One of the cardinal rules of journalism


When it comes to writing and journalism, there is an almost unspoken rule that reigns among the industry workers, one so obvious but also so grave, and desperately avoided at all costs.

Plagiarism, that scary word we learned in middle school when we started writing papers, still sends nervous little shots down my spine. My teachers always warned me about it, explaining the huge consequences of stealing someone else’s work. It always made me think twice before copying and pasting those paragraphs off of Wikipedia…

It wasn’t until I entered high school and had to write research papers that I learned how serious plagiarism really is. The realization came with maturity and a new-found common sense that wasn’t quite present in my braces-laden prepubescent years.

Later when I discovered my love and appreciation for writing, I realized how wrong it’d be to steal someone else’s words, or to have someone steal my own. Majoring in journalism in college has only cemented this strong belief of mine.

As silly as it seems to be harping on and on about why plagiarism is wrong, you’d be surprised at how many people copy others’ work. I know fellow students who see nothing wrong with copying a few sentences here, and paraphrasing a few there. And when I say paraphrasing, I mean switching around a few words to make it seem a bit different.

But it’s not just students who are plagiarizing their college papers. A freelance writer for the local newspaper The Press and Journal plagiarized her column from The Guardian, The Daily Mail, and The Spectator.

Carly Fallon’s story about the upcoming winter season has whole paragraphs that are completely taken word-for-word from other writers. And then paraphrasing was taken to a whole other level of definition-changing.

Sentences such as “When the first snowflake hits the ground, everything transforms. Trains seize up. Schools close,” were ‘paraphrased’ into “And then, when the first snowflake hits the ground, everything transforms. Schools close; trains seize up.” The lazy senior might look at this as simply paraphrasing, but really it is just straight out plagiarism.

Fallon was fired from the paper, and I’m sure utterly humiliated. Did she really think she could get away with copying a WHOLE story, from not one, not two, but THREE writers?

Moral of the story is: write your own stuff. If you can’t come up with anything from your own brain to spill out as words onto your laptop screen, you should probably pick another career.

Journalism isn’t dying, it’s changing


Every holiday party or family get-together, it’s always the same thing. My relatives and their friends ask about boys and school. While my love life has fluctuated more than Oprah’s waistline (no offense, O) my college career has always been steady and focused. When asked about my major, I proudly reply, “Journalism,” which is always met with faces twisted in horror and concern.

“But honey, journalism is a dying career! Everybody knows that.”

Cue my usual exasperated sigh and excuse to beeline towards the snack table. I can feel their worried glances on my back. Poor thing. She needs to study a real major. 

I know my Com School peers have experienced similar fright-filled responses. But do not fret my fellow journalism majors, as I’m sure you know, there is no need to switch over to something “more reliable” like engineering or accounting … we all suck at math anyways.

It is true that the journalism industry is currently going through major changes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s dying out and that reporters are going extinct.

On the contrary, BLS data shows that the number of help-wanted ads for “news analysts, reporters, and correspondents” has increased by 15 percent compared to last year. More people are telling BLS that they have careers as news analysts, reporters and correspondents compared to a year ago.

The Digital Age isn’t taking away journalism jobs, instead it’s simply modifying the description. These help-wanted ads now use words such as “digital,” “Internet” and “mobile.”

And what’s wrong with that? This isn’t the first time journalism and media have withstood major change due to technology. From the emergence of the radio in the twenties to the television takeover in the fifties, journalists have adapted when it comes to times of major change through medium.

As history shows, when technology advances and culture changes, journalists develop new skills to keep up. Journalism hasn’t died out and won’t die out because of this willingness to understand, adapt and learn.

The common idea that “everyone’s a journalist,” due to the prevalence of blogging online, is an inaccurate notion. The news and media industry needs educated journalists capable of interpreting the news and delivering it in the unique way only trained writers and broadcasters can. That’s not to say that raw talent is non-existent, but not everyone has the needed skill set acquired through education.

I believe that journalism will continue to strive in this Internet-centered period due to the fact that young journalists are capable and equipped to handle the shift. They lack the dated habits of their older counterparts and join the industry with a strong grasp of today’s environment.

Instead of collapsing careers, journalism’s changing ways are creating more jobs and opportunities, available to the people who are skilled and opened to them.

So maybe our world is studded with tablets and phones and our eyes are more constantly met with screens than with paper. We will always need people to report and interpret life’s happenings, no matter the outlet. From town crier to Tweet and everything in between, journalism has evolved along with the world and will continue to do so in the ever-changing future.

It’s our business, baby


To write or not to write … for journalists, this is something that is never pondered. It’s not even a question: journalists write, and write, and write and — you guessed it — write. They write about everything and anything and a true and noble journalist always writes the truth.

Knowing this, I was a bit shocked to learn that a reporter in Massachusetts was fired for writing a quote in his story about a young soccer star who transferred schools.

The athlete explained that she left her old school, Mount Greylock, because socially, it was like “the movie ‘Mean Girls’.” Because of that school’s cliques and drama, she transferred to McCann Technical School despite its “somewhat inferior academics and athletics”, she added.

The reporter, Isaac Avilucea, posted on his blog that the sports editor at the North Adams Transcript not only approved the story but even praised it on Twitter.

It was after Editor-in-Chief Mike Foster received calls from angry school principals and parents that he decided to fire Avilucea.

The editors then addressed the story in an editorial in which they deeply apologized for it. They explained that it was “unjust” of them to publish a story with statements that were “simply wrong”.

What I find appalling is that what is truly “unjust” here is the fact that these editors are calling a quote from a source erroneous, and even went as far as firing the reporter who wrote it.

What’s a journalist if he or she does not write the facts, supported by evidence? A well-rounded story is one that includes quotes from sources. In this case, a story about a young athlete who transferred schools obviously needs a quote from that young athlete about why she transferred.

But then I tried to reflect on the other side of this. Journalism can be seen as a career with beauty and romance, dating back to World War I times when reporters would venture to the dangerous fighting fields in various exotic locales and come back with dramatic stories.

Though this is true, journalism has also always been a business, and still is. Newspapers make money through advertisements and from the people who buy and read them. In smaller towns, it is especially important to have strong public support and continuing circulation.

Because of this, I can see why the editors the North Adams Transcript did what they did. Firing Avilucea and publishing an apology most probably mended things with those who were offended by the story, I just wish they hadn’t called the statements wrong, because they were opinions.

What could’ve nobly solved the problem and saved the angst (as well as Avilucea’s job) is if Avilucea had included comments from the schools themselves. His editors should have urged him to so that both sides could be shown and they’d have the chance to defend themselves.

This story just reminds journalists that we must always write the truth, but remember we are running the risk of losing our jobs in a career that though filled with beauty and nobleness, is also a business.

Thankful for the freedom to press ‘Enter’


Nowadays, just about everyone has some sort of a blog. Whether it’s light and fluffy with details about fashion or sepia-toned shots of food, or a bit deeper and serious with commentary regarding controversial issues, everyone with access to the Internet reveals who they are and what they believe.

Even if someone doesn’t have a specific blog per se, he or she is bound to have a Facebook profile, Twitter, Youtube, or Instagram account — all Web sites that let you share your opinions, personalities, thoughts, and just about anything else (yes, even the fact that you just worked out at the gym or that your niece does look pretty adorable with those bunny ears on.)

But what if you truly had to think before you pressed the Enter key?

Yesterday I came across an article on BBC about a journalist in China who was just arrested for posting about the alleged corruption of some government officials on his blog.

I immediately thought back to all the times I’ve been scrolling on my Facebook home feed and found countless posts criticizing the government. From “I wish the people in government could let go of their egos and come to an agreement” to “OBAMA SUCKS I’M MOVIN TOO CANADA.”

No matter the post, no matter the content, no matter the truth or the falsity, no matter the, ahem, spelling errors…everyone in the United States is allowed to speak their minds, provided they are not endangering anybody by doing so.

Unfortunately, the same does not go for the people in China.

After posting corruption details of some high-ranking officials onto his blog, Liu Hu, who works for the Guangzhou-based newspaper New Express, was taken by police from his home in August and was then formally arrested at the end of September. When Hu was detained by police, his posts were deleted.

Charged with defamation, analysts call the charge a speech crime, and say it is part of the government’s recent campaign to tighten control over the Internet.

The new Internet guidelines are meant to crack down on “rumor-mongering.” Many believe it is a tool being used by the ruling Communist Party to cut down criticism and control internet opinions and rumors.

In a separate case, four people were arrested for posting about government dissatisfaction on a social media forum. Several other journalists as well as a high-profile blogger have also been arrested for allegedly spreading rumors online.

Obama memeRemember when President Obama was elected and people wrote posts and made memes calling him an “Islamic terrorist”? And then all those people were arrested and charged for doing so?

Yeah, me either.

So keep posting my fellow Internet-users, because whether it’s regarding your criticism of the government or your cat wearing hipster glasses, you’re safe. You’re free.

Imagine going to jail for posting this on your Facebook page.

California law impacts journalists


The governor of California, Jerry Brown, has recently signed a law that expands protections for journalists.

It reigns in the control of federal prosecutors by giving journalists a five days’ notice before they serve the reporters subpoenas on their records, so that they cannot leak them to the media.

This way, the government agencies’ ability to seize journalists’ records is substantially curbed. They must first give a notice to reporters and news organizations before seeking a subpoena of journalistic information. This information refers to that of a third party, such as internet service providers and cell phone companies.

This law comes about after the Justice Department’s investigation of leaks about a Yemen conspiracy to bomb a U.S. airliner in 2012. The government’s agents had seized phone records from the Associated Press without first notifying them.

In July the Justice Department pledged to notify news organizations if a subpoena on information is being sought.

Here in Florida, the government has existing shield laws and court-recognized privileges  for journalists and the media.

Although this a law enacted in California, an action like this affects the country as a whole and the journalists who report and write in it.

As seen throughout American history, when one state enacts a law, it says something about the state of the country and its policies as a whole.

The United States, though it is a democratic country with freedoms of press and speech, it ranks as low as 47th in the world by the Press Freedom Index created by Reporters Without Borders.

Though the California law mirrors the new media regulations put in place at the federal level, concerns over the way the Occupy protests were handled and the fact that the First Amendment is being taken for granted mean our government must keep moving towards total press freedom.

The Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment in order for Americans to be able to truly express themselves and seek truth and righteousness from our government. As Americans, we can never lose sight of that.

As Abraham Lincoln implored in his Gettysburg Address, the world “can never forget what they did here.”

The only way we can have a truly free democracy is if we have a truly free press, existing sans restrictions that prohibit the public from knowing the truth in order to spark debate and have a government by the people, for the people.

Journalism will survive the Digital Age


As the world constantly changes, as do technology and society, and the press has had to adapt to these changes that have taken place throughout history.

Whether it was the invention of the telegraph or advanced presses, environmental upheaval such as war, or governmental and societal pressures, history has illustrated the world’s constant state of change. The media has always played a prevalent role in all parts of society, and these changes have affected it. But rather than die out or become extinct, the craft of journalism has altered and modified itself to fit the fluctuating times.

And the future holds no exception.

Whenever I tell others that I’m a journalism major, a look of concern and pity washes over their faces.

“Are you sure about that sweetie?” they say. “You know, journalism is a dying career nowadays.”

Those who make these comments view journalism through a keyhole. They see journalism as strictly meaning the production of newspapers and – who reads the news anymore? Everything’s online, right?

Right! But you shouldn’t have doubted journalism’s ability to mold and change and grow alongside a society that is becoming increasingly digital.

George Brock, former managing editor of The Times and current head of the Department of Journalism at City University in London, wrote a book (officially published Sept. 28 of this year) titled Out of Print: Newspapers, Journalism and the Business of News in the Digital Age. 

In it, he says that “journalism is being adapted, rethought and reconstructed in thousands of ways….”

And he lists reasons journalism will adapt to survive in the Digital Age.

One is the natural fact that people like to read words from paper. And luckily, the Internet harbors potential business models for all readable platforms — magazines, newspapers, and books.  Daily newspapers have been affected because the Internet produces information in real-time, but magazines and books still remain a valued source to readers.

Which leads to the second reason — humans are creatures of habit. Those who read the news will still read the news. Newspapers have lost prevalence and may still continue to lose it but complete extinction seems rare. Avid newspaper readers will be more likely to choose website and apps that best mimic the newspaper layout, and it turns out that newspaper readers are also enthusiastic about the newspapers’ online versions.

Brock explains, “The DNA of printed journalism will altar over time, but at a slow and evolutionary pace…. News publishers must adapt their strategies to the temperament of the audience they have or they want, because members of their audience can switch so easily.”

Another reason is the fact that yes, the Internet is quick to post and comment, but newspapers – whether printed or online – know where the story is. They specialize in catering to specific interests and pointing out different details that gets the public listening.

Also catering to readers is journalism’s ability to sift through the heavy flow of information that pours out from online and organizing it in a way that is easy and accessible.

“The world’s information flow creates a demand: it is up to journalism to supply it,” writes Brock.

Perhaps Brock’s most exemplary reason that journalism will survive and evolve is its many existing precedents of already doing so, as I spoke of earlier. Journalism has renewed itself countless times, and Brock asserts that “journalism cannot survive without adapting again.”

As long as publishers and journalists understand that their work can be redesigned and modified, journalism will continue to change along with our ever-changing world.

This information from George Brock was taken from an article on, which excerpted Brock’s book.

To read the full article visit or pick up Brock’s book, Out of Print: Newspapers, Journalism, and the Business of News in the Digital Age.

The dreaded knock


When covering a story, it is almost always necessary for a reporter to conduct interviews. These interviews are for experts, witnesses or any other person involved. It doesn’t take much, since most people like to talk and relate their knowledge or experiences. And for the reporter, he or she gets to meet people, gain insight, and learn new things.

But what happens when the story involves a mass shooting? And the people you have to interview are the friends and families of the victims?

In light of the recent Washington Navy Yard shooting, this issue comes to the surface.

I came across an article in the Huffington Post aptly named “The Worst Work of Journalism.” It delves into this topic, and explains how uncomfortable and devastating it is to be sent to cover stories of mass shootings and murder, charged with the task of interviewing the loved ones left behind the disasters.

In the article, its author Brian Rooney explains how as a journalist, he has had the unfortunate job of having to interview the family and friends of people who have passed.

He explains that when the injustice of murder occurs, the victims must be humanized. They must have faces, histories, voices and people who loved them in order for others to truly see the horror of a taken life.

This requires the miserable task of getting information from the loved ones of the victims. No reporter wants to be sent to cover a story where they’ll have to knock on the victim’s door, that dreaded knock.

Rooney describes the people who are open and friendly and give a lot of information. He recounts the story of a time he interviewed the boyfriend of a girl who had just been shot in the head by an ex-paramour. The boyfriend spoke of his girlfriend affectionately as he cleaned her brains out of a cookie jar.

Rooney also describes the people who don’t want to talk at all, and the dilemma of being told by your boss you must get the interview even after repeated declines.

Every reporter, like Rooney says, hopes that when they knock on the doors of the families  and stand outside the church services that it’ll be the last time. That society will see how horrible these massacres are. That things will change. All we can do is hope for no more dreaded knocks.

To read the full article, visit: