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 communication.wadsworth.com, 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.