Staci Parks: Interview Assessment

Name Professional: Staci Parks

Profession: Online Managing Editor

Company: D Magazine

Date of Interview: 9/30/16

In my interview with Ms. Staci Parks of D Magazine, I was hoping to learn more about the inner workings and principles of writing strictly online. As she manages the online aspects of several channels on the D Magazine website, she has experience covering a multitude of subjects; I was eager to hear about how writing on each of these subjects differs and how publishing the story online affects it.

From the interview, I learned the importance of compassion and empathy when communicating with emotionally fragile or vulnerable sources. Ms. Parks shared with me her experiences in covering crime, including some of her more unpleasant encounters. She detailed how, as a journalist, one must be able to assess the situation and use better judgement before asking for comments on a sensitive story. Especially in a crime, a source could be in mourning, in a state of shock, or hysterical, and will most likely not be willing to talk to you in the midst of a traumatic situation that has affected them and those close to them. But, crime or not, it is crucial to have the right balance of compassion and objectivity when covering the details of any story. I plan on applying the element of sensitivity in the future as I write stories and gather sources for them; I will allow time for the source to grow comfortable with the situation as well as with me asking them about it. I will show compassion and let the source know that I really do care about them and their side of the story, and that they are not just a pair of quotation marks in an article.

Not only did I gain knowledge on communication in the field, but I also learned about how writing online has much tighter deadlines, a significantly more frequent release of information, and a shorter period of interest among readers. Ms. Parks detailed how she publishes at least once a day on each online channel about a breaking story or ongoing topic of interest in that field. People reading online articles are looking for quick information telling them what they need to know, whereas people picking up a print magazine are in search of an in-depth analysis of a story filled with dialogue, images, and impeccable writing skills. This made me question which of those styles of writing I would rather pursue in my mentorship- I will need to carefully consider this when choosing my mentor. Ms. Parks also shared with me some of what she considers to be the most important skills to have in journalism; grammar, willingness to question things, and accuracy (staying true to the facts). This was beneficial to me in my ISM study because I can now work on improving these skills early in order to be more successful in my future endeavors. It also made me question how, and by what means, journalists stay true to the facts. While I know that there are sometimes specific individuals whose job it is to fact check, that is rarely the case in a publication; how am I to learn how to do this? This question gave way to a possible research topic for upcoming assessments.

Ms. Parks was incredibly helpful in providing me valuable information about online journalism. Because so many print publications are moving online now, and it appears that that is where the industry is headed, I plan on looking further into its logistics and requirements as I advance into my journalism future.

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Weekly Report 8

This week in ISM has been focused on brainstorming and asking myself important questions. I have done some research this week on an unavoidable subject within journalism- privacy and the respect of it. There have been too many examples of published stories that release sensitive information or images that the author may have not necessarily wanted to become public. Images and data portraying death as merely a number of casualties, negative quotes that were meant to remain within a private conversation, and classified information about individuals have all been exposed in the press, both with and without consent. I learned this week that I will have to be sensitive about what information I publish and what images accompany that information; I must ask myself, “how will this affect the individual if I publish it?” Determining what is fair game for the media and what should remain private is something that I will have to grapple with in the near future.

In addition, this week has marked the first phases of brainstorming for my original work. Thus far, I know that I would like to compose a full blown article about a public and popular story, complete with images and quotes from sources. As far as the subject of this article, I do not yet know. I hope to secure a mentor within the next two weeks and utilize her help to figure out what a good subject for my story will be, where I might go about obtaining quotes for it, and how to format it so that it is appealing to the audience.

How to Decide What Can be Published, What’s Private on Twitter and Facebook

Quotes from social media posts have been used in millions of press stories since it has arisen. Tweets, Facebook updates, Snapchat stories, and Instagram posts alike have served as reliable and beneficial sources of information in all kinds of stories. The question is, does a journalist have the right to publish an individual’s social media posts to everybody in the world? How does a journalist draw the line between providing detail and insight on a subject, and invading one’s privacy?

In this article by Nisha Chittal, I learned that just because somebody posts something on social media, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is public. This was counterintuitive to me at first; If somebody didn’t intend for the information in the post to be public, why would they publish it on a public social media platform? The article distinguished between private and public social media accounts- some allow only a select group of close friends to view their posts. If this is in fact the case, a journalist should use common sense and infer that the user most likely would not approve of that information being published in the press; that person may want it public to a community of approved followers, but not to strangers. Journalists should put themselves in the user’s shoes before publishing a private post; who would they want to see this? I plan to apply this information in the future by using the following rule when using social media as a source: Use judgement on what you should publish; if one source is risky, you can most likely find similar information from an alternate source.

I also learned the importance of having respect for a source by requesting their permission before using their words in a piece of writing. However, I did have one question: If you get general background information on a subject, do you have to cite Facebook when using it? For example, if I include the fact that a person went to a certain college or holds a certain job, and I have never spoken to that person face-to-face before, should I tell where I got that information in order to respect privacy and maintain credibility? As stated in the article, there is not yet a standardized policy set in stone requiring journalists to request permission before using information from a personal network as a source. This shocked me, as I viewed it as an invasion of privacy. Without a set policy, it makes it even more essential that a journalist ask permission to use a source in a story, or at least make the author aware that their information is being published. While reading this, I saw it as a great opportunity to also ask the author about context and intended meaning; if you are able to speak with the individual who composed the source you are analyzing, you may as well attempt to gain an understanding of the contents from the one who wrote them. Especially when it comes to Twitter, it is almost too simple to take information out of context; 140 characters is easy to interpret falsely without context. I definitely plan on keeping these lessons in mind when handling sources as I write stories on my ISM journey.

Annotated Articles: annotated-articles-research-assessment-5

Rebecca Silvestri: Interview Assessment

Name of Professional: Ms. Rebecca Silvestri

Profession/Title: Executive Editor

Business/Company Name: Plano Profile Magazine

Date of Interview: 28 September 2016

Going into my interview with Ms. Silvestri, executive editor at Plano Profile Magazine, I was eager to learn how the job duties of an editor are similar to and different from that of a writer. I was hoping to gain the perspective of an editor-in-chief rather than a journalist because I was curious if she would consider certain skills more important to the job than a journalist would.

Ms. Silvestri was able to provide me with new insight on the daily work life of an editor, as well as its pros and cons. Her account of the difficulties of having to cut stories, and be blunt or mean for the sake of meeting strict deadlines, gave me a look through the lens of an editor. Editors and journalists work closely with each other every day, constantly negotiating, correcting, and improving a story to make it publishable; arguably, a journalist’s relationship with their editor is one of the most important out of any in the workplace. Hearing Ms. Silvestri’s experiences made me realize that when I inevitably work with an editor eventually, I cannot take corrections, and/or my story being cut from an issue, personally. Everything they do is for the good of the magazine, and the only reason they can appear harsh is because they are doing their best to maintain the tone and flow of the magazine; if a piece doesn’t fit, obviously something has to change. This new information modified my previous knowledge of a journalist’s collaborative efforts in the workplace, and will greatly benefit me in my future as a journalist by allowing me to empathize with my editors and understand where they are coming from rather than getting heated or angry over simple things.

From the interview, I also learned the importance of being involved in my community as a writer. Ms. Silvestri capitalized how the majority of stories for the Plano Profile come from simply talking to Plano residents. By developing connections in the area you are writing about, you hear firsthand about stories that interest your target audience, stories that people would want to open a magazine and read about. I realized that by keeping up with community events and gathering details on them early, a writer, especially one for a regional magazine such as Plano Profile, can ensure that the material published is up to date and of interest to its readers. This new knowledge of the importance of community involvement expanded my previous grasp of the skills necessary to be a journalist, as it added a casual social aspect to my previous list of academic and professional attributes.

As I continue on my ISM journey, I plan to take this helpful information and apply it as I write future stories. Whether my stories be for a regional, national, or even international publication, I will take into account the people surrounding me and what is of interest to them. I will focus on being more actively involved and social among my target audience in order to make certain that I am producing material that people want to read. Furthermore, as I submit my stories to publications, I will remember that corrections and harshness is not to tear me down, but rather to build me up stronger than before.

Sarah Mervosh: Interview Assessment

Name of Professional: Ms. Sarah Mervosh

Profession/Title: Breaking News Enterprise Reporter

Business/Company Name: Dallas Morning News
Date of Interview: 19 September 2016

My first informational interview was with Ms. Sarah Mervosh, a breaking news enterprise reporter at the Dallas Morning News. This interview being my first, I hoped to expand my knowledge of the journalism industry with emphasis on differences between broadcast and print journalism, a day in the life of a journalist, and the necessary steps taken to become one. Because I am still uncertain which particular platform of journalism I would like to work on, I was aiming to gain some knowledge as to what each one requires and how they differ. Ms. Mervosh’s point of view on this subject was incredibly beneficial, as she has experience working in broadcast as well as newspaper journalism.

From the interview, I learned that a major difference between print and broadcast journalism is that print journalism is far more in-depth, while you are allotted only a few minutes to present a story on television. TV journalism is all about showcasing the facts in a concise, to-the-point sort of way, while print journalism allows the writer to dive deeper below surface level and really analyze the story. This was extremely helpful as it answered one of my major questions that I came into ISM with. It was encouraging as well, because I can now look forward to spending time really digging into the details of my future stories.

Ms. Mervosh also brought to my attention the importance of having persistence in journalism.  This incredibly beneficial information will allow me to begin developing important skills ahead of time and give me an idea of what to expect. Ms. Mervosh detailed the drive that broadcast journalists must have in order to achieve their goals, and how they must know that being on television is definitely what they want to do. Similarly, she described the initiative that is essential to newspaper journalists when acquiring quotes, as there are many situations in which people may not wish to comment. This was also an essential aspect of the interview, as it has ruled out broadcast journalism as a career option for me. Because I would ideally like my writing in some form of publication, and because I am not completely devoted to being televised, I have decided to focus more on print journalism in the future.

Furthermore, Ms. Mervosh presented some information that conflicted with my previous knowledge, which was if you want a career in journalism, do not major in journalism. Rather, major in what you want to write about. This seemed counterintuitive to me at first, but after a moment of consideration it all made sense; wouldn’t it be more helpful to have an extensive knowledge on the subject you will be writing about rather than on just the skills to write it? While writing skills are still vital, having an extensive knowledge of your subject matter and being able to closely it is the most crucial. This will be applicable in the future of both my ISM study and my college years, as it will guide my choosing of a college major as well as an area of journalism on which to focus.

The information that Ms. Mervosh was kind enough to present me with has given me a great start to my interview experiences. Now that a few of my fundamental questions have been answered, I can make the most of my coming interviews by combining my previous knowledge with my newly acquired knowledge to create new questions that have arisen. In my future interviews, I am curious to learn if there are any types of stories that are better certain platforms of journalism (ex. “Are breaking news stories better suited for online journalism because it is the fastest way to get news to the public?”). My interview with Ms. Mervosh has taught me that if I remain persistent, have thick skin, and obtain extensive knowledge of the subject matter that I will be writing about, I will be on my way to becoming a successful journalist.

The College of Journalism

Who better to gain journalism knowledge from than the most influential journalist in American history, Joseph Pulitzer? This article is justifying his decision to help establish the first School of Journalism at Columbia University in 1903, helping to solidify his views on the purpose of being a journalist as well as helping me grasp the very same thing. In his article, Pulitzer helped me understand who my writing affects and how it does so. It answers some of the most pressing questions I have had on my ISM journey thus far; What is the purpose of the press? Should journalists strive for a nearly unattainable objective perspective on the world’s events?

Pulitzer’s opinion of journalism’s crucial role in society as a whole has changed my perception of the industry for good. After reading Pulitzer’s powerful and poetic statements on “the power to mold the future of the Republic” being “in the hands of the journalists of future generations,” I feel a new obligation to write stories for human beings everywhere rather than for a narrow target audience. I plan to take every step in my future as a journalist not simply as a writer, but as a public servant as Pulitzer describes. In publishing stories and exposing the details behind them that wouldn’t otherwise be heard, I have the privilege to inform and educate the society I live in. Therefore, I will make the most of this incredible opportunity by writing and publishing subject matter that has relevance in not only my nation but in nations all around the world. In my future as a journalist, while I may eventually write for a regional publication, I plan on making my writing able to apply to people all around the world. By including a broad spectrum of subjects, points of view, and emotions in my writing, I can speak to and connect with readers all over the world.

Furthermore, this article moved me to begin thinking of the press as the mouth of the common man. . It is not a journalist’s job to publish the opinions of public figures- people already know what they think. Rather, journalists need to speak the thoughts in the heads of the common man- they are a liaison between the public and higher institutions. Journalists should be able to express concerns of the public and bring them into the light; the press let individuals of power know what people are worried about and what they think needs to be done about it. It is our job to be concerned about everything going on in society; all public affairs are a journalist’s business. According to Pulitzer, “he brings all classes, all professions together, and teaches them to act in concert on the basis of their common citizenship.” Public writing should appeal to all audiences from all walks of life- anybody that wants to educate themselves on a topic should be able to. Therefore, I will apply this to my writing journey by incorporating something for everybody in my stories.

Pulitzer’s article opened my eyes to my duties as a journalist as well as the relevance of my work in society. After reading his beautifully woven words and eloquent philosophy on the role of journalists in the “welfare of the Republic,” I am ready to continue into my journalism future with a mind focused on serving my readers.

Annotated Articles: annotated-articles-research-assessment-4

How USA Today Unraveled Ryan Lochte’s Rio Drama

In my very first informational interview with Ms. Sarah Mervosh of the Dallas Morning News, I was recommended an organization called Poynter as a valuable resource in my journalism studies. Poynter, a global leader in journalism educating journalists on how to be successful in the twenty-first century, offers countless articles in every different area that journalists need to cover- ethics, commentary, business, news, storytelling, etc. I decided that, to get a head start on experience in writing about current events and news, I would analyze a news article. Analyzing how it is written- its objectivity, its use of quotes, and its format- in addition to its actual content, has helped me gain “insights into handling a fast-moving story with caution” (Hare 1).

In the article, I gained a better understanding of how to utilize investigative journalism to write a story. I also learned about perhaps the biggest news fiasco of the summer- Ryan Lochte’s Rio Olympics “robbery” story- and how journalists sorted through the ever-changing influx of quotes, interviews, and statements concerning it. The article details how one particular news group- USA Today- pieced together the conflicting bits of information thrown at them. Using their inside knowledge of the city and diverse skillset, a talented group of reporters at USA today (including one reporter who actually lives in Rio and is familiar with its dynamic and inner workings) took a close look at statements issued by Lochte and Rio officials and noticed disparities in them. By taking time to closely analyze the big picture of Lochte’s story, rather than scrambling to be the first to get the story as so many media groups do, this particular group noticed gaps in the story that others missed. Their resulting series of stories get more and more detailed every time as they gather more information, and are some of the most reliable sources of information on this topic.

First, my new understanding of the importance of journalists’ critical analysis skills will benefit me in my study of journalism by helping me look more closely at stories when I write about them. Hare’s description of a journalist’s job duty as to “find the threads that stick a bit too far out and pull at them until they fall apart or come together” stuck out to me; it made me realize that journalists not only present the facts they are given, but it is also their job to make connections to larger issues, gather new facts, and do research on the surrounding circumstances. To do that, a journalist must be able to look deep under the surface of a story- past what is easily seen- and really get to the root of the story. Another skill that would benefit my journalism study is taking time to view the bigger picture of a story rather than rushing through it to be the first to publish it. When writing on stories in the future, it will be important to remember to take a look at the big picture every now and then to make sure that I am covering all of my bases and presenting every angle one could take on the story. On the more technical side of things, I learned that news articles are formatted in a matter-of-fact, easy to read manner—the syntax is not always grammatically correct as sentence fragments are used. This is because, I inferred, news reports aren’t so much about sounding pretty as getting their point across.

My newfound knowledge about current event reporting and writing has taught me many critical skills to have when working in a news setting—skills that will hopefully, in the future, aid me in successfully shedding light on and making sense of significant events for the public.

Annotated Articles: annotated-articles-research-assessment-3