Final Essay

This semester as an advanced editor in the Integrated News Center was full of challenges and triumphs. Of all of my experiences in the professional world, I know my time as an advanced editor provided me with invaluable experience I will use in my career as a lawyer and beyond when I return to a bustling newsroom.

Favorite aspects of the INC Experience

One of the best parts of the INC was collaborating with students outside of the journalism program. Our schedules are relatively limited about what we can and cannot take due to critical tracking and other requirements. As a result, I feel like I did not have the opportunity to take many classes with advertising, public relations and telecommunication students.

During this semester, I had the chance to work with many of the telecommunication students. I greatly enjoyed getting to know members of the news production team, as well as the various anchors. Julian Hernandez, the producer of the 6 p.m. news show on Thursday, and Chris Peralta, a master’s student who works in the INC, have been wonderful to work with. When I first started participating in the “Web Q & A” on the 6 p.m. news show, Julian was extremely helpful in preparing me for my television debut. I must admit I feel much more comfortable behind the computer screen or notebook than I do in front of a camera. However, he and anchors Steven Gallo and Lauren Rautenkranz made me feel welcome as a valued member of the team.

Working on these “Web Q & A” segments has been another positive part of my INC experience. My ultimate career goal would be to serve as a legal or political analyst for a major news network, which would likely involve being featured on the news. As someone who often speaks too quickly and with my hands, it has been a learning process to speak slowly and clearly while keeping my hands on the desk. I feel like experience in this regard makes me more marketable because I can find the news, in addition to reporting it to audiences on multiple platforms.

Another one of my favorite aspects of this semester in the INC was getting experience in a real newsroom. During my sophomore year, I was enrolled in writing for mass communication. It was hard to see the value in writing news stories and press releases based on fake prompts. With the INC, students have the ability to report on what is actually happening while also earning clips along the way. It is disappointing when students only seem to want the grade instead of the preparation for their future journalism careers.

Least favorite aspects of the INC Experience

It was difficult to stay updated about what was going on in the INC in between shifts. While it is the nature of the beast that advanced editors are only scheduled for one shift each week, I think a web supervisor needs to also be at the super desk during all shifts.

In the past, this role was held by Ethan Magoc. When I was enrolled in editing, I enjoyed working with other student editors. However, it was beneficial to have an experienced voice providing additional guidance about news judgment and paragraph placement. Even though we are in advanced editing, we are still students.

Having Tripp with me during my shift has been of great assistance, but he is also a student. He cannot be there all the time, and he has other responsibilities. In addition, Matt is running a newsroom. It does not seem appropriate to bother him with a small issue when he is dealing with much more pressing matters throughout the day. Dr. Lewis comes into the INC often, but he cannot and should not have to deal with small issues.

I envy the radio and telecommunication students because they have Forrest Smith, Bridget Grogan, Mark Leeps, Tom Krynski, master’s student Chris Peralta and other student producers. What about the web team? I think adding an additional position or hiring someone to replace Ethan would alleviate many of the back-up issues, as well as contribute to continuity from day to day.

Overall, I had a pleasant experience working with a majority of students. However, I took issue with some students who were disrespectful and rude, not only to me, but supervisors in the INC as a whole. One student named Rachel Kurland was especially hard to work with because of her constant badgering. She would send multiple emails inquiring about the status of her story, as well as continue calling the super desk. It got to a point where Matt would say, “Rachel called again.”

While I want to provide answers to all students about exactly when their stories will be published, this is not always possible. Breaking news occurs and other stories are submitted in the mean time. I always maintained my professionalism when I returned her messages. She is a student who cares about her grades and getting published, which I respect. However, I did not appreciate the way she went about it.

Issues also occurred when working with Marisa Ross. She would come into the INC usually less than 24 hours before her deadline claiming she did not have any ideas for a story. I will never forget how one time she questioned why Tripp could not give her a story.

After seeing other students toiling away to find interesting and relevant stories, I had no sympathy for someone who seemed to want the easy way out. In addition, she would often complain and whine to Tripp for extended periods of time. I wanted to respect her wishes to speak with him, but we are also trying to run a website. When it became necessary, I would ask Marisa to wait a few minutes while Tripp took a final look over an article.

I am also happy it was decided that Dr. Lewis, Matt or Tripp make the final decisions about story pitches being approved. Lauren Richardson, a student who is also in my ethics group, submitted a story Tripp ultimately decided to spike. In response to this, Richardson claimed I had approved the story idea. It angered me how someone I was working with for another class was willing to lie about what occurred.

I am grateful for the email because Tripp was able to look back and see how I had never approved the idea. While I have no hard feelings toward her, I am glad Tripp called her out for her behavior.

Suggestions for future semesters

Before bringing up ideas for future semesters, I must first acknowledge how far the INC and WUFT has come since I first became involved. In fall of 2012, I was one of 10 selected students to serve as the inaugural web producers. While I had the opportunity to cover some stories on my own, I spent a large amount of my time transcribing radio stories. Apart from stories being pursued by various individuals, we did not have a set group of content creators. The website remained relatively stagnant because we did not have the content to continually update it.

Fast forward a year and a half, and we have approximately 40 content creators in the field during the week. In addition, we have teams of web producers ready to edit the material. On any given day, several stories that are important to our stakeholders are posted.

One issue inhibiting this process is lack of communication with the reporters. We have had many problems this semester with students claiming their stories have been substantially altered during the editing process. Some have said their ledes have been altered to remove the news, and others claim vital sections have been cut.

What can be done to fix this? During the half of the semester where students are content creators, they are supposed to have 12 hours in their schedule to devote to editing. While they can make excuses about being too busy to find this much time, they at least have the five-hour window set aside for their newsroom shift.

In future semesters, I think they should be required to come in for a thirty-minute consultation with editors. In order to make this possible, I think shifts should be regulated for size. A maximum of four students should be allowed to be in the field at a time. This would hopefully alleviate the unevenness of some shifts having five students, while I only had one student in the field on Thursday afternoons.

During the mornings, it is typically quieter from 8:30 to 10 a.m. This is when the thirty-minute sessions could take place. Students could sign up for a specific meeting time that remains consistent during the remainder of the semester. In the afternoon, meetings could be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. This would make sure these meetings are complete before preparation begins for the 5 and 6 p.m. news shows.

These content creators would need to send their stories before coming into the INC. The best case scenario would allow editors to read the article with some notations and questions before the reporter comes in.

If reporters need to fill any holes in their story, they should be given an opportunity to do so. However, I think we should place deadlines on their updates. Some students wait several days or even weeks to provide WUFT with the required information. We are a news organization that wants material to be timely. This issue is leading to many stories being spiked because they are no longer relevant. Forty-eight hours should be more than enough time to collect the last bits of information. Exceptions could be granted for extenuating circumstances, including unreachable sources and impending updates.

I think these sessions could also be used for work on headlines and ledes. We need to continue working on making these components concise and as dense with information as possible. If we start working with the reporters on this from day one, we will likely spend less time addressing these issues as the weeks progress.

Office hours with advanced editors could also be helpful at several intervals during the semester. Two night sessions could be held during the first half of the semester, and an additional two sessions could take place after the switch. Many students have claimed they are not able to come in during the day because of other class and work engagements, so this could eliminate these complaints.

These office hours could be held in the INC from 7 to 9 p.m. At this time, the 6 p.m. news show should be wrapped up, which would also mean the newsroom would be available for use. At least two advanced editors could sign up for one or more shifts. The course graduate assistant or super desk supervisor could also facilitate these sessions.

In addition, a system needs to be implemented to ensure stories do not get lost in the shuffle between shifts. While some people leave handwritten notes and others send emails, I think a uniform system should be used. I think email is the most effective way because it allows for editors to open the email and the WordPress simultaneously to see the status of that day’s stories.

I have also noticed ways we can assist the editing graduate assistant. Tripp has to keep track of ten shift’s worth of stories each week. When stories are submitted through email, advanced editors should fill out the story submission sheets kept on the super desk. These sheets are also helpful for advanced editors because we mark whether three sources are included, as well as if there are photos and audio. Stories can then be pasted into the WordPress and assigned to one of the editing students.

One other problem pertaining to email relates to story pitch submissions. Most students send their pitches into the account. This allows advanced editors and supervisors to look through the email chain when stories are submitted to see whether the pitch was approved, as well as if other editors have sent questions to the reporter. However, some students send ideas directly to Dr. Lewis and Tripp. We obviously do not have access to their emails, which makes it difficult when assessing how the story came to fruition.

To eliminate this issue, all students should submit pitches and stories to the WUFT account. If people have a question about grades or if they think a story pitch was wrongly shot down, Dr. Lewis and/or Tripp can be contacted. I am hoping this will eliminate Dr. Lewis and Tripp being flooded with emails that can be handled by advanced editors and those at the super desk.

As I hear content creators complaining about their stories getting completely changed, I have begun thinking about ways to prevent this from happening. We need to keep track of who is editing a story. Some editors have been using the Google Document that delineates the story headline, the reporter and those who perform first and second edits. If we know who edited the story, we can contact them about why changes were made, etc. If problems continue to occur with a particular student, this should be reflected in their evaluation.

If it is possible, I think the editing students should also meet with their advanced editor after they make changes. During the second half of the semester, Keith has made his edits in a Word Document. We then go through his recommendations together before making changes in the WordPress. At this stage, we often call and/or email the reporter for any necessary clarification.

I think keeping initial edits separate from the submitted article would help advanced editors monitor changes being made before the original is transformed by edits.

Throughout ethics and advanced editing, I have seen the importance of follow-up stories. I think could do a better job of updating stories that warrant follow-up coverage. A system could be implemented where the reporter on the original story has the opportunity to do the follow up for extra credit. If someone else wants to pursue the update, he or she could get full credit or bonus based on how much additional work is involved in the subsequent coverage. This could also help students who struggle to come up with ideas each week, as well as help provide material on slow days.

What I am proud of

I am glad I had the opportunity to participate in election coverage for WUFT. I live blogged during the 2012 elections from the newsroom. Each editing student covered a couple counties in our coverage area as results came in.

During this semester, I had the opportunity to help cover the Gainesville City Commission election. Erica, Katie, Haley and I went to the supervisor of elections office and live tweeted results as they came in. In addition, we went to two additional election-watch parties to collect audio and photos of the winners. It is difficult to learn how to report objectively from a textbook, so it was helpful to practice this skill in the field. I am passionate about politics, but I must put aside my political affiliation and beliefs when I am on duty as a reporter. Journalists have a duty to provide facts and context, not commentary on the situation.

I also covered the runoff election between Helen K. Warren and Annie Orlando on April 8 with Erica and Haley. I enjoyed live tweeting this race because the results were so close. It still amazes me that out of 10,723 votes cast, only 127 votes separated the two candidates.

Working with my fellow advanced editors is always a positive experience, and I feel like we function like a well-oiled machine. I interviewed Warren, and Erica spoke with Orlando and Pam Carpenter, the supervisor of elections for Alachua County. Haley circulated and took some awesome photos, my favorite being the one capturing Warren’s victory.

We were also able to share our materials with the radio students. When we returned to the INC to write the story, we sent the audio to Forrest to be used during the morning shows. This collaboration is one of the greatest benefits of the INC.

I am also proud of the connections and friendships I have made with other editors. I worked a lot with Jennifer Hernandez earlier in the semester on her stories. She would come in to discuss pitches, as well as work on her stories in the INC. When I saw her in the library in early April, she invited me to lunch. I thanked her for her diligent efforts during the semester, and she praised me for my positivity.

I have also gotten to know Jaclyn De Bonis. She was one of Erica’s web producers earlier in the semester. After the switch, she has liked coming in on Thursdays afternoons to discuss future pitches, as well as to work on her current story. One week, we edited her story line by line. This was helpful for both of us because I was able to learn more about the two bills in the Florida Legislature, and she was able to see what she still needed to do before her story would be publishable. Working with editors like Jennifer and Jaclyn made up for the sass and rudeness of some of their colleagues.

Preparation for Advanced Editing

In-Class Preparation

Editing has always been something I was passionate about. While I enjoy reporting, I feel more in my element when I am working in a newsroom helping reporters perfect their stories, as well as balancing a variety of other tasks.

Even though I have seen students struggling during this semester of editing, I also envy them. While I earned several clips during my editing semester, these students have the opportunity to get five to seven articles published, in addition to showcasing their photography and audio skills. They should be thankful for the opportunity instead of begging for a return to a lab setting. I feel much more prepared for a real newsroom after working for WUFT than I did after my lab work during writing for mass communication and reporting.

One major concern I have about my in-class preparation pertains to my semester in fact finding. When I enrolled in the course, professor Corey Armstrong was on sabbatical. While she was gone, Dr. Sunny Skye Hughes was brought in. She had never taught this course before, and she attempted to transform it completely.

Before providing instruction for how to obtain records, she sent us to the Alachua County Clerk of the Court. The records custodians were inundated with more than 60 students who had no idea what they were doing. I went to each class meeting and read all of the required online text readings, but I can honestly say I did not learn anything of value.

Our final group project entailed issues of national security, so we sent Freedom of Information requests to the Department of Homeland Security and the Central Intelligence Agency. As you can expect, we were promptly denied. When writing these requests, I felt more comfortable using Google than what we had learned in class.

As I edit stories in the INC, I wish I had gained more skills during fact finding that would allow me to check out certain information quicker, as well as add material that can be obtained through a public records search.

I am glad I am enrolled in ethics and advanced editing during the same semester. As I read through stories, I am constantly looking for where information was obtained so I can verify it. During my week 13 shift, a story featured statistics about crashes in certain Florida counties. When I saw how this information was not included with a source or hyperlink, I immediately called the reporter. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel taught me “the essence of journalism is a discipline of verification.” Keeping this in mind has made me a better editor.

Ethics has also prepared me to look for objectivity and the presence of bias. We read an article by Reid MacCluggage about the importance of skeptical editing. At the start of this course, I think I trusted the editing students too much. I wrongly assumed that they were writing in a truthful and objective manner.

I have gotten better about “prosecuting the story” by making sure assertions are supported by factual information. If “most people” feel a certain way, I wonder why I am  only hearing from one person. In addition, I am better at realizing when a certain stakeholder group is missing from an article. A recent article about legislation involving foster children and driving comes to mind. While it is beneficial to hear from the legislators, it is also necessary to hear from a foster child who would be impacted. With these inclusions, I think Jacyln’s article was much stronger.

Out-of-class Preparation

I have been fortunate to have several internships during my four years at UF. This has included an internship at the Pittsford Central School District Communications Office. With this position, I have worked with the director of communications for the past two summers, as well as during winter breaks. During my final semester at UF, I have also done freelancing work for the district.

As the first-ever intern for this department, I am involved with many different projects. I have the chance to write for the quarterly newsletter, website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. When I am preparing to write something, I often interview administrators and faculty members. Over time, I have honed my interviewing skills. While I have a set of questions prepared beforehand, I also am able to go with the flow of the interview.

In addition, I have the opportunity to use my editing skills. My boss often writes a variety of press releases and letters that are sent to the families whose children attend one or more of the nine schools. She often asks me to read and make suggestions about what she wrote. Catching an extra or misspelled word can make a difference, especially on something that will be seen by several thousand people.

The spring of 2014 is also the third semester I have worked at the UF Foundation Office of Donor Relations. With this internship, I have access to personal information for major donors to the university. I can look up Billy Donovan or Will Muschamp’s address and phone number with a simple search. However, my personal ethics would prevent me from ever using this information for something that was not work related.

This office is largely responsible for all stewardship activities. We collaborate on ways to recognize donors for their continued support of UF. One way we recognize donors is through personalized endowment reports. It is essential to capture any spelling or grammar errors because this demonstrates carelessness to our donors. My editing eye has become sharper because of this position.

One activity unrelated to classes or internships that has helped prepare me for this capstone is reading the news from a variety of sources. It is difficult to recognize a good piece of news if you do not have a sense of what this reporting entails. While I wish I had more time to sit down and absorb the news, I always try to read as much from as many resources as I can.

Personal Strengths

I am skilled at fully vetting story pitches before discussing them with my supervisors. I do my best to learn all that I can about an angle a reporter is pursuing before I spike it. I ask a variety of probing questions because these reporters often have good ideas that just need further development.

When I originally received a pitch about the last Catholic school in Citrus County closing, I was interested. However, I am also aware that schools close down on a regular basis. How many students and families would be affected? Where was the closest Catholic school outside of the county? She answered these questions and more in the published article about Pope John Paul II Catholic School.

Also, I am good at editing for grammar and AP Style. During my semester of editing, we were the last section to take the version that focused predominantly on grammar, AP style and numeracy. While students now have to take a writing mechanics course, I am glad I had this experience because I am able to pick out these errors.

I would consider my ability to assess story flow to be a valuable strength. Sometimes, stories are submitted that go all over the place. A recent story submitted about the tethering of dogs in Marion County comes to mind.

This story was an update of an earlier story published on I thought it was essential to put what the ordinance established at the top, followed by additional context about the April 1 vote. As the story flowed, I inserted a link to our previous coverage, so we did not rehash everything that had already been written.

Personal weaknesses/Skills I am still working on

As I edit, I need to focus on anything that might be missing. Whenever I am writing a story, I feel like I cover all the bases. It is sometimes difficult for me to spot the holes when I did not actually do the reporting. With each story I edit, I am making a conscious effort to ask what is going on, who is involved, why is it occurring.

I also tend to wrongly assume reporters check everything. It baffles me when I find fact errors, especially because of the hefty penalty. I have learned the importance of doing the math. This step saved me from publishing a citrus greening article that said more than 26,000 beekeepers are registered in Florida instead of the correct number that was closer to 3,000.

In my speaking and writing, I tend to be verbose. Sometimes it is difficult for me to cut phrases or sections from a story. As the weeks progressed and I went through stories, I think I got better at assessing stories paragraph by paragraph. What does this section or source add to the story? Does this quote need to be included? As a self-described abuser of the word that, the redact rule has also helped me eliminate this word if it is not integral to the sentence.

I must also continue to focus on making sure headlines and ledes are dense with information while also being concise. Resources, including the DWI Headlines post, have helped me see ways I can focus on this skill.

Inventor Thomas Edison once said, “Our great weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Through additional experience and practice, I look forward to turning these weaknesses into strengths.



Diary Week 14

It is hard to believe that this was my final official shift. While I look forward to working during the reading day and additional shifts during finals week, it was a bittersweet day.

I had to leave on time at 6 p.m. because of a required event for a campus organization. On most Thursdays, Tripp and I stay in the INC until 8 or 9 p.m. We can usually get a lot done, and I feel much better about leaving for the day when I know we have accomplished all that we possibly can.

I will be heading in on Friday morning for a few hours to help publish additional stories. Thursday’s shift was dominated by story pitches and working with reporters preparing their stories for publication.

Tripp focused on publishing the story about the recognition of a Citrus County teacher. This story has been in the WordPress for more than a week in the “To Slot” category, so we were concerned as to why this was not done sooner. Once he published the article, I sent out a tweet.

Alexandra's stories always feature people and issues I know little to nothing about. I love learning something new!

Alexandra’s stories always feature people and issues I know little to nothing about. I love learning something new!

One of the story pitches I dealt with pertained to the Alachua Conservation Trust and its Nest Box Program. I had several questions about this pitch, and the reporter is working on providing some additional details. However, I was impressed by her knowledge of the topic, as well as her timely responses.

Daniela's initial pitch was detailed, but I still had some questions.

Daniela’s initial pitch was detailed, but I still had some questions.

From her responses, it is evident she has done her research

From her responses, it is evident she has done her research.

I also dealt with a pitch pertaining to the Fort King Historic Site opening in May 2014. I expressed a few concerns to the reporter, including worries about this turning into a press release. In addition, why did the city not give the site funding until now?

I would not want this story to focus on the opening of  a museum and park. This would NOT be the part of focus on.

I would not want this story to focus on the opening of a museum and park. This would NOT be the part of focus on.

I always try to respond as soon as possible following a pitch submission or follow up because these reporters should have as much time as possible to work on their stories. Today, it was a pleasant surprise to have many of the reporters also responding in a timely manner.

I also appreciate when a reporter is willing to fine-tune an angle if the change will result in a more newsworthy and interesting story.

I am hoping this topic leads her to a great angle.

I am hoping this topic leads her to a great angle.

Keith and I also worked extensively on two stories submitted by Logan Ladnyk. As you can tell from previous blog posts, his stories have been problematic. His recent submissions have lacked focus and the newsworthy information is often buried.

With his story about the Leptospira bacteria, the newsworthy angle seems like it should be the spike of cases as compared to previous years. In our suggested edits to Logan, we told him this information should be moved higher up in the story.

I also questioned Logan about documentation or data we can link to. Where is the evidence of these 12 cases? What have other veterinarians seen? I do not feel like the story is completely hopeless, but it still needs substantial work.

Leptospira Story

“Lepto can kill – vaccinate now,” reads a sign at Oaks Veterinary Hospital. An earlier sign said there was an outbreak. (This lede adds nothing to your story)

Lepto, short for leptospirosis, is an infection caused by the leptospira bacteria (Please explain this further – To most readers, this bacteria means nothing) It can infect both humans and animals. The bacteria can be transmitted either between hosts or through the environment.

A seven-page report by the Center for Food Security and Public Health and the Institute for International Cooperation in Animal Biologics, both of Iowa State University, says that it can be ingested via contaminated food or water, spread by urine or water in particles light enough to be carried in the air or transmitted by direct contact with the skin.

Leptospira can also enter the body through mucous membranes, places where skin has worn away or by penetrating soggy skin that’s been in water for a long time.

David D. Blaney, MD (check AP style), of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Bacterial Special Pathogens Branch (this is a long title) said in an email that “leptospira bacteria are commonly found in fresh and standing water worldwide, and that it is not uncommon (then why is it important?) for animals to become infected.

Infection leads to kidney involvement and shedding of the bacteria into the urine, which can then contaminate other water sources.”

According to a report from UF Health distributed to veterinary clinics through the region, provided by Millhopper Veterinary Medical Center, an infected rodent’s urine can seep into soil or water, allowing the bacteria to live for weeks or months. (Be wary of starting paragraphs with according to)

According to Oaks Veterinary Hospital, located at 229 NW 75th Street in Gainesville, leptospirosis’ symptoms include vomiting, depression, a lack of appetite, fever and a sore stomach.

The UF Health report says that the UF’s Small Animal Hospital veterinarians see “almost no cases of leptospirosis in dogs” in a typical year, but that the facility has seen 12 cases in the past six months. (If this is the news, it should be higher in the story) (Also we need verification through documentation, etc. showing these 12 cases/Information from other animal hospitals and vets would also be helpful)

“The occurrence of this cluster of cases would indicate that some sort of environmental influence, such as heavy rain, has led to an increase in the bacteria in the environments,” Blaney said.

Pet owners who suspect their animal may be infected are recommended to be tested for the disease, according to UF Health and Oaks Veterinary Hospital. They caution that an untreated pet could develop serious and fatal diseases as a result. The Iowa State report says that “Deaths can occur from kidney failure, cardiac involvement, pulmonary hemorrhage or other serious organ dysfunction.”

“We would recommend that dog owners not handle or come into contact with urine, blood, or tissues from an infected pet before it has received proper treatment,” Blaney said. “Gloves should be worn when cleaning out cages or litter boxes, and hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and water after working with or cleaning up after infected animals.” (May be able to paraphrase)

Blaney said that surfaces that might be contaminated with urine or body fluids from an animal with leptospirosis should be cleaned with a solution that is one part household bleach and 10 parts water. (You mention urine several times – is this necessary?)

A receptionist at Oaks said that the leptospirosis vaccine costs about $35, and a booster administered in three to four weeks (Three to four weeks after the initial shot?) costs an additional $35. The vaccine is good for a year, and future vaccinations do not require the booster.

“It’s one of the vaccines that they’re [UF Health] starting to recommend more,” she said. (Is this quote needed?)

As we discussed during our meeting the other night, it could be beneficial for reporters to have our phone numbers for questions. Alexandrea DaCosta contacted me through text about my input. She asked if it would be okay to submit some questions to me by email, and I said that would be fine. Advanced editors should be resources for the editing students, and I want to do all that I can for them to be successful.

She asked me about doing a story regarding organic farming. This practice has become significantly more popular in Florida and across the country in the past few years.

After two days of reporting, she was able to submit a story with several great sources.

When making my initial edits, I worked on tightening the copy. I made sure to introduce Jenni Williams before including her quote. After having some issues with the attribution fusion rule, I always try to check for this. I also paraphrased or removed quotes that did not add anything.

Upon further inspection of her story, I realized all of the farmers interviewed used some organic farming techniques, but they were all from noncertified organic farms. While Alex explained in the story how this process worked, I thought it was integral to include input from a certified organic farmer. I also wanted hard data to show this increase.

Alex was easily reached by phone. I suggested she interview another source, which is something she promptly scheduled. In addition, she provided me with the numbers I think were essential to the first two paragraphs. When I work on Friday, I am hoping to publish this story.

She showed me how beneficial it is for these reporters to have the shift blocked off in their schedules. In addition, making progress on a story is much more rewarding than placing it in reporter questions purgatory.

 Organic Farming Sustains Popularity Despite High Costs

4/17: I made initial edits to Alex’s story. I contacted her about getting in touch with a certified organic farmer for her story. In addition, I asked her to provide us with concrete data for 2011 and 2012. She said she will get working and keep us updated. -CV

Organic farms in Florida have more than doubled within the past two years. While 153 farms existed in 2011, the number of farms increased to 315 in 2013.

In the United States, about 12,880 organic farms existed in 2011. By 2013, the number of farms and processing facilities totaled 18,513, according to the list of certified operations.

To maintain an organic farm, farmers cannot use synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering, irradiation or sewage sludge, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Fay Huebner, an owner of Shiloh Organics in Micanopy, said she thinks the increased demand for organic produce is a result of increased education about its production. Shiloh Organics is an uncertified organic grower.

She said as more people see the “organic” label and research genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and learn about pesticides, the more people want to purchase organically grown food.

Jenni Williams, the communications director for the Florida Organic Growers, said organic farming is a growing trend, especially in recent years.

Huebner said while her operation is small, she is having no trouble selling vegetables.

Schuyler Sloane, the market manager for the Alachua County Farmers Market, said he has noticed an increase in the number of vendors selling organic produce at the market during the past year and a half.

He said since more farms began selling organic produce, he has noticed an increase in customers at the farmers markets as well. Williston Blueberry Farm is another organic

Jeff Groves, the owner of Williston Blueberry Farm, said organic farming provides the best methods for growing healthier plants.

While Groves sells pesticide-free blueberries, his farm is not solely organic. He covers several other markets.

Although he said organic farming is the best way to grow fruits and vegetables, he also noted cultivating an organic farm is expensive.

“It’s your labor, your cost, your weeding – that’s what gets much higher,” he said.

Huebner agreed that organic growing takes more labor and money. She said normally simple tasks,  such as keeping pests away, cost more because organic farming products typically cost more.

Despite the high cost of production, she said Shiloh Organics tries to price their vegetables as close to the market price as possible. She said while they do try to get the money out of it that they put in, it is more of a service for the community.

Sam Jones-Ellard, the USDA spokesman, said there are growers and farms, including Shiloh Organics and Williston Blueberry Farm, that are not certified as organic. These farmers choose to cultivate organic fruits and vegetables for the benefit of their communities.


He said if farms make less than $5,000 per year, they are exempt from having to go through the organic certification process.

He said in order for other farms to maintain their organic certification, a certifying agent would has to write up an Organic Systems Plan, a requirement by the National Organic Program. This document, which records everything about the farm, is used as a tool to ensure all organic regulations and standards are being met.

To maintain organic certification, farms have to be inspected and re-certified each year.

While it is somewhat complicated, Jones-Ellard said farmers do not seem to mind as they continue with the organic farming trend.

By pursuing organic farming, Huebner keeps her produce free of pesticide residue and genetically engineered chemicals.

“My biggest fear is not the nutrition you get from eating organic, but all the things that you’re missing,” Huebner said. “It’s more of the things that you’re missing from organic that I value most.”

Another reporter named Jaclyn De Bonis also contacted me about issues with her story about a recent Washington Post high school ranking announcement. After submitting it last week, it appeared like it was moving toward publication. However, Professor Lewis supposedly had issues with it because of possible segregation at Eastside High School. Upon arriving to the INC, I looked at the email chain and story in the WordPress. I was confused, so I emailed him about what his concerns were.

I felt bad when he came into the newsroom to explain how four separate editors had contacted him about this story. He had shared some information he had heard about the school, but his main concerns were about this story being too much of a public relations piece.

When Jaclyn came in during my shift, I worked with her about ways to improve the story. I suggested she include ranking information for other area high schools. Even if these schools are not ranked as highly, we do not want to look like we are favoring this one school.

In addition, I suggested she contact Jay Matthews, the coordinator of the rankings. Eastside experienced a flux in rankings, and I was interested in knowing whether this is common, as well as what the most important factors are in determining the rankings.

I feel guilty for bothering Dr. Lewis again. This is another example of communication being key. A simple email or note at the top of the story could have cleared this up.

During my shifts throughout the semester, I am lucky to have not experienced a journalist plagiarizing or fabricating stories. However, we almost had a situation like this during one of the first weeks of the semester. We realized a reporter had submitted a photograph to the Alligator for a story he covered for both publications.

After realizing something might be amiss, we contacted the reporter immediately. Upon reading the Poynter tips, I feel like we should have asked him to come into the INC.

When I reached him by phone, he told me how he was a photo stringer for The Alligator. He had sent them a photo, while also covering the story for I advised him to avoid this type of behavior in the future. I will not pretend that this did not impact how closely I looked at subsequent articles submitted by this reporter.

Friday Update

I went into the INC for two hours on Friday morning before heading to my other job. I responded to several story pitches, so Rachel would not be overwhelmed when she arrived.

Content sometimes gets backed up by Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings because Tripp is not in the INC on Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings. Elly and Erica do their best to prepare content for Tripp, which is why several articles are in the “To Slot” category by the time I reach my shift. On Friday, Tripp published a couple of these articles, including one about Clay County assessing its suicide prevention methods and another about Evergreen Cemetery being recognized as a historical landmark.

Links to Work

Alachua County To Mirror Innovation Hub

I saw this story was published on Friday after I made my edits. I am disappointed with the changed lede. The lede I had written focused on the business growth and direction Alachua County wanted to take. I feel that is much more important than the partnership between the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and the county commission’s Economic Development Advisory Committee. Monica Kelly originally included a quote from Kamal Latham, but it did not say much. I switched the quote to a paraphrase about the workshop’s success. I hope WUFT continues to follow up on this story as Alachua County develops these ideas.

School Known For Inclusion Uses Technology In Special Education

I am pleased to see Keith’s article was finally published on Friday after several weeks of progress. The school’s spring break and absence of one of the teachers hindered the publishing process. My diary discusses this story starting in week 5. As you can see from the initial draft below, the FCAT updates and statistics make a difference. I am happy he was able to have another story published because I see how hard he has worked as a web producer.

Newberry Elementary’s Inclusion Program Attracts Parents

Email sent to Keith on 2/6 with follow-up questions

Pam Hickox’s son is a third-grade student who is in his first year at Newberry Elementary School. Prior to this school year, she spent a year and a half trying to get him enrolled in Newberry for one reason: the school’s inclusive education model.

Hickox’s son has Down syndrome, but as part of Newberry’s inclusion model, all of the school’s special-needs students take classes with non-disabled students, instead of being put into separate special-education programs, or what is known as the pull-out model.

According to principal Lacy Redd, students in kindergarten through fourth grade are served in a co-teach model. The special-education teachers push into the regular education classroom and provide support and accommodations.

“I was aware of the inclusion program, and had checked on my son attending about a year and a half ago,” Hickox said in an email. “At the time, I was told from the District Office it was not likely any students from outside of Alachua County would receive McKay scholarships to attend from another county.”

McKay scholarships offer parents of special-needs students the choice of transferring the student to another school.

“Ultimately, I was able to get a job in Newberry, which allowed my son to come to school with me and attend Newberry Elementary School,” she said.

Hickox’s child is just one example. Students come from all over Gainesville, or in Hickox’s case, move to the area to for the inclusion program.

”We have had families move to Newberry for the inclusion model for sure,” said Redd. “But, you have to live in our zone to go to our school. So it does require a family to move to our zone.”

Redd founded the inclusion model at Newberry seven years ago. Through the work of the school’s three special-education teachers and the use of assistive technology, the inclusion model is constantly changing and improving to best fit the needs of its students.

“Every year I take into consideration our budget and our school improvement plans to try and provide those extra tools that students need,” said Redd. “We’re always looking for new things, things that we can incorporate into our education plan that help meet those kids needs.”

The school recently started using iPads with some of its special-needs students, but the assistive technology can range from something as simple as a special grip on a pencil, to a slant board, to a device called a Big Mac. The Big Mac is two buttons, one red and one green, that can be set to say anything the teacher or student may want.

“When I was first told that I would be working with this I was like, ‘The only Big Mac I know comes from McDonald’s and I have no clue what you’re talking about,’” said first-grade teacher Morgan Martin.

Martin has a quadriplegic student in her class, and the Big Mac, along with the iPad help to give the student a voice.

“It gives him a voice since he can’t communicate,” said Martin. “This way he can speak out like the other kids do. He does like having a voice.”

Having the special-needs students in the classroom full-time is a good thing for those students without disabilities too.

“It is good though because then all the other kids don’t see him as just this person who floats in our room and leaves,” said Martin. “They see him as their friend.”

Regardless of the impact of the technology, the true measure of success of any model is test scores. In Florida, all students, whether they have a disability or not, are expected to pass the FCAT. Except FCAT is getting phased out for Common Core… or whatever ends up replacing it. According to Redd, Newberry has seen a remarkable change in their data since the inception of its inclusion model.

“We are always looking at data to try and drive our instruction,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of success with kids being able to pass the state assessment and show remarked improvement in achievement scores since we’ve started the co-teach model.”

Redd believes a big part of the success is that the special-needs students are exposed to on-grade level material with the inclusion model.

“Before, in the pull-out model, they were not receiving the on-grade level instruction. They were going to a smaller group setting, but you saw the skill level drop,” she said.

Hickox has been very pleased with the progress of her son under the inclusion model.

“I have seen a change in my child,” she said. “He has always loved school, but as the curriculum was getting harder, he was frustrated.  I feel with the inclusion program and assistive technology, he is able to be as successful as he can.”


Diary Week 13

During the past few days, I have spent a substantial amount of time in the INC.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to cover the run-off election between Helen Warren and Annie Orlando with Erica and Haley. It was exciting to watch the returns come in, especially in such a tight race. I still cannot believe Warren only won by 127 votes.

I helped live tweet the results. In addition, I interviewed Warren after her victory. When we returned to the INC, we transcribed our audio and worked together on the story. I think we did an effective job of hyperlinking to results from the Alachua County supervisor of elections website. Also, we made sure to include information that provided context from the general election.

It is always a great experience to cover elections for

It is always a great experience to cover elections for

On Wednesday morning, Chris Peralta contacted me about participating in the “Web Q & A” on the 6 p.m. show. I was excited to talk about a story I helped produce. I provided Chris with some of the election resources because he wanted the segment to focus on the numbers. Students in the graphics department prepared two full-screen visuals to discuss the vote results and voter turnout.

Today was a long shift. Erica posted a gallery during her shift. She mentioned how we could draw more attention to it by posting to Twitter, so I sent out a tweet.

Are we doing all that we can to interact with our audience?

Are we doing all that we can to interact with our audience?

While technically only one story was submitted, many stories in the WordPress were waiting for final edits. Logan, my former web producer, submitted an article about Florida railroad deaths. I began by asking Keith to perform initial edits. After a short while, he came over and asked to go through the article with me because there were a variety of issues.

The story not only lacked three sources, but it seemed to be missing a focus. I sent Logan an email discussing our issues with his story. He said he plans to come in on Friday, so I am hoping some of the problems can be resolved.

I am hoping emails that include suggested edits are helpful for reporters

I am hoping emails that include suggested edits are helpful for reporters

Logan’s Rail Road Story

In politics, Florida seems to follow nationwide trends: In nine of the past 10 elections, Floridians collectively voted in favor of the eventual winner. In railroad safety, however, the state bucked a yearlong trend. (This is confusing and the first two sentences have no bearing on your story. Please work on a hard-news lead)

Railroads nationwide and a non-profit group, Operation Lifesaver, are planning a public service announcement campaign after 2013 saw more deaths at both railroad crossings and from people trespassing on tracks. Nationally, 250 people died at railroad crossings in 2013, an eight percent increase from 2012. Trespassing deaths rose 11 percent to 476 deaths. (Too many numbers in one paragraph/Also when is the PSA being released, and why should we care now?)

In Florida, the number of deaths at railroad crossings remained the same in 2013. In both years, 12 deaths were reported. (What is considered a railroad crossing death? Explain what factors need to be present to be ruled this type of death)

However, Florida is second among all states in trespassing deaths, trailing only California with 76. There were 26 trespassing deaths in 2013. (Please explain what constitutes a trespassing death)Florida ranked sixth nationally in crossing deaths, trailing California, Texas, Illinois, Indiana and Georgia.

So then, why is Florida so high on both lists despite not following the pattern of increased deaths? (Consider rephrasing in non-question form)

Robert Ledoux,  the senior vice president for the Florida East Coast Railway Company, said that since Florida is a flat state, grade separation projects are expensive. The company is the second largest rail corporation in Florida, behind CSX. He was able to give some answers as to why the numbers were high. (I like how you attempt to give context about Florida East Coast Railway, but I think you can work on concision)

Regarding crossings, he said that because Florida is a flat state, grade separation projects are expensive. These projects help improve safety by making roads and railways go over and under each other. (How expensive? Who pays for?) In states with more altitude changes, building along the natural landscape can help offset construction costs of raising tracks or roads. (Could you provide more details about altitude changes and natural landscape, maybe one or two examples?)

The Florida Department of Transportation has a “Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Action Plan,” in which it outlines challenges, solutions and strategies for reducing crossing and trespassing incidents. The latest publicly available version of this plan from August 26, 2011, reported that out of the 4,905 railroad crossings in Florida 91.8 percent, or 4,503 crossings, were “at-grade.” (If a crossing is “at-grade,” what exactly does this mean?)

According to the plan, $7.5 million was set aside to improve crossings, which would have improved 35-45 crossings in the state. The plan also references a five-year study by the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, which concluded that most railroad crossing incidents “occur at public crossings, are a result of risky driver behavior, involve motor vehicles and occur at locations with active warning devices.” (When would we see these improvements?)

Stopping trespassing deaths is a trickier issue. In 2013, 10 Floridians used oncoming trains as a method of suicide. (What is your source for this information? Please cite)

“We still don’t know exactly how we prevent that,” Ledoux said. (Would be better as a paraphrase)

The Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis reported that in 2013, 238 people committed suicide by train nationally, as well as 24 failed attempts that resulted in injuries. (Abrupt ending)

I also dealt with various story pitches today, including one from Lawrence. His original pitch concerned me because he was interested in doing an update on something that occurred in February. I often suggest that reporters pursue some pre-reporting before committing to an idea.

Lawrence continues to put a substantial amount of thought into his pitches

Lawrence continues to put a substantial amount of thought into his pitches

Lawrence came in later during my shift to discuss other ideas. Evergreen Cemetery is being named a state historical landmark this weekend. What is the reason for this cemetery receiving this status? That is going to be the news hook for this story, while the recognition date and cemetery history will be used to provide context. In addition, I suggested he research whether any other cemeteries in our coverage area are recognized as landmarks.

I was able to witness another example of collaboration in the INC today. Lawrence’s article was originally marked to slot and ready for Tripp. However, upon a quick glance, Tripp did not feel as though it was even close to being publication ready. I asked Keith to perform edits. After making some notes, he came over to discuss his suggested edits.

He made some helpful suggestions about sections that could be moved around to ensure better understanding for our audience, as well as terms that needed an explanation. Keith emailed Lawrence about contacting the newsroom, and I was impressed when he came in to discuss his story.

I felt slightly guilty because Lawrence said he has worked with at least four editors over the past few days. As the INC continues to develop, this is something that needs to be addressed. While students should get experience editing, we do not want it to come at the price of butchering stories and wasting the time of reporters. In my final summing-up essay, I plan to discuss ways to address this.

Throughout this semester, we have talked extensively about stories falling through the cracks. One story about April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Florida Highway Patrol’s “Staying Alive on I-75” the weekend of March 28 through 30 had been sitting in the WordPress for several days. Tripp made the executive decision to publish this story when it was originally saved in the WordPress on April 1.

I went through and performed edits on it, including adding hyperlinks to various sources. I also went through the copy to change direct quotes to paraphrased versions. “We want people to be aware of the numerous distractions and how they do contribute to many crashes and violations.” Quotes like this are better when the overall message is paraphrased.

I think many students are nervous about using paraphrases because they want to use every single quote. As my editing skills continue to develop, I have gotten better at spotting what is appropriate based on the context.

Erica covered the University of Florida Board of Trustees meeting pertaining to the search for the new president. Once she came back from her meeting, we went through her article together to make sure it flowed and included all of the necessary details. Having an extra set of eyes can truly make a difference.

I also sent my summary email for Friday’s editors. I have noticed how posts seem to back up toward the end of the week. While we cannot always control this based on story submissions and reporter questions, we should all do our best to publish at least two stories to prevent a list of stories from being left for editors the following day. We published four articles today, and I still feel guilty leaving several stories for Rachel and Tripp tomorrow.

I was impressed by the stories submitted during the past few days

I was impressed by the stories submitted during the past few days

Links to Work

Proposed Legislation To Focus on Florida Foster Children

I have been working on this story with Jaclyn since the initial discussion about the topic two weeks ago. She has come into the INC every Thursday to discuss progress. As we waited for a source last week, we line edited the story. Earlier this week, she was able to get the perspective of a foster child impacted by not having a license. I think including this viewpoint was essential to her story. It was beneficial to edit this story with the reporter because she was able to clarify any questions I had as we edited the story together. Articles about legislation can be extremely confusing, but I think she did an effective job of explaining the potential effects of these bills. She also edited a great audio clip that I made sure to include in the final post. I also thought this topic might interest members of our audience, so I sent out a tweet.

I had never thought about this topic until Jaclyn's story

I had never thought about this topic until Jaclyn’s story

Buchholz High School Students Prepare Community Tax Returns

While this story does not have a hard news lede, I think it is an effective way of introducing this VITA program. Over these past 13 weeks, I have learned the importance of being aware of people’s titles. When Dr. Lewis came into the INC today, I discussed the best way to address titles that are somewhat obscure. He mentioned how explaining what the position entails can be helpful to our viewers. I attempted to do this when I introduced Jennifer Stojkovic. Journalist Claudia Marina interviewed a variety of sources, so I also made sure to keep the quotes in blocks to avoid causing confusion for readers.


Diary Week 12

Today’s shift demonstrated to me how students are still struggling with the editing course. I spoke with Dr. Lewis in his office yesterday, and he mentioned how content creators seem to be doing worse during the second part of the semester. After having these students in the INC during the start of the course, I honestly thought everything would go much smoother.

However, ZERO publishable stories were submitted during my shift. Erica has three students out in the field, and I have one. One of Erica’s reporters submitted a story before today’s deadline, but it is stuck in reporter’s questions. I emailed the reporter and talked to her on the phone. She has made some additional calls, so I am hoping she gets answers so we can publish her article tomorrow or early next week.

Another one of Erica’s students has not submitted anything following the switch. This is extremely disappointing because he demonstrated such promise. While working as a web producer, he chased down stories and appeared on the 6 p.m. news show. I wish there was a required session in the newsroom on the days their stories were due so we had a guaranteed meeting with these students.

I do not think we need to hold their hands, but I have heard from multiple editors about being intimidated by the INC and not feeling welcome. If they were required to stop in for 20 minutes on the day their story is due, I think these students would feel more comfortable about coming in.

Erica’s other student named Jaclyn has been stellar. She comes into the INC regularly on Thursday afternoons to work on her stories. She is in the process of finalizing her story about legislation focusing on driver’s licenses and foster children. The bill’s sponsor has been nearly impossible to track down. She has called his office and sent emails multiple times during the past week. While in the INC today, she was able to get some answers from his office. I am hoping this will be ready for publishing tomorrow.

In addition, Jaclyn and I spent time discussing future story pitches. One of her story ideas pertained to state park changes in Silver Springs. She stayed in the INC for more than two hours formulating pitch ideas, and I greatly respect her tenacity.

Logan sent an email this morning to tell Erica his story would be late. When I saw his name appear in the email during the late afternoon, I was excited for a story. However, my excitement faded fast as I read the article.

The following excerpt shows how the story began.

What is the news? It is not a good sign when I have no idea after four paragraphs.

What is the news? It is not a good sign when I have no idea after four paragraphs.

In addition to this struggling start, I could not see anything new or particularly newsworthy. While the University of Florida’s Small Animal Hospital saw more cases than usual, is this the news? Also, he did not find out this information from a source at the hospital. Instead, he found this information in a UF Health Report.

I expressed my concerns to him and told him he needed to contact other veterinary offices and animal hospitals in our coverage area to see if this is actually a widespread problem. While I know many of our readers would be interested in hearing about a disease that could impact their furry friends, we need to make sure there is actually something newsworthy going on.

I felt bad for Keith because there was a shortage of work for him today. He completed the In the News. I thought it was interesting how he incorporated Politifact into the roundup. We have discussed the effectiveness of this resource in ethics, and I think it is a tool journalists should utilize more often.

One of the first things I did during my shift today was to update and email the stories in the reporter questions category. While six stories is much better than the 17 from a few weeks ago, we must continue to be diligent about following up with these reporters.

Adding updates to the stories in reporter questions makes it easier to find out where a story stands in the editing process

Adding updates to the stories in reporter questions makes it easier to find out where a story stands in the editing process

During last night’s lecture, Elly discussed the co-op story she had been working on. She went through the process of dissecting the story line by line with Ashley, a reporter who has been difficult to deal with.

Ashley had been working heavily with Tripp on this story, so he looked at it again when he arrived. Upon further inspection, it became obvious how this story was no longer timely because nothing new is happening with it. In addition, a very similar story was published by the Gainesville Sun on Friday. We ultimately decided to spike the story.

It is always frustrating when I know how much work has gone into a story that eventually gets spiked. When a story is submitted, we should do a quick Google search to see whether it has received any other coverage. It is easy to skip this test and usually it is not an issue. However, it can save a lot of wasted effort if we know a story cannot be published when it is first submitted versus a couple days later.

Even though story submissions were lacking today, students were active about sending pitches in. One broadcast student named Leah sent in a story this morning. The email arrived during Erica’s shift, but we both discussed the best way to respond.

Does this sound like we are on the offensive? Is one source ever enough?  These are two of the questions I had about this story.

Does this sound like we are on the offensive? Is one source ever enough? These are two of the questions I had about this story.

Based on our news judgment, we questioned whether this story could be perceived as an attack. In addition, Lowe’s life no longer keeps him in the public eye. While someone is technically a public figure forever, we were wondering whether it was appropriate to dredge this situation up again. Also, if extensions are granted on a regular basis, is this something people would care about?

She made a good point by saying he signed an agreement, and we have a duty to serve as a watchdog. However, I am still wary of any story that only has one source. If she cannot get in touch with Lowe, maybe she could contact his attorney, etc. We do not want to appear as though we are attacking Lowe in a one-sided article.

I also worked with another student on her pitch about the “Staying Alive on I-75” campaign. Whenever I receive a pitch, I always try to ask a series of questions that will allow us to better address whether the topic is newsworthy and publishable on Many of these students put a lot of effort into their pitches, so I try to gather as much information before speaking about it with Tripp or Matt.

Story pitches, the sunshine of a slow news day

Story pitches, the sunshine of a slow news day

Pre-reporting is often necessary to address a story pitch's potential

Pre-reporting is often necessary to address a story pitch’s potential

Once my shift was complete, I made sure to send my weekly email that addresses what is on the agenda for tomorrow.

Hoping more stories are sent in on Friday!

Hoping more stories are sent in on Friday!


Links to Work

Music Store Closing Its Doors After 60 Years

Haley was out in the field today covering the closing of Lipham Music. She included some awesome details, including the store’s connection to famous artists. Whenever I am in the process of researching a story I utilize Google. This often leads me to an organization or company’s website. For this story, I double-checked facts based on the Lipham Music website. It is never easy to share stories about community landmarks closing, but it is definitely something our readers are interested in.

Marion County Bans 24/7 Tethering Of Dogs

In Tuesday’s lecture, you mentioned the importance of headings dense with information. I thought this headline effectively captured what the ordinance will do in as few of words as possible. The story originally began “The Marion County Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance 3-2 Tuesday that will ban 24/7 unattended tethering of dogs.” I am working hard to write ledes that are not “yawn-worthy.” With this article, I put the news at the start. Under the first paragraph, I explained how the April 1 vote impacts part of the Marion County Code of Ordinances. This week’s blog topic was knowledge-based journalism. With this story, I looked to various Marion County resources to check facts. This included the agendas and meeting minutes for the Marion County Board of Commissioners and the Marion County Code of Ordinances. Unfortunately, some of the PDFs available from these websites did not allow me to hyperlink to them. When I inserted them, they would come up as no longer available when I tried to access them. I always check the hyperlinks through the preview function before publishing so we do not post any dead links. I also thought it was important to link to our previous coverage of this topic. If we have done extensive work on a topic, we should give credit to our reporters and help provide context for our readers. Sometimes, I think we could do a better job about following up on stories we cover.


Diary Week 11

Today was a productive shift, even though there was a shortage of story submissions.

Unfortunately, we were only able to publish one story this afternoon. Only one reporter is technically out in the field on Thursday afternoons, and his story fell through earlier this week. In addition, only one of Erica’s former students submitted a story. This story will not be complete until she talks with the final source tomorrow.

However, even though we were not able to publish Jacylyn’s story today, she came into the INC, and we edited her story together for about one hour. It was extremely helpful to have the opportunity to ask her direct questions about confusing parts, as well as making sure we were correctly citing the legislation. In future semesters, I think it would help to have content creators come in for short meetings with editors. Not having to waste time playing telephone and email tag would be a much more efficient use of everyone’s time. I will include what we have for Jaclyn’s story in the Links to Work section.

Keith was of great assistance today. The shift started out slow, so I had him complete the In the News. He chose timely stories that would interest people in our coverage area. He has been using the Intranet for help, as well as utilizing the Digg Reader. I complimented him on his news judgment but also suggested he use more diverse sources in future weeks.

He was also helpful in being a fact checker. Haley and Elly had edited the education story we published today. Dr. Lewis also spent a lot of time on it during the past few days. Keith was helpful in checking the number of schools in both Alachua County and Duval County. When he could not reach a person by phone, he took the time to find the information on the Internet. This was of great help to me as I conversed with other students in person and on the phone.

In addition, we went through Keith’s story that has remained in the reporters question section for several weeks. We were able to incorporate edits, as well as make note of what he needs to clarify with sources. Keith worked with other editors earlier this week, but I think he appreciated sitting down and going through the story line by line. As I continue to develop my coaching strategy, I focused on what is working in the story, as well as what his next steps need to be. He is planning on checking back with sources once the spring break period ends.

As a web platform, I think we have an incredible ability to make sure stories continue to be updated. Tripp told me how Logan is coming in tomorrow to discuss his tree cutting story, which involved a transgression that occurred the weekend of March 15 and 16. While the consequences are still being determined, I contacted Logan about making sure the story is updated before he goes on the air tomorrow. What he discusses tomorrow should not be a rehashing of what he wrote last week because this would be a disservice to our audience.

We must always ask ourselves, is this the most updated information we can provide to our audience?

We must always ask ourselves, is this the most updated information we can provide to our audience?

As I read through email chains and stories that have been re-submitted, it is aggravating how some of the same students have issues with story focus. There is one student whose story has been edited for several weeks now. She submitted a new draft today, and it still feels like her story goes in 500 different directions.

I would love to brainstorm with the other advanced editors for how we can encourage students to be mindful of this. It could be beneficial to host a short session one or two nights before the end of the semester. Any interested editing students can bring their stories to work with advanced editors. We could coordinate times or do this in conjunction with our Wednesday lecture period.

I enjoyed reading the blog post about Twitter concision. As a journalist and student, I continue to struggle with being wordy. When editing stories, I make a conscious effort to look for words that are superfluous. Matt asked Wade to post a story about the health of Florida counties. Once Wade posted the article, I sent out a tweet.

Short and sweet tweet

Short and sweet tweet

Ultimately, the major news is the unhealthiness of Union County, which is one of the core counties in our coverage area. I also wanted to acknowledge the report in the tweet. Those who want to know more can easily follow the link to the story where the report is hyperlinked.

I almost tweeted “Union County is Florida’s least healthy county.” However, Tripp pointed out how repeating county twice was unnecessary. A lot can be said in 140 characters, but it is useless to say the same thing twice.

I wrote a quick note for Rachel and the Friday crew to assist them with their editing duties. I hope these messages allow Friday to be as productive as possible, which translates into a solid foundation for the following week.

We cannot all be in the INC at once, so these updates allow other editors to catch up at the start of their shifts

We cannot all be in the INC at once, so these updates allow other editors to catch up at the start of their shifts

Advisory Council Note

Several advanced editors attended the advisory council meeting. I think we all made a solid case for why editing is a beneficial class that gives students a peak at how life will be in the real world.

Links to Work

More Teachers Teach Outside Of Expertise In Low-Performing Schools

I began hearing about this story on Tuesday night at the advisory council meeting. Haley said she worked on it for most of her shift. In addition, Dr. Lewis even spent time with the article. While we are in a class devoted to editing, it is a little unnerving that a story needs a couple days of editing before it can be published. Elly also left a note that she looked at the article. I spent a large part of my shift making sure the numbers were correct with the help of Keith. I went through the report and counted up the number of low performing schools, making sure there were nine low-performing schools in Alachua County, 30 in Hillsborough County and 27 in Duval County. In addition, I debated with Tripp and Wade about the lede of this story. While I know you are not a fan of anecdotal ledes, this teacher seemed like an effective entryway into the story. At first I was skeptical, but it also worked to incorporate a fantastic kicker quote from the Einstein School principal. We publish many stories pertaining to education, so it is refreshing for audiences to see a story with a slightly different style. Even though this story required a lot of effort by various editors before publication, the reporter continued to be engaged by remaining in contact. When I was originally editing the story, I noticed how one of the schools was labeled in various sources as Montessori school. Once I checked the Gmail, it was refreshing to see the reporter answered my question about this before I could even ask.

When reporters keep the editors updated, it makes our jobs much easier

When reporters keep the editors updated, it makes our jobs much easier

Foster Children Access To Driving Becomes Legislation Focus

3/27: Jaclyn came in and edited the story with me on Thursday afternoon. She is working on interviewing Ben Albritton. She will continue to update us on Thursday night/Friday morning. If contact by phone, please make sure to call twice (may be on “Do Not Disturb”) -CV

In a predominately rural area with limited public transportation, driving in North Central Florida tends to be seen as a necessity and not just a privilege.

However, for most youth in foster care, obtaining a drivers license is not an opportunity many have, said Jenn Petion, the director of community and government relations for Partnership for Strong Families. This agency provides child welfare and related services to 13 counties. At any time, there are about a total of 150 children in licensed foster care in North Central Florida.

Proposed legislation in both the Florida House and Senate is intended to change this by reducing some of the obstacles that prevent foster children from obtaining driver’s permits and licenses.

(Focus on what bills will address/how similar/funding going toward project)The Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee is currently reviewing House Bill 977, (Summary of what the bill does-link to summary/bill) after it received a favorable vote by the Healthy Families Subcommittee on Tuesday.  While Senate Bill 744 (Summary of what the bill does-link to summary/bill) is now in appropriations, after a favorable vote by the Banking and Insurance Committee, also on Tuesday.

Of the 930 15, 16 and 17-year-old foster children surveyed in 2013, only 88 had a learners permit, according to statistics from the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Of the foster children who were old enough to drive (16 and 17 year olds), only 20 of 687 had obtained a driver’s license. (link to PDF)

Concerns over potential liability to foster parents when the child drives a car owned by their foster parents and the cost of insurance are two current primary issues these teens face, Petion said.

Paul Crawford, the eighth judicial circuit director for the Guardian ad Litem program, said having a teenager on an insurance plan can be rather costly. The Guardian ad Litem is a network of court-appointed advocates who represent the interests of abused and neglected children.

Motor vehicle insurance is estimated to cost about $2,000, according to the Senate’s version of the bill.

Also, foster children are often moved from one area to another, which can make it difficult for students to get into school-offered driver’s education courses, Crawford said.

The legislation proposed by Sen. Nancy Detert in the Senate and Rep. Ben Albritton (Jaclyn going to try to talk with Ben-Why/working together?) in the House, attempts to address and remove these obstacles.

Both bills call for the Department of Children and Families to establish a statewide three-year pilot program that would pay the costs of driver education, licensure and motor vehicle insurance for those foster children who complete a driver’s education program. (Clarify with Ben)

The legislation would also require schools to give priority to foster children under DCF care when registering for driver’s education courses.

Albritton’s proposed House bill estimates cost at about $1.5 million, while the Senate bill seeks about $800,000 in funds.

Minors cannot purchase their own motor vehicle insurance unless a court order removes their disability of nonage. This disability places legal restrictions on those under the age of 18. If this order is granted, the minor gains the same rights and responsibilities as an adult, which would allow them to purchase insurance.

In bigger cities where public transportation is readily available for foster children to use to go school, extracurricular activities and work, this legislation might not mean as much, Petion said. However, she said in the more rural communities throughout North Central Florida, passing this legislation would be a great benefit.

Petion and Crawford said this legislation is about more than removing the barriers of liability and insurance costs.

“Our kids are normal kids,” Petion said. “They should be allowed to do normal teen activities and driving has become one of those things.”

After interacting with Jaclyn while she was Erica’s web producer during the first part of the semester, I was greatly impressed with her attention to detail. When she came into the INC today, she was professional and able to answer my various questions.

Upon glancing at her original submission, I was confused about what the legislation was aiming to do. There was also some legal jargon, such as Guardian ad Litem and the disability of nonage I knew we needed to clarify.

As we focus on concision, I also attempt to stay mindful of the redact the that rule. While the conjunction is sometimes needed, I know it is easy to insert the word without much thought. It is often helpful to use the “find” function to see where it is being used. I removed one that in the second paragraph, but I felt like most of the other uses were appropriate.

I hope Ben Albritton, the House bill’s sponsor, can provide some comments about reasons for supporting this bill, as well as some clarification about the three-year pilot program.

While this story will need final tweaks, I think our work today will make it easier for subsequent editors to publish this story tomorrow or on Monday.

Diary Week 10

I was pleased to be a part of another productive afternoon shift. I have established a solid relationship with Tripp, Julian and Chris, which makes for a pleasant super desk experience.

Erica and her students rigorously edited Alex Parish’s gun story. I was glad the reporter was able to salvage the story after one of the sources asked to be removed following a call from a web producer in the INC. We must continue to reinforce to our editing students that they should always contact the reporter about story issues.

Parish also had the opportunity to come to discuss her story on the 6 p.m. news show. She had participated in the web segment before, and I felt it would be better for her to discuss her own story because she knows it best. In future semesters, I think the reporter who is responsible for the featured web story should be responsible for discussing his or her story on the air. These stories are chosen because they are especially newsworthy and important to those in North Central Florida. In future semesters, this might be able to serve as an extra credit opportunity.

One student stopped by to discuss her story that has not earned a grade, as well as questioning the grade she received for her newsroom shift. Erica and I both informed her that we do not have anything to do with their grades. While we place comments on their self-evaluations, we do not suggest a numerical score. Tripp or Dr. Lewis could likely address this confusion in an email.

Keith was helpful in performing the initial edits on several stories. In addition, he assisted in addressing story issues that are contained in the reporter questions category. We were able to spike two stories that are no longer timely because of his efforts. This task is definitely an effective way to utilize the skills of the web producers when there is a lull in story submissions.

There seems to be confusion in marking stories in the added “To Slot” category. This category should only be used when a story is ready for advanced editor edits. I opened up several stories today that were not even close to being ready for final tweaks and publication.

I also worked with several reporters to resolve questions in their stories during my shift. While I have no problem calling and emailing various students, it is often hard to get in contact with students. It is frustrating to leave a voicemail and an email without a response for several hours. We are all busy, but students should be encouraged to periodically check their emails, especially if they have submitted a story for publication.

In future semesters, I think it would be helpful for content creators to come in for a one-hour period when their stories are due. They already have the time set aside for editing in their schedules, and this would allow editors to work with the reporters on their stories. These communication struggles are one reason why articles are taking a while to be published.

During this semester, I have only edited one story dealing with arrests. In that article about Ruby Sheppard, we said “she was charged with attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault with no bond.” As the AP rule says, we mentioned charges instead of saying arrested for attempted murder, etc.

I enjoyed reading Scott Libin’s article about the implications of using various words, including not guilty and acquitted. It is easy to assume someone is innocent if they are not found guilty, but this can never be assumed. Sometimes a lack of evidence or too strong of a charge can influence the verdict. As journalists, we must be extremely careful when reporting on arrests and court proceedings.

I want to give students credit for submitting ideas that are outside of the box. One student named Ashley sent in a pitch about Micanopy Maiden Kombucha. I had no idea what Kombucha was, so it was interesting to learn a little bit more about this fermented tea. In addition, it is always pleasant to hear about local companies succeeding. Even though Ashley still needs to answer some questions, as well as fine-tune her angle, I am excited about this story’s potential.

I hope these clarification questions allow the reporters to focus their ideas and angles

I hope these clarification questions allow the reporters to focus their ideas and angles.

One of my favorite parts of serving as an editor is reading pitches and stories about topics I know little to nothing about. This included a story pitch about paper towns.  These rare towns are placed on maps even though they do not actually exist. Many of these towns are being removed from maps, including one that is in Florida. Although it is slightly outside our coverage area, I think this unique story would interest many of our readers.

I learn something new during each of my shifts

I learn something new during each of my shifts.

I am excited whenever I see a story pitch that stands out from the rest.

I am excited whenever I see a story pitch that stands out from the rest.

Unfortunately, I had to spike a story today. As soon as I began reading, I questioned what was newsworthy or timely.

I immediately questioned what was newsworthy about this story

I immediately questioned what was newsworthy about this story.

Upon checking with the reporter, she informed me that changes had occurred this past Friday after she had already submitted the story.  Ultimately, Marion County will gather feedback over the next nine months, so there is nothing the reporter could do to update the story.

I respect this reporter for being honest and professional. It is never easy to spike a story.

I respect this reporter for being honest and professional. It is never easy to spike a story.

However, why did it take until today to realize this story was no longer timely? Multiple editors have checked it over during the past few days. We need to encourage all the editors to think critically about what they are doing. Instead of solely focusing on AP style and grammar, we must focus on whether something is news and if there are any holes.

I wish I had the opportunity to update Friday’s editors in person because it is always helpful to talk with Erica about where stories stand. To make up for this, I send an email that delineates the status of various articles. I also make notes in the top of these stories that show when and how the reporter was contacted.

We are all in this together, so I hope my efforts make the lives of my fellow editors a little easier.

We are all in this together, so I hope my efforts make the lives of my fellow editors a little easier.

Even if we cannot talk in person, little notes allow us to better communicate.

Even if we cannot talk in person, little notes allow us to better communicate.

Links to Work

Gainesville Residents Gear Up For School Bus-Based Summer Road Trip

When I originally opened this story, the lede read “What do a web developer, a Gainesville high school teacher, an avid rock climber and a car salesman have in common?” While this may pique some people’s interest, it does not actually provide any information. People are constantly distracted, so why should they waste their time reading an article if they are confused from the start on what it is even about. In addition, the original story did not elaborate on what the Outdoor Adventure Recreation club is. I inserted a hyperlink and also provided a short description. During my initial edits, it mentioned how Andrea Gorder sold her bus to a person. Immediately, I was curious about who this person could be. Even though we did not need this person’s life story, I contacted the reporter for the name. Filling in these holes reflect positively on WUFT as a whole because it demonstrates our dedication to providing all the information.

This post seemed like a "Tweet-worthy" story our readers would be interested in.

This post seemed like a “Tweet-worthy” story our readers would be interested in.

Stop Now And Plan Starting At Rawlings Elementary

This story was almost doomed after starting “A new behavioral development program.” I want to ask these reporters whether they would be interested in reading a story that began this way.  I am guessing they would be bored. We need to continue stressing the power of active voice and placing the news at the start of the sentence. I also worked to add various hyperlinks into this story. As a web platform, we have the ability to link to resources, so I wish reporters would utilize this technological tool more often.

Diary Week 9

It was nice to return to the INC today following a short break. After receiving Matt’s email last night, I was ready to assist with story updates, as well as new ideas and submissions. I am also excited about the inclusion of a new category. The “Ready to Publish” category has been an issue in the past, and I think the “To Slot” category will help ensure that stories are edited properly.

It was unfortunate to hear about the passing of Reubin Askew this morning. Adam, one of Erica’s editing students began transcribing material from radio. When Keith arrived, he took over. Keith worked with some of the radio students to prepare a short article about Askew’s death. It is always refreshing to see collaboration among our various platforms.

I think we should continue using the tabs Matt created in the Gmail. It is helpful to see whether an email includes an “Approved” tag or “Maybe” tag because it saves us from wasting time opening up each email to get the gist about what the email contains.

Gmail tabs make it much easier to differentiate various pitches

Gmail tabs make it much easier to differentiate various pitches

Erica mentioned how it was a slow morning, but the afternoon was quite hectic. Story pitches were flowing in. While some pitches were less than satisfactory, including one student who wanted to do an article about a DUI checkpoint this weekend, I enjoy seeing well-developed pitches.

Alexandra Parish continues to come up with great stories. She reported about the curvy roads in Citrus County, and I applaud her for coming into the INC to discuss her pitches in person. She came in this morning and began working on her pitch before sending an email to the WUFT account. Tripp suggested she talk with Wade Millward, who is also pursuing a larger project about guns. I look forward to seeing how this next story develops.

When I see details, I know the reporter has thought critically about their pitches

When I see details, I know the reporter has thought critically about their pitches

Many of these students are still struggling to determine what is newsworthy. They seem to particularly have issues identifying whether something is timely. One student named Lawrence came in twice today to discuss a story he wanted to pursue. He was interested in doing an article about medical marijuana and a group that is being formed in our community about this topic. Erica and I gave him some potential avenues to pursue this morning.

He came in again several hours later. He told me how the issue will not be on the ballot until November, and he said the group is just being formed. I said it did not seem like he had a story. I encouraged him to call around to offices throughout our coverage area and to check Craigslist, etc. for potential story ideas.

I was disturbed when he mentioned how he was looking to The Alligator for story topics. Also, I attempted to dissuade him from doing stories about groups forming. This happens every day, and our readers will likely not be interested in reading this type of story, unless there is something out of the ordinary.

Stories falling through the cracks is one issue that is not going away. I had two reporters call the newsroom and send emails about the status of their stories. Both reporters mentioned how they had answered some questions on Tuesday, but they had been told their stories would get published either that day or on Wednesday.

Ultimately, I do not think we should make promises to reporters about when their stories will get published. When it does not happen on this timeline, they tend to send multiple emails, including sending messages to Matt and Dr. Lewis. I think it would be helpful to send an email to the reporter once the story is published, but promises should not be made in advance because we never know what may come up.

Another issue I have noticed is stories no longer resembling their original form. Many of these stories have been looked at so many times, they no longer resemble what the reporter originally wrote. While editing should strengthen a story, it should not change everything about it. I continue to encourage my web producer to contact the reporter about major changes, particularly lede edits, as per the developed protocol.

Tripp had a good idea about how we can potentially eliminate this problem. For small changes, the web producers should make edits. However, if there are major questions or holes, the reporter should be contacted immediately. I think the best possible scenario would entail the web producer notifying the advanced editor about the issues. The advanced editor could then send the email, as well as encourage the reporter to come in for consultation.

The advanced editors could also make a note on the top of the article in the WordPress for those in subsequent shifts.  I think we can all do a better job of addressing the reporter questions category. If we all looked at two or three each shift, the section would not get jammed with material.  Before leaving my shift today, I made several notes and sent emails to students who can address issues with their stories.

If no one notifies the reporter, he or she will be unaware that their story is stuck in "Reporter Questions"

If no one notifies the reporter, he or she will be unaware that their story is stuck in “Reporter Questions”

Hopefully, this reporter can update the story to be more timely

Hopefully, this reporter can update the story to be more timely


This can also be a great task for web producers. However, I still think advanced editors need to monitor their progress. I found an article today with notes, but I searched the email and discovered how no one had contacted the reporter. Questions cannot be answered if the reporter does not know of the issues. We must be diligent about sending out emails in as timely a manner as possible.

Links to Work

Pesticides Causing Problems For Bees

After hearing about this story during our discussion last night, I was curious about it. Even though multiple web producers had gone through the story, I found various ways to strengthen the writing. Claudia was one of the reporters who called the newsroom regarding this story. She sounded very frustrated about dealing with various editors over the course of several days. I apologized for the delay and confusion. However, these students must realize that we have individual shifts, just like they have specific shifts or times when assignments are due. You have been critical of cutesy headlines and ledes, so I am trying to watch for this during my editing.  The original headline on this story was “Citrus Greening Has Florida Honey Bees Feeling Not-So-Sweet.” I was befuddled by what this even meant, so I changed it. I also corrected several errors throughout the article, including a reference to “said Jakob,” instead of “Jakob said.” In addition, the draft originally said “Jakob’s land, which is registered with the Florida Apiary/Citrus Link, has been in the family for over 30 years.” I switched the over to more than. Before my shift today, I reviewed the “A Bunch of Editing Rules” section on the course blog. The Always Do the Math Rule came into play in this article. During my initial edit, it said there were “over 26,000 beekeepers registered in Florida.” While the use of over is incorrect, that number seemed exceedingly high. When I looked at the records, I counted the number of rows, which equated to 15. With 182 pages, I multiplied 15 by 182. Ultimately, the story should have said more than 2,600, not more than 26,000. I also sent out a Tweet about this story. WUFT had not sent out a Tweet since the election on Tuesday night, which is problematic. I open TweetDeck at the start of my shift to make sure I do not forget to post to social media.

This citrus greening story impacts many people in our coverage area, so I thought it was appropriate to send out a tweet

This citrus greening story impacts many people in our coverage area, so I thought it was appropriate to send out a tweet

New Bill Aims To Help Students Manage Money

When I first opened this story, I was dismayed to read a lede that began with “A new state bill….” We could have lost many readers because of these first four words.  I changed the lede to emphasize what the bill is aiming to do. This story featured a lot of quotes, so I paid careful attention to the attribution fusion rule. I had the opportunity to experience a teaching moment today when I taught Keith about this rule. I look forward to seeing how he addresses this issue in upcoming weeks.

Election Coverage

I had an incredible experience covering Tuesday’s elections. I greatly enjoyed working with Erica, Haley and Katie. With the four of us, we established a sophisticated system. I worked on Tweeting updates as the votes came in, Haley focused on collecting photos and Erica and Katie collected quotes. When we came back to the INC, we worked together on transcribing quotes, as well as collaborating on a story. This is my second time covering elections at WUFT, and I am so happy to have had these experiences!

WUFT Election Coverage Team

WUFT Election Coverage Team