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 WUFT.org. 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.”



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