last year], in September alone, the construction industry shed 64,000 jobs."