Archive for January, 2011

Allison Jackovitz wants to clarify something about student copy editors.

While seated recently at a newsroom workstation– sporting a winter cap, sweater, and scarf– the copy desk chief for The Daily Collegian at Penn State University teetered wonderfully between sarcasm and self-righteousness.  “I think copy desk is a lot of times seen as maybe the bitchy girls in the corner,” said Jackovitz.  “We are the ones always complaining about fact checks and things coming in on time.  But we’re also the ones that are here until really late at night when everyone else gets to go to the bars, so I think that we have a right to be bitchy.”

The memorable sentiment is the opener to a fantastic 57-second video by Laura Ingeno posted last week on the Collegian‘s homepage.  Its apparent aim: giving readers a glimpse at the paper’s news production process.  Click here or on the screenshot below to check it out.

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The student press has earned a big victory in California’s small claims court.  Earlier this week, a judge ruled in favor of Daily Californian editor in chief Rajesh Srinivasan in the lawsuit brought against him by the father of former UC Berkeley football player Chris Purtz.

As I previously wrote, Fresno podiatrist Harvey Purtz recently filed a $7,500 lawsuit against Srinivasan for “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”  The suit focused on Srinivasan’s refusal to erase or alter stories on the Daily Cal or Daily Clog websites that reported upon the unruly behavior of Chris at an adult club and his subsequent dismissal from the university football team roughly four years ago.

After Chris died last June, Harvey Purtz requested, demanded, and eventually sued to attempt to get the newspaper to delete the online articles.  Srinivasan, on behalf of the newspaper, declined to change a single word or link.  The battle moved to court last week.  And on Wednesday, the judge issued his ruling, siding completely with Srinivasan.  The Daily Cal EIC is not liable to pay Purtz a cent.  And the articles will remain online, untouched.

Rajesh Srinivasan, editor in chief and president of The Daily Californian. (Photo on Daily Californian site.)

As Daily Californian staff writer True Shields reports, “[T]he court ruled that libel on the memory of a deceased person is not deemed to inflict legal action constituting defamation on surviving relatives.  The court also noted that the Uniform Single Publication Act– which states that the statute of limitations on a publication is determined upon its first distribution to the public– and the maximum two-year statute of limitations for emotional distress claims worked against Purtz’s claim.”

Basically… 1) The parents cannot claim Chris was libeled by the newspaper.  Chris would have had to file that claim himself (something he did not do in the years after the stories were published).  And 2) Time’s up.  The stories at the center of this fight first appeared online in late 2006 and early 2007.  This type of claim had to be filed awhile ago.

As the judge noted near the close of his statement on the decision (click here or below to review the full statement in the docket report), “The court is sympathetic to the pain and suffering endured by the parents of Chris Purtz.  The court is mindful that today’s technology allows stories of loved ones to circulate on the Internet in perpetuity.  However, the court is also mindful of the applicable policies, statutes and case law.”

In a brief Q&A with CMM, Srinivasan outlined his day in court and his final thoughts on how things turned out.

Can you describe this type of case in a basic sense for those unfamiliar with how small claims courts work?

Small claims court is fairly informal in Fresno.  A number of cases are heard on the same day.  Essentially, the plaintiff presents what he is alleging and provides evidence and testimony for his side of the case.  The judge will occasionally ask the plaintiff questions or ask him to clarify something.  Then the same happens for the defendant.  It is a fairly quick process.  [Ed. note: This Fresno Bee article goes into a bit of detail about the hearing, although it clearly takes the side of the Purtz family.]

You mentioned in our previous Q&A that at least one positive of this situation was the amount you were learning about the law.  What did you learn from the hearing part of the process?

For me, it was a good exercise in arguing a case in front of a judge.  Luckily for me, Daniel Zaheer from Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP researched a number of cases and crafted several arguments for our court brief.  He and James Wagstaffe, the two attorneys who guided me through this process, helped me prepare thoroughly for this case and gather a good amount of evidence.  The hearing reinforced the obvious fact that solid preparation is essential for giving you confidence in the courtroom.

Any last thoughts about how everything ended up?

One of the issues that was brought up in the hearing was whether the Daily Californian needed to keep the article on its website years after the incident and whether the article was still relevant– legal arguments aside.  That is something I have thought about since the trial, and my answer is still that it is important for us to have that article on our site.  It is a slice of UC Berkeley history, and though it may be a small episode in it, it is nonetheless part of the historical record that we maintain as the campus newspaper.  I think it would have been dishonest to this record for us to remove the article from our site.

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It has become the rarest of rarities: a student journalist portfolio site potential employers actually enjoy looking at and clicking through.

Every student who wants to work in media should put together an online portfolio of some sort.  But simply having one is not enough.  And most of the ones I’m sent or come across organically are, well, self-centered crapola.

In a wonderful recent post for TECH@CUNYJ, Rosaleen Ortiz outlines some basic tips for creating a “top-notch journalist portfolio website” (hat tip to the man/the myth/the digital media managerial legend Daniel Bachhuber).

Among the questions Ortiz suggests that portfolio makers should ask themselves in the beta planning stage: “What are you selling? In other words, what is your specialty?  Who is your audience and what do you want them to know about you? What type of media do you want to include (e.g., articles, photos, audio, videos, graphics, multimedia packages, social media feeds, etc.)?  Very important: How much time can you devote to updating the site?

She includes a smattering of quality portfolio examples in her post.  Building on that list, below is a sampling of portfolios put together by student journalist extraordinaires and recent alums that are worth checking out and emulating in spirit.  In general, they represent what a j-portfolio should be: visually compelling, conceptually creative without being out there, easy to navigate, and a salesman of previous work and future vision.

Additional reading: Alisha Green’s “How (Not) to Build Your Brand”

Joe Castelli

Brian Manzullo

Alex Vera

Abbey Niezgoda

Alisha Green

Nick Trost

Greg Linch

Sean Blanda

Emily Jane Lawler

Emily Ingram

Giana Magnoli

Sam Kang Li

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“Seeing tens of thousands of people line up under the scorching sun with such zeal is a scene that is hard to describe. When it’s all done and the seemingly inevitable decision of secession is made, we’ll be able to say that we were there when they became a nation.”

Those are the words of Suleiman Abdullahi, a Kenyan student journalist who recently traveled into Sudan to report on the historic secession vote for UPIU.  The student arm of the vaunted UPI newswire service hired two student reporters as stringers to help cover the election, which ultimately resulted in the creation of the world’s newest nation, Southern Sudan.

Abdullahi, 20, a sophomore broadcast journalism major at Nairobi’s United States International University, spent two days covering the election from the southern Sudanese capital, Juba.

He boldly charged into his first international reporting gig, employing his “rudimentary Arabic” to interview locals who did not speak English; competing with “thousands of foreign correspondents, each one eager to thrust their cameras and microphones at every passing local”; and navigating within a metropolis boasting a hearty military presence and “tension and palpable anxiety” mixed with excitement.

One of the photographs shot by Abdullahi published on UPIU.

As UPIU’s regional director Krista Kapralos, a noted journalist, reported, “When the first ballots were cast, Abdullahi was at the mausoleum of John Garang, the legendary southern Sudanese leader who was killed just weeks after he signed a peace deal with the northern government in 2005. Abdullahi watched as southern Sudan’s President Salva Kiir cast his vote in favor of secession, and he reported Kiir’s historic statement in his UPI story.

Abdullahi told Kapralos the reporting experience emboldened him to to continue his journalistic work in Africa. In his words: “I now feel there’s need to report more about Africa, especially at this moment in its history when so much change is taking place. I look forward to go to many more African countries and witness that moment in history as they open new chapters of nationhood or get on the track of development. At this point, I would say journalism in Africa has one of the greatest potentials you could find anywhere else.”

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9:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 18, 2010

Newsroom, The Minaret, University of Tampa

I walked up the stairs to the second floor of the student center and ran into Minaret copy editor Robin Hudson. She was sitting in the lobby, line editing on her laptop.

She looked up at me, frowning, “I’m working out here now. It’s raining in the newsroom.”

I heard the water before I saw it— a steady thumping, like boots on a sidewalk. Tears of it streamed from the roof panels in a few concentrated spots.

Some students were standing around, staring up, in seeming shock.  A few others were continuing to edit and design at their computer workstations, backs turned, heavy sighs mixing with full smiles.  Two students were snapping still photos via their mobile phones, one complaining, “There’s no way to get a picture of water.”

Perhaps the funniest/saddest moment: A carefree student purposefully letting the water soak him . . . until the maintenance staff came by and informed us the water was from an overflowing toilet. (Have you ever giggled and grimaced at the same time?)

Ten minutes later, the rain slowed to a drizzle.  Soon after that, it stopped, collecting on the panels like soapy water on a sponge.

Robin stayed in the lobby for awhile, just in case.

To tell your own student press story, e-mail Dan at dreimold@ut.edu.

 

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As I reported in my previous post, Fresno, Calif., podiatrist Harvey Purtz is suing Daily Californian editor in chief Rajesh Srinivasan.  Purtz is angry that Srinivasan declined to remove or alter online stories about the involvement of Purtz’s son– a former UC Berkeley student– in an embarrassing incident at an adult club.  Every student press advocate, journalist, and living, breathing human being who has offered public comment considers this case egregiously stupid.  I share their sentiments.  Below is an open letter to Purtz expressing my condemnation.

Dear Dr. Purtz,

Your lawsuit is sad, and disturbing.  Your son is gone.  Grieve.  Don’t sue.

You may feel you are fighting a worthy battle to clear your son’s name.  You are not.  Instead, you are wasting the time of lawyers and the court on a case no judge worth her robe and gavel will oversee with a straight face.

You are also inflicting emotional distress and an academic disturbance upon Daily Californian editor in chief Rajesh Srinivasan, a young man who had absolutely nothing to do with the reporting of the 2006 incident involving your son or the creation of the newspaper’s policy outlining why the reports will remain online.

And ultimately, instead of accomplishing your goal of erasing the information from the public consciousness, your lawsuit is doing nothing but bringing renewed attention to an obviously sad chapter in your son’s tragically short life.

Negative Google prints can be cruel, but they are not insurmountable.  The key to fighting back: Do not try to change the reality of what they reveal.  Instead, attempt to provide other prints worth clicking upon.  Get a blog up with posts providing your take on what happened with the adult club incident.  Launch and maintain a more general website honoring your son’s memory.

Or, more simply, learn to let go.  We can no longer simply erase our past.  We must be willing to embrace the fact that our own imperfections and those of our loved ones are evermore only a search term away from being uncovered.

The Daily Californian’s decision to leave the reports about your son’s adult club rabble-rousing as they originally ran is not a slap in your face or a black mark on your son’s grave.  It is good journalism.  Every self-respecting news outlet, journalist, and blogger would respond the same way.  As I typically reply to the regular requests I receive to erase or change posts on this blog, I would rather cut off an arm before removing something I consider accurate and newsworthy.

Journalism’s foundation is built atop the integrity of the information we provide.  If we begin giving in to everyone who wants a quick switch or a full erasure of content, we lose the public’s trust.

In the end, grief cannot be a cover for student press harassment.  Your singling out of Srinivasan especially angers me.  I do not know him personally, but I still consider him a brother.  We are bonded by journalism.  A fight against one of us is a fight against all of us.  And we will fight back.

I am sorry for your loss.

Sincerely,

Dan

Daniel Reimold, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Journalism
Faculty Adviser, The Minaret
University of Tampa
Box R, 401 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33606-1490

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