November 29, 2007

Survey on Iraq reporting from PEJ and Pew

A new report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that journalists who have been in Iraq say the reporting has been accurate but spotty.

Here is the intro to the report:

After four years of war in Iraq, the journalists reporting from that country give their coverage a mixed but generally positive assessment, but they believe they have done a better job of covering the American military and the insurgency than they have the lives of ordinary Iraqis. And they do not believe the coverage of Iraq over time has been too negative. If anything, many believe the situation over the course of the war has been worse than the American public has perceived, according to a new survey of journalists covering the war from Iraq.

Read the full report here:

November 23, 2007

Just to show that story topics can be found anywhere

Toilet conference eyes revolution

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- The World Toilet Association kicked off its inaugural conference Thursday, hoping to spark a sanitation revolution that will save lives through better hygiene and break taboos about what happens behind closed bathroom doors.

To the celebratory rhythms of a percussionist beating on toilets, dozens of government delegates and U.N. representatives began two days of discussions on improving bathroom facilities for the 2.6 billion people worldwide who lack access to proper restrooms.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, western Pacific director of the World Health Organization, said 1.8 million people die annually due to diseases related to inadequate sanitation, 90 percent of them children younger than 5.

Providing healthy bathroom facilities worldwide would cost some $10 billion a year -- equal to 1 percent of world military spending or what Europeans annually spend on ice cream, he said. The new association aims to provide toilet facilities to impoverished countries, provide for urgent sanitation needs after natural disasters and spread information and technology for improving toilets.

The South Korean government has given strong backing to the World Toilet Association, which has been spearheaded by the country's "Mr. Toilet" -- parliament member Sim Jae-duck. He earned his nickname for improving public restrooms for the 2002 World Cup as mayor of Suwon city.

"The restroom revolution will provide hope and happiness to mankind," Sim told delegates.
The group is not associated with the World Toilet Organization, another body that was founded in 2001 by Singapore's Jack Sim, has 44 member countries and similarly seeks to improve toilet sanitation in the third world.

South Korea's Sim, who has built a toilet-shaped house in his hometown, was unanimously elected Thursday as the new association's first president.

South Korea has sought to establish a "toilet culture" to improve restroom facilities for hosting international events. It now holds annual contests to select the most pleasant facilities. Photos of winning restrooms displayed at the conference included lavatories featuring abundant natural light and plants, a boat-shaped building in the city of Ansan and the bathrooms on a South Korean naval ship.

"The toilet is directly linked to sanitation and hygiene of human beings as well as the improvement of the quality of their lives," South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told the conference.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

November 19, 2007

Internship possibilities

Intern, Winter/Spring 2008
Organization: United Nations Information Center
Location: United States (Washington, DC)
Contact Information: Intern Coordinator
Phone: 202.331.8670
Fax: 202.331.9191
Apply online: Click here to apply online for this position >>
The United Nations Information Center in Washington, DC is still accepting internship applications for the Winter/Spring 2008 academic session. The final deadline to apply is November 30, 2007.


Government Affairs Intern
Organization: USCIRF
Location: United States (Washington, DC)
Compensation: Monthly Transportation Stipend
Contact Information: Jackie Mitchell
Phone: 2025233240
Fax: 2025235020
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.
Government Affairs Department Intern:
• Monitors, researches and reviews foreign policy on various websites and periodicals • Attends hearings on the Hill and reports on them • Provides general office administrative support such as photocopying, data entry, and other support as needed.

November 12, 2007

It's not so hard...

The Washington Post today (11/12) had a great article on foreign-owned companies operating in the DC area. (

This proves the point I have been making to my students and the SPJ that you can do a local story with an important international angle.

It would be nice if the Post could continue doing these kinds of stories, especially ones that discuss the social, political and economic situation in the home countries of these companies. But I don't think that is too likely to happen on a regular basis. (I will still depend on the NY Times to give me that info.)

But at least we do know that a local reporter using local information can show how the rest of the world is intimately involved in the everyday lives of people in this area.

November 9, 2007

Wash Post blog guidelines

Thanks to Steve Klein for this.

Washington Post blog guidelines

"A group led by Outlook Editor John Pomfret and involving editors and reporters from the newsroom and wpni has drafted guidelines for blogging on," says an internal memo obtained by FishbowlDC:

This memo describes guidelines for our newsroom for creating, maintaining (and ending) blogs. Blogs, like all content on, are published under the supervision of editors at wpni. This primer aims to help reporters and editors at the newspaper decide when, how and whether to launch a blog.

All blogs should draw on our principles for Washington Post journalism on the web, including meeting our standards of accuracy and fairness and rules for expressing personal opinions.

What works?
• A news column/opinion blog with two or a single contributor. Examples: Raw Fisher, White House Watch.
• A breaking news or event-driven blog that can accept many contributors but should generally be supervised by one editor. Example: The Trail.
• A blog oriented around a relatively defined issue with two or a single contributor. Example: soccerinsider.
• Blogs with voice, a consistently strong (even provocative) writing tone. Example: Achenblog.
• Blogs with active editors. Guidance is important and all blogs need editing and benefit from the back-and-forth between the author and an editor.

What doesn’t work?
• Group blogs that lack focus.• Blogs that lack voice.
• Blogs that are not updated (several times a week AT LEAST).
• Grab-bag blogs that are a dumping ground for notes that will not make the paper.

Types of blogs
Breaking News Blogs.
Created for a big breaking news story, such as the Virginia Tech shootings. One editor should supervise the blog content and another editor the coverage in the newspaper. The two editors should be in constant communication with each other and the corresponding wpni editor.

Event Related Blogs.
Created for a one-time or periodic event, such as the Maryland Legislature or the ACC Tournament. An editor should be assigned to oversee the blog in collaboration with the editing of the newspaper’s coverage.

Subject Blogs.
These are long-term blogs around a clearly specified topic. In most cases the number of contributors should be limited to fewer than three reporters, with exceptions such as The Trail.

Blog Launch “9 Point Checklist”
Proposals for new blogs are welcome from across the newsroom. Proposals should address the following questions:
1. What’s the blog’s topic or what event will it cover? Blogs with relatively narrow topics do better than loosely defined blogs. Either way, the topic of each blog needs to be clearly defined. A strong personality or voice can serve a similar defining function (Achenblog, the Kurtz media summary).
2. What’s the competition, and how will your blog win? You’re unlikely to find many topics that someone else isn’t already blogging about. Identify the competition and tell us why your blog is special.
3. How will your blog supplement what appears in print and online? Blogs on must contain original material – newsworthy reporting, useful information and/or strong commentary. Some of the best blogs have a live and fresh feel precisely because they take readers inside the news. Outline how your blog will relate to existing print and online features.
4. How often will it be updated, and at what time(s) of day? Blogs need to be updated at least once each weekday.
5. Who will write your blog? Blogs usually benefit from a distinctive voice. At the same time, reporters can’t offer personal opinions on a blog in a way that would not be acceptable in the newspaper (critics exempted, for example). Proposals should include at least three “test posts” to judge whether the writer can produce posts with effective and acceptable voice.
6. Who will edit your blog? Blog items need to be edited. Your proposal needs to say who will edit blog copy.
7. Who will moderate comments on your blog? User comments typically account for 10-25% of a blog’s traffic and are a key to success – but need to be moderated.Who will review comments that appear to violate the site’s discussion policy and delete them if necessary?
8. How and where will your blog be promoted? Successful blogs typically “live off the land” by attracting bloggers who link to them and a loyal audience. But promotion on and in print is helpful, particularly at launch. Work with appropriate editors on both sides on a realistic promotion plan.
9. What names and “taglines” do you propose for your blog? Since many names are already taken, you should include several possibilities in your proposal, and do a quick web check to make sure none is in use.

Get a good education -- and then be a journalist

Check out Brokaw's advice to budding journalists at the end of the Q&A.

I especially like his comments on the need for a liberal arts education -- especially getting a solid grounding in history and economics. I regularly am a amazed at the lack of basic historic knowledge by many of my students. (But then again, maybe I should not be amazed. Teaching history for standardized tests doesn't make for interesting lessons.)


10 Questions for Tom Brokaw
Wednesday, Nov. 07, 2007
By Carolyn Sayre

Why write about the '60s now?Arthur Rice, Westerville, Ohio
It's the 40th anniversary of 1968 next year. And all but one of the presidential candidates—Barack Obama is the exception—are people who came of age during that time. That decade was the first full-throated roar of the baby boomer generation.

Why do we constantly compare today's youth and today's politics to those of that decade? —Jo Ann Douglas, Gulf Shores, Ala.
We're at war. It's an unpopular and divisive war. Again, the élites have the privilege of avoiding military service because it's an all-voluntary military now. We have a much bigger drug culture now than we had then. The recreational use of drugs [then], some of it was quite benign. Now it has given way to vast criminal empires that are ravaging the inner cities of this country.

Do you think America will ever regain the honor and prestige of our "Greatest Generation"?Debra Sexton, Bethel Island, Calif.
Within every generation there is greatness. What you don't want to have America do again is to go through the tests that made the Greatest Generation: first the Depression, and then World War II.

How did growing up in the Midwest influence you? —Eric Jennings, Charleston, S.C.
I pledged allegiance to the flag, joined the Boy Scouts and ran for student office in school. I married a young woman I had known since we were 15. Courtship was confined to parked cars in those days. We got married and suddenly there was a sexual revolution in America.

Who was the most influential person of the past 40 years?Heath Urie, Boulder, Colo.
Mikhail Gorbachev, internationally, was critically important. Ronald Reagan had a big impact on American life. So did Osama bin Laden. You can't ignore that.

What was your most memorable interview?Terry Rainey, Chandler, Ariz.
The most memorable interviews for me are folks whose names I don't know: young civil rights leaders in the South showing great courage as they walked into a town in the dark of the night; a doctor working for Doctors Without Borders in Somalia, operating by kerosene lantern in a tent. Those are the kinds of people that linger in your memory.

How did you react when you found out a letter with anthrax was addressed to you in 2001?Luke Metherell, Sunshine Beach, Australia
Here was somebody trying to kill me by sending me an anthrax-laced letter, and maddeningly, it was intercepted by my secretary, who got cutaneous anthrax. It was a very disquieting time.

Do you think it's a problem that fewer Americans now get their news from traditional sources?Max Jacobson, New Haven, Conn.
We're better off. We have so many more choices. What happens is, of course, that the squeaky wheel continues to get attention. I have a little tool at my house—you should get one—it's called the remote control. You can go from those channels that are showing too much of Anna Nicole Smith to, say, BBC News.

Infotainment like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show blurs the lines between news and comedy. Do you think it meets a need that more traditional media do not?Anthony W. Creech, Richmond, Va.
What it does is bring in a new, younger audience to the political arena. It provokes them, I hope, into paying more attention to what is going on, and to be not just amused by it, but to be engaged in it.

What do you think of Katie Couric on CBS?Christina Paschyn, Cleveland
Katie, God bless her, was the first woman to go out there and become a solo anchor. It's not worked out as well as she would have liked it to. That's the result of a combination of issues. [But] we have female ceos, females in the Senate and a prominent female running for President. I think the country was ready for a female anchor. I don't think this was a gender thing.

Are there any social or political parallels between the '60s and today?Daniel Kolich, Aliquippa, Pa.
There's no linear view of the '60s. There's no consensus. When I wrote The Greatest Generation there was a common idea of what that generation was all about. You mention the'60s and you start an argument.

How do you think the role of the news anchor has changed over the years?Kathy Crawford, Ossining, N.Y.
When I first got into the business, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were the only three people who were doing the evening news at the time. There were no all-news cable on CNN, MSNBC or FOX. Most of these journalistic enterprises were organized by and run by white middle-aged men from the Eastern seaboard. That was the prism through which the rest of the country saw the world. That's changed considerably now. The evening news anchors are competing with the internet. They're competing with the all-news cable channels all day long. They're also competing for the attention of a younger audience that doesn't go home at night and sit down at the dinner table with their parents and watch the news.

Carl Bernstein recently said that celebrity news—and the public's desire for it—has led to the decline of good public affairs journalism. Do you agree?Andrew Lee, Berkley, Calif.
That is a little unsettling to me, how much we have become a celebrity culture country. I was recently back out in the Midwest and because the world is flat in a lot of ways, as Tom Friedman would say, if you go into Sioux Falls, South Dakota and you see the young people, they look just like the young people who are dressed in Beverly Hills or or the West Side of New York. There was a time when celebrity journalism was completely stage managed. The Hollywood columnists were fed morning, noon and night by the studio publicists and wrote mostly mythology. Now you have it going the other way.

How do you keep the hopelessness and depression factor of most news stories at bay? —Carol Ruhl, Pittsburgh, Pa.
I guess I'm always the person to see the glass as half full. There's always good news in every news report. If you're going to live in a society, you need to know the underside as well as the bright spot so you can be prepared for dealing with them.

What would your advice be to to up and coming broadcast journalists? —Jen Ayres, Columbia, Md.
Get a broad base of education. I'm not a big fan of journalism schools except those that are organized around a liberal arts education. Have an understanding of history, economics and political science—and biology, these days—and then learn to write.

For more from Brokaw read these extra questions. To subscribe to the 10 Questions podcast on iTunes go to

November 6, 2007

Where would we be without writers?

“Writers wallow in words like pigs in a mud puddle, and the dirtier we get, the happier we are.”

—Robert Masello, author, “Robert’s Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know (Thanks to alert WORDster Marta Murvosh)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ted Pease, Professor of Interesting Stuff
Department of Journalism & Communication
Utah State University

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