Diary Week 13

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.

It is always a great experience to cover elections for WUFT.org

It is always a great experience to cover elections for WUFT.org

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.

Are we doing all that we can to interact with our audience?

Are we doing all that we can to interact with our audience?

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.

I am hoping emails that include suggested edits are helpful for reporters

I am hoping emails that include suggested edits are helpful for reporters

Logan’s Rail Road Story

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 continues to put a substantial amount of thought into his pitches

Lawrence continues to put a substantial amount of thought into his pitches

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.

I was impressed by the stories submitted during the past few days

I was impressed by the stories submitted during the past few days

Links to Work

Proposed Legislation To Focus on Florida Foster Children

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.

I had never thought about this topic until Jaclyn's story

I had never thought about this topic until Jaclyn’s story

Buchholz High School Students Prepare Community Tax Returns

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.

 

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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.