The centerpiece on Becky Hammon in The San Antonio Express-News exemplifies the appeal of reading a national news story in the local newspaper where the story originated.
SAN ANTONIO– Call me old-fashioned.
But I took special delight in reading San Antonio Express-News‘ Mike Monroe’s front page story Wednesday about WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon being selected as the first female paid assistant coach in the NBA.
The announcement of Hammon’s hiring by the San Antonio Spurs made national news.
The historic nature of her hire makes it a national news story.
Local Makes a Difference
But, the national media coverage (i.e. Andrew Keh’s story buried on page B13 of The New York Times) of it does not compare to the way the story was played in the paper in the hometown of the Spurs.
Along with the front page story that included more than the expected quotes and statement from yeah management, there was Terrence Thomas’ “reaction piece” featuring Hammon’s female teammates and a perspective offered only by Roy Bragg, who’s been a Texas journalist for more than 30 years.
Those other related stories were in the SPORTS section of the Express-News.
On page A2, the paper promotes “Tomorrow’s front-page stories now available at 10:30 every night, exclusively on ExpressNews.com.
Why was it important for me to read this piece Tuesday night? I’m not sure SPEED was the motivation for me to know the story.
The perspective that only this publication provides is reason enough for it to land on my front step the next day.
And, I know the issue is not one of medium, but reader preference.
The business model doesn’t work if people like me are in the shrinking smaller and smaller minority.
But, daily newspapers all over the country are hastening their demise by making their product harder and harder to find.
Go the Extra Mile
The absolute shame is that I had to go to three locations just to find the publication. At my hotel, I was told the Express-News delivers so few copies that if you don’t come to the gift shop within 1 hour of it opening, the papers are gone.
What’s wrong with this picture? Is the Circulation Department at The Express-News that afraid that they will have leftover papers, so they don’t deliver many copies so they sell out in an hour? Why not deliver 3 times as many newspapers?
I know when I’m on a plane or sitting in a restaurant, I’m usually the only one turning the pages of a newspaper while others are tapping away on their smart phones or tablets.
So that explains why this Hearst newspaper, traditionally one of the four largest papers in the state of Texas, is hard to find.
They say All Politics is Local. I enjoy reading about those politics when I visit a town in the local paper, especially when it has a national reputation.
The story in Wednesday’s Express-News about a controversial proposal to increase the storm-water utility fee was interesting to me. It was “packaged” along with a column by David Hendricks on the BUSINESS page.
I know I’m old-fashioned.
But, reading the local paper has an appeal that will never be replicated in an e-edition or on Twitter or some other electronic means.
They remember Boone as the very tough editor who gave me a chance to get started as a reporter right after finishing my journalism degree at Howard University in 1992.
Even before I launched into the world of broadcast journalism as a television news producer, there was the newspaper writing that I had learned to do as a news-editorial journalism major.
If I look back at those Free Press stories now, I will see that almost always my lede (the first paragraph of a news story) was rewritten. Mr. Boone made sure that I “nailed” the point of the story in that first paragraph.
The heavy editing of my copy did me some good, a lot of good.
The fact is Raymond Boone was well-acquainted (perhaps too acquainted) with my writing as he was a member of the journalism faculty at Howard University, before launching The Richmond Free Press.
The One Journalism Class I Had To Repeat
Even though I graduated cum laude from Howard U., there were two classes I had to repeat. Professor Boone’s Copyediting class was one of them.
Apparently, I was not acquainted quite well enough with the Associated Press Stylebook.
Yes, as a veteran campus reporter (and later editor-in-chief) for THE HILLTOP, I was insulted when I saw a “D” on my grade report (You have to make a C- or higher for a journalism class to count toward graduation).
Professor Boone and my father were friends long before I ever stepped foot on Howard’s campus. But, that didn’t mean Boone was going to cut me any slack.
A Stalwart for Advocacy Journalism
When we talk about what it means to do advocacy journalism, I will always point to Raymond Boone and his editorials as the best example how it’s done.
He was critical of many of those in power and even his rival newspaper publisher in town.
Boone was proudest of his effort to move the Free Press offices to a location that was within a few feet of the Media General headquarters (former owner of Richmond Times Dispatch) where the “corporate brass” for Times Dispatch worked.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I was a college intern at Media General’s now-defunct afternoon newspaper, The Richmond News Leader, in 1991.
Wednesday’s scare for employees at WMAR-TV might raise a question about what we in journalism education can do to prepare students to thrive in instances where the security of their workplace is compromised, yet they have to cover THE BIG STORY, of which they are a part.
The TV News business is a very small business. Even for those like me who have moved away from the day-to-day TV news production, Tuesday’s events at a Baltimore area television station where a suspect drove a stolen truck into the building gave all of us in broadcast journalism a scare.
Here at the University of Alabama, within the last month we’ve just started broadcasts from our brand new Digital Media Center and we have to wonder not only is our building secure enough, but how much should we as journalism professors prepare our students to handle situations like what confronted our friends at WMAR-TV?
A decade ago when I worked as a news producer, we had a disaster plan of action to COVER the biggest breaking news stories (a tornado, a plane crash, even a mass shooting).
But, what happens when your OWN station becomes the story? How do you balance staying calm while at the same time telling the news as it’s happening?
YOUR station is THE BIG STORY
Tuesday’s events in the Baltimore market happened to occur during what’s commonly known as “sweeps.” The month of May is one of the four times a year when TV stations are particularly concerned about their program offerings and performance. So, the employees at Scripps-owned ABC affiliate had to realize that their competitors were going to be all of the story,
I can remember back at my first station (in my hometown of Richmond, Va.), at WTVR-TV, in early 1990s, a man fell from our antenna casting the station into a major local story that was covered by our competitors, WWBT NBC 12 and WRIC-TV 8, the ABC station.
WMAR is owned by the E. W. Scripps company.
Scripps Senior Vice President Brian Lawlor applauded the WMAR employees for following their disaster plan and handling Tuesday’s events very well.
“We actually practiced evacuations within the past three months, ” Lawlor said.
But, is there a teachable moment for up-and-coming young broadcast journalists in all of this?
Newsroom Intruders Not a New Thing
In 2006, a 50-year-old was arrested after a more than two-hour standoff at the Spanish language version of the Miami Herald. In this case, the suspect actually worked as a contractor with El Nuevo Herald, and had problems with paper’s position on Cuban emigres.’
Decades ago, ironically at ANOTHER Scripps-owned television, WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, a man stormed into the station then located downtown and took eight station employees hostage. One of those employees, Elaine Green, who died recently, is remembered for her courage during the tense situation on October 15, 1980.
Perhaps it’s those stories of courage that we would be best served to share with our students as we urge them to have a plan for remaining calm in tense situations.
Unfortunately, workplace security breaches are a reality of the world we live in today. It’s unfortunate that our friends at WMAR-TV had to be reminded of that this week.
It’s a good thing no one was hurt, but an even better thing that we can all be a little more intentional in our planning for disasters.
Daniel J. Roth’s film, “Stepping Through,” on University of Alabama’s 50-year-old journey to integration has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists at the “Best Use of Multimedia.” It spots the role of UA’s student journalists in 1963 and 2013.
The 17-minute film, “Stepping Through” was chosen as the National Winner in the Mark of Excellence Awards, an annual recognition of the top student work in journalism.
It was chosen from among 11 other regional winners that included student work at the Missouri School of Journalism, Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State and the Merrill College of Journalism at University of Maryland.
While SPJ has recognized online student work for several years, this is first time an award is being given specifically for the “Best Use of Multimedia.”
While I did not serve on the awards committee or as a judge this year, I know there has been an ongoing discussion about the best way to judge journalistic work that is produced online, given that most student publications have a website.
Roth’s film includes extensive interviews with Hank Black, the editor-in-chief of The Crimson White from 1963-64, who spoke of his own personal role in encouraging students from the all-black Stillman College here in town to make the move that would make history.
His words today about showing his friend, the late Dr. James Hood (who Black knew as “Jimmy Hood”) around campus prompted the name of Roth’s film, “Stepping Through.”
“I went through this period of integration frankly shaking in my boots every day. Yet there was nothing to do except go through it. You have to just step through,” Black said. “What I did was nothing compared to what Vivian and Jimmy did in facing their fears and stepping across that line into a world they didn’t know.”
Yet Black’s courage seems to have been repeated five decades later when Crimson White Culture Editor Abbey Crain and Magazine Editor Matt Ford published their award-winning story “The Final Barrier” on the still segregated Greek system.
“It was the right thing to do and it needed to be talked about, ” said Matt Ford. “These barriers stopping change needed to be addressed,”
Roth’s film also included interviews with Melody Twilley-Zeidan, who was twice denied a chance to be in a traditionally white sorority and Wendell Hudson, the first black scholar athlete at the university.
The award for the best use of multimedia had an unintended impact in shining the light on the University’s diversity efforts and the students here both in the past and the present who are integrally involved in making the University of Alabama an inclusive campus. I can think of so many other students who are not only concerned about diversity, but also producing media projects that are directed at effecting change.
We have Daniel Roth to thank for capturing the University’s 50-year journey from integration to Greek system integration on film. It’s exciting to know his film, which is our story as a University of Alabama family, is being recognized as THE BEST student multimedia work in the nation this year.
Roth will be presented his award in September in Nashville at the 2014 Excellence in Journalism Conference, sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists and Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA).
Now she’s spending nine months researching a story analyzing homicide cases and learning, among other things, that fewer than half of shooting suspects in Chattanooga are caught.
According to the story “Speak No Evil, ” 58 percent of open homicide and shooting investigations in Chattanooga are at dead ends because of witness silence.
This gives me a whole different impression of that community surrounded by mountains off Interstate 24. You see it as you travel between Atlanta and Nashville or going from North Alabama up to Knoxville, Tenn.
The Pulitzer committee recognized McClane, Todd South, Doug Strickland and Mary Helen Miller “for using an array of journalistic tools to explore the “no-snitch” culture that helps perpetuate a cycle of violence in one of the most dangerous cities in the South.”
Today I recognize McClane, in particular, for developing the multimedia skill set as a student and putting it to work in way that brought national recognition to her news organization and great pride to those of us here in the journalism department at The University of Alabama.
Having done research at the Chattanooga newspaper several years ago, I know what a top-notch news operation they have there. Now the world knows by another example of the work the staff there is producing.
I’m just excited that one of our graduates is among those producing such work.
This week we remember both Chuck Stone and Marian Huttenstine as journalism educators and for they did to open the doors for others. Their work must continue.
It’s funny how important a single encounter with a person can be.
On Sunday, two retired journalism educators, with whom I had only a single brief encounter passed away. But, regardless of how well I knew them personally, Marian Huttenstine and Chuck Stone are noteworthy models for the trails they blazed as journalism educators and for the diversity they brought to the media.
They both leave legacies for what it means to make “DIVERSITY” an action word.
Fortunately, two institutions where they taught– the University of Alabama and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill continue Stone and Huttenstine’s legacies today with initiatives aimed at high school students.
Much has been written about Chuck Stone, one of the founders of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), of which I am a member. He was our first national president.
While I can’t call Mr. Stone a personal friend or even an acquaintance, I did have the occasion to see him at work at his office in the old Howell Hall (former site of the UNC School of Journalism) in the late 1990s.
At the time, I was just a visitor on the beautiful Chapel Hill campus checking out prospective Ph.D. programs in mass communication. Seeing the legendary Chuck Stone as he worked with a UNC student in his office was a highlight of my visit.
Ironically, UNC also factored into my path from working journalist to journalism professor through another person.
Dr. Huttenstine received her PhD. from the University of North Carolina. She taught media law for many years here at University of Alabama, where a few years after she left, I ended up in my first full-time job as a faculty member.
Back in 2004, I had the good fortune of meeting her on the 20th anniversary of the Multicultural Journalism Workshop, which she started with then graduate student Marie Parsons, who went on to be the first director of the workshop and a member of the faculty.
Hundreds of students have come through this workshop that is now in its 31st year. As a graduate of a similar Dow Jones News Fund workshop back in the 1980s, I know firsthand what a difference it can make in a high school student’s career planning.
Huttenstine: Opening Doors for Female Administrators
Even Stone and Huttenstine both passed away on Sunday, Dr. Huttenstine may not make the national headlines the way that Professor Stone has this week. But, her impact through her creation of the Minority Journalism Workshop in 1984 had just as much impact as Stone’s as one of the founders of NABJ.
She’s also among those who opened the doors for women to eventually to serve as leaders of academic units like our own College of Communication and Information Sciences. Long before the University of Alabama would have its first female president (Dr. Judy Bonner), there was the Capstone Women’s Network (CWN).
CWN was started in 1980 as one local effort here at University of Alabama to respond to the national call to expand and improve the opportunities for women to be in administrative decision-making posts.
After her stint on the faculty at the University of Alabama, Huttenstine went on to become the first female chair of the Department of Communication at Mississippi State University.
Today incoming freshman in the MSU communication program can apply for the Marian Huttenstine Scholarship that was named in her honor.
More than once I’ve run into alumni from our program here at University of Alabama who vividly remember Huttenstine as a tough media law professor.
But, even if we don’t have those memories as students, we can be students of hers and Stone’s way of marrying education with the ongoing effort to bring about diversity in the nation’s newsrooms and media outlets. This week every journalism educator should remember them and re-commit ourselves as individuals to continue what they started as we do our part in preparing tomorrow’s journalists and mass communication professionals.
Marian and Chuck, we’ll miss you. But, your work will continue!