Posts Tagged ‘journalist’

2cf4ba3e-6649-45c3-bb13-dbaa91e43fe7Photo: Kayana Szymczak/New York Times
Charles Sennott (left) and Steven Walden, cofounders of Report for America. The nonprofit organization modeled after AmeriCorps aims to install 1,000 journalists in understaffed local newsrooms by 2022.

In spite of the fact that local news is under threat from overwhelming economic forces, it’s really important. After all, some of the biggest national stories break thanks to local-news reporting. That’s why some news veterans have started a kind of AmeriCorps for journalists who want to give back to the communities that launched them.

Nellie Bowles wrote at the New York Times, “A group of journalists have decided to do something about the diminution of newsrooms at the local level. They’re making reporting part of a national service program.

“Report for America, a nonprofit organization modeled after AmeriCorps, aims to install 1,000 journalists in understaffed newsrooms by 2022. Now in its pilot stage, the initiative has placed three reporters in Appalachia. It has chosen nine more, from 740 applicants, to be deployed across the country in June.

“Molly Born, 29, was one of the first three selected for the program. She grew up in West Virginia and has the state motto tattooed on her back: ‘Montani Semper Liberi’ (‘Mountaineers Are Always Free’). A reporter at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the last six years, Born applied to Report for America with the hope of covering her home state.

” ‘I felt like I needed to give something back to a place that has given a lot to me,’ she said. ‘And journalism is the way for me to do that.’

“Born now lives in Williamson, a town of roughly 3,000 along the Tug Fork River, and covers the state’s southern coal fields for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

” ‘It’s important to have reporters based in parts of America where some people feel misunderstood,’ she said. …

“Report for America fellowships last one to two years, and the pay is about $40,000, with half covered by the program and the rest split between participating news organizations and donations. Two media veterans, Steven Waldman and Charles Sennott, started the project with funding from sponsors.

“ ‘People are applying for the same reason people want to go into the Peace Corps: There’s an idealistic desire to help communities, and there’s a sense of adventure,’ Waldman, 55, said. ‘They want to try and save democracy. People keep saying that.’ …

“In 1990, daily and weekly newspapers employed about 455,000 people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By January 2016, that number had fallen to 173,000. …

“Because [the founders] had seen how Facebook and Google contributed to the destruction of the advertising-based business model that had long kept local newspapers afloat, they asked them to kick in to their project. While Google has committed money and training, Facebook has yet to sign on. …

“For the nine reporter slots, 85 newsrooms applied asking for corps members, describing a crucial beat that needed filling. Reporters who make the cut start with eight days of training before joining their host newsrooms. They must also fulfill a service requirement, such as working as mentors to student journalists, during their stints.”

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Ian Burrell has a funny story at the Independent about the Times of London deciding to create the old-tyme newsroom ambiance by piping in the sound of typewriters clacking. Goodness knows if the young people can concentrate, but it must make the guys with the green shades feel they’re in the right place.

“Almost as if the digital revolution never happened,” writes Burrell, “the newsroom of The Times once again resounds to the clatter of the old-fashioned typewriter.

“Nearly three decades after Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper publisher revolutionised the industry by moving to Wapping and ending the ‘hot metal’ era, his flagship title has reintroduced the distinctive sound of old Fleet Street.

“To the surprise of Times journalists, a tall speaker on a stand has been erected in the newsroom to pump out typewriter sounds, to increase energy levels and help reporters to hit deadlines. The audio begins with the gentle patter of a single typewriter and slowly builds to a crescendo, with the keys of ranks of machines hammering down as the paper’s print edition is due to go to press.

“The development, which was described as a ‘trial’ [in August] by publisher News UK, has caused some bemusement among journalists, one of whom tried unsuccessfully to turn the sound off. …

“The Times’s initiative coincides with a revival of interest in the typewriter, a trend which the newspaper reflected on Page 3 today, with a report on how the actor Tom Hanks has developed the Hanx Writer app, which simulates the sound of an old-fashioned typewriter and has gone to the top of the iTunes app store in the US. Hanks, it noted, can tell the difference between the sounds of an Olivetti, a Remington and a Royal typewriter model. …

“Michael Williams, who began his newspaper career at The Times’s old offices in London’s Gray’s Inn Road in 1973, and is now a senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, saw merit in the idea.

“ ‘People feel to some extent disengaged from the thrill of producing a newspaper, which is galvanising,’ he said, referring to the relative quiet of modern newsrooms.”

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Photo found at Gizmodo 

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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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