Thursday, May 1, 2008

Op-Ed Gun Control

Gun control isn't the answer
Why one reaction to Virginia Tech shouldn't be tightening firearm laws.
By James Q. Wilson

JAMES Q. WILSON teaches public policy at Pepperdine University and previously taught at UCLA and Harvard University. He is the author of several books, including "Thinking About Crime."
April 20, 2007

THE TRAGEDY at Virginia Tech may tell us something about how a young man could be driven to commit terrible actions, but it does not teach us very much about gun control.

So far, not many prominent Americans have tried to use the college rampage as an argument for gun control. One reason is that we are in the midst of a presidential race in which leading Democratic candidates are aware that endorsing gun control can cost them votes.

This concern has not prevented the New York Times from editorializing in favor of "stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage." Nor has it stopped the European press from beating up on us unmercifully.

Leading British, French, German, Italian and Spanish newspapers have blamed the United States for listening to Charlton Heston and the National Rifle Assn. Many of their claims are a little strange. At least two papers said we should ban semiautomatic assault weapons (even though the killer did not use one); another said that buying a machine gun is easier than getting a driver's license (even though no one can legally buy a machine gun); a third wrote that gun violence is becoming more common (when in fact the U.S. homicide rate has fallen dramatically over the last dozen years).

Let's take a deep breath and think about what we know about gun violence and gun control.

First: There is no doubt that the existence of some 260 million guns (of which perhaps 60 million are handguns) increases the death rate in this country. We do not have drive-by poisonings or drive-by knifings, but we do have drive-by shootings. Easy access to guns makes deadly violence more common in drug deals, gang fights and street corner brawls.

However, there is no way to extinguish this supply of guns. It would be constitutionally suspect and politically impossible to confiscate hundreds of millions of weapons. You can declare a place gun-free, as Virginia Tech had done, and guns will still be brought there.

If we want to guess by how much the U.S. murder rate would fall if civilians had no guns, we should begin by realizing — as criminologists Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins have shown — that the non-gun homicide rate in this country is three times higher than the non-gun homicide rate in England. For historical and cultural reasons, Americans are a more violent people than the English, even when they can't use a gun. This fact sets a floor below which the murder rate won't be reduced even if, by some constitutional or political miracle, we became gun-free.

There are federally required background checks on purchasing weapons; many states (including Virginia) limit gun purchases to one a month, and juveniles may not buy them at all. But even if there were even tougher limits, access to guns would remain relatively easy. Not the least because, as is true today, many would be stolen and others would be obtained through straw purchases made by a willing confederate. It is virtually impossible to use new background check or waiting-period laws to prevent dangerous people from getting guns. Those that they cannot buy, they will steal or borrow.

It's also important to note that guns play an important role in selfdefense. Estimates differ as to how common this is, but the numbers are not trivial. Somewhere between 100,000 and more than 2 million cases of self-defense occur every year.

There are many compelling cases. In one Mississippi high school, an armed administrator apprehended a school shooter. In a Pennsylvania high school, an armed merchant prevented further deaths. Would an armed teacher have prevented some of the deaths at Virginia Tech? We cannot know, but it is not unlikely.

AS FOR THE European disdain for our criminal culture, many of those countries should not spend too much time congratulating themselves. In 2000, the rate at which people were robbed or assaulted was higher in England, Scotland, Finland, Poland, Denmark and Sweden than it was in the United States. The assault rate in England was twice that in the United States. In the decade since England banned all private possession of handguns, the BBC reported that the number of gun crimes has gone up sharply.

Some of the worst examples of mass gun violence have also occurred in Europe. In recent years, 17 students and teachers were killed by a shooter in one incident at a German public school; 14 legislators were shot to death in Switzerland, and eight city council members were shot to death near Paris.

The main lesson that should emerge from the Virginia Tech killings is that we need to work harder to identify and cope with dangerously unstable personalities.

It is a problem for Europeans as well as Americans, one for which there are no easy solutions — such as passing more gun control laws.

Week 16 Summary

Tuesday -
- We discussed opinion writing: editorials, editorial cartoons, letters, op-eds, columns, guest columns, and reviews.

- We discussed the elements of a good opinion piece: strong lead, strong kicker, research and reporting, statements backed up by evidence, choosing direct words, short sentences.
In short: to prevent an opinion piece from being a mere rant in print, draw upon the skills you have learned for good reporting and writing. Know your subject and know what you want to say about it. Write a point form outline mapping out your logical flow. Try to relate your ending back to your beginning.

ASSIGNMENT: Everybody is to write a review of 600 wds (maximum 800 wds), due Tuesday, May 6th.

Thursday -
- We finished opinion writing by analyzing an op-ed on gun control (to be mounted on the blog site). We then discussed the two columns that had been sent out by email: sports and women.

- the second half of the class was a lecture on international communications (global reporting), with real life stories from Nomi's time as a foreign correspondent.

- the format of the final was dicussed.

READING: To begin studying for the final, please reread carefully Chapters 1,2,7, 8.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Weeks 14 and 15 - Summary

Week 15 –

Tuesday: Class was cancelled Tuesday due to the guest speaker on Monday, Rip Rense, a veteran of the Los Angeles Daily News and others.
Those who were unable to attend must submit their pitch on a profile of Rip Rense, by this Tuesday.

Thursday: We went over the last quiz. We discussed everybody’s newspaper submissions. The last half hour of class was taken over by the instructor evaluations.

READING: Assigned reading is the Briefing on Media Law at the back of the AP Style Book.

This coming week we will do opinion writing and global journalism.
Please take the time as well to get caught up on prior assignments and reading.

Week 14

- This week we had a short class on Tuesday due to Multicultural Day. I did remind everybody that the reason we practices descriptive writing and colorful writing and narrative leads and analyzed features was so that you could USE that practice in your features story. Those of you still revising, please try to apply those principles we discussed. Mostly importantly, make sure you cover all the bases in your research and represent more than one side of the story in your writing.

- Please remember to listen to NPR a few times between now and the final. NPR radio can be found at FM 88.3, 89.1, 89.3, 89.9 and possibly others, depending where you live. And there's always their website to listen...

- Thursday was very productive: we completed discussion of the web and practised adapting stories to the web. Please keep your end of year handout. And remember my phone number is: 907-8029.

- Reading: no text reading this week. Put the energy into making your stories good enough for submission to real world publications. You can also get caught up on reading you haven't yet gotten to. You have the list!

- Assignment: All must submit their stories next week and report on that process on Thursday.

- Note: I have emailed several bonus story ideas, two are arts, two or three are hard news (election, education rally), and the others are speakers etc. The opportunity is there to raise your grade!

Friday, April 11, 2008

WEEK 13 – Summary

Tuesday –

- Lecture and discussion on broadcast journalism as compared to print. Last half hour was lab writing, page 249, Question 2.

ASSIGNMENTS – Feature story was due, as was story to submit to the Student Voice

READING – Ch. 11 on broadcast if you hadn’t done it. Ch. 12 on web journalism.


CLASS WORK – Lecture and discussion on web journalism and how it differs and overlaps with both print and broadcast journalism.

Like writing for broadcast, writing for the web is less formal, more conversational, and shorter than newspapers and magazines. But like traditional print journalism, the text portion of web news packages are written in AP style, with the same quote format, attributions and structures: such as the inverted pyramid, nut graphs and summary or anecdotal leads.

Two key terms to understand in relation to web journalism are:
non-linear structure

In the second half of class we worked with partners to convert a previous news story from print style to broadcast style. We will continue on Tuesday to convert a previous story from newspaper style to web site style.

ASSIGNMENTS – Anybody who has not turned in the first draft of the feature and the story to submit to the Student Voice must do so by Tuesday. On Thursday and Friday of the coming week, you will each approach the editor about your submissions.

READING - Page 501 to 513 of the textbook. There will be a quiz. And it will not be open-book this time. Make sure you read the Ch. 13 on Web journalism very carefully, and the above pages, which are an appendix on style. If you were absent and do not think you are able to explain the term “non-linear structure” as it relates to the web, please call me over the next four days. This will be on the quiz.

- We have exactly three weeks of regular classes left and we have a lot to cover and review. If you are behind in the reading, this weekend is a good time to start catching up on previous chapters so you don’t have to cram the entire book the weekend before the final exam.

- This week, classes are as scheduled. But the following week we will meet at 11:30 am on Monday, April 21st, instead of Tuesday April 22nd. Don’t miss it. Attendance or an alternate assignment will count in your grade.

Nomi's Tips for Journalists

Accuracy + Fairness = Professionalism.

When in doubt, leave it out.

If you don't understand your material, your reader won't either.

Every statement in a news story or featuer must be backed up by evidence:
1. a quote
2. facts or figures
3. at least one illustration or example

Always make that extra phone call.

If you have covered all the bases in your research, the writing is just a matter of organizing it.

Summary: Weeks 11 - 12


- We discussed libel, privacy, media law and media ethics.
- We reviewed feature writing
- We reviewed the inverted pyramid format for news writing by doing City Council assignment, on the online Scene component of the text book.

- Chapters 13 and 14 – If you have not yet read these chapters, please do.

- There was a quiz on libel and AP style, on Thursday, March 27. Please make sure you understand all the answers to that quiz, especially if you got something wrong .
- Feature writing assignment AND submitting a story to the Student Voice. You are permitted to do the same story for both assignments as long as you re-submit a revised rewrite.


- We discussed everybody’s feature ideas and gave tips and advice on how to best execute the story
- We continued to discuss ethics
- We continued to work on City Council Meeting
- We did an analysis of the Student Voice front page story on Binge Drinking

- Chapters 11 and 12, Broadcast journalism and web journalism. Be sure to have read Chapter 11 by Tuesday, April 8 and Chapter 12 by Thursday, April 10.
- For those who were not in class last Thursday, please go on to and read the February entry on ethics from the Society for Professional Journalists.
- feature story first draft is due on Tuesday, April 8 th
- first draft of story to submit to Student Voice is due on Thursday, April 10
- News Feature analysis “Binge Drinking” (a homework assignment) is due on Thursday, April 10. Those who completed it in class are exempt.

REMINDER : Please bring your portfolio to Tuesday’s class for in class work.

NOTE: We have exactly four weeks left to cover course material and then one week of review before the exam. We are in the home stretch and will be going at a quick pace. Attending class is the best way to stay caught up.

Keep reading media!

Friday, March 14, 2008

EXAMPLE-Long feature, not time-sensitive

Please tap on this link to find one of the best long, front page features the L.A. Times has done recently. The only reason I didn't hand it out is that it is extremely long, and it looks better with the photos and graphics anyway. Please take 20 minutes to read this. You will note the elements we discussed: suspense, conflict, resolution at the end, and you may have a different view of the reporters' fairness to both sides.,0,4657893.story

Here is the story's opening, to whet your appetite to click on the above link and read more.

Maternal care — or harm?

A Redlands mother of four was accused of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, fabricating or inducing illnesses in her own children.

By Tracy Weber
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 9, 2008

It was lunchtime at Loma Linda Academy when the social workers arrived, escorted by a deputy sheriff.

They were there to collect the Udvardi children. Amid dozens of students munching sandwiches and chips, school officials found 6-year-old Esther, then Abram, 11, and Sam, 14. They got the eldest, Matthew, 16, just as he arrived at his American Lit class.

The children were hustled one by one to a white van in the parking lot, then whisked away even before their father, the school's band teacher, knew what was happening.

Seven miles away in Redlands, the phone rang at the family's modest tract home. Leslie Udvardi found a county social worker on the line.The woman was blunt: Leslie had been deemed a danger to her children. They would be in the state's care until a court decided differently.

Leslie said the social worker accused her of subjecting the kids to unnecessary and often painful medical treatments.

In fact, child welfare officials believed Leslie was the one who was sick, with a syndrome known by a long and forbidding name: Munchausen by proxy.

Leslie had read about it. It was a TV crime drama disease, a mental illness in which a caregiver, usually a mother, fabricates illnesses in a child to gain attention.

Certainly her children had been stricken by an unusual number of ailments, almost from birth, but Leslie told the woman she'd done everything in her power to help, not hurt, them.

The social worker kept talking: Leslie could drop off clothes and books for the children.Leslie barely registered the details. All she could think was: They've taken my kids.

Leslie hung up and dialed her husband's cellphone. She was "screaming in a panic," Kirk Udvardi remembered. He was being accused too, she told him, of failing to protect the children from her.

For four days, Kirk said, no one would tell either parent where their children were.

Kirk said a social worker did offer him some unsolicited advice: "You're going to really need to come out strongly against your wife. If you don't come out against your wife, there's a good chance you're not going to see your kids again."

Click on the above link to read more!

EXAMPLE: Feature approach to a second-day, breaking hard news story

October 1, 2000

By Nomi Morris
Knight Ridder Newspapers

BUREIJ REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip – Like viewers around the world, Amal al-Dirra saw her terrified son die on television as his father tried to shield him from Israeli gunfire.

“I went crazy. I was screaming and crying,” the 34-year-old mother of seven recounted Sunday, as dozens of mourners filled the bare, concrete house where her son Mohammed was born 12 years ago.

Now, as her husband lies critically wounded in a nearby hospital, Amal is sedated. Five little birds that Muhammed’s fifth grade teacher gave him, jump and chirp happily in their cage.

Outside Muhammed’s face is already on posters under the heading the Martyr of al-Aqsa. The morning paper published the photo sequence of him crouched behind a cement block and then shot. It is the enduring image of the latest eruption of Palestinian anger and frustration. It may be remembered as the last violent gasp that propels the sides toward a peace treaty or the beginning of a new protracted uprising.

Muhammed’s mother and his brother and cousins remember him as an active, outgoing kid who liked to play soccer and go for a ride with his dad or run errands for older relatives who worked in the neighborhood.

Contrary to Israeli army claims that Muhammed and his father Jamal were among the protesters that assaulted their outpost outside a Jewish settlement in Gaza, Amal says neither her husband nor son were political or even intending to observe the riots that began in Gaza on Friday.

“What kind of danger were they to the Israelis? They were carrying nothing. It’s clear on the TV. ?” Amal al-Dirra calmly explained.

She says Mohammed went with his father to shop for a used car in Gaza City Saturday morning because his parents didn’t want him to get swept up with other kids who might be inclined to watch or join in the riots.

Family members say that when father and son were heading home –without a new car -- their taxi was stopped by the roadblock at Netzarim Junction. Just when the two headed hand-in-hand across the rock-strewn intersection to get a taxi on the other side, the shooting started. For 40 minutes they were trapped by the gunfire, said one relative.

For about five minutes after the boy was hit his father yelled “My son is dying, my son is dying,” but nobody could get to them because the shooting continued, according to eye witness Muhammed Abu Najib, who was volunteering to collect blood with the local ambulance service.

When ambulance worker Assam al-Bilbaissie dashed to help the boy, he got shot and killed. And the grieving father Jamal, who most days works in construction in Israel, took four bullets.

Down the road, the 60 Orthodox Jewish families that the army is protecting at Netzarim settlement were oblivious to the drama outside. They were in the settlement’s synagogue welcoming in the Jewish new year.

“It is very important for us to keep this place in the hand of the state of Israel,” Shlomit Ziv, a 30-year-old mother of six at Netzarim, told foreign journalists 10 days earlier. “Abraham lived here. God told him here ‘I will give you Israel – Gaza and Jerusalem.”

The Israeli army has opened an investigation into Muhammed’s death, which spokesmen describe as a “horrible tragedy.” But they insist their soldiers were merely defending themselves as Palestinians attacked them, including with bullets.

“We had a mob rioting and throwing Molotov cocktails and bombs. It was a war zone. You think they could see the boy? There were thousands of people.” said army spokesman Yarden Vatikay. “Of course this was sorrowful event. But if the Palestinians had stopped the mobs this child would still be playing soccer in Bureij.”

Muhammed’s mom says she takes comfort that her child is in paradise because he died a martyr’s death. But she does not believe her son’s death will change anything between Arabs and Israelis.

“We’re used to this. Once in a while people die. But everything goes on as usual,” Amal al-Dirra said.
When she visited her husband in the hospital Sunday morning his first words to her were “Be patient. Be patient".

A few hours earlier, Amal dreamed she saw her little boy Muhammed walk in the door.

“I’ll raise the birds for him,” she said, looking up at the cage.


Week 10 Summary and Spring Break Advisory

-Most of the class was spent analyzing the elements of a news feature article from the L.A. Times about a family conflict over guns, after the daughter was shot by a boyfriend who had stolen her own father’s gun to do it. (Question sheet will be uploaded onto the website).
-We then did Number 6 on page 206 of the text, a 15-minute free (stream-of-consciousness) writing exercise on a turning point moment in your life. (Results were terrific!) Feel free to do free writing on the other four subjects listed in that exercise. The author Julia Cameron believes in free writing every morning of your life to get your ‘stuff’ out of your system and get you warmed up for your work as a writer.

Number 1 on page 206 was assigned, to be handed in the first day back after spring break. Be sure to incorporate some dialogue into your colorful, descriptive writing.
It is acceptable to do the assignment at a Starbucks or other café. Even though this is a feature writing exercise, remember it is journalism not fiction: accuracy of quotes and details is still important.

- This was the last day to get credit for handing in the speaker/meeting story and your story pitch assignment.
- A big round of applause went out to Dylan for getting the front page of the Student Voice, for his story on the Rocketdyne meeting.
- We again discussed what the differences are between hard news, soft news, news feature, analysis, and opinion journalism. (We acknowledged that you may sometimes take a feature approach to hard news, as in the Middle East story by Nomi Morris which is to be emailed and mounted on the website. But the safest best on a first-day, hard news story is to go with a hard news lead.)
- We compared up on the screen three different versions of an AP story on the Kansas woman who was stuck to the toilet seat.
- We spent the last segment of class taking a news story about dying pigeons and rewriting the lead twice: once as a hard new lead, once as a feature story lead. (this exercise will also be mounted on the website).

- New chapters to be read are Chapters 13 and 14 on Accuracy, Law, and Media Ethics
- Compulsory re-reading of pages 38 – 42 (quotes and attribution) as well as pages 174 – 181 (inverted pyramid and other story structures). Also – the additional handouts on Inverted Pyramid that I supplied in January. You will find that reading this material again now will have a whole new meaning after the amount of news writing you’ve done.

- Please come to class after the break prepared to state what story you would like to do that will count as your submission to the Student Voice.
- Please get into the habit of reading 5 – 10 pages each evening so that you will be caught up in all the reading after the break
- Please read through the AP stylebook from M- Z if you haven't already done so.

The following are the chapters that have been assigned so far this semester (all of which will be covered in the final exam):

- Chapter 1 – Changing face of news coverage
- Chapter 2 – The basic news story
- Chapter 5 - Interviewing
- Chapter 6 – Grammar and Usage
- Chapter 7 – Leads and Nut Graphs
- Chapter 8 – Story Structure
- Chapter 9 – Feature Writing Technique
- Chapters 13 and 14 – Accuracy, Law and Ethics (newly assigned)
- Chapter 18 – Speeches, Meetings, Press Conferences
- Chapter 20 – Crime

Consume journalism over the break; read critically newspapers, magazines and web news. Listen critically to radio and television reporting.

Go back over the blogsite and re-read items of interest (such as the two places I have mounted writing tips).

For those who haven’t already done so, please compile all your writing assignments in a portfolio and keep your quizzes as well. I will have a master list of what everybody is missing and if anything is in dispute we can take it from there.

(I will check my vcccd email at least every other day).


Friday, March 7, 2008


– We discussed coverage of meetings, press conferences, speakers and similar events. These are not hard news in the same way a fire, an election, an act of crime, an accident, a natural disaster, a war, or a major political event or announcement would be.
They are, however, written as news stories – rather than features -- because the event, meeting or speech which you are covering, took place at a specific point in time that brings the issue onto the public agenda. Inverted pyramid is still the way to go.

- In week 8 we did an in-class practice assignment by watching U-Tube clips of the case of Corey Delaney, an Australian party boy. This was followed by a mock press conference of the Ventura County Police alerting parents in our area to their degree of legal liability, should their minor children hold parties where alcohol is served.

- In week 9 we did an in-class practice assignment by covering a 1998 Commencement speech at M.I.T. by the unconventional author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. We learned that the speech was never written, nor delivered by Vonnegut, but was written by a columnist at the Chicago Tribune. Then it took on a new life over the Internet.

- We discussed the importance of the pitch, which is a proposal to interest an editor in a story you wish to write.

- We moved from meetings, speeches and press conferences to feature stories.

QUIZ – There was an open book quiz on Tues. March 4, 2008. If you missed the quiz, you may make it up at home and sent it by email. This offer expires on Tues. March 11.

READING – Chapter 18 was previously assigned and Chapter 9 (story telling and narrative writing) was assigned on Thursday, to be read by this Tuesday. Please also see the writing tips I have posted on

- Your speaker or meeting coverage assignment, of which you received notification on Feb. 19th and which was formally assigned on Feb. 26th, was due last Tuesday March 5th. The final day for acceptance of this assignment is this Tuesday, March 11.

- The story pitch assignment is due on Tuesday, March 11. It is short. It should be easy to write, since you may do it on the meeting or speaker story you have just completed. If you did not receive a copy of the pitch assignment, contact me and I will email it to you.

BONUS POINTS – It was announced that anyone who submits additional stories by covering additional events at school or in the community, will receive addition points out of 10. I highly encourage everybody to make use of this offer if you have missed quizzes and assignments to date.

GRADING – All students are doing well or very well on the work completed. Some students have missed assignments or quizzes, which is dragging your overall grade down slightly. Please contact me for a review of your grade and a plan of how to best raise it.
Showing up at each class is absolutely the best way to keep your grade up.

– When writing your assignments at home, keep the AP stylebook beside you and don’t hesitate to look things up.

- Before you begin writing, take some time to go over all your notes, circle good quotes and points you want to cover, then make a brief, point-form outline of your story. The writing will go more smoothly if you know where you are going with it.

- If you find yourself searching for the right word, don’t hesitate to use the thesaurus on your word processing program. The best writers often struggle for the right words.









BROADCAST – RADIO, TELEVISION (also mounted on web)


- Don’t add description for the sake of decoration. It has to set the mood or tone or in some way work with the theme of the story or it is just a distraction.
- Use vivid nouns and verbs, rather than cluttering the writing with many adjectives.
- Avoid listing items.
- Ask yourself whether your passage is taking readers further into your story or further away.
- If writing a descriptive or anecdotal lead, be careful of length and include a nut graph that ties the opening to your theme.
- Excessive wordiness can ruin the effect you are trying to achieve. Keep it clear and concise, even when colorful.
- Use concrete images and examples rather than vague ideas.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Society of Professional Journalists-Code of Ethics

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society's principles and standards of practice.

Seek Truth and Report It
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
Journalists should:
— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.

— Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
— Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
— Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
— Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
— Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
— Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.
— Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
— Never plagiarize.
— Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
— Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
— Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
— Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
— Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
— Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
— Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
— Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.

Minimize Harm
Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.Journalists should:
— Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.

— Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
— Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
— Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
— Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
— Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
— Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
— Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

Act Independently
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.Journalists should:
—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

Be Accountable
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.
Journalists should:
— Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.

— Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
— Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
— Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
— Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

The SPJ Code of Ethics is voluntarily embraced by thousands ofwriters, editors and other news professionals. The present version ofthe code was adopted by the 1996 SPJ National Convention, after monthsof study and debate among the Society's members.Sigma Delta Chi's first Code of Ethics was borrowed from theAmerican Society of Newspaper Editors in 1926. In 1973, Sigma Delta Chiwrote its own code, which was revised in 1984, 1987 and 1996.

Writing Tips

- Question leads and questions as transitions in stories are currently banned.

- The pronouns ‘I’ “you” and “we” are currently banned from your stories.

- Watch grammar and syntax. If your sentence has become unmanageable try a) breaking it down into separate sentences, b) removing unnecessary words c) recasting it to make sure it an active rather than passive construction (subject, verb, object).
Consider buying or taking out of the Library: “The Elements of Style”, edited by Strunk and White.

- get rid of extra words and peppering words and phrases. They include: obviously, it would seem, to be sure, apparently. And there are many many more. Note when those words mask the fact that you can't back up your point. (And note the other cases where you must insert a word such as likely, allegedly, or reportedly, to make sure you are on solid ground.)

-Please review the format for quotes and how to set them up.

- Choose simple, clear words in place of long, fancy words. If your sentence sounds like an academic paper, read it over and try to streamline it. Imagine how you would say it if you were explainging the same point to a friend. Don't be afraid to say it out loud. Broadcast journalists often say their sentences before writing them down.

- Avoid putting too many descriptives into your sentence. Often the same effect can be achieved by choosing the right verb.

- Try to choose action verbs.

- Try to write what is concrete rather than what is abstract. Even in a news story that is about a speaker or ideas or research, you can keep it real.

(more to come)


Writing the hard-news lead and story
Audience: Community newspaper, online and in print.
Slug: Teen
Writing Tips:
In a crime or accident story reported on the first day, you will almost always use a hard-news lead.
Lead:Read through all of the information you have. Then think it through: What is the most important and relevant information here? What kind of hard-news lead should I use? Should it be delayed identification? If so, which elements should I include?
Support: What NEW, not background, information supports or expands on the lead? Also, what information do I need to set up the quote that comes in the next paragraph? Remember, our readers need a continuous flow from one paragraph to the next.
Lead quote: What's the best quote I've got here that also goes to the most important information?
Nut: In an accident or crime story, the nut graf is the chronology of events. Tell the story of how it happened. i.e. She went out with friends, they dropped her off…
Background: More about what has already happened or background for the event, if necessary.
Transition: A sentence or phrase that will bring the reader back to the news.
Body: Tell the rest of the story. How did they finally identify her? What's going to happen now? Are police looking for more information?
Be careful to use correct ATTRIBUTION: cite the source of your information
Length for full story: 300-400 words

From your morning reporting as the cops reporter, you found out there was a death the night before. Here is what you found out and from whom.
NOTE: Students may remember this story as all the facts here are real. Although it happened a few years ago, for our purposes of writing a story, we assume it just happened this week.

SOURCE 1: California Highway Patrol, Sgt. Dean Adams
Date: Sunday: 3:02 a.m.
Victim: Victoria Marie Nugent Age:17
Address: 1515 Michael Dr. Newbury Park
Location: 101 freeway, southbound lanes

Driver: Lloyd Dean Davis Age 43
Address: 2121 Owens Blvd. Van Nuys
Not cited:

Victoria Marie Nugent, female, 17, was struck by a car at about 3:02 a.m. Nugent was walking in traffic lanes on the 101 south of Wendy Drive. She was unclothed.
Officer determination: Driver Davis was unable to see the girl in the lanes due to darkness. He was traveling at about 65 to 70 mph, within the speed limit. He was not cited. A portion of the southbound freeway was closed until 7 a.m.

SOURCE 2: Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office
Craig Stephens, deputy medical examiner:
Name of deceased: Victoria Marie Nugent, 17,
Location discovered: Southbound No. 2 lane when she was hit.
Cause of death determined by coroner's investigator: Blunt force trauma
Declared dead: 3:22 a.m. Sunday
Toxicology tests ordered to determine whether there were any foreign substances in her blood at time of accident.
Stephens said: "At this time, we do not suspect alcohol. Results of toxicology tests will not be ready for several weeks. "
Stephens did not rule out any other foreign substances, such as drugs.
Nugent was facing away from traffic when she was hit and she appears to have died instantly.
"Since she was unclothed, we were unable to identify the body for 12 hours, until her parents filed a missing person's report. There were no fingerprints on file and no arrest records. We didn't have anything to tell us who she was."

SOURCE III: Ventura County Sheriff's Department:
Sgt. Cedrick Sims:
"Nugent's parents filed a report with us on Sunday afternoon."
"Susan Nugent said her daughter had been to a party with friends earlier in the evening. She heard her daughter come in with friends at 1 a.m. Sunday. She expected to find her daughter in her bed the next morning, since she did not hear her daughter leave again. They waited, called their daughter's friends, and then at 2 p.m. Monday came to our office to file a missing person's report. They brought a picture from her high school year book."
"We knew about the accident and sadly, put the pieces together. It was their daughter. They later identified the body."
"She would have turned 18 next week. She had just graduated Newbury Park High School and was preparing to go away to college. We don't know yet why this girl was out by herself unclothed on the freeway in the middle of the night."

Week 7 - Summary

This week we moved from crime stories to coverage of meetings, speeches and press conferences. We also discussed the campus newspaper and how to write for it.
Please come to class on Feb. 26 with an idea of what event or meeting you will cover on campus.

READING: the second half of Chapter 20 on Crime and Punishment, about covering trials. Also, Chapter 8 about the body of your story.
Please read the remainder of the AP stylebook. There may be an open book quiz on Feb. 26. If you haven’t yet read Chapter 6 of the text, about grammar and style please do so.

ASSIGNMENT: Please do “Teen” assignment, which is due on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Week 6 - "Stolen Dog" Assignment

Assignment: Stolen Dog

Focus & Lead to Nut Reporting and Writing for the Media.
The Inverted Pyramid Story
Audience: Campus newspaper

Here are the facts of the story

Information Source: Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Patti Salas East Valley Office, Crime Recovery Unit Ph. 494-6211

Crime: Dog reported stolen

* Police say anyone who sees Duke should call the Police Department.
*Janice De Lao, 37, of 2990 W. Shakespeare Court, Moorpark, reported a stolen dog to Ventura County Sheriff’s Office on Friday at 9 p.m.
*Janice is a psychology professor at Moorpark College. Her daughter is a student at Moorpark College.
*On Saturday, at 8 a.m., De Lao went on television and online and offered $2,500 reward for the dog.
*The dog is a seeing-eye dog that belongs to her daughter, Mary, age 17 years old. *Mary lost her sight in an accident that killed her father two years ago.
*The dog was lost or stolen while Janice and Mary were eating at Two Guys From Italy in Moorpark on Friday evening.
*They left the dog named Duke outside because it was too warm inside the restaurant for him and the two were only having a quick bite, Janice told police.
*When they came out, the dog was gone. They looked for the dog for two hours before calling police.
*Duke is five years old and wears a red harness with his name and phone number on his tags. He was not tied up outside the restaurant. He is a large, black lab.
*Duke cost $5,000, including training.
*The Our Lady of Hope church in Moorpark, where the family attends, raised the $5,000 and gave it to the family to buy the dog. The church also provided De Lao with the reward money.
*Mary told police: “I want Duke back.” “He’s my best friend.” She was crying as she spoke. “He’s my eyes.”
*Janice said: “Duke would not just walk away. He had to be stolen. He is too well trained. He loved Mary too much. We love Duke. Mary needs him.”

FOCUS: Write your Focus sentence at the top. Ask yourself: “What’s this story about?” (See Ch. 2)

Skip a couple of lines and begin your story in the following format:
1) Your lead. This should be a delayed identification lead in one sentence, using the active voice. (See Ch. 2) Remember that a lost dog is pretty ho-hum stuff, unless there’s a more interesting aspect to this particular dog… (Unusual aspect. See Ch. 1 on what makes a story interesting.) Remember also why we’re writing this story for this campus newspaper. (proximity or connection to the reader)

2) Your supporting paragraph: More on the who and the how, but not all the details on the chronology of the event yet, and no background yet like how she got the dog. The second sentence in this paragraph also prepares your reader for the quote to come. You do that by introducing the person who will speak in the quote, (ex: Mary said she misses her dog) or by crafting a sentence that flows easily into the next.

3) Your lead quote: An interesting quote, no more than three sentences long, correctly punctuated and attributed. See Ch. 2 for any questions.

4) Your nut paragraph. In this case, as with most crime stories, your nut graf is the actual chronology of events: they went to dinner, they left the dog, they searched, they reported.

Week 6 Summary

This week we moved from election stories to crime stories. The Bank Robbery assignment from the textbook’s online service was due Tues. If anyone does not know how to access the Internet assignment, please call Nomi by Tuesday 9 pm or email a classmate.

READING: Chapter 18 on covering meetings, speeches and press conferences must be read by class on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

ASSIGNMENT: Please do “Stolen Dog” which is due by Tuesday, Feb. 19. Bring any questions you have about the “Teen” assignment to class on Feb. 19.


Week 5 - Leads Exercise

Leads: Hard and Soft
Based on your reading of Ch. 7 tell what kind of leads are used in the following stories. Use the format below to answer the following questions at the bottom of each story.

A) Read the top of this story and answer questions below:
From Times Wire Reports
September 7, 2007

ANCHORAGE -- -- Melting faster than scientists had expected, the Arctic ice cap will shrink 40% in most regions by 2050, with grim consequences for polar bears, walruses and other marine animals, according to government researchers.

In the 1980s, sea ice receded 30 to 50 miles each summer off the north coast, said James E. Overland, a Seattle-based oceanographer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Now we're talking about 300 to 500 miles north of Alaska," he said of projections for 2050.

1) Is this a hard or soft news lead.
2) What makes it so?
3) Within those categories, is this lead an impact, summary, feature or anecdotal lead.
4) What makes it so?

B) Read the top of this story and answer questions below:

September 3, 2007 -
FRESHMAN year was turning out much differently than Christine, 18 at the time, had anticipated.

Away from her family and overwhelmed by courses that were far harder than she'd expected, the University of California student had begun sleeping in, missing classes and skipping meals. Then she received news from home: Her parents' business had gone bankrupt.

She told no one of the sadness engulfing her. But soon her dorm roommate noticed bloody cuts on Christine's arms. The two young women weren't particularly close, and the roommate said nothing to Christine. But she alerted their resident advisor, who confronted Christine about the cuts and her depression. In keeping with federal privacy laws -- and Christine's wishes -- her family was never notified.

"My resident advisor said I had to get help. I said OK, but I didn't want anyone in my family to find out," says Christine. "If I had ever thought my parents would know, I'm positive I wouldn't have gone to counseling."

Now, with the overall number of mentally ill college students rising, college administrators, mental-health professionals and students across the country are weighing that right to privacy against the need to assist those students who are deeply distressed or mentally ill.

1) Is this a hard or soft news lead.
2) What makes it so?
3) Within those categories, is this lead an impact, summary, feature or anecdotal lead.
4) What makes it so?

C) Write your own hard news summary lead for the set of facts listed below:

-Apple Inc has built its business on the goodwill of a devoted band of customers who can't wait to buy the latest Mac, iPod or software.

-Apple product buyers know something cheaper, faster and cooler is always on the way, but they're willing to pay a premium because Apple generally doesn't cut prices on products for six to eight months, when it has fancier versions to show off.

On Wednesday, Apple cut the price of the high-end iPhone, to $399 from $599.

Apple Inc.'s chief executive issued a rare apology Thursday for slashing the iPhone's price this week.

Steve Jobs apologized for "disappointing" initial buyers of the iPhone for $600.

The apology came two months after the company's most ardent fans waited in line for hours to buy the $600 gadget.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said Apple would discontinue a $499 version with half the storage capacity because customers preferred the other.

Steve Jobs offered $100 store credits to anyone who had paid full price for the iPhone, a much-hyped product that combines a cellphone, a Web-surfing device and an iPod.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Week 5 - Summary

Tuesday – Students raised any questions they had about covering the California Primary. There was an open-book quiz from the AP stylebook. After that, we did an in-class exercise that looked at different kinds of leads (not for grades). The leads exercise is to be posted on the blogsite.

Thursday - We discussed how the primary assignment went for everyone. We looked at four articles on the screen: two from the Ventura County Star and one from the New York Times about Super Tuesday. And one article from the L.A. Times that was an excellent example of an anecdotal lead. We then began the Bank Robbery assignment which is accessed online via your ipass that came with your textbook. Anybody who does not have an ipass or the ability to log on to the site, please get in touch with me. The assignment is due on Tuesday. 400 wds is enough.

Reading: please read the firsts half of Chapter 20, about covering crime. You may stop at page 415.

Important dates:

February 14 and February 21st there will be no class
Note: there will be reading and assignments to cover those missed classes. Make sure you know what they are. If you miss class on Feb. 12 you must check the blogsite to find out what to do.

Feb. 12 – Final date to hand in the homework assignment at the back of Chapter 7 (questions 1,3,5). Final date to hand in the inverted pyramid version of Snow White. Final date to hand in the California primary assignment. None of these will be accepted for grading if not handed in on this Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Links to Primary Election Results

Click here to follow the election results:

Ventura County Recorder
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder / County Clerk
California Secretary of State

Other sites of interest:

Yahoo News
Ventura County Star
Los Angeles Times

* remember, web news sites are for background and must be cited if you take any information from them.
* If you see the results in three or more sources and they are not disputed you may run them without attribution.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - Inverted Pyramid Exercise

Please write an 8 to 10 paragraph news story, using the inverted pyramid style, based on the following synopsis of the Snow White fairy tale.

Once upon a time, a queen was staring outside her window at the beautiful snow. It was because of her distracted state that she pricked her finger on her needle and a drop of blood promptly fell on some snow that had fallen on her windowsill. As she looked at the blood on the snow she said to herself, "Oh, how I wish that I had a daughter that had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony." Soon after that, the queen gave birth to a baby girl who had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony. They named her Princess Snow White. The queen soon died, perhaps in childbirth.
Soon after, the king took a new wife who was beautiful, but very vain, and who possessed supernatural powers. She also possessed a magical mirror, to whom she would often ask, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all?" and to which the mirror would always reply, "'tis you". But after Snow White became seven (which is the official age wherein a girl becomes a maiden) when she asked her mirror, it responded, "Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true, But Snow White is fairer than you."
The Queen was jealous, and ordered a huntsman to take Snow White into the woods to be killed. She demanded that the huntsman return with Snow White's heart as proof. The huntsman took Snow White into the forest, but found himself unable to kill the girl. Instead, he let her go, and brought the queen the heart of a young deer.
“I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “I realized I could save Snow White’s life and my own, by tricking the queen with this animal heart.”
In the forest, Snow White discovered a tiny cottage belonging to seven dwarfs, where she rested. Meanwhile, the Queen asked her mirror once again, "Who's the fairest of them all?", and was horrified when the mirror told her that Snow White, who was alive and well and living with the dwarfs, was still the fairest of them all.

Three times the Queen disguised herself and visited the dwarfs' cottage trying to kill Snow White. First, disguised as a peddler, the Queen offered colorful stay-laces and laced Snow White up so tight that she fainted, and the Queen took her for dead. Snow White was revived by the dwarfs when they loosened the laces. Next, the Queen dressed as a different old woman and combed Snow White's hair with a poisoned comb. Snow White again collapsed, and again the dwarfs saved her. Lastly the Queen made a poisoned apple, and in the disguise of a countrywoman offered it to Snow White. She was hesitant, saying “I’ve had a few bad experiences with strangers lately so I’m unable to accept your kind offer. But the disguised Queen managed to persuade Snow White; she cut the apple in half, ate the white part — which had no poison — and gave the poisoned red part to Snow White, who ate the apple eagerly and immediately fell into a deep stupor. When the dwarfs found her, they could not revive her, so they placed her in a glass coffin, thinking that she had died.
Time passed, and a prince travelling through the land saw Snow White in her coffin. The prince was enchanted by her beauty and instantly fell in love with her. He begged the dwarfs to let him have the coffin. The prince said, “I know you care about her. Please believe that I will dote on her beauty as she deserves and give her the finest funeral in the land.” The prince's servants carried the coffin away. While doing so, they stumbled on some bushes and the movement caused the piece of poisoned apple to dislodge from Snow White's throat, awakening her. The prince then declared his love and soon a wedding was planned.
The vain Queen, still believing that Snow White was dead, again asked her mirror who was fairest in the land and yet again the mirror disappointed her by responding that, "You, my queen, are fair; it is true. But the young queen is a thousand times fairer than you."
Not knowing that this new queen was indeed her stepdaughter, she arrived at the wedding, and her heart filled with the deepest of dread when she realized the truth.
As punishment for her wicked ways, a pair of heated iron shoes were brought forth with tongs and placed before the Queen. She was then forced to step into these and dance until she fell down dead.

Week 4 Summary

Tuesday, Jan. 29

CONTENT: we went over the inverted pyramid, looking at various stories on the screen. Then we had an in-class lab, converting the Snow White fairy tale into inverted pyramid news style.

ASSIGNMENTS: The homework assignment of Questions, 1, 3, 5 on pages 147 – 148 was due. Anybody who still would like to get points for this, please bring it to class this Tuesday.

Thursday, Jan. 31

CONTENT: we discussed the 2-part California Primary assignment in great detail. Nomi explained how news organizations cover elections on very tight deadlines. Some reporters write the bottom half of their stories in advance. Some write two alternate leads in advance as a skeleton structure on which to put the actual material when the results are known. Everybody told which polling station they will go to for interviews. We heard examples of questions and of photo and graphic ideas. We then had a role play of a reporter asking a voter questions. And finally, we compared two set-up pieces and two news coverage pieces related to the primary elections, looking for the angle, the lead and the nut graph.

ASSIGNMENTS: The Snow White inverted pyramid assignment which was begun on Tuesday, was due on Thursday. Latest date that Snow White will be accepted is: Tuesday, Feb. 12.

- The California Primary set-up piece is due on Tuesday, Feb. 5th. The California primary news coverage piece is due on Thursday, Feb. 7th.

QUIZ: There will be an open-book, in class quiz on Tuesday, Feb. 5th. Please bring your AP stylebook and your Carole Rich textbook. For preparation, please read Chapter 6 on grammar.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Week 3 - Summary

CONTENT: On Tuesday, we slowed down to digest some of the material we have been working with: attribution, plagiarism, sourcing, interviewing, leads, quotes, nut graph etc.
The California Primary assignment was handed out. It is also posted on the blogsite.
On Thursday, we began to discuss and work with the “inverted pyramid” the basic structure for a news story. We will continue with this on Tuesday.

QUIZ: We went over the quiz from Week 2. We also had an open book quiz on letters A-F in the AP stylebook.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “When in doubt, leave it out.” That means, it is better to delete a piece of information or a quote if you can’t remember where you got it and are unable to attribute it, than to take a chance and print it. Also, it is better to omit a statement of your own that you cannot back up with evidence or examples in your story, than to go out on a limb.

READING: Ch.7 in the Carol Rich text and page 174 of Ch. 8 (the inverted pyramid).
It is very important that you are well versed in the different styles of lead, and what a nut graph is. As well, please go back over Chapter 5 if you need to review interviewing styles and how to write up interviews in your articles.
- Please look over G – L in the AP stylebook.
- Please read the California Primary Assignment.
- Please pick up the Jan. 18 edition of the Moorpark Acorn and read the set-up piece on page 9, by Daneil Wolowicz, under the headline: “California Primary Approaches on Fast Track.” If the edition is no longer on the stands, please look up the article online:

ASSIGNMENT: Please do exercises 1, 3, 5 on pages 147 – 148. These must be typed and submitted in hard copy form on Tuesday. (10 pts).
(If you have not yet handed in the previous two homework assignment, please submit them in hard copy at the beginning of class. Written assignments will not be accepted more than one week after they are due.)
- Please come to class prepared to tell us at what polling station you intend to interview voters on Feb. 5th.
- Those of you who can access the textbook website, please try to do the online exercises and quizzes. This will help you master the material.

Have a great weekend. You may email the instructor at if you have any questions.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Assignment - California Primary Election (Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008)

This assignment is also being done by the Monday-Wednesday class.

This is a two-part assignment:
1. A set-up piece (700 words) due no later than the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 5.
2. Coverage of the election (800 words), due on Thursday, Feb. 7.
3. All work must be typed, double-spaced and follow AP style. Accuracy, spelling and grammar count.

Start researching the background to the primary in California.
You may wish to:

1. Consult internet sites such as those of the Democrat and Republican parties, the various candidates who will be on the ballots and newspapers such as the Ventura County Star, Los Angeles Times and Daily News. (Remember: if you cut and paste from websites and store it on your computer as background string, always write down the source of the material right above or below it so you will be able to attribute it correctly if you later draw on that material. Do not plagiarize.)

2. Begin reading a local news source daily, so you are up to speed when the big day comes.

3. Write down questions you would like to ask in your advance interviews.

4. Interview professors of political science, students on campus, local representatives of the various parties or important voter groups, acquaintances or whomever you think you wish to focus on in your story.

5. Decide which polling station you wish to visit on voting day, make sure you know its hours and location and whether you need anyone's permission to interview people after they leave the premises. Knowing your own schedule, plan to do interviews for one hour at or near the polling station on Feb. 5th.

6. Think about whether any photos, graphics or other visual material is appropriate to the story and if so, how you would go about getting it. Your photo or graphic assignments should accompany your stories.

7. Decide who your reader is (for example: a Moorpark student, any resident of southern California, a resident of the area immediately around your chosen polling station). Once you know who your audience is, it will be easier to know which information to include and which to leave out.

A set-up piece (sometimes called an advance, an advancer or a situationer) is usually published the day of an event or even a day or two before. The reporter explains the event about to take place and its significance.


a) Interviews (face-to-face, telephone and/or Internet)
b) Monitoring television coverage
c) Reading news and organizational sources.


1. Once you have finished your advance interviews and read up on the topic, decide what you angle is. Possible angles include: who the most important voter group may be in your polling area (women, youth, minorities), whether your area stands to differ from the nation as a whole, how the candidates have finished up campaigning in California, how the California primary fits into the total election process, whether the result looks like a foregone conclusion or an open question, what the most important voter issues in California are.

2. Once you have decided what your angle is, choose what will be your lead, your nut graph, your background, and how your will structure the flow of your story [Do not write a lead that predicts the outcome of the vote even if you think there is a clear trend.]

3. Include any practical information about voting rules in California that you think the reader may need, if it is appropriate. Also about propositions on the ballot that don't have to do with the primary candidates.

4. Try to write a kicker that sums up your story and looks to the future.

Your news coverage article will report what the results of the voting are. Use the inverted pyramid and feel free to include analysis and context in the lead, nut graph and body. Your photo or graphic assignments should accompany your stories.


1. Monitor the news as much as possible during the day. This includes listening to the car radio on the way to college, checking the web, and watching television coverage at home after the polls close. Note: if you hear a great quote on the nightly news that you wish to use, you must have the person's name and cite who interviewed that person, such as "TK, TK…, "said John Smith of Thousand Oaks, as reported on ABC television news OR "TK, TK…," John Smith of Thousand Oaks told ABC television.

2. Write down the questions you would like to ask the voters (such as how they voted, whether they are members of a party, whether their vote was set for a long time or changed quickly, what their reasons were, what their most important issues are, details about their life, how they voted four years ago).

3. Spend one hour interviewing people as they leave the polling station. (We will go over in class again how you make a 'cold' approach to people and get all the quotes and background you need. Review all the interview tips in Chapter 5 of the text.) Live interviews are always best. But if you feel you did not get satisfactory material in person, you may do follow up phone calls to acquaintances, after you get home (a local shop or restaurant owner, your barber, your parents' accountant. Do not interview close friends or family.) Once the results are known, you may also wish to call up some people -- such as those you interviewed for the set-up story – to get their reaction to the results.


1. Decide on your angle and your lead. The lead should definitely include who won and whether it was by a large or slim margin, even if you draft your wording as an interpretive lead.

2. With your angle in mind, transition from the lead to the nut graph, the body and background of your story (the import of those results or whether they demonstrated something interesting or different) Make sure the body of your story includes reporting what happened that day, voter interviews etc.

3. Please use the inverted pyramid structure as a guide, even if the body of your story contains analysis and context.

4. Finish your story with a kicker that sums up your angle and looks to the future.

5. Include information on the photos or graphics that you have chosen to include, if any.

Strive for accuracy, meet your deadlines and have fun!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Summary-Week 2


CONTENT: Interviewing. The role of blogs in the current media environment. The characteristics of a news story. Announcement of the California primary assignment. Accuracy and responsibility (curiosity + accuracy + fairness = professionalism). Attribution and sourcing. Plagiarism.

READING: By Tuesday, you should have completed reading chapters 1, 2 and 5. Please also jump ahead and read pages 296 and 297 on plagiarism. Please also familiarize yourself with the AP stylebook, letters A-F. This is the weekend to get caught up on reading. New reading material will be assigned on Tuesday.

ASSIGNMENTS: Profile of a Moorpark student, 400 wds, due Tuesday, Jan. 22. (Those that missed the in-class interview exercise are to do it by telephone and email.)
Note: Tuesday, Jan. 22 is also the last day to submit Week 1 assignment on the instructor/first day of class.

QUIZZES: Thursday’s quiz covered the first week’s lectures and the first two chapters of the book, as well as terms on the glossary.
There will be a quiz on Tuesday, Jan. 22 dealing with A-F in the AP Stylebook

LOOK AHEAD: The California primary takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 5th. You will have a major two part assignment pegged to that event 1) a setup piece due on Tuesday, Feb. 5th. 2) coverage of the primary, due on Thursday, Feb. 7th. Note: I have changed the grading on the syllabus to reflect 25 points for this two-part assignment. Please start thinking about and researching which polling station you intend to visit on that Tuesday.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to read some media! Juicy bonus points are available to anybody who brings in some examples to discuss with the class.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Week 2 - Interview Assignment: Moorpark Student

Week 2 - Assignment:
1. Interview a fellow student and write a 400-word profile about this person. Due on Tuesday, January 22, 2008. Please submit a hard copy, double spaced, with your name and the date on the top.

At the end of your story, please type: -30- OR endit so your editor (instructor) can be sure she received the whole thing.

Figure it will take each of you about 15 minutes to conduct your interview. Using the information in Ch. 2 about the elements and ordering in a story, organize your thoughts and plan your story. You will begin to tell (write) your story, of course, with the most interesting aspect or experience, rather than a chronological recounting of the person’s life. (I.E. don’t begin with your subject’s birth, unless, it was in itself somehow remarkable.) So this story is likely to begin somewhere in the middle of the person life, or possibly with an anecdote about a life goal, a life-changing experience or an inspiration, or even what brought the person to journalism.

Name your file: Profileyourlastname. Word count minimum: 400 words
Audience: Your campus community
Story must include: Full name of subject, date and place of birth, family information, year at MC, education and career goals, at least three direct quotes. Remember that direct quotes are verbatim, or word for word.
Quote style as follows: “I have always loved marine life,” said James Ramirez, 18, a Ventura College marine biology major. “I hope to study the migration of the gray whale. They are intensely interesting animals.” (Open quote, sentence, comma, attribution, period. Open quote, 2nd sentence. Period. Third sentence. Period. Close quote. Use your subject’s last name on second and subsequent references. Remember, this is not a first-person account, so there should be no ‘I’s’ in the story, unless they are in a quote. (It’s not about you the author, it’s about your subject.)
Review notes: Take 10 minutes to review your notes. Go through and underline the quotes you think you’ll use. Clarify your writing where it’s a little difficult to read. Ask more questions if you forgot something.

1) Lead: Pick out something interesting or exciting about this person to lead with. Could be unusual hobbies, career goals or obstacles overcome to get here. Make this lead ONE SENTENCE. That will take some work to compile it into one sentence, but you can do it.
2) Support your lead with more interesting info that will flow into your first quote.
3) Use a direct quote from your subject here. (Follow quote style: “I love music,” Wagner said. “It speaks to me. It takes me to another world.” Note that the quote begins the sentence, followed by attribution. Then a second or third sentence.
4) Nut graf: How is this person’s life relevant to your reader? Connect us. That will probably be through her role as a student at VC, OC or MC. It’s your focus paragraph.
5) Background: Now you go to when and where she was born, a little about family.
6) Transition: Take the reader back to the present.
7) Body of the story; Give the reader the rest of the facts about her that are interesting, including more about her studies, career, any other interesting information and at least two more full quotes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Print is Dead:Long Live Print

From The Times of London - Online
January 7, 2008
Print is dead: long live print
Jonathan Weber

We all know by now that the future of media is online, and I'd be the last person to deny the significance of the changes wrought by the Internet. But I think one of the most interesting things to emerge in the media business this year will be a comeback of sorts for print.
Print, of course, hasn't exactly gone away – magazines and newspapers still account for more then a third of worldwide ad revenues – but the chatter in the industry suggests its death is just around the corner.
In the U.S. especially, the newspaper business appears to be in a free-fall, with many big papers reporting year-over-year revenue and circulation declines of ten per cent or more - shocking numbers indeed for century-old businesses. The big magazine companies, and especially kingpin Time Inc., are under ever-growing financial pressure; nobody would be surprised if the new CEO of Time Warner sold the magazine unit.
Yet the story in the field, especially outside of the big coastal media hubs, is quite different from what the media news websites would lead you to believe. If you want publicity in Anytown, USA, the best way to get it, still, is a story in the local newspaper. And if you're selling advertising to local businesses, a lot of your clients still want to be able to hold that ad in their hands.
At NewWest.Net, we're actually launching a print magazine in a few weeks; print was always part of the plan, and everything we have experienced so far suggests that this is a sound strategy. Even though, as a company, we are "online first" in almost every respect, we still expect the print magazine to generate substantially more ad revenues in its first year than our three-year-old online publication.
Another project that I'm involved with, a local newspaper startup in northwestern Montana called the Flathead Beacon, also illustrates this point emphatically. Even though a strong website was launched concurrently with the print paper last spring, and online is considered central to the strategy in every way, the print accounts for the vast majority of the revenue. I'm sure that will change eventually – but not this year, or next, or even the year after that.
I think a big part of the gap between perception and reality when it comes to print media has to do with a set of expectations that have developed from what were, in retrospect, very specific and unusual circumstances.
Newspapers have been in steep decline for half a century, when measured by the percentage of the population that regularly reads a newspaper. But in the U.S. that decline in readership has been accompanied by consolidation, with most cities being reduced to one newspaper from two or three or four. The surviving ones, not surprisingly, became extremely profitable; the issue for most newspapers today is not that they are not profitable, but that they are much less profitable than they were before.
Similarly, it's not that newspapers today no longer have influence, it's that they have relatively less than they had before. Magazines had a golden age back in the 1960s, when publications like Esquire and Playboy almost defined their era, intellectually and culturally. The fact that they no longer carry the clout they once did doesn't mean they have no future. The success of Felix Dennis' The Week suggests that even the hoary newsmagazine, seemingly the most antiquated species in the entire magazine firmament, can be reinvented and made relevant.
Media consumption is extraordinarily habit-driven, and old habits die hard. Maybe, once the people who grew up on Facebook are running all the local businesses in town, those businesses will lose their affection for the slick, well-produced color print advertising that still dominates many markets. But that time is quite a ways off still. And in the meantime, as the excitement surrounding new forms of media begins to wear off a bit, there will be a renewed appreciation for the power of a highly flexible, portable, shareable, high-definition technology known as print.
Jonathan Weber is the founder and editor in chief of NewWest.Net, a regional news service focused on the Rocky Mountain West in the United States. He was previously the co-founder and editor in chief of the Industry Standard

Saturday, January 12, 2008

WEEK 1 Summary

Buy: Carole Rich - 1. Writing and Reporting News, fifth edition 2. The AP Stylebook
Reading: Chapter 1 of Carole Rich textbook: the new media environment
Writing assignment : Write up Tuesday's opening class, focusing on background of the instructor, as told to the class. 500 wds, due upon arrival at class on Tuesday, Jan. 15th, in hard copy form with your name and the date on the top
Viewing: The blog I set up as a Bulletin Board for our class:
The blog set up by the instructor of our companion class:
Specifially, please scroll down and view the 10 minute video entitled Journalism in the 1940's -- if you haven't already done so.
Bonus Points : bring in examples of things you have seen on the web or in print which you would like to discuss. (whether something works, doesn't work, or something you have a question about)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

GLOSSARY: terms and phrases


NEWS - Events and information of interest or concern to the public. Factors that make something newsworthy include: timeliness, newness, proximity (the closer to the audience, the more newsworthy), public interest, human interest. Basic types of hard news stories include: crime and court stories, politics and policy stories (including local council meetings), weather and disaster stories, accidents and fires, items of local, national or international import.

HARD NEWS STORY - Coverage of timely events or decisions. Best written with a SUMMARY LEAD telling who, what, where, and when at the top. How and why follow quickly. May be written with a FEATURE LEAD as long as the nut graph comes very near the top.

NEWS FEATURE STORY - Can be pegged to a recent or ongoing news event or issue of interest. May also be a human interest feature with no hard news peg.

ANALYSIS - Also known as an insight story, this is one in which the journalist interprets the events on a deeper more comprehensive level. The object is to elaborate on the significance or context of a large news story.

COLUMN - a personal opinion piece. It is usually an ongoing regular in-house column by a staffer, but may be a guest column by a freelancer or community member.

EDITORIAL - the collective opinion of the newspapers editorial board. Although editorials are unsigned, they are the result of a meeting of writer/editors who come to an agreement about what the newspaper is comfortable saying on an issue. The editorial is then assigned to one particular writer to actually compose.

OP-ED/OPINION PIECE - an opinion piece written by somebody from outside the newspaper. Usually appears opposite the editorials that are written by the newspaper's staff writers.

BEAT - a particular subject area that a reporter specializes in. Examples: the education beat, the police beat, the health beat, the science beat.

LEAD (LEDE) - The first sentence of your article.

HOOK - a twist, or snappy opening to hook the reader. Often it is a short sentence before the straight news lead.

ANECDOTAL LEAD - a lead that recreates a setting, event, situation, place or atmosphere as a way into the story. May be from a few sentences to a few paragraphs. Usually requires a nut graph to ground the reader. Also known as a NARRATIVE LEAD.

NUT GRAPH - a paragraph that steps back and lets the reader know the context and importance - some times the hard news aspects - of the issues or events being dealt with in the article.

BODY - the main section of the article, after the lead and before the kicker.

FLOW - how the paragraphs transition from one idea or topic to the next.

BRIDGE - a word, phrase, sentence or written image that logically connects one paragraph or section of the article to the one that immediately follows. Also known as a 'segue' (prounounced segway). A bridge helps the reader's mind make the leap from one thought or concept to another.

POPCORN QUOTE - a partial quotation set off in the middle of a sentence.

TICK TOCK - a story that is mainly a chronology leading up to an important event or decision. Usually written after the fact, it seeks to fill in the details of how we got to the point where the story became news.

KICKER - the ending - usually one that doesn't just trail off, but sums up or closes up the story. Preferably either peppy or poignant, and often with a view to the future.

PROFILE - A feature article about someone.

TAKE-OUT - An in-depth look at a particular subject or event. Comprehensive in scope.

PACKAGE - A collection of stories linked together by a common subject, that appear on the same day as.

SERIES - a collection of stories linked together by a common theme, published on subsequent days or in subsequent editions.

SIDEBAR - A second story, linked in theme or subject to the main story. Usually shorter and more specific than the main.

MAINBAR - The main story which may be supplemented with one or more sidebars. The term is usually used when editors and reporters are preparing a package.

SLUG - the placeholder title of a story that the reporter and editors use internally, as the story makes its way through the computer system. Remember, the actual headline is written by editors toward the end of the process.

TIGHT WRITING - Eliminating excess words. Direct writing with action verbs instead of many adjectives. Usually in the active, rather than passive voice.

ADVANCING THE STORY - going beyond the who-what-where-why-when of the original news event. These used to be second day stories, but are increasingly initial stories, given that the public has already heard the basics on radio or seen the headline news on television or the web.

ADVANCE COPY - Known as "Zed" copy in Britain and Canada, because it is a placeholder copy, in which the body of the story can be written in advance, to be re-topped with the actual news when it happens. Often used for election results on a tight deadline. Obituaries of famous people are also often written in advance and held on hand until the person dies, and those details are put at the top.

SECOND DAY STORY - the second, or follow-up article to the original news event, most often when the subject matter is still developing or still of interest.

REAX/REACTION PIECE - an article base on the response of affected parties to a particular news event or government decision. These used to be second day stories, but are increasingly initial stories, given that the public has already heard the basics on radio or seen the headline news on television or the web.

SATURATION COVERAGE - when a news organization throws many resources at a story so that it is covered from every possible angle, usually in several articles, sometimes over several pages and several days. When a news story is particularly huge (such as the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center) this approach is common.

MAKING IT SING - writing in such a way that the piece flows effortlessly for the reader, like a piece of music, with each transition automatically taking the reader where his/her curiousity would naturally go.

BUMPF - material handed to the reporter by agencies, institutes organizations, and public relations officers, so the reporter has the background facts and figures at hand.

FLACK - an unflattering nicknamed for public relations professionals and spokespeople who are in charge of dealing with the media for their particular organization or employer.

WRITE-THRU - an edit of a story that is essentially a top-to-bottom rewrite.

COLOR - human interest details and visual descriptions that bring a story to life.

STRINGER - a foreign correspondent who is working as a freelancer rather than a staff writer for a particular news organization.

SAVED STRING - background research material, usually from other publications.

ON SPEC - Usually refers to freelance work. Writing and submitting an article when the editor has not agreed to publish the article. You could either be sending it to the editor 'cold' OR have at least gotten some interest in the idea for the article, and a commitment that the editor will look at what you wrote before deciding whether to buy it.

HARD-NOSE - a tough, hammer-at-the-subject, style of interviewing.

SOFT-TOUCH - a friendlier, chattier interview style. Often can be more effective at drawing out the most sensitive information.

HOLES IN THE STORY - Questions that arise either when writing the story or when the story is edited. The reporter must go back and do extra research to fill in the holes.

A SCOOP - Also known as an exclusive, this is when a news organization is the only one to have the story or break the story at a particular time.

OWNING THE STORY - When a news organization is the one which clearly has the best, most timely information on a given news event or issue, usually because it has decided to commit the most resources to that story.

BYLINE - The name of the reporter or writer that goes on the story.

DATELINE - The name of the place where the story originates: usually written in capitals at the beginning of the story.

HEADLINE - The title on an article. Headlines are written by editors as the page is laid out, not writers. Never withhold information on the assumption it will be covered in the headline.

BLURB - An introductory few sentences that sum up the article. Most often on the web, but increasingly seen in newspapers.

BRIEF - a short synopsis of a story. Often on the web, but also in newspapers. Often briefs are collected in a NEW DIGEST, a column or two of short paragraph news items.

SYLLABUS:Writing and Reporting for Media (TuesThurs)

Writing and Reporting for the Media
Instructor: Nomi Morris


Course Goals: At the end of the semester, students know how to conceive, report, write and produce basic news, features and opinion stories in appropriate formats for print, online and broadcast.

Course Overview: Through weekly assignments, together with in-class exercises, lecture, review and critique, student newsgathering and writing skills will improve quickly. Students will write stories from exercises as well as from facts they have gathered about community news and events.

Texts: “Writing and Reporting News” Fifth Edition, by Carole Rich
Supplemental required text: Associated Press style guide. The AP stylebook is the guide of daily news writing and must be brought to class each meeting.

Class Policies: Assignments must be submitted in hard copy format. Save copies of original, as well as any marked work in case of disputed or missing grade. Clip all published copies of your stories and save with date to include in a portfolio due the final week of classes.

Grading: Course grades will be assigned according to college structure, using the A-F scale. Late papers accepted up to one week lose a full letter grade. The course grading structure is as follows, but may vary slightly during the course of the semester:

Writing assignments 150

Stories submitted to VOICE 25

California Primary Assignment 25

Class attendance and participation 50

Class exercises and quizzes 150

(These are timely and must be done on
time as the class progresses. No make-ups.

Final Exam 100

Total 500

BONUS POINTS: bringing in examples of published news stories for “what works and what doesn’t work.”

NOTE: Students must demonstrate competency of the Inverted Pyramid writing format on the final with a ‘B’ or better in order to earn an ‘A’ in the course, regardless of cumulative semester points.

Class procedures: Students must attend class and, if absent, find out what the assignments are. Assignments cannot be made up beyond the week grace period. Late exercises and quizzes are not accepted beyond the posted expiration time.

Class Etiquette: Students who behave inappropriately in class will be warned once before they are excused from the class for good.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism and other forms of cheating are not tolerated. Anyone caught cheating will be reported to the dean and receive a failing grade for the course.

Diversity: Students in this course are encouraged to make every effort, with the instructor’s help, to include people in their assignments who have been traditionally overlooked by mainstream media.

Students with Disabilities: Students who may need accommodations in this
class are encouraged to contact ACCESS at 378-1461.
tudents with disabilities, whether physical, learning, or psychological, who believe that they may need accommodations in this class, are encouraged to contact ACCESS as soon as possible to arrange for these accommodations. Authorization, based on verification of disability, is required in the form of a "Confidential Memo" before any disability accommodation will be made in this class. The phone number for ACCESS is (805) 378-1461 and their office is located in the building just to the right of the Campus Center. Drop-in hours are available.

Students enrolled in this course are encouraged to use The Learning Center, The Math Center, and the Writing Center services to support their efforts in this class. The Learning Center, Math Center, and Writing Center, located in Library 322, will provide tutorial services and supplemental instruction based on course goals. When using these services, students need to state their instructor’s name for tracking and reporting purposes. Students will also need to provide their student ID numbers when receiving tutorial services. For further information call The Learning Center (805) 378-1556 or the Writing Center (805) 378-1400 ext 1696.

Smoking Policy: Moorpark College is a non-smoking campus.

Weekly Syllabus: Writing and Reporting for the Media, Jour M02

NOTE: The weekly summary printed here is a guideline open to change as we go. Most important are the textbook reading assignments, particularly the pages listed. Writing assignments will be posted separately.

Week I Introduction. Review course requirements,
Sources, assumptions, attributions, ethics and fairness
Read Text: Ch. 1: Changing concepts and media
What makes news? Get familiar with Associated Press Styleguide A-F

Week II Text: Ch. 5 Interviewing
Interview class exercise
Accuracy & neutral reporting, Pages 277-279; Plagiarism Pages 296-297
Text, Ch. 2: Tell a Friend. Writing to be read: The focus, lead, the backup, the nut
Using Quotes; Read Pg. 93

Week III More on Ch. 2: Finding Focus
Ch. 8: Inverted Pyramid
Using quotes. Attribution, background, elaboration
It’s not about You: Keeping yourself out of the story.

Week IV Writing a news story: Ch. 7: Leads and NutGraf
Hard and soft leads/more on inverted pyramid
Active and Passive Voice /Story organization
Special session on California Primary assignment

Week V More on story structure
Ch. 6: grammar
Ch. 20: Covering crime Robbery exercise
Lead types: soft, hard, summary, mystery; Attributions

Week VI Choose meeting to cover; plan to attend a student government or city council meeting
Writing a story pitch: Pitch 1st story for publication

Week VII Ch. 18: Covering Campus meetings, speeches and events
Council exercise
Covering meetings, writing the advance; getting to know the agenda
Agenda exercise and quiz

Week VIII Ch. 18 Covering meetings; writing the story

Week IX Ch. 9: Storytelling and Feature Techniques: Writing a feature story; Choose topic for feature; write story, coordinate art

Week X: Feature writing

Week XI: Feature Writing cont'd
Week XII: Media Law and Libel Lecture and Quiz Ch. 13, Media Law on Public Figures (Pg. 282), Fairness (Pg. 288) Use of name or picture without permission (Pg. 289)

Week XIII Ch. 11: Writing for broadcast. Rewrite story for broadcast. Ch. 12: Writing for web.

Week XIV Ch. 21: Writing opinion stories. Finalize feature stories; Student Voice submissions.

Week XV: Guest speaker. Ch. 22: Writing a Profile. Receive material for final exam.

Week XVI: Review, grade check, Present portfolios