Learning Fact-Checking and Deciding on a Final Product Idea

Mentor Visit Assessment 3 

Mentor: Staci Parks

Profession: Online Managing Editor

Location: D Magazine Office

Date: March 10, 2017

Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Assessment:

            At my third visit with Ms. Parks, we reached a conclusion in the process of choosing a story idea to pursue in my final product article. At the meeting’s beginning, I pitched my ideas on both potential stories (one focusing on the detrimental effects technology has on our physical health, and one about how to fight disease with the food you eat). Comprised primarily of background research, my pitches gave a general idea of where I saw each story going, what information I could feature, and potential sources I could contact. After hearing my pitches, my mentor gave me some constructive feedback; she suggested that I try to find a way to “localize” each of my stories. She then elaborated by saying that every story that D Magazine publishes has some significance to the Dallas community, some impact on local groups or individuals. For example, she told me about a story that D ran about a year ago that focused on a local yoga studio that provided classes solely for relieving the stress and pressure that technology creates on human bodies; including this information is a way to make the story relevant to the local community.

After then discussing potential sources to interview for each story, we decided that I should go with the food story for my product, as 1) I would have an easier time finding sources to interview (local nutritionists, chefs, or even farmers), 2) it would be simpler to localize (I could maybe do a feature on the Dallas Farmer’s Market or a single vendor within my article) and 3) it is the one that I am most passionate about. Staci and I discussed potential directions in which I could take my article that would make it more likely to be published in D. For instance, she mentioned that she had been wanting to do an article for a long time that featured all natural beauty products available for sale in Dallas by local small business owners; if I interviewed Dallas Farmer’s Market vendors, I could potentially find out some information about this subject as well. We also discussed potentially writing a series of articles, the first of which could contain my original ideas, the second focused on beauty products, etc. We had lots of brainstorming discussions full of many creative and potentially feasible ideas, but I have decided to stick to just one article for the sake of time.

Additionally, Ms. Parks and I were able to sit down and thoroughly review the fact checking process. She gave me a long handout that every D intern receives (which thoroughly describes each step of the process and addresses a variety of scenarios one is likely to encounter when fact checking, and we went through every detail of every step. This was very beneficial to me, because it is a skill that I will employ in my final product as well as in all of my future journalism endeavors. After I learned how to fact check, I was able to begin comprising a list of potential sources for my article, which I will finish before our next visit.

Attending Magazine 101 and Brainstorming Final Product Ideas

Mentor Visit Assessment 2

Mentor: Staci Parks

Profession: Online Managing Editor

Location: D Magazine Office

Date: February 1, 2017

Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Assessment:

On my second mentor visit with Staci Parks, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by D Chairman Wick Allison for interns and new employees called Magazine 101. The presentation detailed the history of D Magazine, why magazines are still around, what purpose magazines serve, and the components of a successful magazine. First and foremost, Magazine 101 taught me that D Magazine is published for a specific, targeted audience and focuses on enhancing the lives of Dallas residents. The original D Magazine aims content towards the interests of mainly middle aged, home owning Dallas residents with a median household income of $330,000, while D CEO targets business professionals and D Weddings targets, of course, brides and family of the bride. Mr. Allison detailed the importance of catering to the needs of the community you are serving and focusing only on how you can better serve them (meaning publishing audience-specific content that the magazine’s community of readers want/need), not on how vague you can make content so that you will attract more readers. The presentation overall taught me about the purpose and goals of the publication at which I am conducting my mentorship, so I can now cater the composition of my final product to that purpose. Furthermore, I learned that a successful magazine is built on meaningful content, advertising, and of course, its readers. With a combination of content that the magazine’s readers are interested in, strategic advertisements that take into account the readers’ average income and way of life, and readers that invest in the magazine, the publication will thrive and complete its original purpose- to create a community of readers and serve them.

After Magazine 101 concluded, I briefly met with Staci to decide on a specific story idea for my final product article. We decided that, because I have a passion for health, fitness, and food, I should write an article in which I interview dieticians, nutritionists, and even potentially natural food grocers. I believe I will be writing a story about grocery shopping with a nutritionist, and it will be geared towards spring, focusing on buying seasonal ingredients that can keep you healthy and happy. Staci has previously interviewed at least one dietician, one nutritionist, and one farmers market representative, so she has offered to get me in touch with those sources to be featured in my article. Another reason this particular story would be a great final product is that it is, as the D editors call it, an “evergreen story,” in that it has no particular expiration date; it will not be considered “old news” if it is published at any time, and people will be interested in it for a window of a few months rather than one or two days like in the case of news stories. This will allow me a longer time period in which to write the content of the article and go through all of the refining and editing steps it requires on the journey to publication. I think I will immensely enjoy writing this article, as it combines many of my passions into one project.

Staci and I also planned our next mentor visit for Friday February 10th, on which we will begin my education on the fact-checking process as well as AP Style. I look forward to working with Staci on bringing my story to fruition.

First Mentor Visit

Mentor Visit Assessment 1

 Mentor: Staci Parks

Profession: Online Managing Editor

Location: D Magazine Office

Date: January 11, 2017

Time: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Assessment:

At my first mentor visit with Ms. Parks, we focused primarily on setting goals and expectations for our time together. I was hoping to find out through the visit what Ms. Parks thought it was important for me to learn, and how that was similar to topics I had an interest in learning about; this was definitely accomplished. Ms. Parks emphasized the importance of me gaining experience in the fact-checking process, writing in APA style, and attending editorial meetings over the course of the mentorship. I wholeheartedly agree with all of these, as they are all essential elements in learning all of the steps a journalist takes in getting their story to print.

As for opportunities for me to enhance my independent study through my time in the office, Ms. Parks was able to provide several. First, she offered to give me material to fact-check that is actually planning on being published on the D Magazine website at some point during the mentorship. I think this will be a highly beneficial experience because I have no previous knowledge of the steps involved in the fact-checking process. If it is such a crucial aspect of journalism, thoroughly understanding and being capable of conducting this process will give me a leg up as I go into higher education and the professional world. Additionally, she offered to give me AP style “quizzes” (she teaches AP style at the University of North Texas) to help enhance my understanding of my topic and the format that I will ultimately use in my professional career.  I can then use this information to ensure that my writing, as I progress through my education and beyond, is respectable and credible. Something unexpected that I learned was the fact that every professional piece of work from all journalists, worldwide, is presented in AP style. I had no idea that it was so important for me to have such a depth of understanding of AP style, but now that I do I can ensure that I practice implementing it wherever possible. Furthermore, Ms. Parks stressed that attending editorial meetings would be one of the most important experiences that I could undergo during our mentorship. This makes sense to me, because seeing how every individual job works together to create the final magazine would allow me to see how exactly various specific jobs collaborate with writers in the creative process.

A highlight of the visit was discussing ideas for my final product and how Ms. Parks could help me in bringing it to fruition. This was exciting to me because I am eager to be able to see the growth that I will experience from my original work article, which I wrote completely individually, to my final product, which I will complete with Ms. Parks’ help. We discussed potentially writing an article or series of articles to be published on the D Magazine website, either with collaboration between just the two of us or with a few other D team members. This let me know that I need to direct my research towards deciding on a certain subject, area, or type of writing that I would like to focus on for my final product. Currently, I am leaning towards feature stories as opposed to news, and I may have to refine it more in the future. I need to know what sort of piece I want to write for my product because it will help me choose a particular story when it presents itself. Additionally, if I decide that I like a certain kind of writing now, I may be able to master it and continue focusing on it as I make my way into my professional career.

Jewish center bomb threats top 100; kids pulled from schools

Date: 3 March, 2017

MLA Citation:

Levenson, Eric, and AnneClaire Stapleton. “Fear Grows in Jewish Community after 100 Bomb

Threats at Jewish Centers.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Mar. 2017. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

Assessment:

With President Donald Trump having delivered his first address to Congress on Tuesday, I thought it only fitting that I analyze a piece of journalistic work associated with his statements. In his speech, Trump addressed issues of rising anti-Semitism and what he plans to do about it, referencing the toppling of Jewish headstones earlier in the week and increasing waves of bomb threats on Jewish Community Centers (JCCs). This rising prejudice, according to Levenson and Stapleton, has “functioned like terrorism, shattering the idea of safety.” This statement, obviously, has great weight in it, with terrorism being the greatest fear of American people today. While this sentence could potentially be using shock value to get attention, it also holds truth, and could greatly impact American lives. What do these attacks mean for the future of the American people, and what can the press do to help Americans remain safe and informed?

Since Trump’s election, a visible rift of hate has emerged among the American people. Even with the liberal press exaggerating here and there, it is true that prejudice has reemerged when it comes to many groups, particularly immigrants and Muslims. However, this violent prejudice against Jews is fairly recent; is it because of Trump, or is there other motivations? The article detailed bomb threats on JCCs in different cities all on the same day. This could easily mean that there is a new rising racist/terrorist group within the United States that national security needs to be aware of. As a journalist, making note of patterns in current events and making predictions by connecting dots helps us be ready for anything, something Levenson and Stapleton do well. By presenting the readers with facts, data, and statistics (such as dates, times, and locations of subsequent bomb threats), while simultaneously presenting possible parallels between them, the press can help keep politicians, economists, and professionals of all other occupations on their toes by keeping them alert to new trends and possibilities. Too often, it is thought that journalists report news that has already happened, but by following the trail of a story, a journalist can identify trends and often make predictions telling where the story is headed next.

Furthermore, this article taught me how to take an obvious and widely covered current event and follow it to a lesser-known but just as important story. In this case, President Trump’s speech was the biggest spectacle of the evening; but by honing in on one small part of the speech, Levenson and Stapleton were able to shed light on a related story that has the potential to have an ever greater impact than the speech did. In future cases, I will now be able to look at huge cover page stories, and instead of focusing on the surface level material, read between the lines for underlying stories. An important skill for a journalist to have is the ability to find a story in anything, and I feel that I am able to do that after analysis of this article.

Interview Assessment: Valerie Wigglesworth

Interview Assessment 7

 

Name of Professional: Valerie Wigglesworth

Profession: Frisco and Collin County Reporter

Company: Dallas Morning News

Date of Interview: 7 November, 2016

Assessment:

At my meeting with Valerie Wigglesworth of Dallas Morning News, I learned the importance of making your presence as a journalist known in the community in which you report. Ms. Wigglesworth covers strictly Frisco and Collin County, so she has a more limited range of subject matter than someone covering a large city or bigger region. She has to have a way of knowing what is happening in Frisco in all realms of the community at all times. There is only so much information that research can get you; in reality, many of the best story ideas travel by word of mouth. By getting to know people involved in all different areas of Frisco, forming relationships or partnerships with certain businesses, and making her work known, Wigglesworth opens doors to new information. People start to come to her with story ideas and noteworthy events once they know that she is in the market for Collin County stories. From this, I learned that people are the best outlet for information on any story; talking to multiple different people when acquiring sources guarantees that you are hearing every side of a story, every unique perspective that spectators have to offer.

Furthermore, a personal story from Ms. Wigglesworth changed the way I view the purpose of journalism forever. Wigglesworth mentioned in our interview that the most rewarding aspect of journalism is seeing her work help others. She detailed one instance in which she wrote a story about how older bathtubs have a higher risk of showing traces of lead. Baths like these can lead to unsafe levels of lead and consequently major health problems, a little known fact to most in the community of Frisco. After the story was published, Wigglesworth received an email from a woman who lived in a historic house with two young children. The woman had gotten her tub tested for lead after reading the article, and sure enough, the test came back positive. The woman thanked Wigglesworth profusely, saying that she would never have known about the potential health risks to her and her children without the information presented in the article. Wigglesworth mentioned how this story renewed her sense of purpose as a journalist, as she enjoys more than anything giving people information they did not even know they needed. This story stuck with me more than any aspect of any of my informational interviews, because it is the kind of experience that I can only hope to have one day working as a journalist. After hearing this experience, I dedicated myself to seeking out stories that can help people, in any way, shape, or form. I want my stories to be more than just entertaining or pretty- I want them to be insightful, interesting, and beneficial.

We also touched on the role of social media in journalism in our interview, as Ms. Wigglesworth is quite a presence on Twitter. This topic was one that I was conducting independent research on at the time as well, so hearing Ms. Wigglesworth’s opinions enhanced my understanding of its implications in the professional world. Twitter, as Wigglesworth mentioned, is where journalists can get the most recent information that the world has to offer. She often checks Twitter before publishing a story to ensure that her facts are the most updated that they can be, and that her information is thorough and consistent with the most current reports. She also gets quotes from stories through social media, making acquiring sources and quotes from them much easier. This encouraged me to start following major news organizations on social media, and start paying attention to public opinion, to ensure that I am always up to date and do not miss a beat on the latest happenings with current events.

Interview Assessment: Sonia Azad

Interview Assessment 6

 

Name of Professional: Sonia Azad

Profession: Health and Wellness Correspondent/Anchor

Company: WFAA

Date of Interview: 11 October, 2016

Assessment:

Ms. Sonia Azad, being the only broadcast journalist I interviewed, differed greatly from all of the other professionals I had previously interacted with; she was able to offer a different perspective on the industry and share with me new lessons that I had not thought to consider previously. Before the interview, Ms. Azad allowed me to sit in the WFAA studio and watch her anchor a live newscast. I was able to witness firsthand how broadcast journalists have to be on their toes constantly; they never know exactly what they are going to have to talk about, as the news changes every minute. For example, right as Ms. Azad walked into the studio lobby to greet me, a breaking news story flashed across the TV in the lobby and she picked up her pace, nearly running into the studio trying to hear the story. She apologized for being so frantic all of a sudden, explaining to me that she would have to talk about this story on live TV in just a few moments, so she had to find out all of the information on it that she could. This made me really appreciate the difficulty of news reporting, and it solidified the fact that I definitely want to purse print journalism rather than broadcast journalism. Writing, for me, is an experience; I like to sit down and delve into a story, rewriting and editing until I believe my content is perfect and it is something that I can definitely be proud of. If I went into broadcast journalism, I feel that the demands of ever-changing news and the urgency accompanying it would eliminate the ability for me to do that. News stories are much shorter and more concise than those published in magazines or newspapers, and I would rather write stories that provide detail on a subject I feel passionate about, not a broad range of topics I know little about. This the one a major difference that I have found between broadcast and print journalism that has been constant across all of my interviews.

Furthermore, Azad’s expertise helped me realize the importance of visuals in journalism. Azad is an Emmy Award winner- her award winning story detailed life of female textile workers in India. Shot with a cheap camcorder she purchased in the airport, just the harsh reality and rawness of the images was impactful enough to win her the Emmy. Across all platforms of journalism, visual aids add so much to a story. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” really does reign true; for some dark, heavy stories, pictures are the only thing that truly make the reader realize the weight of the material. Images also enhance understanding- in a story explaining a medical phenomenon, diagrams do the job better than several wordy paragraphs could. While I do want to focus on the writing aspect of print journalism, I will make sure to include images to enhance my stories whenever possible.

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.