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 WUFT.org. 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.

 

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