Weekly Report 23

The past week in ISM has been one of reflection and decision making on my final product. While I worked on finishing up story pitches for both of my final product story ideas (see previous blog), I have begun thinking about potential sources to contact for each story. I have also begun comprising a list of specialized questions to ask these sources. I asked myself, “What do I want to know about this subject,” and, more importantly, “What do other people want to know about it?” The whole point of writing an article for my final product is to educate the public about an interesting topic that could affect them, so, in composing these questions, I had to take into consideration what information should be highlighted for maximum effect on its readers.

No matter which story I choose for my final product, which I will hopefully know by the end of this week if mentor visits go as planned, I will have to have background knowledge and context of the issue before I write an article educating others about it. Up until it is set in stone which of my two final product stories I will be following, I will continue to educate myself on both topics and become as learned as I can before work on the actual article commences.

Weekly Report 22

Once my mentor and I discussed potential final product ideas, she asked me to complete two story pitches- where I see the story going, what sources I could potentially use, and possible points the content could hit. Over the past week, I have begun doing research and completing pitches for both of my story ideas (how to fight disease with food, and detrimental effects technology has on human health that most people don’t know about). I have found that there are ample sources in the Dallas area for both stories, but I am having trouble determining what kind of sources I should use for the technology story. With the food story, I can interview dietitians, nutritionists, and even chefs; there is a specific pool of professionals that I can choose from. However, the technology story is more broad, and there are many different occupations that I can choose from. Many different opinions could enhance the story, and I just need to do some extra in-depth research to find them.

In addition to researching my product stories, I have also been studying how to format numbers in AP style at the request of my mentor. I will be using AP style to write my final product article, so having knowledge of the proper formatting of the story is crucial.

Weekly Report 21

The week of February 5th, I spent very productive time with my mentor focused on product-related tasks. Together we discussed formatting numbers in AP style, went over a powerpoint on how to find effective and engaging story ideas, and researched potential stories for my final product article. In my last post, I wrote about potentially doing a story focusing on grocery shopping with a nutritionist, but after further research with my mentor, we have decided to go with something more hard hitting and unique.

Looking at previous stories published on the D Magazine website, I have seen several “Ask a Nutritionist” done already, and I want to do something more unique and interesting. Instead, I have narrowed down my story ideas down to “how to fight disease with food,” and “the impacts that technology has on you that you don’t know it had & and how to fix it.” I am more excited to pursue these stories, as I feel there is more to them- there are facts to uncover and check, professionals across a wide spectrum to interview, and analysis to be done.  Ms. Parks and I have discussed my completing a pitch of each story to present to her at our next visit; for each story, I will describe where I see the contents of the story going a potential list of sources, and what purpose it will serve. After this mentor visit, I have a much better idea of the direction of my final product and what specific tasks I need to be doing to prepare for it.

Original Work Assessment

 Through writing my original work article, I learned more than I ever could have in a classroom.  Creating a piece of journalistic work on my own has taught me how many different pieces go into writing a story, as well as how to successfully complete those processes on my own. In writing my article, I have had to complete every step of the process by myself, whereas professional journalists almost always have help in the workplace. From now on, I will always be prepared to take on the full workload, and any additional help will simply be a blessing. The creation of my original work has, quite literally, allowed me to experience what a journalist actually does in the workplace on a daily basis.

The process of going out into the real world to acquire quotes from outside sources has taught me about the steps necessary to obtain the highest quality and most reliable information as possible. I learned that in order to ensure that I cover all perspectives on the subject of my story, I need to compile a long list of diverse potential sources. When attempting to get comments from current FISD school board members for my article, not a single one of them replied; I did not know who to turn to next, and I was at a loss on professionals to interview until Coach Goff gave me a few additional contacts. In the future, I can avoid this predicament by doing background research on multiple individuals or groups who could even potentially be connected to the story. Another lesson I have learned about consulting sources is that a journalist has to be bold and up front about what exactly they are asking. If a journalist beats around the bush or tries to make a question sound nicer than it is, the meaning could become lost on the interviewee and they may end up answering a question you weren’t asking. When interviewing Dr. Reedy, I asked broad questions and received minutes-long answers; while I was extremely grateful for his detailed responses, I realized that I could have refined my questions more in order to get more focused answers.

Composing my own full length story has also helped me to develop my own unique voice as a journalist. While remaining objective, I have learned how to insert humor, develop my ideas, and elaborate an appropriate amount without being excessive or redundant. Before I wrote my article, I was quite wordy in my writing. As I went, I had to fine-tune my work, eliminating any excess commentary that distracted from the purpose of the story. While essays in English classes preach lengthy commentary, it is essential to avoid personal comments or opinions in print journalism as much as possible, unless the piece calls specifically for it. Composing my first piece of journalistic work has taught me a crucial skill in the journalism industry- how to separate my two voices as a writer. I can now write both as the one who is able to take a clear stance and elaborate for paragraphs on my views, and the one who tells real-world stories featuring only the unique views of others.

The completion of my original work has also revealed to me the rewarding side of writing that my potential mentors all told me about. In every one of my informational interviews, the interviewee told me that the most rewarding part of journalism is putting your name on a piece that you are proud of, something that you know is going to have an impact on people. I had the privilege of experiencing this feeling; the fluttering in my heart and butterflies in my stomach when I finished my first original piece has me hooked. My original work, above all, has affirmed that writing is something that I most definitely want to be doing for a long, long time to come.

Weekly Report 20

Over the past week, my mentor and I decided on a story to pursue for my final product. Because I have a passion for food and health, we decided that writing a story in which I have the opportunity to interview nutritionists, dietitians, and even local farmers’ market representatives would be a chance for me to combine several of my passions into one cohesive product. The story will be called something like “grocery shopping with a nutritionist,” and will focus on informing the people of Dallas about ingredients they can purchase and habits they can form that can enhance their overall health and wellness.

In beginning work on my final product, I have begun to acquire the names and contact information of nutrition and dietetics experts in the Dallas area to use as sources in my story. I have also started to come up with questions to ask these experts in order to direct my article. While I will definitely be working with my mentor on research and acquiring sources, I figured getting a head start would be a good idea to help me stay on schedule.

Additionally, at a mentor visit this week, I had the chance to sit in on a presentation called Magazine 101 at the D Magazine office. This presentation, given to new employees and interns by D Chairman Wick Allison, detailed the aspects of a successful magazine, the history and purpose of magazines, and the future of print journalism. The session was incredibly educational, as it taught me a lot about the purpose and goals of the publication at which I will be completing my mentorship. I look forward to applying the things I learned to the completion of my final product and hopefully its eventual publication.

Investigative Reporting in the Current Media Environment

 Date: 27 January 2017

Subject: The Big Chill: Investigative Reporting in the Current Media Environment

MLA Citation: “Journalism Research.” Journalism Research. SPJ.org, n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.

Assessment:

            Ever since the dawn of the twentieth century, investigative journalists have dug deep below the surface to expose corruption and bring the truth to the public. Though these “muckrakers” are called something different now, simply investigative journalists, their purpose has remained the same- to “bring about positive change in existing laws or to expose wrongdoing.” However, in recent years, the public has become increasingly hostile against the press, seeing it as a corrupt corporation within itself, resenting it, and even suing it for publishing “biased” stories. How will this affect the future and integrity of the industry? Will the world of journalism eventually alter or censor its publications in order to please the public, and if so how can we work to stop it? Publishing true facts and stories, no matter how badly people don’t want to hear it, is a vital part of society, teaching the population about the world they live in.

A major lesson I have learned from this article is that as a journalist, I constantly have a target on my back. Big corporations seeking to maintain a good reputation will stop at nothing to defame and denounce any journalist who attempts to expose them for their evils, so journalists have to be cautious and pick their battles. However, this article has also revealed that major news organizations and publications are increasingly becoming just as afraid of a tarnished reputation as big businesses are. The authors say that “Within a recent period of two years, three major news organizations issued retractions to major investigative pieces. The San Jose Mercury News in the summer of 1996 published an exhaustive and detailed series about a possible connection between the CIA and crack-cocaine sales in this country. Within a year, Mercury News editors were recanting some of the series’ findings.” We, as journalists, cannot become afraid of a little backlash or criticism. If we do, we begin to cower away and you see results like the ones mentioned above, which sacrifice the integrity in journalism and betray the very foundations the industry is built upon. Writers such as Upton Sinclair and Ida B. Wells revolutionized journalism by stopping at nothing to reveal the truth to everyday people to improve their everyday lives. The purpose of the press, as explained both by Joseph Pulitzer himself as well as the authors of this article, is to craft and deliver reports of the events all around the world to the people they effect. This does not exclude controversial, tragic, or violent stories, and if publications’ confidence begin to wane when publishing this kind of information, society will be lacking in its depth of understanding of the world around them. Therefore, as journalists, we must remain courageous and confident.

Furthermore, I learned that “Money Lust” is affecting the stories published by large publications. Due to want of large profits, companies are increasingly publishing only stories that they know will make them big bucks. Whether those are sponsored by a well-known and wealthy corporation or simply something that customers want to read, they are taking the place of necessary local news stories and “replacing in depth and interpretive stories on front pages across the country.” How can we as a society stop this corruption? Supporting local publications and broadcasts is a great place to start. By showing support for local journalists, society can use their money as their mouths and show that they truly care about knowing the truth about what is happening in their region.