Why, yes we do. And the application deadline is quickly approaching. Details here. Apply by May 10.
I’m graduating in May in hopes of becoming a journalist. I’ve had internships and I’ve worked for my university’s online news source. Can you steer a terrified senior in a direction? Where should I look? What should I be looking for? What should I work on?” — Helena
We get questions like this fairly frequently and there’s no exact answer. But with yesterday’s announcement of the 2012 Peabody Award winners we’re seeing the incredible range of today’s journalism.This isn’t to say that you can’t quibble with this story winning over that story, or say they could chose more innovative work, but it is to say that if you look at the winners from the Web, radio, television and documentary you see a wild diversity of storytelling approaches and ideas.
And reviewing some of the winners, I think, is a great place to start.
Start with the Web and The New York Times win for “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” a multimedia feature using aerial photography, video and words while taking advantage of contemporary presentation techniques such as responsive design and parallax in order to augment and further drive the story forward.
SCOTUSBlog is the other Web winner. There are no bells and whistles. Instead, it’s pretty much a text only blog that’s become a go to resource for stories, background and explainers on all things that have to do with the US Supreme Court. Here, deep, thorough, consistent reporting and analysis wins out.
Radio, I think, is in a golden age and the reason I think this is is because of the launch of iTunes back in 2001. This allowed people to easily subscribe to podcasts — and by extension radio programming — that we previously didn’t have access to. Yes, RSS already existed but iTunes gave us an easy interface to either hear or distribute programming. While your local public radio station might not carry it, you can now hear everything from the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent to The Moth Radio Hour, 99% Invisible and Radiolab among a host of other exceptional programming.
Each of these programs uses different techniques and styles. By listening and analyzing, we learn new tricks that expand our understanding of what’s possible in audio storytelling.
One of this year’s radio winners comes from Radio Diaries, is called “Teen Contender” and follows the 16-year-old Olympic boxer Claressa Shields in a first person narrative from Flint, Michigan to London. Here’s a great breakdown by Julia Barton on the techniques used and how this created great radio.
Other radio winners include WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show, a “traditional” hosted show about New York’s political and cultural life; This American Life’s “What Happened at Dos Erres,” an incredible radio documentary about a Guatemalan immigrant in Boston “who learns that the man he believed to be his father actually led the massacre of his village”; and NPR for its hard news reporting in Syria by Kelly McEvers and Deborah Amos.
I’ll leave it at this and with the recommendation to explore different types of journalism awards across magazines, multimedia, photography, documentary, radio and the rest. Through it, you’ll come across work that brings about an “Aha!” moment, one that makes you say, “This is what I want to do.” And then start positioning yourself and aiming towards doing it by applying for work — or learning the skills needed to apply for work — in that area.
Hope this helps. — Michael
Have a question? Ask away.
This morning, I read Michael Wolff’s piece in USA Today entitled Columbia Flunks Relevancy Test. He’s not a fan of the school for reasons I can actually understand (though they might have been more convincing if he’d kept the sweeping generalizations to a minimum).
The overriding circumstance which the J-school seems to regard as not its concern is that the news business, which it counts on to employ its graduates — newspapers, magazines, television news, even online news — is shrinking at historic rates… Columbia, raking in $58,008 in yearly tuition and fees from each student and then sending them into a world of ever-bleaker prospects, ought, more reasonably and honestly, to just shut its doors.
I’m currently an MS student at Columbia. Wolff is right. It’s expensive. He’s also right about the fact that my peers and I probably won’t be making heaps of money down the road.
Like most other students—who, believe it or not, are a pretty wise, critically thinking lot of folks—I deeply considered whether or not it was a financial burden I wanted to take on. In seeking advice on the matter, in fact, I was encouraged not to go to j-school for reasons very similar to Wolff’s: it’s a waste of money, and if I want to be a journalist, I should just get out there and do journalism. But I went anyway. Here is why.
I want to be in an industry that continuously and honestly reflects on itself. I was first drawn to Columbia because of the Columbia Journalism Review. It’s a brilliant and necessary publication—not the only brilliant and necessary publication—but one that has empowered my curiosity for both the past and future of journalism with access to the people who think about it well. I hoped this type of thinking would be present in classes at Columbia. It is.
I want to be friends with and collaborate with intelligent, hard-working people who love both creating and consuming journalism. There is no better way to form life-long connections with such a group of people than by spending months working yourself to the bone in their company. At Columbia, I have had the honor of doing this.
I want to have the skills to be able to create any sort of journalistic project I want, both because I understand the industry is in a time of incredible transition, and these skills will be an asset, and because with the appropriate tools, great journalism can reach more people than ever before. I’m halfway through my degree and I have learned to code, curate, aggregate, report, write, shoot and produce audio, video and photography from employed journalists whom I respect and appreciate very much for the warmth and thoroughness with which they have shared their knowledge and experiences. They’ve brought their friends and colleagues to class too, who have offered their time and expertise entirely for free.
I want to be part of a community to which I can remain connected. To which I want to remain connected. I have been offered mentorship and guidance from J-school alumni who graduated 1 year before my time and 30 years before my time, and they have been nothing but kind and helpful. I cannot wait to pay it forward.
Columbia’s faculty, staff, and resources are great. But truly, it is the students and alumni of a university that make it great. It’s hard for me keep myself inspired without a community. And to do my best work, I’d like to nourish my inspiration. In a city where most of us are willing to get into debt for many kinds of instant gratification, a meaningful community is something I am willing to pay for, to have the opportunity to sustain.
So thank you, Michael Wolff, for making me consider once again, why I’m paying for J-school at Columbia. I didn’t become a journalist to make a lot of money. I became a journalist to become a better human being. Someone more critical, more patient, better at listening, better at asking questions, better at representing others on paper and in film. I’m absolutely certain I will be able to support myself and my family (in more ways than one) with these skills. While I have tremendous respect for those who are willing and able to freelance their way to the top, that’s not the struggle I chose. I chose to join a legacy institution that is finding its way in a transitioning world, and that struggle is something I’m enjoying very much. —Jihii
From the Inbox: I’ve always been curious, is it possible to find work as a journalist without a degree? — Anonymous
I’d like to think it shouldn’t matter. Unlike being a doctor or a lawyer, there aren’t license or degree requirements for practicing journalism.
It might be harder to initially get your foot in the door but if you have the skills and the portfolio, people will (or should) look at that before checking out where or where you didn’t go to school.
Here’s what Joe Grimm once wrote at Poynter:
Some great journalists working today do not have college degrees. Few of the people working around them give it much thought or even know their degree status. It is all about “what have you done lately?”
Magda Abu-Fadil, a foreign correspondent and director of the Journalism Training Program at the American University of Beirut, doesn’t believe a journalism degree should be required but notes the realities of the job market in this interview with the International Journalists’ Network.
I don’t know if it’s worth all the money spent going to journalism school today since the landscape is changing so fast and we’re in a race against time with all the new technology, but it’s definitely worth investing in a degree since most employers still require it.
These challenges do not erase the simple fact that most journalism jobs are off-limits to all applicants who have not completed at least one internship. No internships = no job. It really is that simple. Many students, it seems, refuse to believe this applies to them. These are usually the students who are obsessed with getting high grades — as if anyone in a newsroom would ever care what grade you got in any class! (No one but a graduate school cares what your grades were.)
Hope this helps, and good luck. — Michael
Have a question? Ask away.
This isn’t strictly journalism-related, but any tips on how to get sponsored to go to academic conferences? I thought to ask here since I’m hoping to volunteer to blog and do outreach to US institutions in exchange for help with travel expenses (it’s abroad but discussing issues pertinent to the US and students especially). Any other recommendations for what to do to get there or organizations that might be helpful? Again, I know this isn’t perfectly FJP-related, but thanks for reading! — Anonymous
I’m not good at this but my brother is and his solution is simply this: ask.
As in, there’s no harm in asking for what you want. The worst that can happen is someone says no.
The idea actually works well for pretty much anything. Ask, follow up, be respectfully persistent, let it drop if you don’t get the response you’re looking for. As said, I’m not good at it, my brother get’s frustrated at my inability to do this, and I’m perpetually amazed by the things he goes off and does because he simply asked.
In your case, who knows, maybe you’ll be surprised.
So, literally just get in touch with the organization that’s putting on the event, and get in touch with any other organizations that are remotely associated with it. And then tell them what you’ll do.
How do you figure out who’s involved? Go to the Web site and look at the event sponsors. If none of them work out, think of other organizations or brands or companies that somehow fit in the general spot you’re talking about.
If you get a bite, outline your skills and tell them what you can do for them. For example, I can write, rock the social web, film, create interesting illustrations. Whatever it is, tell them. And then do it.
Who knows, beyond supplementing travel expenses, they might pay you to actually do things. And if we’re talking payment here, or a desire to be paid, see this post from earlier today. It’s important.
Note that all this will probably fall under some sort of “Content Marketing” umbrella and they’ll ask you to do X, Y or Z.
And I ask you to understand that because that’s generally the quid pro quo being played here and you have to be comfortable playing it before getting involved with it.
Some people are, some aren’t. But you need to know. — Michael
I’m a journalist who has been reporting at a local alt-weekly full-time for about a year. While I’m grateful to have a reporting job straight out of college, I’m realizing that my true passion is to become a media reporter and do work similar to that of this project. Any tips for how to make it happen? I’ve talked my editor into letting me start a media series, but I’m wanting to hear your input. Thanks and keep up the great work! — Caitlin Byrd
Thanks for getting in touch.
I think the position you’re looking to create or fill is that of your paper’s public editor (or ombudsman). The position basically informs your audience about why and how your organization reports as it does, fields complaints, analyzes your organization’s reporting and basically straddles the public you wish to inform and the newsroom.
Here’s how the New York Times describes it:
The public editor works outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper and receives and answers questions or comments from readers and the public, principally about news and other coverage in The Times.
Or as former Times editor Bill Keller explained it to the Columbia Journalism Review when Daniel Okrent was appointed the paper’s public editor in 2010:
“[Okrent’s] assignment is to hold us accountable to our own standards, to serve as an advocate for the interests of readers, and to give readers an independent eye into the workings of this great news organization.
A 2005 article in the American Journalism Review outlines the pros and cons of the position, and how different news organizations are implementing and using it. A 2008 article in AdAge argues against having an ombudsman. I don’t agree with it but there are cautionary points in the article to consider.
There’s even an Organization of News Ombudsmen and from it we get a little bit of history on the position:
The first newspaper ombudsman in the U.S. was appointed in June 1967 in Louisville, Kentucky, to serve readers of The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times. The first Canadian appointment — at The Toronto Star — was in 1972. The concept was in place much earlier in Japan. The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo established a committee in 1922 to receive and investigate reader complaints. Another mass circulation Tokyo paper, The Yomiuri Shimbun, set up a staff committee in 1938 to monitor the paper’s quality.
I think becoming your weekly’s public editor (or something related to the position) is a good starting point. If you want to get into more general media reporting, I’d keep your focus on how other media outlets are covering issues in North Carolina before going national or international in your reporting and analysis. I say this because of the paper you’re currently at: a local alt-weekly in Ashville.
For inspiration, I’d read Mark Coddington’s Week in Review at Nieman Lab; Jim Romenesko; and Jack Shafer at Reuters; along with the public editors I’ve linked to above to see how they’re going about it. Our Ethics Tag is pretty good too.
Hope this helps. Let us know how things go. — Michael
Have a question? Ask away.
We received a question some time ago from theinsightfulmouse which went like this:
I am planning an undergraduate thesis on the effects of technology on journalism ethics and looking to narrow my topic. Do you all have any ideas or suggestions of interesting, complex issues to research relating to journalism, ethics and technology?
Well, insightful mouse, there is a universe of interesting questions in the realm of journalism ethics, especially regarding online journalism. We’ll offer you some starting points for research rather than fleshed out ideas, because those will very much depend on your personal interests and investments.
You might like to search our Tumblr archive for ethics posts. We’ve written, for example, about the ethics of news vs. reviews, privacy on social media, linking, curation, and Instagram, all of which are debates that have since developed and could use more digging. Also see our transparency tag, which is something that you can deep dive into for a number of questions. Other great places to explore for ideas are the Public Editor’s Journal over at the NY Times, and Poynter’s Everyday Ethics.
Very useful (and fun, if you geek out over this stuff like me) is reading the ethics guidelines of various news organizations (here is a great list), many of which address online journalism. NPR has a great ethics handbook in which the visual journalism section deals with issues of digital attribution and manipulation (not necessarily the most compelling research topic, but useful to bookmark if you’re a journalist). Finally, and arguably the mecca of these questions, can be found in this discussion that Poynter hosted on journalism ethics in the digital age, on which a book is also in the works—I wrote a reaction here. The people involved are also key people you might want to reach out to help focus your ideas.
You did ask this question some time ago, so if you’ve already narrowed down a topic, do share it with us! —Jihii
Have a question for us? Ask.
This question is near and dear to our hearts. For those who don’t know what’s being referred to, we generally write “Select to embiggen” after we source images in our posts. Makes sense. Click the thing to enlarge it.
But this question is about etymology. And for that we go to a 1996 Simpson’s episode called “Lisa the Iconoclast”:
The episode features two neologisms: embiggen and cromulent. The show runners asked the writers if they could come up with two words which sounded like real words, and these were what they came up with. The Springfield town motto is “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.” Schoolteacher Edna Krabappel comments that she never heard the word embiggens until she moved to Springfield. Miss Hoover, another teacher, replies, “I don’t know why; it’s a perfectly cromulent word.” Later in the episode, while talking about Homer’s audition for the role of town crier, Principal Skinner states, “He’s embiggened that role with his cromulent performance.”
Embiggen—in the context it is used in the episode—is a verb that was coined by Dan Greaney in 1996. The verb previously occurred in an 1884 edition of the British journal Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc. by C. A. Ward, in the sentence “but the people magnified them, to make great or embiggen, if we may invent an English parallel as ugly. After all, use is nearly everything.” The literal meaning of embiggen is to make something larger. The word has made its way to common use and was included in Mark Peters’ Yada, Yada, Do’h!, 111 Television Words That Made the Leap From the Screen to Society. In particular, embiggen can be found in string theory. The first occurrence of the word was in the journal High Energy Physics in the article “Gauge/gravity duality and meta-stable dynamical supersymmetry breaking”, which was published on January 23, 2007. For example, the article says: “For large P, the three-form fluxes are dilute, and the gradient of the Myers potential encouraging an anti-D3 to embiggen is very mild.” Later this usage was noted in the journal Nature, which explained that in this context, it means to grow or expand.
So, there’s that.
There’s also our happiness that The Guardian uses embiggen for the same purpose we do. For example, under this graphic used in an article on the Leveson Inquiry that’s been going on in the UK.
So whose word is “embiggen”? Answer’s simple: It’s all of ours. — Michael
Have a question? Ask away.