First Amendment Primer

This 40-minute video presentation provides an overview of the First Amendment and its implications for the media and campus speech.

Why Good Journalists Welcome Criticism

When I was a cub reporter, an editor told me, “The best way to improve as a writer is to have someone rip your work to shreds.”
Now I'm a journalism professor, and I tell my students the same thing. You can’t be married to your words. You need to be open to feedback and even harsh criticism. In fact, you should invite it. It will make you a better writer.

How to Promote Your Blog or Website

These days, journalists need to be their own entrepreneurs and promote themselves – and their work – like a brand. There are many and varied ways to promote your blog and/or website to increase traffic. The 10 ways listed below are probably the easiest and most efficient ways. Plus, they're all free!
1. Word of mouth: this is a very basic and old school way of marketing but it has remained because it really is effective. All you have to do is tell all your family, friends and co-workers about your new site or blog and let them do the work!
2. Submit your site to search engines: this will ensure your site or blog is include in indexes for search engines and shows up when people do Google and Yahoo searches. See and
3. E-mail signatures: at the end of your e-mails, attach a link to your blog. Many e-mail programs, including Gmail, allow you to change your settings to automatically include a signature everytime you send an e-mail. Mine includes my name and contact info along with a plug for my website “Find journalism jobs, internships & more @”.
4. Social media: put a link to your blog or latest post on your Facebook page. When you post a video to YouTube, put a link in the description.
5. Twitter: there are two options. First, you can manually tweet about your blog using Twitter. You can post your own personal tweets with links to your blog posts, link to other people’s content, ask readers questions, etc. Second, you can set up an RSS feed using Twitterfeed. This is free and will do all the work for you. Basically, anytime you make a new post, a tweet will also appear on Twitter. You could also do a combination of the two: utilize Twitterfeed and also make your own custom tweets. See
6. E-mail organizations and people who are interested in your topic: I have a website about journalism careers, for example, so I e-mail journalism professors to let them know I have a website that might be useful for their students. E-mailing a professor may result in dozens of their students learning about my website. Likewise, I contact various journalism organizations, such as the Society of Professional Journalists and Asian American Journalists Association, in hopes that they will spread the word to their members.
7. Link exchanges: it is important to exchange links or get one-way links from relevant sites. The best way to do this is to manually search for websites and blogs related to your site and contact them for a link exchange. Use . When soliciting links, remember, flattery will get you everywhere. When you pay someone a compliment, it piques their curiosity in who you are. “Who is this person with impeccable taste?” Be honest and sincere in your flattery, but it shouldn’t be hard to come up with a compliment. Something like, “Hey, I liked your post about [insert topic] because [insert compliment]. I also have a blog that I thought you might be interested in because [insert why it’s relevant]. My blog’s URL is [insert Web address].”
8. Other blogs comments sections and forums: regardless of what you cover, there are likely Internet discussion boards and numerous blogs related to your topic. If you’ve got a post that you think relates strongly to something that another blogger has written about or that is the topic of discussion on a forum – leave a link to your own post. The key to pulling this off without being labeled a spammer is to leave a genuinely useful comment on the blog or forum. The comment itself should add value, be right on topic and contribute to the conversation. Then if you include a link introduce it with a ‘I’ve written more about this at….’ type comment rather than just a spammy call to action. Relatedly, many newspapers have likely, at some point, written a story related to your blog topic or one of your blog posts. And many newspaper websites these days allow readers to post comments about stories. You can do a search using Google News.
9. Write a press release: some press release services don’t cost anything and they can be surprisingly effective with a little luck. For example, see, and
10. Pitch mainstream media: some posts will have mainstream media appeal. Shoot a reporter at a paper, magazine, TV or Radio station an email – you might get lucky. For example, if you write about your university's theater department, you might email the theater critic or arts writer at local newspapers. If you cover your university's sports teams, you might e-mail the college sports reporter at the local newsaper.

How to Write An Op-Ed

How to Write a Letter to the Editor

     When writing a letter to the editor, first, you must choose a topic. It should be a current issue. Don’t harp on something that has been decided months ago. Choose topics that are interesting and relevant to many people. Letters on obscure topics have limited impact. Don’t shy away from controversial topics. But avoid hackneyed topics like abortion, the Iraq War or "the media's effect on body image".
     Next, write your letter. Keep it short and simple. As a policy, many newspapers don’t accept letters that exceeds 200 words. So, make your point and get to it quickly. Be sincere. If you have a strong conviction in your opinion, readers will sense it. Research your topic thoroughly. Support your argument with facts and evidence. Make sure your solutions are logical and practical. Have a catchy beginning and a strong ending. Proofread your letter and have someone else proofread it. If your letter is sloppy, incoherent or contains grammatical errors, it will not be published.
     At the end of your letter, be sure to include you name, address, e-mail and phone number. Newspapers need this info in order to verify that you actually sent the letter. They will publish only your name and town. Do not ask to be anonymous – your letter probably won’t get published.
     Finally, select a newspaper to submit your letter to. Student newspapers frequently publish letters from students. Many writers have also had success in getting their letter published by local newspapers. Consider submitting it to a local weekly newspaper that covers your hometown or school. For example, if you attend Adelphi University in Garden City, Long Island, submit it to Garden City Life, Garden City News or Garden City Patch. If you’re from Jackson , N.J. , send it to the Jackson Times. I would avoid large national newspapers, such as The New York Times, because they receive several hundred letters to the editor every day and publish only a handful. The chances they'll publish your letter are slim.
     When sending your op-ed, e-mail – don’t snail mail or fax – your letter. Almost every publication nowadays accepts letters via e-mail. You can find the appropriate e-mail address either by visiting the newspaper’s website or calling them up and asking for it.    Here are a few:
          Garden City News:
          Garden City Life:
          Garden City Patch:
     In the “To:” box, type in the e-mail address for sending letters to the editor. In your subject heading, simply write “Letter to the editor.” Cut and paste the text of your letter inside your e-mail – do not attach it as a file! Attachments get deleted for fear that they may contain a computer virus. Make sure your name and contact info is at the bottom of the e-mail. Do not write anything else in the e-mail, such as “Here’s my letter to the editor.” 
     Newspapers often contact writers before publishing their letters. But that's not always the case. So, be sure to read the newspaper's "Letters to the Editor" section during the couple weeks following your submission. If your letter is selected, it will most likely be published within the first couple weeks.

Journalists' Guide To Blogging

Why Blog?
There are two big reasons to blog: it will make you a better journalist and it will help you get a job. A blog is as valuable to the writer as the reader. Writing a blog will make you better at everything related to being a good journalist. You will become a better writer, researcher, investigator, skeptic, listener, communicator — and editor. You will also become better at everything concerning the Web, if you really apply yourself to blogging. I speak from personal experience on this. Moreover, if you want to get a job in journalism after college, you need o be able to write for the Web.  According to a June poll by Zogby International, 56 percent of Americans view the Web as the best source of information. Journalists need to keep up with the times and be able to report news online.
What is a Blog?
There’s really no set definition for a blog. Blogs are whatever people want them to be.
Generally, though, most blogs feature posts in reverse chronological order, hyperlinks, a section for readers to comment and a writing style that is a bit more casual than writing seen in newspapers and academic papers.
There are many different types of blogs. Many people use blogs as personal diaries. Others use them as a form of journalism, and write to inform the public about news. Some blogs feature only pictures of cats. Perez Hilton has a very popular blog about celebrity gossip. Whatever topic you can think of, there’s probably a blog – and, perhaps, even thousands of blogs – about it.
But remember, blogs don’t always equal online journalism. So, while you will be writing for a blog, remember, you’re also a journalist. As such, your blog posts shouldn’t be mere rants or photos of your cat.
Blogs are certainly less formal than standard newspaper articles, but this doesn't mean that anything goes in a blog. Basic journalism values still apply. (If you have not taken a newswriting course, see my Journalism 101 crash course at .)
Even though this is “new media” and some things are different, don’t forget the basics: tight, succinct writing, you still have to have a strong lead, sources, facts, newsworthy info (does it pass the, “why should I care test?”). The basics of journalism are still very much part of online journalism. As LA Observed editor Kevin Roderick, formerly a journalist for LA Times, said of his blog, his goal is to be "informative and useful"
At the same time don’t just think of a blog post as a newspaper-type story that you’re posting online. There’s a reason the Internet has become the #1 source of news – ahead of traditional media, like newspapers, TV and radio. Because it allows journalists to tell stories in ways they can’t in other mediums. So, your posts should combine text with multimedia elements, such as photos, video, audio and hyperlinks.

How to Create a Blog
Many websites offer free blogging software. This website uses For step-by-step instructions for creating and using the blog platform, view the PowerPoint presentation below:

Blogging Tips     
Choose URL carefully > When you start a new blog, you will be asked by to give it a URL (e.g., This cannot be changed later, so what you pick for “myblog” matters a lot. Choose a blog name that relates to your blog topic.
Explain your blog > Only returning visitors will know what your blog is about. Don’t force new visitors to have to figure out for themselves what your blog is about. Chances are they won’t stick around to find out. Instead, make it easy for them by filling out info in the “About Me” section and by creating an introductory post. First, customize your “About” section. Put a little info about yourself and briefly describe what the blog will cover. Consider adding your photo. Next, write your first post. Use it as an opportunity to introduce yourself and your blog.  Include an e-mail address people can reach you at if they have news tips or feedback. Invite reader comments.
Write clear headlines > For each blog post, you will be prompted by to provide a headline or title. Titles are as important as content. Titles should be dead-clear. Think about a person typing search terms into Google. Your choice of keywords in the post title is of paramount importance to the findability of the post itself. Every word counts. The title also needs to be short — five or six words is an ideal length. Firstly, don't use puns, metaphors or wordplay. Use your keywords in the title instead - in may not be as exciting, but it works. Most readers will find your blog using a search engine. Secondly, keep headlines short: evidence suggests that Google pays greatest attention to the first 60 characters of any headline and many RSS feeds cut the headline off after this too.
Use short paragraphs > A 100-word paragraph looks pretty long on a Web page. Long paragraphs send a signal to the reader: This will require effort. The writer expected you to have a lot of spare time. Sit down and read awhile. Short paragraphs send a different message: “I'm easy! This won't take long at all! Read me!” Also, consider using bullets and numbered lists when possible.
Write tightly >  Omit all unnecessary words. Web journalists can’t waste words, even though they don’t really have limits.  It’s hard to read much text on a computer screen. You can’t afford to bury the lead online. Tell readers quickly what the story is about and why they should keep reading – or else they won’t. Also, use active verbs. Passive verbs bore readers. Bored readers leave. Avoid redundancy. One thing to remember is that the absence of space limitations online should not be viewed as an invitation to ramble on about things.
Write in inverted pyramid format > According to research, only 16 percent of online users read a webpage word by word. The vast majority scan read. Most people are not going to reach the end of your article so there is no harm “giving the story away” in the first paragraph. Most content management systems are also set up so that your first paragraph appears as the snippet of text underneath your headline on a Google search result. This can account for 43 per cent of a user's decision on which result to choose – making it even more important than the headline. So, use the “inverted pyramid” writing style. In this format, the most important information comes first. In each successive paragraph, the information is a little less important. For more info, see .
Provide up-to-date info > There are time constraints with traditional media. Many student newspapers, for example, are published weekly, therefore reporters have to write their stories well in advance of when they actually get published. In Web journalism, you don’t face those same time constraints. Publication is immediate. This is a big reason why the Internet is a superior medium for journalism and why carbon copies of things you may write for the newspaper won't work well. So, if you’re covering an event, blog about it ASAP. Don’t wait to publish your blog post until a week later, when it’s old news. If you’re writing about a sports team, include the most recent stats and results.
Cite credible sources > A source provides reliable, truthful information on a topic. Each blog post should contain at least two sources – at least one of which should be a primary source. A primary source offers the best and most reliable information on a topic – information that’s essential to your blog post. Often a primary source is an expert, someone recognized as a leading authority on a topic. Or a primary source may be a person with firsthand information on a topic. A primary source may also be an original document or an official report. Always find at least one primary source for each substantive blog post. But don’t just stop at one. Use as many as you need to tell the story. A secondary source offers reliable second-hand information on a topic. Reference books, newspaper articles and other media are common secondary sources. People with informed opinions on a topic can also serve as secondary sources. For example, you may quote a student’s opinion on a guest speaker. Use secondary sources to expand your information. Note: always avoid using anonymous sources.
Use hyperlinks > Hyperlinks allow the writer to provide a wealth of related information to the reader, opening gateways to source documents, related stories, multimedia enhancements and much more. A link must give the reader a reasonable expectation of what she will get when she clicks. Linked phrases such as "click here" or "Web page" do not provide helpful information, so avoid them. Integrate the text of your blog posts with relevant links. For an example, see the sample blog post later in this packet. Keep links short. A long phrase (more than about five words) can be hard to read, or just ugly, when underlined and/or in a highlight color. Finally, link to useful websites. If your blog relates to your university, you need not link to the university’s webpage every time you mention the school in a post. But, if you’re writing a blog post that mentions a professor, it may be useful to link to that professor’s webpage. Every post should contain at least a couple links, if possible. But don’t over do it with links.
Use non-textual elements > Bring your story to life. Engage with your readers and give them something they can't get in print. With images, charts, graphs, video, etc. Even different font sizes and colors. Newspaper stories limit you. They’re usually one dimensional, with just text. The Web allows you to incorporate all kinds of different ways to tell a story, not just through words. Think about those other visual, non-textual elements before you write your story, not after. Try to include at least one non-textual element in every blog post.
Respect copyright law > U.S. copyright law does apply to ALL IMAGES you see on the Web, on any Web page. So it is absolutely NOT okay to copy an image (photo or otherwise) from somewhere online and use it in your blog. It is still NOT okay if you add a link to the original and/or a photo credit line. Those do NOT constitute permission from the owner of the photo. In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office bluntly says: “Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.” The image does NOT need to have a copyright symbol or a copyright notice to enjoy this protection. All published works are automatically protected by this law — and that includes ALL images online. Some people have chosen to allow limited use of their Web-published work — that is, they have given you permission in advance. They do this by posting a Creative Commons license; on Flickr, for example, you’ll see this link below the tags on the right side of an individual photo page:

If someone has attached a Creative Commons license to an image online, then you are allowed to use it in the manner specified by the license. There are different types of Creative Commons licenses — some allow you to remix the material, for example, and some forbid it.

Key Blog Elements
Ideally, blogs should contain all of the following elements:
1. Content: Headline, lead, organization, AP Style, length, info and quotes, accuracy, frequent posts. 
2. Multimedia: Don’t just fill your posts with text. Readers want to see links and artwork (e.g. photos, charts, graphics, video clips, audio clips, etc.). 
3. Originality: How newsworthy are your posts? Did you break stories or find interesting angles? Did you do your own research, talk to expert sources and get good quotes? Or did you merely rehash press releases or a newspaper story? 
4. Variety: Variety keeps blogs interesting and readers stimulated. Try to have a mix of blog posts, such as: newsy-type posts, photo blogs, podcasts, “quick hits”, special features (e.g. a Q&A), etc. 
5. Aesthetics: Your blog should be visually appealing. Create a custom banner. Use a consistent font type and size. Use font and background colors that are reader friendly. Don’t just have all text in posts – include visuals, such as photos, art/graphics and video. 
6. Ethics and Legality: Avoid errors, especially gross errors, such as a potentially libelous statement, plagiarism, fabrication, etc. In addition, you must respect copyright laws: give credit where it’s due and only use videos and photos you have permission to use.
         Sample Blogs
        Some examples of good student blogs are below.
        1. Blog about Adelphi University women’s sports @
        2. Blog about emerging music bands in the U.S. and U.K. @

         Anatomy of a Good Blog Post
        Below is a blog post a student wrote in 2007 for a blog about college life at her university. It’s an example of a really good, substantive blog post.
        The post is newsworthy because it covers a topic that’s very relevant to the blogger’s audience – college students. The reporting is original. Although the national media had already covered this topic, the blogger found a new angle by localizing the issue to her university. It’s a short post (297 words) but manages to squeeze in a lot of useful info, including a survey the blogger conducted, quotes from an expert source and other info. Notice also: frequent paragraph breaks, the use of links, photos, and use of both primary and secondary sources. I’ve included comments on the side about important aspects of the blog post. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

        How To Podcast

        Many journalists nowadays are podcasting – broadcasting audio and video online. This slideshow below offers a primer on how to podcast.

        Backpack Journalism: How To Make A News Video

        These days, journalists are expected to be able to do it all – report a story in front of a camera, online and in the newspaper. Even if you go into print journalism, most daily U.S. newspapers will expect you to produce content for the Web.
        The advent of cheap digital video cameras and free video-editing software has ushered in the digital video revolution. Instead of a $35,000 camera, an even more expensive editing station, a two- or three-person crew and years of training, one college student can produce high quality Web video with a $175 camera and a computer.
        This slideshow offers a step-by-step on producing a news video with a computer and inexpensive camera.

        Internet and Cyberspace Law

        Sometimes the Internet is referred to as the “Wild West” when it comes to media law. But this isn’t a good analogy because the Internet does in fact have laws; you can’t do whatever you want. However, Internet law does not have the same long-standing Supreme Court precedents (as does areas such as campus speech and newspaper publishing) due to its newness. SCOTUS has come out and said that the Internet should be protected by the First Amendment (see Reno v. ACLU in 1997). However, the Court is made up of luddites and dinosaurs, and several members have lately demonstrated a profound ignorance about communication methods and technologies most Americans take for granted. Are these the people we want making important legal decisions? Probably not, but there’s nothing we can do about it.
        Attempts at Internet Regulation…
                    … Haven’t worked to well. Several problems, including:
        ·      Recent legislation, such as the Child Online Protection Act and Communications Decency Act, proposed by Congress has been too broad and vague. E.g. laws have banned “lewd” and “annoying” material, but what does that mean? Courts have declared such laws unconstitutional.
        ·      In addition, laws such as the Comm. Decency Act, would restrict material that, if published, would be protected speech. Does that make sense? The Supreme Court struck it down.
        ·      The Internet, unlike broadcast stations, is worldwide and therefore beyond U.S. jurisdiction in many cases. We can’t control what’s on a Turkish website, unless we block access to certain websites as China does. Do we want that?
        ·      The law can’t keep up with technology. Who’s to blame for bad content? The Internet allows for a lot of anonymous speech. Often, authorities have difficulty tracing the source of controversial material. Do we go after websites and Internet service providers – “shoot the messenger”? Is it reasonable/practical to hold them responsible for the millions of things posted online everyday?
        However, reasonable Time/Place/Manner restrictions, such as Internet filters required by the Children’s Internet Protection Act on computers in libraries and schools, have been allowed.
        Also permitted is regulation of spam, spoofing and phishing. But such laws are often difficult to enforce, plus raise jurisdictional issues.
        · If the spam message originates in one state, but is received in another, which state law should apply?
        · Did you know? 90 percent of e-mail sent to Adelphi people is spam. Fortunately, the university uses filters that weeds out most of it before it reaches your inbox.
        · Spoofing and phishing are often used in connection with identity theft.
        Some other legal issues involving the Internet are…
        Online defamation
        ·      In cases of libelous statements on the Internet, the degree of liability of Internet service providers depends on the degree to which the ISP exercises editorial control over comments made. Consider two cases below:
        ·      In the Prodigy case, Prodigy was sued for defamation based upon the statements made by one of its customers in a Prodigy discussion group (or bulletin board). In determining whether Prodigy was liable for the defaming statements of its customer in this case, a New York state judge was left to determine whether Prodigy was a "distributor" of information, such as a bookstore or library, or whether Prodigy was a "publisher" of information, such as a newspaper. As a mere distributor, Prodigy would not be liable for the statement. In contrast, if Prodigy was considered a publisher (with greater control over the information's content), Prodigy would be liable. In a decision that shocked most on-line service providers, the judge held that, as a result of Prodigy's well-publicized policies of monitoring and censoring its forums, Prodigy was a publisher and was potentially liable for the defaming statement. Although the case was settled by the parties and Prodigy moved for a withdrawal of the judge's decision, the judge refused.
        ·      In the CompuServe case, a similar factual situation was encountered by a federal court. In this case, however, the court found that CompuServe acted merely as a distributor of information in its discussion groups, and therefore was not liable. It is important to note that CompuServe avoided liability because it did not know about the defaming statement, nor did it have any reason to know about the statement. If a distributor knows about a defaming statement and continues to distribute the information, liability is not so easily avoided.
        ·      In analyzing these cases, most commentators noted the irony that Prodigy was more likely to be liable for defamation because of the additional steps it took to control the content of its discussion groups. CompuServe did not attempt to monitor and control its discussion groups to the extent done by Prodigy, which made it easier for the CompuServe judge to find that CompuServe was merely a distributor of information. This lead many attorneys to advise their clients to avoid censoring such discussion groups, for fear of defamation liability. Such a hands-off approach can only increase the likelihood that defamatory statements will be made in the future.
        ·      Cyberbullying is the use of e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, pagers, cell phones, or other forms of information technology to deliberately harass, threaten, or intimidate someone. Following recent student suicides (including one at a Long Island high school) that were linked to cyberbullying, several states have passed or are considering laws that would criminalize cyberbullying. Such legislation, however, raises First Amendment issues.
        ·      Cyberbullying is often limited to online insults about someone's physical appearance, friends, clothing or sexuality. Things like “Sam is a slut,” “Jamal is fat” or “Ricky is ugly.” Statements like that aren’t libelous or an invasion of privacy. They’re simply opinions, and protected by the First Amendment. And that includes mean opinions.
        ·      However, if a statement is threatening (such as I’m going to kill you), or if the statement is libelous (which means it’s provably false and seriously damages someone’s reputation) or if the statement is an invasion or privacy (so if it’s a private fact like a medical condition that the individual hasn’t revealed to anyone), that is illegal and we already have laws to deal with that. Additionally, private schools can punish cyberbullies because they’re not governed by the First Amendment (only public schools are).
        ·      Some also oppose cyberbullying laws because they believe you can't legislate norms, you can only teach norms. Just because it's a law they don't necessarily follow it. For example, look at using cell phones while driving. Most people seem to do it, especially teenagers. The law in itself does not render citizens virtuous. What do you think?
        Employer/School Regulation of Internet
        ·      Employers are allowed to monitor employees’ Internet use, including their emails. Likewise, schools can monitor students Internet use. Why? Because they own the computers and e-mail servers and usually require you to agree to Terms of Service before issuing an account. Some people, however, consider this an invasion of their privacy. But, again, legally, it’s OK.
        ·      Students need to be careful. Consider:
        à In 2001, Peter Chung decided to regale his buddies with tales of his sexual escapades in Korea. Unfortunately, he sent it using his company e-mail and the e-mail eventually got circulated publicly. Soon, the 24-year-old Princeton grad found himself jobless and the stuff of cyber legend. Of course, Chung is just one of many examples where people haven't conducted themselves well online, only to see it come back to haunt them later. This is really an important lesson for students, given that more and more companies are using the Internet to perform checks on potential employee. According to one recent survey, 50 percent of employers use "social networking" sites to run searches on job applicants and 68 percent of employers use search engines to check on candidates. Most employers admit that they could care less what a job applicant does outside of work. It's the fact that s/he posted about it online that concerns them. It shows a lack of judgment. What can students do to make sure they don't end up like Mr. Chung?
        ·      Applies online. If you go to Google images, for example, and use an image you find there on your website or blog, you may be sued for violating copyright law, even if you credit the source. But, under the “notification clause” of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, Internet service providers are required to remove material from web sites under their control only if notified by the copyright holder of an infringement. This means YouTube can’t be sued for all the music videos and movies posted on their website. This policy annoys recording and movie studios because they must hire people to search YouTube and other sites every day to find copyright violations; they feel that the websites should be responsible for doing the copyright violation “scut work”. Do you agree?
        Network Neutrality
        ·      Is a principle that advocates no restrictions on content, sites, platforms, etc. related to the Internet. Internet service providers, such as RoadRunner, OptimumOnline, Verizon, Adelphi U., etc. could conceivably control the pipeline so that certain websites may load slower than others or be blocked all together. They could also require websites to pay fees to ensure that their websites load quickly for their visitors. This is a major issue and will surely be the subject of lawsuits in years to come.
        ·      For the most part, there are no restrictions on linking your website to any other website you want to (for example, you could have a link to or or my journalism blog on your personal homepage). However, things like inline linking (embedding videos and photos from other websites) and framing (making a one website appear as if it’s part of the linking website) have been and will likely continue to be the subject of court battles for years to come. Of course, if a Web site permits their users to embed its content, as YouTube does, there wouldn’t be any legal issues.

        Journalism Ethics

        Where do you get your news from? Do you watch CNN? Read Slate? Subscribe to the New York Times?
        What’s your opinion of the news sources you read? Do you think they’re doing a good job? Reporting objectively? Covering news that matters?
        If you answered “No,” you’re not alone.
        A recent study found that 62 percent of Americans say they don’t trust the media.
        Fifty-nine percent think newspapers are more concerned about making profits than serving the public interest.
        And 58 percent don’t think journalists care about complaints of inaccuracies.
        This widespread distrust and discontent can probably be traced, at least in part, by a constant parade of media scandals. In recent years, notable transgressions include:
        Stephen Glass, a young rising star at the prestigious national magazine, The New Republic, was fired after it was discovered he fabricated quotations, sources, and even entire events in dozens of articles he wrote. The story of his downfall was dramatized in a 2003 film, Shattered Glass. Hayden Christensen starred as Glass.
        In 2003, the New York Times suffered a black eye to its journalistic credibility when one of its young reporters, Jayson Blair, was exposed for plagiarizing and fabricating elements of various stories. Instead of conducting research and interviews for stories he was assigned, Blair would often look online and copy information from other newspapers.
        More recently, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather found himself in hot water after he aired an investigative report questioning then-President George Bush’s military service record. It turned out that Rather had based his report on what bloggers determined were forged documents. This sloppy reporting ultimately led CBS to show Rather the door and forever tainted what had been a highly-regarded journalism career.
        Hopefully, these kinds of sins are straightforward. You should never pass off even a sentence of someone else’s writing as your own. You should not distort the meaning of any quotes you use. You should stick to the facts and not make things up. Stuff like this is not just standard journalism practice. It’s also part of your college’s academic honesty code.
        In fact, some journalism professors and ethicists would argue that cases like Glass and Blair really don’t involve ethical dilemmas. Rather, they were cases of reporters knowing right from wrong and simply yielding to temptation – doing the wrong thing for personal aggrandizement or gain.
        But most journalists don’t yield to temptation. They don’t plagiarize, fabricate or lie. I’ve worked as both a journalists and a public relations practitioner. I have dealt with many reporters and can tell you that only a very few don’t play by the rules. Still, journalists are faced with ethical dilemmas nearly every day. Why?
        Because giving audiences the information they need to make decisions about their own lives often involves putting values in conflict. For example, audiences often need information about private individuals that those individuals would rather not have disclosed. So, the reporter has to weigh the relative importance of two ethical principals – providing information that will help the public make decisions and respecting an individual’s right to privacy.
        Suppose you discover that the college president, a married 50-year-old man, has a mistress. Does that deserve a story? What if he’s wining and dining her with college funds (i.e. your tuition money)?
        To help deal with ethical dilemmas, many media outlets and journalism organizations have drawn up codes of ethics.
        Many media outlets follow the code of ethics written by the Society of Professional Journalists. It’s organized around four principles:
        1.      Seek truth and report it: Journalists should be honest, fair, objective and accurate.
        2.      Minimize harm: Realize that you’re covering human beings. Be respectful, tasteful and sensitive. Note that it says “minimize” harm. You may not be able to completely avoid it. If you’re doing investigative reporting, for example, your story may expose corruption and cause someone to get fired. But, in the end, the greater good will be served by your reporting.
        3.      Act independently: Don’t accept gifts or favors. Your only obligation is to serve the public’s interest. This is why it’s so important to avoid conflicts of interests, as we discussed during the first week of class.
        4.      Be accountable: Correct mistakes and expose unethical practices by journalists. The New Republic’s staff was criticized for their role in the Glass scandal because they ignored known problems with Glass until they no longer could.
        OK, now let’s put these principles to the test. Consider this scenario:
        An anonymous tip alerts you that someone is mailing gunpowder in letters to the president of your college, threatening to "blow all you bastards straight to hell this Halloween." When you contact the president, he begs you not to print anything about the threats, for fear of creating panic on campus. Police officials insist that publicity would jeopardize their investigation. Halloween is two days away. Do you have a duty to warn the community of potential harm? Should you respect the authorities’ wishes and hold the story? Or set your own deadline?
        What would you do if faced with this situation? Keep in mind the aforementioned ethics code, as well as your own personal convictions and beliefs. Think about it, and then make a decision.
        As you’ll likely see if you discuss these scenarios with others, there’s no consensus. Smart people with good hearts may reach different conclusions on how to handle these situations. There are no right or wrong answers, only grey areas.
        Regardless of what you decide, the important thing is that you give these dilemmas some thought and be able to explain how you reached your decision. Because you may receive an angry call from a reader the next day asking why you did something. Or why you didn’t do something. In journalism, you’re often damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
        In 2004, for example, then-Vice President Dick Cheney told a senator “F*ck yourself” on the Senate floor. Some newspapers printed the expletive, but others edited it out in their stories. Editors at all newspapers received angry phone calls the next day. Those who printed it received calls from readers who claimed to be offended by profanity. Those who did not print the obscenity also received complaints – readers felt the newspaper wasn’t telling the whole story and being too easy on the Vice President.  
        Sometimes, reader complaints can be silly. After I wrote a story about a coyote terrorizing cats in a suburban Rhode Island community, an angry father called me and cursed me out because he said the story scared his 5-year-old daughter. The public often likes to “shoot the messenger.”
        But sometimes, a story can have a much greater impact than you ever anticipated. One of my stories, in particular, stands out. I reported that a mayor had his office swept for listening devices. Nothing was found, but the story created a lot of buzz. Residents were angry that there tax money had been squandered on an unnecessary service and the paranoid politician became the laughing stock of the state.
        The authorities also saw the story and wondered why the mayor was so concerned that others may be eavesdropping. What was he hiding? They decided to find out and put the mayor under surveillance. Eventually, the mayor was arrested and charged with racketeering, bribery and several other corruption charges.
        It took six years, but the case finally went to trial. The politician was found guilty. The following day, he committed suicide.
        People often ask me whether I regret writing that story, since it ultimately led to a suicide. While what happened is very sad, I don’t have any regrets. I practiced responsible journalism. The mayor was harming his community by engaging in illegal activities. My article helped to put an end to that. Remember, SPJ’s Code of Ethics implores journalists to “minimize harm.” That doesn’t mean you can avoid it completely. And that’s what ethics can be a very tricky area.
        But what’s important is that you recognize potential trouble spots, talk to others journalists about what to do and, whatever you end up deciding, be able to defend your decision by offering good reasons for your action (or inaction).

        How To Write An Enterprise Story

        An enterprise story is an in-depth news story on a topic that is unusual, interesting or surprising.
        For example, you could identify a controversial issue that would be of interest to your college or community. Do background research on the issue to find out what the facts are. Interview several people with different opinions and try to accurately represent their opinions and experiences, using direct quotes. Also try to use at least one written source. Go beyond “he said, she said” to present multiple perspectives with insight, but be careful not to put your own opinions in the story.
        Another option: Write a story about people either in your community or at your college campus who are usually not covered much in the news -- someone whose race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, culture, or disability might be stereotyped or misunderstood by others. Use that person as an example to illustrate a larger issue.
        Enterprise stories usually run longer than a typical news story. Aim for 1,000 to 1,500 words, unless a different amount is specified by your editor. In addition, you should have a sidebar item to complement your story. Sidebar items may include: a chart with survey results, a timeline of important events in your story, a diagram explaining something in your story, a checklist or a step-by-step guide for something.
        It is important that you begin work on this assignment immediately because it will require much more work than a typical news story. Additionally, your sources may not be able to set aside time to interview, if you wait until the last moment. If you attempt to put an enterprise story together at the last moment, it will be obvious to your editor and to readers.
        This slideshow provides a step-by-step on writing an enterprise story:

        How to Write an Enterprise Story

        To a good reporter, many stories are obviously important to cover – a house fire, a homicide, an election, a new state budget.
        But what about those slow news days when breaking news is sparse and there aren’t any interesting press releases worth checking out?
        Those are the days when good reporters are working on what they call “enterprise stories.” They’re the kind of stories that many reporters find the most rewarding to do. They are they kinds of stories that usually win reporters awards. And they are the kinds of stories that newspapers and magazines tend to tell best, which helps distinguish them from radio and television newscasts.

        What is Enterprise Reporting?

        Enterprise reporting involves stories not based on press releases or news conferences. Instead, enterprise reporting is all about the stories a reporter digs up on his or her own, what many people call “scoops.” Enterprise reporting goes beyond merely covering events. It explores the forces shaping those events. It provides in-depth examinations of people and issues.
        For instance, coverage of a murder is not enterprise reporting; a story that addresses why the murder rate is higher in one particular area over others is.

        Finding Ideas for Enterprise Stories

        So how can you develop your own enterprise stories? Most reporters will tell you that uncovering such stories involves two key journalistic skills: observation and investigation.


        Observation, obviously, involves seeing the world around you. But while we all observe things, reporters take observation one step further by using their observations to generate story ideas. In other words, a reporter who sees something interesting almost invariably asks himself, “could this be a story?”
        Let’s say you stop at the college bookstore to buy your textbooks for class. You see your bill is higher and higher every semester, well beyond the normal inflation rates. Most students would grumble about it, but a reporter might ask, “Why is the price rising?”
        Here’s another example: You’re sitting in class and notice that a few of the students look old enough to be your father. The college used to have mostly 18-to-22-year-olds populating its student body. Now the college seems to have hundreds of non-traditional students. Again, most of us would take little notice of this, but a good reporter would ask, “Why are so many older students attending this college?”

        Changes and Trends

        Notice that both examples involve change – in the price of textbooks and in the student body demographics. Changes are something reporters always look for. A change, after all, is something new, and new developments are what reporters write about.
        Enterprise reporters also look for changes that occur over time - trends, in other words. Discovering a trend is often a great way to start an enterprise story. For example, maybe you’re walking around campus and, now that the weather is warmer and people are wearing less, you notice that lots of people have tattoos. When you were a freshman, you only knew one person with a tattoo. Now, everyone in your sorority has a tattoo. Could this be a new trend? What percentage of students have tattoos? What types of tattoos do they have? Are they visible? What are people’s opinions of them? Are they cool? Do they turn off employers? There are all sorts of questions you could explore within that issue.

        Why Ask Why?

        You’ll notice that both examples involve the reporter asking “why” something was happening. “Why” is probably the most important word in any reporter’s vocabulary. A reporter who asks why something is happening is beginning the next step of enterprise reporting: investigation.


        Investigation is really just a fancy word for reporting. It involves doing the interviews and digging up the information to develop an enterprise story. An enterprise reporter’s first task is to do some initial reporting to see if there really is an interesting story to be written about (not all interesting observations turn out to be interesting news stories.) The next step is to gather the material needed to produce a solid story.
        So the reporter investigating the rise in textbook might discover that textbooks are more expensive because of the recent popularity of the used textbook market. The problem is not due to students selling to each other, but to the massive buying of textbooks by used book wholesalers who then ship the book to another campus where it will be used next year. The textbook wholesalers, some of which own the bookstore, buy textbooks from students at a small fraction of the price that the students pay and then sell the books back to the next batch of students at an inflated “used book” price.

        Example: A Story About Underage Drinking

        Let's take one more example, this one involving a trend. Let's say you're the police reporter in your hometown. Every day you're in police headquarters, checking the arrest log. Over a period of several months, you notice a spike in arrests for underage drinking among students from the local high school.
        You interview the cops to see if beefed-up enforcement is responsible for the increase. They say no. So you interview the principal of the high school as well as teachers and counselors. You also talk to students and parents and discover that, for a variety of reasons, underage drinking is increasing. So you write a story about the problems of underage drinking and how it's on the rise in your hometown.
        What you've produced is an enterprise story, one not based on a press release or a news conference, but on your own observation and investigation.
        Enterprise reporting can encompass everything from feature stories (the one about tattoos would probably fit that category) to more serious investigative pieces, like steroid use among college athletes.

        Where to Look?

        Get out of your dorm room or house. Look around and see if you notice anything interesting, unusual or surprising – for example, is everyone wearing a nose earring?
        Chat up strangers. Strive to talk to someone new everyday. Go beyond the usual suspects, like the mayor and police or the vice president of student affairs and campus security director.
        Also, eavesdrop. What are people talking about at parties, in the school cafeteria, in dorm hallways?  There’s probably at least one thing you’ve overheard this past week that could make a good story.
        Click here to see a list of "50 places to shop for story ideas."

        Sample Enterprise Stories By My Former Students

        How To Write A Profile Story

        Find someone you think is interesting and newsworthy (someone who’s spending her summer doing something interesting, has overcome difficulties, has an unusual job or hobby, goes out of his way to help others, won a prestigious award, etc.).
        Write about the person without stating any of your own opinions in the story. Use third person (he said, she did), with accurate quotes in the person’s own words.  Try to capture a sense of the individual’s personality and mood.
        Quote at least two other people who know the subject of your story well. Get an action photo of your subject – either take it yourself or get one from them. A list of sources and contact information is required.
        Your story should be between 600 and 800 words, unless otherwise specified by your editor.
        It is important that you begin work on this or any assignment immediately because it will take you several hours to conduct interviews and write a good story. Additionally, your sources may not be able to set aside time to interview, if you wait until the last moment.

        Choosing a Topic for Your Story

        Pick something newsworthy to many people, not just to you. Being in a sorority, doing community service, and playing the cello while working and maintaining a B-plus average is impressive. But it’s not newsworthy. Many students successfully juggle many tasks. However, if the same student was the only person to win a national award for community service or just got signed by a professional orchestra, that would be newsworthy. Similarly, being a member of a varsity sports team takes talent but it is not newsworthy. However, if the athlete set a school record for points scored or got drafted by a professional team, that’s newsworthy.
        In addition, keep in mind: If another reporter has already published a story about your subject, s/he's not newsworthy. The person is old news. Choose someone else. Choose someone you have access to and whom you can interview (several times, if necessary). Make sure the person is OK with being written about in a story that may potentially be published. Avoid writing about close friends, significant others, family members and anyone who has authority over you (e.g., a boss, a professor, etc.). This is a conflict of interest. Don’t write about dead people – that’s an obituary, not a profile. Remember, you must be able to interview the person you are writing about. In addition, you will need at least two other sources.

        How to Write a Profile Story

        A profile story is a portrait of a person in words. Like the best painted portraits, the best profiles capture the character, spirit and style of their subjects. They delve beneath the surface to look at what motivates people, what excites them, what makes them interesting. Good profiles get into the heart of the person and find out what makes them tick.
        The problem is that lives are hard to fit into newspaper articles, no matter how much space is allotted for them. Reporters who simply try to cram into a profile all the facts they can come up with inevitably end up with something more like a narrative version of a resume than a journalism story.
        Like all other stories, profiles must have an angle, a primary theme. That theme should be introduced in the lead, it should be explored and often it will be returned to at the end of the story. Something of a person’s character, spirit and style will then be revealed through that theme.
        Whatever the theme, it takes a thorough understanding of a person’s life to create a revealing sketch of that life. Reporters should spend time with their subjects while they’re doing whatever makes them newsworthy. For example, if you’re writing about a ballerina, try to observe her performing on stage or at least practicing in her dance studio.
        Good profiles - and all good journalism stories - show, instead of telling. Use all five senses when you interview someone. What are they wearing? Do they fiddle nervously with their pencil? Is there a chocolate smudge on their shirt? Is their hair stylishly spiked?
        Because a profile cannot be complete without quotes - there is no way to write a profile without extensive interviewing. Frequently, more than one interview is necessary unless the writer already knows his subject well Good profiles also contain quotes from people who know the subject of your story well. Spice your story with the words of family, friends, enemies and the subjects themselves.
        Finally, good profiles strike the appropriate tone.  Think about your profile - is it someone who is involved in a serious issue, like eating disorders? You probably want to be more serious in your tone. Is it someone playful - a comic book artist, perhaps? You can be more playful. But remember - your personal opinion is not appropriate. You are there to merely paint a picture of this person - to let the facts speak for themselves.


        Click here to see examples of good profiles written by my former journalism students. All of these stories were eventually published in newspapers.

        Step-By-Step Guide

        Follow these steps when working on your profile story:

        • Before you interview or write the story, think about your goal -- the type of story you want to write, the space you'll have to tell it in, where it'll be published, and who'll be reading it.
        • Decide what your angle is: What is interesting or unusual about this person? What is this person's story?
        • All of these things will affect the direction you take with your story (as well as how freely your subject talks with you
        • Get background info: Do a LexisNexis search for old newspaper articles about your subject and/or do a Google search. Does the person have a personal website or a bio on his company’s website? Ask him to e-mail you his resume.
        • You may find something interesting in the resume. For example, if you’re interviewing a teacher, you may find that your subject went to private, exclusive, costly schools all her life but has chosen to teach at a very poor school. What inspired this choice? Why is this rewarding for her? Or you may see that she has won awards in soccer in college, and you didn't know she was a former jock. Do your research before you show up!
        • Talk to people who know them well (friends, coaches, coworkers, mentors, parents, siblings, even enemies). Get the correct spelling of names and their qualifications/titles.

        • Assemble Tools: notepad, tape/digital recorder, camera, pens
        • Test tape recorder
        • Meet them at place they are comfortable but not too distracted. Meet at time they aren’t too busy
        • Prepare questions to ask in advance. Group questions into categories.

        3. AT INTERVIEW
        • The point of an interview is to find out what is interesting about the other person and help them get comfortable talking to you so they'll spill the beans and do it in an interesting, quotable, clear way.
        • The initial interview should focus on making the subject comfortable as well as getting general background information out of the way. The writer should try to make his subject as comfortable as possible. In some situations, the interviews should be held in neutral territory, but for some subjects the interview may go smoother is he is in a familiar atmosphere.
        • Regardless of where the interview takes place, it should always begin with small talk - develop a rapport with the subject. And once you begin the official interview, start with the easy questions first to get them talking about themselves. Ask them if it’s OK to tape record them for accuracy. Thank them for their time and tell them the purpose of your interview.
        • Come prepared with several questions, but be let a natural conversation develop. A reporter's biggest mistake is either to go into an interview with no questions or to go into an interview with a list of question and not deviate from the list.
        • A good reporter begins an interview with a set of questions, but knows when to add impromptu questions that will get a subject to continue on a train of thought if it sounds interesting.
        • Example: Reporter asks, "What was the goal of the fundraiser'?" Subject answers, "We wanted to make the club look good; no really the goal was to earn enough money to help build a new center for migrant worker education" Instead of skipping to the next question a good reporter follows up on the first part of that answer to find out if there was something behind it. "What did you mean that you wanted to make the club look good'?" the reporter asks next.
        • Be conversational but let the source do most of the talking. Never supply or suggest an answer. Be patient and wait for it.
        • Good reporting skills equal good observation and listening skills. If you don’t understand something, ask the person to explain. Underline or circle all names, ideas, etc you’re unsure of so you can double check them.
        • A good reporter also spends a lot of time looking at the subject as well as the subject’s surroundings. It is a good idea to interview a person in their office, classroom or home if possible because a reporter will always learn more about person by watching him in his environment not yours.
        • Notice details in the subject's environment, her personal habits, her appearance, etc.: Does she have knitting on a corner of her desk? Does she wear a locket every day; whose picture is inside? Does she have readily visible tattoos; if so, what's the story behind them? Does she roar up to work or school or wherever on a Harley every day, in a Mercedes, or in a hybrid electric/gas car? Does she flinch every time she sees someone toss a bit of trash on the ground?
        • Closely observing the things a person does and doesn't do, the way the person acts and reacts, what the person surrounds himself/herself with -- these are all clues to what makes the person tick. Pay attention. Ask questions.
        • Take notes even if you’re recording. Batteries die, tapes get misplaced or stolen, things happen. Your notes will provide a backup and save you time. Reviewing and transcribing your entire interview will take forever. Rather, keep notes, review them and figure out which quotes you want to use. Then go back and listen to the tape to make sure you quote them correctly.

        4. QUESTIONS
        • You have lots of options. You can ask your subject the standard background information just to get the routine stuff out of the way and then move on to other questions.
        • If your subject doesn’t seem talkative or provides mostly “yes” and “no” responses, try prodding them a little. For example, if you ask him, “Do you like your job?” and he answers “yes,” follow up with “why do you like it?” If he responds, “Because it gives me a lot of free time,” follow up with, “What do you like to do in your free time and why do you enjoy doing it?”
        • What follows are some of the many questions you may want to ask:
        • Where did you go to college? What degrees do you have? What, if any, further degrees or certifications are you pursuing? Do you have any other special training that has prepared you for your career?
        • Where have you worked before this job?
        • What honors/awards have you received?
        • Could you give some personal background (single/married, children, etc.)?
        • Are you involved in any community organizations (charities, church, etc.)?
        • What are your hobbies?
        • Where did you grow up? Did you move around a lot? If yes, how did this affect you? If no, how did the stability of living in one place all your life affect you?
        • Are there any political or social issues you feel passionately about?
          Do you have a nickname?
        • List your favorites (book, movie or play, quote, poem, website, type of food or individual dish, music genre, song, band or individual musician, perfume, clothing style or designer, etc.).
        • Where have you traveled?
        • Tell me about your current job (activity, whatever)? What attracted you to it?
        • How do you break it down and handle everything?
        • How do you keep a healthy work/life balance?
        • What are your greatest stresses and what causes you the most anxiety in your life?
        • What is most rewarding about your job; what makes it all worthwhile?
        • What are the most critical problems faced by people in your field in this city/state/country? How do you think these problems should be handled? 
        • What's the hardest thing for you about being a _____? How do you address that?
        • What comes easiest to you as a ______?
        • Who was your favorite _______ and why?
        • So far what's been your most embarrassing moment as a ________?
        • What's the newest, freshest approach you are bringing to your job?
        • What's the next skill or knowledge set you want to add to your repertoire to make you a better _________?
        • Favorite weekend activity?
        • What's your favorite funny story about yourself?
        • Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know.
        • List three misconceptions that people often have about you (and, if none, why).
        • What's your life plan? What do you plan to have accomplished in five, 10, 20, and 50 years -- personally and/or professionally?
        • What was your favorite toy (or game) as a child, and why?
        • What makes you laugh?
        • Best compliment you've ever received?
        • Anything else you’d like to add?
        • Did the person have a model or idol who they aspired to be as a youth?
        • Did the person have specific goals as a youth? How did they go about achieving those goals?
        • Who has helped them during their personal or professional career?
        • Has there been a defining moment in that person's life that made them decide to take the direction in life that they did?
        • Does the person have advice to offer people who are aspiring to be as successful as he/she?
        • Tell me something about yourself that people might not readily know.
        5. AT END
        Thank them for their time and ask them if it’s OK for you to contact them again if they have questions. Ask them if there’s anyone else they should talk to about them. Give them a timeline for when you plan to write your story and where you hope to publish it, if you know. However, do not agree to show them your story before you publish it. Otherwise, you will be inviting censorship. If they ask why they can’t see your story before you submit it, you can explain that it’s impractical given your tight deadline and that your journalism professor prohibits it.

        6. AFTERWARD
        Reflect on the interview and try to list your main points of the story. What are the highlights? Jot down any ideas you have for writing the story. As soon as possible, rewrite your notes so they make sense to you. Use tape recorder to fill in gaps or clarify things. Contact source again to supply missing info.