The NPR Spring 2010 interns have released their issue of Intern Edition, the news magazine produced entirely by those most unsung of heroes — interns. Intern Edition (IE) empowers interns to cover news they deem important in their own voices and styles, all the while pairing each intern with a mentor who offers advice, support, and an occasional treat from Starbucks (did I mention that most NPR internships are unpaid?).
Click here to listen to and watch the Spring 2010 episode of Intern Edition at NPR.org.
In full disclosure — I participated in IE when I was an intern at Talk of the Nation. Putting together my piece was one of the most powerful parts of my internship and I think that every decent-size news organization should replicate the project. Not only does it build camaraderie between interns, it also fosters one-on-one interaction between veterans and up-and-comers, and most importantly, the program gives young people complete control of a news property, offering a partial solution to the young voices vs. young journalist dilemma I’ve discussed in earlier posts.
Imagine, if every four months, newsrooms all over the country sat and listened to their interns’ ideas. I have a feeling the news business would be better off and could make some progress on that whole “Why don’t young people read/watch/listen to the news anymore?” problem.
Again, here’s the link to the Spring 2010 Intern Edition. Use it.
When I think of preservation of the news media in written form, 300 plus gigantic pages of stories which seem (from what I have read so far) to be mainly in first person, is not the first thing that comes to mind. But never the less, San Francisco Panorama still appeals to this teenager who wakes up every morning and reads the paper.
The overall artsy style of San Francisco Panorama appealed to me. Articles about independent radio stations, two art sections, and handwritten reviews with foreign guitarists are all things that swayed me to pay sixteen dollars for a pound of paper. Other than the prominence of first person writing, the few problems I found were that some articles were simply too long, and after a week, I am still having trouble navigating my way through the paper. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there is an article about how to make the perfect bowl of ramen, but so far the most interesting thing I’ve found is a story about someone’s personal witch, Dori Midnight.
If you have ever tried to fit your Volkswagen into the refrigerator, then you know what it is like to carry home a copy of San Francisco Panorama. Many newborns weigh less than this newspaper, and finding a space for it in my backpack made me want to trade my journalism degree for an engineering one.
In fact, the act of portaging a newspaper has become decreasingly common for me since graduating this May. Amid the disordered and time-consuming lifestyle change from scholastic newsman to 23-year-old retail stooge, I visit my bank’s website more frequently than I peruse SF Gate.
Yet here was this nuclear bomb of a thing, San Francisco Panorama, the latest edition of Dave Eggers’ quarterly journal McSweeney’s. . . with two magazines spilling out of it and a wingspan to match its epic heaviness. But my awe quickly resolved into an urge to protect it. I would soon learn about its massive mix of graphics, investigative features and subtle humor, but right now I only knew that it was something very special. Only on the safe real estate of my living room floor would it again see the light of day.
What I uncovered after peeling back the first enormous page was a love story for knowledge and a call to arms for those who want to know. San Francisco Panorama is a celebration of news that plays out like a choose-your-own adventure, each path rich with the merits of print. It is the punch line to a long joke that reveals the reality of our modern media landscape: that podcasts, Twitter and YouTube are, as far as most news is concerned, profoundly annoying. Long live print.
“This,” I thought before pausing at a two-page color spread depicting the electromagnetic interactions of the Earth and Sun, “is the dangerous, heroic thing that can move a nation. This. . . is news!”
By Nate Hadden
When I was initially told at Youth Radio that I was going to be partnering up with someone from KQED to create a video on health care that the average young person would want to watch, and do this, by re-telling several stories that KQED had already reported, I was very skeptical about the outcome of the project. The subject of health care is so vast and vague that it’s very hard to understand and relay to someone else who’s also uninformed. Even most people who have health care don’t understand why, what, and how their health care and the current health care system works. I felt the process would be like trying to teach a blind person colors or a deaf person what sound an elephant makes. Basically, it would be a very hard thing to accomplish.
When I met Amanda Stupi from KQED, I related my concerns to her, as she did to me, and we found a middle ground. We listened to many KQED shows concerning health care and then we used the facts stated in the KQED pieces in the video. While listening to the KQED shows for information, I found that I had accidently fallen asleep a few times. Also, when I was awake, sometimes I would go into a trance where I could hear someone talking, but I wasn’t actually listening to them — it was kind of like the sound the teacher from Charlie Brown makes when she speaks in class.
At that point, I told Amanda that young people are not going to sit through this video if there’s nothing entertaining for them to watch along with the facts. So I thought to myself, what is all health care related to? Answer: people getting sick or hurt and wanting to get well. What are the most watched videos on You Tube that young people love and watch religiously? Answer: music-related videos, and clips that are funny or show people getting hurt. I told Amanda that information and eventually, we both decided the roles each of us would be responsible for to create this video. Amanda’s role was to make sure all the facts are informative and accurate and my role was to make sure the video was entertaining.
One of my friends posted this video to her Facebook page with the note, “A great example of how citizen journalism can be useful.” Well, that got me thinking, “Is this journalism?” Somebody definitely saw an event that he or she considered news worthy (a flooding Muni station), created a record of it (a video using their iPhone), and then distributed that record (YouTube), which thanks to Facebook and embed code, will be redistributed in the days to come.
In many ways, I love the empowerment that this video represents–a single person possessed all of the tools needed to spread a story to the masses. But I have some questions that a traditional news organization probably would have answered if they covered the story: Read more
We’re back with our second installment of the weekly news roundup! This week we’ve got school desegregation, tips for being happy, and a video on dating dealbreakers. What more could you want? (Okay. . . sure, we’d like free rent for a year too, but we’re public broadcasting–that’s not quite in our budget. Work with us, people.)
The Daily Californian continued their local coverage with a look at Berkeley Unified School District’s desegregation program. Yep, it’s 2009 and we’re still talking about desegregation. . .
As a student it can sometimes be difficult to balance the stress of work, classes, homework, friends, and any number of extra curricular activities. Here are ten ways to stay happy courtesy of UCSF’s Synapse. And because we like to share, tell us what your strategies are for getting happy? Just click on the comment button.
And finally, as promised USF’s Foghorn Online on dating dealbreakers. Watch and learn:
In Other Words is starting a new feature–a weekly news roundup from youth news organizations. We know what’s making the headlines at KQED and Youth Radio, but we wanted to find out if that’s in line with what other young journalists are covering. So each week we’ll give you a snapshot of what’s being covered by high schools, colleges, and other community media groups across the country. This is our first week so we’re still testing the waters. We’re very open to suggestions for formats and stories. In fact, if you’re a journalist or blogger and you want us to check out your work–please leave us a link to your publication in a comment. And if you there’s a story in your life that you don’t see covered–let us know.
The Daily Californian (UC Berkeley)
Synapse (UC San Francisco)
The Guardsman (City College of San Francisco)
Stagg Line (Stagg High School)
By Youth Radio
When Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison camp we asked Josh Wolf- who holds the record in the U.S. for the longest stay in prison for a reporter protecting his source material- about why reporters take risks.
In the wake of the release of Ling and Lee, and the capture of journalist Shane Bauer by Iran, KQED-FM in San Francisco had writer and editor Andrew Lam on as a guest to talk about the subject. In that conversation Mr. Lam- who works for New American Media- talked about how young freelance journalists are putting themselves into dangerous situations without the same training and resources that reporters who work for the big news organizations have.
We followed up with Mr. Lam today on that topic, and on how the rise of citizen journalism is affecting the quality of information in the media today.
Why do young journalists take risks?
I think young journalists taking risks the same way that young people want adventures. The romantic notion of an intrepid reporter is still a very seductive notion even in an age of video games and internet. They want adventure. They are moved by injustices they perceive. They want to make a difference. I took a lot of risks myself when I started. Being of Vietnamese descent I nevertheless went to Cambodia in the early 90s and interviewed ex-Khmer Rouge fighters. I felt compelled to go after seeing the movie The Killing Fields. I learned a lot. But I nearly got shot one time in Batambang – a barrel of gun on forehead – and that taught me about taking risks. Personally, I don't think any story is worth dying for, but I didn't learn that from being at home. I learned that from being out there.
In your recent KQED interview you mentioned that freelancers and bureau reporters face the same challenges with totally different levels of resources. How much more prepared/equipped are bureau reporters compared to freelancers, and what will it mean for journalism as the foreign bureaus of the major news agencies are cut back?
A friend of mine working for AP was trained for what to do when taken hostage, what to do when under ambush, physical training with the military and so on, before she was sent to Iraq. And she was embedded. In other cases, those from a major news organizations come to a dangerous situation well prepared – with armored vehicle, interpreters and armed guards. They are given a certain level of protection. But we are in an era of receding foreign bureaus and major news organizations are under siege – there's no guarantee that newspapers will recover even when the economy does. What it means is that there'll be fewer protection for journalists out there. Have you seen CNN the last year or so? The i-reporters are taking over in a sense when a big story breaks. "Are you there?" CNN would ask. "send us your story?" Citizen can be reporters. Citizens are ENCOURAGED to be reporters. And many are stoked by it. They become active agents rather than receiver of news.
But they are not protected when they are overseas. They don't get the armored vehicles. They don't get the armed guards. They are far more vulnerable than the bureau chief of AP or Newsweek in Baghdad. If you get shot you don't have the resource to fly out by emergency airlift to a hospital in Germany for an emergency operation. You don't have major institutions standing behind you. You are not insured. You don't have all the right equipment like bullet proof jackets and helmets and so on.
The upside is that, as a young writer with ideals, you can do the story you want and ignore the story you don't want to do, because you're not under contract but selling your story piecemeal. You don't have to go through the traditional route like in the old day of internship and then years of a boring beat like city hall reporting before you get a juicy assignment. You can land in a city in chaos – and be the only reporter on the scene. It fits some temperament but it comes with an enormous amount of risks.
I think major news organizations will rely on these young, independent roamers more and more in the future as the foreign bureaus become a thing of the past. It's a way to supplement the wire stories – AP, AFP, UPI, etc – which are skeletal at best at a time when our engagement overseas are increasing with no end in sight. But the question remains: how much responsibility do news organizations have toward these young writers out there? Do they tell them: Think twice before you go. Take precaution before you go. Don't take unnecessary risks if you don't have to. Or do they say, go ahead, we'll pay for that story if you do go?
Personally, I think news organizations should ask themselves regarding what policies they have toward these stringers rather than just spurring them on for the sake of having more content. But that's my personal opinion.
As the major news agencies disintegrate we’re seeing the rise of citizen journalists. Do you think this is going to be a net gain or loss for the depth and breadth of reporting locally and abroad?
I already addressed the citizen journalist issue above. I think there's a lot to be gained when practically everyone is equipped – by having a cell phone you can record, take picture, send stories – to do basic reporting. The future is one where the reporter on the scene is inevitably someone who happens to be there when something happens. The victims can also be reporter. Think of the terrorism event in Bombay last November. Most of the stories that came out were from people in the Taj hotel texting while hiding from terrorists.
There was an amazing footage I saw in CNN when this student was running out of a building in Sichuan before it collapsed when the earthquake hit. He had his cellphone recording everything. When he got out the building collapsed. It got a few million hits in the first few days. But he's not going to be able to make sense of that story. He's not going to be an accountable reporter who gives the larger picture. That comes with experience, professionalism, and it comes later, when reporters show up with interviews of officials, and scientists, and many victims themselves. But the nature of journalism is changing and changing fast.
But accountability is still important. In India, when the radio station interviewed one politician who happily declared that "my friends are fine. They texted me. They are hiding in the ballroom upstairs on the Taj." No one seems to think twice about this: That the terrorists also have cell phones, have access to internet, radio, and tv. Who's accountable for this sort of thing?
And in Greece, last December, the twitterers who sent out message regarding the shooting of a youth suggested that he was killed in cold blood – shot point blank. The city erupted in flame. I was there. Everyone relied on those initial reports as fact. No one seemed to care what the policeman said: that he shot up and the bullet ricocheted. The coroner's report showed a few days later that the bullet was dented, meaning that it hit something hard, which goes in line with what the cop said. By then, of course, it was too late. Thousands of shops were looted and hundreds burned.
I think accountability, and verifying the facts are still the realm of serious journalism. I think content is one thing but providing Context still belongs to the realm of the professional, mature newsroom. Context belongs to the ombudsman, the writer who can provide context and big picture.
And you won't get that from anyone with just a cell phone and quick thumb.
Also, Andrew Lam's Letter From Athens: Greek Tragedies & the News Media in the Age of Twitter is a MUST-READ for those interested in the future of journalism.
On Forum today, guests discuss the future of media.While traditional media outlets continue to lose audience and revenue, nascent journalism models are emerging. Guests point to Asia and Europe, where cell phones are already a main source of media consumption. Will the smart phone be a way for news organizations to finally make money? What do you think news organizations should look like — hyper-local twitter bursts, one mammoth high-quality news website, social networking sites with news sections, or something else? As the discussion on Forum points out, it is an exciting time to be a young journalist, because you get to invent new media.
By Denise Tejada
Current TV journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor after being charged with crossing North Korea’s border illegally. The details about their crossing are unclear.
Being a journalist means reporting the facts and making sure the story makes it out to the people. But along with that duty comes obstacles. That’s what Josh Wolf, Staff Writer for the Daily Post and independent reporter faced. Wolf has been following the story of Current’s reporters very closely, and not just because it’s making headlines: Wolf served prison time for sticking to his principles as a reporter.
We conducted this interview about Current TV’s curious silence with Wolf online today:
You’ve been working on the story of North Korea’s taking of Euna Lee and Laura Ling since the beginning. What makes you so passionate about the story?
I was sent to prison for 226 days after I refused to comply with a federal grand jury subpoena. That experience certainly increased my sensitivity to stories pertaining to jailed reporters, but beyond that I’ve had a long and somewhat contentious history with Current TV itself. As such, when I heard what happened, I wanted to find out whatever I could about the situation and learn why the story, which has since been covered by hundreds of media outlets, wasn’t getting the attention it deserved.
What have you managed to learn about Current TV’s curious silence on the story?
Immediately after the story broke, Current reportedly posted something to their front page. That story, which I haven’t had a chance to read, was taken down within hours and scrubbed from the Google cache. For months now, any attempts to post about reactions or insights regarding Laura Ling and Euna Lee’s situation is immediately flagged and taken off the public site. Reporter’s phone calls are not being returned, even to say ‘no comment,’ and when a friend of mine tried to film them at their SF studio, he was told to leave and was told they would call security otherwise.
The State Department has not asked that Current take down user’s posts or refuse to comment about the situation, according to a department spokesman who said he didn’t know this for sure. I have been told by an expert on North Korea that such an approach would make sense, however, as efforts to raise awareness about Japanese prisoners in North Korea only deteriorated efforts to free them.
How do you feel about Current’s silence?
I fully believe that the network is doing what they think is best to get their reporters home safely. I’m not sure that silence and censorship is the right approach, but even taking the quiet approach to handling the situation, I think there are much more responsible ways to deal with the sensitive situation than the company has demonstrated.
I know that if I was in a foreign prison, I would want people to raise attention to the situation and I would be very frustrated to learn that my own media organization had remained silent, and even gone so far as to cut off those voices in the community that took to this online forum to discuss how they are feeling about the news.
That said, I think it makes sense to do whatever is most likely to get Ling and Lee home as quickly as possible, but in refusing to cover a story about their own reporters they are not helping advance a free press, which is sad to see from a news organization.
Current TV is founded on the idea that anyone can submit media to their network, yet here they are in the middle of a big story and they’re preventing their users from reporting on it. What do you think this is going to do to their reputation?
I don’t know anyone that holds the reputation of Current TV in high regards. The network has had difficulty rising above the fray since their launch and have alienated many members of their base on more than one occasion. It does leave me wondering about their responsibility as a news organization, as opposed to a simple media outlet.
Let’s face it, if it was Anderson Cooper facing 12 years in a North Korean labor camp, we both know that CNN would be covering the hell out of the story. Now, whether that is a good thing or if doing so would imperil Cooper is an interesting question. And perhaps Current is making the right decision to help their reporters, but again there are more responsible ways for the network to avoid fanning the flames of controversy.