Using anonymous sources in reporting


For a long list of reasons, it is better to use the names of sources that are willing to be quoted in an news article. However, sometimes sources don’t want their names to be revealed because they have fear of the valuable information they’re giving.

As an ethical rule, journalists should not reveal a person’s identity unless that person gives consent. Nonetheless, frequent use of anonymous sources has become a controversial issue.

If, for example, you are reporting a story on a city mayor who is stealing money from the city and you find a knowledgeable source that works with the mayor. The source tells you everything the mayor does and reveals he or she is stealing money. Then, the source gives you details about the mayor’s corrupt activities but tells you to keep his identity secret because otherwise he would get fired.

If you want to be a professional journalist and keep your job, you must be willing to keep that promise of not revealing the source’s name even if you confront extreme pressure to reveal this confidential information.

When a journalist wants to uncover a big secret and produce a good story of public interest, anonymous sources are often key for revealing these quality stories.

Nevertheless, the protection of source’s identities can result in journalists facing jail and paying fines for contempt of court charges. If journalists want to avoid jail or fines, judges can make them reveal information even when it has been promised to keep the secret.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, the legal protection provided to journalists to protect confidential sources is not 100 percent secure. “Judith Miller, a New York Times journalist, for example, spent three months in jail for refusing to identify the source of the leak that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.”

The right of journalists to use and not reveal confidential sources is being debated. Some police officers and judges tend to argue that journalists have no right to make people anonymous and protect their information when these sources are subject of crime investigation.

Anonymity is a serious matter in journalism. Journalists are being more pressured than ever to reveal secret sources. As future journalists, we have to resist this pressure in order to maintain our ethical standards in this profession.

Professionalism (or lack thereof) in Miami


What is the job of a broadcast news anchor? I think we all agree that it is to entertain but, most importantly, it is to inform the rest of us about the most recent and relevant events occurring in the world everyday.

Here’s the problem. Miami’s news station, Channel 10, has completely lost the balance of informing while entertaining, and thus in my opinion has lost any reputability.

As I watched the newscast this evening, the first things that struck me were the female news anchors’ outfits. One of them was wearing an almost-too-tight, bright purple dress during her report. I was a bit put off, but let it slide.

Next they showed another female reporter and her outfit, in my humble opinion, was inexcusable! She wore a bright pink, tight skirt with a black sleeveless top, made of lace.


When did it become okay to throw out the rule of dressing professionally to your workplace just because we live in Miami? As far as I’m concerned, it’s not okay. If I am expected to listen to the news that you are reporting, it would be nice to not be distracted by your inappropriate outfit.

Furthermore, the writing behind the newscasts and the stories were just sub-par at best. Multiple times the reporters used slang terms or reported their story in such a gossip-y way that it made it seem invalid.

For example, during one story about the manager of the Miami club that recently had a shooting that resulted in many injured minors, the reporter explained that their camera crew went to her Miami home and “knocked on the door but no one answered.”

They proceeded to show the reporter knocking on the front door of a residence and receiving no answer.

Then they explained that when they finally did find the manager and asked her questions, “All they got were dirty looks” and proceeded to show the owner giving the camera dirty looks. They showed this clip roughly seven times.

It was clear that there was no substance to their story, but for lack of other content they proceeded to run it. This is just not acceptable.

My concern with Channel 10 news is that people watch it to be informed about current events and not to see cute clubbing outfits on the anchors and reporters. And not to see poor quality news stories.

Zuckerberg sitting on billions at age 30


Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, is now the 11th richest person in America with a net worth of $34 billion, according to the Forbes magazine list. During the past two years, his net worth has more than tripled. From last year to this year only, his net worth has increased by $15 billion, which makes him the biggest dollar gainer on the Forbes list. As for the technology industry, he is the third richest American.

He recently dropped $66 million on 375 acres on land in Hawaii. Being the world’s second youngest self-made billionaire, he has been very influential and inspiring for many. In 2011, Zuckerberg was ranked first on the list of “Most Influential Jews in the World.”

Zuckerberg’s story is very impressive because Facebook’s success was not his initial goal or intention. It was a social networking site him and his friends in Harvard put together for fun in the dorms and shared it with other colleges. Before he knew it, the website took off and he became a billionaire at the age of 23.

Then as soon as others saw Facebook’s success, Zuckerberg saw himself caught up in a couple of legal disputes initiated by others who claimed involvement during the initial development of Facebook.

Zuckerberg definitely has one of the most intriguing success stories. You really never know what anything can lead you to or what anything can become.

Groundhog Day incident haunts mayor


On Thursday night a story came out about the death of Charlotte, the groundhog at Staten Island Zoo. This particular groundhog is the same one that New York City mayor Bill de Blasio dropped in February of this year at a Groundhog Day event.

Even though this accident with the mayor happened seven months ago, many news source were blatantly suggesting that the groundhog’s death was a direct result of her injury following the mayor’s mistake. These stories also seemed to take the incident very seriously, which at times seemed ironic since it involves the death of a rodent, not a human.

Other stories worked to dismiss this claim by quoting a spokesman for the zoo as saying, “It appears unlikely that the animal’s death is related to the events on Groundhog Day.”

Although this story may seem like a very minor incident among major news events, it is a perfect example of the dangers of drawing unwarranted conclusions.

As journalists, it’s important to never assign blame to anyone involved in a story and to not insinuate any causes or connections that we do not know to be true. It is up to the journalist to present all relevant and accurate information to the audience in an unbiased manor.

Does everyone have to play by the rules?


The Information age has given people access to nearly every corner of the globe, high quality cameras that fit into phones about the size of a wallet and the ability to disseminate information in seconds.

Now that everyone has the potential to create and distribute news, everyone can technically be a journalist. The “democratization of journalism” has been covered up and down by various types from bloggers tapping out endless opinions to academics scribbling research papers, but few outlets seem to discuss accountability.

Journalists are held to a high standard and are meant to follow a code of ethics as well as adhere to the minute writing and reporting rules presented in the Associated Press Stylebook, but for the most part it’s only the people who have bothered to learn about these things that follow the rules.

Typically those who have attended a j-school, or trained in a very traditional environment understand the weight and history of what being a reporter means. For example, the idea that news is written from independent perspective with no bias (or as little bias as one can manage).

In contrast, the sheer volume of content that is produced by the Web shows a number of people and outlets branding themselves as news when they deliver about as much actually news as Fox News.

Even larger outlets of non-traditional journalism have failed with respect to the public. Earlier this year after a plagiarism scandal, BuzzFeed pulled almost 4,000 different posts. No retraction was printed and BuzzFeed Founder Jonah Peretti argued that as a tech company, not a media company, BuzzFeed did not need to follow the rules of journalistic integrity.

This kind of action raised plenty of eyebrows and had scores of people arguing that despite any tech origins, BuzzFeed definitely needed to follow the rules of journalism simply because they were acting like journalists. This thought comes to the core of the argument if it looks like a journalist, acts like a journalist and reports like a journalist, it should probably try to work from the high-standards expected of a journalist.

Make room for obscenities in journalism


A recent phone conversation was leaked involving United States Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland saying “F*** the EU”.

Nuland was referring to the European Union and her belief that in order for a solution to occur in Ukraine, they will need to be of assistance.

I am not concerned on Nuland’s views, but why it is still necessary to replace profane language in journalism?

The barriers of using offensive language have broadened in society, yet journalism lags behind with no intention of change.

Yes, there are some situations in which explicit language is unnecessary. However, it is often essential in understanding the context of the message.

The actual visibility of an obscene word allows us to understand the message better than filling the space with asterisks.

Euphemisms and other similar tactics do not provide justice to the reader in seeing the honest story.

Many blogs and more progressive outlets allow their writers to publish content with obscenities. If we want mainstream journalism to continue it must keep up with the changing of society.

When New York Congressman Michael Grimm threated to throw a reporter of a balcony, much of his language had to be bleeped out.

Although we were able to understand what was said, the videos and recordings do not do justice to the fearfulness the reporter must have felt.

So please mainstream publications, start writing what you actually mean and put an end to patronizing your audiences.

MH 370 and insensitivity of news media


The news has been abuzz with updates on the mystery of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane, Flight MH 370, yet as the story of the crash starts to piece together, it seems as though the feelings of the families involved are being neglected.

As the families were notified of the death of everyone aboard via SMS message, (something that would have never been done in the past), photos were snapped of the grief those related to the people on the flight felt upon receiving the news.

Heart-wrenching details, such as a woman collapsing, screaming “My son! My son!” and another woman who had to be taken off on a stretcher from the immense feeling of grief are all featured in the news. Many people urged the press not to photograph or film them, with one man even threatening a cameraman by saying “Don’t film. I’ll beat you to death!”

During a time of extreme sadness and tragedy, privacy is of the utmost importance. Yet, the press always sees the need to document every moment, especially when a story such as this one is such a hot-ticket item.

So is the press over stepping its boundaries? In this case, I believe so. It does no justice to the story to document photos and videos of the family members of those on the flight in fits of hysteria due to grief. Would you want photos taken of you upon receiving news about a death in the family?

Also, for the family members to find out about the absolute death of everyone aboard via SMS message is a tad insensitive. It’s considered rude to break up with someone over text these days, so for the Malaysian prime minister to notify the families of the death of their loved ones is a testament to the disrespect the media has over the entire situation.

The coverage of this flight tragedy has been largely publicized and laden with extremities. Many conspiracy theories have swirled about, and jokes have even been made about the mysterious nature of it all. Now that the British satellites are starting to uncover the mystery of the crash, I believe focus should be placed on the crash itself and less on the families. They deserve respect in this time of tragedy.

Violent backlash against Google Glass


The latest innovation from Google, the Google Glass eyepiece has recently caused quite a stir regarding the recording function of the device. Sarah Slocum, a tech writer, was allegedly harassed at a San Francisco bar for recording people with her Google Glass.

According to Slocum, the “Google Glass haters” gave her an obscene gesture, after which she turned on the record function of the device. She told them she was doing so and one man “ripped the Google Glass off [her] face and ran out of the bar.” The others reportedly robbed her of her phone and purse.

It is probably important to remember that the incident took place during the last call at a punk rock bar where the beer was flowing and the common sense was probably not. Still, it is interesting to note that both parties involved in Slocum vs. the “Google Glass Haters” reacted violently over a video recording that lasted barely more than 10 seconds.

We live in an age where many breaking news story videos are footage shot from a cell phone camera. The ease of Google Glass — portable, hands free, no fumbling for buttons — opens a whole new realm of opportunity in the digital age. The GoPro camera that straps onto objects such as a helmet is also hands-free, but the Google Glass allows for complete control of what is being captured. Although it would not be desirable for quality video in news, in a pinch, it could become any news-gatherer’s dream.

So what is causing the backlash with the public? How is recording on a Google Glass any different than whipping out a cell phone to take a quick video?

Some argue that it is because people can’t tell if they are being recorded or not. Google Glass advocates refute this by saying the Glass has a red light that turns on to indicate that it is recording.

Perhaps it is the fact that the Google Glass seems invasive by nature. The device can go wherever its owner goes and people find that type of technology more threatening than a video camera or even a cell phone.

Or maybe it’s because the Google Glass right now looks something reminiscent of a sci-fi flick.

I personally think that what it boils down to is that people are uncomfortable that they can’t easily see what the Google Glass is doing (as if it isn’t hard enough to get someone’s permission to be recorded anyway). The red recording button does exist, but it is small and definitely inconspicuous compared to a video camera or even a cell phone.

Bottom line, I think it is important to be upfront about recording people with any recording device. Google Glass is an amazing piece of technology, but the people pioneering its integration into society need to recognize the privacy concerns that arise with it.

Because if you’re ignorant about that, you’re bound to get your (Google) Glass kicked.

Olympics: World news or gossip?


The Olympics are at the forefront of today’s world news. However, there are moments when I question the priority of news reporters.

The other day, I went on CNN and the first thing I saw was U.S. ice skater Ashley Wagner’s face of disappointment at her score.

There are many things about the Olympics to report on that hold a lot of significance — the condition of Sochi as a city to host such a big event, human rights problems in Russia, countries’ relative numbers of medals — but, in my view, an athlete’s lack of composition in such an intense moment is not worthy of the front page of such a major world news website.

In my opinion, to place a picture of the face of disappointment as one of the ‘five favorite moments from the first weekend of the Olympics’ is a cruel joke. The article drew just as much attention to a few seconds of infuriated disappointment as it did to Russia winning its first gold medal in the games and total medals won after the first weekend.

To be fair, the article featured Jamie Anderson’s (American gold medalist) tweet about her gratitude to friends and family after her great performance. Although this is another example of social media appearing in the world news, at least it’s fitting under the category of “favorite moments.” Amy Wagner’s face was not on this list because it was endearing, it was because it was scandalous.

Do we really find scandals so important that they should be put in newspapers? Are we looking for ways to interest the public in the 2014 Olympics? Are we just fixated on having a list of five that the reporters felt inclined to place this example in with the rest?

The second question can be answered with a simple “no,” as the first sub-headline of the report, the first example, was “That face.” This was the first topic presented to the audience.

I urge reporters to at least think about the first two questions before they choose topics. When presented side-by-side, news transfer a sense of importance. An important event may elevate another’s importance, even if the latter doesn’t attract that much on its own. On the other hand, something like gossip in world news could end up downplaying an event that makes a difference.

American journalism as it Is today


A recent Los Angeles Times article about a well-known author caught my attention because of a quotation within the article. Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side and Moneyball was attributed with the quote:

“Going from American journalism to British journalism is like going from bratwurst to Mexican food,” he says. “You go from feeling kind of constipated to feeling like you got the runs.”

In addition to being a funny comment, it is also a bit of a scary one to think about, at least from a journalistic perspective. If I’ve learned anything about the news media and about journalism over the past couple years or so, it’s that it is in a state of flux. It isn’t doing well, it isn’t doing horribly, but no one is really sure what to think of it. It has also been challenged in many ways due to ethical problems and controversial scenarios.

And that’s from my perspective in North America.

With that being said, the fact that a respected writer like Lewis is saying that the British side of things is worse off makes me a little uneasy. Not because I plan on moving to Great Britain, but because it means that journalism in America can get even worse. It isn’t overly something to worry about at the moment, and there is still some fine journalism going around, but there is a lot of poor journalism as well.

Fake stories, wrong sourcing, poor grammar, the list goes on. With this booming technological age that we are in, there will undoubtedly be bad journalism. Being first to break a story has become more important than delivering journalistic gold that takes patience.

I’m not sure what it will take to get back to the golden age of journalism or whether we ever will again. But we can at least report the truth, and do it eloquently. Then maybe some of the bad journalists will be scraped out.

Steps to being a good journalist, part 2


A good journalist also needs a few of other interesting characteristics.

According to the article: ”Journalism – Facts & Directory,” one specific characteristic a journalist must have is to be resourceful. “Resourcefulness gives a person the ability to be able to always find a solution to difficult situations that can sometimes be at a dead end. Being a committed journalist is also important. There are sacrifices that must be made in a journalists’ personal life at times in order to get work done.” This is not only describing resourcefulness but also the virtue of sacrifice.

Sometimes journalists have to put things aside so a good story can be accomplished. Finding stories, news, or anything interesting to the public is something that can take time, even more if the journalist is making the correct steps and gathering the necessary evidence to support the story.

Apart from these characteristics, I believe a good journalist should be considerate. He should know how to talk to people about certain things and how to correctly approach the situation. There are going to be lots of times where a difficult situation will come up, and a good journalist must know what to do and how to handle it without affecting those around him.

Speed and accuracy is also crucial. It is not enough to write well you have to also be a fast writer. This is where many aspiring journalists have problems. They might do well in writing classes and show a good grasp of the news, but when it comes to deadlines they suffer.”  This is also a very important point. Journalists need to be fast and aware at all times, because in one minute your story might be taken, or worst, stolen.

If you as a journalist are not capable of being quick, even if you have the best story, it can lose impact if it is not shared rapidly and through the correct sources. 

Journalists need to know how to work fast, under pressure, but maintaining the accuracy present at all times. “There will be times where editors may yell and you will find yourself in a high-pressure environment, you may have problems with co-workers under similar stress.”

The article also mentions how good journalists turn in a clean copy and do not depend on the editor, which means “they must posses decent spelling and grammar skills.” Also, confidence is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Confidence will get a journalist the answers wanted and it will give he or she the sufficient strength to “take that extra step in order to get his or her story written.”

Steps to being a good journalist, part 1


Journalists have to keep a lot of things in mind if they want to be the best at what they do.

After reading several articles, I concluded that one of the most important things of being an outstanding journalist is to be one step ahead and always be prepare to cover a good story anywhere you go. The article that caught my attention, titled “How to Be a Good Journalist,” gives us seven simple steps to be a good journalist:

The first one would be to enjoy writing. Writing is not always easy, and journalists have to know which is the best form of language to communicate with the public. Journalists need to know structures like the “inverted pyramid” and how to apply them in a newsworthy story. Like the article states “if you don’t enjoy writing, reading, meeting new people, being under pressure, well then you’ve come to the wrong career choice, journalism is all about writing.”

Another step they say would be to carry a journal around to write about anything that pops into your head. “Most well known journalists had diaries when they were younger to practice their writing skills.” I believe writing is something that will get better by pure practice, and the more you do it the better journalist you’ll become. A journal about anything that happens in your life is the perfect practice to improve writing skills.

Step three: Carry a camera with you. Why? to illustrate your stories or articles and give the public something different to see other than paragraphs of words.

Step four would be to carry a pencil or a pen with you plus a pad at all times. A good journalist has to be prepared for unplanned breaking news that he or she wil need to cover. Even if you are not on working hours, you should always remember that the best reporter is the one that will get it all or at least some good information in good timing and with good quality.

Step five the article states it should be the willingness to meet new people. This can be the most challenging but at the same time the most interesting and fun part of being a journalist. In this career you will meet many new personalities and types of people you never knew you would encounter with. As a reporter, it is your job to learn how to obtain information from people in a fast way without breaking any rules or harming anyone.

Step six is to be honest and truthful to your audience. This means that no matter what you have to communicate that you are 100 percent sure is the true version of what happened. To accomplish this, a good journalist will support the story with evidence so that the audience can rely on it and actually believe the words written.

Last, but not least, a good journalist needs to be in touch with media at all times. Reading,watching, listening to radio, all of these activities are necessary for a reporter because he or she has to always know what is happening around the world. Also, by reading a lot new vocabulary will emerge for the journalist to use in his work: “A comprehensive vocabulary can help bring your stories and poems to life, enabling you to better describe the world around you.”