As we finish our fourth full week in the INC, I am beginning to feel more comfortable with my position as an advanced editor. While I still get frazzled, I feel better about giving certain responsibilities to Logan, as well as addressing one task at a time.
My first task of the day involved getting the story about the police user fee in Wildwood published. Matt was in meetings for most of the afternoon, but he was available through Google chat. Matt was heavily involved in the editing of this particular story because it involves a legal issue.
He was concerned because the story talked about a class-action lawsuit, which can only be determined by a judge. I called the reporter, and she was able to inform me that the hearing to address this determination was postponed from Jan. 22 to May 29. I was also having trouble inserting audio into this story, but Matt told me how the system has changed. I placed a note in the Google Drive, so other advanced editors will not run into the same problem.
Once this story was published, I posted a Tweet. During each of my shifts, I try to Tweet on at least one occasion because followers are likely to stop following WUFT if we do not post on a regular basis.
This is the story the news producer wanted to discuss on the 6 p.m. show. Matt said he wanted to approve the script because of the potential legal ramifications. I created a script, and Matt made some edits. Usually for the web question and answer session, we speak “off the cuff,” but I had the opportunity to use the teleprompter today. It was an interesting experience, and I look forward to getting better at reading and speaking without tripping over any words.
Later on in my shift, I also sent a Tweet out about a story that Erica edited earlier in the day. I do not want to overdo it with the Tweeting, but I hope these efforts will continue to drive people to WUFT.org.
I was greatly impressed by Logan during most of his shift. He began by following up with school districts that had been closed today because of the inclement weather. While some districts did not answer their phones, he was resourceful about utilizing their websites to see if there would be any issues with school opening tomorrow. One district provided the cell phone and home phone number for the superintendent, which he proceeded to call.
He also worked on the “In the News.” This is an area where I think he could improve. He was choosing stories that did not have great impact. While accidents and shootings are tragedies, these are not the types of stories we try to highlight in this section. In addition, he included a story about Justin Bieber. Bieber’s face has been plastered over every news platform for the last week, so we do not need to waste any space on this troubled pop star.
This section may not be the most important piece we publish, but this exercise allows us to evaluate the web producer’s news judgment. However, as Tom Huang said, I made my critique about the work, not the person. I thanked him for his diligence in the short descriptions, while also recommending he focus on stories that impact more people. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next week.
I did not receive many story pitches today through the email. When I first arrived, there was one pitch from a content creator. He submitted three separate pitches, but it was obvious he did not put much thought or effort into it. In response, I provided a link to the Intranet, as well as copying and pasting what each story pitch should address, points that mirror what Huang’s article said about the questions journalists should be able to answer before pitching a story. I also encouraged him to stop by the INC with any questions.
These students have all these resources available to them, and I am hoping more students take advantage. One student named Angela Skane has impressed me on several occasions. She is the writer of the goat story. She discovered this idea by looking on Craigslist. This has inspired me to keep this source as an idea for future story ideas because even though it features many wacky posts, it can also be a gateway to a great story.
She came into the INC today to pitch another story about a young woman from Lake City who has auditioned for “American Idol.” At first, I was a little skeptical, so I asked her to send the pitch in writing to see if it addressed all the questions. As we discussed in class last night, this is also an efficient way to prevent stories from either falling through the cracks or being approved when they should not be.
Angela addressed what piqued her curiosity, what is newsworthy and why readers will care about this story. She even described how she will bring the story to the next level by including different multimedia elements. When Dr. Lewis came into the INC, I discussed the idea with him. He was excited about its potential. As advanced editors, we are the first lines of defense to evaluate ideas based on our news judgment. I am also glad to have a second line of defense through Tripp, Matt and Dr. Lewis. Story ideas are getting better, and I think this system is beginning to work like a well-oiled machine.
Logan was also helpful in following up on stories that were marked for having reporter questions. These stories tend to fall to the bottom of the WordPress, which means they are often forgotten. During each shift, I think we could address this problem by having advanced editors look at two or more of these articles. It may simply mean calling the reporter or sending an email to follow up. Some of these stories are no longer timely, but we discovered a story today that is going to be a great piece for WRUF.
During my shift, I also worked on a story about a tax assistance program for qualified residents in North Central Florida. The reporter stopped by the INC, but her edits did not address all of the issues. I discussed the story with Tripp, as well as the issues I was having. Based on our discussion, I sent Monica an email before leaving my shift.
I have copied and pasted what the story currently looks like in the WordPress. It is extremely timely, considering tax season starts tomorrow, but it would not be appropriate to lower our standards to publish this article. I put a note in the top of the article saying the reporter was contacted.
North Central Florida Offers Tax Assistance For Qualified Residents
With tax season starting Jan. 31, the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free tax help to taxpayers who qualify.
People who make $52,000 or less may qualify for the program offered by IRS-certified volunteers at the United Way of North Central Florida. Required items needed to file are listed on the IRS website.
VITA estimates a return in seven to 14 days. The program accepts walk-ins, but customers can make appointments by dialing 2-1-1 or logging into its website.
“A lot of those programs online try to make it as simple as possible, but if there’s a misunderstanding of questions, you can miss credits,” said Josh Giancarlo, the site coordinator for VITA at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
Florida does not collect a state income tax. As a result many Floridians who do not have other equitable assets file simple federal tax returns. If the customer is filing a simple federal tax return, many companies give them a second look or file the 1040EZ at little to no cost.
The IRS introduced the 1040EZ form in 2011 for anyone that is dependent or independent, married or single, and made less than $100,000 in 2012. One can fill out a 1040EZ form with a W-2 form. However, people without access to a computer may have difficulty filing because they will have to print or pick one up.
According to Sarah Coulson, the communications specialist for the United Way of North Central Florida, VITA filed 1,489 returns and refunded a combined $1,686,007 to those participants last year.
“People are quick to file their taxes and sometimes miss something,” Coulson said.
Nancy Strampello, a certified accountant and the general manager of a H&R Block located at 3228 SW 35th Blvd., said it is important that taxpayers make sure a professional looks over the forms because identity theft occurs more frequently with first-time filers. Strampello said the IRS estimated that identity theft rose 331 percent last year.
“People come to our clinics out of comfort to know they get the money that they deserve in their return,” Coulson said. “Also, it only takes 30 minutes, so it’s really fast.”
Here is a screenshot of the email I sent Monica. I was confused because even though she referenced 11 VITA locations, the emphasis was placed on the United Way. In addition, I am trying to pay careful attention to any mention of numbers, dates or amounts. There seems to be a discrepancy in her reference to 2011 and 2012, so I want to make sure this information is accurate before moving forward.
Links to Work
Whenever working on “In the News,” I always try to include three Florida stories and one national story. Susan Baird deciding not to run for re-election was big news out of Gainesville. I also attempt to include stories from various locations in our coverage area. A deputy from Marion County being honored as the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year is something that should receive recognition. The power plant issue is of concern to Florida residents, so viewers care about whether this state law gets repealed. In addition, news organizations from across the nation revealed that federal prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. While this headline was a little long, I wanted to provide small snippets from each story.
Two radio students prepared this story. The story addresses various questions, but I wish it had more depth, including more quotes. How can we address this issue with stories submitted by radio students? I would love the chance to talk with them about getting three sources and linking to other resources in their stories. A large amount of this story was based on a UF press release, but the students had not linked to it. The web platform allows us to provide our audience with access to supporting documents. This is why I located the press release and the published journal article. As editors we can add all of this information, but the reporters should also be concerned with making sure their stories are up to our reporting and publishing standards.