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Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

merlin_162547917_954e6b18-5736-43ae-9543-23e4a4360113-jumboPhoto: Chloe Aftel for the New York Times
“If we weren’t covering it, no one would know what’s going on,” said Katherina Sourine, one of
four city and government reporters at the college newspaper, the Michigan Daily.

Local papers are vital to democracy not only for the local people to manage their lives well but because big stories start locally. Moreover, if Twitter gets the news first, misinformation or incomplete information may get a firm grip on the collective consciousness.

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, where local papers have followed the national trend of going out of business, the college newspaper is having to pick up the slack. And it is not the only student newspaper to do so nationwide.

Dan Levin reports at the New York Times, “Municipal committee meetings — the tedious minutiae of Ann Arbor’s local governance — do not tend to draw a crowd. On a recent afternoon, Katherina Sourine was among only a few in attendance.

“But Ms. Sourine, a University of Michigan senior, was there because she had to be. As one of four city and government reporters for Ann Arbor’s sole daily newspaper, she had biked through a steady rain between classes to take notes on the city’s plans for developing a new park. …

“Said Ms. Sourine, 21, who also plays rugby and is taking a full schedule of classes this semester, ‘It’s really hard to take time out of my day, especially when breaking news hits. But a lot of people rely on us to stay informed, not only students, but the people of Ann Arbor.’

“For more than a decade, the Michigan Daily, the university’s student newspaper, has been the only daily paper in town. After the Ann Arbor News shuttered its daily print edition in 2009 — and eventually its website, too — a staff of about 300 student journalists has worked hard to provide incisive coverage about the city’s police, power brokers and policymakers, all while keeping up with school.

“Student journalists across the country have stepped in to help fill a void after more than 2,000 newspapers have closed or merged, leaving more than 1,300 communities without any local news coverage. And several young reporters have broken consequential stories that have prodded powerful institutions into changing policies.

“A high school newspaper in Pittsburg, Kan., forced the resignation of the principal after discovering discrepancies in her résumé. After writing an article about a school employee’s unprofessional conduct charges, high school editors in Burlington, Vt., won a censorship battle against their principal.

“And when the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine resigned abruptly last month, a 20-year-old junior at Arizona State University broke the news in the school’s student newspaper, a scoop that gained international attention. …

“ ‘We’re the largest Arizona-based news-gathering operation in Washington because we’re the only Arizona-based news-gathering operation in Washington,’ said Steve Crane, director of Washington operations at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Despite little training and no university journalism program, the staff of the Michigan Daily has embraced its vital role. Last year, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, it published a lengthy investigation that detailed sexual misconduct allegations against a professor, leading to his early retirement. In 2014, the paper published a major scoop about a sexual assault that the university concealed to protect a football player. …

“The Daily also covers issues that matter to Ann Arbor’s 121,000 residents, such as the inner workings of the municipal government, cuts to the county’s mental health budget, and a police oversight commission that was created last year in response to the shooting death of a black woman and the violent arrest of a black teenager.

‘We’ve been given this mantle of holding the powerful accountable, five nights a week, with no department backing us up,’ said Finntan Storer, 21, the managing editor of the Daily. ‘It’s a huge responsibility.’ …

“Today, the Daily’s closest competitor is MLive.com, a news website owned by Advance Publications that covers the state of Michigan. The company regularly publishes articles about Ann Arbor, including in a twice-weekly print digest branded as the Ann Arbor News, and it employs a staff of local journalists who cover the city’s government, real estate, police and other beats. But some residents said the student paper has often more effectively covered the community.

“Unlike many college newspapers, the Daily has the financial support — in the form of a $4.5 million endowment — to sustain its breadth of reporting, said Neil Chase, the chairman of the university’s student publications board. …

” ‘In a city of 100,000 people, you have to decide if you’re going to cover a City Council meeting, a car crash, or some other local news because you only have a few people to go around,’ he said. But the Daily ‘has so many people, they don’t have to make those tough decisions.’ ” More here.

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No sooner had I posted yesterday about the NY Times story on how a high school parent’s complaint to the Humans of New York went viral, than I opened a link in twitter that was unexpectedly relevant.

A blog called NewsWhip was showing the real front page of numerous newspapers and then, “using NewsWhip Spike’s publisher view, which breaks out stories by social shares, place of publication and other details,” it showed what each front page would have looked like if the layout had been based on the articles most popular with online readers.

And the lead NY Times article for that day (below) would have been the one I blogged about last night.

If you go to NewsWhip, here, you can see similar reworkings of front pages. Lots of fun. I felt quite reassured that the most popular stories were not all about movie stars or gruesome accidents. When I go to online news, I make a point of refusing to click on those. I don’t want the content generator to keep featuring them, and maybe if no one clicks on junk news, they will stop highlighting it.

 Right, people-powered front page from the NewsWhip blog.

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Asakiyume writes a blog I enjoy a lot, and this week she had an intriguing post on Jackie Ormes, generally considered the first female African American cartoonist. See examples of work by Ormes at Asakiyume’s blog, here.

According to wikipedia, Ormes (1911 to 1985), “started in journalism as a proofreader for the Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly African American newspaper that came out every Saturday. Her 1937-38 Courier comic strip, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, starring Torchy Brown, was a humorous depiction of a Mississippi teen who found fame and fortune singing and dancing in the Cotton Club.”

The strip waxed and waned as Ormes pursued her many career interests, bur she always returned to Torchy.

“In 1950, the Courier began an eight-page color comics insert, where Ormes re-invented her Torchy character in a new comic strip, Torchy in Heartbeats. This Torchy was a beautiful, independent woman who finds adventure while seeking true love. …  The strip is probably best known for its last episode in 1954, when Torchy and her doctor boyfriend confront racism and environmental pollution. Torchy presented an image of a black woman who, in contrast to the contemporary stereotypical media portrayals, was confident, intelligent, and brave.”

Being a cartoonist seems harder than writing a blog. You not only need to find daily topics that interest you enough to dwell on, but you have to encapsulate them in a piece of art. Asakiyume sometimes illustrates her posts, but art is one thing you won’t find me doing here. (Unless maybe a collage.)

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Years ago, when we were living near Rochester, New York, it was pointed out to me that poverty in rural areas was often worse than in cities because people were more isolated and there were fewer services. That winter I contacted an outreach coordinator who had put out a call for warm clothing. I offered to drop off some clothes we no longer needed.

The coordinator, an African American, believed deeply that dropping off clothes was not the same as understanding what the need was. She herself had grown up in a family of migrant farm workers and was acquainted with grief. When she was small, I later learned, her family had even been assigned to a chicken coop for their housing.

The coordinator knew a family who needed my clothes, and she thought I should go with her to make the delivery. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed.

I will never forget the wary, beaten-down look in the eyes of a young woman living with family members in a tumble-down old house. After handing over the donation, the coordinator and I hung around for a brief, awkward chat. I could see that my contribution could not scratch the surface of the family’s need and was mostly for my conscience (which is not a reason to give up on donations, of course).

The main thing that has changed in the America in 30-plus years is that greater percentages of Americans are poor.

That is why some photojournalists, outraged at the lack of serious coverage in the mainstream media and recognizing that a picture is worth a thousand words, have founded an organization to fight poverty called American Poverty. See their recent photos here.

Perhaps you know the work of Walker Evans and James Agee in the Great Depression. The photographers’ new antipoverty site may, like Walker and Agee’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” provoke the question, “Is this America?”

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