Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Seeking your editorial opinion part II

Last week, I posted a press release I had received via email regarding vandalism at the Native American House on campus. Right below it, I posted the article from the Daily Illini that covered the over the thousands of dollars worth of damage: one sentence in the police blotter.

Now, I feel like there was way more to this story that the Daily Illini completely missed. First of all, the signs permantly damaged were a part of a "Beyond the Chief" exhibit. Secondly, this was the second time that the exhibit was vadalized, the first time being on or around March 15.

"I find it distressing that this art exhibit which is meant to educate everyone on campus about the indigenous history of Illinois has been repeatedly targeted in this destructive way," said Robert Warrior, director of Native American House and American Indian Studies.

I realize that news needs to be prioritized and that not every story will be able to make it in the pages of the paper. But there is a real story here. Each of the three signs damaged were valued at $10,000 each and the sentimental value to the artists is most likely worth far more than that.
Today, Wednesday 29, the Native American House and American Indian Studies department are hosting an open meeting called "Vandalism and Bias on Nevada Street" in response to the art installation destruction.

Why was a story about celebrating a Jewish holiday on the front page and this horrible crime tucked away in the police blotter? I'm not saying this is a conspiracy, but I definitely think that this did not get the attention it deserved.
I'm curious as to why the DI handled this story in print the way it did.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Seeking Your Editorial Opinion

This was a press release I received via email from my History 281 professor:


Professor Robert Warrior
American Indian Studies and Native American House University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign rwarrior@illinois.edu 217.265.9870 office 217.265.9880 fax


URBANA, IL -- April 7, 2009
Three signs that are part of the "Beyond the Chief" exhibit outside Native
American House and American Indian Studies buildings were vandalized between
Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon.

The damaged signs include the ones naming Meskwaki, Sac, and Potawatomi.
The signs, located on the 1200 block of West Nevada Street on campus, are
bent and permanently damaged.

"I find it distressing that this art exhibit which is meant to educate
everyone on campus about the indigenous history of Illinois has been
repeatedly targeted in this destructive way," said Robert Warrior, director
of Native American House and American Indian Studies.

These signs are just the latest to be vandalized.  On or about March 15, the
sign featuring the Peoria tribe was similarly damaged.

The signs are valued at $10,000 each.  To date, no arrests or citations have
been issued in connection with the damage.

The signs are part of an exhibit by Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds and
was designed to "remind the campus community whose land they occupy,"
according to the Native American House Web site. The signs represent 12
different indigenous peoples with homelands in Illinois.

This was the story in the Daily Illini- the last entry in Police Blotter:

An unknown offender damaged three pieces of artwork outside of the Native American House, 1204 W. Nevada St., sometime between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon.

Here's the question:  did this occurrence get the coverage it deserved?  Is there a bigger story here?

I won't give my opinion just yet.  That will be saved for my next blog entry.  I want to hear from other readers first.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hometown Newspapers

The word is out:  both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune are in financial ruts, having both filed for bankruptcy.

It seems that no matter what, no matter where, newspapers are in trouble and the medium needs to struggle to stay alive.  Local aspiring Chicago journalists are most likely really starting to feel that this news is hitting close to home.

While not a depressing shut-down faced by such as the Rocky Mountain News, it still makes this journalism major question what options there are post-graduation, especially considering that I have never been able to imagine myself going outside of Chicago to find answers, much less Illinois.

Yes, many say there is a big business in blogging and the web, but is there anything to do to change with the times and save the hard copies?  What needs to change first - the economy or the medium?  If the economy magically mended itself in an instant, would this have saved the Rocky Mountain News?  Are passionate journalists to leave romantic journalistic images of His Girl Friday behind?

I admit, I don't see myself as a journalist these days, but it doesn't mean I don't have a concern for my degree and my collegues.  Where are the answers?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Headlines, headlines, headlines

In class today, we were grouped into editing teams and given the task of editing and creating online headlines for top news stories of our choice.  It was interesting to me how quickly we livened up and started editing with humor.

Something that came in the midst of our good time was how far we could push the line of professionalism with our creative headlines.  We had to definitely make some tough decisions with some very entertaining headlines, but we questioned how much fun we could really have, deciding that many of the word choices we made were probably only appropriate for something like The Booze News.

With more serious topics like Wall Street's corner starting with a decline, we decided against the more ridiculous headlines like "Wall Street:  Dropping like it's hot".  It's interesting to think about how to get a reader's attention while taking so many things into account.  My team definitely could have spent even more time coming up with more and more creative headlines.

This was definitely one of the more energy-boosting and enlightening 8 am class activities.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Triple Word Score!

I've personally thought that when it comes to spelling and grammar, some people definitely take it too seriously.  What would make me care more? Perhaps my interest would spike if there were points involved.

I've played Scrabble only a few times in my life, and have vague memories of arguing over made-up words to get the highest score possible.  Maybe it's these repressed memories of losing terribly that have left me with such disdain for spelling.  There was a link to an article on the front page of Yahoo! that caught my eye. 

The article discusses how there are people other than journalists who really take word choice seriously, and competitively for that matter.  Right now, there is an argument over a change in the rules to allow three little words on to the board.  "Za," "qi" and "zzz" have now been added to the official list, allowing these high-valued letters gain players more points because Zs and Qs have the highest value in the game.

For those still scratching their heads over the meanings, "Za" refers to the slang term for pizza, "qi" is a Chinese-originated word for breathing, and "zzz" is what I'm sure a little bubble says that pops over my head when I sleep during my math class.

I know this may seem like a weak link to news editing, but it reminded me of how word choice continues to matter in so many different realms and helps me refrain from word enthusiasts as silly.  It also made me think of the "Man Bites Dog" headline game, which I hope to play again soon!

There really is value in language, in more ways than one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Watch your language!

F--- you.  Son of a b----.

I'm pretty sure you blog readers know exactly what the missing letters are.

It takes a lot to offend me.  Growing up, that whole, "sticks and stones" rhyme stuck with me and presently, it really takes some kind of racial slur and just the right combination of intentionally hurtful words to get to me.  However, I realize that not only do people have different standards of offense than me, and that actual publication of these censored words result in a different effect than just hearing them out loud.

Editors really need to make careful decisions regarding language in stories because someone is bound to be offended regardless of how careful one is with these cuss words.  However, experienced editors already know that it is impossible to completely satisfy every reader with a publication because someone will always find something that bothers them in the paper.  I do think that as with most other editing decisions, one question that should always come to mind when deciding to not censoring certain words is whether or not publishing them is really worth the consequences. 

I suppose it is generally safer to censor the cuss words.  Those of us who swear like sailors and are desensitized from this will get what you're saying.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Ethical Line: Photography Part II

After yet an insightful journalism lecture, I felt the need to readdress the photographic decisions of my previous post.  While I do stand by my personal choices regarding the publication of each photos, I think that there are some other key elements to these editing decisions that I didn't think of.  

The background information of each picture and involvement of those photographed in the editing decision can definitely offer some insight into the ethics of publishing each more sensitive photo.  How the photo was taken, if initial permission to take the photo was granted and ultimately whether or not those photographed give their blessing for it's publication are all great ways to make such difficult decisions.

One background story that particularly struck me as memorable was the photo of the young boy whose dog was killed by a car.  Knowing that the photographer actually took the time to call and report the incident to authorities first to make sure the dog was taken care of exemplifies how one can still have a heart, no matter how eager for a good story and amazing photograph that person is.  The newspaper then called to check if the dog had survived or not, and when he was informed of his death, pulled the photo.  It was then the boy who asked that it be published because despite his grief, he wanted the picture to have a message to the community.  He wanted drivers to be more careful on the road.

A good portion of the other photos did go through thorough decision processes, often consulting legal advice, organizations and professionals who could offer their opinion, and when possible, the opinion of those in the photographs.  I think that this kind of careful consideration shows that good, responsible reporting is still possible and that even taking an extra minute to think about the consequences of every editing decision should be upheld today.