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.

Product Progress Assessment

My final product, writing an article featuring natural beauty products from local Dallas vendors, has been teaching me many lessons about my field of study. I have discovered for myself that the beginning stages of writing an article are far more tedious, slow-moving and difficult than the actual composition of the article is. A journalist must narrow down literally an entire world full of possibilities for story ideas down to one particular one. They then must do background research on it to gain context and understanding, then search and contact sources surrounding that article. I am currently finishing up this beginning stage, preparing to contact sources. In addition, I have learned how big of a deal fact-checking is in the journalism world. If one tiny fact (it does not even have to be a proper noun, like a name or birthplace of an individual) is not entirely true, the publisher could take a lot of heat over it. In writing my article, I will make sure to pay especially close attention to detail when describing a product and its creator so that I portray them to the public in an appropriate manner.

I have also learned about myself as a writer through this process. I already knew that I like to be as thorough as possible, but I am now discovering the implications of this detail orientation and dedication to perfection. It is a positive in the sense that I know that I am putting my best work out there, but it is also negative in that it is causing me to fall behind schedule. In the future, I will have to work on my timing and completing my best work in a shorter period of time.

I am making progress on my product more slowly than I anticipated on my calendar; however, this is normal. In writing an article, the prerequisite work is always the hardest and longest part. Once I have a set story to pursue, all of my sources, and quotes from them, I can easily compile them into one cohesive article within a matter of days. In order to fix my legging behind, I plan on securing and contacting sources for my article this week (the week of 3/27) to ensure ample time to acquire quotes and comments. There is still much work to do; once I have my quotes, I must write the body of the article, then proofread and fact-check it. I am pleased with how the article is shaping up so far; I have found five companies that make and sell local and natural beauty products in Dallas. They are all interesting individuals with relatable and inspiring stories of creativity and innovation; I believe that their testimonies will enhance my article and make it colorful.

My mentor has been a vital player in the completion of my final product; she has been involved in every step of its development. She first heard my story pitches and helped me decide on one, then she taught me step by step the processes and characteristics of fact-checking and writing in AP style. Were it not for her, my article would be formatted entirely incorrectly, and it would most likely not be published. Speaking of which- my mentor is the sole reason that I even have a chance at getting published. Even if it does not happen for me with this specific article, at least I have the experience of writing an article in a format acceptable for publication; it is the experience that counts.

Weekly Report 27

This week in ISM, I have formulated a list of questions for my potential sources for my final product article. I am going to reach out via email to my sources within the next few days, and hopefully by my next blog post I will have responses from a few sources. I am hoping to find out a bit about the background to each business, as well as their motivation behind using natural versus conventional ingredients. In my article, I would like to not only highlight one specific product that each vendor sells, but also have a mini-feature on each business in the process. In addition, I am currently drafting emails to send out to each of my sources, ensuring that I am maintaining a professional tone while also making my story sound like a worthy use of their time.

Over the past week, I have also learned that I will have to begin writing the contents of the article sooner than I anticipated. If I want it to be worthy of publication, proofreading, fact-checking, and revising will have to be extensive and meticulous; I would rather write a rough draft soon and spend more time fine-tuning it rather than trying to write a perfect draft the first time.

Weekly Report 26

After assessing my product progress this week, I realized that I am farther along on my product development than I originally thought. I have located my sources and I am preparing to reach out to them; once I do that, I just have to do the actual writing of the body of the article, which is the easiest part.

I have also learned, over the course of this week, that I need to be able to be lenient and forgiving of myself when I get off schedule. I cannot beat myself up or go into panic mode when I do not finish a task or meet a deadline. Instead, I must take a step back, look at the big picture, and figure out a way to catch up and work overtime to get myself back on track. Time management and problem solving are both crucial skills in any job description, and learning them firsthand will prove very valuable to my future in the professional world.

As I prepare to contact sources for my article, I must work on creating a list of questions that will enhance my article and keep capture readers’ attention. I will do this, and many other tasks related to my product, in the coming week in order to stay on track with my final product calendar and ensure that my article is where it needs to be.