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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Links to Work
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.
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.