Using Unique Methods And Different Platforms To Tell A Powerful Story

When a journalist is asked what makes a powerful story they may reply with an answer that includes a well written script, visually appealing, unique characters with a different perspective, and plenty of natural sound. But there are so many ways to make a story powerful. Sometimes just finding a different way to tell a story can make it powerful. Below is a few examples.

Full nat sound stories can be quite powerful if done correctly. Well, this story I'm going to share with you isn't exactly a nat sound story, but it doesn't have any voice overs either. It's a sad story about a teen who has ALS disease. After being told she only has a few months to live she decides what she wants to do with those last few months.

Click here to see "Dying Teen's Chance On Love."

Also... wonder how powerful facebook statues can be? This next story is a heartbreaking story told through facebook posts. It's a story of a mother who shares her joys and heartbreaks of motherhood, with an unexpected twist at the end.

Click here to read "A Mother's Joy and a Family's Sorrow."

I've always had a love for photography. The way one can manipulate the color, angle, and perspective of an object in a photo to let the viewer feel an emotion has always fascinated me. Just a single photo or a series of photos can also make for a powerful statement or story.

And of course this entry wouldn't be complete if I didn't include the site Media Storm. The entire site is composed of powerful stories told in unique ways through multimedia story telling.
Click here to visit "Media Storm."

City Council, Post Office Working Out Mail Delivery Issues

A couple weeks ago at the Columbia City Council meeting, residents complained they weren't getting mail because of cars parking in front of their mailboxes. These cars were parked by a neighbor or someone they didn't know. On Wednesday, I went around investigating these complaints and found out what the post office and the city council's ideas were to fixing this problem. I spoke with Columbia postmaster Cindy Bolles, a resident, and a mail carrier.

I feel this story had a lot to do with luck. I was really hoping to ride along with a mail carrier, but the post office said this was not possible. So Bolles gave me the subdivisions where most of the complaints came from and I traveled there in hopes of finding someone who had a strong opinion on the issue.

After knocking on about 20 doors and speaking with numerous residents, I found most did have a problem with cars parking in front of their mailboxes. While in the subdivision, I also got really lucky and saw the mail carrier drive by. I ran up to her and let her know what I was working on and asked if she wouldn't mind me following her. I also asked her opinion. Without the resident and the mail carrier, I don't feel this story would have much value to it. I also tried to add as much nat sound as I could in the minute and ten seconds I had. Watch the story below.

Click here to read "City Council, Post Office Working Out Mail Delivery Issues" on KOMU.com.

Icy Conditions Cause Semi To Overturn

I've always been a very cautious driver, but this past Wednesday night no matter how cautious some drivers were they weren't able to stay on the road. The freezing rain and icy conditions made the roads extremely slippery. On my way to my liveshot, I saw a few cars off the road. Salt trucks were out, but it didn't really help until the morning. When I got to my liveshot location I discovered a tractor-trailer overturned. It had been carrying new cars and many were scattered about the road. Police, ambulances, and firetrucks were at the scene attempting to clean up some of the mess while the rain continued to come down.

Before the 9 show, I had a few minutes to prepare and go live for the first time. It was just as exciting as I've always imagined it. Although I did learn a valuable lesson: always speak clearly with producers to let them know what you're going to do. I wanted to explain where I was, what had happened behind me (the overturned truck) and then explain road closings. Since there wasn't much time the communication between the producers and I, the graphics about the road closings were up when I was explaining what was going on behind me. Another thing I've learned is always be prepared. My hair tends to curl up in the rain, in a very unpleasant way, and I couldn't find my hair tie. I also should have brought boots along so my feet didn't freeze. I was in such a rush because the liveshot was a last minute thing that I didn't really think about these things. Next semester my main focus is liveshots. I hope to continue to learn more ways to improve them then.

Afterwards, while waiting warmly in the livetruck before the 10 hit, a woman came by asking us if we had any tools to get her vehicle unstuck after she had slipped off the road. About an hour later we saw a tow truck drive by carrying another different vehicle. There was also a large backup near the exit our liveshot was set up. Unfortunately it cleared before the 10 hit. So instead we tried to find a different angle of the overturned semi. Since the liveshot didn't really show much because we couldn't get near the scene, I included the VO I wrote, shot, and edited for the morning show below. I also included a slideshow I put together for KOMU.com.


VO for the morning show:

Slideshow of the overturned semi:

Future of Television News: The Reality Of Social Media Moving In And Those Who Need To Move Out

This past April the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an independent firm that checks the average circulation of print periodicals, reported the drop of newspaper circulation nationwide was 8.7 percent. They also restated what everybody’s been saying for years, “newspapers are dying.” This has been the prediction by many, but what has actually happened? Some newspapers found ways to adapt to the changing culture of a society obsessed with the Internet. Those that did survive found a new wave of readers by putting their articles online. Now, as it comes time for local television news to “die off”, I believe we are already finding many ways to adapt to a changing culture as well.

To find ways to adapt to this changing culture, we must examine what is currently wrong with local television and why it does not work. There are a few smaller things that are wrong and can be changed, and there are also larger aspects that could be introduced to local television news to make it better. An example of something simple is the way we cover the news. An example of a larger aspect could be how local television stations use social media. Below is a list of problems with local television news and the approaches we can take to fix them.

Problem: From my own personal experience, I have noticed older generations claiming, “social media tools are the wave of the future.” The big problem with that statement: social media tools are already here! I don’t believe local television stations use social media to its full potential.

Solution: Social media is a very powerful tool and by using it correctly television stations can increase interaction with viewers, as well as gain viewers. Twitter is a perfect example. Many stations run its twitter accounts like RSS feeds. By doing this, it really isn’t meaningful to the viewers. They can go to a station’s website to find the story if they wanted (although even then station websites are usually not user-friendly). If reporters were to post bits of information throughout the day, viewers would feel as if they were along for the ride. This not only provides them with useful knowledge, but it encourages them to tune in and see the final product during the newscast. Providing immediate facts to viewers isn’t the only thing social media tools are useful for. They can also be great outlets for interacting with viewers at all times of the day, including during newscasts. This can build a strong, loyal group of viewers, another way to get story ideas and sources, and can be an outlet for viewers to talk about important community issues to each other. Not to mention the Internet has unlimited space, which means stations can provide boundless amounts of information to the public, perhaps even creating micro niche websites for really in-depth stories. Social media tools include blogs, Facebook, event calendars, forums, photo sharing sites such as Flickr and Photobucket, tags and book marking tools such as digg, delicious, and reddit, and video sharing sites like Vimeo and Youtube. Currently local television stations have fallen behind in the social media world and it’s hindering newsrooms.

Problem: I don’t believe people are ever going to completely lose interest in watching their news on a regular television, but the way they do it could change. I think there are a few ways television stations could increase the quality of their newscasts as well as keep up with the times.

Solution: There are simple things that could change the number of viewers that watch the news. If stations were to change these things about their news, perhaps viewership would increase:
  • • Less crime/violence stories
  • • More local news
  • • More in-depth pieces that affect a majority of the viewers
  • • Not beating the same story to death, but adding more follow-ups to the web stories
It’s not only what we cover though, but how we present the news. As technology advances, I think it would be neat to make the news on television interactive. As soon as a story is done, if we are able to get it on television or online, viewers could essentially create their own newscasts by stacking their own show with the stories they want to see. This way a viewer doesn't have to click around online and watch each story separately. People with busy lifestyles could just watch their newscasts whenever they wanted. In the age of TiVo’s and DVR’s, people love to record shows and have what they want when they want it. Interactive newscasts would give them these options. Advertisements would also be linked to the newscasts, so stations would not lose ad revenue.

Problem: I have also heard about many internal problems within newsrooms. News directors and managers who don’t embrace social media can be a huge setback to a newsroom. They are set in their old ways and don’t really grasp where the future of news is headed.

Solution: Reality is harsh, but I believe by keeping those news directors and managers a station suffers. I believe newsrooms need the experience of those long-standing workers, but if they’re not willing to learn ways to advance the news than they’re holding the newsroom back from improving. Perhaps the station could find them a more useful in different positions if they aren’t willing to embrace current trends. It’s not always the ND’s and managers however. Some of the problems start at the top of the ladder with the CEO’s and heads of the companies. If they are not willing to give money to hire an Internet sales person and web editors, then it’s impossible to get the station up to speed. This can only be fixed by persuasion or other ways that don’t involve the newsroom staff.

Problem: Another internal problem within the newsrooms seem to be the quality of our news. I understand management needs to make cutbacks so they have relied more on one-man-bands, but the quality of news is lost when one reporter is frantically trying to do the job of many throughout the day. One of these jobs includes posting their stories online. Is there a way to bring in money to stop the cuts?

Solution: Since the future of news is more geared towards online, companies should look at finding ways to make money online. If this happens companies will see more revenue and perhaps this can help reduce staff cuts. There is money to be made online, but television stations just haven’t figured out how yet. This is mostly because stations haven’t even gotten up to speed with what the Internet can do for them. Some stations don’t even have a web person or sales person dedicated to the web!

If newsrooms aren’t willing to drop the one-man-band mentality (I'm not totally against it, I love to shoot, write, and edit my stories!), then they need to lower the amount of work a reporter does so the story quality can be better. In fact some newsrooms have decided to have their reporter/photographer teams put together packages, while making their one-man-bands cover only vo-sots.

With these solutions in place, I believe local television stations could be well on their way to catching up with the current times. When research shows local television viewership declining, they are referring to the loss of viewers mostly from the younger generation. This is because the younger generation is a need-it-now type and they don’t want to wait until the 5 p.m. newscast. With the help of social media tools, interactive newscasts, and increasing the quality of the news I believe local television can thrive once again.


7 Going On 70 - Life With Progeria

I wanted to share this story with you because it was one that really touched me. The life and joy these girls have while facing such a terrible disease is tremendous. This was a very well done story by ABC News about three little girls who have progeria - a disease that causes rapid aging starting in childhood. A disease where the life span is only about 13-years-old. I found myself laughing and almost crying at the same time as these little girls spoke. They're so funny and endearing, yet you know their time here isn't much longer.


Help Columbia Develop Solar Energy

This blog entry was originally written for 8 Goes Green.

This past week I decided to venture out to see how Columbian’s can help the city go green. Two years Columbia Water & Light started planning the Solar One program. It’s a program that’s dedicated to developing solar power.

The way the project works is local businesses make proposals to Water & Light. Water & Light goes through the proposals and finds the best deals. It then installs the solar panels on the businesses rooftops. The solar energy from the panels goes directly into the grid and then everyone in Columbia benefits from the energy.

Water & Light spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz told me Columbia is perfect for developing solar energy because Columbia has some tall buildings with large rooftops. This is great for solar exposure. She also said businesses can receive tax incentives from having these solar panels installed. Solar energy is already being developed in Columbia at Quaker Oats, Bright City Lights (see my story above) and from solar systems on Bernadette Drive.

The coolest thing, however, is now residents can take part in helping to pay for the solar energy. Residents in Columbia who are electric customers of Water & Light can be subscribers. These subscribers help pay the extra cost of the energy. This is in addition to their utility bills each month.

Since the cost of the new solar projects went down, so did the price for residents wanting to contribute to pay for the solar energy. The city council approved lowering the cost of Solar One blocks of energy. It went down from $4 to $3.35 for a 100 kilowatt hour block of energy. Subscribers can purchase up to nine blocks of Solar One energy.

Wondering why you might want to contribute? Here’s a little history lesson for you:

You may not know it, but solar energy has a fascinating history. Contrary to popular belief, the use of solar power wasn’t just discovered less than a century ago. It actually dates as far back as
400BC when the Greek and Native Americans first began to use it. Both built their houses into the side of hills to store the heat from the day and use that heat during the night.

In 1776, Horace de Saussare created the first solar collector. According to
History Of Solar Power, is collector was cone shaped and would boil ammonia that would then perform like refrigeration and locomotion.

To put that in perspective, 1776 was also the year: Thomas Paine published
Common Sense, the American Revolution continued, and Rhode Island became the first American colony to the first American colony to renounce its loyalty to King George III of Great Britain. As you can see… dating way for back people realized the usefulness of solar energy. The supply of solar power is virtually endless and since no fuels are required to produce it, it doesn’t harm the environment in any way.

Now you can become part of that history right here in Columbia and help our community go green!

You can sign up to purchase Solar One energy blocks by
clicking here. You can also learn more about the Solar One program by clicking here.

Photoshop versus Illustrator

For those new to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, I always hear the common question... what's the difference between the two?

Here are a few basic differences:

Adobe Photoshop:
  • Photoshop is excellent for manipulating photographic images. You can add borders, apply filters, fix any sort of blemishes in a photo, cut out images from the photographs, change the color of a photograph, and do an array of other things to your existing photographs.
  • Photoshop brings in the digital files as a fixed image meaning it brings in the images as pixels in a bitmap form.
  • You can manipulate each colored pixel within the bitmap form.
  • Overall: Photoshop is good for changing existing images in bitmap form.

Adobe Illustrator:
  • Illustrator generates "vector images". Photoshop can make vector images, but once you rasterize them, they become a bitmap image. Compared to Photoshop, many would call Illustrator a "true vector application," meaning you can do more advanced complex vector graphics than you can do on Photoshop.
  • I'm about to use Wikipedia as a source because it defines the term "vector graphics" better than I can. According to Wikipedia, a vector graphic is: the use of geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes or polygons, which are all based on mathematical equations, to represent images in computer graphics." Basically just imagine a very detailed drawing. It is composed of gradients, curves, lines, and shapes. That would be something Illustrator could create. You can manipulate shapes in Illustrator, changing their curves and lines with anchor points.
  • Overall: Illustrator is good for creating new graphics and artwork with vector graphics. The images can be used on line, in print, and even on your cell phone.

Personally I prefer Photoshop, only because I like to shoot photos and I can't really draw. It really depends on what you're working on though. But what's the greatest thing about Adobe products? They were created to all work together.

The image below was made using a combination of photoshop and illustrator. I created it to hopefully use as my Crime In The News blog banner. It was a simple graphic created from scratch. I used Illustrator to create the pencil and photoshop to create the background and crime scene tape. Click on the graphic below to go to my blog (where I have yet to put the graphic up! haha):

*Thanks to Icones.pro for the above two icons for Photoshop and Illustrator.

Thinking Outside The Box

I'll admit it: I'm a perfectionist. But, as I spend more time reporting I realize things aren't always going to go your way. Example: this past week.

Before going out on a story, I imagine how I want it to play out; I think about the questions I want to ask, the people I want to talk to, and who the perfect CCC would be. I think about the shots I want, how I'm going to write the package, and how the sequence of shots are going to be laid out. Although this doesn't always work out, I'm always willing to adapt to my surroundings and story.

This week I pitched a story about the Central Missouri Community Action's funds for energy aid running out. The funds help low income families, the elderly and disabled, and those in danger of having their utility services disconnected with their energy bills. The funds are in danger of running out by next year if the federal government does not provide the center with extra money. The funds the center received this year are only half of what they received last year. For my story, I hoped to talk to the woman in charge of energy assistance and then someone who would be extremely affected by the funds running out.

When I couldn't reach the center I headed there. I spoke with the community service supervisor who was gracious enough to explain how the funding works. After the interview, I wanted to grab a CCC: someone who would be affected. However, many of the people who had appointments with the center had left. I tried getting the few people in the waiting room to talk to me, but they didn't want to go on camera. I did talk to someone off camera and used her as a source, but by the time the center closed I didn't have my "perfect" CCC to make people really care about the story.

This happens a lot in journalism, and the only thing that determines how your story turns out is how you handle the situation. Learning to always think outside the box is key. When the center was empty and time was running short, I hoped for a CCC to walk through the doors, but I also thought about ways I could write the package without them. I started shooting the empty chairs and thought about how I could start my package.

To see how I went about my story, watch it below:


Ten Commandments To Using Social Media

As social media tools become more prominent in today's world of journalism, it is important to use these tools with a sense of professionalism. However, while journalists do need to use professionalism in social media, adding a personal touch in their posts are a great way to connect with audiences. So where is the divide between professional and personal posts? How should journalists determine how to use social media tools and what should the ethical guidelines be?

After speaking with numerous media outlets, three colleagues and I put together a list of 10 rules we feel all outlets should follow when using social media. View these rules below or watch the slideshow and let me know what you think:

The Ten Commandments To Using Social Media

Social Media Mission Statement: to harbor and create dialogue about what is happening in the community. Therefore, it is our responsibility as journalists to continue and stimulate the dialogue, with that, we have created the following ethical guidelines for social media use:

1. Unbiased: Journalists must remain objective whenever generating content through social media.

2. Attribution: Journalists must provide accurate attribution for any facts they post.

3. Truth: Journalists must be truthful in every post.

4. Timeliness: Journalists must provide breaking, urgent facts to news consumers as soon as accuracy can be fully obtained.

5. Professionalism: Journalists must maintain a professional demeanor so as not to taint their personal or professional brand or that of their newsroom.

6. Accessibility: Journalists are masters of the content they generate therefore, they must remain open and accountable to challenges and questions news consumers may have about their content.

7. Privacy: Journalists must remain open to the public through social media in order to be adequately accessible, and therefore should not expect full privacy while posting.

8. Moderation: Journalists are not obligated to endure senseless abuse from news consumers, and are therefore entitled to moderate personal social media outlets this includes but is not limited to: blocking users and deleting comments.

9. Service: Journalists must work as an extended arm of the public; therefore they should utilize social media to gather questions from news consumers to ensure adequate coverage of issues.

10. Mindful: Journalists must bear in mind that videos, pictures, and other forms of media posted online remain under the same journalistic scrutiny as written content.

The above guidelines were written with the understanding that a journalist is an extension of his/her newsroom regardless of physical location. Journalists are encouraged to live by the Journalists Creed introduced by Walter Williams. Therefore, these guidelines subscribe to the general common sense as should be understood by all journalists.

View the slideshow below:



First Nation Reports

I bring to you another two First Nation Reports:


Still Photographs: President Obama and Vice President Biden Speak At Auto Plant

How many journalists can say they have the chance to take part in coverage of the president and the vice president? Not many...but today I had the opportunity to attend a press conference with WNDU to take still pictures of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for wndu.com.

Obama and Biden traveled to Kokomo, Ind. to speak to several hundred Chrysler transmission plant workers. They talked about the state and recovery of the auto industry and gave thanks to the auto restructuring plan at the plant, which helped the unemployment rate drop in Kokomo from 20 percent in 2009 to 10.9 percent last month. The visit was part of the White House to Main Street tour.

Click through the slideshow below to see some of the pictures I took:


Fulton Prepares For Upcoming Smoking Ban

Fulton city officials said Wednesday they are preparing businesses and places of employment for the smoking ban that goes into effect Dec. 4. Watch my story below to see how they are preparing for the upcoming smoking ban:

Click here to read my story on KOMU.com.

Update: Garth Nature Area Dog Park Gets New Seating

Last week ago I did a story on Columbia residents who were upset after their chairs, windbreaks, and dog toys were taken from the Garth Nature Area Dog Park. They claimed the Parks and Recreation Department took them. (Click here to read "Columbia Residents Fuming After Personal Items Taken.")

This past week I found out who took their stuff and the park received a few new renovations, so yesterday I did an update to my previous story.

In this followup, the residents I spoke with last story were unwilling to talk with me on camera. Watch the story below to find out why the resident's personal items were taken and what kind of renovations were done to the park.

I also left the VO after my story attached because I shot, wrote, and edited that one as well.

Click here to read my story on KOMU.com.

New Blog: Crime And Health In The News

I finally launched a new blog tonight: Crime And Health In The News

Do not worry though! I will continue to take you on more journalistic adventures in this blog!

The focus of the crime and health blog though, is to examine different elements of crime while tying it together with news stories. The blog will also cover different health stories in the news. I will pull together facts from various sources for both topics.

The blog includes links to crime and health sources, as well as my recommendations for the best books on true crime and health.

I originally wanted to separate the crime and the health stories, but for now I have decided to do that by separating them into categories.

Please check it out and let me know what you think could be improved, or anything you think I should change!

Thank you!

First Nation Reports

During our 5 p.m. newscast we have a segment called "First Nation" that gives an overview of the top three stories in the nation that day.

Watch the videos below to see the past two weeks "First Nation" reports.

First Five Nation 11/04

First Five Nation 11/11

Look for more of these to come!

Columbia Residents Fuming After Personal Items Taken

On Wednesday, I started off with a story about "spoofing" scam phone calls in Fulton. Many people had been receiving phone calls with the Callaway County Sheriff's phone number showing up on their caller ID's. After a few phone calls and driving to the Sheriff's department to find the Sheriff gone for the day, my story fell though. Stories falling through isn't such an uncommon thing to happen to reporters so I wasn't worried and headed back to the newsroom to look for a new conquest.

Once back, the assignment desk handed me a few phone numbers of residents who had called in to complain about a situation they were facing. Watch my story below to find out why they were so upset:

On Thursday I also tagged along with a reporter to what I had hoped to be breaking news. Over the scanner we had heard six shots were fired in an apartment complex behind a YMCA in Jefferson City. Click here to read the story.

Jefferson City Seeks Resident's Input On New Rec Center

With only local YMCA's and smaller fitness centers scattered about, Jefferson City is looking at the possibly of putting in the first city-owned recreation center.

Last week I covered a story in which the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation met with residents to discuss plans or a proposed multipurpose recreation center:


The Power Of Social Media On Election Night

Election night: the day we love, the day we hate... the day we love to hate and like only because it's exciting, hectic, and when it's done we could use a full night's sleep... which usually doesn't happen. I guess if you're a journalist, only you would understand this last paragraph.

This past election night was just that... exciting and hectic. Reporters running around, the phone ringing off the hook, producers rapidly clicking away at their keyboards, and the shouts of the results across the newsroom once the polls are closed are enough to make that adrenaline rush kick in.

Although I wasn't out in the field, I still had my duties on the web this year and though this may not seem entirely exciting, I can guarantee you it was. For the first time on election night I saw the full force of social media come to life. I was personally manning the KOMU News twitter account and helping with the facebook, but I also experienced a live chat our new media director was holding on KOMU.com.

The idea of a livechat on a news station's website is brilliant. During our livechat we had members of the community come together to speak out the issues on the ballot. One of our anchors stuck around to join the chat, we used a hashtag on twitter (#komuelx) so tweeters and those out reporting could join the chat as well, and we also had important public figures such as Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer join us as well. It certainly is exciting to have a politician joining us on election night to answer questions from our viewers.

I truly believe this election night was a chance for me to really realize how valuable social media is. In topics such as politics where issues are heated and engaging to viewers, news stations can provide an outlet for community members to come together and express their views. Social media provided us with the tools to create a live chat and we, a local television station, gave viewers a place to go to make the live chat more localized.

As the years go on I believe social media will take a more prominent place in society and more newsrooms will see the value of social media on election night. So I suppose when you look at a typical newsroom on election night now, and you watch as the reporters scramble around to get out the door, the producers clicking away at their shows, and the shouts of results across the room, in the future you will be able to add in social media guru's also rapidly clicking away their keyboards as well.

*Election button photo courtesy of georgia.com

Local Commercial Breeders Speak Out Against Prop. B

Tomorrow is election day and one big proposition is causing a ruckus across Missouri: Proposition B. If passed, Prop B would create tighter regulations on larger commercial dog breeders. Breeder would be limited to 50 breeding dogs.

Here is my story that aired last Tuesday:

Since I didn't feel the issue could be covered in just a short story I also included an extended 10 minute interview on the web where head of the Missouri department of the Humane Society of the United States Barbara Schmitz and commercial breeder Mark Santo explain their sides of the proposition B issue.

Click on the links below to learn more about Proposition B:

Click here to read Proposition B.

Inspiration From The Missouri Honor Medal Banquet

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the Missouri Honor Medal Ceremony and Banquet as a journalism ambassador for the Missouri School of Journalism. It was just as inspiring as I had remembered the first time to be.

The Missouri Honor Medal Banquet is held to honor some of the most outstanding journalists in the world. Since 1930, the Missouri School of Journalism has held this ceremony. Medalists are chosen on the "basis of lifetime or superior achievement, for distinguished service performed in such lines of journalistic endeavor."

The first time I attended the honor banquet was my freshman year here at Mizzou. I had eagerly jumped at the chance of writing an article on it for the school's newspaper The Maneater. I remember the overwhelming feeling of amazement rushing over me. I couldn't believe I was in the presence of some of the most successful journalists in the world. It was an honor that would stick with me throughout my years here at Mizzou.

The first article I wrote almost four years ago was a preview for the ceremony and class the honorees would teach. Click here to read "J-School Honors 10."

The second article covered the ceremony itself and touched upon a few stories on how the honorees had gotten into journalism. Click here to read "J School Honors Accomplished Professionals With Awards."

Last night I was able to meet all the medalists and chat with them for a few minutes after the ceremony and dinner. I can truly say the stories of the those at the Zeta newspaper in the Northwest region of Mexico and Ignacio Gomez from The Foundation For the Freedom of the Press in Colombia made me appreciate the ability we have in America to freely tell our stories without fearing for our lives. It touched me to hear their stories and their courage to push for freedom of the press in their countries. I don't believe too many people can say they have the courage to do this.

Here are a few photos from the ceremony:

From left to right, top row: MU Dean Mills, Co-Chairman Larry Postaer of Rubin Postaer & Associates, Founder and Director James Balog of Extreme Ice Survey and Earth Vision Trust, Ignacio Gomez, CNN founding financial editor and economic commentator Myron Kandel, journalist from Zeta Newspaper and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton.

From left to right, bottom row: Adela Navarro from Zeta Newspaper, former The Oregonian editor and now Harvard University Knight Shorenstein Fellow Sandy Rowe, Hearst Magazine Chairman and now (as of November) NYC School Chancellor Cathleen Black, and Wine Columnist and Author Dorothy J. Gaiter.

Here I am with Larry Postaer, Cathleen Black and Myron Kandel.

Family, Friends Remember Elizabeth Olten One Year Later

These aren't the easiest of stories to cover, but with a little bit of effort and empathy I was able to talk with two of Elizabeth's friends and a family friend on how they have been able to deal with this tragedy throughout the past year. For all the stories of her killer and the stories of her search, she deserved a story on the person she was. Before watching this story, please read my previous post on the story:

November 9, 2009: Elizabeth Olten Update

Creating A Culture Of Fear Through The Stories We Tell

Remember I promised to post about the culture of fear... well here you go! Feel free to share your comments with me!

According to the book, “The Culture of Fear” by Barry Glassner three out of four Americans say they feel more afraid today than they did twenty years ago. Glassner writes of how journalists perpetuate a culture of fear through their work and stories, by over-exaggerating dangers that are not truly imminent dangers to the general public. But is this really true and is there a way, we as journalists, can try and limit creating these fears?

In a newscast of NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams I observed, I rarely found any story that would perpetuate unjustifiable fears in viewers. Below I describe the newscast and its contents; a newscast I feel all stations should try and emulate to help prevent creating cultures of fear.

The newscast began with a story about the state of American politics. Although mostly non-fear driven, there were a few phrases I feel, and I believe Glassner would feel, could create a culture of fear among the public. The writers labeled the nation, “America the angry” and stated, “On Thursday night, what should have been a staged political debate turned into a fight night in Vegas. Audience members broke into a physical scuffle, trading punches…” These statements could make it seem the entire nation is an uproar about politics, and people are getting into fights everywhere just because of it. But this is clearly, by my observances, not true. Glassner writes, “Fear mongers have knocked the optimism out of us by stuffing us full of negative presumptions about our fellow citizens and social institutions.” This is exactly what happened in that story. I feel if I ever face a story like this one I would carefully choose the words I decide to use. I would not sensationalize to the point that will cause the public unneeded fears. I would also stay away from labeling, such as “America the angry,” and shining negative thoughts upon things that aren’t truly negative. However, I do not feel journalists should tone down the truth of the story just for the sake of not trying to create a culture of fear.

In the next story about the American hiker released from an Iranian prison, the reporter talks about how Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with her and how compassionate he was towards her. They could have spent more time with the two people held hostage and created a fear about perpetuating a stereotype that Iran is filled with a bunch of terrorists, but they didn’t.

In another story, however, about how Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, is awarding a $100 million grant to the Newark, New Jersey school district, a soundbite grabbed my attention. Zuckerburg created a deal with the mayor, saying the city must raise $100 million in matching funds and raise $50 million for disadvantaged kids. After this is said, Derrell Bradford from the Excellent Education for Everyone is quoted as saying, “If they fail, every foundation, every mayor, every governor is going to look at this as proof of why this will never work and it may never happen again.” A soundbite like this, from a so-called expert, could perpetuate a fear if this truly does fail we may never see a grant like this again. Glassner even writes, “Fear mongers make their scares all the more credible by backing up would-be experts’ assertions with testimonials from people the audience will find sympathetic.” The reporter should look for a soundbite from Bradford providing information about how the grant will work and let the public judge for themselves whether it can work or not. The reporter should also allow the public to make a decision, if they believe the grant won’t work, if it will destroy all future grants like this one.

There are many ways to combat these types of fear cultivating stories. Suggestions I would make: take watch in what you write, include the facts and solid numbers and don’t over sensationalize a story. Be careful whom you decide to interview and what soundbites you decide to use. While looking for stories to cover, make sure you do not overlook stories you feel are too overdone.

As Glassner writes, “I point out dangerous trends that have been around for a while and are thus viewed as old news and unappealing to the media. Motor vehicle injuries, for example, are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for children ages one to fifteen…. If a parent is concerned about his or her children, their money is best spent on car seats, smoke detectors, swimming lessons, and bike helmets as opposed to GPS locators and child identification kits. They would hardly know that, however, from watching their local TV news or listening to the hype from advocacy groups.” I urge you, as journalists, to get out and cover these stories; make the public aware of the dangers they should taken precaution of.

In regards to what I have written, I do not agree with everything Glassner talked about in his book. Glassner writes, “Statements of alarm by newscasters and glorification of wannabe experts are two telltale tricks of the fear monger’s trade. In the preceding chapters I pointed out others as well: the use of poignant anecdotes in place of scientific evidence, the christening of isolated incidents as trends, depictions of entire categories of people as innately dangers. If journalists would curtail such practices, there would be fewer anxious and misinformed Americans.”

Isolated incidents, such as school shootings and airplane crashes, are news. They need to be covered. The public needs to know and wants to know about these situations. So although it may seem as if journalists are constantly covering these stories and creating a fear surrounding the problem, journalists just need to remind the public with accurately portrayed facts and figures these are not trends. When creating a culture of fear, what it really comes down to is not the news we cover, but how we cover it.

Copyright © Tara Grimes
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