April 30, 2008

Class discussion topic: WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY 2008

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day.

Here is a discussion from the International Freedom of Expression Exchange wied site on the day.

You have to wonder what is left to celebrate in Zimbabwe on the eve of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. More than four weeks and counting, Zimbabweans still don't know who won the presidential elections. Instead, President Robert Mugabe has raised his iron fist to try to avert threats to his 28-year rule, from arresting journalists in an attempt to silence their questions to attacking opposition members.

"Defeat can be hard to accept, but at the very least, the people of Zimbabwe have the right to know the result of their vote," says ARTICLE 19, which is urging the Zimbabwean authorities to back away from the chaos and "move towards reason and the rule of law" to settle the election.
A timely demand to make, as journalists and others from around the world converge nearby in Maputo, Mozambique to celebrate UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day, the theme of which this year is empowerment and access to information.

"Press freedom and access to information feed into the wider development objective of empowering people by giving people the information that can help them gain control over their own lives," says UNESCO's Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, from "engaging in public debate to holding governments and others accountable."

But like in Zimbabwe, a lot stands in their way.

Freedom of information (FOI) laws, which give access to public information, are considered one of the most important pieces of legislation to reduce and eventually beat corruption - the "primary obstacle to development," says UNESCO.

Despite some problems with poorly crafted laws, laws that aren't implemented, and new laws promoting secrecy in the global war on terror, upwards of 70 countries around the world have comprehensive freedom of information acts, and another 30 have FOI laws in the works, says ARTICLE 19. And the movement to adopt them is growing: witness Jordan's step last year to become the first country in the Middle East to have a right to information law, or Liberian citizens marching to Parliament this month to present a draft FOI law nearly four years in the making.

"But the media can only play their part in empowering people, if their consumers have the necessary literacy skills to analyse and question the information they receive," says UNESCO.

While the Internet has helped the media reach more people in more places and allowed regular folks to become citizen journalists - last fall citizen reporters were at the forefront in informing the world of the Burma protests - a whopping 80 percent of the world's population still have no access to basic telecommunication facilities, says UNESCO. One of its goals this year is to implement measures that will allow people to make use of new technology, such as more training and respect for different languages.

Cue traditional community media. Community radio is recognised as one of the best tools to reach and empower the poorest and most marginalised populations of the world, says the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). Besides being cheap to produce and access, it can also have a far reach and overcome illiteracy.

Even with the best access, the media must tackle a whole lot of obstacles in getting the news out. Journalists often face threats, intimidation and actual violence on the job. Jassem al-Battat, a journalist for Al-Nakhil, the broadcasting mouthpiece for the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, was gunned down last week in southern Iraq, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Reporters don't have to be working in a war zone to be at risk. Mexican investigative journalist Lydia Cacho, this year's UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize laureate, has been the target of death threats, sabotage, libel suits and police harassment because of her work uncovering prostitution and child pornography rings.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports 65 journalists were "killed in direct connection with their work" in 2007 - the highest number since 1994. Too often the crimes do not go adequately punished.

As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day 2008, UNESCO asks us not only to pay tribute to journalists like al-Battat, Cacho and the journalists in Zimbabwe who have put themselves in danger to keep us informed, but to remember the crucial role a free press and the right to information play in empowering people - as long as they have access.

Visit these links:

"The UNESCO Courier" devotes its next issue to 3 May, available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian on 30 April. Don't miss an exclusive interview with Cacho: http://www.unesco.org/courier

April 25, 2008

Looking for an interesting story idea?

Here are a few interesting things that we can use for ourselves AND for story development thanks to Mindy McAdams.

McAdams wrote in her blog about a flight delay calculator the Las Vegas Sun put together. For any one flying into Vegas, the site is great.

But how about flying to loads of other places?

Thanks to the Sun, there are links for Department of Transportation and Department of Home Land Security for flight delays by airline and airport.

Here are the links for Reagan National and Dulles:
Dulles: http://www.transtats.bts.gov/airports.asp?pn=1
Reagan National: http://www.transtats.bts.gov/airports.asp?pn=1

Here are the statistic by airline: http://www.transtats.bts.gov/carriers.asp

And with less detail here is the DHS delay chart: http://waittime.tsa.dhs.gov/index.html

The way I look at this, students can develop stories of students flying here and there during the summer or other holidays.

They can use the data to back up stories about the frustrations that surround all air travel these days. This data can back up the anectodal stories that we all have after a trip.

Feature stories about travel and travel frustration just about always sell BUT only if they go beyond the "Boy. Were things bad at the airport" kind of story. These charts and tables add a lot of good background for potential stories.

April 17, 2008

Hey, You, See, and So

To help students better understand how to set up a good story, the Bob Dotson approach is as good as any.

This is Dotson's presentation to the RTNDA last year. (I understand he did it again this year.)


Quick summary:

Every story begins with a "Hey," as in, "Hey, give me your attention."

"You" is the reason why you should care about this story wherever you are.

"See" is the two or three facts you have in your story that nobody else knows.

"So" is why the viewer should care. In other words, "What does this story really mean?"

April 10, 2008

Blogging, Journalism and Ethics

Help us all celebrate National Ethics Week.

oin the DC SPJ chapter and the National Press Club Monday, April 21 to discuss The Blogging Balancing Act.

Increasingly, journalists are being asked to contribute to some kind of blog for their news operations. In some cases, those blogs are unrelated to their work but others deal directly with the stories the journalist may be covering. To many, that poses a serious ethical dilemma.

Location: National Press Club529 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20045
When: Monday, April 21, 6:30PM
Panelists include:
Paul Kane, The Washington Post
Jan Schaffer, Exec. Dir. J-Lab
Alicia Shepard, Ombudsman for NPR

Moderator: Rick Dunham, Houston Chronicle DC Bureau Chief

April 6, 2008

What is missing from this story?

So tell me...
What is missing from this story from C-Net?
See if your students can catch it as well.


Pizza.com domain name fetches millions
Posted by Desiree Everts

Who would've thought a generic domain name would still have the capacity to pull in big bucks? Chris Clark, the seller of "Pizza.com," seemed a bit in shock after he managed to rake in $2.6 million from the auction of the domain name.

"It's crazy, it's just crazy," he told the Baltimore Sun after the close of the auction on Thursday.
Clark, who owns a software company, registered the Pizza.com domain name 14 years ago for just $20. Nothing fruitful ever really came of the domain, so he sat on it for a while, and then he and a friend turned it into an advertising and pizza directory. Then, they heard about the fortuitous sale of Vodka.com and decided to try their own luck with Pizza.com, according to the Sun. By March 29, the bidding hit $2 million and even more bids were coming in.

During the go-go days of the Internet, hopeful companies and entrepreneurs snapped up easy-to-remember, generic domain names with the expectation that they would translate to boatloads of cash--or even a heady IPO. But the gold rush began to die down as it became apparent that names like Jewelry.com and Meat.com were a losing proposition. Vodka.com and the even bigger sale of Business.com for $7.5 million in 1999 can be called anomalies among the many failures.

Clark's Pizza.com auction was held by Sedo.com, which currently features such aspirants as "fattoskinny.com," "waterfrontretreat.com", and "getforeigncurrecy.com".