Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Editing: Photo Selection

We have been talking this week about how we sometimes have to make difficult decisions when selecting pictures for publication. In class, we looked at a series of pictures at this website and discussed what ethical and personal elements come into play when deciding if photos like these are fit to print. The first series from the website if from a press conference held by former Pennsylvania treasurer R. Budd Dwyer. This press conference is infamous because the treasurer used it to commit a public suicide ahead of charges for accepting $300,000 dollars in illegal kickbacks.

The series of photos, which ranges from him pulling out a gun to him actually shooting himself in the head, caused a lot of tough decisions to be made by editors accross the country. I have discussed these photos in other classes and am aware that some news broadcasts opted to go with the more graphic photos (the treasurer with the gun in his mouth) while others played the story more conservatively(photos simply of him holding the gun). I definitely think that television is where a choice such as this one would be most difficult. Television focuses on sensationalism in order to maintain viewer interest, so I feel that in this platform the pressures to go with the more graphic photos would be the greatest. That said, I personally can't really justify using the last two photos on any platform. This is mostly out of my belief in the journalism standard of minimizing harm. There are members of any audience who likely would be harmed by seeing such photos. This might include family members of the treasurer, impressionable children, or other people who have had some one close to them commit suicide. I think that the first two photos, accompanied by the actual story, more than do their part to convey the mood, setting, and nature of the news story.

Below that photo series were a number of other controversial or gruesome pictures. I think that I would hesitate to use most of them, especially the one with the woman being stripped and groped by a gang of people at Mardi Gras. Again, this photo is likely to evoke painful emotions of any rape of molestation victim, and I expect that it is uncomfortable for most women in general. There some photos that could be run with a little editing of in the right situation. For instance, I think that the one featuring a dead boy on the ground with the family greiving overhead could be a very powerful shot if you simply cropped the boy's body out. In the end, its all about minimizing harm while still maximizing impact, and I will be the first to admit that that is a difficult and complicated challenge.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rodriguez has uneventful first workout with Yanks

That is a headline that I saw this afternoon in the main newsfeed section of Yahoo! Sports' web page. Seriously. Doesn't the very use of the term "uneventful" provide an indication to us that this topic might not be newsworthy? It might be easy to dismiss this story because of its topic, but although this is a sports story it is also from the Associated Press. The story can be found here, and I have to tell you that if you found the title to be unexciting, just wait until you read the actual story. I can sum it up for you here: Alex Rodriguez practiced the game of baseball today. It was not unlike any other general baseball practice. Also, Rodriguez's teammate, Darek Jeter, is disappointed that Alex once took steroids, although this is not a new development from previous reports.

This must be a product of the 24 hour news cycle, and this is a problem with news reporting and story selection among editors that I have had since the very dawn of CNN. As editors,can't we find something better than this? This may have been a sports story, but it is certainly not the first time that the 24 hour news cycle has provided something as ironically uneventful as this under the guise of it being genuine news. I mean it was in the home page's main news section! Not tucked away on a baseball-only section and certainly not on Rodriguez' specific player page where it MAY have belonged. If I were an editor and I made the unfortunate choice of going with a story like this, I at least would have tucked it away somewhere that only the most dedicated of A-Rod followers could stumble accross it. The presence of this story on a major sports news web site's main page is just embarrassing...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another case of editor abuse...

Well this afternoon I was surfing the blogger website for funny editing stories and I actually came across something scary. It was this article titled "Funny newspaper stories." Note that this is being reposted by the blogger, so they are not the offender. That honor apparently belongs to an individual named Giles Coren, who is clearly somebody that I never want to meet in person. Also note that this has some pretty graphic content, but we are all adults...I hope.

I never realized that editing could be such a high-stakes business, but this is the second instance that I have been exposed to this semester of an individual going absolutely ballistic over what seems like a trivial editing issue. Those of you currently enrolled in news editing with me at the university will remember our first out of class assignment for lecture, but for those who read this outside of our little editing community (so basically Ryan and my girlfriend), here is a link to that tirade. After these examples all I have to say is that editors have it a lot tougher than I would have given them credit for.

Also, and this was my favorite part of that letter, look at the writer's second reason for why the editor who changed his final sentence was a complete failure (to put it mildly). Now this letter is being posted by a third party on their blog, so I'm not sure if the error is the original ranter's or that of the blogger. But the letter's entire argument centers around accuracy and how even the slightest change can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Well, this paragraph had the word "bear" where I am pretty sure it is supposed to be "beard". And if you go and read the letter, I'm also pretty sure that you'll agree that change makes quite a big difference as well!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Maybe baseball should take Obama's fiscal responsibility message to heart

Any chance I have to write about sports and politics in the same blog I am going to take...

Yesterday, Manny Ramirez declined a contract offer from the L.A. Dodgers. The offer was for one year, 25 million dollars. He had previously turned down another offer from the team for two years and 45 million dollars (with options for a third year that would have brought the value up to around 60 million).

I personally am a huge fan of baseball. But the pay that these players are receiving, especially with the current economic struggles that many Americans are facing, is getting to be a little ridiculous. I would estimate that 99.9% of the adults in America would take the opportunity to play baseball for a year for 25 million dollars. If I could manage to live comfortably off of it, I'd do it for minimum wage. That's how a player should feel if they truly love the game. But apparently, Manny is much more concerned with the money, and the fact that he has already turned down offers like this, with no other viable alternatives on the table to even justify it, tells me that he is a selfish pig.

There has been plenty of heat given to financial institutions in the media lately. There was the fallout over Citigroup's jet, the anger over the 18 billion dollars in executive bonuses last year, and most recently President Obama's order to set executive pay limits. Maybe its time for Major League Baseball to consider something similar with its out of touch players. I am hoping that it's safe to assume that others are disgusted by players like Manny Ramirez, and eventually baseball may risk losing disgruntled fans who sit at home on unemployment while its players tell America that 25 million simply isn't enough for them.

Weekly editing post

Today's exercise in editing was actually somewhat enlightening. In journalism school we are always talking about how important it is for us as reporters to be as accurate as possible. But today was the first time that I have ever considered things from the editor's perspective.

Basically, we took an already written story and had to edit its content and provide it with a headline. The quality of this article was particularly low. There were so many errors that portions of the article had to be re-written entirely. I know that this was only an exercise, but I still found myself thinking of how I would feel if I were the reporter. I thought of opening the paper the next day and flipping to my story, only to find that it looked nothing like what I had turned in the previous day. I would have ordinarily felt pretty angry, except in this instance you'd probably have to concede that it was your fault for doing such a poor job on the original piece.

This type of exercise should improve me as a journalist. I don't want an editor to have to change my story to anywhere near the degree that I just did this morning. This makes me realize how important it is for us to write well and write accurately with our stories. I would be ashamed to turn in something that required the level of editing that I had to do on the practice story this morning. Even more important, I would be angry with myself for allowing my story to be changed to the point of it being unrecognizable to me.