Covering the Heritage Classic: When a sports event becomes a news story

When sports becomes news the rules of the game become blurred. CTV reporter and anchor Reg Hampton reflects on the peculiarities of covering The Heritage Classic in Calgary, and the frustration of dealing with the NHL machine.
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The real Twitter revolution: Changing coverage on the ground in Egypt

Wilf Dinnick has reported stories from around the world, but as events unfold in Egypt he’s using Twitter for minute-by-minute accounts of what journalists on the ground are experiencing–including his own wife’s detention by Egyptian authorities.
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The Liberation Treatment: How the audience is changing health reporting

How do you wrap a medical story when the medical community won’t talk about it? You turn to the audience. CTV health reporter Karen Owen explores the practical and ethical challenges of covering the controversial Multiple Sclerosis Liberation Treatment.

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Tracking a Tiger: The multimedia lifecycle of a Calgary Herald story

From e-mailed press release to front page news, Calgary Herald web producer David Hedley tracks the coverage of a baby tiger’s death at the Calgary Zoo. This is the story of the multimedia lifecycle of a typical cityside assignment. But it’s also the story of the successes and challenges faced by a Postmedia Network newsroom as it undergoes a transformation from a traditional to a digital, multiplatform operation.
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Social media and news: Tapping into the digital audience

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Colin Steward (courtesy of Yahoo News)When a severe snowstorm swept into Southern Ontario in December it stranded hundreds of people on a highway near Sarnia, including Colin Stewart. While waiting to be rescued, Stewart used his BlackBerry to update friends and family on Facebook. As a result of some techsavvy reporting– and before rescuers even reached the scene — Canadian Press reporters got in touch with Stewart and acquired exclusive eye witness photos, video and interviews. Sneha Kulkarni outlines how journalists can work with the audience to enhance a news story.
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Reporter sponsored Haiti kids because “I am a human being first.”

By  •  Ethics

Readers of the Toronto Star, inspired by the example of reporter Catherine Porter in sponsoring the education of three-year-old Lovely Avelus and of her cousin and friend, pitched in to send other Haitian students to school.

The story is one of several told in “Lovely’s Haiti,” a Star series and multimedia project launched October 17.

As Porter acknowledges, she was treading in new territory when she put aside her detachment to help kids go to school after January’s earthquake:    

…Lovely had survived hell to live in misery, I thought, as she grabbed my pen and drew squiggles on my notepad. “Comme ca,” she said. “Like that.” Right then, I decided to help.

In the end, my husband and I agreed to a sponsor not just Lovely, but Sofone and her 4-year-old next-door playmate, Angelica. That way we would prevent resentment. We didn’t want to create more problems than we fixed.

We would cover their school costs for two years, long enough to get them back on their feet, we thought. And we would give Lovely’s mother $100 a month for six months to restart her business.

In total, we would spend around $1,650 to help them. For us, that was a little more than one month’s mortgage payment. For them, it was more than their annual income.

I understood the arrangement was unorthodox. As a journalist, I am supposed to remain detached. My role is to be an impartial observer and documenter.

But having witnessed a mountain of tragedies, I couldn’t stand by numbly any more. Here was one small problem I could easily fix. Where my profession ruled I couldn’t, my humanity demanded I must. I am a human being first, a journalist second. I had my conscience to live with. Plus, after documenting all that destruction, I needed some hope as much as they did.

So, on April 27, Rosemene dressed Lovely in her newly tailored red tartan dress — the uniform for a private primary school I enrolled her in nearby — and took her to school for the first time. It was her third birthday.

The story might have ended there. Except, once back in Toronto I wrote a column about my decision. And the floodgates opened.

Minutes after the story went up on the Star’s website, emails started filling my inbox. More than 100 that first day. Readers wanted to send me money for Lovely’s education. They requested I enroll other children in school for them.

What had I gotten myself into? It was one thing for me to directly help a Haitian family; quite another to broker the assistance for dozens of families. I am still a journalist, not a charity worker. On the other hand, how could I refuse to help, knowing how many other Lovelys there were in Haiti?

I directed readers to charities I had seen working on the ground in Port-au-Prince. I couldn’t give them a tax receipt, I warned.

They would not be dissuaded….

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Truth hurts? Tough. Report it, says Toronto Star’s public editor

By  •  Ethics

The Toronto Star’s public editor, Kathy English, has rapped her paper’s decision to omit a reference to the last baby born at an iconic hospital. The baby died shortly after birth, and the writer of a Page 1 feature about the baby’s closed obstetrics unit chose to gloss over that fact in order to spare the parents pain.

As it turned out, the decision drew objections from the dead baby’s parents.

The reporter was, as English says, only trying to minimize harm. Utilitarian thinking of this kind is common for journalists, and, many say, necessary. But the effort to minimize harm can itself do more harm than good.
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Positive reference to Muslims requires balance? (Kristof)

By  •  Ethics

A wave of American bigotry toward Muslims has reached new heights, according to New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, with the publication of a front-page apology in Maine’s Portland Press Herald. The newspaper apologized for “not offering balance” to a front-page article on September 11, 2010, about local Muslims praying to mark the end of Ramadan.

This Tea-pot storm highlights the enduring use of – and increasing uselessness of – the idea of “balance” as an ethical principle in journalism.

As Kristof writes, in the Times on Sunday September 19:

“… So the newspaper published a groveling front-page apology
for being too respectful of Muslims. ‘We sincerely apologize,’ wrote
the editor and publisher, Richard Connor, and he added: ‘we erred by at
least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on
the front page.’ As a blog by James Poniewozik of Time paraphrased it: ‘Sorry for Portraying Muslims as Human.’

“I called Mr. Connor, and he seems like a nice guy. Surely his front page
isn’t reserved for stories about Bad Muslims, with articles about Good
Muslims going inside. Must coverage of law-abiding Muslims be ‘balanced’
by a discussion of Muslim terrorists?

“Ah, balance — who can be against that? But should reporting of Pope
Benedict’s trip to Britain be ‘balanced’ by a discussion of Catholic terrorists in Ireland? And what about journalism itself?

“I interrupt this discussion of peaceful journalism in Maine to
provide some ‘balance.’ Journalists can also be terrorists, murderers
and rapists. For example, radio journalists in Rwanda promoted genocide….”

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NY Times boss outlines accountability measures

By  •  Ethics

The New York Times‘s various mechanisms for accountability to readers and subjects, include, according to its executive editor, not just the public editor but a managing editor and associate editor designated to watch over standards. They and a deputy managing editor “all spend at least a portion of their time
dealing with issues of balance, fairness, accuracy and taste raised by
the public,” says Bill Keller, quoted August 28th in the debut column of the paper’s fourth public editor, Arthur S. Brisbane. “Some cases get passed up to me or Jill [Abramson, managing editor], or to our legal counsel. We publish corrections and editor’s notes, and try hard not to be overly defensive when our work is challenged.

“We make editors and reporters available for online questioning by readers, a feature called ‘Talk to the Newsroom.
We publish reader letters in several places, and post comments on many
of our online stories. We also try to be reasonably accessible to
reporters who cover the media for various outlets. I can’t think of many
other businesses that are as transparent and forthcoming about owning
up to mistakes.”

Nor can I. Certainly not a major Canadian news  organization (though at least the CBC, Radio-Canada, and The Toronto Star must get credit for employing reader representatives) or, for sure, if they count as businesses, any level of government in this country.
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