Getting the Goods

TVB News Reporter Akina Fong

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Poynter.org recently produced a list of 10 ways to find stories other journalists are missing.  The article suggested that finding unique stories and capturing various perspectives takes effort and practice.  This list is designed to make finding those one of a kind and breaking news stories that all journalists crave.

The steps included: stepping out of your comfort zone, finding a guide, engage in constant learning, understand your own filters, be a diplomat, eat with people, take time to establish friendships and credibility, invite people into the newsroom, and remind others that you are always working to achieve accurate and complete coverage.  These steps were each clarified and described according to its purpose and relevance to the profession.

The step that surprised me the most was to “understand your own filters.”  We often forget that each of us have developed our own presuppositions to topics and way of life.  Our culture differs from others and if we are not careful, can hinder our objectivity.  By being away of our own bias  we can find way to compensate for it.

As for the website, I found if very engaging and helpful.  Much useful information such as articles, news on upcoming events and training, latest news, and even “how to” pages.  Journalists of any type can find useful resources to better their quality of work as well as story success. I was particularly interested in the chats page which enabled the user to dialogue with other journalists via forum. Altogether my experience with the article and web page was positive.

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Food Jabber

:Original raster version: :Image:Food and Drug...

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I was reading the L.A. Times and discovered an article regarding a food safety bill that passed by the Senate.  The Food Safety and Modernization Act would require improved planning and record-keeping by food producers and would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to recall contaminated food under its own authority, without needing cooperation from the industries.

Personally, it looks like this would save a lot of people trouble with food borne illnesses, especially since there have been many outbreaks recently.  This would also, however, be a major shift for the FDA and may be a scary place for industries as they lose power.  The House still has to make a decision regarding the bill, but already has support from President Obama.

As for the article itself, I was pleased with the information provided.  Although it did not dig into the nature of the bill until later, I received adequate knowledge of what it was about and what was being done.  The individuals interviewed were credible to the topic and had valuable insights.  The author also did a great job of removing personal bias about the bill and represented both sides amiably.

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On the News Front

Reading the newspaper: Brookgreen Gardens in P...

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Front pages of newspapers capture the attention of consumers, ultimately coaxing them into a purchase decision.  Today, there were three front page designs that reeled me in and set the hook.

The first, comes from the Bakersfield Californian.  The top fold of the front page is covered by a massive picture of a tired man crossing his fingers.  The headline “Rough Road Ahead” had me curious.  What was this man hoping for? What was his journey? The subheading below indicated the story was on unemployment.  The clever part of this front page was the small top portion of a graphic that simply read “Daily Deal!”  A newspaper that will provide me with the news and help me save money is certainly compelling to purchase.

The next front page design I would like to note comes from the San Fransisco Examiner.  I loved the layout of this page.  It had great graphic, even a weather report icon in the upper right hand corner.  The headline was bold and slightly shocking which read “Cop nabbed in taxi bribe scam.”  To the left of this headline and large photograph was a sidebar with three other interesting stories.  This layout was very effective because the newspaper seemed to have much to offer within its fold.

The final front page comes from The Tribune.  This front page had a clever photograph layout and playful headlines such as “Make space for more stars.”  The stories it decided to place on the front page was cleverly selected to appear to a wide demographic.  The topics included: the environment, dance, science, religion and crime.  The lines were clear and organized, making this collection of stories look uncluttered and professional.

Front pages are what compels me to make a purchase; why not make them appealing?

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Museum quality artwork? No problem for this 8-year-old

Paint brushes

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This morning, as I was eating my cereal and reading this morning’s news, I encountered a feature article entitled “She’s just 8, yet she’s painted art worth $250,000.”  Autumn de Forest, who turns 9 this month, appeared on the today show and has become one of art’s newest sensations.  Autumn paints in various genres, from pop-art to abstract impressionism and surrealism, and has a tremendous color palette.

The feature article is timely, following up on a phenomenon that has recently caught the art world’s attention.  This miniature masterpiece is certainly newsworthy (How many children in elementary school do you know can already fund their college education?).

The topic was handled effectively and gave dimension to Autumn de Forest’s personality and artwork, as well as family struggles and criticism from art buffs.  The story answers all the questions: who is she? what is she about? when did she begin to paint? where is she from? why does she paint? and how?

The big “so what?” question is addressed with the unmistakable auction of de Forest’s art all amounting to $250,000, her most expensive piece sold at $25,000.  A remarkable feat since her work was not made public until spring 2009.

A variety of voices was used in this article including both de Forest’s parents and the young artist herself.  Quotes were used from all three, the majority from Autumn de Forest.

The opening paragraph of the feature tells the story of the girl in her early stages of discovering her talent for paint.  This method draws the reader in to begin relating to the subject and sets the stage for the shock of the talent that emerges from de Forest.

Overall, this was a fascinating article to read.  There is a slide show at the end that allows you to see some of de Forest’s artwork and even her in the painting process.  My personal favorite entitled ‘Autumn Colors’ is no-doubt a masterpiece.

 

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New Views on Interviews

Old tape recorder

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Until reading “The Art of the Interview” by Lawrence Grobel, I thought interviews were nothing more than a nervous conversation between a more interesting individual than yourself, a time of seat squirming ,forced smiles, and nods.  But the reality is those people you interview are human and each come with their own problems, many you do not want yourself.

The best remedy for nerves and self doubt in an interview is “be yourself” said Grobel.  It discredits you as an interviewer if you are not genuine.  Be honest with yourself and do not attempt to make yourself any lesser or superior to your subject.

A final item I did not consider is how a subject may seem to take control of the interview.  Grobel mentioned how he maintains control of the interview by interjecting with tough questions and comments that forces the subject to respond to the subjects you want.  There may be slender opportunities in which you can manipulate the subject’s thought patterns to get them to comment on matters that they told themselves they would not discuss.  It is all in presentation.

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Teens Tracked Down… Literally

Detail of the center Metrolink labels that wer...

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The LA Times reported that two teenagers were killed by a Metrolink train as a result of sleeping on the tracks.  Not only a timely and bizarre topic, this story is well written and delivers the news in an intriguing manner.

The story provides clear answers to the “who, what, when, where, why and how” elements of news writing.  Quotations  served a purpose, in this case, to provide support of the event and opinions of those close to the scene.

The article used suspense, listing the possible explanations for the deaths gone over by the authorities.  Despite the typical “get to the point” tactics news usually adheres to in the lead, the writer provokes the reader by including the thought struggles of authorities sharing the shock and confusion that the readers also faced.  The emphasis on the unusual kept readers glued to this story all the way to the end.

The story also localized the situation by including quotes from a nearby resident, demonstrating his concern.  This thereby demonstrated the impact this event had on the community.  This article correctly attributed opinions using full quotes and objective language.

This story was published in a timely manner and handled effectively on the basis of standards set in the text Reporting for the Media by Bender et. al.

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A Few Good Leads

coffee and newspaper at grand central bakery

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Morning hours spent with a paper and coffee is a time of sips and shuffles as we skim each article. What is it that makes us pause and commit our time to a story?  It’s all in the lead. That first paragraph makes up my mind: bore or score?

This morning’s top three leads come from USA Today.  For the sake of consistency and fairness, I am sticking to actual news stories (as opposed to opinion and feature stories).  The first, entitled “Traffic deaths at lowest in 60 years,” captures me by presenting the surprise of the situation and the shock of the news, even from the Department of Transportation. It compels me to read on, discover the facts, and understand why it is happening.

The next great lead hits me in the report “China may relax one-child rule.” The lead opens with a bang, indicating where the decision is being made and on what basis.  Punishment and enforcement procedures for the one-child rule shocks and entice me to read on.  I want to know why such a dramatic overturn may be in the future.

Finally, the article “Obama, Republicans jostle over tax plans” presents me with the context and concern associated with this news.  A list of general plans Obama noted in the address he gave on Wednesday is given as an overview.  Although this lead does not creatively draw me in, its focus upon the relevance of the topic make it worthy.

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