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.

 

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