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NIEMAN REPORTSTHE NIEMAN FOUNDATION FOR JOURNALISM AT HARVARD UNIVERSITYVOL. 61 NO. 3 FALL 2007Five DollarsKatrina’s AftermathNews With No End in SightTeaching Journalism in the Digital AgeBooks: Reporting War, Designing Newspapers,Covering China


“… to promote and elevate the standards of journalism”—Agnes Wahl Nieman, the benefactor of the Nieman Foundation.Vol. 61 No. 3Fall 2007NIEMAN REPORTSTHE NIEMAN FOUNDATION FOR JOURNALISM AT HARVARD UNIVERSITYPublisherEditorAssistant EditorEditorial AssistantDesign EditorBob GilesMelissa LudtkeLois FioreSarah HagedornDiane NovetskyNieman Reports (USPS #430-650) is publishedin March, June, September and Decemberby the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University,One Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138-2098.Subscriptions/BusinessTelephone: 617-496-2968E-Mail Address:nreports@harvard.eduSubscription $20 a year, $35 for two years; add $10per year for foreign airmail. Single copies $5.Back copies are available from the Nieman office.Please address all subscription correspondence toOne Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138-2098and change of address information toP.O. Box 4951, Manchester, NH 03108.ISSN Number 0028-9817EditorialTelephone: 617-496-6308E-Mail Address:nreditor@harvard.eduInternet Address:www.nieman.harvard.eduCopyright 2007 by the President andFellows of Harvard College.Second-class postage paid at Boston,Massachusetts and additional entries.POSTMASTER:Send address changes toNieman Reports,P.O. Box 4951,Manchester, NH 03108.


Vol. 61 No. 3Fall 2007NIEMAN REPORTSTHE NIEMAN FOUNDATION FOR JOURNALISM AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY4 Katrina’s Aftermath: News With No End in Sight6 Keeping Katrina’s Aftermath Alive BY JOHN BURNETT7 The Long Road to a Wide Bend BY GORDON RUSSELL10 A Tragedy Illuminates the Ethical Dimensions of Picture Taking WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BYTED JACKSON19 Journalism Driven By Passion EXCERPTS FROM A PANEL DISCUSSION AMONG JOURNALISTS23 Observing Everything to Tell the Story of Change BY RUKMINI CALLIMACHI25 Bypassing the Easy Stories in the Big Easy BY JED HORNE27 Images Evoke Memories and Emotions WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY ALEX BRANDON30 Personal Circumstances Intersect With Professional Obligations BY JOHN POPE32 A Forceful Voice About a City’s Survival BY JARVIS DEBERRY34 Lessons in Rebuilding: A House and a Newspaper BY DAVID MEEKS36 Telling a Tough Story in Your Own Backyard WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY BILL HABER39 Survival First, Then Needed Newsroom Adjustments BY STAN TINER42 The Changing Roles and Responses of Reporters BY KATE MAGANDY44 Reminding Readers of What Is No Longer There WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN FITZHUGH50 A Steadfast Editorial Voice BY TONY BIFFLE52 Impossible to Ignore: A Mental Health Crisis Changes a Community and a Reporter’s FocusBY JOSHUA NORMAN54 Katrina Fatigue: Listeners Say They’ve Heard Enough BY SUSAN FEENEY56 On-the-Ground Reporting: Why It Matters BY LIZ SZABO57 Investigating What Went Wrong and Why BY JENNI BERGALCover photo: Joe Middleton in his home in the Gentilly area of New Orleans, as mold grows on his walls.June 12, 2007. Photo by Alex Brandon/The Associated Press.


Teaching Journalism in the Digital Age61 Incubating Innovation at Journalism Schools BY DIANNE LYNCH63 Adapt or Die of Irrelevance BY KARL IDSVOOG65 It’s the Audience, Stupid! BY HOWARD SCHNEIDER68 Start Earlier. Expand the Mission. Integrate Technology. BY KIM PEARSON70 The Web Resides at the Hub of Learning BY NICHOLAS LEMANN71 How a New J-School Takes on a Changing Profession BY STEPHEN SHEPARD73 Credibility Resides at the Core of Teaching Journalism BY JEAN FOLKERTS75 Teaching What We Don’t (Yet) Know BY MARK J. PRENDERGAST78 Digital Media Push Images to the Foreground BY LESTER SLOAN79 Journalism and Academia: How They Can Work Together BY JEFFREY SCHEUER81 Values Reside at the Core of Journalism BY LOU URENECK83 Passing Along the Value of Humility BY MIKE MCKEAN85 Multimedia Journalism Changes What Universities Teach BY JEROME AUMENTE88 Pushing and Prodding Latin American Journalism Schools to Change BY GUILLERMO FRANCO90 Newsroom Training: Essential, Yet Too Often Ignored BY MICHELE MCLELLAN AND TIM PORTERWords & Reflections92 Foreign Correspondence: Old Practices Inform New Realities BY CAMERON MCWHIRTER93 Type Creates a Visual Signature for Newspapers BY ALLY PALMER96 The Lure of China BY DAVID D. PERLMUTTER3 Curator’s Corner: Plowing New Ground in Journalism Education BY BOB GILES99 Nieman Notes COMPILED BY LOIS FIORE99 The Poet’s Voice Surfaces in a Time of War BY ELIZA GRISWOLD102 Class Notes108 End Note: Tracing Photographic Roots Brings Work Into Perspective BY ELI REED2 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Plowing New Ground in Journalism Education‘This should not be a discussion of how to graft the latest onto the existing.’By Bob GilesCurator’s CornerThe following words are excerpted from an essay writtenfor the September 2007 McCormick Tribune FoundationConference on the Future of Journalism and Mass CommunicationEducation at Louisiana State University.Journalism education and the news business havesomething new in common these days: Each has fallenbehind and, in their separate struggles to catch up, eachis chasing a moving target. Newspaper companies are learningthat playing catch-up is no longer a game of journalistichorticulture; simply grafting the latest trend onto existingbusiness models does not translate into long-term yields.It’s fair to suggest that journalism schools might well avoidthe temptation to reach for grafting tools to solve their curriculumproblems. They might, instead, head for the plowfor a little creative destruction.In this time of transformation in how news is reported anddistributed, the profession and the academy are confrontingnew media realities in which audiences are empoweredto engage with the community’s established news mediaor bypass it and gather information on their own. Thereare new questions now, many questions, in fact, and fewanswers that will tell us what the purpose of journalism isbecoming and how journalism schools can prepare studentsfor whatever that might be.Journalism education seems to go in cycles, followingtrends, but clinging to basic values. The electronic age hasintroduced different journalism skills to which studentsshould be introduced, but only introduced; no techniciangraduatesneeded. As faculties ponder new course offerings,the ever-present challenge is how to creatively squeezemore into curricula already limited by the number of hoursallowed for majors.In thinking about changes in journalism education thathave occurred over more than a generation, it is always reassuringto recognize that one constant remains: the values ofjournalism. The news of the day is a powerful reminder ofhow our citizens turn again and again to the press for thestories so vital to understanding the latest crisis.Whatever changes in course offerings might give graduatesa solid understanding of multimedia technology andthe skills to report, write and produce online, the true testof academic excellence in journalism would be a curriculumthat is sufficiently rigorous in preparing students to reporton a society that is increasingly difficult to understand.Journalism schools should invest in their students a spiritof intellectual depth and versatility and a desire for continuouslearning over a working lifetime.Each year, I review more than 100 applications from U.S.journalists who want to study at Harvard as Nieman Fellows.Many of the candidates are journalism school graduates. Intheir essays, they share their aspirations for the rest of theirlives in journalism. The statements are often inspiring asthey express an enduring passion for journalism as well asacknowledge that they missed opportunities in college tobecome better prepared for the complexities of the worldthey are now covering. There is something revealing in theseconfessions; journalism school deans might wonder howthe apparent shortcomings of a journalism education canbecome the motivation for midcareer fellowships.As journalists, we face daily demands to explain, clarifyand interpret for our readers, listeners and viewers. The issueswe report on, more often than not, contain elements ofscience and technology, medicine and economics, as well ashuman emotion and political or ideological conflict. Thesetopics, typically at the core of a Nieman year, also might wellbe part of a university’s journalism regimen.As early as 1919, Walter Lippmann, the most influentialnewspaper columnist of the first half of the last century,recognized that as stories become more and more complexand more specialized, there was a greater need for reportersand editors to master the study of evidence and verificationand develop special areas of expertise in which they coulddo their work in a highly informed and authoritative way.In a new book, “Five Minds for the Future,” HarvardUniversity psychologist Howard Gardner issues a call fornew ways of learning that will prepare students to thinkglobally and function in a world dominated by information,science and technology, and the conflicts among cultures.Gardner’s five minds would master one or more disciplines,would possess capabilities to synthesize information, wouldbe creative, would be respectful, and would work in anethical manner.These are values worth considering in the journalismcurriculum for the future. They should be part of the largerconsideration about how to shape the education of youngjournalists for the near term and create a new foundationfor the longer term. This should not be a discussion of howto graft the latest onto the existing. Tear up the currentmodels that perceive journalism as a craft. Rethink the fieldas one of rigorous scholarship and practice. And build anewaround one truth: journalism matters. Give students that,and they will find their way. Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 3


Goodbye GutenbergKatrina’s AftermathIt’s been two years since Hurricane Katrina’s destructive force riveted the eyes of theworld on the suffering of those left in its wake. In that time, newspapers in New Orleansand Mississippi have made adjustments—from creating new beats to assuming a moreaggressive voice—while national news organizations, determined to stay with the slowmovingstory of recovery, wrestle with finding fresh ways to engage distant audiences.In this collection, written by journalists who have spent significant time trying totell this story, Nieman Reports explores particular demands and difficulties posed bycoverage of an ongoing news event with no end in sight. “How do journalists continueto make this catastrophe interesting and relevant for our audiences?” asks JohnBurnett, a correspondent for National Public Radio. “There’s no easy answer. As theysay, the low-hanging fruit is gone.” Gordon Russell, special projects editor at TheTimes-Picayune in New Orleans, acknowledges that while it is possible to pick up hispaper and not find a story related to Katrina, “two years after the event, Katrina is stillour alpha and our omega …. The ruination wrought by Katrina—with an unwittingassist from the Army Corps of Engineers—looms over nearly everything we do. And itwill for years to come.”Times-Picayune photographer Ted Jackson includes in his photo essay a picturehe took of family members clinging to the columns of their porch as water rose aroundthem. “Little did I know that this ethical dilemma and the ensuing debate with myconscience would become the theme of my storm coverage,” he writes. In excerptsfrom a panel discussion about Katrina coverage, Times-Picayune features editor JamesO’Byrne describes one of the “shortcomings of our craft” that coverage of Katrinarevealed: “… we can write the story about one person’s tragic heartbreak, but when100,000 people have tragic heartbreak and that heartbreak extends over 21 months, wejust don’t have the capacity to cover that.” Rukmini Callimachi, an Associated Pressreporter who covered the aftermath of Katrina from New Orleans, explains the reportingapproach she developed as reporters grew accustomed to devastation surroundingthem. “A lot of us had stopped describing well what we were actually seeing and hearingand smelling,” she writes. So I began deliberately to note the kind of details I mightotherwise have ignored ….”As out-of-town journalists talked with him about stories they were planning to do,Jed Horne, who recently retired as metro editor of The Times-Picayune, noticedthat “it’s as if reporters and editors are overawed by the backdrop of the epic storm,so much so that we can get slipshod about the foreground stories we continue to setagainst it.” In his photo essay, Associated Press photographer Alex Brandon observesthat “Unlike the early days of Katrina when powerful images were everywhere, now itis harder to make a photo that has enough impact to draw an editor’s attention.” JohnPope, a reporter with The Times-Picayune, describes ways that reporters’ personallives—and the stresses their circumstances pose—intersect with stories they need totell. “It’s tough to be part of the story you’re likely to be covering for the rest of yourtime in New Orleans, but that’s the post-Katrina reality.” Times-Picayune columnistJarvis DeBerry realizes that his pre-Katrina columns appear “to have been written bya different person. There’s a difference between writing from a city where everybody4 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


wants to come at least once to party and writing from a city that some governmentofficials say no longer deserves to be.” In finding new ways to share local news andinformation with online and print audiences, Times-Picayune city editor David Meeksbelieves that at a time when “it’s not uncommon to hear talk in newsrooms of how it’sa good time to get out of the newspaper business, I’d argue that there never has been amore exciting time to be in it.” In photos and words, Associated Press photographer BillHaber shares his work from a two-year assignment that “taxes the limits of my ability asno other story ever has.”Stan Tiner, editor of the Sun Herald in Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi, describeschanges he’s had to make in the newsroom to comprehensively tell the story of Katrina’saftermath—in print and on the Web. “We exploded our newsgathering departmentaland beat structures,” he writes. “All of the silos were leveled ….” Because reportersand editors face similar issues in their personal lives to the ones they cover, Sun HeraldCity Editor Kate Magandy writes of keeping a watchful eye for “evidence of any biasthat a reporter might inadvertently be bringing to the piece.” And, she adds, “Editorsalso check editors in much the same way.”Sun Herald photographer John Fitzhugh initiated the newspaper’s popular “Beforeand After” series of what was there then and what remained after the storm. (He hassubsequently added recovery photos—the “now” moment—to the mix.) “It allowedreaders to remember what had been lost and to mourn that loss,” he writes. TonyBiffle, associate editor of the Sun Herald, offers advice from “what we’ve learnedin editorializing” about Katrina’s aftermath. “Just because daily contact causes youto become familiar with shattered lives and a littered landscape, do not allow thatfamiliarity to deaden your senses to the outrageous and the exceptional.” When mentalhealth issues needed in-depth coverage, the Sun Herald secured foundation fundingto support the work of reporter Joshua Norman, who writes that until this beat wascreated “our newspaper was only able to report on the growing mental health crisis in acursory fashion.”Susan Feeney, an NPR senior editor at “All Things Considered,” addresses“listener fatigue” with Katrina stories and describes her news organization’s response.“We continue to cover this story because we believe it is the right thing to do—journalistically …” she writes. USA Today medical reporter Liz Szabo was among the17 staffers, primarily editors, who traveled in early 2007 to New Orleans and Mississippito understand the depth and dimensions of a story that until then few appreciated. Shequotes USA Today editor Ken Paulson as saying, “The trip was a valuable reminder thatsometimes editors—and not just reporters—need to walk in the steps of the peoplethey cover.” Jenni Bergal served as project manager at the Center for Public Integrityfor a book of investigative journalism about New Orleans. “City Adrift: New OrleansBefore and After Katrina,” she writes, goes “beyond many of the stories being told bynewspapers and broadcast media.” Given “the luxury of time and resources,” reportersshe assembled for this project could “take a step back and closely examine whetherdecades of ineptitude or inertia by local, state and federal government and privateagencies had contributed to the failures in New Orleans.” Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 5


Katrina’s AftermathKeeping Katrina’s Aftermath Alive‘Anyone who visits New Orleans knows the story is far from over.’By John BurnettFor the first year after HurricaneKatrina, New Orleans was thestory every journalist yearnedfor. God forbid any great Americancity should befall such a calamitybut, once it happened, the aftermathproduced some of the more complexand fascinating stories of a career. Ithad everything: complete and epic destruction;government incompetencefrom city hall to the statehouse to theWhite House; the greatest engineeringdisaster in American history; an internationallyacclaimed artistic heritage inperil; the greatest city planning challengein modern times, and a complexracial overlay (or, as they say in NewOrleans, “It ain’t about race, it’s aboutshade”). And everyone was a quotemachine, from the Creole chef to theFrench Quarter strip-club hawker tothe rasping piano professor who toldme, “N’awlins has been traumaticalized.”That was then. Today, nearly twoyears after the dikes crumbled andLake Pontchartrain roared into thecity, it’s a lot harder to tell that story.It’s harder because we’ve done our jobwell. Journalists have described whythe levees failed and covered everystep of the Herculean effort to rebuildthem. We’ve chased Mayor C. Ray Naginfor interviews, usually fruitlessly,and tried to understand why the cityreelected him. We’ve chronicled thestate’s feckless program to repatriateresidents who are desperate to comehome. We’ve reported on the city’salarmingly high level of depression,suicide and criminal violence. We’vetried to document and deconstruct thechaos during the unforgettable weekafter the storm, such as the hospitalpatients who were allegedly euthanizedin Memorial Medical Center and thepolice who allegedly gunned downcivilians on the Danziger Bridge. We’veIn his New Orleans Journal, appearing in The New Yorker, journalist Dan Baum haswritten about Miss Joyce, now the widow of Mardi Gras Big Chief Allison “Tootie”Montana. She is pictured with her husband in February 2004 as they worked together onhis Mardi Gras suit. Photo by John McCusker/The Times-Picayune.told every story we could uncover in acity that seemed to offer up a poignantand comic drama behind every floodwarpedfront door.Nearly two years later readers andviewers and listeners—who sufferfrom the national affliction of NADD(news attention deficit disorder)—havemoved on, telling us that they’ve heardit already. They have Katrina fatigue.This circumstance ups the ante for journalistswho believe that the aftermathof Hurricane Katrina in New Orleansand along the rest of the Gulf Coast isimportant and that the rough draft ofhistory is still in progress.Anyone who visits New Orleansknows the story is far from over.Much of the city is still a disaster zone,where exuberant tropical growth hasovertaken abandoned neighborhoodsand returning residents live like frontiersmenin a wilderness. “I’d moveback, but nothing’s reopened in myold neighborhood. And I don’t wantto drive five miles to Jefferson Parish tofill up my tank or buy an ice cream,” thevice president of a bank in devastatedNew Orleans East told me on a flightout of the city recently.How do journalists continue tomake this catastrophe interesting andrelevant for our audiences? There’sno easy answer. As they say, the lowhangingfruit is gone. We look longerfor a new angle, spend more time onthe phone, and ask friends of friendsof friends what’s new. Fortunately, ina city as eccentric and kaleidoscopicas New Orleans, the fresh stories arestill there.• The New York Times found a communalorganic farm for urban storm6 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coverageevacuees in central Louisiana startedby a wealthy Canadian who calledit “an African American version of‘Green Acres.’”• Journalist Dan Baum, in his wonderfulNew Orleans Journal for The NewYorker, introduced us to Big MikeRicks at Perry Walker High School;Miss Joyce, the widow of longtimeMardi Gras Indian “Tootie” Montana,and took us into Mickie Bee’s, theonly bar in the Lower Ninth Ward.• NPR stringer Eve Troeh reportedon the heartening phenomenon of“volun-tourism,” whereby visitingconventioneers and tourists fromacross the country add a couple ofdays to help build houses in theflood zone.The stories are there. Reportersjust have to look for them harder. Andthough we rarely hear from peopleanymore who want to thank us for rememberingNew Orleans, we certainlyhear that from locals. They’re gratefulthey have not been forgotten.I was struck by something that a localjournalist told NPR when we did astory on the plethora of disaster toursthat New Orleanians now give to visitors.“Our version of Katrina fatigue isdifferent. It’s the fatigue of strugglingto survive, to get back to where wewere, to really establish a life again,”said James O’Byrne, features editor ofthe New Orleans Times-Picayune. Helost his family home in Lakeview tothe floodwaters. “So it’s painful for uswhen we hear people say, ‘We’d reallylike to forget about this and move on tosomething else.’ Well the truth is we’dreally like to forget and move on tosomething else. But we can’t. Becausethis is where we live and this is ourhome and this is our struggle.” John Burnett is an Austin-based correspondentfor National Public Radio,who has covered Katrina sincethe night it struck until the present.The Long Road to a Wide BendThe Times-Picayune’s ‘focus has gradually shifted away from how the city will berebuilt to how it is—now, in the present tense.’By Gordon RussellMany months afterHurricane Katrinalaid waste to NewOrleans, some of us startedto muse idly over lunch aboutwhen a story not containingthe “K” word would finally bepublished in our newspaper,The Times-Picayune. Twoyears, some figured. No, five,others said. A few thought itwould be longer still.As it happens, the day ofthe first Katrina-less story hascome and gone, and noneof us really noticed. Thesedays, in fact, it’s possible topick up the Picayune andfind a story or two or three on anygiven day that doesn’t mention thedreaded storm. That said, two yearsafter the event, Katrina is still ouralpha and our omega. It’s like a treethat casts such a large shadow overyour backyard that you eventually justaccept its existence and fail to noticeit anymore. The ruination wrought byKatrina—with an unwitting assist fromthe Army Corps of Engineers—loomsover nearly everything we do. And itwill for years to come.Working in a place where a singlesubject so dominates everything isstrange for journalists, accustomed tocovering an ever-changing tapestryof characters and storylines.New Orleans, in particular, hasalways been a town of a millionstories. Perhaps we at The Times-Picayune feel a bit like some ofour peers did a few decadesback in cities that were ruledby a single industry: In the oldPittsburgh, the story was alwayssteel; in Detroit, it was the BigThree.But as the writers in thosecities surely learned, and as wehave, there’s endless variety ina story so big. And that may beparticularly true in our case. IfKatrina is the only story in town,she is a damn good one, with tangentsand sidebars galore. A few examples:• Last year’s mayoral contest, shapingup as a ho-hum victory lap forMayor Ray Nagin before the storm,was transformed by Katrina into acomplex, fascinating nail biter.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 7


Katrina’s Aftermath• The storm’s wholesale devastationspawned a wrenching but enlighteningdiscussion over how best torebuild, a debate shot through withthemes ranging from the scientific tothe socioeconomic and from racialto political.• With various government agenciesawarding billions of dollars throughemergency no-bid contracts, thestakes surrounding the awarding ofthese contracts—always a source ofcontroversy and entertainment inNew Orleans—rose dramatically.• New and intriguing beats aroseand had to be charted where noneexisted before. For instance, onetask I was involved with was comingup with ways to count the city’spopulation, one of the more bluntmeasures of recovery. These days,we have a reporter, David Hammer,whose sole duty—and his reportingconstantly appears in the paper—isto chart the progress, or lack thereof,of the state’s homeowner-aid RoadHome program. Likewise, followingthe construction of levees and otherflood-proofing measures is now oneof the paper’s essential beats.Katrina’s TollJournalistically, some find writingabout Katrina and her aftermath themost fulfilling work they’ve everdone; others find it tiresome. Formany—most, perhaps—the reaction toour post-Katrina work falls somewherein between.My colleague James Varney, a veteranwho rode out the storm and authoreda number of revealing exposés aboutFEMA’s contracting practices, decidedone day he’d just as soon never type theword “Katrina” again. He’s now coveringLouisiana State University sportsfor the paper. Though the university isjust 90 miles away from New Orleans, itmight as well be in a parallel universe.For him, the job operates as if Katrinanever happened.Varney is my only coworker whomanaged so thorough a change ofscenery without leaving the paper. Butwe’ve lost a handful of other top-notchjournalists since the storm to othercities and, in some cases, other occupations.Some had their lives turned upsidedown—homes damaged, schoolsclosed, and so forth—and others justdidn’t want to stay in a city that wasclearly going to be on its knees for along time.The life here is not for everyone. Myneighborhood, nestled close to the riveron some of the city’s highest ground,is a good example. Though none ofthe homes in my neighborhood wereWorking in a placewhere a singlesubject so dominateseverything is strangefor journalists,accustomed to coveringan ever-changingtapestry of charactersand storylines. NewOrleans, in particular,has always been a townof a million stories.flooded, at least a third of the peoplewho lived in them, perhaps even half,have moved away from New Orleanssince the storm. For most, I think thedecision to leave was driven largely bya lack of jobs—or, at least, the kinds ofjobs they’d had—after Katrina. Otherswere driven out by skyrocketing rents,insurance and utility bills.But the psychological factor can’tbe overlooked. Even when your lifeis sort of in order—your home, yourjob, your spouse’s job, your children’sschool are all in place—there’s a weightto be shouldered simply by soldieringon. At the grocery store, at the cornerbar, at the neighborhood restaurant—everywhere—the refrains continue tosound the same. “How’d you makeout?” “When did you get back?” “I’mwaiting on my Road Home money.” Or:“I’m moving to Dallas.” That’s an optionthat has tempted some of us, too,myself included—the idea of chuckingit all for a “normal” place.I’ll never forget what Varney saidafter making his first trip to the outsideworld a few months after the storm.People, he told me somewhat indignantly,are walking around Charlotte,North Carolina, “like nothing everhappened.” They’re shopping, selling,eating, drinking, living and building.Life marches on out there, while inNew Orleans we continue to wallowin a frustrating mess that seems like itwill never be picked up.In the newsroom, it’s especially difficultto shut out what our columnistChris Rose refers to as “The Thing.”After all, we spend a lot of our timetalking to people wounded by thestorm and struggling to recover. Attimes, after Katrina, some of us havefelt like part-time social workers. Noteveryone has been up to that task, andsome of us have visited psychiatrists orseen counselors for the first time.Every time someone writes a storyabout the city’s plan for demolishingdamaged homes, a flurry of calls and e-mails is inevitable. Same goes for storiesabout the state’s Road Home program.The flurry becomes a hailstorm wheneverstories about the city’s rebuildingpriorities are published, in particularwhen the controversy about whethersome sections of town will be rebuiltresurfaces. On many days, I’ve spent anhour or two just returning phone messagesfrom people with concerns raisedby our reporting. Other reporters havehad to deal with far more given thetopics they tend to write about. Oftenas not, callers seem to want counselingas much as they want information,and this wasn’t in our job descriptionbefore Katrina hit.Sometimes these interactions takeus out of the journalist’s traditionalspectator role. I listened the other dayas my colleague Michelle Krupa dealtpatiently with a frantic man whosehome was about to be torn down, eventhough he had taken the required stepsto ensure it wouldn’t be. Though it wasoff the official demolition list, the wordhadn’t trickled down to the subcontractorsin the field with the backhoes, andthey were about to get started.8 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageSome reporters might have justgiven the man a couple of phone numbersand told him to call back if thebulldozers didn’t go away. But Krupawent further, calling a couple of contactsat FEMA and getting the agency tospare the man’s home. She wonderedaloud whether she had done the rightthing. I told her she had.I’d be lying if I said that all of ushave cheerfully accepted the extraload. Stress, depression and plain oldoverwork have taken their toll. For afew months after the storm, it seemedlike adrenaline—plus a sense of mission,a feeling that the information wewere supplying to people matteredas it never had before—was enoughto get us through. (We got a lift, too,from the two Pulitzer Prizes awardedto the staff for Katrina coverage.) Butadrenaline subsides. There was a timeduring 2006 when I—and a fair numberof my colleagues—felt beaten down. Afew of our coworkers had quit and notbeen replaced. We had all been workingvery, very hard, and there was noreason to think the story was going toget easier to cover.Morale in the newsroom went south,and people began to mutter moreloudly about jumping off a ship thatfelt like it was slowly sinking. There wasa palpable feeling that we were beingbled dry as our bosses shrunk the staffdown to some unspecified level thatwe had yet to reach. Some of us alsomade pleas to the editor, Jim Amoss,who assured us that he wasn’t planningto preside over the dismantling of ournewsroom.He spoke the truth. Though itdidn’t happen as quickly as some ofus would have liked, the Picayuneeventually filled every open positionin the newsroom. To a person, thereplacements have been terrific: Theyare young, energetic and enthusiastic,and they’ve lightened the load considerably.There’s still more than enoughfor everyone to do. I often say that in anews-saturated city like New Orleans,we could keep a staff twice as big asours busy with good stories. I try to berealistic, though. And I recognize thatit’s remarkable that our newspaper(part of the Advance chain, privatelyowned by the Newhouse family) hasavoided layoffs even in the face of adisaster that shrunk our circulationby perhaps a third—even as our Website’s traffic has increased significantly—whiledozens of other papers havebeen slashing jobs with no Katrina toblame for the downsizing.Throughout the ups and down, thefact that some of our staffers have beengoing through the same problems asour readers has helped our coverageimmensely and bolstered our collectivesanity. My boss, city editor David… we spend a lot of ourtime talking to peoplewounded by the stormand struggling torecover. At times, afterKatrina, some of us havefelt like part-time socialworkers.Meeks, recently moved into his rebuilthome in devastated Lakeview, givinghim a firsthand look at life as a pioneerin post-Katrina New Orleans. [SeeMeeks’s article on page 34.] ColemanWarner, a veteran Picayune reporter,has been spending most of his timesince the storm in a 240-square footFEMA trailer on his property with hiswife and daughter. He’s hoping tomove back into his renovated housethis fall.Sometimes I think about what a longtime two years is. When Coleman’sdaughter remembers her high schoolyears decades from now, she’ll thinkof life in the trailer. To Coleman, perhapsthe most unshakable person I’veever met, FEMA’s accommodations arenothing to whine about. A few monthsago, he wrote a whimsical and hilariousfirst-person paean to the humblewhite box—an “icon of hope and lossand government bungling,” as he putit. His words appeared on the paper’sfront page.A Shift in PerspectiveThere was a time, early on, when Ienvisioned that New Orleans wouldsomeday turn a corner and that thenewspaper would shift from writingstories about picking up the piecesand return to the sort of meat-andpotatoesstories about institutionsand events that newspapers generallyprovide—trials, arrests, school boardmeetings, elections, graduations andso on.Now I see the city as rounding a widebend rather than turning a corner. Astime marches on, the newspaper, too,has come round the bend, and ouremphasis has gradually shifted awayfrom how the city will be rebuilt tohow it is—now, in the present tense. Insome ways, that shift is a subtle reflectionof the reality that, despite all theheady talk of remaking New Orleans’sbroken institutions from the groundup, none of that is going to happen.Instead, the old ones are just beingpatched up—or, in some cases, theyare deteriorating further.In a more positive sense, the slowrefocusing of the Picayune’s lens maybe a sign of progress, an unspokenindication that the newspaper and itsreaders alike are working their waythrough the grieving process. At somepoint, the thinking goes, it’s time tostop dwelling on what happened—notthat we should forget it—and moveforward.This perspective was summed upby six-year-old Edmund Philipson,who sent a two-sentence letter to thePicayune in March. The child had apparentlyheard enough excuses about whythe city’s beloved St. Charles Avenuestreetcar line was still inoperable 18months after the storm.“I think the streetcar should be running,”he wrote. “The hurricane was along time ago!”Indeed. Gordon Russell is special projectseditor at The Times-Picayune. At thetime Hurricane Katrina struck, hecovered city hall, after having begunhis work at the paper in the RiverParishes’ bureau.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 9


Katrina’s AftermathA N ESSAY IN WOR DS A ND PHOTOGRAPHSA Tragedy Illuminates the Ethical Dimensionsof Picture TakingBy Ted JacksonReliving August 29, 2005, orthe days afterward, is not easyfor me or many other peoplewho were in New Orleans during thatdark time. To stay behind while morethan 80 percent of the city evacuatedbefore Hurricane Katrina, whether asa resident, a police officer or, like me,a photojournalist, was to be foreverchanged, even scarred, by the horrorof what was experienced and by thestories you keep buried inside.I’m not a neophyte when it comes tocovering disaster and horror. I’ve lostcount of the hurricanes I’ve covered.I’ve experienced earthquake carnageand the senselessness of war. Despitemy experience, Katrina crept past theemotional protection my camera lenseshave faithfully provided.I’ve struggled to explain the differenceto fellow journalists. It’s similar,I’d think, to responding to an autofatality across town only to discovermy son slumped behind the wheel.Katrina altered my perspective, makingit impossible to remain a distantobserver. I had a strongly felt need toconnect with and somehow help thoseI was photographing.As a photojournalist I’m accustomedto being a first responder. Butas people clung to life amid the swirlingfloodwaters, I found myself a soleresponder.Going Into the FloodWhen Katrina blew through NewOrleans that Monday morning, Iwas huddled with the storm team atThe Times-Picayune office, watchingthrough the windows as the windwreaked havoc with the trees outside.Family members cling to posts on their front porch as rising floodwaters force them toevacuate their home on St. Claude Avenue in the Lower Ninth Ward. They had triedto get into their attic space but said the floor wouldn’t hold them. Floodwaters ragingdown St. Claude had prevented rescuers from reaching them. August 29, 2005. Photo byTed Jackson/The Times-Picayune.The weather was nasty, but I was gettingantsy. I needed to get out and starttaking pictures. I knew from experiencethat to photograph a hurricaneproperly, you have to “see the wind”in the photos, and you can’t do thatonce the wind has stopped.Driving my trusty old Toyota Tacomafour-wheel-drive truck, I carefullypicked my way through high water,downed power lines, and trees to theFrench Quarter. It was more of a reconnaissancemission to check on the city’sbeloved landmarks. I photographedSt. Louis Cathedral as a man aimlesslywalked past, praying in the blindingrain. Portions of the Superdome roofhad peeled away. Since cell phonesweren’t working, I returned to theoffice to report my findings and dropoff my photos.My editors heard that the LowerNinth Ward, the low ground surroundedby the Industrial Canal, the MississippiRiver, and the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, was flooding and asked ifI could get there. I wasn’t sure, but Iwas more than willing to try. Pickingmy way through the four-mile stretch,I rolled over all manner of debris, even10 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coveragethe bricks of a collapsed building inthe Faubourg Marigny neighborhood.Surprisingly, I was able to drive withina couple of blocks of the St. ClaudeBridge over the Industrial Canal, thenwaded through thigh-deep water andcrossed over the canal into the LowerNinth Ward.I expected to see high water, butthe scene stretching out beyond thebridge where I was standing caughtme by surprise. Floodwater was up tohouses’ eaves as far as I could see. Immediatelyto my right was a family ofwomen clinging to the columns of theirporch, chest deep in swirling floodwater.They were desperately waiting forhelp, and an elderly man on the bridgewith me was frantically looking for away to help. We considered wadingacross the street that separated us, oreven swimming to them, but whenwe gauged the water depth, we knewit was way too deep and moving toofast to cross.Above the howling winds I askedthe family how long they had beentrapped there. They said, “Since 8a.m.” It was now 1 p.m. That’s whenI realized they were not standing ontheir porch but were precariously balancedon the porch’s railing. I askedif they could get into their attic. Theysaid they had tried unsuccessfully andnow it was too late. I noticed the topof the front door was just inches abovethe water. I encouraged them to hangon. Surely help would arrive fairlyquickly. I needed a boat, a rope, or alife ring. We had nothing but a camerabetween us.As the man and I helplessly pacedand watched, the women decidedthey would use a floating log to ferrya youngster across the current. Theirplan was to push her across, and Iwould catch. With the swirling currentbetween us, I knew she would nevermake it. So again I begged them to staywhere they were, as hard as that wouldbe. I knew it was a lot to ask, but I sawno better options.Documenting This MomentI also knew that my editors—and theworld—needed to see what was happeninghere. I knew this would be atough picture to shoot. I didn’t want tomake the situation worse or add to thefamily’s trauma. Neither did I want itto seem that I was trying to profit fromthe situation. I tried to become invisible,moving to the side and divertingtheir attention away from me. I thenquickly raised my camera. The elderlyman furiously yelled for me to stop,upset that I would do such a thing.He angrily chastised and threatenedme. I tried to reason with him, but thiswasn’t an atmosphere for logic. I triedto tell him why this was important,I knew this would be atough picture to shoot. Ididn’t want to make thesituation worse or addto the family’s trauma.Neither did I want it toseem that I was trying toprofit from the situation.that others needed to know what washappening here. My God, I thought,this is history. I told him we wouldsit down one day over coffee, and I’djustify the pictures.“I’ll never have coffee with the likesof you,” he said as I clicked off a fewpictures. His words cut me even deeperthan he intended.Meanwhile, the little girl was clingingto the log with a woman readyto push. I felt that being there wasencouraging the attempt. Knowingthat she would be swept away by thecurrent, I wasn’t about to stand thereand watch her drown, especially if onlyfor a photo. I left.And so my Katrina saga began. Littledid I know that this ethical dilemmaand ensuing debate with my consciencewould become the theme of my stormcoverage.I raced back to the paper anddropped off my digital cards. Fromthere, reporter Brian Thevenot and Iheaded back to the bridge, this timewith an inflatable boat and a rope. Aswe raced down the levee road, I said toBrian, “If we have to choose betweengetting a story or saving a life, I’msaving lives. Are you OK with that?”He said he was, and we headed backto the family.This time I pushed through deeperwater than before, and we were ableto drive over the bridge. I stopped andlooked over the railing but the porchwas empty. My heart sank.By now there were several policeSWAT boats working search and rescue.I yelled to them, confident that theyhad rescued the family. They said theyhad seen no one at that house.I remembered the women’s desperationand the weariness in their eyes.In my mind I could see the little girlslip beneath the water and the otherslosing their composure and followingher. It felt as if my chest was caving inas I assumed the worst. Could I havedone more? Did I do the right thing?The rest of our day was spent ridingalong in a private citizen’s rescue boat,plucking people from second-floorwindows, off rooftops, and ferryingthem to safety. We spent the better partof an hour snagging food and bottledwater floating from a nearby grocerystore to take to others.Later that night I processed myphotos at the newspaper office andfell asleep on the floor.Rowboat and a BroomThe next morning I awoke to the newsof the 17th Street Canal levee break,sending water into most of the city. Asthe paper’s staff evacuated in deliverytrucks, I escaped in a rowboat that Ifound on the newspaper’s dock, usinga broken broom for a paddle. AsI sat in the boat pondering my nextmove, I watched as the newspapertrucks—with most of my colleagues inthem—slowly drove away through therising water. I thought to myself thatleaving alone in a rowboat was not thesmartest thing I’ve ever done.I had thoughts of the Titanic, withoverloaded lifeboats rowing away fromdrowning passengers. I feared that INieman Reports / Fall 2007 11


Katrina’s AftermathAngela Perkins pleaded with the world with her cry, “Help us, please.” September 1,2005. Photo by Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune.would soon find myself in the samesituation. I needed some clear thinkingand decided to settle my ethicalquestions then and there.After a few minutes, I decided thatif I saw people swimming or wadingin deep water, I would help them intomy boat. If they were safely out of thewater on rooftops or bridges, I wouldleave them there for search and rescueteams. I was comfortable with that planand started paddling. Less than fiveseconds later I saw a head bobbing inthe water. I yelled, “Are you OK?”The swimmer turned my way andyelled, “Ted!” It was fellow photographerAlex Brandon, with a freezer bagfull of digital camera cards clinched inhis teeth. [See Brandon’s photo essayon page 27.] He was evacuating thebuilding like me but trying to get tothe police SWAT headquarters just afew blocks away, where he planned toembed. We both made it to a nearbybridge ramp and decided to go ourseparate ways, wishing each othersafety and good luck.I paddled into the neighborhoods,not knowing where I was going orwhat I was going to do. I progressivelyfound myself surrounded by people.Luckily for me, they were all high anddry. I spotted a man waving for helpon the edge of an interstate ramp. Iraised my camera for what promisedto be a great composition. As I watchedthrough the lens, he raised his handsin disbelief and shrugged his shouldersas if to say, “You’re going to shoot mypicture but you’re not going to helpme?” I decided that if I couldn’t help,neither could I shoot. I put down mycamera and started rowing.What I needed now was dry land,wherever that might be. I needed toreplenish my resources: food, waterand transportation. But deeper down,my primary goal was to get word tomy wife, Nancy. She had evacuatedto Mississippi and was surely besideherself with worry.I rowed under a bridge where aman pleaded for help. I ignored him.I didn’t even look his way. I could hearhim conspiring with others: “If we worktogether, we can take it from him.” Theycame running down the ramp tryingto catch me, but I outpaced them. Iremember thinking how glad I was tohave been a Boy Scout.Five hours after I left the newspaperoffices, the bottom of the boat scrapedthe pavement of Airline Drive at CausewayBoulevard in Metairie. I walkeda couple of miles to the Interstate 10interchange and collapsed. It turnedout to be a lucky spot, for a short timelater rescue helicopters started landingall around me. The interchange hadbeen designated as a triage center andeventually a pickup point for transportationout of the city.I watched a few helicopters landwith tattered victims being helped byparamedics. Finally, I summoned thestrength to begin taking pictures again.By now, other media were starting toarrive. As rescuers begged for help,the photographers zoomed in tighterfor the increasing drama. I disgustedlyslung my cameras over my shoulder andstarted helping. I remember thinking,“I’m done with this. I just don’t wantto do this anymore.”But of course I couldn’t quit. Thestory wouldn’t let me. I hitched aride in the back of a military dumptruck headed back to the city. Whenwe reached the water’s edge I caughta ride with a rescue boat. From therethings started to improve. I was nowable to help when it was needed andshoot when it was appropriate.Later that evening, I teamed up withfellow photographer Brett Duke, whogave me a place to sleep for the nightand even brewed coffee for me on acamp stove the next morning. I gotout a brief call to my brother Ken inMississippi, who could relay a messageto Nancy that I was OK. That’s all sheneeded to know for now.The next day Brett and I paddled hiscanoe through New Orleans’ CentralBusiness District. We made our ethicaldecisions early. If we found peopledesperate for help, we would summonrescuers scouring the area. Aswe paddled near the Louisiana StateUniversity School of Medicine, teenagegirls screamed to us for help. Theycould see an elderly man clinging toa chainlink fence, growing weary andabout to fall. We summoned a boatnearby and shot photos as the rescuershelped him into their boat. I wasfeeling better about myself.As we paddled back near the LSUbalcony, the young girls cheered us.“You saved a life,” they swooned. “No,you saved a life,” we told them. Theirvoices made the difference. This is howI wanted to work. I was happy to beable to help and get photos, too.Thinking About My PhotosWednesday night, I joined five otherphotographers as the city began to fall12 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coverageinto chaos. As we woke Thursday, therewere rumors of a riot at the Morial ConventionCenter. Fully expecting fullboreviolence, we warily approachedthe scene. As we were spotted, peoplebegan crazily running toward us but,to our surprise, they were screaming,“The press is here, the press is here.”I’ve never been greeted in such a way.We each were grabbed by the arm andushered around the dramatic scene.Angela Perkins grabbed my arm.“You’ve got to see this; you’ve gotto see that,” she said as she took meby dead bodies lying on the street’smedian. I was escorted past rancidrestrooms, squalid sleeping quarters,and thousands of hopeless people.As I walked amid the mass of people,Angela became more emotional abouther plight and suddenly dropped toher knees, clasped her hands in prayerand screamed, “Help us, please!” BrettDuke, Melissa Phillip of The HoustonChronicle, and I were all shootingfuriously.As Brett and I analyzed the situationlater, we wondered to whom was shepraying. I’m a very religious man, butI realized she was not praying to God.She was praying to the world throughour lenses.At this point, I realized that my ethicaldilemma had come full circle. Thepower of the camera in this momentwas much more intense than anythingI could have done for them.During the past two years, I’ve analyzedmy photo coverage of the stormand decided that the pictures I madewere shot because I couldn’t help inany other way. I mostly shot picturesin self-defense. It was the only thingI could do.Months after the storm, for a ThanksgivingDay feature, editors proposed aLiving story allowing victims to thanktheir rescuers, titled “Savior in theStorm.” They wanted to tell the storythrough the dramatic photos we hadshot. We each turned in a photo wewanted included in the package. Isubmitted the photo of the womenon the porch, not because it was mybest picture, but because I wanted tolearn their fate. Would they be listedwith the victims of the storm or didthey manage somehow to escape thefloodwater?Writer Maria Montoya was given thetask of tracking down the women andfound them rattled but safe in Houston.Teenagers had rescued them ina fishing boat while I was racing backfrom the paper.I couldn’t wait to talk to them. Ihad so many demons to quell. When Ifinally got them on the phone, AudreyWalton confirmed what I knew she hadbeen thinking. She asked me, “Whatwe couldn’t understand was why youleft us?”“I want you to know,” I said, “I cameback with a boat and a rope.”“Oh,” she said. “I didn’t knowthat.”We had a pleasant conversation afterthat and, as I was telling her goodbye,she said, “I’d like to ask a favor. If youcan, can we get a copy of the picture?We’d like to have one to keep.” Ted Jackson is a photographer withThe Times-Picayune.Palm trees bend andbreak in HurricaneKatrina’s winds as abanner from a billboardflaps from a Canal Streetlamppost. August 29,2005. Photo by Ted Jackson/TheTimes-Picayune.Continued on next page.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 13


Katrina’s AftermathEvacuees rescued fromtheir homes in theflooded Lower NinthWard express theiranxiety. August 29,2005.During the height ofthe storm, a man uses aT-shirt to attract attentionfrom rescuers fromhis attic window in theLower Ninth Ward. Risingfloodwaters forcedhim and his family, includingsmall children,into their attic. August29, 2005.Photos and words by Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune.14 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageClinging to his puppy,the resident of a burninghome on ColumbiaStreet in New Orleanswalks away while smokeand water fill the air.September 6, 2005.The Netherlands AmbassadorBoudewijn vanEenennaam looks outthe tour bus window asit passes the 17th StreetCanal repair work asU.S. Senator MaryLandrieu succumbs tothe moment. Landrieuled the tour throughareas of Orleans andSt. Bernard Parishesdevastated by HurricaneKatrina. November 28,2005.Photos and words by Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 15


Katrina’s AftermathThe corpse of AlcedeJackson is reverentlylaid out on his frontporch at 4732 LaurelStreet in UptownNew Orleans, coveredwith a blanket andheld down by slate.The body was leftabandoned for 17days with an epitaphon a poster board,“Rest in peace in theloving arms of Jesus.”September 5, 2005.An EMT helps childrenfrom an Army BlackHawk helicopter as theyarrive at the Interstate10 interchange stagingarea. August 29, 2005.Connie Falls kissesClarence Robinson’shands as they lift off inan evacuation helicopterat the Morial ConventionCenter headedfor Armstrong Airport.September 5, 2005.Photos and words by Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune.16 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageA man with hisbaby cries out overthe body of an oldman who died in achair on ConventionBoulevard. Refugeescrowded into theMorial ConventionCenter, with noauthority supervisingor supplying food,water, or any otheressentials. September1, 2005.Firemen struggle tostart a small floatingpump to fight a raginginferno, attemptingto keep it fromspreading to the nexthouse. “It’s the bestwe can do,” one firemansaid. September6, 2005.Photos and words by Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 17


Katrina’s AftermathPutrid waters inundatemany streets of NewOrleans, including BroadStreet, as seen from theBroad Street Overpass.September 12, 2005.An elderly man clingsto a chainlink fence as arescue boat approachesto help him. August 31,2005. Photos and words by Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune.18 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageJournalism Driven By Passion‘… we’re totally comfortable with the view that New Orleansshould survive. As a newspaper, we’re clear on that position.’In the spring, the Nieman Fellows werevisited by three journalists—a reporterand editor with The Times-Picayune inNew Orleans and a senior editor withNational Public Radio—each of whom hasbeen involved with the long-term coverageof the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, anepic storm that devastated the city of NewOrleans and many other areas along theGulf Coast. They spoke of great personalloss and of professional obligations andabout the passion they feel for a storywithout an ending that they know mustcontinue to be told. What appears belowis an edited version of the discussion thattook place during their morning visit withthe fellows.James O’Byrne, Features Editor, The Times-Picayune: The experts on trauma will tellyou that the human mind has a great deal ofresilience in dealing with trauma, becauseonce you’re removed from the traumaticevent, your ability to heal yourself is actuallyquite profound, and it’s a very limitednumber of people who have difficulty longterm. The problem with Katrina is that thetrauma is around us every day. The part youvisit is doing great but not the part you livein. The neighborhood that I drive my kidsthrough to school every day is still ruined. It’sstill empty houses—it looks like a neutronbomb hit it. So if you are a citizen of NewOrleans, you’re exposed to the trauma ona daily basis.If you’re a journalist in New Orleans,it’s hard to have to tell people’s stories.We spend all day long listening to people’sstories, and it’s important that we listen tothem and that we continue to tell them forour readers. But that takes a toll on top ofjust living in the city.Mark Schleifstein, Environmental Reporterat The Times-Picayune: [In a series of storieshe co-reported in 2002, Schleifsteinrevealed that the risk to New Orleans fromhurricanes was increasing because the protectivewetlands were disappearing and thelevees were sinking. Even a Category Twostorm, his series concluded, would putwater into the city.] I dealt with the traumaaround us by working and then overworkingand overworking and overworking until Iended up in the hospital. I ended up witha back injury and had surgery and then theday after I’m out of the hospital, I’m stillworking at home.O’Byrne: For others, there are drugs oralcohol. There are all kinds of ways to dealwith it.Schleifstein: The second I was out of thehospital I stopped taking any medication,because I didn’t want to get hooked onanything. But I was lucky, because my wifewas sane and dealt with everything and wasable to deal with the rest of my life. So I hadthat ability of doing that and not having todeal with knowing that we are now in theninth place that we have lived in the last sixmonths, and she’s going to go find a housefor us to live in. My kids were not living withus because they’re grown, so I don’t havethat to worry about. We had enough moneyto survive, as opposed to what a lot of otherpeople at the newspaper were dealing with.Even so, there were many stresses going onfrom Day One, and it could be overwhelmingif you allowed them to be.Susan Feeney, Senior Editor for Planning atNPR’s “All Things Considered”: There area lot of people on the staff who are reallystruggling, and the city has a profound lackof mental health services. It took a while butthe Dart Center folks who deal with traumain journalism came to speak to people at thenewspaper. They came in right after Katrinahit and then some months later, and I thinkit was needed. I think you would admit thatthere are still people at the paper having ahard time holding it together. [See box onpage 55 about Feeney’s efforts to raise fundsto offer assistance to many Times-Picayuneemployees who need financial help as theyrecover from the storm.]The problem withKatrina is that thetrauma is around usevery day. The partyou visit is doinggreat but not thepart you live in. Theneighborhood that Idrive my kids throughto school every day isstill ruined. It’s stillempty houses—itlooks like a neutronbomb hit it.—James O’ByrneNieman Reports / Fall 2007 19


Katrina’s AftermathSometimes peoplecomplain we do toomuch Middle East ortoo much Somalia orsomething, so we’reused to that. But wedidn’t expect thatthe story that theselisteners were mostsick of was Katrina,and we were so sadabout that. If you’re acommercial network,you’re probably notdoing it anymore.—Susan FeeneyO’Byrne: I think the problem with journalistsin particular is that we think we’re soresilient that we don’t need any help, so weresist it as much as we can. What Dart didwas provide a scientific underpinning forthe struggles that some people were havingand, therefore, made it a little easier forthem by giving them this medical informationabout why they might be depressed ormight be dealing with the effects of traumaor stress. Once they understood the medicalunderpinnings of it, they felt a little morecomfortable getting help.I manage 31 employees post-Katrina, andat the very least we had each other, and allof us work in a place where we understandthere is a context for anything that happens.For example, it’s not a particularly noteworthything in my department for an employeeto cry over something seemingly small thatjust happens every day. As a manager, it’sincumbent on me, in a way that probablywould have been inappropriate before thestorm, to know how my people are doingin their personal lives. I don’t ask incrediblyprobing questions, but I will ask people howthey are doing. And they know I don’t mean“How are you doing on your story?” but Imean how are you doing getting by day today. And they will tell you how they’re doing,and it’s important for them to be ableto talk to you and talk about that.One of my editors has been trying to gether house back together for 21 months. Youcan build a new house from the ground upin 21 months, but not in New Orleans youcan’t. You can’t even get your damn houserenovated in 21 months. She was so longwithout running water in her kitchen thatone day she just lost it. She said to have tocook every damn meal in the FEMA trailerparked out in front of her house for a yearand a half, you just get to the point whereyou can’t deal with it anymore. So that’sjust in microcosm what people deal with,and you just have to give them the roomto have bad days.Question: Susan, you spoke earlier abouthow NPR has tried to stay with the story butthat when you report on Katrina’s aftermathlisteners tell you they don’t want to hearabout it anymore. Perhaps you could talk abit about these two parts of your life—onein which you are very involved with what’shappening in New Orleans and you understandso well the personal dimensions of thisstory and the other when you are hearingfrom people from some other place whoare saying, “We’re tired of this story.”Feeney: Let me make that clear, there’s nodisagreement at NPR, all the way up to thepresident, that we will continue to coverthis story. It is enormously expensive todo so, and we don’t care; we will keepdoing it. It’s easy to cover a tragedy whensomething happens. When Katrina hit, weknew how to dive in. We know how to dobig stories. But to continue to cover very,very slow-moving tragedies, it’s really hard,because when we do a story now and youhear it and it’s a lovely story you have thisvague sense that you’ve heard this storybefore. We had one the other day about thiscommunity in New Orleans East that pickeditself up—the Vietnamese community—andsomeone said, “Wasn’t that a great story?”I said, “Absolutely, and I’ll give you thedate that we just did that story. We did thesame damn story, and I’m glad that we didit again, but we have not found a way tocontinue to tell the story in a compellingenough way.”When I personally see a poll that tellsme people aren’t caring, I think that’s apersonal failure of mine that I haven’tfound a way to make people understandhow enormous this problem continues tobe. OK. And a couple of weeks ago, becausewe’re retooling “All Things Considered” alittle bit, we did focus groups in Boston withthose we consider to be hard-core listeners.We thought they might complain a little bit,because we’re having that sort of problemwith our Iraq coverage in telling that story.Sometimes people complain we do toomuch Middle East or too much Somaliaor something, so we’re used to that. Butwe didn’t expect that the story that theselisteners were most sick of was Katrina,and we were so sad about that. If you’re acommercial network, you’re probably notdoing it anymore. But we can still do it; tome it’s an invitation to find interesting waysand that we are really trying to rethink howwe tell the story.For the moment, this involves somebigger profiles of people and families,and we’re going to try to do a little less ofthe incremental. While I think the moneystories out of Congress are important andthat the bureaucratic battles are incrediblyimportant, we’re going to try to do more20 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coveragepersonal, more big picture stories, and seeif that’s an interesting way to sustain it. [SeeFeeney’s article on page 54.]O’Byrne: I think Katrina has revealed twoshortcomings of our craft. One is what Susanspeaks of that we can write the story aboutone person’s tragic heartbreak, but when100,000 people have tragic heartbreak andthat heartbreak extends over 21 months, wejust don’t have the capacity to cover that.The other thing that I think that has sortof been our enemy on the national stage isthat as journalists we think we know whatdisaster looks like. We know what floodslook like, what wind damage looks like, andwhat storm damage looks like. We knowwhat tornadoes look like. So there is clearlythis thing where editors who make decisionsabout coverage think they know what NewOrleans looks like, and they don’t. Theydon’t have a clue, and all you have to do isget one or five of them or however manyyou can get to come here and drive aroundthe city for five or six hours and never seea habitable house and, by the end of that,they say, “I had no idea.” [See story by USAToday reporter Liz Szabo on page 56 abouteditors visiting the region.]Feeney: Most reporters talk about that evenwhen they’ve come down here to do stories,they have the hardest time convincing theireditors that this is a story, let alone that itshould go on Page One.O’Byrne: The people who were in NewOrleans in the first weeks after the storm,whether they’re TV people or print people,they are forever haunted by this story becausethey know how big it is.Feeney: John Burnett at NPR is a great example.He’s been back many times. [SeeBurnett’s story on page 6.]O’Byrne: Anderson Cooper at CNN won’tlet it go; he was there in the first coupleof weeks after the storm, and he cannotget this story out of his head. We talked toa print reporter at the Los Angeles Timeswho said the same thing. He wants to comeback and write stories, but he can’t get hiseditors to let him. What we need is for theeditors to come, and if the editors comeand they see it and go back and decidenot to write about it, that’s just the breaksof the game, that’s the way it works. Butwhat’s hard is for people to make decisionsthinking they know what happened in NewOrleans, when the only way you can knowwhat happened in New Orleans is to go toNew Orleans.Feeney: This is a hard story to do—doinga story that’s basically saying nothing’schanged. Nothing-has-changed story is a reallyhard story. There’s not good TV footagethat looks any different than when thingshadn’t changed before. It’s the nothing-haschangedstory that is just mind-boggling.O’Byrne: We talk about the Katrina channelbeing this continuous channel in whichyou never see the same house twice, butit’s just driving up and down streets. Butthat’s the reality.Schleifstein: From the public’s standpoint,I think the biggest problem is that they stilllook at this disaster as a TV screen andthis little picture of a house or a guy beinginterviewed in front of a house or lookingdown a street, but just that little street. Theydon’t recognize that today you can drive 90miles from New Orleans to Venice along theriver, and on both sides of the street for that90 miles every single house is destroyed.Brian Williams is trying to do this on TV,but there’s just no way of explaining that.Indeed as James said, “Who is going to watcha TV show like that? Oh, here’s House No.257. Here’s House No. 1,242.”O’Byrne: House No. 97,324.Schleifstein: They all look alike. “Oh, myGod, look there’s some more children’s toysthat are out in the middle of the street.”Question: I’m struck by the notion that thisis, of course, what foreign correspondentshave been dealing with for a long time.Feeney: Darfur is a great example.Question: How much can you write aboutthe tsunami since it happened? Some peoplefind it interesting because of the personaldimensions that are being discussed innew ways.Feeney: I think that’s right. We’ve donequite a bit of speaking at journalism schoolsWe know what floodslook like, what winddamage looks like,and what stormdamage looks like. Weknow what tornadoeslook like. So thereis clearly this thingwhere editors whoare making decisionsabout coverage thinkthey know what NewOrleans looks like,and they don’t. Theydon’t have a clue ….—James O’ByrneNieman Reports / Fall 2007 21


Katrina’s Aftermath‘Well, you have totell me this. Whatdo you mean youcan’t tell me?’ We’reall like that, and it’sthis aggression andownership of thestory. It’s our story.It’s our lives, andwe’re going to dosomething about it.—Mark Schleifsteinand to media groups and so these peopleare interested enough to listen and to talkabout it.O’Byrne: A great thing about being a journalistin New Orleans right now is passiondrives our journalism in a way that it neverhas before. Far from feeling defensive aboutit, I’m unapologetic about it. I think thenewspaper has been an extraordinary leaderin trying to define the agenda and trying toraise the issues that are important to thefuture of the city. In the absence of civicleadership, I think the newspaper has donea great job identifying the issues and callingon people who aren’t doing their jobs andexposing fraud where we see it and holdingthe city’s officials and the state and federalofficials accountable where we can.We have no compunctions about it—we’re totally comfortable with the viewthat New Orleans should survive. As anewspaper, we’re clear on that position.The conversation about whether or not weshould have a place to live, whether or notour city should survive—just imagine havingthat conversation in your hometown. Yourhometown is hit by a disaster and the nationwants to talk about, “Well, should wereally have a town there after all?” I meanit’s an extraordinary conversation to have,but as a newspaper in New Orleans, whichwas a city before the United States was acountry, it’s strange to have a conversationabout whether or not you’re going to havea city at the mouth of your major river. Youare, OK? Let’s dispense with that at theoutset. We take the position that it’s okayto have that position and that the flip sideposition—“We’ll just let those people rot,essentially, let that city rot. Sorry we didn’tbuild a strong enough flood protectionsystem but life’s tough. Move on.”—is notan acceptable position to have.So emanating from that is really passionatejournalism about what’s happening inthe city. I’m the features guy, so I sort of havea somewhat arm’s length view of what goeson in the news pages, but I think they’vedone everything that great journalismshould do to hold people to account—“tocomfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”—that’swhat we should be doing, andthat’s what we are doing in the city.Schleifstein: We’ve also been successfuleven in our hires in getting some reallygood young people. One of whom is a localkid whose family was flooded out, andhe is reporting on the state’s Road Homeprogram [set up to help those affected byKatrina get back into housing], and he’sthere all day and night and just killing themon a daily basis. I’m sitting right next tohim, and he’s like yelling at them, “Well,you have to tell me this. What do you meanyou can’t tell me?” We’re all like that, andit’s this aggression and ownership of thestory. It’s our story. It’s our lives, and we’regoing to do something about it.Feeney: There really has been extraordinaryleadership at the paper. Editors are veryclose to their staffs and connected to themand pay attention to them and take care ofthem. I’m going to say one really nice thingabout the Newhouse family that owns thepaper, and everyone there has said this,“Thank heavens The Times-Picayune is nota publicly traded newspaper.” Would youwant to be part of the Tribune Companyand have your paper making zero money?Have it lose money for months and monthsand months? And they kept everybody onstaff who could make it back by a certaindate when basically half the city was gone,half your circulation was gone. It’s a prettyextraordinary thing, really.O’Byrne: Yes, it is. I think the date peoplehad to be back at their jobs was October the13th, six weeks after the storm. Regardless ofwhether you were in St. Louis for six weeksor you were in New Orleans working forsix weeks, you were getting paid.Feeney: And receiving a clothing allowanceand health insurance no matter where youwere.O’Byrne: Today we have a much smallerstaff, but it’s a staff now that more closelyreflects our circulation, anyway. Our staffshrunk with our circulation; it was 265before the storm and right now we arearound 200, which isn’t bad. Our strategyto focus a lot of our efforts over the last 20years in the suburbs paid off in big ways.No one was fired.Feeney: No one was fired. That’s a prettybig issue when every other newspaper inAmerica is laying people off. 22 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageObserving Everything to Tell the Story of Change‘I found the timeline of the city’s renaissance in mundane details and in revealingwhat daily rituals were still altered.’By Rukmini CallimachiIhad been living in the destroyed cityof New Orleans for nine monthswhen a colleague gave me the followingpiece of advice: “Make themsmell it.” He wasn’t giving me advice onhow to write about the city, althoughhe should have been. His commentcame in response to a casual questionon where I should take first-time visitorsto New Orleans. “Don’t just driveby the flooded houses,” he said. “Stopthe car. Make them get out. Make surethey smell it.”By then, I had become accustomedto the smell of the mold-infested walls.Nine months of fresh air had washedover them, diminishing the initial hit.Like the smell, so too the images ofdestruction had stopped hitting meas they had in my first months there,and I found myself reaching for tiredphrases to describe the environmentaround me. Do a Google search onNew Orleans, and you will find writerafter writer reflexively describing thecity as “hurricane ravaged,” “hurricanescarred,” or “storm battered” and“storm scarred.” They describe thenumber of feet of water that swept intoeach house and make note of “piles ofdebris” on the street outside.All of us had become accustomed tothe homes yanked off their foundationsand the perpetual deteriorating state ofthese properties. With this familiarity,a lot of us had stopped describing wellwhat we were actually seeing and hearingand smelling. So I began deliberatelyto note the kind of details I mightotherwise have ignored—the color ofthe warped wallpaper, of stiff clothesand bloated mattresses. I jotted in mynotebook the size of measuring cupsscattered on a flooded kitchen floor.I sketched the shape of the blades ofa ceiling fan, hanging downwards likethe petals of a drooping flower, theresult of gushing water. I copied thesmudged words on a sheet of music,the words underlined in a swollentextbook, and the chapter and versestill highlighted in a mold-caked Bible.I took note of the brand of toothpasteand of dishwashing liquid. I returnedon second and third trips to the samehouse to fill in my notes, realizing Ihad written Crest, but not the flavoror Dove, but not the color.Almost none of this informationmade it into my stories, but it becamean exercise in looking closely. In thatact of looking, I tripped over detailsthat illuminated the destroyed lives ofpeople I wrote about. To write a storyon the impact of the storm on childrenI traversed the city looking for floodedtoys. I found a teddy bear, his fur mattedwith mud. A headless stuffed rabbitpoked out of the rubble of a ruinedhouse. In another heap, I found a babydoll, her arms raised above her head asif waiting to be picked up. I filled half anotebook with detailed descriptions oftoys and from it distilled a paragraphthat became a keysection of my storyand a metaphorfor what the hurricanehad done tochildren’s lives.What I’d recordedin my notebooksalso informed howI interviewed children.I asked themto tell me whattoy they missedmost from theirdestroyed room.Then I asked themto tell me what, ifanything, they hadbeen able to salvage. For eight-yearoldGabrielle Riley, that was a large,floppy-eared rabbit that her motherhad given her. Gabrielle’s mother diedof pneumonia during the storm, andthe rabbit, propped up on her bunkbed in the family’s new home, openedthe way for her to tell me about howshe is afraid of losing the rest of herfamily. Since the hurricane, wheneverher dad takes a nap, she stands outsidehis room on edge. When she hearsnothing she peeks in, trying to see ifthe covers are moving up and downwith his breath. Eventually she yellsout, “Daddy, are you OK?”In journalism, we often speak ofgathering “color” for a story, as if it’sseparate from the substance of the article,a frivolous addition like a prettyborder around a painting. I chafe atthat. Details are like spotlights, pointingout an aspect of a person’s life or amoment in time in a city’s recovery.When I first arrived in New Orleans,it had already been one and a halfmonths since the storm. I was one ofdozens of reporters parachuted in for aA teddy bear lies in a pile of debris. June 2006. Photo by AlexBrandon/The Associated Press.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 23


Katrina’s Aftermath10-day stint—breathless at the chanceto cover a big story. On my way there,my suitcase had been given a “Heavy”tag at the airport, weighed down by hipwaders, rubber boots, goggles and anLauren Carriere, 11, sits above the ruins of her family homein New Orleans, flooded and then burned after Katrina.March 2006. Photo by Alex Brandon/The Associated Press.industrial-strength respirator, accoutermentsI thought I needed to forda flooded city. I found the water gonebut the devastation vast, immeasurableand shocking.In my rental car, I left the FrenchQuarter one night and drove into theskeleton of the destroyed city. It wasonly a short distance to travel, perhapsa few blocks, but I arrived in a darknessso deep that my headlights became theonly source of light. The hulls of deadhouses passed me one after another. Irolled down my window and felt thedead air, pregnant with mold.Months later, I would drive pastthe same houses, but they no longerA child’s book sits in the debris of a school in NewOrleans damaged by Katrina. August 2006. Photoby Alex Brandon/The Associated Press.smelled from the street. It would takewalking inside to remind myself of thestench. Some of the houses had beengutted. Families that could afford topulled out the rotten wallboard, installingnew roofs, drywalland flooring. Neighborhoodsbegan to looklike a patchwork quilt,a repaired house with agreen lawn flanking anabandoned one, whereweeds had overtakenthe mailbox.It was this halfwaytherestate that I founddifficult to capture. Istruggled to describea city that was sufferingon the one hand but amodel of resilience onthe other. To capturethe passage of time,I used the details ofpeople’s daily lives.Eighty percent of New Orleansflooded when the city’s aging leveescollapsed under the weight of theswelling water. Yet only the neighborhoodsclosest to the broken barriersflooded up to the roofline. Many morehomes swallowed just a few feet ofwater, enough to destroy the first story,but not the second. On one of myfirst drives through the city at night, Inoticed that high above the street thedarkness was interrupted by the flickerof a candlelight, or the intermittentbeam of a flashlight.Those points of light were amongthe first signs of life in a city somehad given up for dead. Tiredof hotels or of imposing onrelatives, homeowners whohad two-story homes had begunreturning, boldly movinginto their dry upstairs, even ifthe bottom half of their homewas still sloshing with water. Adoctor who had swum out ofhis flooded house balancing hisparrot’s cage on a floating tirewas the first person back on hisblock. I found him by driving upand down the block until I sawthe flash of light—the beam offhis headlamp. He invited meupstairs and guided me up the staircasewith the light propped on his forehead.On a Coleman stove, he boiled waterand made me a cup of coffee.We talked about the ways in whichour daily rituals are tied to the first,not the second-story. A house’s electricmeter is typically located on theground floor, so even if the upstairsis dry, the home’s electrical input hasbeen flooded. Without electricity, theyoung doctor relied on flashlights andkerosene lanterns. Down the street, ayoung woman lit candles in each room,placing them in deep, globular bowlsto catch the wax.In my notebook, I made a list ofall the things I do from morning tonight—and then went through the listwith each family to see what aspectsof their day had changed. Kitchens,like electrical meters, are usually locateddownstairs. Living upstairs, thefamilies devised new ways to cook.They washed their vegetables in thebathtub and cooked dinner on a barbecuestove placed on the second-storybalcony. One mother of three told methat she got tired of making a mess inthe bathroom, so she took to washingher dishes in the yard using the gardenhose. She combed the local grocerystore for ready-to-eat ingredients,like prewashed lettuce and packets ofbroccoli florets. Soon she switched topaper plates and plastic forks.As the city began to heal, I visitedthese same neighborhoods, markingprogress in terms of a family’s ability tohave a hot rather than a cold shower,a microwaved rather than a barbecueddinner, and electricity rather than battery-poweredlight. The shift nevercame all at once, but in bite-sizedchunks. I found the timeline of thecity’s renaissance in mundane detailsand in revealing what daily rituals werestill altered.Nearly a year had passed since thestorm when I knocked on the door of anelegant Victorian that from the outsideappeared repaired. The elderly manwho opened the door refused to showhimself, cracking the door open a fewinches and speaking loudly across thedivide. He told me that the city couldbe divided into two kinds of people:24 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coverage“Those that came back and those thatcame back, threw up their hands andgave up.”He was one of the people whohadn’t given up, dragging the soppingfurniture to the curb, yanking out themottled floorboards, and pouring hissavings into construction materials. Hishouse was—almost—as good as new.But why wouldn’t he show himself?He told me that in spite of repeatedvisits to city hall to get an electricitypermit, he had so far failed to receiveone and restore power to his house. Itwas summer and, to get some respitefrom the oven-like heat, he had takento moving around his house naked,carrying a battery-operated fan fromroom to room.Details—color—are the lifebloodof stories, especially those drawn outover long arcs of time. Rukmini Callimachi worked in NewOrleans as a reporter with The AssociatedPress in the aftermath ofHurricane Katrina.Bypassing the Easy Stories in the Big EasyAn editor and author urges out-of-town journalists to park their preconceptions at thecity’s edge and be prepared to do some digging to find the news.By Jed HorneAround Lent, and then again inlate April and early May, thenation’s press is suddenly rifewith enterprise stories out of New Orleans.The mystery behind this flurry ofattention isn’t hard to solve. Mardi Grasand the New Orleans Jazz & HeritageFestival (a.k.a. Jazz Fest) might not beworth a lot of ink, but they’re a lotof fun. The trick for the out-of-townreporter is to dig up a New Orleansstory on the fly that justifies expensingthe trip. Lately that’s been pretty easy:just do a “post-Katrina update.”So it was that I found myself in asomewhat testy conversation with acolleague from a big out-of-town daily.“I’ve got my story,” he told me, as werecuperated from a Sunday afternoonat Jazz Fest, and he planned a day ortwo of reporting before catching aplane. “Racism,” he said.“What about it?” I asked.“I’m hearing it’s still a problemhere.”“And the news?”“I’m taking the post-Katrina perspective,”he replied, “I’m doing anupdate.”Post-Katrina JournalismHurricane Katrina inspired some terrificreporting, along with some crudelapses into myth and stereotyping thathad to be atoned for in the monthsafter the water receded. Publishedand broadcast mea culpas redeemedour industry. But the magic words“post-Katrina” seem to have becomelicense for problem journalism ofanother kind. It’s as if reporters andeditors are overawed by the backdropof the epic storm, so much so that wecan get slipshod about the foregroundstories we continue to set against it.The quality and professional rigor ofthe “update” too often is in inverseproportion to the magnitude of theevent being updated.Yes, racism persists in New Orleans,as it has at least since Reconstruction.My friend, of course, would have hadno trouble digging up the requisitefive quotes and three for-instances tosupport this kind of nut graph: “Katrinamay have blown the lid off racism andpoverty in America, but the flood watersdid not wash these social ills away.”But that could be said about anycity in America and, frankly, when thedateline says New Orleans, we want tohog the spotlight these days. We cravemedia attention as our only hope forwaking America out of Katrina fatigue.Does that put racism stories off limits?Not at all—nor crime, poverty, addictionnor stories about any other socialills. We would only ask for the samedepth of reporting that hometownaudiences would demand.One focus of a story about race,for example, might be to explore howonce racially monolithic voting blocksin the New Orleans metro area havebegun to fracture along class lines. Thatwhite conservatives spurned the whiteliberal candidate and joined with blackvoters to re-elect Mayor Ray Nagin—amove some now regret—is a developmentto ponder. So, too, the spectacleof middle-class suburbanites—blackNieman Reports / Fall 2007 25


Katrina’s Aftermathand white—who rose as one at an annualcivic luncheon earlier this yearto applaud Ronnie Harris, the whitemayor of suburban Gretna. Harris isthe man most closely associated withthe infamous decision by his constabularyto train guns on a largely blackthrong, abandoned by government atevery level and seeking to escape theflooded city by way of a MississippiRiver bridge. Ronnie Harris: defenderof property rights; Ronnie Harris: nononsense champion of law and order.Ronnie Harris: hero of the emergingblack middle class?Or better yet, given the strong Hispanicpresence in the city my newspaperreporter friend hails from, howabout taking a look at the intricateminuet now under way between AfricanAmericans in New Orleans and anotherpeople of color—the Latinos, who haveswept into the area since the storm,flooding the job market? It’s certainlythe most significant ethnic infusionsince Vietnamese boat people wereresettled here in the 1970’s.If the update is to focus on crime,another popular theme, here, too, legworkwill be required in place of prepackagedassumptions. New Orleansremains the violent city it has been fordecades. New Orleans remains a cityheavily dependent on tourism. Assumingthat crime is a threat to tourismmight be a self-fulfilling concern, butthe linkage is misleading. To report oncrime in New Orleans requires morethan asking a bunch of tourists onBourbon Street whether they’re worriedabout it. It requires understandingthe drug trade that flourishes on themargins of the city and the particulardislocations within that trade causedby Katrina and now being worked outat gunpoint. That’s the story, and I’dadvise caution in pursuit of it, as wellas a bit more time than editors backhome might think reasonable for a tripto New Orleans that happens to coincidewith Jazz Fest or Carnival.Katrina Anniversary StoriesThe problem of an epic story becomingsanction for brain-dead updatesalso has been apparent during anotherrecent addition to our seasonal calendar:Katrina anniversary stories. Thethrong of media that descended uponus in August 2006 is expected again inAugust 2007. Last season’s visual clichéwas this: TV talking head standing infront of wrecked house or flipped overcar in the Lower Ninth Ward. The appealof the visual backdrop was easyenough to grasp; it was iconic, a shorthandway to say “Katrina.” So it didn’tmuch matter what words the reporter’slips were forming, since the messagewas already sent: Katrina destructionpersists. (Memo to producers: A lotof flipped over buildings have beenbulldozed since the first anniversary;new backdrops will be needed.)Much more interesting anniversarystories were those that parsed the falteringrecovery process—examiningwhat was going right and what wasgoing wrong. As the first anniversarypress corps scoured New Orleans forupdates, the Superdome—an icon ofdisaster and human suffering duringits use as a Katrina storm shelter—wasabout to reopen with the triumphantreturn of the Saints for their first regularseason home game in two years. Ah,but that was precisely the problem: Arepaired Superdome made for a backdropvisually indistinguishable fromfootage that might have been shot therein 2004 or, for that matter, in 1994, nomatter how interesting it might havebeen to question the wisdom of prioritizingSuperdome resurrection.Ultimately, it did not take a lot of bullyingto get my Jazz Fest friend to abandonthe preconceptions that shapedhis initial story idea and move himpast interviews by phone with (white)antiracism advocates and (black)politicians, each of whom retains avested interest in the persistence of theproblem they dream of eradicating. Iurged him to venture into the heart ofthe community and encouraged himto contact the neighborhood associationsthat—without much support atall from City Hall, Baton Rouge, orWashington—are doing the day-to-daywork of planning and implementingNew Orleans’s revival.That the city’s revival is a biracialeffort should come as no surprise.Even after the Katrina diaspora, NewOrleans remains strongly Afro-centricin its culture and leadership. That racialdifferences can be teased out of virtuallyevery debate also is not a surprise.This is New Orleans. But “racism” isbeing eclipsed by other concerns, andthis is heartening. There is a city to rebuild,housing to gut, a flood defenseto fortify. The Bush administration’slackluster performance since Katrinahas been called racist, and I paid myown respects to that line of reasoningin “Breach of Faith,” a book about Katrina.Perhaps race-baiting and othermanifestations of the old-time religionhave been muted in post-Katrina NewOrleans precisely because Washingtonhas given us a bogeyman exterior tolocal politics.A city’s fate hangs in the balance, butthe repercussions are wider than that.Katrina was the first real test—a colossalfailure—of the Bush administration’ssignature domestic achievement, theDepartment of Homeland Security.For those reasons, the recovery ofthis city deserves more than facile,preconceived and lazily executed reporting.After an ugly tussle, Louisianahas begun to win the right to tap intofederal royalties from offshore oil andgas to pay for restoration of coastalmarshes and other crucial measures inthe fight against storm surge. But NewOrleans remains hugely dependent oncongressional largesse for its recovery.Congress might be hard to educate,but its best teachers are constituentsthroughout the country. Conveying afresh and accurate understanding ofwhat’s going on in New Orleans is ouronly hope for meaningful public policyand government support. Jed Horne, who retired recently as ametro editor of The Times-Picayune,is the author of “Breach of Faith:Hurricane Katrina and the NearDeath of a Great American City,”published by Random House in 2006.26 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageA N ESSAY IN WOR DS A ND PHOTOGRAPHSImages Evoke Memories and EmotionsBy Alex BrandonEvery day we think about HurricaneKatrina. We think about thewaterlines as we drive throughour neighborhood. We look at thehouse down the street that still isn’tfinished. We remember what we weredoing during Katrina when we driveby a house where we’d photographedpeople swimming out of it or we’dtaken a picture of a dead body in thefront yard.All that just on the way to the office,every day.I’ve been here from the beginning,when I rode on one of the first two boatslaunched in the Lower Ninth Ward onKatrina Monday—New Orleans slangfor Monday, August 29, 2005. Thememory of that day burns as fresh inmy mind as the smell of a gutted house.And if you haven’t gutted a house fora friend, consider it a chance missedto really get down and dirty and getKatrina under your fingernails.For me, Katrina is personal. I sawpeople I know stranded at the MorialConvention Center. I pulled peopleout of the water and into boats. AndI saw a person shot on the interstateby cops who were trying to get theircity back.One of the challenges I confront inmaking visual the story of post-KatrinaNew Orleans is in figuring out how Ican force those who don’t live hereto realize that this city and the GulfCoast are at the beginning of a verylong recovery process. Unlike the earlydays of Katrina when powerful imageswere everywhere, now it is harder tomake a photo that has enough impactto draw an editor’s attention. I have todig deeper into the human conditionto show how people’s lives are stillin turmoil—that putting their livesback together involves more than newsheetrock in their homes.I have done parachute journalisminto disaster zones, but somehow thepictures I take matter more when theplace I am working is home. What I’veexperienced here gives me a deeperunderstanding of how Iraqi journalistsfeel each day they head out totell a story that to them is much morethan a daily assignment. I ask myselfwhether it is important for me to leavemy feelings at the door along with mysmelly Katrina boots. It might be agood thing to do, but I can’t. Instead,I use my emotions—such as the joy Ifeel when I see small signs of recoveryand the anger that boils up inside of meby the slowness of it all—to motivateme to do justice to the story of thosewho are engaged in the struggle of alifetime.The region’s struggles are as variedas the heights of the rebuilt homes.Some of those are being rebuilt onstilts, while others are the way theywere—a slab on the grade of theland. Now about those levees—arethey ready? As I write this, we are justabout to enter the heart of hurricaneseason, and prayer abounds down herein the hope that they won’t be tested.If they’re not ready, I just don’t wantto know. Alex Brandon is an Associated Pressphotographer who has worked inand around New Orleans since HurricaneKatrina.Almost two years after Katrinaa few residents areremoving belongings fordisposal. This refrigerator wasput out on the curb in theGentilly area of New Orleans.June 26, 2007. Photo by AlexBrandon/The Associated Press.Continued on next page.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 27


Katrina’s AftermathMany New Orleanians arearming themselves as crimebecomes an even greater fear.Vivian Westerman poses fora photograph with her new.38 revolver in New Orleans.March 13, 2007.With Highway 90 and thebeach in the background,Benjamin Lin’s empty slab isstill bare where his flea marketonce stood in Pass Christian,Mississippi. May 22, 2007.Photos and words by Alex Brandon/The Associated Press.28 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageWorld-renowned musicianFats Domino looks at theprogress of the rebuildingof his home in the LowerNinth Ward. March 9, 2007.Bourbon Street and theFrench Quarter are mostlyup and running at fullstrength. During MardiGras, crowds filled thestreets in this part of thecity. February 20, 2007. Photos and words by Alex Brandon/The Associated Press.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 29


Katrina’s AftermathPersonal Circumstances Intersect With ProfessionalObligations‘We have become tougher, more aggressive, more skeptical reporters due, at least inpart, to the fact that we have a rooting interest in the outcome.’By John PopeThe night before we left BatonRouge—our temporary base ofoperations after Hurricane Katrinapummeled New Orleans—to returnhome, I felt I had reached my limit.By October 9, 2005, after six weeks ofwriting for The Times-Picayune aboutthe havoc Hurricane Katrina hadwrought—breachedl e v e e s , r u i n e dhomes, and desperateevacuations thathad fractured families—Ididn’t knowhow much longer Icould go on.I said this to mywife over dinner, andshe shook her head.“You’re not allowedto say that,” she said.“The easy part is over.The adrenaline rushof the storm is gone.Now you’re facingrebuilding. That’s thehard part.”She was right.Coming back to NewOrleans peeled awaythe protection of distance,forcing us toconfront situationsthat had seemed almostabstract whilewe were working 80miles away. As we liveand work in greaterNew Orleans, we aresurrounded by a shatteredinfrastructurethroughout our city, in our neighborhoodsand, in some cases, within ourown families. Since the storm struckon August 29, 2005, The Times-Picayune’spages—and, indeed, the livesof those of us on the staff—have beendominated by topics such as leveesthat won’t protect us, relief programsthat don’t work, homes that peoplecan’t inhabit, and a President who justdoesn’t get it.Robert Green, Sr. of the Lower Ninth Ward recounts the horrors of survivingHurricane Katrina. His traumatized family moved higher and higher onto theroof until they were all huddled together. Robert and his brother Jonathan shieldedthe children and their frail mother from the howling winds and stinging rain.Once the winds died down, Jonathan said, “Mamma didn’t make it.” She diedsometime during the long morning. As he said this, he told Robert that her dyingwords were, “I’m going to take care of Nai Nai.” Nai Nai Green, who was threeyears old, had died that night when she fell off the roof into the swirling waters.August 15, 2006. Photo and words by Ted Jackson.The result: intense challenges andfrustrations—professional and personal,occasionally at the same time.Clearly we, as residents of this cityand journalists telling its stories, areimmersed in what we cover. It couldn’tbe otherwise. Given all we’ve livedthrough, our coverage has developeda decided edge: We have becometougher, more aggressive, more skepticalreporters due, at least in part, tothe fact that we havea rooting interest inthe outcome.Case in point:Shortly after thestorm, several ofour reporters puttogether a story thatdebunked everysensational claimour police chiefhad made aboutmurders and rapesamong the peoplewho were left behindin New Orleans,cooped upin foul conditionsat the Superdomeand, later, the MorialConvention Center.They simply weren’ttrue. The day afterthat story was published,the chiefresigned.Our editorial policyhas followed thisaggressive path andserved notice earlyon: Days after theFederal EmergencyManagement Agency(FEMA) failed to intervene whiletens of thousands of people sufferedand more than a thousand died in New30 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageOrleans, a front-page editorial saideveryone in FEMA should be fired.It’s tough to be part of the storyyou’re likely to be covering for therest of your time in New Orleans, butthat’s the post-Katrina reality. Despitethe edginess, our news coverage has remainedrigorously fair because we can’tlet it be otherwise. But it’s a constantstruggle, explained Mark Schleifstein,a Times-Picayune environmental reporterwho predicted in a 2002 seriesof articles the type of damage that astorm like Katrina could cause. “I haveto be careful about bias and think thingsthrough carefully to ensure that if mypersonal feelings might get into a story,I leave them out,” he said. His homein the Lakeview area had two feet ofwater—on its second floor.The struggle to maintain a sense ofbalance in our news reporting makesour job tougher, said Coleman Warner,a colleague of mine at the Times-Picayune who is rebuilding his family’shome near Lake Pontchartrain afterit drowned in eight-and-a-half feet ofwater. “It’s challenging in a differentkind of way professionally becauseyou want to maintain your journalisticprinciples and your dignity and yoursense of fairness in how you portraythings,” he told me. “All the standardingredients of good journalism arethere, but there’s an entirely differentdimension for us because we have adifferent insight into the manifestationsof this because we can see it. We cantouch it. We’re surrounded by it. We’reliving with it.”While reporting on these conditionsis stressful, Warner said that living in thesame sort of situation can give reportersa personal perspective on what theyhear others talk about. “When I interviewpeople who are trying to renovate,and they’re frustrated with Road Home(the housing relief program) or FEMA,I can immediately empathize with thatperson,” Warner said, “because thismorning, I woke up in a FEMA trailer.”Given this vantage point, “you can fillin the blanks about the way people canfeel things,” he said.Meshing Life and WorkAs we struggle to get back to normal,we stumble across circumstances thatmight lead to stories. For instance,after my wife and I returned to NewOrleans, we couldn’t find our generalpractitioner, and we knew that ourfiles at our eye doctor’s office hadbeen washed away. That led me tothink that other people must be in thesame situation and that I might be ableto put together a legitimate story thatcould be beneficial, too. After a lot ofcalling and Web surfing, I learned—tomy amazement—that doctors aren’trequired to tell their patients wherethey are. But I found several new Websites where doctors could let patientsknow of their whereabouts and, perhaps,their return dates. I did a storylisting these sites and their addressesand wrote about the feasibility of electronicmedical records.Alert reporters can spot these storieson every beat. Editors welcome them,not only because they help depict theway we live in post-Katrina New Orleansbut also because they offer a respitefrom somber tales of human miseryand bureaucratic sloth.Since the storm, The Times-Picayunehas become the principal news sourcein this part of the world. In the daysafter Katrina hit, our Web site 1 wasgetting up to 30-million hits a day,and people were using our electronicbulletin boards to find out how theirhomes had fared, where their relativeshad wound up and, indeed, whetherthey were alive.The push for Katrina-related storiescontinues, even for people whose beatshave nothing to do with flawed leveesor relief programs snarled in bureaucracy.It’s relentless, it’s tough, and it’sstressful. The stress was evident earlyon, when we were in Baton Rouge inthe days after the storm, bunking inmarried-student housing at LouisianaState University (LSU), when I sharedan apartment with 10 other men.We slept on mattresses and shared abathroom. Although we were deadtired from the work, we couldn’t stopwaking up in the middle of the nightto worry about the conditions we’dleft behind.I watched a colleague crack onenight; she was sent away to stay withrelatives. One of my roommates hadaging relatives and in-laws who hadlost their homes on the Mississippi GulfCoast. His wife, who had taken theirchildren to stay with friends severalhours away, was wondering whetherto enroll them in school there becausethere was no way to know when anyonewould be able to return. At four o’clockone morning, he awoke with stabbingchest pains and had to be rushed to ahospital. It wasn’t a heart attack, butit served as a warning of the toll stresscould take.As we worked side by side in BatonRouge—first at LSU, then in a windowlesssuite at a former shopping mall—we juggled work on stories with callsto family members and to contractorsand insurance agents. We were tryingto restore order to our own lives aswe were chronicling the chaos thathad befallen our city. Colleagues oftenhung up in tears. In a flash, someonewas always there to offer a hug andwords of support. Those gestureshelped a lot.When people were able to ventureback into New Orleans, they took picturesof their ruined homes to bolsterinsurance claims. The photos werealways horrible to behold, especiallyfor those of us who had visited theirhouses before Katrina. For example,the director of our news-art departmentowned a burgundy-colored leathersofa that had been her pride and joy,but in the photo she showed us, it waswhite with mold. At times like those,the camaraderie was vital.We cried, we hugged, and we keptworking. We had no choice. Besidesbeing what we were paid to do, ourwork—gathering facts and organizingthem into stories—was one thing wecould do to keep us focused—andreasonably sane.Stress continues to be a problem and1www.nola.comNieman Reports / Fall 2007 31


Katrina’s Aftermathnot just because, day after day, we’reforced to write about conditions thatcould destroy us, such as weak leveesand the receding coastal buffer zone.Everyone in the newsroom has beenforced to confront questions that havefaced everyone who has returned toNew Orleans, especially people whosehomes were ruined. Rebuild or demolish?Stay or move?There are no right answers, norwrong ones. But each choice involves—and creates—stress. Two policemenkilled themselves, as did the brotherof a colleague whose pediatric practicehad, literally, washed away afterhis little patients evacuated with theirparents. Mental health counselors arebusy, and prescriptions for anti-anxietyand anti-depression medications haverisen significantly throughout the area.They have become so commonplace inpost-Katrina New Orleans that the relativemerits of such drugs as Wellbutrin,Cymbalta and Xanax are discussed asroutinely—and openly—as the fortunesof the New Orleans Saints, ourpro-football team.But sometimes, for some people,everything can become too much. JohnMcCusker, one of our photographerswho had stayed behind in New Orleansto chronicle the destruction of hishometown, was deeply troubled. Hishouse had been ruined, and insurersrefused to give him the reimbursementhe needed. One night in August 2006,McCusker snapped. He led police on awild, careening chase through UptownNew Orleans and finally begged themto shoot him after he pinned an officerbeneath his car. After being broughtdown with a Taser, McCusker was ledoff in handcuffs to jail and, later, toone of the city’s few remaining psychiatricbeds.McCusker, who is back at work, discussedhis stress in an interview witha Brown University student: “Somenights … just in despair you lay in yourbed, and like you’re a three-year-oldand you just lay there and say, ‘Oh, myGod. I want to go home.’ And you can’tgo home.” McCusker’s desperation hithard because it forced us to realize thatwe were all still coping with a lot ofthe same pressure.Yet we keep at our jobs, surroundedin our newsroom by desks once occupiedby colleagues who have movedaway. Some desks have new occupants,talented young journalists who aredrawn by the story of a lifetime. AsNew Orleans struggles to rebuild, wehave to keep documenting what happens.As we do so, we walk a tightrope,trying to remain professional withoutseeming cold. Ours is a sacred obligation,and it’s nowhere near over. I tooksome wry satisfaction from an editorof a Hiroshima paper—one of a longprocession of journalistic visitors to ournewsroom—who said his city, whichan atomic bomb had leveled in August1945, was thriving.That’s good to know, but will ourrecovery take 60 years?Supportive spouses, friends andcolleagues are invaluable. Through ourwork, strong ties have been formedthat more than one colleague likenedto the bonds that soldiers form incombat. That’s an apt comparison, butthere’s a difference. People who fightwars—or cover them—usually havesafe, comfortable homes to return to.Our war came to us, and it’s nowherenear over. John Pope is a reporter for The Times-Picayune.A Forceful Voice About a City’s SurvivalWith the ‘transformative power of anger, I was converted into a full-time columnistwho took on the serious work of defending a city.’By Jarvis DeBerryAjournalist given a new beat orassigned a new topic is expectedto be an instant expert, an authorityon a subject that’s somewhatunfamiliar. A good journalist, therefore,must be a quick study. “It doesn’tmatter how long you’ve known it,” I’veheard some of my colleagues say. “Whatmatters is that you know it.”When the subject is New Orleans,however, the honest journalist willadmit that instant expertise is impossibleto attain. It is a place that oftenseems impossible to figure out if onlybecause of its many contradictions. Forexample, New Orleans is a city heavilyinfluenced by France and West Africaand Spain and Haiti and, to some extent,even America, and yet maintainsan attitude that it doesn’t want to beinfluenced by outsiders.New Orleans takes some gettingused to.It is a place where the people sing,even when all they’re doing is talking.It is a place where “Baby” is not onlywhat the waitress calls you when she’stopping off your coffee, but is also howone grown man might refer to anotherwithout the suspicion that either oneis gay. It is home to accents that arenever conveyed accurately in the moviesand to grammatical constructions32 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coverageand mispronunciations that confoundthe newcomer until he considers thatEnglish was not the city’s first language.Nor was it the second.Knowing those things can help acolumnist writing for the daily newspaper,but embracing those quirks helpseven more. That is, it is not enough toknow New Orleans’s peculiar history;that can be found in books. It is moreimportant to acknowledge that thedifferences represent a perfectly acceptableway of being and to rememberthat because the city doesn’t want tobe like any place else, comparing itto every place else is a surefire way toboth insult its residents and overlookits unique charm.Accepting the city for what it is doesnot mean accepting things the way theyare. If everything were perfect, therewould be no columnists. No, it meansaccepting New Orleans’s idiosyncrasies,its multiple personalities, as thepositives they are while blasting awayat those things that threaten the city’sway of life, if not its very existence.Who’d have thought that we’d everbe talking about threats to the city’sexistence? Or that there would ever be adebate as to whether this city—this cityof all cities—should continue to exist?The Times-Picayune can’t have but oneforceful opinion on that topic, and I’vebeen fortunate enough to be one of theones who gets to express it.Defending New OrleansI wrote a weekly column for the newspaperbefore catastrophic levee failuresput 80 percent of New Orleans underwater, but those columns now appearto me to have been written by a differentperson. There’s a difference betweenwriting from a city where everybodywants to come at least once to party andwriting from a city that some governmentofficials say no longer deserves tobe. Before the storm, I was an editorialwriter who had fun writing a weeklycolumn. Thanks to an executive decisionby editor Jim Amoss and editorialpage editor Terri Troncale, but moresignificantly to the transformativepower of anger, I was converted intoa full-time columnist who took on theserious work of defending a city.I was not born in New Orleansand, given the city’s aforementionedresistance to outsiders’ opinions, thatis probably reason enough for someNew Orleanians to ignore what I haveto say. Just the other day I heard a localpundit exclaim, “You don’t chooseto be a New Orleanian. You’re born aNew Orleanian.” He was serious. Byhis definition, I will never, can never,be of this city.But I am not a mercenary. This fightAccepting the city forwhat it is does not meanaccepting things the waythey are. If everythingwere perfect, therewould be no columnists.for the city’s survival is as personal forme as it is for the native born. I knowwhat it’s like to lose a house, a car,and one’s entire community in onefell swoop. I know what it’s like to seeone’s personal belongings in a soddenheap on a buckled-up hardwoodfloor. I know what it’s like to say I havesomething—a book, a CD, an articleof clothing, a photograph—and in themiddle of that sentence stop myself andsay, “Well, I used to have ….”I think of myself as an advocate forthose who used to have. Granted, notall those who used to have will alwaysthink of me as an advocate for them.Though everybody here is in agreementthat New Orleans should continue tobe, there is no consensus as to how itshould be. I am in favor of a denser city,where most people live on the city’snatural ridges and fewer people livein the areas that were populated afterthe swamps were pumped dry. However,many people who live in thoseneighborhoods respond that the ArmyCorps of Engineers promised themprotection, too, and that they have asmuch right to go home as anybody else.Besides, insurance settlements must bespent on the damaged property. Whereelse can they go?In the larger sense, it doesn’t matterif my readers and I disagree about someof the issues related to rebuilding. Whatmatters is that my opinions are builton a foundation of love and respect forthe city and its culture and that I notpretend to be objective when thosereaders are desperate for someone whowill passionately defend them.Though I am personally in as muchtrouble and dealing with as much worryas the people I interview, I cannotimagine a more enviable assignment.Hurricane Katrina, with the exceptionof the terrorist attacks of 2001, is themost significant American news storyof this young century. Some may haveoriginally categorized it as a weatherstory, but it’s much more wide reachingthan that. Can an American cityreally die before our eyes? What are theconsequences of long-term poverty, asepitomized by what happened here? Ishomeownership really the safest wayto build wealth? What happens whenthe people in a relatively isolated citybecome a diaspora? How does thefederal government respond when itis to blame for much of the ineptitudewe’ve experienced? Who have webecome—both as a forgetful and dismissivenation and as a city trying toreform itself?The opportunity to write about thesethings has come at a great cost. To bethe observer and commentator, I’ve hadto live in a struggling city where I amalso the thing observed. But I wouldn’thave it any other way. New Orleans ismy home. I long ago stopped tryingto figure it out, even stopped trying tofigure out why I live here. The simpleanswer is that it’s the experience for me.And it’s the experience that hundredsof thousands of those making up thediaspora long to know again. Jarvis DeBerry is a columnist at TheTimes-Picayune.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 33


Katrina’s AftermathLessons in Rebuilding: A House and a NewspaperAfter embracing ‘the value of persistent patience,’ an editor shares what he learned inthe transformation of the newsroom and the place he calls home.By David MeeksItook my usual route to work onerecent morning, thinking alongthe way that The Times-Picayunewas closing in on 700 days of stayingin business since Katrina’s floodwatersforever changed one of America’s greatcities. It’s a milestone that few otherstook note of, and it seems a minor accomplishmentfor a newspaper that’sbeen around for 170 years. But it’s theway I think these days, living in a placewhere one searches for signs of hope aday at a time. After all, to have been heretwo years ago, when the levees brokeand our readership was disperseddown interstates to anywhere dry, thethought occurred that we might notbe here at all.Yet in this disaster, we learnedsomething about our readers: Theydidn’t leave us, they went to a safeplace and found us—online—in staggeringnumbers, counting on us, likethey always have, to tell them whatwas happening to their homes andneighborhoods. And we were therethen, a ragtag bunch of volunteerjournalists, on bicycles, in kayaks andcanoes, wading in the water all overNew Orleans, doing our best to gatherthe information and get it out.My 10-minute drive to work is adaily demonstration of both what hashappened to this city and what’s possible.It’s also epitomizes how I see thenewspaper business as it sorts itself outin similar ways—forced, in some placesout of desperation, to figure out what’shappening and what’s possible.I live in Old Lakeview, just one of theneighborhoods that suffered massiveflooding in a city where the devastationzone was seven times the size ofManhattan. I saw my home via kayakthe day after the storm (swam throughit, actually, in an illogical, ill-plannedbut ultimately successful mission tosave the family dog). As I floated up tomy house, I drifted on black water andcried. I thought it was over. Our home,our neighborhood, it didn’t seem arecovery would ever be possible. Mydaughter had evacuated. I rememberthinking that I did not want her to seewhat had happened here.We are living in that home today,on a block where recovery now seemsnot only possible, but also inevitable.My 75-year-old neighbor is back, havingbeen diagnosed with cancer andundergone two surgeries while he wasgone, but never losing his determinationto come back home. There’s ayoung couple building a new home afew doors down. The local coffee shopon the corner is gone, but a Starbuckstook its place. The locally owned pizzajoint came back, doubling its pre-Katrinaspace.Driving out of my neighborhood, Isee homes brought back to life rightnext door to residential ghosts, hauntingwalls stripped to studs that propup tattered rooftops. But the picture ofwhat this place is going to be gets a littleclearer every day. I notice each change,the demolition crew surgically haulingoff the misery, the beautiful sound ofa carpenter’s hammer that tells mesomeone is going to live there. Crossinginto Mid-City, which straddles the floodline, the recovery is more complete. Asurprising cluster of restaurants havetaken root on North Carrollton Avenue,some of them old favorites renovatedand reopened, others new offeringsmaking an investment of faith.It is interesting, what is happeningJohn Nemeth works to get his yard in shape on Hay Place, just 200 yards from thebreach of the 17th Street Canal, while his next door neighbor’s house lies in ruin, untouchedsince the storm. August 8, 2006. Photo by Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune.34 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coveragehere. It is true that not everyone whoused to live in New Orleans has comeback. What is surprising, and certainlyunder the radar of the national press,is the number of people and businessescoming here who were not NewOrleanians before Katrina. The city islearning that it doesn’t have to be exactlythe same as it was to succeed. Inmany ways, specifically in the realmsof public education and the criminaljustice system, it will be a lot better offif it never reverts to what it was.Overcoming the Fear ofChangeAll of this change going on around usoffers a parallel lesson for print journalists,many of whom are shaken by theprospect of transforming their craft foran online audience. And while it’s notuncommon to hear talk in newsroomsof how it’s a good time to get out ofthe newspaper business, I’d argue thatthere never has been a more excitingtime to be in it.To figure out what’s holding us back,look no further than fear. Journalistsencourage change in the world butdon’t change themselves. We’re muchmore prone to pondering our fates withthe same cynical energy we apply tojust about everything we evaluate. Itis somewhat amazing that journalistswho, by and large, have great confidencein their individual talents holdsuch little faith in our ability to achievecollective success.A change in attitude is needed, witha change in strategy close behind.If innovation and vision, versatilityand wide-open creativity are seen asstrengths—and if the opportunity todraw your newspaper closer than everto your community is relished—thenstaying in the news business is a goodplace to be. And as we continue to figureout the changing role of newspapersin our communities, Katrina offersan undeniable truth: Our customersmight not all want to consume thenews in precisely the same way, butthey all want the news. And more thanany other entity, they trust their localnewspaper to give them the informationthey want and need.Thinking LocalOur Web site came of age during Katrinafor a simple reason—it had to. Virtuallyall of the New Orleans area had evacuatedfor the hurricane, and the failedfederal levees prevented hundreds ofthousands of residents from comingback, some for several weeks. A Website that averaged 800,000 page viewsper day pre-Katrina exploded to 30million per day in the weeks after thestorm. Even now, two years later, itsdaily audience is double what it wasbefore the hurricane.People signed on from whereverthey were, devouring what we werereporting and adding information oftheir own in forums that sprang upalmost instantly. They asked for helpfinding family members. They postedupdates on what they knew about theirneighborhoods, specific down to theblock. Think about it. The newspaperbecame a true forum, not just in thestories we posted as quickly as wecould, but also in those we collectedfrom our readers.We would be foolish to ever end thatkind of reader engagement. Indeed, wesaw it as the blessing that it is. Imagine atown square on every computer, whereeveryone can see what everyone else issaying, and they can all show up wheneverthey want. And it is the newspaperhosting a community discussion thatnever ends, while publishing its owninformation and welcoming what itsreaders have to contribute. It’s a relationshipwe’d never had before, butit’s one our readers craved. (We alwaystold our readers it’s their newspaper,but how many newspapers really havelived up to that claim?)Yet, even with the changes in howour news gets delivered, The Times-Picayune is not a completely differentplace than it was before the storm. Itwould have made no sense to start over.The paper’s penetration ranked first inthe nation among major dailies longbefore Katrina, owed mainly to a sustainedand substantial commitment toproviding readers with a local newspaper—fromthe front page to the metrosection and high-quality communitynews sections—tailored to the placesthey live. When our readers ask us forsomething, we strive to find a way to sayyes, instead of an overintellectualizedjournalistic excuse to say no.So when a newspaper announces arenewed commitment to local news,I always ask one question: Who isdefining “local?” Is it the readers orthe newsroom? To remain the primarysource of news in your market, thinkhard about the answer.As strange as this might sound,given what we’ve been through ournewspaper is fortunate in many respects.The job we were doing beforethe flood was as important as whatwe did during the disaster in bringingour readership back quickly. Our printcirculation went from 260,000 to zeroin a day. To see it already back over200,000 in a recovering market tellsus we had a solid foundation. And thathas allowed us to pursue our onlinegoals from a starting point of successrather than panic. We also are privatelyheld, benefiting from ownership thatfocuses on long-term goals instead offlavor-of-the-month fixes. We do notunderestimate that advantage.As our online work continues toexpand, we are not losing sight of thephilosophy that has driven our success.We want to be as local online aswe are in the paper, and we intend toplay to our primary strength—usingthe army of journalists we have workingacross the New Orleans area togather local news and break it whenwe get it. From a murder to a mayoralpress conference to a traffic-snarlingcar wreck at the corner of MagazineStreet and Napoleon Avenue, we wantit. Mainly, we want our readers to knowif there’s any news agency in townmost likely to be on the scene, theirbest bet is The Times-Picayune. Andwe want them to believe this whetherthey live in New Orleans or 40 milesaway in Covington, on the north shoreof Lake Pontchartrain.We want to keep it short, and wewant it online quickly. We don’t wantour reporters to labor over a finishedproduct for tomorrow’s paper, wewant whatever they can tell us in fiveminutes. If we get more details, we’llupdate. To that end, we’ve made aNieman Reports / Fall 2007 35


Katrina’s Aftermathfundamental change in how we equipour reporters. We are issuing laptopsand wireless cards to every reporteron staff so that anyone can file a newsupdate from anywhere at any time. It’s alearning process, but we’re not going towait until we perfect it to launch it—it’sunderway. Our journalists are alreadytrained to do journalism; learning howto post to a blog page is as simple assending an e-mail.The Web and the NewsroomThere also are a couple of importantthings we’re not going to do. First andforemost, we’re not going to createa fancy Internet bureaucracy in thenewsroom. The Times-Picayune hasalways taken a very lean approach tomanagement. It’s one of the things thatmakes it a fun place to work. There isno Internet czar. There is no separateonline staff, and we’re not going tocreate one just because it sounds greatat a journalism convention. Quitefrankly, we do not want to give all ofour journalists a reason not to evolve:We’re going to evolve together. It willhappen not because a guru demandsit, but because self-preservation provesa powerful motivator.This trend we’re seeing is not a fad;this is what we are becoming. Our businessis changing, and we don’t want tolook up in 10 years and be stuck witha bureaucracy we no longer need. Sowe’re skipping that step. Sure, we’regoing to make some mistakes in themeantime, but we’ll learn from them.And as we tackle new endeavors, acquirenew skills, and learn how to sellour journalism in every conceivableway, you know what else will happen?We’ll have some fun.The other thing we’re not going todo is overthink the Internet. The endlessintellectual wrangling that causesnewspapers to move at a glacial paceshould not preside over our onlineworld. Stop worrying and get going,because nothing gets us there likegetting started.I think about that as I recall thefrustration that came with rebuildingour house. I wanted to preserve itsbest features, its character, yet makeit better than it was before. Thingsdidn’t always go at the pace I wanted,people didn’t always do things howI wished they would. Sometimes itseemed like we weren’t ever going toget back home.I learned the value of persistent patience,of knowing that I had to keeppushing to move the project a littlemore forward than it was yesterday. Itwas an incredible challenge but, oneday, we had a brand-new house. Someparts of it are restored exactly like theywere, others are gone forever. But therenovation was a success. This differenthouse is a lot nicer and strongerthan it used to be. I like to think ournewspaper is, too. David Meeks is city editor of TheTimes-Picayune in New Orleans.When the newspaper evacuatedduring massive flooding in the aftermathof Hurricane Katrina, Meeks,then the sports editor, remained inthe city for six weeks and led a teamof volunteers covering the story,working from makeshift news bureausout of colleagues’ dry homes.He and his daughter, Juliet, movedback into their rebuilt home inMarch.A N ESSAY IN WOR DS A ND PHOTOGRAPHSTelling a Tough Story in Your Own BackyardBy Bill HaberHurricane Katrina is the mostdifficult assignment of myalmost 29-year career withThe Associated Press. Three days afterthe storm flooded the city, it becamevery clear that this would essentiallybe the last story I would cover. Therehave been only a couple of brief assignmentsaway from Southern Louisianasince August 29, 2005, and there isno reason to believe this will be anydifferent in the future. This story willbe years in the telling.Telling this story has been a challengefrom the start. Even though specificchallenges it poses have evolved,they never seem to lessen. Logistics,once overwhelming, are now just plaindifficult at times, as all of us deal withcompeting pressures of fixing whatis broken in our personal lives 1 andcontinuing to convey to others whatdoesn’t work in theirs. Usually in ourbusiness, we deal with only one ofthese dimensions at a time, given thatour assignments about disaster usuallytake us far from home. And even if weface danger and discomfort, those welove are safe and cared for, so we’reable to approach what we do each1Three days after the floodwaters, family members were evacuated, some to Texas,others to Oregon and Mississippi. This July was the first since Hurricane Katrina thatall of Haber’s family members were home in New Orleans. Four of their family’shomes were torn down, one was rebuilt, and three with water damage were repaired.36 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coverageday with undivided attention. Livingin the intersection of family and workcan, at times, feel like an impossibleplace to be. Both are full-time jobs;each requires daily attention, and eachinfluences the other.For these reasons, and others, Katrinaremains a unique assignment.From a photojournalist’s perspective,the ongoing struggle involvescapturing that telling image that conveysthe scope of human suffering anddestruction. Trying to do this everyday taxes the limits of my ability as noother story ever has. There has beenno break from Katrina’s devastationin two years, as we work still on mostof the same stories we did in the earlydays of the storm—tracking difficultiespeople are having with housing andcrime and safety, with levees breakingand being rebuilt, with vanishingneighbors and empty neighborhoods,with insurance companies and financialaid. The one image that is behind us isthe water—rushing through our streetsand into our homes. But no one canassure us it won’t be there again.What I now know—two years afterKatrina arrived in New Orleans—is thateven as the city’s population has shrunkand attention to its plight has waned,the stories related to Hurricane Katrinaonly continue to expand and our resolveto cover them strengthens. Bill Haber is a photographer withThe Associated Press; he started withthe AP in Dallas, Texas and has beenin New Orleans since 1984.Shredded blue tarps, usedas emergency roof repairs,hang from the roof of theMilne Boys Home in NewOrleans. January 26, 2007.Water from the 17thStreet Canal moves toLake Pontchartrainthrough pumps put inplace by the Army Corpsof Engineers. March 10,2007.Photos and words by Bill Haber/The Associated Press.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 37


Katrina’s AftermathA woman marchespast a floodedhome and twoFEMA trailers whileparticipating in theKrewe of DreuxMardi Gras parade.February 17, 2007.The air traffic controltower at NewOrleans’s LakefrontAirport can be seenthrough a window ofan unrepaired building.July 25, 2007.A flag flies infront of wherea home oncestood in LongBeach, Mississippi.February1, 2007. Photos and words by Bill Haber/The Associated Press.38 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageSurvival First, Then Needed Newsroom Adjustments‘All of the silos were leveled, and the Sun Herald newsroom became a blended teamwith an intense Katrina focus.’By Stan TinerThe Sun Herald building onthe Gulfport side of DeBuysRoad lies within sight of theMississippi Sound. Built after HurricaneCamille, it is squat and solidin appearance; its narrow windowsand thick walls deliberately presenta fortress-like statement against theattacks of storms that visit our coastsometimes. The architectural designis but one play in the chess match ofsurvivability against nature’s inevitablechallenges; the other is strategic placement—justnorth of the CSX railroadtracks that traverse the coast and serveas an important defensive mechanismagainst tidal surge.Hurricane Katrina’s winds andpunishing rains assaulted the fortress/newspaper structure and tore at theroof with a vengeance. The buildingsprang leaks, and water flooded manyareas, including the newsroom, whichin the electric-less days of Septemberthat followed created a sauna-like atmosphere.But as the hurricane movednorthward, devastating regions 150miles and more inland, the buildingwas still standing, a testament to a goodplan and thoughtful design.In the two years since that fatefulAugust 29th, I have sometimes thoughtabout how the Sun Herald’s newsroomteam is like the building, or at least it isan organic extension of the total idea ofsurvivability—strong and steadfast.To live constantly in the hurricanezone requires a mental toughness andgrittiness not unlike the building’sdesign. Though a glass-dominatedstructure denoting openness might beappropriate somewhere else, strongand solid works better here. For ourstaff, Katrina was not their first hurricanetest. Many chart their careers bythe named storms that have batteredour coast, each presenting uniquecoverage challenges. The storms are apart of newsroom lore, but none hasapproached the destructive scale andchallenge of this one.On the Saturday before Katrinaleveled Mississippi’s Gulf Coast onMonday, we had a staff meeting in ournewsroom. Publisher Ricky Mathewsand I described the future in sober,even prophetic, terms, delivering twobasic messages. Be safe and get out ofharm’s way was the first. The secondwas that our lives, personal and professional,would never be the same.Good fortune accounted for thepaper suffering no casualties, thoughwe did not know that for many daysbecause of the lack of communication.Yet 60 employee homes werecompletely destroyed; almost noneof our 240 employees were sparedsignificant damage.As reporters, photographers and editorsassessed the damage, we quicklyrecognized that the scale of this eventwas epic and that it would be necessaryto reorganize our approach to newsgatheringin response to the new reality.So we exploded our newsgatheringdepartmental and beat structures. All ofthe silos were leveled, and the Sun Heraldnewsroom became a blended teamwith an intense Katrina focus. ThereSun Herald newsroom staffers, including City Editor Kate Magandy (seated on desk), listenas Publisher Ricky Mathews and Editor Stan Tiner talk to them as Hurricane Katrinaapproaches the Gulf Coast. August 27, 2005. Photo by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald.were no more business reporters,sports reporters, or features writers.Everyone was a news reporter—andnewspaper delivery person, I mightadd, as every employee’s honorableduty was to distribute papers to peoplewherever they were encountered onour daily rounds.Katrina also taught us that the SunHerald is much more than a “newspaper;”through its Web site, it canbe a multimedia powerhouse whoseNieman Reports / Fall 2007 39


Katrina’s Aftermathinformational reach is worldwide. Evenas we delivered the print edition tofamilies in the shattered ruins of theircoastal homes, Sunherald.com wasflowing the news from the disasterzone to the hundreds of thousandswho had evacuated and were hungryfor stories told by their hometownnews source.The Web site and newspaper alsobecame a powerful intersection, a placewhere families connected after thestorm as pleas for survivor informationwere cross-published in an unendingconversation. Web traffic exploded inthose days and later, and through ourtracking method we’ve been able toobserve the phenomena of populationrelocation and the steady return ofevacuees to the Gulf Coast region. Fromthis experience we quickly achieved“Web equity” in our internal thinkingabout news cycles, and this empoweredthe Sun Herald not only to have thegreatest breadth and depth in localnews reporting in our region but alsoto realize the dream of every editor—tobe first with the news as well. 1As a consequence, our Web site ismore robust than before the storm. Toeach person in our newsroom today,getting words and images on the Website is no longer the last thing to do innews production; it’s the first.Creating New BeatsThe home team should always own adistinct advantage in any post-disastercircumstance, and that was certainlytrue after Katrina in South Mississippi.Sun Herald reporters knew thepeople and the places, though it wasdifficult to locate community leadersin towns spread across the Gulf Coast.Communities no longer resembledtheir prestorm selves, making it all butimpossible to discern where Gulfportended and Long Beach began. All ofthe landmarks were gone.Also, as soon as the levees collapsedThe Sun Herald created a section to givereaders guidance on rebuilding projects.in New Orleans, the giant suckingsound heard in South Mississippi wasmuch of the national media’s quickexodus to the west. This led to a sensehere that people who had just experiencedthe worst natural disaster inAmerica’s history were being forgottenin their hour of greatest need. Ourpaper published a front page editorialheadlined “Mississippi’s InvisibleCoast.” This circumstance brought anawesome responsibility to our staff thatwould now become the primary sourceof the daily news told about the plightof our region and its people.We took this task with great seriousness.For a while adrenaline carried theteam through endless days, but we soonhad to learn how to pace our work tokeep the staff functioning and in thegame, physically and mentally. As timemoved on we had to create new beatsto adjust to changing circumstances.Before Katrina, an insurance beatdidn’t seem so important, but we soonrealized it would be of vital interest topeople of our region. Transportationwould become a key news topic asthe rebuilding of hundreds of miles ofstreets and roads and a billion dollarsplus of promised bridge work requiredclose attention. For this assignment,we redeployed Don Hammack, who’dbeen a sports writer and who hadstudied engineering. Our watchdogrole—holding those responsible forrebuilding activities accountable—hasnever been more important. With somuch money being spent, the stakesare high in terms of the recovery andrebuilding of our region being doneright.Even as the Sun Herald returned tobeing a “full-service” newspaper—withbusiness, sports, features, comics andso on—we were constantly accommodatingthe changing dynamics inthe post-Katrina world. With 65,000homes destroyed and more than 55,000heavily damaged, almost everyone wasinvolved in some rebuilding projectas tens of thousands were making thedecision to move away from the beachto higher land above the highway. Torespond, we created a new section ofthe paper called “@home,” offeringapproaches to home design and refurbishmentwith advice to readers whowere looking for help on rebuildingprojects. A copy editor/designer wasmoved to edit this section.South Mississippi was, and to a largeextent still is, something like the WildWest during the land-rush period. Sowe created a beat in our business sectiondedicated to real estate coverage;there readers can track this information,as much as possible, amid thechaos of recovery. And when a plethoraof public health issues followed thestorm, we hired a reporter for that beat,Joshua Norman, and he has coveredthose stories, as much remains un-1The Sun Herald shared the 2006 Public Service Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Katrinaand its aftermath with The Times-Picayune. The Pulitzer judges praised the SunHerald’s coverage “for its valorous and comprehensive coverage of Hurricane Katrina,providing a lifeline for devastated readers, in print and online, during their time ofgreatest need.”40 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coverageknown about the trueimpact of the storm onpeople’s mental andphysical well being.[See Norman’s storyon page 52.] There aregrave concerns aboutwhat the long-termimpact of air, water andsoil-based contaminationmight produce,and trauma to sucha large population isuncharted with consequencesmeasurednow in suicides, violentcrime, and druguse. The mental healthimpact on children isalso a matter of greatworry.Switching Normanto this beat took us intowelcomed but uncharted waters, withthe idea I had of creating a medical writerposition supported by foundationfunding. Seeking such external supportto hire a highly specialized journalistmight become commonplace, but as wewent about doing it we were remindedof its newness. My concept was fairlyclear and somewhat developed, at leastin my mind. I thought that a person,perhaps a medical doctor with goodcommunication skills, could be hiredas a staff writer for the Sun Herald fora two-year period, and that positionwould be supported by a foundation.In the third year, this person woulddeliver a book chronicling the healthissues following Katrina. I thought thiscombination would produce muchneededdaily journalism about thistopic and provide important findingsfor the medical profession. I pitchedthe idea to a few foundations, andthere appeared to be some interest,but then nothing came of those conversations.Then, when I spoke to a conferencesponsored by the Nieman Foundationlast fall that was focused on “The NextBig Health Crisis—And How to CoverIt,” 2 Penny Duckham, executive directorof the Kaiser Media Fellowships,was in the audience, and she was drawnto this idea. Duckham said she wouldhelp us, and her foundation has madegood on the promise with support fornot one but two reporters who will beexamining long-term health issues thatconfront this region. Norman, the staffwriterwho was shifted to the healthbeat, has been selected a Kaiser Fellowand will spend nine months reportingon long-term mental trauma. AndKaiser is also generously providing ahealth intern who will be covering dailyhealth news during this time.Though our focus is “all Katrina allthe time,” we cannot forego our otherresponsibilities as a newspaper. Someof our best investigative reporting hasinvolved coverage of the death of aninmate at the Harrison County Jail, astory requiring almost the full servicesof Robin Fitzgerald since the paper firstreported the beating death of Jessie LeeWilliams, Jr. in February 2006. The SunHerald has been out front on this storyever since, as more and more has beenlearned about a pattern of abuse at thejail that federal prosecutors allege goesback years andinvolves manyof the jail’semployees asp a r t i c i p a n t sand hundredsof prisonersas victims. Sixjailers have alreadypleadedguilty to relatedfederal charges,and the investigationcontinues.These twoy e a r s s i n c eKatrina haveproven, too,the value andpower of editorialpages ata time whensome question their relevance in thedigital era. Every week involves somemajor political decision in a local townor the legislature or Congress. Heavyis the weight placed on our editorialboard members, as they need toeducate themselves about a vast rangeof issues so they can “speak truth topower.”Journalism happens despite thefulcrum of personal issues that somany on our staff have endured andcontinue to confront. Stress is an alltoo-familiarguest in our newsroom,one not welcomed but whose presenceis by now well understood. Even as wetell the stories of the difficulties andchallenges in people’s lives—trackingthe twists, turns, tears and frustrationso common among members of ourcommunity—our paper’s reportersand photographers, and those whodirect them, somehow find the strengthto deal with their own struggles torebuild and recover. Campers in the Sun Herald’s parking lot in Gulfport, Mississippi, were used to housestaffers who lost their houses to the storm and visiting journalists. Photo by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald.Stan Tiner, a 1986 Nieman Fellow, isexecutive editor of the Sun Herald inBiloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi.2Excerpts from this conference can be read at www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/contents.html in our Spring 2007 issue.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 41


Katrina’s AftermathThe Changing Roles and Responses of Reporters‘… objectivity is a newsroom issue we’ve tackled head-on since the first few daysafter Katrina hit.’By Kate MagandyHurricane Katrinachanged our landscape,changed ourlives and changed—in fact,it arguably improved—theway we practice journalism.Nearly everything we publishhas been influenced by thestorm. With the storm’s twoyearanniversary just behindus, its aftermath remains thebiggest—and certainly thelengthiest—story any of ushave ever tried to tell.Despite post-Katrina’s unrelentingdominance in ourdaily newsgathering, whenvisitors come to our newsroomthey often ask whetherwe are “back to normal yet.”In many ways, this inquiry about ourpersonal circumstance has morphedinto an assumption common outsideof our region that we are, in fact, backto normal. When representatives fromLloyd’s of London came on a factfindingtour of the Gulf Coast a fewweeks ago, they were shocked thatwe weren’t finished with the recoveryand rebuilding process. They wereabsolutely stunned to find still hollowed-outbuildings, vacant lots, andso much left to do.Amid the devastation in which all ofus still live are critical stories to tell.But since the hurricane’s first-year anniversaryreaders have let us know theyare “tired” of such stories. What theytell us they want are stories about progress,not what’s still not done, thoughwe receive plenty of calls asking us todo a story when debris or abandonedhouses sit too long in their neighborhoods.And reporters also want towork on stories that mark progressSun Herald reporter Joshua Norman, left, hugged retired NewYork City firefighter Chris Edwards after spending the day withhim. Emotions surfaced as journalists and sources shared thepain of this experience. Photo by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald.and show signs of our recovery. Imagesof row upon row of FEMA trailers andreporting on dangerous formaldehydelevels, while an important story, is notone we can keep giving our readersday after day. And these days, when wedo FEMA trailer stories, we make sureto ask our photographers to look fornew ways—different angles or freshvantage points—to make an all-toofamiliarvisual image capture the eyesof our readers.Recently, on a story we did aboutconstruction—one with a lot of differentangles in a post-storm environment—ourapproach was to explorewhy and how building was slowed dueto a cumbersome permitting processin our two large cities—Gulfport andBiloxi. Since many of our readers arefeeling frustrated by this process, too,our story was well received. And ourphotographers thought long and hardabout how to best tell the visual storybefore deciding on a building site withno one present and verylittle work completed.Heading now into ourthird year of tracking thevarious directions in whichthe Katrina story ebbs andflows, we try to focus onstories in which our reportingwill make a differencein the lives of our readers.Often this comes in theform of follow-the-recovery-moneystories—such aspaying a lot of attention tothe grants being receivedand appropriations fromCongress. Or it comes aswatchdog stories, such asthose investigating fraudor those in which our reporterskeep a watchful eye on citycouncil meetings when SmartCode [anew approach to zoning] or AdvisoryBase Flood Elevations (ABFEs) arediscussed and adopted, so that peoplecan rebuild homes and know what willbe required to insure them.Angles and questions our reporterspursue include the following:• What is being done—or not beingdone—to help community residentsrecover and move past the damagedone by the storm?• Is a community embracing Smart-Code? If not, what does this meanfor businesses and residential areasin terms of rebuilding?• Will city councils in different communitiesadopt ABFEs?• Are water and sewer lines beingreplaced so that people can rebuildtheir businesses and homes?• Is money set aside for these purposesbeing spent appropriately?42 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageOur newspaper’s watchdog role, inparticular, has increased exponentially.Our reporter, Anita Lee, has beendogged in pursuing stories about insurance—arguablythe topic of greatestinterest for many of our readers. Herstories have carefully chronicled aninsurance company’s plan to changetheir protocol for assessing and payingclaims based on wind vs. water. It wasLee’s reporting that let our readersknow that despite help from the statelegislature, a new policy for wind damagewould cost about $5,000 annuallyfor a $250,000 house—a huge increasefrom what residents had paid beforeKatrina—and that makes rebuilding adifficult decision for many.We know, too, that we can’t just write“process” stories or inform readersabout government action or inattention.People need to see themselvesand their neighbors’ lives in our dailycoverage, as well as hear about thethousands of volunteers who’ve cometo help them rebuild. These everydaystories—such as the one we recentlypublished about a couple who is raisingvegetables and selling them at aroadside stand—are reminders that wehaven’t forgotten this is a community.It is ordinariness and optimism; thestory said to our readers, “We’re goingto be OK.”Responding to Charges ofBiased ReportingOnce the national media left Mississippiseveral weeks after Katrina roaredthrough, those of us left came to understand—morethan we did before—theinvaluable role that daily journalismmust play in this recovery effort. Butthe dominant question, even now, ishow we report on our community witha staff whose lives are as affected by thestorm as those of our readers. This hasmeant that objectivity is a newsroomissue we’ve tackled head-on since thefirst few days after Katrina hit. Everyoneat the paper—editors and reportersincluded—have insurance issues andhousing problems, transportationchallenges and medical needs. Onereporter lost a member of her familyin the storm. Name a circumstanceand someone in our newsroom hasexperienced it. As a result, editorsdidn’t even try to tell reporters orphotographers to put aside their livesto tell these stories. Instead, we askedfor fairness and balance in the reportingthey brought us, and we remindedourselves to look even harder than wenormally do for evidence of any biasthat a reporter might inadvertentlybring to the piece.Since Katrina, we’ve done this bycarefully matching reporters with storiesthat they have the skills needed totell. (Those beats and stories requiringa watchdog approach, for example,are given to those whose investigativeabilities are strong.) And we constantlyconverse with them as they report andare diligent in the editing process tomake certain—as best we can—thatwhat we publish is a fair representationof what our reporters have been ableto learn. Editors also check editors inmuch the same way—an acknowledgementthat we are not immune from thepossibility that our personal situationmight taint decisions about the storieswe assign and approaches we couldadvise our reporters to take.Getting this formula to work as wellas it can is a daily exercise, one still inprogress. In the insurance industry,there are those who don’t find ourreporting “objective,” pointing out thatour beat reporter has insurance issuessince she lost her house in the storm.(The insurance industry might not likeour stories, but its representatives haveyet to tell us that they aren’t accurate.)This assertion of bias has been raisedwhen local agents talk with customersabout their policies, from corporateofficers on editorial boards, and incomments made to other journalists.We’ve heard this charge raised in ourSound Off line, an anonymous call-inline that allows readers to bring upsubjects or offer news tips. (Others inthe business have admitted that ourreporter presented fairly their side ofthe issue.) We publish a sampling ofthese comments each day.We believe Lee’s reporting aboutthis incendiary issue of insurance hasbeen abundantly fair. It’s certainly wonher the respect of our readers and hernewsroom peers and even from somein the insurance industry. Yet thesecriticisms are what she constantly dealswith as part of her beat.Our executive editor, Stan Tiner, saidearly on that in the post-Katrina world“every story is a business story” as theGulf Coast recovers from the storm.That’s turned out to be true, but I’dadd another newsroom maxim that“nearly every story is a post-Katrinastory.” Even routine coverage of citycouncil and board of supervisors meetings,the business council, and gamingcommission has the undercurrent ofrecovery running through it. Planningand zoning board meetings—once thepurview of only a few civic-mindedindividuals—are now events of greatcommunity interest; the Sun Heralddevotes a lot more attention to thesedeliberations than we did before thestorm. Our reporters know moreabout SmartCode as a way to rebuild acommunity than we ever thought possible.They know how to read detailedinsurance policy clauses and calculatebridge spans and flood elevations and,as a result, so do our readers.Before August 29, 2005, many of ourolder readers measured their lives bywhat happened before and after HurricaneCamille, which hit in mid-Augustof 1969. Katrina is this generation’sCamille, only more so. And so as weadjust our coverage—and the workneeded to accomplish it—we need tobe sensitive to the trauma that all ofus in the newsroom have also experiencedin our personal lives. As editors,we have accommodated reporters andphotographers as they have had to taketime away from their jobs to deal withinsurance adjusters, contractors, medicalneeds, permit offices, and dozensof other unexpected situations.Just as the rest of the communitytries to recover—and sometimes looksto our newspaper for help in doingso—we, too, cope with our recoverywhile finding fresh ways to respond tothe community’s reliance on us. Kate Magandy is city editor of theSun Herald in Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 43


Katrina’s AftermathA N ESSAY IN WOR DS A ND PHOTOGRAPHSReminding Readers of What Is No Longer ThereBy John FitzhughNewspaper photojournalism hasimmediacy in its impact andpower in its ability to quicklytell the story of the day. Yet few dailyimages end up having a lasting impactin documenting a community’s history.Working as a photographer in SouthMississippi for the past 20 years, I’vehad the rare opportunity to visuallychronicle the changing contours of thisregion, not once but four times,and still counting. The most comprehensiveof these efforts—andthe one appreciated most bySun Herald readers—is the SunHerald’s “Hurricane Katrina: Beforeand After” series.Like then-and-now naturephotographs certifying a glacier’sretreat, our comparative imagesrender visual what memory itselfcannot be relied upon to recall.By returning to places we’dphotographed before HurricaneKatrina—to a street scene, a building,or a house—we can show thechange in ways no contemporaryphotograph of debris piles can do.Doing this retrieves memories ofthe fierce winds and water thatforever altered our landscape, butit also rekindles associations withwhat once was so familiar.In most cases after Katrina all thatwas left was an empty slab. When wepublished these photos each pairingwas accompanied by a short story detailingthe human experience weddedto the structure. Most of the writing andresearch was done by Sun Herald featurewriter Kat Bergeron, who was theperfect writer for the project becauseof her knowledge of South Mississippihistory and her natural empathy forthe subject. She, too, lost her houseto Katrina.The series had been conceivedas an effort simply to document thedestruction of a major hurricane. Itwas inspired by work done in 1969by then-Daily Herald photographersshowing Biloxi before and again afterHurricane Camille, which swept acrossSouth Mississippi with great ferocity. Inmy years of culling through file photographsfor our annual anniversaryLike then-and-now naturephotographs certifying a glacier’sretreat, our comparative imagesrender visual what memory itselfcannot be relied upon to recall.By returning to places we’dphotographed before HurricaneKatrina—to a street scene, abuilding, or a house—we can showthe change in ways no contemporaryphotograph of debris piles can do.coverage of Camille—that had longbeen our region’s benchmark event—Iwas struck by simple street scenes thatwere carefully matched up with “after”photos.I wanted to be prepared to createsuch a document on South Mississippiwhen the next big hurricane hit. I beganshooting specifically for the projectas Hurricane Ivan approached in September2004. That storm turned away,but the need rose again in August of2005 as Hurricane Katrina approached.In neither case did I do as extensivea survey as I should have, but then Ididn’t expect the project to grow intowhat it became.During two decades of documentingthe changing face of South Mississippi,I have gotten better at shootingphotos as historical documents. Whendockside gambling was approved bythe Mississippi legislature in 1990, Iphotographed the areas of Harrisonand Hancock counties that werezoned for gambling with theintent of using them down theroad to show the changes of theareas. This was the first project Idid showing South Mississippi’sphysical changes.Five years later, once thesenew venues were built, the placewas so dramatically reconfiguredthat there was no way to matchthe earlier images to the laterones. The landscapes where theold shrimp and oyster factories,docks and half-sunk boats hadbeen were now overwhelmedby massive casino developmentsthat I had not envisioned. Whilethe older images are an effectivedocumentation of what the arealooked like, the side-by-side approachlacked a broader perspectivethat allowed for easy comparison.In retrospect, the landscape changewrought by casino development wasin some ways more dramatic thanKatrina’s.With this in mind, on the next projectof this kind—the Katrina “Beforeand After” series—I was careful to uselandmarks more effectively as markers.For example, I took advantage ofcasino parking garages that providedboth a high vista from which to shootas well as sites I felt confident wouldwithstand a hurricane’s fury. This way44 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageI could return to shoot matching afterphotos.For all of us it became very easy toforget what things looked like beforethe storm. With five- to 10-foot-tallpiles of debris lining the streets, thenew bleak landscape became our onlyreference point. You could no longerturn at the IHOP to get to Milner Stadium,because the IHOP was gone.You would drive blocks past theintersection before you realizedyou had passed it. For miles therewere, and still are, huge gashes inthe landscape where buildings oncestood and lives were lived.Readers RespondIn this context, the “Before and After”series became hugely popularwith our readers. It first ran October16, 2005, six weeks after the storm.When I conceived the series, I assumedthat it would run for a weekor so and be finished. As thingsturned out, we finally stopped thedaily series on the first anniversaryof the storm after publishing morethan 250 of these short features.And in time, the concept of turningthe series into a book began to takeshape. Volunteers who have cometo help in the recovery have carriedthe book home to show what wordscan’t describe. Since the local Barnes& Noble bookstore became the onlyretail outlet for the book, “Katrina:Before & After,” it has been amongtheir top five sellers every week.After the hurricane, everywhereyou went, survivors wanted to sharetheir stories. The reporters and photographerswho covered the aftermathof Hurricane Katrina became improvisedtherapists, providing a willingear to listen and often open arms fora reassuring hug. Within days of thisseries’ inception, readers began to sendin their photos, asking that we includethem in the series. Initially, the photoswere unsolicited, but after a while weasked for submissions in the daily column.When the quality was good, weused many of the photos the readerssent us, accounting for up to half ofthe pictures we published in the series.Both photos—before and after—arrivedsometimes, but at other times Iwent out to shoot the “after” shot. Onetime I called a woman—with her submitted“before” photo in hand—whowanted advice on where to stand toshoot the “after” one. In time, I wentout and shot photos of rebuilt homesand asked the owners to submit “after”Photojournalist John Fitzhugh’s “Before andAfter” series was anchored on the back page ofthe Sun Herald’s first section.photos for the “After and Now” portionof this series.The “Before and After” series wasclearly a part of the healing process forSouth Mississippi. It allowed readersto remember what had been lost andto mourn that loss. Readers wouldstop me on the street and say that theback of the paper’s “A” section, wherethe series was anchored, was the firstplace they would go, supplanting formany the habit of going to the obituarypage first. On the other hand, therewere others who didn’t want the dailyreminder of destruction. I will neverforget the pleading of a coworker whohad lost three houses in the storm andasked that we please put an end to theseries. For him, it was too painful areminder; he was ready to move on tothe rebuilding phase of his life.To respond to such pleadings thatwere echoed by others and to reflectthe progress being made in thepost-storm recovery, we introduceda modified version of the concept,“After and Now.” In this iteration wematched rebuilt property photoswith shots of the Katrina-damagedproperty, making this the thirdchanging-face community portraitthat we’ve done. And it is more thanjust showing brick and mortar beingraised. Since much of the progressof South Mississippi’s recovery isbeing fueled by volunteer labor, thisproject has given us the opportunityto highlight the amazing generosityof the human spirit and the graciousthanks of those who have receivedthat spirit.There is also a fourth changing-facecollection begun beforeHurricane Katrina that has becomeaccelerated in its wake. High-risecondominiums were never a partof the South Mississippi landscapeuntil 2005. While high-rise hotelshave been built as part of the casinodevelopments, their locations wererestricted. With the huge gashes ofopen land suddenly made availableby Katrina, developers are sweepingin with grandiose plans to turn thecoast into a copy of other waterfrontcommunities.Again, I am finding solid anchorsto shoot from to document what welook like now. I do that so in 10 yearswe can look back and remember notonly the scars left by Katrina but also atime when we looked up to see toweringoak tree branches from the shadeof their canopies, not down at themfrom penthouse balconies. John Fitzhugh is a photographer atthe Sun Herald in Biloxi/Gulfport,Mississippi.Continued on next page.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 45


Katrina’s AftermathBEFORE: This photo shows one of the strips of U.S.Highway 90 in Biloxi, Mississippi that was filled withrestaurants, hotels and other tourist attractions.AFTER: The same stretch of U.S. Highway 90 inBiloxi taken four days after Hurricane Katrina.NOW: Looking west from in front of the Treasure Bay Casino, this photo shows theremains of the Souvenir City building and the almost completed Ocean Club condominiumbuilding.Photos and words by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald.46 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageBEFORE: Beachwalk condominiums in Long Beach, Mississippi.AFTER: None of the structures at Beachwalk survivedthe force of Katrina.NOW: Nine months later, condominiums are being rebuilt.Photos and words by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 47


Katrina’s AftermathBEFORE: Sherry and Kevin Webster’s Queen Anne-style home, built in 1889 in Bay St.Louis, Mississippi, dominated the block on North Beach Boulevard.AFTER: Katrina destroyed the house that the Websters bought in 2000.Photos and words by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald.48 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term CoverageBEFORE: A seaside restaurant overlooked the Long Beach Small Craft Harbor inMississippi.AFTER: Only the palm tree, which was used to anchor this photograph, remained. Photos and words by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 49


Katrina’s AftermathA Steadfast Editorial Voice‘… anything that does not have a practical application appears pompous inprint in the aftermath of genuine disaster and tragedy.’By Tony BiffleAfew weeks after HurricaneKatrina, Biloxi Mayor A.J. Hollowayguided a group of U.S.senators through his devastated city. Atone point, Senator John Warner pulledthe mayor aside and said, “Mayor Holloway,I’m an old man. I’ve been throughthree wars and five wives, but I’ve neverseen anything as bad as this.”My experience is a bit more limitedthan the senator’s. I’ve been throughonly one war and three wives. But, likehim, I had never seen anything as badas Katrina. And I have never written somuch about anything as Katrina—withno end in sight.Long before Katrina started headingour way, late in August 2005, the SunHerald had already paid more editorialattention to hurricanes than weusually do. Even now, our numerousappeals to South Mississippians to beprepared for a storm in the summerof 2005 are eerily prescient. And afterour newspaper published the editorial“The Power of Prayer and Plywood” onthe eve of the storm, Katrina becamethe only topic of our editorials formonths and will remain the primaryfocus of our paper’s voice for manyyears more.When an event alters a communityto the extent that Katrina changed ours,the time it takes to recover can be asstaggering as the catastrophe itself.While few news stories endure as longas this one has, the consequences ofmany events do tend to linger longerthan we might imagine they could. A bitof what we’ve learned in editorializingabout this one might be useful for thattime when a story in your communityrefuses to go away. A few quick, allencompassingpieces of advice comefirst, followed by some experienceswe’ve had:• Accept, as soon as possible, thatnothing will get back to normalanytime soon.• Beware of fatigue—your own andyour readers’.• Keep in mind that no one editorialwill say all that needs to be said. Orwill be read by all who need to readit. So break it down. Sort it out. Putit in print—again and again.The only thing quick about a catastropheis the time it takes to occur.For those who survive, everything elseseems to take forever. So at appropriateintervals, review the course ofevents and refresh your interpretationsand recommendations. As for recommendations,don’t expect perfection,An editorial page from the Sun Herald.either from yourself or others. And beprepared to make, or at least evaluate,recommendations as never before.We have yet to run out of Katrinarelatededitorial material. In thebeginning, there were the obvious issuesof survival. Then there were theobstacles to recovery. Now there arethe seemingly never-ending subjectsof affordable insurance coverage—andaffordable housing—and rebuilding.And if your audience is, like ours, splitamong multiple jurisdictions, thenyour editorials will be, too. You willpraise those counties and cities thatlearn quickly and do the right thingright away. You will encourage othercounties and cities to follow the exampleof others.This requires patience, especially inan area such as ours, which just can’twait to get back to being laid back.Jimmy Buffett is, after all, one of ourown. We live for the day when we haveto dig deep for a Katrina-related editorialtopic. Two years after the storm,that day has yet to dawn.For all the praise and thanks to beheaped on first responders (of whichthose of us at the newspaper are one,by the way) and volunteers, there ismuch that can and should be criticizedabout the handling of anything onthe scale of Katrina. Panic and chaosundermine planning and preparations.Katrina humbled many a proudindividual and institution. So pick andchoose the objects of your criticismcarefully. For instance, just days afterKatrina, one of our reporters observedpersonnel at Keesler Air Force Base inBiloxi playing basketball on base. Why,we opined, weren’t those troops “exercising”out in the community? Theycould get plenty of exercise by helpingwith debris removal, for instance. It50 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coveragewas months later that we learned thatthose troops were in fact temporarilyassigned to Keesler as students andwere on a tight training schedule. Theirpresence represented Keesler restoringat least part of its mission. What wesaw as a negative—out of context dueto the poor communications after thestorm—was in fact a positive sign.Be wary, too, of the extraordinarybecoming routine. Just because dailycontact causes you to become familiarwith shattered lives and a littered landscape,do not allow that familiarity todeaden your senses to the outrageousand the exceptional. The outrageous:Katrina left us surrounded by rubbleand consequently deadened our sensitivityto trash and litter. We took toolong to distinguish between propertyowners legitimately waiting on debrisremoval contractors and property ownerswho simply did not care about thecondition of their lots. The exceptional:We were, and continue to be, blessedwith volunteers in our communities.While we can never say thank youenough, we have made many effortsto convey our gratitude.If this sounds too humdrum for theinstitutional voice of your publication,I would suggest that no matter howreasonable and rational and eruditeyour editorials mayonce have seemed, anythingthat does not havea practical applicationappears pompous inprint in the aftermathof genuine disaster andtragedy.Luckily, pompositywilts around port-a-potties.Port-a-potties? Yes,port-a-potties. Back inthe days when there wasno time for the editorialboard to conduct itsregular discussions, Isoon discovered that Icould touch base withthe publisher about thenext day’s editorial aswe were on the way toand from the long lineof port-a-potties behindour building. This arrangementwas not perfect, but thennothing else was, either.Keeping Our Voice VitalThe Sun Herald never missed a day ofpublication due to Katrina because wehad arranged to print the newspaper inGeorgia and truck it to the MississippiGulf Coast. But this arrangement didnot permit Editorial Page Editor MarieHarris and me to edit and design theopinion page. Not that there alwayswas an entire page devoted solely toopinion. An editorial was usually theonly opinion piece in the newspaperduring those first weeks after the storm.It could land at the top, bottom ordown the side of any page—includingthe front page on one occasion.As the newspaper resumed a morefamiliar layout, it still took some timebefore the regular run of commentaryreturned to the opinion page. And wehave yet to regain our old share ofthe news hole. But we cope and hopethat egos—inside and out of the newsroom—willnot get in the way.Along the way, do not discount theneed for the “stiff upper lip” editorial.It serves a legitimate need. Just don’toverdo it. Don’t demand too muchflag-waving from people with brokenSun Herald Publisher Ricky Mathews holds a copy of the paper’s December14, 2005 edition, featuring a front-page editorial calling foraction from the federal government to help the area recover. Legislationin Washington, D.C., was being held up by political wrangling. Photo byJohn Fitzhugh/Sun Herald.arms—or hearts. And don’t underestimatethe resilience of your readers.There is power in the printed word, andpeople will respond when your editorialvoice is raised on their behalf.One of the more difficult editorialsin the aftermath of Katrina called onthe mayor of one of the 11 cities thatline the coast of Mississippi to resign.He simply was not up to the challengeof leading his community out of thisdisaster. Within days of the editorial, heannounced he would step down. Manyof his constituents quietly thanked usfor providing the necessary nudge.Of course, some people cannotbe nudged—or even shoved—in theright direction. We view this year’sstatewide elections as our only relieffrom the deadheaded officials incontrol of Mississippi’s Departmentof Transportation who are convincedthere is no transportation problem thatasphalt cannot solve. And it might takethe next round of municipal elections(still two years away) to fill some cityhalls with the vision necessary to seizeopportunities that rebuilding on thisscale presents.Within a week of Katrina, RickyMathews, the publisher of the SunHerald, assembled a group of stateand local officials from the public andprivate sectors to helpset a course for SouthMississippi’s recovery.The plans and possibilitiesthat grew out of thatgathering have helpedset the agenda of thenewspaper’s editorialsever since.We know that oureditorial voice has beena steadfast part of therecovery conversationfrom the beginning. Wehope that it will remaina trustworthy part of ituntil the end. Tony Biffle is the associateeditor of the SunHerald in Biloxi/Gulfport,Mississippi.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 51


Katrina’s AftermathImpossible to Ignore: A Mental Health CrisisChanges a Community and a Reporter’s Focus‘Only after several months of covering these issues am I beginning to understand thescope and dimensions of the crisis.’By Joshua NormanTo be stressed was an assumedstate of being for most peopleon the Gulf Coast following HurricaneKatrina. Yet it took everyone,journalists included, more than a yearto recognize and deal with the fact thatstress can mean more than just shorttempers and upset stomachs. Over thelong term stress can easily give rise tomental illnesses and physical debilitation.In disasters, unchecked stress cankill individuals and ruin a society.The Sun Herald also figured that outslowly, but has ultimately respondedby addressing the problem headlong.For five months this spring and summer,as the paper’s first full-time healthreporter, I wrote several stories focusedalmost exclusively on mental health,a topic rarely covered before Katrinaarrived on our doorstep. Now on a fellowshipfor the Kaiser Family Foundationto cover mental health exclusively,the foundation also provided an internso that comprehensive health coveragewill continue to appear regularly in theSun Herald.It took us a while to get to that point,though. Our first storm-related mentalhealth coverage surfaced only in briefmentions in stories often headed ina different direction. On September13, 2005—about two weeks after thestorm—in a column I wrote: “I amexhausted and it shows …. My visionis sometimes blurry. I lose stuff whilejust sitting at my desk. I tell the samestory twice. Worst of all, I have lockedmy keys in my car twice in the last fivedays, having never done so before.”Stress was assumed to be naturaland largely dealt with by way of morechurch attendance, better rest and, forsome of us, more beer. But in reportingacross a range of stories, we startedto notice that government leadersand others were behaving erratically,though everyone usually chalked it upto exhaustion. After a few months, asthe ruined landscape we woke up toevery day was almost surely the samethe next, a general malaise settled in.Few in the newsroom had taken vacationsand tempers were shorter and thedesire to escape greater. I rememberescaping once to a wedding in Vermonta few short months after the storm, andpeople there asked me if things wereback to normal. They still aren’t.I wrote the paper’s first article fullyfocused on long-term adverse mentalhealth affects of disasters in January2006. A local psychologist had held aconference for health care workers onmentally healing themselves, and hereis some of what I reported to our readers:“Even five months later, the mentalhealth issues for health care workersand mental health professionals havenot improved dramatically. ‘You don’tcry during the week … you cry duringchurch,’ said Karen Brassell, a socialworker at Biloxi Regional Medical Centerwho stayed at the hospital duringthe storm. ‘We are all affected by it. Somany of our people lost everything.It’s hard.’”A short time after this article appearedwe started to hear of peopledying of debilitating mental healthproblems. The first of the so-called“Katrina suicides” began happeningmostly in New Orleans but occasionallyhappened here in Mississippi. Domesticviolence rates rose dramatically,as did the numbers of those seekingsubstance abuse help. “We believe thatthe victims of Hurricane Katrina will beat an increased risk for mental healthproblems for many years to come,” adoctoral student was quoted as sayingin a May 2006 Associated Press story.Moving to the Health BeatStill, at the Sun Herald, our watchfuleye was turned more on local governmentsand institutions as they tried tofigure out day-to-day recovery issues.Our resources were thin not because of“cheap owners” but because the storyof storm recovery was so profound onso many levels that there could neverhave been enough reporters to tell itin its entirety. I was covering Gulfport,the second largest town in Mississippisituated right on the Gulf Coast dealingwith post-storm financial woes. Whilethere was no doubt that traumatic stresshad its effect on all levels of society atthat point, our stories focused on whatwere probably the effects of mentalhealth issues rather than the causes.It was an approach perhaps describedbest as “cover as cover can.”At the first year anniversary of Katrina,as suicides and domestic violencerates mounted, the academics arrivedin droves to study mental health issues.Still, at best, our newspaper was onlyable to report on the growing mentalhealth crisis in a cursory fashion.“Hurricane Katrina’s hidden toll ofsuicides, suicide attempts, and casesof depression remains somewhat elusive,though some say the numbers arereaching alarming proportions,” wroteour police reporter, Robin Fitzgerald,at that time. And when mental healthissues surfaced—some might say boiledover—we dealt with them by relying onwhatever reporter was closest to the52 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coveragenewsmaking situation.It took until March 2007before it became too obviousthat more needed tobe done. Then we weresurprised to learn thatthe Mailman School ofPublic Health at ColumbiaUniversity had been studyingmental health issueswith FEMA trailer dwellerswhen they releaseda devastating report onMississippi’s storm survivorsand their mentaldeterioration. Among theworst of their findings wasthe conclusion that up to athird of the Mississippi GulfCoast’s children were experiencingstorm-relatedmental disorders and thatit was occurring here at arate worse than in Louisiana. “To me,it’s the most significant domestic crisisthat we’ve seen in a very long time,”said Dr. Irwin Redlener, founder ofthe Children’s Health Fund and thereport’s principal architect.Stan Tiner, the Sun Herald executiveeditor, was both shocked by the report’sfindings and upset that we had no ideait was coming. [See Tiner’s article onpage 39.] In response, he picked meout of the newsroom to seek out aKaiser Media Fellowship and devotethe majority of my attention not just tothe plethora of mental health relatedissues but also to a floundering healthcare system in the least healthy state inthe country. In the ensuing shuffle ofreporters, some beats ceased being coveredfull time by an individual reporter,including at least one municipality.My first real attempt to understandthe big picture with posttrauma mentalhealth issues was a result of my story onthe Mailman report, which was largelya rewrite of what they wrote. Before Ibegan my fellowship in September, Ispent almost all of my reporting energyon policy issues because getting peopleto open up and talk about their traumaticstress is difficult, to say the least,and time consuming for sure. Whileworking as a regular beat reporter, Isimply did not have time to beg peopleOver time, medical care for Hurricane Katrina survivors has becomemore difficult to find. Clive Squibb puts out the “closed” sign as onelast client arrives at the D’Iberville Free Clinic. Squibb and his wiferely on donations to keep the clinic running. Photo by John Fitzhugh/Sun Herald.to tell me about their issues.Mental health is a subject full of negativestigma and misunderstanding insociety at large. Southerners, perhapsmore than others, still proclaim to seea bit of “weakness” in those who seektreatment for depression, and I am oftentold by treatment seekers that theywill not go on the record because theyare afraid of what people will think. Ifound, however, that from the beginningmost mental health professionalsand administrators were all too eagerto talk because of how overlooked theyfeel their field to be.Only after several months of coveringthese issues am I beginning tounderstand the scope and dimensionsof the crisis. Many state mental healthfacilities were underfunded and overburdenedbefore the storm even hit,since mental health is often the firsthealth care service cut when fundsare tight. Additionally, FEMA doesnot believe it is obligated to help localmental health systems in disasterzones like ours treat such disorders;instead it claims to be obligated just todiagnose them through what it terms“crisis counseling.” In other words,they funded a mental health counselingsystem that essentially told thethousands who sought its services:“Yes, you’re going crazy because of thestorm. Here’s the numberfor an underresourcedsystem of professionalswho may not be able togive you the attention youneed. Good luck!” Andthis dysfunctional systemremains in place with nosign of changing to copewith future disasters. Yetthe mental health crisis ishuge, and its impact creepsinto every aspect of life inthis region.During my fellowship,the work I do will continueto shine a spotlight on allof this. As a fellow, I am anunpaid employee of theSun Herald, with a stipendpaid by the Kaiser FamilyFoundation. This allowsme to have my work appearsomewhat regularly in the Sun Herald,as relevant issues arise, and allows meto coordinate my reporting more easilywith designers and photographers. Andmy stories, once published, can go outon the McClatchy newswire. This putsme in the enviable position of continuingto follow this story as my expertiseabout it increases and gives me theopportunity to follow these storieswherever they lead me, regardless ofgeography and time. I also get sometime to think about the bigger picture,which is something there is scant timeto do in the rush of daily reporting. If Iwrite a story the Sun Herald cannot run,I also have the option—as freelancersdo—of shopping it to other outlets,without having the worry of payingmy bills. I also have the opportunityto ease the transition of a very qualifiedintern, Megha Satyanarayana, whowill hopefully continue my efforts inmaking Mississippi’s faltering healthcare system more answerable for itsmissteps.What I want most of all to do whileI have the relative luxury of time isdevelop human narratives, while stillkeeping my eye on mental health policy.There are only a few journalists who areable to devote themselves exclusivelyto mental health coverage—and fewerjournalism outlets willing to maintainNieman Reports / Fall 2007 53


Katrina’s Aftermatha full-time beat on this topic. So I amexcited to again step out of my comfortzone, as I did as a Yankee moving to Mississippi,and find my way in the dark onthis poorly understood subject. Thereis a rich trove of information on posttraumamental health to be absorbedand shared. I just need to figure outhow to make this topic compelling inways that will engage more people inrecognizing the dimensions and directionof this crisis. Joshua Norman is the health beatreporter at the Sun Herald in Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi.Katrina Fatigue: Listeners Say They’ve Heard Enough‘What we hear is not that it’s time to stop our coverage of Katrina’s aftermath:We hear that we need to do it better.’By Susan FeeneyRobert Siegel, the host of NPR’s“All Things Considered,” hadbarely finished interviewing aNew Orleans City Hall computer techwhose family lost five homes afterKatrina when a Houston businessmancalled to offer his vacation home forthem to live in. And every time host MicheleNorris talks to a once and futureresident of New Orleans East namedSharon White, listeners call to offermoney or help. Same thing when AlixSpiegel profiled the Mattio family fromthe Lower Ninth Ward as they struggledto get out of a dangerous, crime-riddenFEMA motel in Baton Rouge.We expect some listeners to grouseabout our steadfast coverage of Iraq,the Middle East, and topics like Africa’sintractable poverty. And in recent focusgroups, our listeners have met—andexceeded—that expectation. During afocus group session in Raleigh, NorthCarolina, one listener tied togetherall these stories and Katrina with abig black bow. “I kind of always wantthe hope(ful) ones, but that’s me,”this listener told us that night. “I justkind of get depressed over the reallysad news. Like Katrina stuff, I had toturn it off; I couldn’t watch it anymoreafter a while.”A year earlier, after “All ThingsConsidered” had broadcast a weekof stories from New Orleans, DavidDick of St. Louis e-mailed “All ThingsConsidered” with this message:“Pleeeeeeeeeeeeese,” he wrote, usingthese 13 consecutive Es, “stop thatconstant New Orleans coverage.” Dickdescribed the coverage as “relentless,”like “OJ and Monica and Michael Jackson”combined.“Enough already,” another listenerwrote. “Nobody cares.”Well, those of us who work at NPRdon’t believe this. And we don’t thinkall our big-hearted listeners haveturned into jerks with hearts of stone.Not by a long shot. We continue tocover this story because we believe itis the right thing to do—journalisticallyand because we have a moral imperativeto do so. But even our nonprofit,not-ratings-driven radio network hasto listen when devoted listeners sendus a message. What we hear is notthat it’s time to stop our coverage ofKatrina’s aftermath: We hear that weneed to do it better.One listener in Raleigh pointed theway, though NPR had already startedto shift gears. “Sometimes when thestories are about things I’ve heard alot already, it kind of—I’m just not thatinterested in it,’ this person said. “If Ithink it’s something I already know orsomething I’m tired of, that’s when Iturn to music usually. But if it’s kindof, if it’s something different, or maybeit’s the same thing about a differentangle and it’s clear it’s a new angleright away, then to me it’s a little bitmore appealing.”So our job—as it’s always been—is toentice people with compelling journalism.We have to find fresh ways to tellthe story. Life is still remarkably hard fortoo many of our fellow citizens acrossthe Gulf Coast from Jefferson Parish,Louisiana to Waveland, Mississippi andpart of coastal Alabama. But comingup with innovative ways to cover it isalso difficult. What’s happened sinceKatrina is a big and very complicatedstory. Television, print and radio journalistshave all struggled to convey thephysical immensity of it. You still candrive for more than an hour aroundNew Orleans without seeing more thanscattered pockets of progress and hopeamid a landscape of ruin.Another challenge is telling a storythat is often about inaction. Recoveryis painfully slow. Local governmentstill is failing its citizens. The state andfederal governments never got theirarms around the problems, and thelevees—guess what?—aren’t ready foranother big storm.With Katrina fatigue settling in, manyAmericans are tuning out. There is asense among some across the countrythat things are fixed and life there isreturning to “normal.” How wrong thisimpression is. Follow the money to geta quick grasp of the tortoise-like paceof the rebuilding process. The Times-Picayune reported in midsummer that,of the $2.7 billion ultimately expectedto be spent on “permanent” post-Ka-54 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coveragetrina work in Louisiana, $2.1 billion,or 78 percent, had been reviewed andapproved by FEMA. But just $532 million,or 20 percent, had been releasedby the state.There’s been another disconnectin the refusal by some people to acceptthe breadth of the governmentbreakdown—on all levels. We justcan’t believe that our can-do countryfell down so badly. America doesn’tleave people on its streets withoutfood or water for days. And it is hardfor many of us to absorb the realityof findings such as when the Annalsof Emergency Medicine reported thatpeople in places Katrina visited areabout 79 times more likely to attemptsuicide than we are.Those of us in the national newsmedia have credibility problems ofour own, of course. And since Katrina,our inattention to several importantthreads of this story has made theseworse. After excellent national coverageof the storm and the levee breaks,we broke our collective promise totake on coverage of the stubborn issuesof race and poverty that Katrinaunmasked. 1 NPR, NBC News, CNN andThe New York Times are among thenews organizations that have stuck withthe ongoing story. The ground theyshare is that in each news organizationpeople who were there when the stormhit and the levees broke refused to letthe story disappear. NBC’s Brian Williamsis one. Anderson Cooper another.Once it’s in your blood, it’s not possibleto let it go—ratings be damned.At NPR, we moved our Southern bureauchief from Atlanta to New Orleans.And at Katrina’s two-year anniversary,we were about to sign a new, yearlonglease on a house for our office andreporter, who serve on month-longrotations. Our Atlanta-based reporteris among our staff committed to tellingthe story of Mississippi’s recovery—includingits struggles for affordablehousing, quality mental health care,and security in future storms.“This is one of the most importantThe Friends of The Times-Picayune Relief FundSoon after Hurricane Katrina hitNew Orleans, Susan Feeney andthree women friends who workedat The Times-Picayune in the 1980’sstarted The Friends of The Times-Picayune Relief Fund to providesupport to people in need whowork at the paper. Feeney talkedwith Nieman Fellows in the springof 2007 about the circumstances offamilies who the fund has helped.Just over $300,000 has been raised.More information can be found atwww.friendsofthetimespicayune.com/We knew that newspaper employeesneeded money, so that’s wherewe started, and there were about150 employees and their familieswho signed up. It’s at about 190families now; several families haveleft, but what’s most troubling to meis in even the last few weeks severalmore people said, “Can I still signstories of our time,’’ said David Sweeney,acting national editor at NPR. “Itis a priority for our desk and the wholenetwork. We see it as a solid, long-termcommitment.”But we are trying new approaches.We’re taking a step or two back andbroadcasting more big-picture storiessuch as the status of mental health carein the region and personal profiles ofthe new generation of leaders emergingafter the storm. We are doing fewerincremental stories about hearingsand individual studies and reports.Through our coverage, we’re trying togive listeners information they need tounderstand and evaluate the long-termimpact on the city’s people, politicsand culture.As hard as it is to tame this mammothstory—and it’s one we’ll be chasingfor a generation or more—it hasup? I thought that my family couldmake it and we just can’t.” Thattells you a lot: It doesn’t go away.People thought, well, we have someinsurance. But the insurance wasn’tanywhere near enough. They arepaying the mortgage on their oldgutted house, paying the homeowner’sinsurance on that house that istotally unlivable. People continueto pay this because they’ll never getanother policy after they rebuild.So they’re paying exorbitant rentssomewhere else—the stresses areenormous. And there have beenan incredible number of divorcesand couples splitting, and there’sa family now in which the guy’swife left with the kids because it’sjust too hard to live there. He hasto keep his job and his health carebenefits at the Picayune becausehe’s dealing with depression. It’sjust enormous. The fallout doesnot end. another appeal. It has all the elementsof the very best journalism—survival,heroism, reinvention, thievery, governmentineptitude, choking bureaucracy,and failed politics. And through it allwe hear the drumbeat of real humandrama. Futures are at stake.Now those sound like compellingstories even a focus group couldlove. Susan Feeney is senior editor forplanning at NPR’s “All Things Considered”and a former Times-Picayunereporter who founded The Friends ofThe Times-Picayune. See box, above.1See Nieman Reports, Spring 2006, “What Katrina Revealed, Will Journalist NowCover?” at www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/contents.htmlNieman Reports / Fall 2007 55


Katrina’s AftermathOn-the-Ground Reporting: Why It Matters‘… sometimes editors—and not just reporters—need to walk in the steps of thepeople they cover.’By Liz SzaboOn a damp, drizzly January day,more than a year after Katrinadestroyed much of New Orleans,I stood with 16 of my colleaguesfrom the USA Today newsroom in thefront yard of what used to be Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry’shome in the city’s Gentilly neighborhood.His house was still painted witha bright yellow X and some scrawledshorthand left by rescue and recoverycrews that read “9/10, CA3, WINDOW,0.” The message told other rescuersthat his home had been inspected bya crew from California, who enteredthrough the window on September10th, and found no one dead. WhenDeBerry saw his home for the firsttime after the storm, he wonderedwhy it looked like the search team hadclimbed a ladder to leave their markjust under the peak of the roof. A friendreminded him that the rescue crews,floating eight feet above ground, werewriting at eye level.To stand under his home’s watermarkwas to understand in away I hadn’t before the destructivepower of the murky brown water thatspilled across the city in the wake ofKatrina. Moments such as this oneleft a powerful impression on all ofus who’d come here at the urging ofour paper’s editor, Ken Paulson, andwhat we saw and heard on our trip toNew Orleans and the Mississippi GulfCoast has resulted in changes in howour newsroom approaches coverageof this evolving story.Seeing Is UnderstandingIn the fall of 2006, at a board meetingof the American Society of NewspaperEditors (ASNE), Stan Tiner, executiveeditor of the Sun Herald in Biloxi/Gulfport,Mississippi, urged fellow editorsto come to the areas devastated byHurricane Katrina. [See article by Tineron page 39.] After Paulson attendedThe Associated Press Managing Editorsmeeting in New Orleans in Octoberof that year—and had a chance to seewhat the city was enduring—he cameback convinced that his paper neededto find better ways to tell this story. Forthat to happen he realized that editorsfrom the paper needed to go there sothey could grasp the story’s depth anddimensions.Three months later, Paulson returnedto Louisiana and Mississippiwith a delegation representing thenewspaper: its publisher, Craig Moon;top editors from news, opinion, business,design and usatoday.com, as wellas editors who oversee special projectsand the front page. In designing thetrip, Paulson wanted to ensure buyinfrom every department, includingthe newspaper’s corporate side. Heinvited photographers, online artistsand videographers, as well, so the papercould tell the story of Katrina withcompelling images, both online andin print. Although I cover medicine,I represented the paper’s entire Lifedepartment. Following our trip I filedseveral religion stories, for example,looking at the role of faith-based volunteersin the rebuilding effort, as wellas the relationship between faith andpsychological resilience after tragedy.The Times-Picayune and the SunHerald greeted us with equally largenumbers of staff.In both areas, much of the debris—from toppled homes to overturnedcars, discarded refrigerators, evenrusty barges carried far inland—hasbeen hauled away. But in doing so,the clean-up crews scraped bare entireneighborhoods. In New Orleans’sLower Ninth Ward, whole blocks havebeen obliterated, with nothing left butsquare outlines that were once foundations.On some lots, two or three squatconcrete steps are all that remain offront porches.Most of us hadn’t visited the GulfCoast since the storm. Standing amidstKatrina’s destruction—even for justtwo days—gave us an appreciation ofwhat residents had gone through. Allthat we learned from our host journalistsgave us a better sense of why theregion’s recovery was progressing soslowly. DeBerry is still waiting on abuy-out offer from the state so he cansell his house and begin again. Untilthen, he’s paying a mortgage for anempty home, plus sky-high rent foran apartment. [See DeBerry’s storyon page 32.]“The trip was a valuable reminderthat sometimes editors—and not justreporters—need to walk in the steps ofthe people they cover,” Paulson says.“We returned from New Orleans andBiloxi with a renewed commitment tothe story.”A Substantial CommitmentLike all news outlets, our paper coveredthe storm’s destruction and did regularreports on the region’s progress. VisitingLouisiana and Mississippi, however,persuaded the newsroom leadershipto make a far more substantial commitment.The paper began sendingmore staff to the area, filing storiesunder the title “Water Mark: TrackingRecovery on the Gulf Coast.” In thefirst five months after our January visit,USA Today published 45 staff-writtenreports and related letters—more thantwice the number published in the fivemonths before the trip and far morethan most newspapers. Reporters fromnearly every beat in the newsroom have56 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Long-Term Coveragesince visited the Gulf Coast, coveringsubjects such as the difficult progressof the region’s schools, New Orleans’escalating crime rate, and the plightof children in foster care who weredislocated once again by the storm.One of our most seasoned reporters,former Baghdad correspondent RickJervis (who was part of an investigativeteam at The Miami Herald that won aPulitzer in 1999), is the new head ofour New Orleans bureau, which wascreated after the storm. Among thereporters to travel to New Orleanshas been Kevin Johnson, who coversnational law enforcement and theU.S. Justice Department. “I’ve beendown there about six times, includinga period immediately following thestorm, and I still don’t think I have afull appreciation of the damage and itsconsequences,” Johnson says. “Thereis no way to chronicle the dysfunctioncaused or exacerbated by Katrina onthe telephone. You have to be there.… Almost two years after the storm,the police department still is workingout of trailers. Some district headquartershave no plumbing and nobathrooms. I remember visiting a fewbattered police stations in Baghdad afew years ago. A few weeks ago, someof the New Orleans’s districts were inno better shape. A high-ranking policeofficial said that in one district outfittedwith portable toilets, the officers andstaff take up collections to have themdrained. Evidence gathered from crimescenes is now being stored in the trailerof an 18-wheeler.”News reporter Brad Heath visitedNew Orleans for the first time sinceKatrina in December 2006 and hasreturned twice since then. “I don’tthink I could have written about thesilence in the Lower Ninth withouthearing it for myself,” Heath says. “Iinterviewed one man in Gentilly whowas working to rebuild his house andnoticed he had buckets of empty beercans outside his FEMA trailer. He waswaiting for a long-delayed check fromthe government and this [the rebatefrom the beer cans] was his rebuildingfund. That’s not something you get overthe phone. To me, it’s the differencebetween reciting a story for our readersand helping them experience it. … Beingthere helped me get perspective onthe story. It [usually] made it easier tofind sources—the man who lives nextto a house that was just knocked downor near the marsh that’s disappearedinto open water.”During our January trip, and in subsequentvisits, residents let us knowhow happy they are that the countryhasn’t forgotten about them. Stan Tinerspoke about the lasting impact of ourdelegation’s visit at ASNE’s 2007 SmallNewspaper luncheon in April as heheaped praise on Paulson for takingthe important step of bringing manyin his newsroom to the frontlines ofthe story. Our visit, he says, showsthe difference that a single editor canmake after getting his “boots on theground.” He also expressed gratitudethat Paulson’s editors and reporters“have not left us since.” Liz Szabo covers medicine for USAToday. Research librarian SusanO’Brian contributed to this report.Investigating What Went Wrong and Why‘As it turns out, many of the systemic failures that plagued the Gulf Coast during andafter Katrina should have been predicted ….’By Jenni BergalWhen the Center for PublicIntegrity hired me in November2005, the missionwas clear: to conduct an in-depthjournalistic probe into one of the worstnatural disasters in U.S. history, HurricaneKatrina. Some in the nationalmedia, including The New York Timesand CNN, were doing excellent onthe-groundreporting, as were manysmall and midsized papers, especiallyThe Times-Picayune in New Orleansand the Sun Herald in Biloxi/Gulfport,Mississippi. What this opportunityallowed for was several experiencedreporters to examine the disaster notAs many newsorganizations reduce oreliminate investigativestaffs, thiscollaborative modelof team reporting … isa way for the press tocontinue its essentialwatchdog role.only in terms of what went wrong, butto ask why, and to ask whether aspectsof what happened here—as a result ofthe storm and then during the longrecovery from it—could happen againsomewhere else.Our findings would be published in abook entitled “City Adrift: New OrleansBefore and After Katrina,” divided intospecific subject areas—environment,health care, housing and other criticaltopics. Its focus would be solely onNew Orleans, a great American citythat had been nearly destroyed. As aninvestigative journalist, I knew we’dwant to rely on audits of governmentNieman Reports / Fall 2007 57


Katrina’s Aftermathprograms, congressional reports, andother public records so decisionmakingand mistakes made could bemelded into the broader context ofour storytelling. As it turns out, manyof the systemic failures that plaguedthe Gulf Coast during and after Katrinashould have been predicted; there isno shortage of reports and audits andtestimony about similar breakdownsand failures by government agenciesafter previous disasters in other partsof the country.My primary task was to find reporterseither with specific expertise we’dneed or with lots of experience ininvestigative journalism. I turned toa network of colleagues and peers tocome up with some names, and in theend I hired five journalists to work onthis project. The first one I brought onboard was John McQuaid, a PulitzerPrize-winning reporter who had justtaken a buyout from The Times-Picayune.He was the coauthor of a seriesin 2002 that predicted a Katrina-typestorm would hit New Orleans. Andhe knew a lot about the Army Corpsof Engineers and its history. He wasthe perfect person to write a chapterabout the levees.We also hired Frank Koughan, afreelancer who had spent eight years asan associate producer for CBS News’s“60 Minutes.” While he wasn’t a printjournalist, he knew a lot about investigativereporting and would be greatat humanizing the story because of hisTV background. He used those skillsto write eloquently about housing andinsurance.We also were fortunate to bringCurtis Wilkie to the team. He was along-time national political reporterfor The Boston Globe and had writtenbooks. As a Mississippi native who livedpart-time in the French Quarter, heunderstood New Orleans and Louisianapolitics and was able to use his vastknowledge to write about it.As I pulled together my team ofreporters, I decided I wanted to reportas well. With my background asan investigative health care reporterI examined the collapse of the healthcare system in New Orleans. I paidparticular attention to the failure ofthe National Disaster Medical System,a federal program that is designed toswoop in and help triage and evacuatesick and injured people duringa disaster when local health officialscan’t. After Katrina, it didn’t work asit should have.All of these reporters went to NewOrleans. I didn’t just want this book toend up a dull treatise filled with factsand figures, missing the human element.The only way to get a real senseof what happened was to be there, doingwhat reporters do. I also wantedthis book to go beyond many of thestories being told by newspapers andbroadcast media. We had the luxury oftime and resources to take a step backand closely examine whether decadesof ineptitude or inertia by local, stateand federal government and privateagencies had contributed to the failuresin New Orleans.As each journalist submitted achapter, I edited it and passed it onto Diane Fancher, the center’s editorialdirector, who then did a final edit.She also served as a valued soundingboard for me throughout the process.When one reporter had trouble gettinginformation from city officials, she and Idiscussed whether he should persist inthis hunt or move on. (When we foundout that the chaos at city hall was notdissipating, we advised him to moveon.) Another of our journalists hadgiven birth to her son in a New Orleanshospital the day before Katrina struck.Should she include it in her chapter?We decided no, since it was not relevantto our investigative mission.Perhaps our greatest challengewas figuring out how these disparatechapters would flow. Journalists hadwritten in their own style and doneso without conferring with each other.But there was some common ground:In advance of writing, I’d let each ofthem know that I wanted stories fromNew Orleans’ residents to be woventhroughout their chapter and, indeed,as I read the submissions, such storieswere there. I’d also asked the authorsto put their findings in an historiccontext to show that warning signswere apparent, but too often ignored,before Katrina struck.Having these elements present ineach chapter helped, but the fit wasn’talways easy, and a few nips and tucks—afew tweaks on beginnings and endings—werenecessary to make it allwork to tell a coherent story.Readers have responded well to themixture of human drama and weightyinvestigative findings. As many newsorganizations reduce or eliminateinvestigative staffs, this collaborativemodel of team reporting—with its findingsbeing published as a book—is away for the press to continue its essentialwatchdog role. In hiring a team ofexperienced reporters and having themtackle specific topics, we produced arelevant, serious and much-neededinvestigation. We hope our reportingcan help prevent the kind of chaosthat ensued in New Orleans and thatcontinues to haunt its recovery. Jenni Bergal supervised, edited andcoauthored “City Adrift: New OrleansBefore and After Katrina,” publishedby Louisiana State University Pressin June 2007, in her role as projectmanager at the Center for PublicIntegrity, an investigative journalismorganization in Washington, D.C..58 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Teaching Journalism inthe Digital AgeIn our Winter 2006 issue, Goodbye Gutenberg, journalists described the ways in which digitaltechnology affects their work, and adjustments being made within newsrooms were front andcenter. What wasn’t told, however, was how those who want to be journalists are being educatedand trained to take on vastly different roles than those once assumed—or studied about—byfaculty now teaching them. In this issue journalism educators write about what is happening—and what needs to happen—in classrooms to prepare future journalists for the demands of thedigital age.Dianne Lynch, who will become dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the Universityof California at Berkeley in January, sees in students entering college that “a childhood lived asmuch online as off” has given them the necessary building blocks “to be journalists in a digitalage.” She writes about a pilot project of “innovation incubators” at seven journalism schoolswhere ideas generated by students and faculty mentors will be transferred “from the academy toa news industry.” In doing this, she says, “we’ll have reexamined the very nature of journalismeducation in a participatory media culture.”At Kent State University, Karl Idsvoog, an assistant professor of journalism, writes that thej-school recently moved into “a new building with wireless Internet, high-speed video servers, anda converged newsroom.” Yet the long-standing “imbalance of university requirements vs. facultyrelevance [that] has always been a part of journalism school’s uneasy fit inside the academy”continues to pose the greatest challenge. In this digital era, he argues, “the fit isn’t just uneasy,it’s untenable.” As former Newsday Editor Howard Schneider went about designing a newapproach to teaching journalism as the incoming dean of the School of Journalism at Stony BrookUniversity, he realized that it would not be enough to focus academically on only those who wantto become journalists. His goal—made possible with a News Literacy class open to all students—is to also educate consumers of news to “differentiate between raw, unmediated informationcoursing through the Internet and independent, verified journalism.” Kim Pearson, an associateprofessor of English and interactive media at The College of New Jersey, also addresses this issueof how best to “promote news literacy among children who spend increasing amounts of theirtime finding and sharing information online.” She offers suggestions of ways to engage middleandhigh-school students through such groundbreaking approaches as the use of “databasedrivenpresentations” in place of hard-news storytelling.With a new content management system in place, Nicholas Lemann, dean of the GraduateSchool of Journalism at Columbia University, describes the ripple effect that technological changeis having as class-based Web sites proliferate. “As much as we groan at budget time over howheavily we are investing in technology,” Lemann writes, “we can afford to get ourselves muchcloser to professional levels of production on the Web than we can in the print or broadcastmedia.” As dean of the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, which openedin the fall of 2006, Stephen Shepard explains why students “choose a media track—print,broadcast or interactive” on which to focus, and content specialties are taught, while all studentsare “required to do assignments across media platforms.” Jean Folkerts, dean of the UniversityNieman Reports / Fall 2007 59


60 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism, seeks out alumni “to learn what graduatingstudents need to know.” As changes in teaching respond to what’s taking place on the Web and innewsrooms, Folkerts is mindful that “establishing trust with readers and viewers is as important indigital journalism as it was before the telegraph was invented.”After 13 years as an editor at The New York Times, the syllabus Mark J. Prendergastprepared for his journalism students at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University“overlaid traditional journalistic values onto new-media realities of the sort I had encountered onthe Times Continuous News Desk, a pioneering bridge between the paper’s newsroom and its Website.” Photographer Lester Sloan looks at lessons of visual storytelling being taught in journalismschools as he contemplates the changing demands that digital media place on photojournalists.“One inescapable challenge visual journalists will have is to simply keep up with not only therapidly changing tools of their craft but also the demands of the industry,” he writes. In an articleadapted from his book “The Big Picture: Why Democracies Need Journalistic Excellence,” JeffreyScheuer suggests that “it will require a paradigm shift to see journalism and education as taprootsof the same democratic tree and part of an information environment cohabited by citizens,journalists and scholars. It will mean relaxing the boundaries, and perhaps the very definitions, ofacademic and journalistic institutions.”When Lou Ureneck, chairman of the journalism department at Boston University, talked witha colleague from the economics department about how journalism is taught, he emphasizednot the new technologies but the “journalistic value system” with idealism and skepticism atits core. These values and others, he writes, “are what make someone a good journalist, andthey are what lift this work above the trivial.” Mike McKean, who is department chair of theconvergence journalism faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism, begins with the declarationthat “convergence journalism, as we teach it at Missouri, is more about new attitudes than newskills.” He includes among these attitudes the “need to be humble in the face of overwhelmingsocial changes made possible by digital media.” Jerome Aumente, professor emeritus atRutgers, contends that “the key word that encompasses these changes in the classroom is‘interdisciplinary.’” Given his experience at Rutgers with instituting a multidisciplinary approach,Aumente talks about the value of such an integrated effort in teaching journalism in a time ofdigital change.Guillermo Franco, content manager of new media at Casa Editorial El Tiempo and aprofessor in postgraduate journalism programs in Bogota, Colombia, worries that at a timewhen online journalism is so prevalent, too many Latin American journalism schools employ the“strategy of using patches, of adding an elective here and an elective there.” “Instead,” he argues,“entire programs must be completely redesigned” so that the next generation won’t be reminded“of how bonded we are to the old way of doing things.” Michele McLellan and Tim Porter,coauthors of “News, Improved: How America’s Newsrooms Are Learning to Change,” point outthat “only a third of news organizations increased their training budgets in the past five years ….Yet nine in 10 journalists say they need more training and nine in 10 news executives agree.” Theyalso highlight examples of news organizations in which newsroom training has been implementedand the impact these initiatives have had.


Incubating Innovation at Journalism SchoolsWith the online generation entering college, some key ingredients for new ways ofpracticing journalism are arriving with them.By Dianne LynchIn 2001, as a columnist for ABC-News.com, I interviewed a 13-year-old girl whose AOL screenname was UWannaLoveMe7. I askedthe obvious question: Why would anice girl like her adopt a screen namelike that? “I have different screennames for when I am feeling differentways,” she explained. “I use that onewhen I want more attention.” I calledUWannaLoveMe7’s mother, who wasunaware that people employ pseudonymsonline or that her daughter wastrolling virtual space in search of “moreattention.” “My Melissa?” she squeaked.“UWannaLoveMe7? Are you sure?”That was five years ago, an eon inInternet time. Since then, I’ve devotedmuch of my professional life to exploringthe experiences and identitydevelopment of kids in virtual spaces.UWannaLoveMe7, a member of the firstgeneration of digital natives, spent hersgrowing up in a virtual world.That world changed permanentlythe year she was born, the same yearthat CERN 1 and Tim Berners-Leelaunched the World Wide Web. She andher peers were fourth-graders whenShawn Fanning’s Napster upended ournotions of copyright and intellectualproperty; fifth-graders when Wikipediareplaced the Encyclopædia Britannicaas the source of universal knowledge,and high-school juniors when YouTubebecame the site of all-things-videoand MySpace the glorification of allthings-me.This fall, UWannaLoveMe7 andher friends will arrive on our collegecampuses. They’ll come to us as eageras freshmen always are. But it’s a watershed,nonetheless, one as worthyof note as the relative trends in theircollective SAT scores and high schoolGPAs. For these are the kids who grewup online, whose childhoods evolvedin a virtual universe as interactiveand age-blind as it was dynamic andimmediate. That experience exposedthem early to pornographic images andsexual advances.It also prepared them to be journalistsin a digital age.Participatory Culture andJournalism EducationHenry Jenkins at MIT has proposeda new definition of literacy appropriateto our “participatory culture.” Itprivileges play, negotiation, transmedianavigation, and collective intelligencesover reading, writing, arithmetic andiconic deconstruction. In fact, it capturesprecisely the characteristics ofour class of 2011:• They’re information junkies who defineknowledge production in termsof access rather than storage.• They’re multitaskers who processinput at broadband speed, whoassume that content morphs easilyfrom one medium or platform toanother, and who are certain—always—thatthe answer is out theresomewhere, waiting to be discovered.By them.• They’re bricoleurs, 2 who grew upplaying with technology (and areperplexed, therefore, by journalismeducation’s collective obsessionwith the tools of media production:If you need to learn Photoshop, youlearn Photoshop. What’s the bigdeal?).• Many are gamers, masters of collaborativeengagement and targetedoutcomes; all have performed multipleidentities in virtual spacesand understand intuitively how totailor a message to a particular audience.Contrary to our persistent (andself-righteous) complaint that theycannot discern credible from incrediblecontent, they value truth andaccuracy—and a decade of virtualexperience has produced in them theability to recognize both. And theyoperate from a set of assumptions thatdefies the premises of our journalismschools and the profession it serves:In the worlds they inhabit, online andoff, content is free, knowledge productionis collaborative, and media areparticipatory.That means they’ll listen to us talkabout intellectual property, the authorityof the “professional” journalist (notto mention the professional facultymember), and the inherent credibilityor value of longstanding journalismtraditions and structures (like theinverted pyramid, for example, ornewsrooms). They may even nod andtake notes (it could be on the test).But their experience—as valid and1The European Organization for Nuclear Research.2As defined on Wikipedia, bricoleurs are people who engage in a design approachcalled bricolage, meaning that they invent their own strategies for using existingmaterials in creative, resourceful and original ways.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 61


Teaching Journalismreal as our own—instructs them thatsuch ideas are historical artifacts of apre-Web culture, leftovers from howthings used to be.And they are certain (and right) thatthat’s not how things are anymore.Emergent InnovationAbout 18 months ago, a friend of mine,the executive vice president of one ofthe country’s largest media companies,was describing his frustration withcorporate culture. “After you’ve beenin the corporate environment for morethan six months, it’s impossibleto have an original idea,” he toldme. “So we all end up just talkingto ourselves, telling each otherwhat we want to hear.”It reminded me of my colleaguesin journalism educationduring the past few years, allstruggling to figure out howwe’re going to inject convergenceand “new media”—whateverthat means—into curricula thathaven’t changed all that much sincepre-cable TV.We’ve done, in good faith, what ourown experience tells us we should do:We’ve set up committees and attendedworkshops. We’ve benchmarked theprograms that looked like they knewwhat they were doing (even as theybenchmarked us). And we’ve earnestlydebated the banal: Are bloggers journalists?(Answer: When they’re doingjournalism.) Will they replace “real”journalists? (Answer: No.) Should weincorporate “new media” into all of ourcourses or create a “new media” requirementfor all students? (Yes. Both.)And we have drummed into our students—withan archaic resolve—thatthere is no moral difference betweensharing a music file and shopliftinga CD. (Is it possible we believe that?Really?)We’ve been talking in circles. Justlike our corporate counterparts.But there is one significant difference:Every fall, we enjoy the privilegeof newness. Millions of first-year studentsarrive on our collective doorstep,perpetually 18. And increasingly, thosenewbies will be culturally literate asJenkins defines the term, multitaskingbricoleurs armed with the confidenceof youth and the perspective of a childhoodlived as much online as off. Thatrepresents a whole slate of challenges—toour egos, to our pedagogy, to thecore mission of the academy—whichwe have not yet begun to anticipate.But in an era of extraordinary chaosand unpredictable change, that alsoIn the worlds they [the students]inhabit, online and off, content is free,knowledge production is collaborative,and media are participatory.may be among the greatest and mostundervalued assets we have.A corporate colleague and I decidedto test that theory, to leverage thatcreative capital in a process of openinnovation that would produce executableresults. Last summer, we piloted aninnovation incubator with six studentsat Ithaca College. We worked with hisexecutive team, which established thedeadlines and served as our client. Andwe gave the group a single instruction:Create something new in the onlinetravel market.That was it. No rules. No grades. Nolimits. No answers. It took six weeks,and it challenged the students in waysthey didn’t expect; in fact, they werefurious when we refused to set parameters,answer questions, or providedirection (that’s what faculty do, isn’tit? Well, isn’t it?) It was an open playingfield and, at the end of the project,they hit it out of the park.Now we’ve expanded the model.Under a grant from the Knight Foundation’sNews Challenge project, sevenjournalism schools across the countryare collaborating on a network of innovationincubators. 3 We’re testingJohn Seely Brown and John Hagel’snotions of productive open innovation:big ideas, firm deadlines, andclear outcomes.And the project’s faculty mentors aretracking the processes through whichstudents collaborate and generateoriginal ideas as a baseline for futureresearch and model development.By spring, we’ll have produced three“marketable” projects, field-testedthem with media partners, andpiloted a system for transferringintellectual innovation and creativecapital from the academyto a news industry desperatelyin need of both. And just as important,we’ll have reexaminedthe very nature of journalismeducation in a participatorymedia culture.Following the LeadersThat process must begin with an admissionthat cheap paper—no matterhow familiar—is a lousy platform forcontent delivery. That doesn’t meanjournalism is irrelevant; it just meanswe’ve stopped reading newspapers.And contrary to the handwringinggoing on in our newsrooms and ourclassrooms, that’s the result not ofcultural crisis but of a failing businessmodel. It’s also a wake-up callfor American journalism education,a signal that our own future dependsentirely upon our willingness to movebeyond the tools of our trade and thepractices of our past.For starters, we need to stop teachingsoftware (except, perhaps, to eachother). Our students will come to usknowing it, or knowing they can learnit when they need to. We need to stopconflating the newspaper industrywith journalism itself. When we seeyet another study about how kids3The participating schools are: Michigan State, University of Kansas, Kansas State,Western Kentucky University, Ithaca College, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and St.Michael’s College.62 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital Demandsaren’t reading daily newspapers, weshould worry less about the democracyand more about the insularityof our research frame: Journalism isalive and well on digg.com, YouTube,Crooksandliars.com, and The SmokingGun.com. And when our studentschallenge our authority or fact checkour proclamations during class, weneed to stop scrambling for classroommanagement techniques and start addressingthe widening gap betweentheir assumptions about knowledgeproduction and our own.In short, our core mission, as educatorsand as journalists, is platformneutral—even if we are not. And ourcurrency and credibility will dependnot upon our ability to provide accessto equipment or train studentsfor a moribund industry, but uponour capacity to nurture collaborativeinnovation that produces accurate, informativeand interactive content—forevery screen and every audience.Fortunately, our future is as participatoryas it is inclusive; we have allthe intellectual capital we need, rightwhere we live. Her name is UWanna-LoveMe7 and, if we pay attention andadjust our assumptions—and ourpedagogy—accordingly, her generationwill lead us everywhere we needto go. Dianne Lynch is dean of the Roy H.Park School of Communications atIthaca College. On January 1, 2008,she will become the dean of theGraduate School of Journalism at theUniversity of California at Berkeley.Adapt or Die of IrrelevanceThe clash between academic requirements for professors and the education studentsof journalism need to have grows more intense.By Karl IdsvoogI’m doing something few universitystudent journalists ever do. I’mwriting an article to be publishedon the pages of a magazine. There won’tbe an iPod version, or a video to accompanyits eventual appearance online, orinteractivity for discussion anddebate about what I say, or a blogor slide show—just words onthe page. Only gradually is NiemanReports adapting to whatevery journalism student mustadapt to quickly—the evolvingmultimedia environment. Withuniversity journalism education,we can no longer trainprint journalists, or radio or TVjournalists, or photojournalists;today, these are all pieces of alarger pie we call multimediajournalism.Boom! That’s the sound heardas journalism schools blow up theircurriculum. That’s what we’re doinghere at Kent State, and the leadershipcomes from a pleasantly surprisingplace—Fred Endres, the senior facultymember, who is like Thomas Edisonin that he will stop coming up withinnovative ideas on the day he dies. Aformer print reporter turned professor,in 1987 Endres started the computerassistedreporting course at Kent. Hethen developed our first online journalismclass in 1999, and three years laterWith university journalism education,we can no longer train printjournalists, or radio or TV journalists,or photojournalists; today, theseare all pieces of a larger pie we callmultimedia journalism.started a collaborative course whereprint and broadcast journalists fight—Imean work with each other—on newsprojects.“It is all about multimedia, interactivity,24-hour deadlines, and newmethods of delivering the news,” saysEndres. “It’s more than we ever expectedof students 10 to 15 years ago.”In every class, students are forced tothink—and perform—across a varietyof platforms. Photojournalism professorTeresa Hernández observes that“multimedia has become the way of thestill photographer,” and this means thevisual gets immersed in sound.“People want to hear and seethings more and read less,” shesays. “Like it or not, that is thereality.” There’s another reality,too, that every journalismprofessor must recognize—thejob market. “Many of the photointernships are now for multimedia,”Hernández says.Jan Leach, a journalismprofessor who came to KentState a few years ago from aprint newsroom, shares thisexperience. “I’d be surprised if anynewspaper editor would hire a studentright out of j-school who didn’t have agood understanding of writing/producingonline,” she says.In the school’s legal issues class, Barrettv. Rosenthal is to the Internet whatNew York Times Co. v. Sullivan is tolibel, as citizen journalism becomes theNieman Reports / Fall 2007 63


Teaching Journalism“next major battleground” for onlinespeech, in the view of Professor TimSmith. In the courtroom as well as thenewsroom, the news media landscapeis changing rapidly, so for students tosucceed, the classroom—and the universityin which it is embedded—mustchange as well. “If we want our kidsto be competitive, we need to preparethem for the world they are about toenter,” Smith says.In Kent State’s audience analysisclass, Professor Max Grubb’s studentsdon’t analyze only the TV Nielsen ratings,but they also examine the use ofthe Web. It’s no longer just about circulationand ratings. Grubb, who spent15 years on the sales/marketing side ofthe broadcast business, contends thatblogs, citizen journalism, and interactivityhave transformed the structure ofthe media business into what he callsthe “architecture of participation.”“As media professionals,” says Grubb,“our students need to understand andfacilitate rather than resist it.”Resisting ChangeCreative thinking consultant Rogervon Oech contends that nobody likeschange except a baby whose diaper iswet. Too many j-school students seemproof of that notion. Beginning this fallsemester, the j-school is moving intoa new building with wireless Internet,high-speed video servers, and a convergednewsroom. Student leaders areworking with faculty to develop theorganizational structure for studentmedia. At a recent planning meeting,one of our brighter and more talentedstudents listed a few potential stories,then asked the student from the schoolnewspaper what she would put on thefront page. He then posed the samequestion to the student representativefrom the TV station; how would shelead her newscast? He was demonstratingthe ways in which newspapers andbroadcast media approach the tellingof news differently. But nobody raisedany questions about how to cover thesestories for a multimedia Web site. Eachsaw coverage only from inside of hisor her own silo.Such attitudes spell doom—in contemporarynewsrooms and classrooms.“The more ostriches in your newsroomor on your faculty, the more likely yourorganization will quickly join the list ofendangered species,” Endres cautions.Amid the downsizing of newsroomsnow going on, even veteran journalistsare finding it essential to learnnew skills. And some are returning toschool to do so. Kent State’s graduatecoordinator, Von Whitmore, recognizesthat “graduate programs will have toadapt to this new demand by developingalternative ways for working professionalsto take classes [that] mustteach students about multiple platformcontent from the very first course in thecurriculum.” Graduate student SusanKirkman spent 20 years working as ajournalist at the Akron Beacon Journal,most recently as the managing editorfor multimedia and special projects.Kirkman’s advice to journalists formanaging change applies as much tonewsrooms as it does to journalismschools: “Figure out how to createcultures that support innovation.”This is the toughest challenge weface—given how difficult cultural shiftscan be to make within a university.“Some faculty will never be able to collaboratewith those in other disciplines;others will do so, but reluctantly,” saysEndres. “Still others, maybe a third ofcurrent faculties, will find the move outof silos to be exciting and invigorating.You can probably identify those facultymembers already. They’re the oneswith all the most forward thinking andaggressive students hanging aroundtheir offices.”Building a J-School FacultyIt’s impossible to teach what youdon’t know, yet learning new softwareprograms and developing multimediaskills requires the investment of time,resources and money. “It’s the trifectaof money, time and personnel,” saysWhitmore. “[But] foundation moneyfor journalism programs is shrinkingwhile federal and state supportfor higher education has all but vanished.”Without universities willing to bringin faculty members with the skillsand experience necessary to preparestudents to meet the rapidly changingdemands by getting rid of someacademic barriers—such as requiringfaculty members to have a PhD—journalismschools will remain on theprecipice of becoming irrelevant to theprofession. Editors are not determiningwhich stories to tell and how to tellthem by reading academic journals,yet universities reward publication ofsuch articles more highly than they doteaching or passing on cutting-edgemultimedia skills or figuring out howto get students to think creatively andbroadly about how journalistic valuesmesh with the changes brought aboutby technological progress.With this in mind, the requirementsposted in the advertisements in TheChronicle of Higher Education forjobs as j-school professors seem all themore troubling. Recently I checked 20of them, and all but one indicated thata PhD was required or preferred. Mostdid not require or give the preferrednumber of years of professional experience,though for one position the adstipulated two years of professionalexperience. (I certainly know howmuch I knew after only two years onthe job.)Why so little experience would bedeemed sufficient by any journalismprogram pinpoints a major disconnectbetween academia and the demands ofthe marketplace. Hiring someone toteach a reporting class who has neverreported is like signing up a doctorwho’s never been in the operatingroom to teach surgery, or asking alawyer who’s never had a client orfiled briefs or been in a courtroom toteach law. Educating journalists hasalways required more than an academicorientation—and this imbalance ofuniversity requirements vs. facultyrelevance has always been a part ofjournalism school’s uneasy fit insidethe academy. But today the fit isn’t justuneasy, it’s untenable.Universities will need to adapt ortheir j-schools will die of irrelevance.With soaring tuition costs, prospectivejournalists will refuse to waste time andmoney learning what they don’t need toknow while a glance over their shoulder64 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital Demandswill spot plenty of young people findingstimulating, on-the-job tutorials inplaces other than classrooms.Journalism’s ImportanceKent State understands this. In its richmix of faculty—in which nearly everymember has spent years working asa journalist—a tenure-track professorcan focus either on research oron practice. At a recent InvestigativeReporters and Editors conference,a professor from another universityasked me how I could be on a tenuretrackposition without having a PhD.At Kent State, I am the only facultymember on staff who has worked professionallyin digital media. Indeed, oursituation may currently be out of thenorm, but to survive, it’s the directionj-schools that want to remain relevantmust head. To achieve that, thosedirecting j-school programs must beable to explain to provosts and deansand university presidents the ways inwhich journalism differs from otherscholarly pursuits—and why the meshof classroom learning and on-the-streetand in-the-newsroom reporting lessonsand experiences are essential.At Kent State, the faculty also appreciateswhat many news corporationshave forgotten—that journalism is essentialfor our democracy to function.In the Winter 2006 issue of NiemanReports, former Nieman Curator BillKovach stressed the importance of the“journalism of verification.” Journalismisn’t rumor, isn’t about repeatinggossip, and isn’t about celebrity. Thestatement of purpose for the Committeeof Concerned Journalists—theorganization Kovach founded—shouldbe placed at the entryway of everyschool of journalism. It states, “Thecentral purpose of journalism is toprovide citizens with accurate andreliable information they need inorder to make informed judgmentsin a self-governing society.” As former“Nightline” producer Tom Bettag in hisarticle “Evolving Definitions of News”so aptly stated, “Credibility is so valuabletoday because it is so scarce.”For these reasons, and so manymore, journalism education has neverbeen as important as it is today. All ofthe software, streaming video, interactivity,flash animation, blogs and audioall become irrelevant when the journalismthey are called to serve isn’t solid.Students need to learn how to secureand dig through documents, to comprehensivelyprepare for interviews, todetermine whether a story holds up totough scrutiny or loses its legs as moreinformation is gathered and assessed,and to appreciate what journalism isand why it matters. “The major obstaclefacing journalism schools is the starkrealization that students need to havecritical thinking skills first, and thenwe need to ask them to start applyingthe multimedia skills on top. Withoutthe first, there can be no use of thatsecond that makes any sense,” saysKent State journalism professor BarbaraHipsman.Delivery platforms for news andinformation have changed—and atbreakneck speed they will continue tochange. In the past, it might have beenpossible, if not ideal, to pass along tostudents the fundamental principlesand skills of journalism even if professorsnever had direct engagementwith newsroom techniques and skills.Too much is changing too quickly inthe digital news environment—andconsequently in the marketplace thesestudents will enter—to allow this mismatchto continue. Karl Idsvoog, a 1983 Nieman Fellow,is an assistant professor at Kent StateUniversity.It’s the Audience, Stupid!At Stony Brook University, thousands of students are learning how to criticallyexamine the news they encounter.By Howard SchneiderThe road to conceiving a radicallydifferent approach to journalismeducation—one that notonly focuses on training future journalistsbut on tens of thousands of studentswith no journalistic aspirations atall—began for me in November 2004,when I abruptly left my job as the editorof Newsday. My sudden departure after35 years of employment was promptedby a series of escalating disagreementswith our new publisher over the directionand future of the paper.On Election Night that year, Istruggled mightily to write a nuancedheadline that proclaimed thePresident’s apparent reelection. Oneweek later, my only occupation washow to best remove two decades ofaccumulated debris from the familybasement. I was exhausted and drainedof ambition. I was determined to deferfor several months any thinking aboutthe future, my own or of the futureof journalism, my lifetime professionclearly roiling—one might even saywallowing—in turmoil.Forty-eight hours later, all of thatchanged when I received a telephonecall from the president of Stony BrookUniversity, the largest research universityin the New York State public collegesystem. The campus was renowned forNieman Reports / Fall 2007 65


Teaching Journalismits hard sciences, presided over forthe past decade by a politically savvy,native Texan who had earned heracademic stripes as a scholar of 18thcentury British drama. As editor of thedominant newspaper on Long Island,I had casually encountered ShirleyStrum Kenny on many occasions, hadbeen charmed by her Lone Star patois,and impressed with her intelligence,but I hardly knew her. Now at our firstmeeting in her homey but clutteredthird-floor office, with the nameplate“Steel Magnolia” affixed to the desk,she kicked off her shoes and revealedwhy she had called.“I want to do something big withjournalism,” she said. “It’s time. I wantto know if you will help me.”I muttered something about thebasement.“We have the chance to create a programfor the future, not the past,” shewent on. “We can do something withdistinction. But I need a plan. Will youat least think about it?”We talked more, and I promised ananswer. In a week’s time, three factorsconvinced me to help Kenny create herprogram. I discovered that in the entireNew York State public college system—which sprawled across 64 campuseswith 415,000 students—there was notone accredited journalism program orundergraduate school of journalism.Second, my extended conversationwith Kenny had revealed an abidinginterest in the press. I learned thatshe had graduated with a journalismdegree from the University of Texas,had become only the second femaleeditor of the Daily Texan, and hadset off to become a reporter in Austinbefore a dumb, but not atypical maleeditor of the 1950’s, had exiled herto the women’s pages. She would bea trusted and committed partner inthis venture.Finally, in the week between my twovisits, my anger had been rekindled atthe pessimism, shortsightedness, panicand even cowardice that had markedso many decisions by top media executivesin recent years. A former colleagueeven asked me, “How will you sleepat night knowing you will be trainingstudents who can’t find jobs?”No, I was a hopeless believer thatresponsible journalism would endureif only we could inspire young reporterswith the courage, skills and passionto act in the public interest. Creatinga journalism program would be myrevenge—a powerful statement of optimismabout the future. The questionwas, how to do it?Charting a New CourseI set out to interview dozens of deansof journalism programs, industry leadersfrom the “old media” and gurusfrom the “new,” visionaries, scholars,professors, authors, TV producers,and newspaper editors. We talkedabout convergence, the digital revolution,the inability of many journalismgraduates to write a clear, declarativesentence, and the growing gender gapthat had resulted in women occupyingtwo-thirds of the seats in manycommunications programs. I visitedhuge communications schools thatwarehoused thousands of majors—ofwhom only a relatively few majoredin journalism.Always, there were the same questions:What values and skills will studentsneed to succeed in the future?How will we sustain quality journalismin the face of a 24-7 digital news cycle,unprecedented competition, audiencefragmentation, unreasonable financialgoals, and the devaluing of seriousnews coverage?It wasn’t until later that I realizedthat many of the answers were unfoldingright under my nose. I had agreedto teach a class called “The Ethics andValues of the American Press” so I couldget to know Stony Brook students, astudent body remarkable for its diversityand drive. About half the studentswere the first in their families to attendcollege, nearly 20 percent were not yetnaturalized citizens, and many had SATscores of 1,200 or higher. On the firstday 35 upperclassmen stared back atme, representing majors from morethan a dozen departments.“I want you to do something antitheticalto everything you have learnedhere,” I told them. “I don’t want youto think. Just react to the two words Iput on the board.” Then I wrote THEPRESS.Words and phrases tumbled out.“Nosy.” “Bias.” “Ratings.” “Lack of privacy.”“Crime.” “Liberal.” “Sensational.”“Television.” “Not patriotic.” “Slanted.”“Nonstop.” “Controversy.” “Orangejuice.” (This last association came froma rare student who had grown up witha newspaper at the breakfast table.)In the following weeks, I probedthe students on how they made theirnews decisions. (To varying degrees,they all consumed news.) I deducedthat about a third believed everythingthey watched or read that came froma “news brand,” though they equallytrusted news from an obscure Web site,an entertainment magazine, or TheNew York Times. Another third believednothing—cynics at 19, convinced themainstream press was hopelessly captiveof greedy corporate interests andcorrupt government spinmeisters.The last third often didn’t know whatto believe, confused about what newsaccounts to trust or who even was ajournalist. Was Jon Stewart? Oprah Winfrey?Bill O’Reilly? Michael Moore?Spirited discussions ensued on whatfreedom of the press actually means, onwhether Stewart is a journalist (despitehis disavowals, more than a third of theclass turned to him as their primarysource of news), on whether news decisionsare driven more by profit motiveor social responsibility and—using aseries of hypothetical cases based onmy own experiences—to what extentjournalists exercise ethical decisionmaking.Meanwhile, outside of class, I feltI was making good progress on myplan for a journalism degree program.It would be comprehensive,requiring majors to earn 47 creditsin journalism—far more than mostprograms—and an additional 80 creditsin the arts and sciences. It wouldemphasize the fundamentals. Therewould be three news-writing courses,a rigorous grammar test, and a writingimmersion program for those whofailed the test. It would be innovative.We would teach students to thriveacross all media platforms. It would bepractical. We would prepare students66 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital Demandsto compete for entry-levels jobs in anew digital “newsroom of the future”that we would build on campus.But again and again scenes frommy classroom forced me to think innew directions. There was the afternoona student asked if O’Reilly wasa reporter or commentator, and whatdifference it made. (Only a handful ofstudents, it turned out, had ever seena newspaper editorial page.) Or theday the class had a fierce debate aboutwhether news coverage of the IraqWar was too negative, withstudents digging ideologicalbunkers that were imperviousto incoming evidence. My informalsurvey found the classequally divided as to whetherthe press had too little poweror too much. (That semestera Knight Foundation surveyof more than 100,000 highschools students revealedthat 37 percent felt thatnewspapers should first gettheir stories approved by thegovernment.)As the deadline for gettingmy proposal to Kenny drew near, Iknew I had to make a major change. Ajournalism school of the future wouldneed two missions, not one. Our firstmission was daunting enough: to trainthe next generation of reporters andeditors in a period of media transformation.But the second mission was ofequal—perhaps greater—importance:to educate the next generation of newsconsumers.Preparing News ConsumersAn open, cacophonous, freewheelingpress always would include those whopracticed the dark arts of the informationage: disguising reality throughsleight-of-hand and half-truths, conjuringup assertion as verification,masquerading ideology as news analysis,and morphing news values intoentertainment hype, not to mentionthe veritable journalistic sins of sloppiness,laziness and naiveté. The digitalrevolution might bring the promise ofenlightenment, but in its pathologicallack of accountability might just aseasily spread a virus of confusion anddisinformation.The ultimate check against an inaccurateor irresponsible press neverwould be just better-trained journalists,or more press critics and ethicalcodes. It would be a generation of newsconsumers who would learn how to distinguishfor themselves between newsand propaganda, verification and mereassertion, evidence and inference, biasand fairness, and between media biasand audience bias—consumers whoOur first mission was dauntingenough: to train the next generationof reporters and editors in a periodof media transformation. But thesecond mission was of equal—perhapsgreater—importance: to educate the nextgeneration of news consumers.could differentiate between raw, unmediatedinformation coursing throughthe Internet and independent, verifiedjournalism.Yet most journalism programslargely ignored the issue, choosing tofocus almost exclusively on the supplyside of the journalism equation.We would focus on the demand side,as well, and build a future audiencethat would recognize and appreciatequality journalism.I told this to Kenny in our lastmeeting that spring. I proposed acourse called News Literacy—a classon how to use critical thinking skillsto judge the credibility and reliabilityof news reports. I urged that she makeit available to all students on campus.The university would nurture a moreinformed citizenry. Our students wouldacquire a lifetime asset: the ability toassess what to trust and distrust in thenews media, when to act on informationand when to suspect it, whetherin choosing a President, a controversialmedication, or a news “brand.”About a month after receiving my“dual mission” proposal, Kenny calledback.“Let’s do it,” she said.In the two years since we launchedStony Brook’s School of Journalismwith nearly 30 new courses, we havetaught News Literacy to several hundredstudents from across the campus.The syllabus for the three-credit, 42-hour course continues to evolve, butits backbone has hardened. The classbegins with a 48-hour news blackoutimposed on the students—no news,ball scores, or even weatherfor two days. Some studentsreport they are so anxiousthey can’t sleep, others carryumbrellas as insurance, andalmost all are surprised by theubiquity of news and to theextent to which it intrudes intheir lives.After teaching the coursefor one semester, we madea major adjustment. We realizedthat before we couldhelp students assess any journalism,we had to help themfind the journalism. So weemploy a grid to demonstrate the differencesbetween news, propaganda,advertising, publicity, entertainmentand raw information, with particularemphasis on areas where the lines areoften blurring—or collapsing.Journalists visit the class anddescribe how they make decisions.Students study the inherent tensionbetween the press and government inAmerica and how the U.S. press differsfrom the press overseas. (Unfailingly,students are shocked when they visitthe Web site of the Committee to ProtectJournalists. “I couldn’t believe howmany people want to kill journalists,”one student said. “I had no idea.”)But the heart of the course is a sequenceof classes on “deconstructingthe news.” Students critically examinenews Web sites, newspaper stories,and cable and broadcast news reports,separate information that is assertedfrom information that is verified, analyzeeach source in a story based onfive guidelines that help them judgereliability, and seek out any evidenceof bias, including their own.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 67


Teaching JournalismA powerful metaphor for verificationemerged during a discussion of HurricaneKatrina. According to one erroneousnews account, the bodies of 40dead citizens had piled up in a freezerat the Morial Convention Center. Thereporter based his story on secondhandinformation from two NationalGuardsmen. In his subsequent meaculpa, the reporter regretted neverlooking inside for himself. Studentsseized on the image and suggested anew rule for news consumers. Beforebelieving any story, always ask, “Didthe reporter open the freezer?”Student evaluations have been largelypositive. In a story in The New YorkTimes one sophomore said,” I think Ilearned more skills that I’m going touse for the rest of my life than I did inany other course in college.”Our work has just begun. With thehelp of a $1.7 million grant from theJohn S. and James L. Knight Foundation,we launched a program this fall toteach News Literacy to 10,000 studentsduring the next four years. The Knightgrant also will allow us to test over timewhether the course makes a significantdifference in their academic, professionalor personal lives. And in May,Kenny established a national Center forNews Literacy at the School of Journalism.Its goal is to extend our missionto other universities, high schools, andeven the general public.Needless to say, I never finishedcleaning out the basement. Howard Schneider is dean of theSchool of Journalism at Stony BrookUniversity.Start Earlier. Expand the Mission. IntegrateTechnology.A journalism professor offers a fresh approach to training journalists alongside thosewho consume news and one day might publish it.By Kim PearsonMost journalism majors don’tbecome journalists, but mostjournalists are graduates ofjournalism programs. This means thathow educators approach the preparationof students in this digital age willshape journalism’s future direction insignificant ways. And in this transformationaltime for journalism, what is bestrepresented by a liberal arts educationneeds to be placed front and centerso those who become journalists willbe, at their core, ready to act as intellectuallysophisticated producers anddisseminators of information.Sensing this need, the Knight Foundationand Carnegie Corporation ofNew York sponsored blue-ribbon conferencesand demonstration projectsaimed at reshaping undergraduate andgraduate-level journalism programs.In May 2006, they issued a progressreport entitled “Journalism’s Crisis ofConfidence: A Challenge for the NextGeneration.” 1 It stressed the need forcurricula to ensure that aspiring journalistsbe educated to become worldlyintellectuals who retain the commontouch necessary to reach audiencesin an evolving media landscape ofalmost infinite complexity. With thisin mind, a few programs, such as ColumbiaUniversity’s Graduate School ofJournalism, Northwestern University’sMedill School, and USC Annenberg’sSchool for Communication, are in theprocess of designing enhanced curriculaand joint degree opportunitieswith other departments and schools.In September 2006, a task force of theAssociation for Education in Journalismand Mass Communication reportedon the state of its affiliated doctoralprograms, 2 and spoke to the need forimproving theoretical engagementwith key issues and smoother integrationof communications researchinto craft-focused undergraduate andmaster’s-level courses.Neither report sheds much light onexactly how the suggested approacheswill prepare journalists to deal withthe enormous challenges and opportunitiesof the digital age. Nor is muchattention paid to assessing the rolesjournalists or journalism educatorsmight play in shaping the technologicaland economic frameworks in whichnewsgathering will be practiced. Andno consideration is given to what journalismeducation might do at the precollegelevel to promote news literacyamong children who spend increasing1www.carnegie.org/pdf/journalism_crisis/journ_crisis_full.pdf2www.aejmc.org/_scholarship/_publications/_resources/_reports/taskforcereport_06.pdf68 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital Demandsamounts of their time finding and sharinginformation online.Fortunately, some academic leadersare undertaking new initiatives, such asthe new Graduate School JournalismScholarship for students with undergraduatecomputer science degrees.However, we must do more to preventa widening gap between academicpreparation and the technologicaland economic forces of the digitalage into which students will emerge.And the consequence could be thatthe valued place journalists have longheld in our democratic process couldbe endangered.Seeking a New ApproachThere are ways to act on critical aspectsof these problems. For example, whileit’s not unusual for middle andhigh school English teachers tohave students create print andonline newspapers and magazinesas a way to teach writing andinformation gathering, journalismeducation—including medialiteracy—needs to be more directlyinfused into the curricula.Multimedia research and communicationsskills are essential forstudents as they become criticalconsumers and producers of informationand news; but they must also taketo heart the rights and responsibilitiesthat accompany this privilege.To do this requires the developmentof a degree track for teacherswith certifications in language arts,art education, and computer science.Therefore, undergraduate journalismeducation should offer a liberal artstrack and an education track, just ashappens often with other liberal artsdisciplines.Concern is now being expressedabout the future of investigative reportingas newsroom staffs and reportingresources are cut. So I offer someexamples of how such an approachmight help in this regard:1. If middle and high school studentspracticed the skills of online journalismin the course of their studies—researchingpublic records,assembling databases from informationthey gathered, doing podcastsof interviews and their own production—thentheir lifelong connectionto news and to the importance of itsreliability could be strengthened.2. Young people taught in this waymight be more likely to enter thenewsgathering field, either as journalistsor as publishing entrepreneurs.3. Even the majority of students whodon’t become newsgatherers mightbecome more civically engaged,perhaps using online sites such asYouTube as places to practice theirown local watchdog reporting.The challenge for journalists—andjournalism educators—is to thinkabout ways to create dynamiccurricula to enhance the practice ofjournalism.The challenge for journalists—andjournalism educators—is to thinkabout ways to create dynamic curriculato enhance the practice of journalism.Such a challenge lends itself tothe development of new and closerpartnerships among journalists, technologyspecialists involved with communicationstools, economists lookingat new business models, and educatorsworking with the next generation ofpotential journalists.Adrian Holovaty, a programmerinvolved with journalism Web sites,eloquently argues that journalists needto move beyond the linear narrativeand think of stories as chunks of datato be segmented and cross-referencedso readers can easily find what intereststhem. 3 His new direction relieson the database capabilities of contentmanagement systems. But Holovaty’sexperience working in newsrooms hasshown him that for this to happen,those who manage newsrooms need tolearn to treat their technology peopleas partners, not as mere support staff. 4In the future, especially if studentsemerge from school with greater adeptnesswith technology, this divide mightbe lessened.But Holovaty goes further in proposingthat journalists abandon hard newsstorytelling in favor of database-drivenpresentations. This question is oneI’ve been researching with a computerscientist. Her background is in computationallinguistics and gaming; mineis in literary journalism and narrativetheory. Together we are trying tocreate a prototype storytellingengine that delivers chunks ofstory content from a database thatis programmed to allow the enduserflexibility and control whileensuring that related chunks ofmaterial—which might be text,image, audio or video—are presentedin a sequence that preservescontext and coherence. Weare well on our way to designingthe information architecture for theprototype. We presented our researchat the 2007 summer conference of theNew Media Consortium. Notes on theproject, including links to the slidesfrom the presentation, are available atthe blog, The Nancybelle Project. 5It’s impossible to know how wellsuch content management systems willfunction as future tools of journalistsin terms of their power, flexibility andesthetics. What we do know is that undergraduateand graduate journalismcurricula need to provide opportunitiesfor students to participate in andreflect on the intersection of storytellingand technology. Exposure to linearand nonlinear storytelling shouldalready be happening. As for techno-3www.holovaty.com/blog/archive/2006/09/06/03074www.holovaty.com/blog/archive/2006/10/02/23005www.kimpearson.net/labels/presentations.html/Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 69


Teaching Journalismlogical knowledge, it will be importantfor students to understand the limitsof artificial intelligence technology,because those limits constrain theability to use gaming as a journalisticmedium. They ought also to grapplewith ethical questions raised by thesemantic recognition programs andrecommender systems that powerthe most advanced search enginesand e-commerce marketing softwareprograms.High-quality research will inevitablylead to new communication technologiesand techniques, which can beemployed earlier in the educationalprocess and will likely end up in thetoolbox of future journalists. If this approachto journalism education takeshold, it might also improve the medialiteracy and civic engagement of nonjournalists.And in the digital world ofour future, those who see themselvesas readers today are increasingly likelyto become publishers and editors oftheir own words tomorrow. Kim Pearson is an associate professorof English and interactive multimediaat The College of New Jersey, acontributing editor for BlogHer.org,and former contributing writer forthe Online Journalism Review. She isa senior investigator in a researchproject funded by Microsoft Corporationthat teaches advanced computerscience skills using a multidisciplinarygame-design curriculum.The Web Resides at the Hub of Learning‘For us, the Web is entirely positive: It is a journalistic tool with wondrous powers ….’By Nicholas LemannThe academic year now underwayis the first one in whichall professional students at ColumbiaUniversity’s Graduate Schoolof Journalism will have been trainedto work on the Internet. Our schoolwas relatively early toembrace the Internet andother new technologies fordelivering journalism. Weestablished a New Mediamajor back in 1994. Butwe treated the Internetas one of several forms ofjournalism in which a studentcould specialize. Thesize of the New Media major waxedand waned with the fortunes of theInternet economy. In my first year asdean, 2003-04, we had only a handfulof New Media majors.Since then a lot has changed. First,jobs that end in “.com” are waxing againand as a result so is our New Mediaconcentration. This year we have 38New Media majors, by far our largestnumber ever. Second, and more important,many of our students who majorin one of the old media are finding,when they graduate, that they spendmuch of every day working for theirnews organization’s Web site.So we have been making a lot ofcurriculum changes at the school. Weinvested in a content managementsystem—something most news organizationshave—that permits studentsIt’s amazing to us how quickly andpervasively the Web is permeating nearlyeverything we do at the school.and faculty members to post lots ofmaterial to their own class-based Websites, without needing to consult aWebmaster. All faculty who teach ourcore skills courses are required to betrained to use the content managementsystem, and many other faculty havechosen to be trained as well. Everysection of our basic reporting andwriting course now operates its ownWeb site, and every student learns towrite for the Web and also to gatherimages and sound about news storiesand post them to the Web. We havehired a small squad of Web expertswho go from class to class helping toiron out whatever problems arise inthis new regime.We have also launched this fallthree sections of a new class calledNew Media Newsroom. Here the ideais not to emulate the newlife of a newspaper reporterbut to experiment with thecapabilities of Web journalismin a way that assumesno anchoring presenceof another medium. Thestudents experiment withnew ways of delivering information,using all of theWeb’s rich capabilities for interactivity,linking, and the use of words, sound,and still and moving images. The written“news story”—an 800-or-so-wordpiece of text meant to be read frombeginning to end—is not assumed tobe necessarily the basic unit of journalisticproduction.It’s amazing to us how quickly andpervasively the Web is permeatingnearly everything we do at the school.Quite a few classes other than the onesI just mentioned (including the classI teach) operate their own Web sites.On our school’s home page, click on70 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital Demands“Student Work” to find an assortmentof Web sites that reside in specificclasses. 1 We also operate a site called“The Columbia Journalist,” which isa juried selection of some of the bestwork students in various classes areproducing.Our Columbia Journalism Reviewnow publishes daily on the Web, aswell as six times a year in print. Theparticipants in our brand-new PunchSulzberger News Media Executive LeadershipProgram—senior executivesin news organizations—spend muchof their time trying to figure out theeconomics of journalism on the Web.Another of our new ventures—an initiativeto create business school-stylecase studies about journalism—isdeveloping material that explores thechallenges and opportunities that theWeb’s ability to efface the line betweenprofessional and “citizen” journalistsposes to editors and reporters and willalso use the Web as a teaching toolfor all cases, whether or not they dealsubstantively with the Web’s impacton journalism. When we teach thehistory of journalism, we take specialcare to include material on momentsin the past when new communicationstechnologies changed everything.What makes the Web so attractiveto us is that the barriers to entry areso low. As much as we groan at budgettime over how heavily we are investingin technology, we can afford to getourselves much closer to professionallevels of production on the Web thanwe can in the print or broadcast media.The Web has the greatest inherentcapability of any journalistic mediumwe use at the school and the lowestproduction and distribution cost.And, although we are interested in theeconomic challenges the Web poses tonews organizations, so far it has notbeen a “disruptive technology” in theeconomic sense for graduate schools atresearch universities. For us, the Webis entirely positive: It is a journalistictool with wondrous powers, and tothe extent that its advent requires arethinking of journalism’s professionalnorms, well, what better place for thatthan a journalism school? Nicholas Lemann is dean of theGraduate School of Journalism atColumbia University and serves asits Henry R. Luce Professor.1www.columbiajournalist.org/How a New J-School Takes on a Changing ProfessionCUNY is integrating new digital technologies with the ‘eternal verities’ of reporting,writing and critical thinking.Stephen Shepard became dean of theCity University of New York GraduateSchool of Journalism when it openedits doors to students in the fall of 2006.Prior to his appointment in 2005, hehad been editor in chief of BusinessWeek since 1984. To delve into some ofthe challenges confronted in preparingstudents for digital journalism—andto explore the opportunities—Shepardborrowed from Socrates his method ofrhetorical examination, asking andresponding to questions that he, hisfaculty, and students are hearing anddiscussing all the time.This is a helluva time to start a journalismschool. Where are your studentsgoing to get jobs?I hear this sort of thing quite a lot, eversince we announced plans to launchthe Graduate School of Journalism atthe City University of New York. And,yes, it’s true that hardly a day goes bywithout word of another layoff at amajor news organization or a declinein audience and advertising. But thatis only half the story. The more encouragingnews is that every day alsobrings talk of phenomenal growth ata newspaper Web site or the launch ofa new innovation that enhances storytelling.Think of podcasts. Or citizenjournalism. Or YouTube.This bad news/good news momentis actually a wonderful time to start aj-school, an opportunity to participatein the re-imagining of journalism nowgoing on throughout our profession. Itis a time for students to learn the newtricks of the trade—what Jeff Jarvis, whoruns our interactive program, calls thenew “tool kit.”Universities, after all, are the naturalincubators of new ideas in every field.Why not journalism? Let’s think aboutthe possibilities that technologicalchange brings. Let’s think about newbusiness models, or about hyperlocalcontent for newspapers, or howjournalism can become a genuineconversation with our audience, orabout the role of “citizen journalists”as eyewitnesses, using laptops,cell-phone cameras, and audio/videorecorders.As a new graduate school, we startwith a clean slate. But we cannot escapea basic question facing all schools: Whatis the proper balance between teachingthe new techniques of the digitalage and imparting the eternal veritiesof journalism—the reporting, writing,ethical concerns, and critical thinkingthat are more important than ever? LikeNieman Reports / Fall 2007 71


Teaching Journalismother schools, we are still grapplingwith these and other questions, but Ibelieve we have taken some importantinitial steps.Let me try to anticipate some ofyour questions:Why did you choose a three-semesterprogram?We felt strongly that one year was tooshort to teach everything these timesrequire. A three-semester programenables us to run a summer internshipprogram between the second and thirdsemesters. It gives us the time to gobeyond teaching only the craft of journalism(reporting, writing, ethics) andadd content specialties. We chose four:urban reporting, business/economics,arts/culture, and health/medicine. Eachspecialty offers three courses, enoughto build a substantial base of knowledge,enabling students to developthe expertise and sources to do moresophisticated stories.Finally, of course, a three-semesterprogram enables us to teach all thosenew technologies—from Dreamweaverto GarageBand. Students canstill choose a media track—print,broadcast or interactive. But they areall required to do assignments acrossmedia platforms.How does your building lend itself to thisnew digital age?We have more than 40,000 squarefeet built from scratch on two floorsin the old New York Herald Tribunebuilding in midtown Manhattan. Thewhole facility is wireless and, as our 50pioneering students walk around withtheir Macintosh laptops (required),they are connected to the Internetfrom any place in the school. We have alarge newsroom, TV and radio studios,and editing suites. In short, we havethe Tribune’s traditional DNA in ourwalls and the new media convergencein our very air. It’s the perfect metaphorfor what we hope to become aswe gradually ramp up to more than100 students.Why even bother with media tracks?Why didn’t you just converge the entirecurriculum?Three reasons: First, when we studiedother schools that had tried it, we sawlots of problems, primarily an overemphasison technology at the expenseof journalistic skills. Second, the ideaof convergence is still developing,and many students and faculty feelmore comfortable with traditionalmedia tracks. Third, many news mediacompanies demand specific skills, particularlyin broadcast. The job markethasn’t yet shifted as much as rhetoricwould suggest.Will the day ever come when you’ll abolishmedia tracks?Maybe. We talk about it all the time.What is the most popular media trackselected by your students?Even in this day and age, print is themost popular, followed by interactive,then by broadcasting.But isn’t print obsolete?Print isn’t just about ink on paper. Itemphasizes in-depth reporting, analyticalwriting, and critical thinking.It is journalism that seeks to provideunderstanding, context, insight and, onour best days, something approachingwisdom. This kind of journalism, whichpeople associate with newspapers andmagazines, can and should be done inall media formats.Sounds very lofty. How, then, will youteach convergence?In several ways. First, all studentstake a first-semester course called“Fundamentals of Interactive Journalism.”They discuss how technologyis reshaping the media world. Theylearn to create Web sites, videos andpodcasts. They blog. They learn to usethe new tools.What else?We created something called the JanuaryAcademy, a four-week intersessionin which we offer workshops in newmedia technologies. For example,print and interactive students can takea workshop in audio and visual toolsand production. Or learn how to useFinal Cut software. Or take instructionin Photoshop. Throughout theyear, we offer evening and weekendseminars in various multimedia skillsfor interested students.Sounds like you’re training technicians.No. We’re simply giving them tools totell a story in new and different ways.It’s up to them to decide how best toreport and present a story—in words,pictures, audio, video or interactivelywith a community. There’s morechoice, more opportunity.What about the eternal verities youmentioned earlier?The traditional tools—reporting andwriting—are the first tools they learnhere. They remain front and center inevery course. And if students want tobecome long-form magazine writers,they’ll find plenty of help here.How do you teach convergence in thesubject specialties, like business/economics?Glad you asked. Let’s say we have aprint student specializing in businessjournalism. In each of the three businessreporting classes she’ll take, thestudent will do at least one story inanother media format—for example,as a multimedia, interactive piece. Itwill likely be a Web-based package,with audio and video, with interactiveelements, with links.Can your faculty handle all this?Some can. For example, our businessand urban programs are headed bySarah Bartlett, who was a reporterand editor at The New York Times andBusiness Week. She also worked atOxygen Media and knows a lot aboutinteractivity and multimedia. She’ll be72 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital Demandsable to evaluate the students’ work forboth content and presentation.But surely that’s not true for all of yourfaculty, right?Right. That’s why we’re also trainingour faculty in these new tools. And ifa faculty member doesn’t feel qualifiedto judge a video clip or podcast,we’ll ask Linda Prout, who runs ourbroadcast program, to take a look, orJeff Jarvis, or Sandeep Junnarkar fromthe interactive program. We also planto use multimedia “coaches” to workwith faculty and students on thesecross-platform projects.How are the students taking all this?Some of them must be a bit confused.Some of them are. Times of profoundchange are often confusing. I recentlytalked with two students about theirchoice of media tracks. They wantedall the advanced writing they woulddo in the print track, but they alsowanted to use the new tools in theinteractive track.What did you tell them?There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Wetalked about their career goals, theirstrengths and weaknesses, their experiencebefore they came here, and whatthey could best learn at school vs. onthe job. I emphasized that, regardlessof their choice, they would have opportunitiesto learn both sets of skillsat CUNY.What did they decide?One chose interactive because he felthis reporting and writing skills werealready pretty strong, and he wantedto work more with the new tools. Theother chose print because she wantedto do more advanced writing and feltshe could learn the technical skills onthe job, if she needed them. They eachmade the right decision.Have your views changed?Sure. I’m learning along with everyoneelse. It’s great fun for an old magazineguy like me to participate in such profoundchange. Credibility Resides at the Core of TeachingJournalismThe challenge involves adjusting to the new rigors of the practice and getting studentsto think in digital ways.By Jean FolkertsIt was nearly 150 years ago thatWashington and Lee Universityinaugurated journalism educationin the United States. By this action,which took place soon after the CivilWar ended, the university sparked anenduring debate about the appropriatebalance between a universityeducation and on-the-job training.Not even momentous changes in thetechnology that enables people tocommunicate—the telegraph, telephone,radio and television, and nowthe Internet—have put an end to thearguments about the role of journalismeducation and what form it shouldtake. But amid this disagreement hasbeen acceptance of a shared goal: toprepare those who will practice journalismto be able to provide citizenswith accurate and credible news andinformation to ensure participation inthe governing process.To achieve this end, journalismeducation has changed only slightlyfrom the 1960’s until the mid-1990’s.The most noticeable change has beenthe rising influence of broadcast mediaas educators came to regard radioand television as important forms ofjournalism and as schools expandedto include multiple forms of masscommunication, such as advertisingand public relations.More recently the Internet hasupended our world by calling intoquestion the ways that most journalismteaching happens. At a time when manyuniversities had developed specializedsequences of courses in print, broadcast,advertising and public relationsas a way to resolve debates about howthese disciplines could share an academichome, the fast-moving digitalrevolution—with its varied multimediadimensions to storytelling—challengedthis model.Some journalism schools havemerged specialized sequences ofcourse study into two categories. Oneis called “journalism” or “news and information,”and this includes reportingand writing news for print, broadcastand the Web, along with “info-graphics,”design and broadcast and multimediaproduction of stories. The othercarries adjectives such as “strategic” orNieman Reports / Fall 2007 73


Teaching Journalism“persuasive” before the word “communication,”and this category combinesadvertising and public relations. Someof these schools require a generalizedmultimedia or visual communicationsclass as a basic course. Others teachwriting, information gathering, andmultimedia production in a singlecourse.There are two problems with thisstructure:1. In some curricula, beneath thenewly required visual communicationscourse, much of the restof what students study looks justthe same as it did in the separatedsequences. The same courses aretaught, with a heavy emphasis ontraditional examples.2. The other problem is one ofdepth. Can news writing, reportingskills, programs suchas InDesign and Flash, along withphotography, be taught in a singlecourse? Can one person be all thingsto all media?Seeking GuidanceSince I became dean of the School ofJournalism and Mass Communicationat the University of North Carolina inChapel Hill in July 2006, I’ve spentconsiderable time talking with alumni,turning to them to learn what graduatingstudents need to know. I seek theiradvice about how to best address thedecline in newspaper circulation andthe ascendancy of the Web. Our alumnijournalists are concerned more aboutwhether our students master substantiveknowledge than they are with howstudents master technology. Alumnibelieve they should be learning moreabout world and American history, howthe economy and business decisionsaffect social and political behavior, andmedia ethics and media law.Journalists have offered me goodexamples of how such substantivestudy paid off in their newsrooms. Irecall one of them telling me how he’dcautioned his editor to move slowlywhen Richard Jewell was named abombing suspect by various news mediaat the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Hesaid he could hear his ethics professorwhispering in his ear about leaping toofast with limited evidence. But the editorresponded, “CNN is using it.” Dayslater, when Jewell was exonerated, theeditor apologized. Jewell later sued anumber of news organizations.Given their experiences, our alumnithink digitally—and they assure methat everyone must be able to “think”digitally. What this means is that weneed to reorganize our teaching aboutGiven their experiences, ouralumni think digitally—andthey assure me that everyonemust be able to ‘think’ digitally.how to report and produce a storyacross media platforms. One alumnusworking for USA Today told of hertrek from Basra to Baghdad; carryinga video camera and sound equipment,along with her pen and notebook, shejoined the swelling ranks of backpackjournalists.Our journalism school is known forits in-depth education and for preparingstudents to be ready to work in thebusiness when they graduate. Studentstake at least 80 of the 120 credits requiredfor graduation outside of theschool, as the accreditation councilfor journalism schools requires. At thejournalism school, students must takea course in media law, ethics and newswriting, and complete a mix of theoryand skills courses.A Different DirectionLike other journalism schools, how weare teaching—and what we are teaching—hasbeen in the midst of changefor a decade or more. Ten years ago,when educators started exploring convergence,the head of the visual communicationssequence at our school,who was trained as a photographer,taught himself computer programmingso he could understand better the underpinningsof multimedia. Out of thisexperience, he developed a superb sequenceof courses; today this sequenceis updated constantly and preparesstudents to work as newspaper andWeb designers, to compose info-graphics,to be photographers, and to createmultimedia documentaries and shortermultimedia news stories. Students whotake these courses are much in demandin the job market. A visual communicationgraduate recently found himselfdeciding between job offers from TheNew York Times and MSNBC.However, core skills taught inbroadcast and print sequences arenot replaced by visual communicationalone. Students still needto learn to develop quality storypackages for television and to studywriting, reporting and editing.They need specialized informationto master areas such as businessjournalism.As we think hard about how to moveforward—merging sequences or creatingnew ones—we want to add depthto our students’ education. So we areconsidering which nine or 10 classesare the ones to best prepare studentsto work in the new media world. Andwe are thinking about what happens ifwe require students to take additionalcredits as part of their study at thisschool (we now require 28 credits):Would such a requirement shortchangetheir liberal arts education—a vitalpart of the education journalists need?Would this curtail their opportunity totake business courses, which are increasinglyimportant for journalists?At a minimum we must make surethat students and faculty think andwork across a range of media platforms.Our challenge isn’t relegated to thecombining of sequences or addingnew courses, but involves progressiveprofessorial practice and interactionwith working journalists as we enablestudents to think in digital ways. Learningsuch critical thinking is essential ifthey are going to participate in shapingthe digital environment in which they’llbe working. Our approaches includethe following:• We must teach students to work withothers; students in a graphic design74 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital Demandsclass and a magazine editing classwork in teams across course lines.• Our business journalism professorwrites a popular blog and is acontributing editor and columnistfor a monthly magazine, BusinessNorth Carolina. In his classes, studentsthink and work across mediaplatforms.• A professor who teaches editingexplores alternative story forms;he works with the Poynter Instituteusing new curricula to assess theirimpact.• One of our design professors iscoauthor of a column on digitaldesign for the University of SouthernCalifornia Annenberg’s OnlineJournalism Review.• Broadcast students stream theirnewscasts on the Web.• A professor’s advanced design studentsdo readability and eye-trackingtests for a new Web design at anearby television station.Research done by our graduatefaculty reflects the new communicationslandscape but also emphasizesthe ongoing study of journalism historyand law—traditional strengthsof our school. In the midst of rapidchange, graduate inquiry into whathas happened in the past, as well asthe legal environment of this practice,contributes to shaping—and not justreacting to—the emerging digital era.This year we also will add a seniorperson to our faculty who specializesin digital media economics.Just as 19th century pioneers atWashington and Lee led the way intouncharted academic territory, journalismeducators today are responsible forhelping their students navigate throughthis territory of upending change. Myadvice is this: While we find ways tointegrate new skills into our teaching,let’s be sure to keep our eye squarelyon what has remained a stationarygoal—to have students leave our classroomswith the wisdom and skills theyneed to provide citizens with accurateand credible information.The digital revolution, wherever ittakes us, will not erase the need foreducated professionals whose workis trusted by readers and viewers. Thenews may come to us in amazing ways.It may look different. Citizens who arenot professional journalists might helpconstruct it. It might be mixed with athousands bits and bytes of random andeven entertaining information. Establishingtrust with readers and viewers isas important in digital journalism as itwas before the telegraph was invented.The next generation of journalistswill engage a host of new challengesand opportunities, some of which wewill likely be unable to foresee. Butaccuracy and credibility should neverfeel like outmoded ideals. Passing ontools to keep those principles at thecore of journalistic practice remainsour greatest responsibility. Jean Folkerts is dean of the Universityof North Carolina at Chapel HillSchool of Journalism and Mass Communication.Prior to her appointmentin 2006, she was professor ofmedia and public affairs and associatevice president for special academicinitiatives at George WashingtonUniversity. Before entering highereducation, Folkerts was a generalassignment reporter for The TopekaCapital-Journal and an editor andwriter at other publications.Teaching What We Don’t (Yet) KnowA course about change becomes a constant work in progress as it looks to thenewsrooms, audiences and forms of the future.By Mark J. PrendergastThe core question as I movedfrom newsroom to classroomlast year was what should Iteach? After a 30-year newspaper career,the temptation was to dip intothe well of experience to pass on thetime-honored skills of our craft. Butthat approach didn’t feel right at a timeof such tumult. So at the suggestion ofOhio University’s E.W. Scripps Schoolof Journalism, where I had accepteda visiting professorship after 13 yearsas an editor at The New York Times, Ideveloped an experimental, forwardlookingseminar I called “Journalismin Transition.”Inspired by research I had recentlydone for my master’s degree at ColumbiaUniversity, it was intended as atimely look at where we are and wherewe may be headed. But at its heart, thesyllabus overlaid traditional journalisticvalues onto new-media realities ofthe sort I had encountered on the TimesContinuous News Desk, a pioneeringbridge between the paper’s newsroomand its Web site.The course began with readingsand discussion about the core questionsof who is a journalist and whatis journalism in a media universe inwhich anyone with a computer andaccess to the Internet has instant,global reach in reporting “news” andthe ability to claim the title “journalist.”In that spirit, we considered just what“truth” might be and how it shouldnot be assumed to be synonymouswith “facts.” We discussed objectivity,Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 75


Teaching Journalismagendas, advocacy, privacy, identityand allegiances, the public sphere, thejournalistic process, and the perilousreportorial shoals of Google, Drudge,Facebook and Wikipedia. We arguedover the effects of moving from a printculture to a visual culture, of picturesrather than words driving stories, ofemotion trumping intellect throughthe power of imagery.In the context of an ever-expandinguniverse of bloggers, citizenjournalists, “I-reporters” and thelike, I offered a five-point test forruling out what should not beconsidered journalism. The studentsavidly dissected, debated,employed and poked at thecriteria throughout the course.My underlying purpose, onethat I believe was realized, wasnot to formulate hard-and-fast,all-encompassing definitions forjournalist and journalism, butto have these aspiring youngpractitioners contemplate thenature of their chosen field in atime of niche news, crowd sourcing,e-paper, multimedia platforms, 24/7news cycles, and information centersfocused on the hyperlocal.Some students were unsettled by mymessage that the traditional j-schooltrack system of newspaper/magazine/broadcast needs to be rethought andbroadened and that 21st century journalistsof all stripes need to possesssome level of facility in multimediaskills beyond their chosen genre. ButI argued that the Internet is a new,dominant medium that will resist effortsto wholly graft existing forms ontoit and that their generation might wellbe the one to mold it into an effective,sustainable journalistic form.Crucial to that task is an understandingof audience, and I pressedthe students to explore just who’s outthere now. Our resources included Pewresearch surveys, the Project for Excellencein Journalism, and even RobertPutnam’s “Bowling Alone” Web site,along with Time magazine’s rebuttalof his thesis.We paid particular attention to howadvances in communication technologyhave empowered audiences tobypass established media and seek outinformation on their own, share it witheach other, analyze it, and validate orchallenge it. We considered how theera of news by appointment is over. Weexplored ways in which journalists inthe digital age might compensate fortheir diminished roles as gatekeepersI argued that the Internet is anew, dominant medium that willresist efforts to wholly graftexisting forms onto it and thattheir generation might well be theone to mold it into an effective,sustainable journalistic form.and primary news providers by expandingtheir role as information arbiters tohelp audiences separate the wheat fromthe chatter. We also faced the fact thataudiences now look over our shouldersas we work, ready to share theirthoughts and assessments, for betteror worse, directly with us or with theworld—watchdogs for the watchdogs,and we had better get used to it.Journalism’s EvolvingParadigmA major concern I sought to conveywas my belief that our business is introuble—audiences shrinking evenas the population balloons—in partbecause we have lost touch with ourconstituents, at least at the “big media”level, where I spent about halfmy career. Drawing upon the workof scholars like Robert Darnton ofPrinceton and Cass Sunstein of theUniversity of Chicago, we consideredhow journalists are formed and whydiversity in the newsroom—includingthat of perspective and background—iscritical for news organizations if theyare to connect with the larger publicthey purport to serve. And we consideredhow newsmakers—government,political, commercial and other interests—wereprogressively finding waysto bypass the journalistic filter andreach around us directly to audiencesand how readers, listeners and viewerswere reaching back.We took a cautionary lookat journalism scandals in thecontext of professional credibilityand accountability andexamined secrecy, nationalsecurity, and varying culturalsensibilities in a world whereonline anywhere means onlineeverywhere. We weighed therise and the role of “soft” newsand the nature of reporting oncommunal tragedy in a diversesociety. The Poynter Institutesite, especially its Romeneskopage, 1 became required dailyreading and the spark for manyclass discussions that the syllabus neveranticipated.To help everyone appreciate thatthe future is now, I embraced a graduatestudent’s suggestion in the fall todevote a week to student media, bothon campus and far beyond. The useof peer-produced newspapers, magazinesand edgy Web sites fanned thestudents’ enthusiasm, because theycould identify with the material andthe people producing it. It proved aperfect illustration of the benefit ofknowing your audience.To accommodate such productivedetours, I kept the course scheduleflexible, and the world of news didnot disappoint. When the Don Imuscontroversy erupted during the springterm, we spent a week researchingit, writing about it, and discussing it.The episode dovetailed nicely with myplanned examination of the coverageof a racially charged street crime inNew York City in 2005. In that exercise,students read and analyzed reams offirst-day newspaper and wire service1www.poynter.org/ and www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=4576 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


accounts. After class discussion, theywatched an episode of the Bravo cablechannel’s “Tabloid Wars” series 2 chroniclinghow the New York Daily News hadcovered the story as it unfolded. In thefall term, I persuaded two senior DailyNews editors to talk about the coveragevia speakerphone. In the spring,I showed “The Paper,” Ron Howard’sriveting 1994 film about a fictionalNew York City tabloid’s handling of aracially charged streetcrime.In each term, virtuallyall the studentssaid their initial, criticalviews of how the storywas covered had beensoftened by watching“Tabloid Wars.” I tookthat as a testament tothe power of visual imagery,a growing forcein media and culturethat we explored elsewherewith examplesas disparate as AbuGhraib, convenience store hold-ups,the Muhammad cartoons, car chases,and dogs stuck on ice floes. “TabloidWars” was also an argument for greatermedia transparency; sometimes watchingthe sausage get made can have asalutary effect, conventional wisdomnot withstanding.In the spring, we departed fromthe script to spend a week examiningcoverage of the Virginia Tech shootingsfrom almost the moment the newsbroke. Early on, I took a survey of mystudents as to where they had turnedfirst for information. All but one hadgone straight to established mainstreamnews media—either online oron cable—before heading off to theirmore usual informational Web hauntslike blogs, news aggregation services,and start-up sites with attitude. Eventhe students were surprised at theircollective behavior, and the findingunderscored the seminar’s messagethat credible, authoritative journalismis worth serving and preserving regardlessof the medium.Putting It All OnlineFrom my previous experience as anadjunct professor at St. John’s Universityin New York City and the threeyears I had spent studying part-time atColumbia for my master’s in journalism,I was already aware of the limitedappeal that “dead tree” formats held fortoday’s students. So instead of spendinghours at the photocopy machineEarly on, I took a survey of my students as towhere they had turned first for information. All butone had gone straight to established mainstreamnews media—either online or on cable—beforeheading off to their more usual informational Webhaunts like blogs, news aggregation services, andstart-up sites with attitude.churning out reams of paper handouts,I put all my class readings—or links tothem—online at a Web site I createdand paid for until I could gain access toOhio University’s restricted academicIntranet. Further, I insisted that allwritten assignments be filed via e-mail—no hard copies allowed—whichI corrected using the “track changes”and “comment” modes in Word andthen returned via e-mail.I took advantage of the high-speedInternet connections in the school’sclassrooms to pull up Web sites thataugmented class discussions. We alsowent online to watch videos of networknews programs and PBS documentaries,live netcasts of news conferences,replays of “The Daily Show” segments,snippets from YouTube, and slideshows and podcasts shot, narrated andproduced by dyed-in-the-wool printreporters to accompany their articleson nytimes.com.At first, I rather smugly regarded allthis as somewhat cutting edge, but Icame to learn that for Americans of aDigital Demandscertain age, watching TV online—evennetwork news or prime-time entertainmentshows—is becoming unremarkable.One disappointment, however,was my inability to arrange high-techvideo teleconferences with the dozenor so speakers who addressed mystudents from afar. I had to settleinstead for low-tech speakerphoneengagements.From the outset, I emphasized thatsince this was a journalismcourse, not onlywould I demand finewriting but also rigorousresearch. One resultwas a highly successfulspring exercise in whichstudents trolled the Webfor two examples ofnovel storytelling—onegood, one bad. Mostcast a wide net andcollectively returnedwith a bounty of highlyinformative, diverseexamples of how ourcraft is evolving. I devoted four hoursin each section to collective dissectionand discussion. I could probably havedeveloped a whole course from thatexercise alone.Fittingly, for a course about change,one of the biggest challenges was findingmaterial with a shelf life. By thetime September 2006 rolled around,information and even themes I hadplucked in June or July had alreadywithered or been overtaken by events.Similarly, the course I taught in thespring was dissimilar in many respectsto the course I taught in the fall. NowI’m preparing for a new fall term at adifferent university, and already I knowmy seminar will be a significant departurefrom its two previous iterations.Everything new is old again. Mark J. Prendergast is an associateprofessor at St. John’s University inNew York City. He was the ScrippsHoward Visiting Professional at theE.W. Scripps School of Journalism atOhio University in 2006-07.2www.bravotv.com/Tabloid_Wars/index.shtmlNieman Reports / Fall 2007 77


Teaching JournalismDigital Media Push Images to the ForegroundIn the midst of big changes in the working lives of photojournalists, a former newsphotographer looks at how journalism schools and programs should respond.By Lester SloanIn 2001, D. Michael Cheers returnedto the United States from SouthAfrica, where he had headed upthe Johnson Publishing Company’sunsuccessful efforts to produce anAfrican edition of Ebony magazine.That five-year experience, along with25 years he’d spent as a photographeron the staff of Ebony and Jet, providedhim with enough knowledgeand professional experience—hethought—to handleanything the academicworld that he was about toenter had to offer.What he wasn’t preparedfor were the vast changessweeping through journalismas a result of the Web’sdemand for convergencestrategies and multimediastorytelling, as well as diminishingrevenues in thenewspaper and magazine business. Itwasn’t so much that the fundamentalsof journalism were no longer valid; itwas just that students’ needs seemedso much greater. They had to be taughtto multitask their efforts at a time whendiminishing newsroom budgets meantnews organizations could no longerhire people to do a single task. Evenwith his considerable academic credentials—aPhD in African Studies andResearch, master’s degrees in Journalismand African American History—andhis professional experience, Cheers’simpending return to the journalismclassroom got him thinking anew ashe attended seminars and technologyshows and sought out online instructionsites so he could prepare studentsfor the jobs awaiting them.In 2002, he joined the staff at theUniversity of Mississippi, where hetaught the basics along with as muchof the new technology as he had mastered.Each semester, he found more heneeded to know, and his engagementin these emerging new media arenasplayed an important part in reorientingthe journalism program. In the springLike other journalists, photographersare being asked to take on greaterresponsibilities as storytellers—providingpictures, both still and moving, along withcapturing sound to use with the images ondifferent media platforms.of 2007, Cheers was hired by San JoseState in California and given a mandateto revamp the school’s photojournalismprogram. Working in partnershipwith the San Jose Mercury News, hecreated a program in which he willtake a class to South Africa, where hisstudents will produce stories for all ofthe newspaper’s platforms—providinga workshop environment with genuineexpectations but also the promise ofmentoring as they learn. The paperagreed to also pay the expenses of astaff photographer who will work withthem as an instructor.Lessons in Visual StorytellingLike other journalists, photographersare being asked to take on greaterresponsibilities as storytellers—providingpictures, both still and moving,along with capturing sound to usewith the images on different mediaplatforms. In assuming their new role,photographers now threaten the entrenchedhierarchy of the newsroom.Greater responsibility warrants greaterrespect, which might point to theend of expressions like “myphotographer” being usedso often by reporters.According to Dirck Halstead,a former staff photographerfor Time magazine, ajournalist working today isseen as a “producer” and notidentified as a photographer,writer or editor. Ten yearsago, Halstead put his stillcamera aside and becamean advocate of video as themedium best suited to addressingthe needs of the professiontoday. And he started a program calledThe Platypus Workshop to teach theskills of video shooting and the editingof tape and sound. His is a short-coursetaught in a mobile classroom. 1As the years went by, more and morenewsrooms began sending their photographersto his two-week seminars.In assessing why journalism schoolshave been much slower to respondto these kinds of changes in the craft,Halstead is blunt: “They didn’t get it.Most journalism schools are populatedby reporters who haven’t been in anewsroom in the last 10 or 15 years.”Steve Shepard, dean of the City Universityof New York’s (CUNY) School ofJournalism, is more charitable: “We’recreatures of habit. It was the same with1http://digitaljournalist.org/workshop/weekend-short.html78 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital Demandstelevision’s arrival. But these were profoundand revolutionary changes.”Shepard, who was editor of BusinessWeek for 20 years and a senior editorat Newsweek, heads up CUNY’s startupdegree program, one he describesas being a “new model in journalism.”[See Shepard’s article on page 71.] Hebelieves mistakes have been made—atnews organizations and at journalismschools. “The newspaper industry wastrying to ‘repurpose’ what the printproduct was and that was a mistake.They were not taking advantage of thenew medium, which is interactive andmultimedia.” Schools, he said, weren’tstriking a proper balance betweenteaching journalism’s principles andpractices and applying them to the newdemands of the new media.Cheers stresses the need to helpfuture visual journalists develop storytellingabilities with whatever technologythey have to use. He agreeswith Halstead that video works wellas a medium since it forces its user tothink in terms of a beginning, middleand an end. For photographers, this isnot a giant step to take, especially forthose who have done photo essays inwhich they’ve researched and developeda story from beginning to end.This past summer Cheers, as a fellowat National Geographic, used his timeto develop his skills in this directionso he can pass on both his misstepsand successes to his students.One inescapable challenge visualjournalists will have is to simply keepup with not only the rapidly changingtools of their craft but also the demandsof the industry. No longer cana photojournalist’s job be describedas “go fetch;” now it is as much thejob of the visual journalist to “tell thestory” as it is the one who does sowith words.In its essence, the job of being ajournalist has less to do with toolsthat we use and more to do with thebreadth of knowledge that we bring toeach story. History, economics, sociologyand the arts are as important forphotographers to absorb as they arefor reporters. The Spanish artist Goyawas one of the first visual journalists;familiarity with his work can informhow to visually report stories today.Every story is enveloped in history.While it’s not always possible withbreaking news to convey its broadercontext, there’s a better chance of doingso when we are not simply reactingto the moment.News organizations should workmore closely with journalism schoolsand programs. Cheers’s partnershipwith the San Jose Mercury News offersa promising model. And he is hopingto establish a similar working relationshipwith National Geographic. At atime when we have an amazing arrayof tools to gather information—andwe encourage nonjournalists to sendus photos and video via cell phonesand other digital devices—what willdistinguish the trained photojournalistfrom the amateur is the knowledge webring to the moment and the preparationwe have to seize it. Lester Sloan, a 1976 Nieman Fellow,was a staff photographer forNewsweek for 25 years. Prior to thathe worked as cameraman/reporterfor the CBS affiliate in Detroit. For aperiod, he was a contributing editorto Emerge magazine and an essayistwith NPR’s “Weekend Edition.” He isa freelance photographer and writerbased in Los Angeles.Journalism and Academia: How They Can WorkTogether‘Neither the practical (newsroom) model nor a purely academic one is ideal for eitherthe aspiring or the working journalist.’By Jeffrey ScheuerJournalists, like scholars, formulateknowledge by knitting facts tocontexts. They need analytic andcritical as well as narrative skills andsubstantive knowledge. The intrinsicallyhybrid nature of journalism—itsdependence on both concrete skillsand broader academic knowledge—cannot be resolved in the abstract;subject knowledge and practical skillswill always jointly affect the quality ofreporting, just as they jointly affect thequality of teaching.What, then, can journalists learn inan academic setting, and when andhow should such study combine withor yield to the actual practice of journalism?The first question is the easierone: Journalists should study whateverbrings depth and sophistication to theirwork; without begging the question,that could be almost anything. Someforms of journalism require generalists,others demand expertise; specializationor expertise is what universitycampuses best provide at the graduatelevel, just as they provide generalbreadth to undergraduates. Columbia’smaster of arts program aims to do thatthrough its four areas of concentration,Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 79


Teaching Journalismbut why limit it to those? Why not offer,for example, a journalism track witha concentration in Arabic and MiddleEastern studies, or environmental science,or public health—or anythingelse of journalistic relevance?A vast range of academic subjectsare potentially of such relevance—includinghistory, politics, law, economics,business, sociology,psychology, the sciences,technology, urban planning,regional and languagestudy. History isperhaps most relevant ofall, especially to the generalist,given its intrinsicconnections to journalism;but it doesn’t hurt tobe a polymath. A master’sdegree in any of thesesubjects would be more useful than adegree in journalism per se; better still,a master’s degree with a concentrationin journalism, similar to existing jointdegreeprograms.In addition to the many areas ofpossible specialization, there is a welldefinedcore of academic subjects thatare directly relevant to all journalists.These include media history, law andethics; media and society, or the interpenetrationsof media and politics, and(especially) rigorous media criticism.Thus, it would seem logical to divide ajournalist’s education into four parts orphases: undergraduate breadth in theliberal arts; graduate-level specialization;core media-related courses, andskills training.Journalism education should berefocused to pursue two overlappinggoals: first, and most important, tobetter prepare journalists to strive forexcellence and second, instrumentalto that, to encourage stronger bondsbetween journalists and universities.Refocusing, in this case, means bothbroadening and narrowing: broadeningthe basic conception of whatjournalism is, and how education canimprove it and even blend with it, whileproviding more concentrated, specializedlearning for individual journalists.Here are some suggestions:1. Undergraduate journalism skillscourses should be actively discouraged,because they displace moreimportant learning. They should bePractical experience and intellectualknowledge both count toward excellence—along with curiosity, imagination and courage.The ideal journalist, in short, is both wellrounded and an expert.replaced by campus journalism andprofessional internships.2. Skills training should also be phasedout of graduate journalism schoolcurricula. Again, campus journalismand internships are the better option.(Stanford’s journalism departmenthas moved in this direction.)Certain advanced courses, suchas investigative and documentaryjournalism, should be retained,along with the core media courses(law, ethics, history, criticism, etc.),because they are important, fit naturallyinto an academic setting, andare difficult to replicate in the jobenvironment. An interim measurewould be to confine practical trainingto intensive short courses, preferablyinvolving work at a news organization.The simulated-newsroomtraining that still predominates inj-school curricula could easily becondensed, leaving more time forcore courses and specialization. 13. A third improvement (howeverimplausible) would be to abolishjournalism degrees. Such degrees(unlike those in law, medicine, architecture,etc.) do nothing for newsconsumers; they merely underscorethe awkward and synthetic nature ofjournalism education. The academicdegree system is unsuited to the differingand complex needs of modernjournalists and is probably inappropriateto many other fields as well.It radically simplifies and distortsthe extent and depth of study, andthe level of actual accomplishment,and ignores thedisparate needs of differentstudents. The degreethus functions as a kind ofcredentializing tollboothfor career advancementand little else. Instead,master’s programs inthe many fields relevantto journalism (as well asfocused interdisciplinaryprograms) should be offered withjournalism concentrations that involveactual reporting and collaborationbetween academic departmentsand news organizations.4. More schools should implementthe widely endorsed idea of offeringshort, focused seminars onthe fellowship model for workingjournalists. The thrust of journalismeducation should shift to early andmidcareer journalists. The diverseneeds of recent college graduates,with and without campus journalismexperience, and of journalists at variousstages in their careers, requireflexible programs of differing typesand lengths—and cast further doubton the value of granting degrees. AsOrville Schell observes, “Journalismschools can … justify their existencesby striving to become workshoplikeplaces where older and moreseasoned journalists team up withyounger journalists to do actualprojects that get published, airedor exhibited.” 25. All journalism schools should striveto be independent centers of criticismand debate about journalistic1In his report to the Bollinger Task Force, Nicholas Lemann proposed a short, intensiveskills-based course in the summer preceding the academic year.2Schell, “Some Ruminations on Journalism Schools as Columbia Turns,” www.journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/debate/forum.1.essay.schell.html80 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital Demandsissues and society (for which theInternet is an excellent vehicle)and should incorporate that criticalspirit into their curricula. Studentsshould learn by critiquing the workof their peers and that of the professionalmedia and should studythe principles and history of mediacriticism.Neither the practical (newsroom)model nor a purely academic one isideal for either the aspiring or theworking journalist. What is neededis a more dynamic fusion of the twomodels and one that is more flexibleto the needs of particular individuals.Practical experience and intellectualknowledge both count toward excellence—alongwith curiosity, imaginationand courage. The ideal journalist,in short, is both well rounded and anexpert. He or she will have a critical andskeptical temper, an understandingof the legal and moral parameters ofthe journalism profession, and a clearsense of its history, civic function, andcritical standards.Given the barriers that exist atpresent, and which are exacerbatedby the marketplace, it will requirea paradigm shift to see journalismand education as tap-roots of thesame democratic tree and part of aninformation environment cohabitedby citizens, journalists and scholars.It will mean relaxing the boundaries,and perhaps the very definitions, ofacademic and journalistic institutions.But since knowledge abhors artificialboundaries, and cultural barriers onlyserve narrow constituencies, this willno doubt happen eventually.Perhaps the Carnegie-Knight JournalismInitiative, a three-year, six milliondollar program begun in 2005 bythe Carnegie Corporation of New Yorkand the John S. and James L. KnightFoundation, can help to move journalismeducation in this general direction.This initiative, a joint venture with theJoan Shorenstein Center at Harvard andseveral leading journalism schools, isintended to “improve subject-mattereducation for journalists,” developinvestigative reporting projects, promoteresearch, and encourage curricularenrichment and team-teachingbetween journalism schools and hostuniversities.Finally, journalism schools can serveas laboratories for alternative modelsof both teaching and doing journalism—andalternative economic models—inkeeping with Joseph Pulitzer’svision of journalism as “one of the greatand intellectual professions.” In thelong run, there is great potential forsynergy between j-schools, universities,foundations and research centers,with or without the help of traditionalnews organizations. They can produceknowledge that is timely, relevant andaccessible to the public, but also freeof commercial constraints and enrichedby society’s deepest reservoirsof knowledge. That way points towardexcellence. Jeffrey Scheuer’s article is adaptedfrom a chapter of his book “The BigPicture: Why Democracies Need JournalisticExcellence,” to be publishedby Routledge in the fall of 2007. Heis also the author of “The Sound BiteSociety,” published in 1999.Values Reside at the Core of JournalismIt is these essential values that ‘make someone a good journalist, and they are whatlift this work above the trivial.’By Lou UreneckIfound myself at lunch one daytrying to explain the content ofa journalism education to a colleaguefrom the economics departmentat Boston University. He is a world-classeconomist and scholar—the sort ofman whose career affirms the importanceof research and academic publication.Fortunately for me, he is alsoa professor who writes op-ed articlesfor newspapers on public issues andseeks a broad audience for his work.This put me somewhat at ease.In explaining what I and others inthe journalism department teach, Imentioned, of course, that we seekto give students the skills to be clearand direct writers. I also said that weteach them how to conduct interviews,search for documents, and be goodand careful observers.At some point in our conversation,the matter of whether newspapershave a future arose, and I told himthat while I believed they do have afuture, teaching students to practicejournalism in other formats is important.I explained how we want printreporters to learn how to shoot videoand record sound, but how that is justone part of how we are groping forways to introduce more multimediaskills into the curriculum because ofthe obvious importance of the Internetto the future of journalism.But at this point in our conversation,I turned back, importantly, to thecontent of a journalism education andfound myself elaborating more on thevalues and attitudes we are workingto inculcate into students rather thanfocusing on particular skills, especiallyNieman Reports / Fall 2007 81


Teaching Journalismtechnical ones. A look came acrosshis face—a look of surprise, curiosity,bemusement or maybe a combinationof all three. I think it was my departurefrom a description of a body of knowledgeor even a regime for researchand analysis—and my emphasis onvalues—which he found unusual.Replying to his expression, I saidsomething like, “I try to teach studentsto challenge authority by asking hardquestions. I want them to develop astrong sense of skepticism. In a sense,I’m trying to acculturate them into theprofession of journalism.”Up until that moment, I don’t thinkI had stated this point quite so clearlyto myself. Yet as these words enteredour conversation, I grasped the essentialstrength that comeswith the teaching of valuesto student journalists. Yes,of course, I have taught thenecessity of fairness and accuracy,but in the midst ofthis exchange I realized thesignificance of our ability todraw out more visibly andwith more elaboration someof the fundamentals of what Icall the journalistic value system.Core Values of JournalismAs we move through a tumultuousperiod in journalism and journalismeducation, mostly forced on us by theInternet, it’s important that we namethese values. By naming them, we willthen find ways to encourage and teachthem. In enunciating these values—inreminding ourselves, then teachingour students—it might be that we willunderstand at a deeper level what itmeans to be a journalist.Two critical values are idealism andskepticism. These seem oppositional,but in our craft their pairing can offerus a potent way to engage the world.For young journalists, these two valuesinspire as well as energize them to douseful, even penetrating, work.The day-to-day and night-to-nightwork of a journalist can be grindingand difficult. There is all that travel andthe phone squeezed for hours betweenthe head and shoulder. To get it right,and to make it good, the work oftentakes one more phone call, one morecheck of documents, or one more tripto the scene of the story. The ability tostay with it requires that journalistshave a reliable source of strength onwhich to draw. I can think of no bettersource than their idealistic belief thatthe story they’re working on might insome, perhaps small, way contributeto improving people’s lives.Even as they draw on that idealism,reporters must cultivate their skepticism.In other words, they need to behardheaded idealists, to ask to see theevidence, the documents, and checkUltimately, the purpose of journalism hasto be more than about distracting andentertaining an audience with ‘content’that eventually is monetized for profit.the numbers. They want a second confirmingsource and then a third. Theirskepticism should be implacable.Joel Rawson, executive editor of TheProvidence Journal, told me a delightfulstory years ago that captures thespirit of inspired skepticism. It seemsthat a dog (Jess) that once had lived inEast Greenwich, Rhode Island but hadmoved to Colorado with his owner wasreported to have found his way back tohis original home and owners—a trekthat took him 18 months over 2,200miles. It was a great feature story, ofcourse, and it made the papers. ButJoel was skeptical: He asked reporterPeter Gosselin to get to the bottom ofit, and Peter did. The Colorado doghad a veterinary history that includedan x-ray for a broken leg. The Journalhad the second dog x-rayed, and—yes,you guessed it—the second dog’s x-raywas clean. No broken leg, wrong dog.The second dog was named Smoky, andhe lived less than a mile away.A funny tale, yes, but think of howhistory might have unfolded differentlyif the Rawson standard had been appliedto, say, Iraq’s alleged weapons ofmass destruction.There are other values, too. Independenceand courage come to mind.So does a certain prosecutorial zealto nail the “bad” guys: the ones whogame the system, steal from the public,or exploit those over whom theyhave power.All of these values are a part of beinga reporter. They are what makesomeone a good journalist, and theyare what lift this work above the trivial.Ultimately, the purpose of journalismhas to be more than about distractingand entertaining an audiencewith “content” that eventuallyis monetized for profit.In this regard, the core principalsof journalism are wellarticulated by the Committeeof Concerned Journalists 1and in “The Elements ofJournalism,” the book writtenby Bill Kovach and TomRosenstiel. Among them arethese: journalism’s first obligation isto the truth, and its first loyalty is tocitizens.As journalism educators ponder howbest to train future reporters—whosework might never appear in a newspaperor on television but will be seenand heard on the Internet—we’d dowell to find ways to explain and demonstratethe importance of the valuesystem that underpins how and whywe do our work. Lou Ureneck, a 1995 Nieman Fellow,is chairman of the journalism departmentat Boston University andformer deputy managing editor ofThe Philadelphia Inquirer. His book,“Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly-Fishing,and a River Journey Through theHeart of Alaska,” was published in2007 by St. Martin’s Press.1www.concernedjournalists.org/82 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital DemandsPassing Along the Value of Humility‘Students need to be open-minded about the best way to tell each story rather thanseeing rich media as mere add-ons to word-driven narratives.’By Mike McKeanConvergence journalism, as weteach it at Missouri, is moreabout new attitudes than newskills. Don’t get me wrong. We do ourbest to train students in audio, video,photo, graphics and Web production.We emphasize strong writing skills. Weput them to work in all of our newsoperations—a daily newspaper, an NPRaffiliate, a commercial TV station,plus various Web sites andmobile services. Students blog,make podcasts, create Flashanimations, design interactivedatabases, and widgets—thingsthey have to know to find goodfirst jobs in today’s media environment.Still, who among us in theprofession or the academy canpredict the exact hardware, softwareand distribution systems that freshmenentering j-school this fall will need toknow by the time they graduate andhit the job market in 2011? Sure, we’retrying to develop reliable standards sothey can more easily create compellingmultimedia stories, organize ournewsrooms so they can produce thosestories consistently on deadline, andidentify stable economic models sothey can count on a rewarding careerwhen they leave here. But the finishline is constantly moving.The attitudes we need to instill inour students, however, seem clearer tome. They need to thrive on constant,rapid change. Students need to beopen-minded about the best way totell each story rather than seeing richmedia as mere add-ons to word-drivennarratives. They need to embrace teamwork.Very few lone wolf, backpackjournalists can do it all with equalskill and panache. And they need tobe humble in the face of overwhelmingsocial changes made possible bydigital media.Humility is not something journalistsmodel well. Professionalism, integrity,social responsibility—sure. Humility?Not so much. But a YouTube/Facebook/Blogger world demands we do better.… we push ahead with variousapproaches to keep well-trainedjournalists relevant at a time when webelieve they are needed more than ever.Our dwindling, skeptical audience isincreasingly capable of creating andsharing its own news, however theydefine the term. Traditional journalistscan belittle these “amateurs” orembrace them in a new reportingsystem that makes us both better. Butwe can’t stop them. User-generatedcontent, citizen journalism—whateverone wants to call it—is here to stay.Teaching ConvergenceJournalismThere’s still a crucial place in societyfor professionally trained journalists.So here’s a glimpse at what’s beenhappening at the Missouri School ofJournalism since we created a formalconvergence major in the fall of 2005. 1Sophomores and first-semester graduatestudents begin with a skills course,Convergence Fundamentals, in whichthey learn the basics of still photography,audio-video recording and editing,slide shows, and some simple Web design.During the final few weeks of thesemester, students break into teams toproduce in-depth, multimedia featurestories. We team-teach this course, aswe do all of our required convergencecourses. Convergence Reporting isnext, and in this class students splittheir time between weeklydeadline features reported inteams and individual rotationsthrough our newspaper, radioand TV newsrooms wherethey work on short deadlinestories. Then, in ConvergenceEditing, students learn moreabout personnel managementand quality control asthey again rotate throughour newsrooms. They also spend fourweeks acting as leaders of the teamsworking on features in the reportingclass.It is at this point, if it hasn’t happenedalready, that our students typicallydecide how to solve their “jack ofall trades, master of none” challenge.We don’t want them to leave Missouriuntil each has a strong grounding in atleast one journalistic specialty. So werequire them to choose one of several,two-course concentrations designed bythe faculty with a focus on newspaperand magazine writing, radio-TV reportingor producing, investigative reporting,photojournalism and design.While completing their concentrations,students sign up for their finalrequired course—Convergence Capstone.Again they work in teams, thistime to research a practical problem orneed, then create a journalistic productto address it. Students have designed1Details about this major are available at http://convergence.journalism.missouri.edu/Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 83


Teaching Journalismeverything from an interactive voterguide and a high school video-sharingservice to a cross-platform advertisingcampaign for a local auto dealer anda Web 2.0 collaboration with a localdocumentary film festival.Is our approach working? Two yearsis too soon to reach a conclusion.But our first graduating class in Maylanded some great internships, andthey’re now finding well-paying jobsas online sports editors, magazinedesigners, newspaper video editors,TV newscast producers, and TeachFor America volunteers from Billings,Montana to the Rio Grande Valley toOrlando, Florida.The convergence sequence hasquickly become a popular major, andit can be difficult to get into. We’relimited by a relatively small faculty(three full-time teachers) and lab spacewe share with our radio-TV colleagues.Those bottlenecks should be clearedwhen the facilities of the new ReynoldsJournalism Institute 2 open at the MissouriSchool of Journalism with the fall2008 semester. At that time, we’ll hiremore instructors, equip a larger lab,and open a technology demonstrationcenter from which we will take its bestideas into our so-called “Futures Lab”to gauge their practicality in a workingnewsroom.Collaboration andConvergenceLet’s return to the value of humilityand our desire to imbue students—andourselves—with it. We know we don’thave all the answers to teaching andpracticing convergence journalism,but we push ahead with various approachesto keep well-trained journalistsrelevant at a time when we believethey are needed more than ever. At thesame time, we make students aware ofthe increasingly interactive quality oftheir endeavors by offering new learningopportunities, some of which arehighlighted below:• Ask the audience what they want.We explore how major convergenceprojects should be based on soundresearch before launch and carefullyevaluated after.• Give the audience a voice. We’vecreated a local Web site modeledon South Korea’s OhMyNews thatpairs student editors with citizenswho want to write stories or share[Students] need to behumble in the face ofoverwhelming socialchanges made possibleby digital media.pictures, sounds and video on topicsthey care about. 3• Find industry partners in the technologysector. We’ve been workingwith digital media firms such asApple and Adobe Systems to keepabreast of what technology is emergingand to learn how to exploitthose changes, especially in mobilecommunications. We’re also startingto do regular visits with technologyleaders, including some of ouralumni, in Silicon Valley.• Give students a larger voice. Letthem choose and design their ownprojects. For example, we’re aboutto launch a student competitionto come up with the best desktopwidgets to support the content andbusiness sides of traditional mediacompanies. Finalists will receivedevelopment money and programmingsupport. The winning teamwill split a significant cash prize.• Find nonjournalists on campuswho know what you don’t. In thecompetition (above), journalismstudents will team with studentsfrom computer science, educationand business. Professors in thoseand other disciplines can also plugholes in traditional journalism curricula.• Look beyond the borders. Journalistsand journalism educators inother countries are finding newand better ways to tell compellingstories with digital technologies.Our partners at Moscow State University’sFaculty of Journalism, forexample, are focusing most of theirconvergence efforts on independentdocumentaries because of severegovernment limits on newspapersand television news. Our partnersin China are studying how citizenswith cell phones can sidestep mediacensorship to shine a light on importantsocial problems. Broadbandmobile companies in Japan andSouth Korea are showing us whatwill be possible with live video, GPSmapping, and gaming when thirdgenerationcellular networks finallybecome available in most Americancommunities.The convergence faculty at Missourimakes significant changes to each requiredcourse every semester, and yetwe still can’t keep up with all the newideas and best practices. Our convergencemajor is just two years old, butmost of the faculty already see it as onlya temporary solution. If we’re still herein our present form five years fromnow, I’ll be surprised. In fact, we’vealready started a wholesale, schoolwidecurriculum review designed toensure that all students are exposedto convergence journalism skills. Nowthat’s a humbling experience for anyturf-protecting department chair. Mike McKean is the department chairof the convergence journalism facultyat the Missouri School of Journalism.2http://journalism.missouri.edu/reynolds/about-reynolds.pdf3www.MyMissourian.com84 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital DemandsMultimedia Journalism Changes What UniversitiesTeach‘Creating multimedia stories will require flexibility, a collaborative spirit, and strategicplanning,’ and these are essential skills that must now be learned.By Jerome AumenteJust as print and broadcast newsmedia are reinventing themselvesto fully embrace the Internet andnewer media, schools and departmentsof journalism and communication arerevamping their courses to acknowledgethe Web’s growing dominance,powers of interactivity, and the convergenceof print, broadcast and onlineenvironments. But how rapidly orradically the changes will happen aredifficult, unanswered questions for themedia and the universities.In a short time since the emergenceof the World Wide Web, the news media,especially newspapers, have significantlyaltered their attitude toward theInternet. After earlier bouts of arrogantskepticism, anger and denial, the traditionalmass media now concede theseismic transformations of the newermedia are irreversible. Google, with amarket value of $144 billion from itsInternet-based businesses, commandsattention from a newspaper industryworth $55 billion in the United Statesand experiencing steady meltdown incirculation and advertising revenue.Tom Curley, president and CEO ofThe Associated Press and a championof online journalism, told me that whilesome in the newspaper industry still are“trapped in the ‘word world’ and needto go 10,000 feet higher into the multimediaworld,” most have acceptedthe transition to online journalism.Internet users number more than onebillion worldwide, and many eagerlyparticipate in the interactive exchangeas news-as-lecture gives way to thenews-as-conversation. None of this islost on the 458 universities and collegesin the United States and Puerto Ricofrom which 48,750 students graduatedin 2005 with bachelor’s degrees inThough change cancome slowly in theconservative, consensusdrivenand budgetstrappedhalls of higherlearning, it is underway.journalism and mass communication(and 3,500 with master’s degrees), accordingto a survey by Professor Lee B.Becker at the University of Georgia. 1Paradigmatic shifts in informationexchange are causing universities torevise their course offerings, internshipsand applied research priorities.Though change can come slowly in theconservative, consensus-driven andbudget-strapped halls of higher learning,it is underway. My experiencesrelated to founding and directing ajournalism department and journalismresources institute and then in helpingdesign an interdisciplinary communicationschool at Rutgers, the StateUniversity of New Jersey, reminds meof challenges involved in keeping pacewith rapid and significant technologicalchanges.Aligning Lessons WithNewsroom ChangesLast year, I interviewed editors andpublishers from all the daily newspapersserving New Jersey and manyof the weekly community chains. Myinquiries were made for a book I publishedin 2007, “From Ink on Paper tothe Internet: Past Challenges and FutureTransformations for New Jersey’sNewspapers,” when the New JerseyPress Association (NJPA) celebratedits 150th anniversary as the oldestcontinually operating press associationin the nation. NJPA supported myresearch.With these editors and publishers, Idiscussed two topics in particular:• What they regard as the fate ofnewspapers 10 and 30 years fromnow and why.• How universities can better educatefuture journalists or train existingnewspaper staff.I’ve written extensively about newermedia, including a book on electronicpublishing in the embryonic days of1Becker’s 2005 survey also found that eight of 10 graduates believe people will getmost of their news via the Internet in 20 years. Most of them already get most of theirnews from the Internet. The median salary of entry-level, Web-related journalism jobswas $32,000 entry salary compared with $28,000 for daily newspapers, $23,000 for TV,or $26,000 for radio.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 85


Teaching Journalismvideotex, teletext and online databases,which were prelude to the explosionof personal computers that paved theway for the Internet’s mass appeal inthe 1990’s. Many from print media whoonce were so dismissive of interactivemedia today regard the Internet ascentral to their survival. Larger metroand midsized dailies are reinventingthemselves as 24/7 news centers, distributingmultimedia news, and smallercommunity papers are also involved.When we spoke, many predicted that inthree decades newspaperswould survive but in sharplyaltered form and in a secondaryrole to their multimedia,online Web sites, with manymore print niche publications.Some even wonderedif their papers would exist atall, and many foresaw a majorfinancial shift, with theirprint profits being eclipsedby their online revenues.The task faced by journalismand communicationschools and departments in upgradingtheir curricula is akin to training pilotsto fly experimental planes that are onlypartially operational for an aviationindustry being totally transformed.Some are headed toward wholesale revisionof their course offerings; othersare choosing to retrofit their existingcourses to accommodate the interactive,multimedia world. A go-slower,gradual revision approach might workbest for some programs, or it mightsimply be dictated by the lack of abudget to do much more. But all agreethat new course work is required sostudents have a comprehensive, handsonexperience working simultaneouslyin doing stories for print, broadcastand the Web. These skills—taught untilrecently as separate majors—must beconverged in the curricula as they arenow being used in newsrooms.Such flattening of curricula is noteasily done. Until now, faculty havebeen hired and promoted as specialists,while interdisciplinary experts—whoare willing to teach—have been moredifficult to recruit at a time when interactivemultimedia news is still sonew. Those who have this expertisecommand a higher salary. Graduateprograms are preparing multimediateachers, but this, too, requires resourcesand time. Universities alsomust be responsive to their students,many of whom remain focused on printor broadcasting and may resist beingforced into a multimedia curriculumThe task faced by journalism andcommunication schools and departments inupgrading their curricula is akin to trainingpilots to fly experimental planes that areonly partially operational for an aviationindustry being totally transformed.experiment. The fine line universitieswalk today is to be enough ahead of thechange curve but not so far out in frontthat their graduates cannot perform inthe print and broadcast environmentswhere most jobs still reside.Recognizing—and avoiding—shortlivedmedia fads are other challenges.“Synergy” was seen as journalism’s pathto a prosperous future just a few yearsago, as media companies gobbled upcompetitors to create conglomerates ofnewspapers, magazines, television andradio, cable, satellite and online services.The belief was that once these mediaworked together in harmony—sharingcontent and consolidating newsroomresources—financial stability andjournalistic success would materialize.Instead, the debris of such endeavors—withthe travails of the TribuneCompany and Time Warner—ought tobe part of what students learn today.The dismantling of the revered KnightRidder chain last year would serve toremind future journalists of how evenan enlightened company investing ingood journalism and newer mediabecame a victim of stockholder feeding-frenzy.Students should be taught tofunction in this age of convergence.“Repurposing” news and informationmight be an achievable strategy forfuture economic survival, but thesestudents should be taught the necessaryjournalistic imperatives that goalong with such use of material. And thedumping of news reportinginto a super-processing vatand piping it out throughmultiple channels of print,broadcast and the Web canbe seen as an easy task, butdoing this becomes moremeaningful work when itis done with an eye towardkeeping journalism’s basicprinciples in mind.Learning to work collegiallyin a wholly reorganizednewsroom will be askill that no student can afford not toacquire. Creating multimedia storieswill require flexibility, a collaborativespirit, and strategic planning. These attributesare not now sufficiently emphasizedin newsrooms or in classrooms.Yet these abilities must be part of whata potential journalist is able to offer anemployer who now knows that successwill depend on the Internet being fedstories told in multimedia ways. Andsome of the news and information totell these stories will arrive from citizenjournalists, Web forums, and Weblogs;finding ways to seamlessly integratethese various avenues of news will beessential, too.To accomplish this, various approachescan be tried:• Universities can test the possibilitiesand limits of convergence andmultimedia journalism in controlledclassroom news laboratory settings.22These labs can offer students relevant exposure to the Internet, Web site building,experimentation with Weblogs, hands-on work with software packages for graphicsand photos, and lots of time to report, write and edit for a range of platforms withtext, graphics, sound, video and photos digitally mixed.86 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital Demands• Faculty can work closely with newsorganizations, which might be ableto provide extra resources andequipment and monitoring.• Internships can offer students achance to participate in multimediastory-building in newsrooms.• Journalism faculty doing appliedresearch can measure what happensto their students in these classroomand professional settings throughfield visits and seminars.• Universities must assess their faculty’sincreased time pressuresand the skills neededto teach effectively in thismultimedia environmentto prepare students for therealistic expectations of theworkplace.Editors and publishers toldme they want to hire journalistswho have multimediaskills and experience. Youngpeople already come to themattuned to the Internet, butsome newspapers, such as Newark’sStar-Ledger, train every incoming journalistin computer-assisted reportingand database research. Increasingly,however, most papers will likely wantjournalists to have a firm foundationin these skills when they arrive.Restructuring the CurriculaThe key word that encompasses thesechanges in the classroom is “interdisciplinary.”Twenty-six years ago theprovost at Rutgers asked me, as thehead of the journalism department, tojoin the directors of communicationand library sciences to design a newSchool of Communication, Informationand Library Studies. Since then,information technology and severalother centers focused on the mediahave been added. At that time, somethought this collaborative experimentwould fail; as we attempted to dothis, we endured critics who felt wewere being unfaithful to our separatedisciplines. Instead, this new schoolthrived, receiving many additional resources,and was positioned well whenit came time to integrate new mediaadvances. Since then, many schoolshave duplicated this multidisciplinaryapproach.At European universities, there ismuch interest in this integrated approach,and Rutgers has shared itscurriculum and training in many countriesof Central and Eastern Europe.‘Repurposing’ news and informationmight be an achievable strategy forfuture economic survival, but thesestudents should be taught the necessaryjournalistic imperatives that go alongwith such use of material.Presently, I am a program evaluatorfor a joint program of the journalismschools at the University of Missouriand Moscow State University in whichits centerpiece has been funding of anew convergence news lab and curriculum,brought to Russian studentsby the talented Missouri faculty.Media management courses shouldbe used to help future journalists learnhow to work with complex budgets,strategic planning, personnel issues,and decision-making about technologyin this multimedia environment. Communicationlaw courses can be usedto help students become familiar withethical, privacy, libel and copyright concernsthat grow out of online deliveryof news and information and mediaconvergence. Other topics deservingcareful academic attention include:audience and reader analysis; the behavioralimpact of interactivity; socialand educational policy; technologicalunderstanding of computers, theInternet and mobile devices, and thestorage, retrieval of secondary use ofinformation.Journalism majors can be imbuedwith the excitement of gaining masteryof multimedia toolboxes. These willbe tools they will use not only to getshort-form news reports out quicklybut also to develop longer, narrativeaccounts with links to documents toenhance credibility and the use ofvideo, audio and graphics to placereaders vividly at the scene. Withthese tools they will also beable to offer readers multipleperspectives on global storiesas well as many dimensions ofcoverage of local news. And byknowing how to benefit frominteractivity, these journalistswill be able to tap into readerreactions, develop a networkof new and valued sources, andgather reporting tips.The editors and publishersI interviewed emphasizedthat universities should keepas their priority the core curriculumstrengths of journalism education.These include teaching of solid research,interviewing, reporting, writingand editing skills; the broad knowledgeof liberal arts and science studies;critical thinking and analysis, and highethical standards and knowledge ofpress freedom and responsibility. Onlywhen grounded in the fundamentalsof journalism will this tree—fromwhich many multimedia branches arenow sprouting—be strengthened bythe changes that are coming to ourclassrooms. Jerome Aumente, a 1968 Nieman Fellow,is distinguished professor emeritusand special counselor to the deanin the School of Communication,Information and Library Studies atRutgers, the State University of NewJersey.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 87


Teaching JournalismPushing and Prodding Latin American JournalismSchools to ChangeA Colombian journalist makes it more likely that students will learn how to ‘thinkonline’ so they will be prepared to enter the job market in this digital era.By Guillermo FrancoNot too long ago, C. Max Magee,when he was a graduate studentat Northwestern University’sMedill School of Journalism, focusedhis research for his master’s degreeprogram on the topic of “The Roles ofJournalists in Online Newsrooms.” 1 Itwas an attempt, Magee explains, “todefine which skills and intangible characteristicsare most important in onlinenewsrooms.” His findings came fromonline surveys he conducted in 2005with 438 people who work for onlinenews sites. His goal was to identify “theskills and characteristics that hiringmanagers are looking for” and also tolearn what online journalists need toknow and do in the context of theirtypical workday.Magee’s survey identified 35 skillsthat he divided into four categories:1. Attitudes and Intangibles2. Editing and Copyediting Skills3. Content Creation4. Online Production ToolsDespite his precise recording of thecomparative usefulness of each of theseskills—and his helpful assessment ofhow and why many “old” skills still mattergreatly—what Magee learned fromonline journalists is that the technicalaspects of their work are not whatsets them and their work apart fromthose working in “old media.” Insteadit is “a different way of thinking” thatis characterized by “a willingness tolearn new things, multitasking andteamwork.” When summed up, theonline journalists’ attributes amountedto the ability to “think online,” pairedwith convincing “others to do thesame.” It is these qualities that thosewho are hiring journalists for onlinemedia are seeking in applicants whocome their way.To think about Magee’s findings—and his conclusions—is to challengesome of the ways in which our universitiesand graduate school programsin Colombia, and in the rest of LatinAmerica, now approach the teachingand training of future journalists. It’svery clear from studies such as this one(and other less rigorous ones conductedin Latin America) that students need tobecome actively engaged with onlinejournalism. This means not only encouragingthem to immerse themselvesin what it is producing but also to helpthem analyze what they are reading andseeing and hearing. Additionally, theyactually need to be producing it as partof their classroom experience.Yet little of this appears to be happeningin many of the 1,300 communicationand journalism schoolsthat exist throughout Latin America.Financial considerations—figuring outhow to get the highest possible incomefrom students—has convinced manyprograms on this continent to offercertificates and postgraduate studyprograms with pompous names anddubious quality without touching theundergraduate programs, which iswhere education designed to promote“digital thinking” should start.One problem in having this happenis that to develop these online competencieswould mean that many journalismprograms would need to redefinetheir academic curricula. And this taskwould reside with scholars who, for themost part, are not prepared to do whatis necessary to push their programsinto the digital age. Often today, thestudents criticize their professors andadministrators for not having contactwith the “real” world of journalism, andthis criticism is aimed at their separationeven from traditional media.Another consequence of gaining thislevel of understanding about onlinejournalism is knowing that when studentsleave journalism programs thenewsrooms they enter—if they evenenter a newsroom at all—will definejobs in new ways. And the roles theyassume are likely to be expanded asopportunities for serving other communities—suchas online social groupsand niche audiences—evolve. Job opportunitiesmight also open up at Websites looking for people to “managecontent” in order for them to sell theirproducts or services through the Webor to figure out how to use content incorporate Intranets, to mention a fewpossible directions.The emerging journalist’s multimediaabilities should go hand-in-handwith the spirit of an entrepreneur,and the attributes of entrepreneurshipshould be nurtured at college,too. Given the kind of less structuredenvironment in which these graduateswill be working in the future, acquiringthese skills would provide morecomfort for them in taking risks as theycreate new ways of distributing whatthey produce.1http://journalist.org/news/archives/MedillOnlineJobSurvey-final.pdf88 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital DemandsI share my pessimistic perspectivewith other journalists in Latin America,including my El Tiempo colleagueJulio César Guzmán, with whom Ipublished “The State of Online Journalismin Latin America” in 2004. 2 In ourresearch, more than half of the LatinAmerican journalists who respondedto our survey told us that the quality ofavailable journalism schools’ academicprograms were not good enough. Also,77 percent of those surveyed said thatthe biggest need in terms of trainingwas to teach students how to createmultimedia content; 17 percent indicatedthat the second most importantneed was how to write for the Internet.(Those who responded to our surveyincluded journalists responsible forthe Web edition at 43 of the most importantnewspapers in Latin America.)In the 2007 version of our report,which will soon be published on thePoynter Institute’s Web site, journalistsinsist again on the need for additionaltraining for students while they are atschool; these newsroom leaders alsotell us that at least 55 percent of thoseworking in online operations for themajor Latin American newspapers donot have formal training in onlinejournalism.Another frequent approach in thisregion—one to be avoided since itonly reminds the next generation ofhow bonded we are to the old wayof doing things—is the strategy ofusing patches, of adding an electivehere and an elective there. Instead,entire programs must be completelyredesigned. Those who advocate thepatch-here-patch-there approach tendto be the academics in Latin America;these are the same people who arguethat this new direction in journalists’training—whose strongest advocatesare often from the United States—isnot valid here because our context istotally different from that in developedcountries. They contend, for instance,that Latin America has a relative lowrate access to the Internet or that interestin news at all is concentrated inthe smaller realm of the higher socialclasses.As journalists we insist on the importanceof looking at this issue withits globalized context. What is goingon now in more developed countriesis showing us a path that sooner orlater we will have to walk—and toprepare students now is our role andour responsibility.‘We Media’—in SpanishIn February of 2004 the Spanish editionof “We Media: How AudiencesAre Shaping the Future of News andInformation” was posted online. 3 I wasinvolved in its translation, which I feltwas important so that Spanish-speakingjournalists could have access tothe kind of information about onlinejournalism that English-speaking audienceshave been able to absorb. Andthis report offers plenty of evidenceof why and how the Internet poses abig challenge to journalism schoolsin Latin America. But it also is a greatopportunity for those who work atthese schools to increase their level ofunderstanding by gaining this accessto material otherwise unavailable tothem.Commissioned by The Media Centerat the American Press Institute, “We Media”can now serve as a textbook aboutonline journalism at many schoolswhere classes are taught in Spanish. Accordingto its authors, Shayne Bowmanand Chris Willis, the Spanish versionhas been downloaded almost 100,000times since it was posted—more timesthan the English version.The reasons for its online success—dueto it being free and availablein Spanish—speak to yet anotherdifficult circumstance of manyjournalism schools in Latin America:their dependence on expensive andoutdated course books. The reason:Spanish-speaking journalism programsdo not represent an attractive marketfor book publishers who specialize inthese topics, and the few translatedversions there are take too long toreach our students. And this lag timeis especially dramatic when it comesto receiving current information aboutthe Internet, new media, online journalism,or convergence. Though fewacknowledge it, especially at journalismschools, language becomes agreat barrier to accessing availableinformation. The development ofand the most vigorous debate aboutjournalism’s digital challenge is happeningand being documented mostfully in English.To try to repeat the successful experienceof “We Media,” a Spanish versionof the manual “How to Write for theWeb,” a 300-page handbook, will bepublished and will be available forfree at El Tiempo’s Web site, 4 whichis the leading Web site in Colombia.It provides a good balance of theory,research and real-world examples.While these are examples of stepsthat can and are being taken in Colombia,it is important to point outthat the developed world could—andshould—make a greater effort to shareits knowledge about journalism withthose in the developing world and doso in languages that aren’t English.This would be a good start towardprodding our universities and journalismprograms to move out of the 20thcentury and teach our students for thejobs they will find as the 21st centurymarches on. Guillermo Franco, a 2006 NiemanFellow, is content manager of newmedia at Casa Editorial El Tiempoand editor of Eltiempo.com in Colombia.He has been a professor inpostgraduate journalism programsand lecturer on online journalism.2www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=645323www.hypergene.net/wemedia/espanol.php?id=P644www.eltiempo.comNieman Reports / Fall 2007 89


Teaching JournalismNewsroom Training: Essential, Yet Too Often Ignored‘Only a third of news organizations increased their training budgets in the pastfive years ….’By Michele McLellan and Tim PorterWhen The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’seditorJulia D. Wallaceannounced a major newsroomreorganization and buyout offersin February, she made this pledge:“As we implement changes, wewill boost our commitment totraining.”This promise was impressivebecause Atlanta was already doingmore training with its newsroomstaff than most news organizationsin the country despite facingthe same financial pressuresas other major U.S. metros. Thisnewspaper is also in a minorityof U.S. news organizations thathave increased midcareer stafftraining in recent years. Alongwith several other savvy newsroomleaders, Wallace realizesthat strategic training can helpnews organizations cope with thecompetitive and financial quakesnow rocking the industry.As the news industry strives tobecome a dynamic competitor in afierce information economy, goodnewsroom leadership requiresfinding an edge to distinguish theirnews products from the glut of othermedia offerings. Improving reporters’and editors’ skills, while raising theirenergy level and spurring motivation,can mean the difference between anews organization successfully reinventingitself and one that doesn’t.“We want people to perform newtypes of work, some of which is notyet defined. Offering training lowersthe fear associated with changing jobduties and roles and offers an incentiveboth for staff members and managers,as training promises to improve thework, ” says Melanie Sill, executiveeditor of the Raleigh News & Observer,where newsroom training has beensignificantly increased.Wallace and Sill have learned thelessons of the business world: Successfulcompanies regard training asan investment, not as an expense, andlowering the fear factor is just one ofthe return benefits of consistent andcontinuous training. In other industriesand professions—whether forpharmaceutical salespeople, Starbucksbaristas, or even lawyers—training is avehicle for financial success. Companiesthat invest in their peopleand create environments thatsupport innovation adapt betterto changes in their markets.They also have highly satisfiedemployees and outperform theirpeers financially.“It’s something the leaders inthe best companies talk aboutall the time, says Amy Lyman,president of Great Places to WorkInstitute, which puts togetherFortune magazine’s “100 BestCompanies to Work For” list. “Ifyou want people to be innovative,they need to have the smarts andthe skills and the knowledge,but they also need to have thefreedom, the comfort, and thesupport to try things that are newand may fail.”That attitude is rare in theU.S. news industry, which trainsonly sporadically, relies mostlyon training offered by nonprofitorganizations, and inevitably cutsthe training budget (if it has one)when revenues fall. On average,U.S. companies invest 2.3 percentof payroll on training, accordingto the American Society for Training &Development. In contrast, the newspaperindustry invests less than one-fifthof that, 0.4 percent of payroll, accordingto an analysis by Inland Press.Only a third of news organizationsincreased their training budgets in thepast five years, according to a 2006survey sponsored by the John S. andJames L. Knight Foundation. About30 percent have maintained trainingbudgets in that time while 20 percenthave cut them, according to the surveyof 2,000 journalists and news executivesconducted by Princeton Survey90 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Digital DemandsResearch Associates International.One in 10 newsrooms provides notraining at all.Yet nine in 10 journalists say theyneed more training and nine in 10 newsexecutives agree. The executives—typicallyamong the more experiencedand knowledgeable journalists—saythey need more training themselves,particularly in management and newmedia. Lack of training is the top sourceof job dissatisfaction among journalists,ahead of pay and benefits.The Value of NewsroomTrainingNews organizations that haveincreased training budgets tendto take a more sophisticatedapproach, the survey found.These organizations train theirstaffs with specific goals in mind,have a training coordinator,and receive higher-than-averagefeedback from their staffs for thetraining that is offered.That finding echoes what weand other program directors inKnight’s $10 million NewsroomTraining Initiative learned between2003 and 2006. The initiative, whichincludes Tomorrow’s Workforce, TheLearning Newsroom, and PoynterInstitute’s News University, demonstratedin dozens of newsrooms thattraining linked to actionable goals andencouraged by forward-looking leadershipdrives innovation and audienceappeal by improving newsroom cultureand news content. The culture changeis key to learning and reinvention,including development of print anddigital content that is more engagingto audiences with links to many informationsources.Many of the newspapers, large andsmall, that were part of the Knightinitiative found that an investment intraining paid off. Among them:• The Herald-Times in Bloomington,Indiana (circulation 29,000) participatedin The Learning Newsroomproject and designated a staff memberto coordinate training just fivehours a week. This training helpedthe newsroom become more adaptiveand creative. Editor Bob Zaltsbergcites training as a factor in a10 percent increase in single-copysales of the newspaper and a robustdrive to improve the Web site.• The Waco Tribune-Herald (circulation38,000), a Tomorrow’s Workforcepartner, achieved a moreconstructive culture that helpedthe staff embrace online journalismquickly and enthusiastically. EditorCarlos Sanchez said increasing thetraining also resulted in a 40 percentdecline in turnover, which had been… training linked to actionablegoals and encouraged by forwardlookingleadership drives innovationand audience appeal by improvingnewsroom culture and news content.a significant drain on money andmanagement time.• One year after boosting its trainingin 2005, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution(circulation 350,000),another Tomorrow’s Workforcepartner, doubled the number ofbeat watchdog stories to 90 per yearand turned its front page from onedominated by standard institutionalstories to one that featured moreengaging story forms. Improvedculture and communication at thepaper help to drive the newsroom’saggressive push onto its Web site.“The common understanding, thecommon language, the common sortof culture that you get from trainingeverybody in the consistent way wehave is a really big deal,” says BertRoughton, managing editor/print atthe Journal-Constitution.• The Oregonian (circulation310,000), working with Tomorrow’sWorkforce, developed a staff-drivenbeat-reporting curriculum. “Ourbeat reporting has sharpened reporters’sense of news and abilityto mine daily and enterprise stories,says Editor Sandy Rowe. “We are,more than ever, holding people andinstitutions accountable throughdocument-driven reporting.”The lesson from successes such asthese is a simple one: When editorsunderstand how necessary training is toachieve their goals, they will find waysto make sure it gets accomplished. MikeJenner, executive editor of the highlyinnovative Bakersfield Californian(circulation 61,000) shares this view.He and his staff, working withThe Learning Newsroom, radicallyimproved its newsroomculture while pushing morenews content onto the Web.By mid-November 2006, theCalifornian staff had produced600 online videos that led to120,000 downloads. By comparison,a year earlier the staffhad produced just six videos.“Our overall page views are up,”says Jenner. “Our posts and ourcomments are way up on ourblogs. And downloads of our videosare through the stratosphere.”For Jenner, training made the difference.“This is a different place than itwas a year ago, two years ago,” Jennersays. “Training is really what’s gottenus where we are today.” Michele McLellan, a 2002 NiemanFellow, is founder and director ofTomorrow’s Workforce. Tim Porter isassociate director. This article wasadapted from their book “News, Improved:How America’s NewsroomsAre Learning to Change,” publishedby CQ Press in March 2007. For moreinformation, go to www.newsimproved.orgNieman Reports / Fall 2007 91


Words & ReflectionsWords & ReflectionsForeign Correspondence: Old Practices Inform New Realities‘Evelyn Waugh’s book can’t be read without thinking of today’s wars and how reporters cover them.’Waugh in AbyssiniaEvelyn WaughLouisiana State University Press. 288 Pages. $18.95 pb.By Cameron McWhirterEvelyn Waugh endeared himself to generationsof journalists with “Scoop,”his comic trashing of foreign warcorrespondents. His main character,William Boot, and his episodes in theimaginary African kingdom of Ishmaeliahave become touchstones for reportersgrappling with the more ludicrousaspects of their craft, whether they areworking the cop beat or Baghdad. Atsome point in our careers, we all haveworked for “The Daily Beast.”Now comes an ugly truth. Waughwrote so perfectly about bad journalismbecause he was a bad journalisthimself. He was biased. He was lazy.He made snap judgments and stuckto them, unwilling to explore the truemotivations of the people about whomhe wrote. He didn’t seem to really carethat much about what he was covering,even something as profound andtragic as a war. Decades after “Scoop”entered the canon of fiction about ourbruised profession, Louisiana StateUniversity (LSU) has reissued Waugh’snonfiction twin to his famous novel,the long-forgotten “Waugh in Abyssinia.”The book is the first in LSU’s“From Our Own Correspondent”series of out-of-print books and neverpublished manuscripts by foreign correspondents.First published in 1936,right after Italy’s successful conquestof Ethiopia, “Waugh in Abyssinia” isequal parts reportage, history, politicalanalysis, and travelogue. This forgottenbook provides great insight intoforeign news coverage during Waugh’stime and raises questions about suchreporting today.The war between fascist Italy andHaile Selassie’s Ethiopia in 1935 and1936 was a calamity, one of severalcrises that set the stage for the comingSecond World War. Among otherhorrors, the Italians used mustardgas against their ill-equipped enemyin violation of international treaties.Yet Waugh demonstrates that none ofthe journalists sent to cover the war,least of all Waugh himself, had anyreal idea what was going on. In lieuof facts, which Waugh appears to haveonly half-heartedly attempted to collect,his personal prejudices dominatethe book.For Waugh, the Italo-EthiopianWar was more about his own lack ofcreature comforts than armies clashing.He never once saw a shot fired incombat. He spent most of his time inthe Ethiopian capital instead of at thefront. He only visited the Italian Armyafter it had controlled Ethiopia formonths. A reader gets the impressionthat if the Ethiopians provided betterhotel accommodations, he would havewritten a more favorable book.The biggest problem modern readerswill have, as did many British readersat the time it was published, is thatWaugh backed the fascists. “Waugh inAbyssinia” would have, and probablydid, make Mussolini smile. Waugh unabashedlyembraced an imperial viewthat reeks of racist arrogance. Takethis example from page 25: “Howeversordid the motives and however grossthe means by which the white racesestablished—and are still establishing—themselvesin Africa, the resulthas been, in the main, beneficial, forthere are more good men than bad inEurope, and there is a predispositiontowards justice and charity in Europeanculture; a bias, so that it cannotfor long run free without inclining togood; things which began wickedlyhave turned out well.”These lines were written only twoyears before the Nazi Kristallnacht andonly four years before the eruptionof a European war that would engulf92 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Booksthe world. It’s only one example ofWaugh, the tepid war reporter, nothaving a clue and not trying very hardto get one.Former journalist John MaxwellHamilton writes in his insightful introductionthat “The problem was Waughdisdained journalism work.” Hamilton,dean of Louisiana State University’sManship School of Mass Communication,writes that the atmosphere inAddis Ababa in the run-up to the warproved perfect for someone wishing to“ridicule rather than understand.”And this general disregard for theprofessional task is the book’s importance.It’s a warning to modernreporters and readers. Waugh and thegaggle of reporters who covered theItalian invasion of Ethiopia traffickedin rumor with the voice of authority.(Waugh mocks this failing then commitsthe sin repeatedly himself throughouthis book.) They discussed battles andtroop movements with no idea ofwhere, or if, they had taken place. (Onejournalist made up an entire battle.)“Scoop” was written to cast these absurditiesinto sharp relief. In many ways,“Waugh in Abyssinia”—the novelist’sattempt to produce serious reportage—accomplishesthe same end.Today foreign reporting is much betterthan in Waugh’s day—if for no otherreason than technology and globalcompetition have made it more difficultfor mendacity to stand as long as it oncedid. Yet Waugh’s approach to foreignreporting has never fully left us. Westill have our William Boots. RecentlyI heard a foreign correspondent askedabout reporting from Darfur. He saidit was awful: He couldn’t find a decenthotel near the refugee camps.Evelyn Waugh’s book can’t be readwithout thinking of today’s wars andhow reporters cover them. “Waugh inAbyssinia” puts the reports of insurgentdeaths in Iraq or the capture of a “senior”Taliban commander in context.Think of the snarky Waugh, pen inone hand, cocktail in the other, jottingdown his report as he sat miles fromthe battlefront.The “From Our Own Correspondent”series states its purpose as follows:“illuminating the development offoreign news gathering at a time whenit has never been more important.”Its first book is an excellent choice,illuminating the noble profession’sinherent weaknesses. Cameron McWhirter, a 2007 NiemanFellow, is a reporter for The AtlantaJournal-Constitution. He once freelancedin Eritrea and Ethiopia, andhe says he took great measures toavoid other journalists while there.Type Creates a Visual Signature for Newspapers‘In a marketplace where content and quality once drove consumer decisions, the newspaper nowcompetes visually in a design-savvy, 24-hour free-information age.’From Gutenberg to OpenType: An Illustrated History of Type from theEarliest Letterforms to the Latest Digital FontsRobin DoddHartley and Marks Publishers. 192 Pages. $29.95 pb.By Ally PalmerType is a strange thing. Even as youread this you shouldn’t be aware ofthe chosen font or the shapes of theindividual characters or their size andthe space between the lines. All thosethings have been taken care of so theexperience of absorbing the informationcan be as pleasurable and seamlessas possible. However, now that it hasbeen mentioned you can’t help butbe aware of it and wonder just why itis important.Like many things, typesetting andtype design have undergone a transformationduring the past 20 years. Theadvent of desktop publishing—and, inparticular, the arrival of Apple’s Macintoshcomputer—was a quantum leapfor the publishing industry. In fact theMac is what gave me the opportunityin 1986 to work in an industry I hadnot even considered until then, whenas an unemployed musician I found ajob at a new music magazine, Cut, inEdinburgh, Scotland. A local publisherowned a new Mac Plus and quickly wesaw the potential to produce a magazinewith limited up-front cost.Viewed from where we are today, thiswas a primitive machine; but its biggestproblem was the limited amount of typeavailable. There were Times, Palatino,Helvetica, Optima and a few others. Allperfectly functional, readable fonts, butnot the inspiring selection we neededto create a youthful music publication.Instead we resorted to using Letraset,a dry transfer type, for headlines. Thiswas a painfully slow, laborious process,but working with it gave me a crucialinsight into the subtleties of handlingtype and the importance of such arcanematters as word and letter spacing.As the Macintosh became more powerfuland design and layout softwaresuch as PageMaker and Quark Xpressbecame more sophisticated, those ofus using it to create pages for publica-Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 93


Words & Reflectionstion were able to control properly ourdesigns and reduce the time it took tomove an idea to final artwork. Nowherewas this ability more in evidence thanin editorial design; with newspapers,in particular, this transition was noteworthysince until relatively recentlydecisions about layout were often inthe hands of those who were neitherdesigners nor journalists.But the single most liberating aspectof this technological revolutionwas the sudden availability indigital format of hundreds andhundreds of hitherto inaccessibletypefaces. After decadesof plodding along with theusual suspects, an immensevista of typographic opportunitiesopened up. This had itsdrawbacks. It is easy to datethe design of a publicationto the era of the explosion ofdigital type: It will be the onethat excitedly uses 25 differentfonts on a single page, whereone would suffice.In his book, “From Gutenbergto OpenType,” RobinDodd, an associate lecturer atthe London College of Communications,takes us back tothe time of Gutenberg’s movabletype and then sweeps usforward through the interveningeras of typesetting strategies andopportunities, carrying us into thetime we now inhabit when a plethoraof typefaces are at our fingertips withthe click of a mouse. It’s a remarkablejourney, as it reminds us of the generationalsimilarities of this thing called“type” and lets us see how all that wework with today has deep roots in verydifferent technologies that have beenused to bring us images and wordsthrough the centuries.The Guardian’s ChangingLookFor more than 200 years, newspapershave given us the first rough draft ofhistory, providing a mirror to changingtastes and social customs, as well aschanges in industry and technology.Recently, The Guardian in the UnitedKingdom published its 50,000th edition.A newspaper that began lifein 1851 as a regional publication inManchester, in the north of England,is now one of the most modern andgroundbreaking in the world.To mark this moment it publishedin both print and online, of course,a selection of its most notable andmemorable front pages. From the deathof Napoleon—the news was publishedseveral days after the event—to the1963 assassination of President Kennedy,from the 1969 moon landing to9/11, the accelerating pace of newsgatheringwas apparent.To my designer’s eye, the mostmarked change was the way in whichthe paper’s design—and particularlyits typography—had developed duringthe past 20 years. In the mid-1980’s,The Guardian bore a distinctly old-fashionedlook that had barely changed infour decades or more. It looked, likealmost all newspapers at the time, abit scruffy, a bit dirty and messy, likeit had been hastily put together withlittle thought for its appearance. Inthe late 1980’s it introduced a radicalredesign. By the late 1990’s it underwenta sophisticated developmentthat was striking for the way in whichit took the paper’s trademark use ofHelvetica, one of the world’s mostcommon typefaces, and made it feelcompletely contemporary. Continuingwith its reinvention in a Berliner(midsize) format in 2005, The Guardianis one of the few newspapers whosemodernity of design allows it to sitcomfortably alongside such icons of21st century design as the iPod.Of course, printing developmentshave played a part in this, but withoutdoubt the most important underlyingfactor in this transformationis the attention givento typography.The newspaper commissionedtwo type designers,New York-based ChristianSchwartz and Paul Barnes,from London, to create acomplete family of typefaces.Guardian Egyptian,as it was named, has 96 different“weights,” or varyingforms—from the classic formseen in the nameplate throughto a special “agate” weight forsuch elements as stock marketlistings and sports results. Allwere created for use exclusivelyby The Guardian.This was not in itself arevolutionary development.Newspapers, particularly thelarger-circulation ones, havebeen doing this for many years. TheNew York Times famously created a fontthat became so common that a versionis installed on almost every computerin the world. While this must please itsoriginal designer, it has had another,less-welcome effect for the newspaperitself: Any publication, no matter howsmall, could produce something thatlooked in some way similar to a titlethat is regarded as one of the mostprestigious in the world.Type MattersThis ubiquitous availability of manycommon fonts creates a problem forthe modern newspaper. Twenty yearsago it would have been hard to meetanyone who had an interest in type, letalone knew what a font is. Now everyonehas their favorite typeface (among94 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Booksthe tens of thousands available); scrollingdown a type menu is as much adaily occurrence for many people asdiscussing the latest episode of “TheSopranos” at the water cooler. And thismeans that anyone with basic layoutskills and proper software can createa reasonably good-looking newspaper.But newspapers, particularly thoseselling their product at the high endof the market, need to retain a certainexclusiveness, and typography is oneof the key elements in doing this.Newspapers have for many decadesbeen conservative products as they’vemade changes slowly, carefully and attimes painfully. But now a genuine andurgent desire exists for change as thesepublications fight for a diminishingshare of the market. In a marketplacewhere content and quality once droveconsumer decisions, the newspapernow competes visually in a designsavvy,24-hour free-information age.More than ever, there is a need fordistinctive, exclusive, high-qualitytype, and at the same time a greaterfocus on the skills involved in handlingtypography.Many typefaces are free today, andmany others are relatively inexpensive.But most of these fonts are notdesigned for newspaper use, so it is upto newspaper designers, art directors,type designers, and design consultantsto find a suitable type. Trying to choosethe right font for the right publicationis far from an exact science; it can haveas much to do with instinct and feel asit does with theory and study.Today, however, most newspapersare just one strand of a “multichannel”news operation alongside theWeb (and, increasingly, mobile phonesand PDAs). While the content of onlineand offline newspaper editions can beclosely connected, the two are utterlydifferent environments for which todesign. The typographic limitationsof the Web are extreme. Designers canuse any fonts they like, but if thosefonts are not on the reader’s computer(and they almost certainly won’t be)they will default to one of the handfulof “Web-safe” fonts installed on theoverwhelming majority of computers—Arial,Helvetica, Times, Courierand a few others.The only way to ensure text appearsas the designer intends is to create itas a graphic, which slows down thespeed the page loads and is unrealisticwith dynamic content. Therefore, mostnewspaper Web sites feature a few elementsthat mirror the graphic identityof the printed newspaper; everythingelse is presented using Web-safe fonts.Even then, there is little control overthe way the page will appear sincedifferent Web browsers treat fonts differently,and some “users” will specifythat particular fonts are to be readat specific sizes. This is why so manynewspaper Web sites—and indeed allof those with dynamic content—havea generic feel.All of this emphasizes how so muchof a newspaper’s identity hinges on thetypography. There are some developmentstaking place to address this, withfonts being designed for Web pagesto address the “softness” of on-screentype, but it will be some time beforethese are prevalent.Whether offline or online, typographyis but one element in a redesignprocess. At the heart of any changemust be the publication’s content andbasic structure. From a purely creativepoint of view, however, type can bethe catalyst, and it often is the mostinspirational part of the entire process.By combining and mixing fonts fromdifferent type, designers can producesurprising results. Using fonts that werenever intended for use in newspaperscan turn out to be the answer to a difficultcreative problem.In some ways the type designer hasbecome the rock star of the newspaperdesign world. They are regardedas slightly mysterious but highly creativepeople who spend too muchtime locked in their studios worryingabout details few other people wouldever notice. Without this attention todetail—and the obsessive nature thatdesigners bring to this task—progresswould be stymied.The process of creating new typeis complicated, and the inspirationcan come from many sources. “I tendto create my typefaces with some historicalcontext and background,” saysPortuguese type designer Mario Feliciano.“Looking at type history createsa connection between what I do andthe real world.” And the process has aninherent logical structure. “I normallystart with a lowercase ‘n’ and, with the‘n,’ I can make ‘m, i, l, h’ and ‘u.’ Theseletters give the basic rhythm of thetypeface,” Feliciano explains. “To getmore personality I move to ‘o, e and a.’Using the uppercase ‘H,’ I start testingthe first words, make corrections andmove to the ‘b, d, p, q’ group and afew other uppercase letters: ‘I, E, F, T’and ‘L.’ Then comes a delicate groupof letters: ‘M, R, S, s’ and ‘g.’ When allthese letters are designed, then mostof the personality of the typeface isdesigned.”Designers worry a lot about the“Starbucks effect” in the newspaperdesigns they produce. There is awarenessof how much the world’s senseof distance is shrinking in this era ofinstant communication and access toinformation. When a new design islaunched in Mexico City, for example,by the next day everyone in the industrycan see how it looks and whattypefaces have been used; within hoursbloggers will have viewed it, analyzedit, and launched discussions about it.Twenty years ago it would have takenweeks, months or years for that designto be seen and evaluated in the visualcommunity.In this environment, homogenizationof newspaper design can emergeinternationally, but if it does one canhope that it will be with design standardsraised across the board. If thishappens, the people who benefit willbe the readers. Ally Palmer is a founding directorof Palmer Watson Ltd. He has beena consultant since 1998 and has arecord of creating internationallyacclaimed designs for newspapersacross the world. Before becoming aconsultant, he was an award-winningart director with The Scotsman,Scotland on Sunday, and The European.In recent years he has beeninvolved in launches, redesigns andrelaunches across Europe and inSouth America, Africa and Russia.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 95


Words & ReflectionsThe Lure of China‘… we need to find a way to be both passionate about a subject and dispassionateabout its effects and influences on our own country.’By David D. PerlmutterWriting in the WashingtonMonthly at the time of theTiananmen events in thespring of 1989, journalist Jay Mathewsnoted that “the emotional commitmentto China remains among today’s correspondents,particularly for those of uswho fell in love with the romance andintrigue of China’s history, culture andsize when we were still in school.”I know what he means. That feelingbegan for me when, as a child, I readabout and then traveled to the MiddleKingdom, and it has stayed with meduring the past decade as I researchedand wrote a book about the Westernview of China by analyzing how Timemagazine portrayed China in maps,cartoons, photos and other kinds ofimagery from 1949 (the year of theCommunist revolution’s victory inmainland China) to 1973 (the year afterRichard Nixon’s famous visit to meetMao Zedong). My bigger question washow the physical images of China thatWestern correspondents crafted revealour conceptions and misconceptionsabout China.For example, for several decades,publications like Time had no reportersin country so they could only reprintmaterial from the People’s Republic ofChina (PRC) government. But Time wasanti-Mao and anticommunist; simplyposting “Red” propaganda pictureswith neutral captions was ideologicallyimpossible. Instead, Time usedits captions to counter the images itdescribed—that is, the visual content ismocked, questioned, discounted by thesurrounding words. So an intended-tobe-flatteringPRC-created image of Maomight be labeled “pudgy dictator.”Time’s editorializing of images couldbe more subtle. Throughout much ofthe early part of the Korean War, Timeassumed that China was a puppet ofMoscow and would not intervene tohelp North Korea. To “illustrate” this“fact,” maps of North Korea’s borderlandshow “Manchuria” (often crossedby “Soviet” supply lines) but nothinglabeled China, although at the timeManchuria was China. Out of cartographicsight was a reflection of theclosed ideological mind; hence theshock when hundreds of thousands ofChinese troops crashed into Americanforces on the Korean peninsula.China Connection: Promiseand PerilsTime, which until 1967 was directed byHenry Luce, was a fascinating focus forChina images because the great pressbaron, a son of China-placed missionaries,was intensely concerned aboutChina and had strong opinions on whatkind of China he wanted readers to believe.The “Lucepress,” as it came to beknown (the publisher also controlledLife and Fortune), worked relentlesslyin the late 1930’s and through 1941 tobuild American sympathy for China asa victim of Japanese aggression. Suchsentiment spurred the United Statesto enact embargos on sales of criticalresources to Japan such as oil, whichin turn set the stage for the attack onPearl Harbor. In addition, it was Luceand other friends of China, such as PearlS. Buck, who would push for the repealof the Exclusion Act in 1943, which hadfor more than half a century allowedthe United States to ban Chinese immigration.Then in the late 1940’s and’50’s, the Lucepress led the charge inaccusations against State Departmentofficials of being pro-communist andof “losing China.” Luce also was one ofthe leaders of the China Lobby, a coalitionof U.S. congressmen, publishers,businessmen and upper-level militarypersonnel that sought until the 1970’sto prevent America’s diplomatic recognitionof Communist China.Luce was not alone in being Chinaobsessed.The truth is that most of uswho write about (or picture) Chinaas journalists, commentators or academicsare more than dispassionateobservers. Many years ago, the latepolitical scientist Alvin Z. Rubinsteincommented to me that, in his experience,“people in the West who studiedChina tended to love the Chinesepeople, while people who studiedSoviet Russia tended to be indifferentor actually dislike the Russian people.”He did not mean this observation tobe taken as scientific fact, but in generala preponderance of Westerners96 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Bookswho have influenced our visions ofChina—from Marco Polo to the Jesuitfathers, Buck, Luce, many of the “ChinaHand” diplomats and reporters of the1930’s and 1940’s, and most studentsof China in the academy today—lovedor love China. They might have foundfault in political situations in China,governments of China, or even aspectsof the Chinese character, but basicallythey were or are fascinated and romanticallyattached to the Chinese peopleand culture.What’s wrong with an art historyprofessor, a magazine reporter, or adepartment store CEO being a Sinophile?Problems arise when their biasskews our foreign policies and our coverageof news. Many Chinese politicalleaders, for example, have found such“lao peng you” (old friends) useful foraffecting U.S. foreign policy as well aspress coverage. Indeed, consultingfor the Chinese has proved a rich fieldTime cover painting by Giro. ©Time, Inc.January 13, 1967.for former diplomats and secretariesof state, as Harper’s magazine’sWashington editor Ken Silverstein hasdocumented. Likewise, most businessleaders today are “pro-China” becausethat is where the money, productionand markets are located. But it doesnot serve the American public if thetalking heads on television introducedas “China experts” are not disclosed tobe, in effect, on the PRC payroll.Perhaps worse, China-lovers have along history of covering up the unpleasantfacts. After 1973, for example, Chinaexperts in the West found the humanrights situation in the country to beonly a minor topic of study and commentary.Even human rights crusadersgave China a pass. As journalist JamesMann asserted in his 1998 book “AboutFace: A History of America’s CuriousRelationship With China, From Nixonto Clinton,” “[President Jimmy] Carterand his aides gave China virtually aFor years, Time used paintings andcartoons to attack and to ridicule thePeople’s Republic of China leadership.Typical of the genre was a 1967 coverimage that juxtaposes a Chinese personagewith a dragon. Chairman Mao, lipspursed, squinting, dyspeptic, scans thehorizon but, one senses, he is not lookingat anything in particular. His head, likesome disembodied bust, is surroundedby a snakelike dragon whose body consistsof the instantly recognizable lengthsand guard towers of the Great Wall. Thedragon is not facing us, as was the casewith many of Time’s previous Chinesedragons, but is scuttling away, about toclose the gap with its own tail. The metaphoris striking and brilliant: The emptygod of Mao has walled off the nation andwalled out the world. The China monsteris also, by implication, about to—likesome serpent from a mythological tale—swallow itself. —DDPblanket exemption from the humanrights policies they so readily appliedelsewhere.” Indeed, such a characterizationcould be applied to practicallyall China watchers in the 1970’s and1980’s. As historian Roberta Cohenobserved before and after rapprochement,“No systematic or serious effortwas made by governments or humanrights organizations to call the PRCto account or even to document itsabuses. No detailed analysis of China’shuman rights record appeared.” Cohenmade this point in 1987 in writing aboutthe 1980’s; within a few years China’shuman rights problem would be anoften-reported news story. 1In all, writing a book on visualjournalism about China has not underminedmy esteem for the Chinesepeople or Chinese civilization. But mystudies have also reminded me thatblind love, in the end, serves neitherthe interests of the lover nor the objectof his or her affection. Generally,we need to find a way tobe both passionate about asubject and dispassionate aboutits effects and influences onour own country. People whowrite about China tend to befascinated by it; that will alwaysbe a given. But our obligation isfor that curiosity and affectionto lead us to upholding the mostbasic duty of journalists: to tellthe truth, as we learn it. David D. Perlmutter is aprofessor and associate deanfor Graduate Studies andResearch at the William AllenWhite School of Journalism& Mass Communications atthe University of Kansas andauthor of “Picturing China inthe American Press: The VisualPortrayal of Sino-AmericanRelations in Time Magazine,1949-1973.”Continued on next page.1See Merle Goldman, “The Persecution of China’s Intellectuals: Why Didn’t TheirWestern Colleagues Speak Out?” Radcliffe Quarterly 67, no. 3 (1981) and RobertaCohen, “People’s Republic of China: The Human Rights Exception,” Human RightsQuarterly 9, no. 3 (1987).Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 97


Words & ReflectionsMap of “Korea’s Waistland” by R.M. Chapin, Jr. ©1950 by Time, Inc.October 16, 1950.Editorial views shape images. WhenNorth Korea invaded South Korea onJune 25, 1950 the attack, a manifestact of aggression, was assumed to be aSoviet plot, with Kim Il Sung (hardlyknown outside the peninsula) as errandboy and China as lurking pawn. Afterall, the attack came only a few monthsafter China had signed a treaty of alliancewith the Soviet Union. Shortlybefore the onslaught, Secretary of StateGeorge Marshall described China asbeing “literally under the direction ofthe Soviet Union.” This was the pressconsensus as well: Time, until and evenbeyond the date of the Chinese interventionin Korea in November, projectedin maps and diagrams, illustrated inphotos, and described in captions andarticles a worldview in which Russiawas the controller of North Korea andChina a conduit. For example, in Timeof October 16, 1950, in the midst of anarticle “For a Free Korea,” a map titled“Korea’s Waistland,” shows “Red supplylines” entering from Manchuria (notlabeled as being in China). Black arrowsfrom the south mark the advance of thevictorious American-U.N. armies toward“the Waist” (the narrower section ofNorth Korea).With such views dominating politicaland journalistic discourse, the publicwould be unlikely to hold an opposingview. Indeed, in December 1950, 81percent of respondents to one poll saidthat the Soviet Union was responsiblefor the Korean War while only fivepercent thought the impetus for NorthKorea’s attack came from China. Itfollowed that American assessments ofChinese behavior would be based ontrying to gauge Soviet intentions: a fatalerror that ignored Chinese nationalistconcerns. —DDP98 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Nieman NotesCompiled by Lois FioreThe Poet’s Voice Surfaces in a Time of War‘All of us have notebooks and brains full of narrative poetry.’By Eliza GriswoldYou May Lie: that’s the difference between poetry and reportage. Although what mattersis telling the truth. In poetry, you may also return to a moment once it has passedand wander back into that fear, doubt, regret to try to make meaningful sense of whathappened, or didn’t. All of us have notebooks and brains full of narrative poetry. Here are afew from mine.MonkeyThe soldiers are children and the monkey’s young.He clings to my leg, heart against calf—a throat filling, refilling with blood.Last week, the children ate his mother—dashed her head against the breadfruit.A young girl soldier laughs,tears the baby from my legand hurls him toward the tree.See, she says, you have to be rough.When she was taken, the girl’sheart too pulsed in her throat.This poem comes from anencounter with a young soldierat a Revolutionary Armed Forcesof Colombia (FARC) camp atthe edge of the jungle near SanVicente, Colombia. The visittook place in 2001, when theFARC’s 42,000 square kilometerdmz, called Farclandia, still existed.There, the FARC was freeto mete out justice and to playbeach volleyball. The relativelyrelaxed atmosphere made it easierfor young soldiers to tell theirstories. —E.G.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 99


Nieman NotesBuying Rations in KabulThe Uzbek boys on Chicken Streethave never had enough to eat.They stock from shelf to shining shelfthese GI meals, which boil themselvesin added water (bottled, please).In twenty minutes, processed cheeseon jambalaya followed bya peanut butter jamboree.The boys, polite,advise on which we might prefer—Beef Teriyaki, Turkey Blight—and thank us twice for bringing peaceas, meals in hand, we leave the store.Of course they know that any peacethat must be kept by forcegoes by another name.This was the bustling city in 2002,swollen with recently returned refugees.Two young ethnic Uzbeksran their father’s shop on ChickenStreet. At the time, they stockedmostly MREs they procured fromBagram Air Force Base. The boyswere enthusiastic about the MREsand loved to offer advice aboutwhich were best but, as I hopeis clear, they’d never eaten them.—E.G.BedbugsIn the Bedouin’s foam mattress,a bedbug mother tips back her baby’s chinand pours my blood down his throat. You wrotein all my wandering I risk my chanceto give birth. That’s hardly true. All overthe earth, I’ve fed my flesh to bugs.That’s some kind of mother for you.This irritated poem was born oftoo many scratchy long-distancephone conversations betweenMedellin, Colombia and WoodyCreek, Colorado. It also bears auniversal empathy for those of uswho’ve woken with those terriblebites and the spots of bloodthe bugs leave on sheets whenthey burrow into exposed flesh.—E.G.100 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Nieman NotesArrestThe joins in the highway rise below the tiresas if we are running over bodies.The windows are covered in butcher paperand night coming cools the car’s frame.My head hangs the way cows’ do:complete submission to being led.The last thing I saw was the red cloth comingbefore it was tied around my eyes.My spirit thumps in the darkness.I’ve seen the pictures on the internet.Sometimes I fake a swoon or cry,hoping it might free me.Sometimes I refuse to answerquestions they already know.They feed me water from a cup;I swallow. How human we are,the tender, puncturing skin,the illusion we can save ourselvesif we find the right wordsand try with all our might.This was written after an arrestin North Waziristan. I sufferedvery little in comparison to thosewho were with me at the time.—E.G.Eliza Griswold, a 2007 Nieman Fellow, is a fellow at the New AmericaFoundation. Her poems are from “Wideawake Field,” Griswold’s firstbook of poetry, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She is workingon a nonfiction book, “The Tenth Parallel,” which also will be publishedby Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 101


Nieman Notes—1967—Dana Bullen, a foreign editor ofThe Washington Star, died June 25thof cancer in his home in Alexandria,Virginia. He was 75.Bullen worked at the Star for 21years, only leaving when it folded in1981. During that time he coveredSenate and Supreme Court affairs andthe 1968 presidential campaign, servedas foreign editor, and wrote columnson constitutional law. In 1981 he becameexecutive director of the WorldPress Freedom Committee (WPFC)and served as its representative at theUnited Nations and several intergovernmentalconferences. He continuedhis work for press freedom throughSouth African Niemans Gather inCape TownCurator Bob Giles with two recent South African fellows,Kim Cloete, NF ’06, left, and Lizeka Mda, NF’04.!"#$%&'()*+,-&.*/0,-&1/22"34&$),5/2/6&$"&7,8/&9"3-&"-&:#-/&;)"#8&$%/-&,6I"#)-/6&$"&,$$/-6&,&6*--/)&%"-")*->&/,0$/,1,),


Nieman NotesPhilip Meyer will be honored inMarch 2008 with a symposium entitled“Raising the Ante: The Internet’s Impacton Journalism Education.” Meyer,Knight Chair in Journalism at the Universityof North Carolina’s School ofJournalism and Mass Communication,has announced plans to retire nextyear. Meyer’s successor will have a newtitle, Knight Chair in Journalism andDigital Media Economics, reflectingthe program’s adaptation to the digitalera. Meyer is author of “The VanishingNewspaper,” a book that details theweakening of traditional news modelsin the emerging digital age.“[Meyer’s book] is must reading forevery editor and publisher,” said JeanFolkerts, dean of the school. “We expectour new Knight Chair to achievea similar impact—to generate andcommunicate ideas and data that helpmass communication professionalsunderstand where the field is headedand how to better serve the publicwhile making a profit.” (See Folkerts’sarticle on page 73.)William F. Woo, who died in 2006,was known for writing letters and essaysto his students at Stanford University,where he was Lorry I. Lokey VisitingProfessor of Professional Journalism.That material has now been compiledinto a book, “Letters from the Editor:Lessons on Journalism and Life,” publishedby the University of MissouriPress. The informal letters and essaysexpress his thoughts and reflectionson journalism culled from his 40 yearsas a newspaperman. Woo’s Niemanclassmate, Philip Meyer, edited thematerial and wrote the introduction.Royalties from the book will go towardsAsian American Journalists Associationinternships.—1968—Jerome Aumente completed twoprograms in the spring for journalistsvisiting the United States fromthe Middle East and from East Asiancountries with significant Islamic populations.They are the latest in a seriesof eight programs for Arab and Islamicjournalists he has done in cooperationwith Meridian International Center,Washington, D.C.Aumente also published a new bookin the spring, “From Ink on Paper tothe Internet: Past Challenges and FutureTransformations for New Jersey’sNewspapers,” which looks at the historyof the newspapers and the challengesthey face to reinvent themselvesin the digital age of the Internet. Thebook is a centerpiece timed for the NewJersey Press Association’s (NJPA) 150thanniversary in 2007. NJPA is the oldestcontinually operating press associationin the United States.In the fall, Aumente will help conductspecial panels and a symposiumon the future of journalism educationand media transformations in thedigital age at the Rutgers UniversitySchool of Communication, Informationand Library Studies where he isdistinguished professor emeritus andspecial counselor to the dean. (See hisarticle on page 85.)—1976—Yoichi Funabashi is now editor inchief of Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo, Japan.With a circulation of 12 million, it is thelargest newspaper in that country. Theofficial announcement of his appointmentstates that “In Asahi Shimbun’s130-year history, Dr. Funabashi is thethird Editor in Chief.” The first heldthe position from 1936 to 1943 and thesecond from 1971 to 1977. Funabashiwas a reporter for Asahi Shimbun inBeijing and Washington, D.C. beforebeing named American general bureauchief. Funabashi has also been a visitingfellow at the Peterson Institute forInternational Economics and a DistinguishedGuest Scholar at the BrookingsInstitution.—1981—Doug Marlette died in a car accidentnear Holly Springs, Mississippion July 10th. He was 57. Marlette, aneditorial cartoonist and creator of thecomic strip Kudzu, worked for theTulsa World. He received the PulitzerPrize in 1988 for his cartoons whileworking for the Atlanta Constitutionand the Charlotte Observer.The outpouring of grief from thosewho knew Marlette and his work wasquick: “This is just a devastating loss.He could do it all and do it well,” saidnovelist and friend Pat Conroy. Whenhe worked at Newsday, “most days,by the time we finished our morningmeeting, he would have his cartoonsdone, beautifully drawn, on great bigsheets of paper in India ink,” said CarolRichards, former deputy editor of theeditorial pages, quoted in an obituaryby Michael Amon and Carl MacGowanin Newsday.com. And James Klurfeld,Newsday’s editorial page editor, said,“He gave us a real emotional wallop.Day in and day out, he was always entertaining.He was always acerbic.”During his career, Marlette’s cartoonsdrew strong emotional reactions fromhis readers. The most controversial onewas titled, “What Would MohammedDrive?” that showed a Ryder truck fittedwith a bomb and driven by a Muslimman. Marlette made the cartoon in 2002while with the Tallahassee Democrat.Thousands of e-mails arrived when thecartoon was published, many of themdeath threats. In an article he wrote forsalon.com and reprinted in the Summer2006 issue of Nieman Reports, Marlettewrote about “the incendiary role of thecartoonist.” He said, “The best politicalcartoons … are always created in thespirit of the Prague Spring and the VelvetRevolution. They question authority,challenge the status quo, and are inevitablyaccused of ‘Disturbing the Peace,’borrowing the title of Václav Havel’s1990 book. If the editorial cartoons aredoing their job, efforts will be made tosuppress them.”Marlette is the author of a numberof volumes of his cartoons and twonovels, “The Bridge” (HarperCollins)and “Magic Time” (Sarah CrichtonBooks/Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Hiscomic strip was adapted into a musical,“Kudzu, A Southern Musical,” producedat Duke University and at Ford’sTheatre in Washington, D.C.He is survived by his wife, Melinda,and son, Jackson.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 103


Nieman Notes—1985—Ed Chen has been elected presidentof the White House CorrespondentsAssociation for 2009-2010. Chen issenior White House correspondent forBloomberg News and will be coveringthe 2008 presidential campaign.—1986—Geneva Overholser has been chosento lead the board of directors forThe Center for Public Integrity, thecenter announced in June. Overholser,who has served on the board forthe past two years, holds the Curtis B.Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reportingfor the Missouri School of Journalismin its Washington, D.C. bureau.—1988—Eileen McNamara is one of fiverecipients of the 2007 Yankee QuillAward. This annual award, which is arecognition of efforts to improve journalismin New England, is presented bythe Academy of New England Journaliststhrough the New England Societyof Newspaper Editors. McNamara wascited as “an advocate for the higheststandards of ethics in the newsroom,with a passion to correct social injusticeand provide a voice to the voiceless.”McNamara, a long-time columnist atThe Boston Globe, is now a professorof journalism at Brandeis University.She received the 1997 Pulitzer Prizefor Commentary for the columns shewrote for the Globe.—1989—Joseph Thloloe has been appointedthe new Press Ombudsman for SouthAfrica and will head the Press Council ofSouth Africa, the institution replacingwhat was known as the Press FoundingBodies Committee. Thloloe is a formereditor in chief of SABC TV news andetv news and was recipient of the 1982Louis Lyons Award for Conscience andIntegrity in Journalism. Thloloe was initiallybanned from reporting in SouthAfrica in January 1981, after 18 yearsas a labor reporter. During that timehe worked for The World, a Johannesburgnewspaper banned in 1977; forThe Post, also in Johannesburg, whichwas closed under threat of banning in1980, and The Sowetan, which replacedThe Post. Thloloe was a founder andfirst president of the Union of BlackJournalists, an organization bannedby the government in 1977.According to an article on allafrica.com, the new Press Council of SouthAfrica’s 12-member Appeal Panelincludes six public representatives,“something that represents a uniquefeature in the history of South Africanmedia’s administrative affairs.” The fullcouncil consists of 24 members. “Thekey issue for me,” said Thloloe, “is thatit’s designed to uphold the higheststandards in journalism.”—1993—Dori Maynard received $15,000in the latest Knight News Challengefor a proposed blog on creating andmaintaining diversity in digital media.Maynard was one of several individualsand organizations awarded money bythe John S. and James L. Knight Foundationfor “innovative ideas using digitalexperiments to transform communitynews.” Maynard is president and CEOof the Robert C. Maynard Institute forJournalism Education and previouslydirected the institute’s History project,which continues to preserve andprotect the work of journalists of colorwritten in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In hercurrent role, she also works on the FaultLines Project, which looks at diversitythrough the prisms of race, class, gender,generation and geography. Thatproject will give an initial structure toher blog as she looks at the ever-evolvingworld of the new media.—1995—Lou Ureneck has a new book out,“Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly-Fishing,and a River Journey through the Heartof Alaska,” published by St. Martin’sPress. The book is an account of a tripUreneck took with his son Adam, afterUreneck and his wife divorced. It wasto be a way to reconnect with his son,to regain his trust. In an excerpt from“Backcast,” Ureneck writes that thetrip was an attempt to “settle some ofthe trouble between Adam and me. Itwould be good, I thought, for us togo fishing together one last time. Inthe woods and on the river, maybewe would regain something of our oldselves before he went off to collegeand on to the rest of his life. Lookingback, I have to admit the trip was alittle desperate. I had been willing totake the risk. My life was in a ditch: Iwas broke from lawyers, therapists andalimony payments and fearful that myson’s anger was hardening into lifelongpermanence. I wanted to pull himback into my life. I feared losing him.Alaska was my answer. What I had failedto appreciate, of course, was Adam’sview of the expedition. For him, thetrip meant spending 10 days with hisdiscredited father in a small raft and aneven smaller tent. It was not where hehad wanted to be, not now, not withme, and not in the rain. The trip wouldtake us through 110 miles of ruggedAlaska, some of it dangerous and all ofit, to us anyway, uncharted. I had noinkling of what lay ahead: fickle earlyfall weather, the mystery of the river,and unseen obstacles that already weresilently forming themselves in oppositionto my plans.”Ureneck is chairman of the journalismdepartment at Boston Universityand former deputy managing editorof The Philadelphia Inquirer. (See hisarticle on page 81.)—1998 and 2001—David Turnley, ’98, and PeterTurnley, ’01, have a new book ofphotographs out this fall, “McClellanStreet,” published by IndianaUniversity Press. McClellan Street isin Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Turnley’shometown. They spent one year, 1973,documenting the people and life onthe three blocks long street, and thephotographs from that year becametheir first jointly published book.Photographs from the book will be in104 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Nieman NotesTwo Nieman Fellows Receive 2007 Casey Medals for Meritorious JournalismKen Armstrong, NF ’01, was part ofThe Seattle Times’ team that won aCasey Medal for Meritorious Journalismfor reporting on the story, “FailuresBy State, Caregiver Kept Secretin Child-Rape Case,” in the categoryof single story, 200,000-plus circulation.Ju-Don Marshall Roberts,NF ’04, was part of The WashingtonPost team that won a medal in themultimedia category for “Being aBlack Man.”The contest’s judges say theyhonor work they feel is “masterfullyreported,” telling “compelling storiesthat cut through ‘compassionfatigue’” and that demonstrate “enterpriseand thorough research, andevidence of story impact.”The awards announcement citedArmstrong’s story in this way: “Exhaustiveinvestigation and skilledstorytelling combine in a devastatingaccount of systemic problemswithin Washington’s child welfaresystem. The story goes beyond oneterrible anecdote, giving sweep andlasting impact. It’s an increasinglyrare example of a newspaper investingbrawn and real resources in itswatchdog role.”Roberts’s multimedia site wasdescribed as a one that “makes animportant contribution to racialdialogue in our nation’s capital,integrating a huge amount of materialinto an attractive and navigableinterface that encourages the visitorto sample, browse and dig deep. Thesite offers users a panoply of choicesincluding video presentations, audionarratives, and opinion blogs.”This is the 13th year the awardshave been presented by the CaseyJournalism Center. The recipientswill receive a Casey Medal and $1,000at a ceremony in October in Washington,D.C. an exhibition at the Agathe GaillardGallery in Paris starting on October25th and at the Leica Gallery in NewYork City in February 2008.—2003—Kevin Cullen is now a metro columnistat The Boston Globe. Cullenstarted at the Globe in 1985 and hasbeen a police reporter, street reporter,European correspondent covering Irelandand the war in Kosovo, a memberof the Globe’s Spotlight team and, mostrecently, a projects reporter. He alsowas a part of the investigative teamthat received a Pulitzer Prize for itscoverage of the sexual abuse scandalin the Catholic Church. In the Globe’sannouncement of his appointment,Cullen said, “From the time I beganworking as a street reporter my dreamjob was to be a metro columnist for thenewspaper I grew up reading.”Susan Smith Richardson is nowa senior writer/communications officerfor the MacArthur Foundationin Chicago. She had been the publiceducation and urban affairs editorat the Chicago Tribune. In her newjob, Susan works with program staffto develop publications about thefoundation’s work.—2005—Louise Kiernan is in a new positionas senior editor overseeing staff writingdevelopment at the Chicago Tribune.Kiernan, who has won a Pulitzer Prizeas a reporter and been an editor at thenewspaper, will serve in a variety of newroles. She will be a writing coach, aswell as an occasional projects editor.She will be a journalistic mentor forreporters, whether they cover news orwrite features, and will work closelywith editors in each department to“foster excellent writing in every sectionof the newspaper,” according to aTribune memo announcing her October1st appointment. Every so often herbyline will still appear as she engagesin special reporting projects.—2006—Takashi Oshima graduated in Septemberwith a master’s in Public Administrationfrom the Kennedy Schoolof Government at Harvard University.He will be moving to New York City towork for Fujisankei CommunicationsInternational, an overseas affiliatedcompany of Japanese BroadcastingFuji TV.—2008—Dean Miller, executive editor ofThe Post Register in Idaho Falls, haswon an award for an article he wrotefor Nieman Reports. His article, “ALocal Newspaper Endures a StormyBacklash,” appeared in the Summer2006 issue of the magazine in whichjournalists wrote “On the Subject ofCourage.” In June, Miller traveled toNew York City to attend the MirrorAwards competition ceremony, andthere he received the Mirror Awardfor Best Coverage of Breaking IndustryNews presented by the S.I. NewhouseSchool of Public Communications atSyracuse University. The Mirror Awardscompetition, which took place for thefirst time this year, honors excellencein media industry reporting. Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 105


Nieman NotesLetter to the Editor:Nieman Reports relies on journalistswho write for our pages to providean accurate account of events andexperiences they share with ourreaders. Though we work to verifyfacts appearing in each article,constraints of staff and time preventus from rereporting elements of thestory in which the author participateddirectly. In receiving a letterfrom Liz McLemore—whose workCraig Cox mentioned by name in hisarticle “Finding New People to Tellthe Stories”—we learned how herexperiences differed from the wayin which Cox characterized themin the article we published. We toldher that we regret any inaccuraciesin the article and offered her theopportunity to have the words shewrote in response published in theirentirety.In an article in the Winter 2006 onlineedition of Nieman Reports magazineentitled “Finding New People to Tellthe Stories,” Craig Cox, former editorof the Twin Cities Daily Planet,reports his experiences with anunreliable “citizen journalist” whocompromised the integrity of hispublication by failing to submit writingin a timely fashion. The story ispitched as a cautionary one about theinability of bloggers to “sustain theirparticipation” in the public sphere,a thought piece about the changingrole of journalism.I’d like to introduce another“cautionary tale,” but this one isabout journalistic ethics. While Coxrightly points out that voluntary andunpaid journalists (such as bloggers)may not adhere to the standard oftimeliness required by professionaljournalism, the factual inaccuraciesof his article raise questions abouthis own professional integrity. As theblogger who failed to deliver whatCox perceives as “his” goods, I’muniquely positioned to point out thefalsehoods in his article—an article,I might add, that I stumbled acrossonly recently on the Web.The first falsehood Cox tells is thathe wrote to ask me for permission touse my writing. He reports that afterreading my account of Day One ofthe trial of former Minneapolis CityCouncil Member Dean Zimmermann,“I dashed off an e-mail to the blogger,a south Minneapolis political activistnamed Liz McLemore, and asked herif she would allow me to publish hercourtroom chronicles for our DailyPlanet readers. She was predictablyflustered, curious as to why I thoughther work was worth publishing, andkeen to reveal her own political biases(she had worked on the campaignof the defendant’s opponent in lastyear’s election). But she eventuallyagreed to a deal: She would crankout her daily report on the trial, andI would grab it and post it on theDaily Planet.”In fact, Cox was sent my notes byKen Avidor, a blogger friend who hadarranged for me to post them on hisWeb site, Minneapolis Confidential.I discovered that Cox had publishedthese “courtroom chronicles” onlyafter Avidor had sent me a link tothe Daily Planet the morning of DayTwo of the trial. Although I was delightedthat Cox wanted to publish mywriting, I was also a little surprised:The notes were much longer thanI imagined most people reading inan online newspaper (15-20 singlespaced,typed pages each day).However, Cox and I never had a“deal” that I would send him the notesto publish, because I never dealt withCox at all. In fact, on August 21, 2006,more than a week after the verdictwas announced, I correspondedwith Cox for the first time, thankinghim for publishing the notes. In thate-mail, I apologized for not gettingthem out sooner. Although Cox hadnever contacted me regarding thetardiness of my posts—and has notdone so to date—I suspected that hewas counting on them. (I had alsoreceived e-mails from disappointedfriends who were anxiously awaitingeach day’s 15-20 page installment.)In short, I felt a responsibility tomy readers, even though I was neverpaid for my writing nor did I promiseanything to Cox.But my case certainly points outthe limits of citizen journalism: Citizenjournalists don’t have coworkerswho can take on assignments for uswhen we’re ill or when family emergenciesarise. As I explained to Cox inthat e-mail, my notes were publisheda day late because my family hadexperienced the death of not onebut two relatives that week. Ratherthan attend the out-of-state funerals,however, I continued to arrive at thefederal courthouse in Minneapoliseach day and post each day’s lengthynotes on Avidor’s blog—albeit aday late from Day Three until thetrial’s end. My failures were not theresult of a lapse in what Cox callsthe “necessary discipline or commitment”of a journalist, but rather dueto the conditions of freelance andfree labor. Since these were notesfrom a trial, I believed it was moreimportant to get it right than it wasto get it out on time. I was under noobligation to anyone, and I felt freeto take my time.As a blogger and not a journalistunder any contract, that was myprerogative.But what of Cox’s own lapses in thevery article in which he reports mine?Cox explains that for many people,“the media remains a monolithic, authoritarianmachine that holds littleinterest or importance in their dailylives.” Perhaps this is one reason thatso many have turned to bloggers. Toregain a position of importance inour lives, the media must earn it. Atthe very least, the public has a rightto demand that professional journalistsadhere to the standards of truth,accuracy, objectivity, impartiality andfairness. I expect nothing less fromCraig Cox. Too bad he has failed todeliver it.Liz McLemoreMinneapolis, Minnesota106 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


Nieman NotesClass of 1987 Celebrates Their 20th Reunion at Lippmann HouseThe Nieman class of 1987, or almosthalf of it, assembled on the steps ofLippmann House one day this summer,20 years after the group posedwith then Curator Howard Simons,NF ’59. This time a passing studentwas enlisted to snap the picture. Thenine fellows and an equal number oftheir spouses and children lined upa few feet from Simons’s memorial, awell-anchored sculpted hawk that wasrecently restored after the original wasstolen. One could only imagine thewisecracks Simons would have madeabout his graying brood and disappearingbird.With the generous support of CuratorBob Giles, NF ’66, and the NiemanFoundation staff, the group had the runof the place for a long weekend June29-July 1. No seminars were staged andself-improvement was discouraged.Instead, it was the moveable feast thegroup specialized in two decades ago.(This class rented a villa in Jamaica forwinter break.)The ’87 class has kept the Niemanspirit, staging reunions every two yearson alternating coasts, usually withinreach of a beach or golf course. Thepeak attendance has been about 25, includingfamily. Organizing the reunionshas largely been the work of ringleaderLinda Wilson, now retired from journalismnear Longview, Washington.With attendance slumping slightly inrecent reunions, the idea was hatchedto go back to Cambridge for the 20th,a nostalgia play that worked.Giles readily agreed to Wilson’srequest to borrow Lippmann Housewhen she ran the idea by him at ameeting of Nieman alumni in Portland,Oregon, in January 2006. In July, Wilsonpolled by e-mail as many in the classas she could reach, which was all buta few. With a critical mass promising tocome, she then peppered the class withe-mails for a year. (The class consistsof eight international and 12 domesticfellows, with one now deceased.)With the help of the foundation’sevents staff, Wilson secured discountrates at two hotels near campus andfrom Crimson Catering. Early arrivalsgathered at a Thai restaurant in HarvardSquare Thursday night, followedby a catered dinner Friday evening onLippmann House’s patio. Leftoverssupplemented by pizza provided anencore Saturday evening. Everyonekicked in and costs were reasonable.During the days, attendees wereon their own, which meant smallgroup wanderings to confirm that theBlaschka glass flowers continue tobloom at Harvard’s Natural HistoryMuseum, Bunker Hill still stands, andthe bluefish is as fresh as ever at theDolphin Seafood Restaurant, whereSimons took fellows for lunch.Besides Wilson and me, the fellowsin attendance were Chuck Alston, apublic affairs executive in Washington,D.C.; Doug Cumming, a journalismprofessor at Washington and Lee University;Susan Dentzer, health correspondentfor the “NewsHour with JimLehrer;” Valerie Hyman, a televisionnews consultant in St. Petersburg,Florida; Martha Matzke, a Washingtonwriter; Sabine Rollberg, a televisiondocumentarian in Cologne, Germany,and Ira Rosen, a CBS “60 Minutes”producer. Next stop: Cannon Beach,Oregon, 2009. Al May is associate professor ofmedia and public affairs at GeorgeWashington University.Some of the Nieman Fellows, spousesand children who attended the 20th classreunion sit around a picnic table on thepatio of Lippmann House in the summerof 2007. From left, clockwise, are DougCumming, Ira Rosen and his daughter,Johanna, Martha Matzke, Jocelyn Howard(Valerie Hyman’s daughter), Linda Wilson,Rick Carns (Linda’s husband), SabineRollberg and her daughter Maya, SolomonHoward (Hyman’s son), Carol Darr(Al May’s wife), Sarah Cumming (Dougand Libby’s daughter), Iris Schneider(Ira’s wife), and Libby Cumming (Doug’swife). Photo by Valerie Hyman.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 107


End NoteEnd NoteTracing Photographic Roots Brings Work IntoPerspective‘A good photograph to me is one that combines something of the past, the present,and the possible future.’By Eli ReedMy photography agency,Magnum Photos, Inc.was born at the Museumof Modern Art in 1947and has been celebrating its60th anniversary this year witha healthy enthusiasm. I cameinto this world one year earlierthan Magnum’s entry and havemade my own continuing photographicvoyage of discovery.As part of Magnum’s celebration,they published a seriesof portfolio books, “I GrandiFotografi Magnum Photos,” byHachette Press. The individualwork of Magnum’s memberswas presented by each in hisor her own book, publishedin chronological order. Myedition was book number 57out of 58. The Italian editionwas published and releasedin March 2007. The Frenchand Spanish editions will bepublished in late winter 2007,and the English version will bepublished in 2008.The process of going throughmy archives dating back fromthe early 1970’s to choose photosfor my book was an exhilaratingand emotional experience,bringing up all kinds of feelings aboutwhat I had been doing in my professionaland personal life.An Arduous BeginningI graduated from the Newark Schoolof Fine and Industrial Arts in Newark,Atlanta Pop Music Festival. 1970. Photo by ©Eli Reed/Magnum.New Jersey in 1969. I studied pictorialillustration while working full time asa hospital orderly at night. After graduationI moved into a full-time job ona cancer ward at St. Vincent’s MedicalCenter Hospital in New York City as Ipursued my dream of becoming a fulltimephotojournalist. The job turnedinto a six-year commitmentconsisting of 20-hour days.It was also my entry intoan intensive study of thehumanities that has servedme well ever since.My mother died veryquickly from cancer whenI was 12 years old. I wasthe oldest of three brothersand remember helping myfather take care of her athome. My experiences atSt. Vincent’s brought mefull circle, helping me tobetter understand the effectof those early experiencesin my life and in my photography;they also helpedme to appreciate the fateand task of being a humanbeing.The earliest photographin my book came from thethree-day, 1970 Atlanta PopMusic Festival, my first outof-townassignment. It wasthe era of the WoodstockMusic and Art Fair (whichhad gone down the previoussummer), and it was atime for lighting up, droppingout, and feeling themusic. The photo was made on themiddle day of the festival (500,000people showed up that night), andthe image of the “relaxed” Vietnamvet reclining among other festival fansremains the only photograph that I canremember from those days.It was an interesting festival, to say108 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


End Notethe least. I processed my film, madecontact sheets, and finally selected8” by 10” black and white prints thatI thought captured the feel of theevent. My gut instinct at that time keptme looking back to the photo of theVietnam vet. It brought me back toevents from previous years, such as theassassinations of Martin Luther King,Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the innercity upheavals and race riots, and theVietnam War.A Photographic PhilosophyEach time I approach a subject—nomatter what it might be—I go into itthinking that I am required to makeimages I have not seen before. Thatmakes my work interestingly difficult,and it also pushes me to try to revealsignificant truths. A good photographto me is one that combines somethingof the past, the present, and the possiblefuture.I have made enough pictures tosometimes have a tough time rememberingphotographs that were importantto me at the time I made them.But the ones I do remember are thosewhere this sense of riding throughtime—combining the past, present andfuture—is palpable.Once I’d chosen the photographsfor my book and placed them in order,then and only then came an awarenessof my personal photographic history. Iam slow to see the darkness as well asthe light in my work, but I know thatboth are present.The last two photographs in thebook reveal points of interest thatmatter. I photographed musicians inthe first moments of their return toNew Orleans and witnessed the joyand the sorrow of their performance.And I walked down 125th street inHarlem, occasionally turning onto sidestreets, and there I came upon morehard questions and a bit of hope fora better future. [See these images onpages 110 and 111.]For a photojournalist, his or hercollective work has to be placed intoperspective at some point. For me, thisbook is a good start to bringing mywork into perspective—work wheremy straight reporting and personalview come together nicely, emergingout of honest observation and frommy heart. Eli Reed, a 1983 Nieman Fellow, is aphotojournalist and professor at theUniversity of Texas at Austin.A young boy at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. 1995. Photo by ©EliReed/Magnum.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 109


End NoteBluefields, Nicaragua. 1982.New Orleans, Louisiana. October 2005.Photos by ©Eli Reed/Magnum.110 Nieman Reports / Fall 2007


End NoteHarlem, New York. 2005.A state school for orphans in Detroit, Michigan. 1988.Photos by ©Eli Reed/Magnum.Nieman Reports / Fall 2007 111


NIEMAN REPORTSONE FRANCIS AVENUECAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS 02138NIEMAN REPORTS VOL. 61 NO. 3 FALL 2007 KATRINA’S AFTERMATH: NEWS WITH NO END IN SIGHT THE NIEMAN FOUNDATION AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY

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