Miller Charmaine

Charmaine's adventures in news writing and editing

Archive for February 2013

Story Pitch 8

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I had two story pitches for the week:

Coalition members travel to Atlanta for GCI plans inspiration

First, I was a little disappointed with my “baby,” the story about the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry’s trip to Atlanta to get ideas for transforming the Gainesville Correctional Institution into a homeless shelter. It ended up being a one-source story. And the angle we wanted the get at, the coalition’s Atlanta trip, was not so apparent in the headline and lede. I should have communicated that better to the 4201 student.

I would have also contacted a source named Randy Wells. He is a city commissioner spearheading this project. His website has the following contact info:

352-318-9410 or Randy@RandyWells.org

And Facebook says: 352 334 5015 or WellsRM@CityofGainesville.org

Questions: What in Atlanta stood out as helpful for the GCI project in Gainesville? What will it take (time, resources,manpower) to transform the former jail to a homeless shelter? What specific services do you hope to provide at the new center? How will homeless people be able to get to the center? What major challenges have been presented? How long has this idea been talked about?

This story ended up getting published!

Results of the annual Point-in-Time homelessness survey

I was waiting for Theresa Lowe to get back from Atlanta (on Wednesday) to get at the findings of the annual Point-in-Time homeless census the coalition took last month. Both WUFT and the Alligator reported on the survey day but neither reported on the results of the census-taking.

Lowe has stepped up to the executive director position in the coalition within the last month or so. She is also the director of the County Office on Homelessness. She is obviously a wealth of knowledge.

Theresa Lowe 352-372-2549

The census results are important information because with these numbers, the county can ask the government for the appropriate amount of funding to help the area’s homeless members.  I would like to find out if funding for help in this area comes from the state or federal government. We need actual numbers. Some statistics that I scrawled down in a coalition meeting last Wednesday and can be used as a reference are:

There are 995 unsheltered people in Alachua County.

There are 814 sometimes sheltered people in Alachua County. (These people are able to sometimes utilize the services of St. Francis House or other transitional living facilities.)

There are 475 children in the Alachua County school system that have been identified based on need. (Really look into this one, I didn’t totally hear what this number was about.)

The county is getting more homeless veterans housed compared to last year.

Questions: Is a full report of the census being released/when? How did the findings differ from years past? What were some notable or key findings? What will be most useful in garnering government support? Is there a timeline/how much time does it take to properly allocate funds resulting from the survey findings? What are the demographics of the people surveyed? What kinds of questions did the surveys ask?

I hate to one-source this story, but my mind is drying up on other useful contacts. Lowe may have suggestions for people who might have information to add. She will be a great source. Also, I know the coalition is applying for grants from Housing and Urban Development. It’s a stretch, but here is the contact info pulled from the HUD website:

If you are a member of the media and would like to submit a request for an interview with a HUD Principal or Program Specialist call 202-708-0980

This story was published! And TV put together a package for it!

Written by charmainemiller

February 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm

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Diary Week 8

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Today at the the story idea meeting, I did not pitch my idea because I thought it would work better for a different day. I’m emailing Christina the information to use with the Wednesday staff.

I did, however, assist in providing a new angle on sort of an evergreen story. Someone in the meeting brought up an idea on the follow sheet about the city’s plans for turning the shuttered Gainesville Correctional Institution into a homeless shelter. Because I was already in the process of trying to contact Theresa Lowe, the director of the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, for another story, I happened to know that she and other coalition members were in Atlanta that day looking at a project similar to what they hope to accomplish with the former jail here. 

Mr. Forrest Smith liked the idea and took that trip to Atlanta as a new angle to the story. He had a radio student get in contact with Lowe, and Lowe was able to give her information about what was happening up there. It was pretty exciting to be involved in that, especially because I didn’t expect it. After the radio student completed the interview, I assigned the story for online to a Web producer. The article is here. I really wish we could add another source, it seems a little skimpy. Also, the intended angle of the story, which was the trip to Atlanta to see what further progress can be made or what new ideas were inspired, was lost, I think. The headline sure isn’t revealing anything new. We have already reported on that, in last Friday’s In the News. I guess that is one of the hardest parts of assigning something toward the end of my shift and not being there to see it all the way through.

Other than that, I was exporting a lot of audio files from the KLZ program so that the Web producer, Dana, could “webify” stories. Dana Edwards kept a really great attitude her whole shift, as she wasn’t editing much content, but she took reporting and writing initiatives without complaining. I think she ended up writing three or four stories.

I edited Dana’s In the News article, making a few changes. I added Florida to Department of Environmental Protection. I deleted a quote that was misplaced; it was referring to something else than what the copy was implying. In the excerpt about Eastside High School, I was a bit uncomfortable with the wording “Students agree the reaction…” as if stating all students share this opinion. The original article says “Some students…”, which I know is vague, but at least does not blanket-statement all students. I also changed Monticello native to Monticello, Fla. native because I didn’t know where Monticello was.

I had the privilege of writing out the bullet points for the Morning News in 90. I was cut short on time, so I hope there were no major errors.

I then edited online reporter Samantha Shavell’s story about a new online exhibit the George A. Smathers libraries were hosting. I reworked a sentence. I had a couple of cases where I needed plural agreement in the sentences. I hesitatingly lowercased Curator Rebecca to curator Rebecca.

The last story I edited I actually didn’t have time to complete. I believe the story was spiked, but here is the link anyway. I got through a little more than half of the story and had seen some common mistakes cropping up. First, I downstyled the hed. I also lowercased and put in quotation marks “stand your ground” law. Original: ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law. I abbreviated Governor to Gov. Rick Scott. I changed the wording “in the state of Florida” to “in Florida” for conciseness. I rephrased at least three sentences. I uppercased Legislature for the state Legislature. I changed the spelling of absolutue to absolute. I nixed the “or not” in “whether or not.” I changed knee-jeck to knee-jerk. I corrected someone’s priestly title to the Rev. Name. Finally, I changed all of the quotes from ending in a period to a comma. I even saw one like this: “blah blah blah.” Scott said, “blah blah.” There the correct punctuation is flip-flopped.

Obviously, the story had me stressed out, especially because I had to pass it to another editor when my shift ended and I had only gotten through half.

Written by charmainemiller

February 27, 2013 at 12:49 am

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Story pitch 7

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My idea from last week was nixed.

This week, as I stated in my journal entry, I pitched an idea about the conditions of our beloved citrus in lieu of the freeze the night before. The night before reached a low of 28 degrees.

According to a Reuters article, citrus crops left in weather colder than 28 degrees for more than four hours are subject to damage. I thought we were cutting it close, and even if there was no damage to the crops, it would be nice for the readers of WUFT to know the conditions. Sometimes, as professor Foley taught us, the fact that there is no change can be a story.

The Florida citrus industry generates about $9 billion a year, according to Florida Citrus Mutual. The crops are important to our state economy, creating about 76,000 jobs directly and indirectly. This is why this story is important to our readers.

Contacts:
Florida Citrus Mutual spokesman Andrew Meadows, 863-682-1111

UF Citrus Research and Education Center, 863-956-1151

Dr. Corene J. Matyas, associate geography professor with a specialization in tropical climatology, matyas@ufl.edu

Questions:

How has citrus in the Gainesville area fared from last night? How have the UF citrus crops been? What has been forecast for the season? Any comments about the citrus industry this time of year? What conditions are typically damaging? What does it mean for our economy? Are any other main crops affected?

Status of this story:

It was actually worked on! Web producer Jenna Lyons did the story. Also, TV considered it.

Written by charmainemiller

February 21, 2013 at 8:14 pm

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Diary Week 7

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I began my day by making the suggested edits to the controlled burn story I had fixed the headline on last week. I had just looked at the headline and didn’t think to edit the already-published piece, but it did need a few corrections.

I then completed a second edit on the little-known facts on Presidents Day piece. I remember rewording a sentence that sounded strange to me. I don’t know if it was necessary, but it read better, I thought. The original was something like, “A community in Florida, Eustis, has a tradition of…” but I changed it to “The small Florida town of Eustis, for example, has a tradition of…”

Also, using the wording of a piece from the History Channel, the original copy said some Canadian provinces have “inacted” official holidays on the same weekend as Presidents Day. I changed this to enacted. There were also some spelled out versions of United States, and I always like to just use U.S.  In what I expect was an attempt to get away from the exact wording of a source, the U.S. Census Bureau, the article said there were some places, divisions and towns named after Washington. I looked it up from the Census Bureau, which said minor civil divisions instead of just divisions. After Googling the term, I thought they might not be the same thing, and I opted to play it safe and go with the longer word.

I also changed “George Fest” to “GeorgeFest” because it was listed as such on the GeorgeFest website. Although I struggled with whether the event should be in quotation marks.

At the story idea meeting, I pitched two ideas: mine and online reporter Samantha Shavell’s. Samantha was going to look into a Florida senator that was proposing legislation for legalizing medical marijuana use. For my pitch, I thought it might be interesting to see the effects of the previous cold night, which reached a low of 28 degrees, on citrus crops in the area.

TV liked both ideas. I was happy. They were going to chase down the citrus story and find out if any fruits were damaged or changed. The legislation piece, we decided, was going to take a few more days because of the trouble Samantha was having in contacting sources for that story.

I then edited In the News. I nixed the word “star” in the introduction of Mindy McCready as a country star singer. I changed a use of the word since for because. I also switched a say to said.

Next, I focused on editing Web producer Dana’s piece on Equal Access clinics in the area. It’s interesting now that I look back on it, because I did the first edit and there are now changes from later edits that I would consider errors. I listened to the raw audio to get a clear view of exactly what sources were saying, and sentences were reworded that changed the meaning slightly.

This sentence, for example: “UF College of Medicine, county programs, research and national grants and CHOICES, a health services program offered by Alachua County, help fund the clinic and provide medical help to working, uninsured residents of Alachua County.” It was earlier worded to say that CHOICES was the organization providing medical help to working, uninsured residents. That is specifically the organization’s mission. But the sentence makes it seem like all of these organizations provide those specific services.

Also, I’m noticing an add-on to the end involving a source named Sharon McCray. I thought Dana, Christina DeVarona and I had all discussed not using that source in the online write-up because the exact spelling of her last name was not given in the audio that we had, and we could not confirm it. And this quote is funky: “I like the way they was wirking with me patiently. It seems like they care. I mean it’s free.” I’m not sure if “wirking” is meant to reveal something of McCray, but that isn’t a common intentional transcription “error” like “Ya’ll” or even “Wanna”. I believe we discussed this in one of our classes. I would change wirking to working.

Those are just things I noticed now looking back at the piece. When it was first passed to me, I added a comma and a “was” in a sentence where the word was missing. I thought I made the funding sentence more concise, but that was revamped as mentioned two grafs above this. I also was unsure about the title of the CHOICES organization. That is how it appeared everywhere on its website. I just think the all-caps are strange if they aren’t an acronym for something, and the website did not allude to any acronyms.

After completing those edits, I talked to the 4201 editing students who came in around 1 p.m. I pitched my citrus story to Jenna Lyons because it had been put on the back burner by TV. She was very diligent and completed the story!

Written by charmainemiller

February 19, 2013 at 12:20 am

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Story idea 6

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This week I dried up a bit on story ideas. I was interested, though, in the event on campus happening that day put on by Islam on Campus, a student organization. It was hijab day, and all women were encouraged to stop by the Islam on Campus table on Turlington Plaza from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to borrow a hijab. The ladies would wear these Muslim headscarves while going about their daily activities. They could later return these hijabs at a discussion the same day at 6:30 p.m. in the New Physics Building. This is one event for Islam Awareness Month.

I was extremely interested, but I had my mind set on participating, so I didn’t want to attempt the story myself. I just wanted to present the idea to online reporter Samantha Shavell, because she is often looking for ideas and that would be a story she could quickly go down to Turlington that morning and do. When I got to the newsroom, Samantha wasn’t there. I had no idea the governor was coming to UF, so I think it was good for her that she took the initiative to get down there and do that story.

Beyond that, I did not present the idea to anyone else because I ended up liking Christina DeVarona’s idea better. I thought mine would be too campus-y. But here are some of the contacts I thought of using:

Islam on Campus representatives at the table.

Students coming to the table for borrowing/help with putting on the headscarf. (There is an art to it!)

Islam on Campus officers like Islam Awareness Month committee chair Rafe Biswas, iam@islamoncampus.com

or Sameer Sboungi, vice president of external affairs, vpexternal@islamoncampus.com

Also, I thought about contacting Gainesville’s Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice to see if there were any Muslim representatives who would like to comment on this event. I think this event encouraged a lot of interfaith discourse and education. Richard MacMaster, 352-371-6772.

Questions: How many women participated? Were they mostly students? How many hijabs did you prepare to lend out? How long have you been wearing a headscarf? What other events are going on for Islam Awareness Month? Why is this event important to bring to campus? Is this the first time this organization has done something like this? What has been the feedback from participants so far?

Written by charmainemiller

February 16, 2013 at 10:45 am

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Diary Week 6

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When I got to the newsroom, Samantha Shavell was out pursuing the story on Gov. Rick Scott coming to speak at UF. I proceeded to check the news in the area. After looking at the WUFT page, I made a quick edit to the controlled burn story, the headline of which was all upstyle while the rest on the page were downstyle. I also made the revisions Dr. Rodgers suggested on the car crash story I edited last week.

In the story idea meeting, a few of the pitches that were chosen were Scott coming to UF, reactions to the Pope resigning, and information on a new Shands facility to house patients’ families.

I then made some minor edits on Dana Edwards’ In the News, including changing a hyphenated long-standing to just longstanding. I also changed one of the headlines to downstyle to be consistent with the other headlines. There was also a sentence structure issue that stumped me. There was an incomplete sentence followed by a dashed —this— break, followed by a complete and new sentence. I think I ended up breaking it into two whole sentences.

The shift was a slow one, so Mina took some time to teach Dana and I how to use Storify. I think it’s a really interesting concept. I could actually see myself using it.

Then we discussed chasing Christina’s story. Dana and I were wanting more to do, so we decided to go for it. Christina’s idea came from a release of information from the CDC on Thursday. The CDC concluded that more mothers were breastfeeding their babies, and for a longer duration of time (continuing, for example, after the baby had reached 6 months), according to the CDC’s study from 2000 to 2008. Dana and I split up sources and each gave them a call. This enabled us to get more used to the recording booth. But neither of our sources called us back. I got in contact with Shands’ Center for Breastfeeding and Newborns and Dana tried to get in touch with a representative from Best Fed Beginnings. Both sources told us they’d give us a call back.

This also enabled me to learn about something I pretty much forgot about after the first day: callback sheets. It gave me a weird sense of solidarity and professionalism as I passed on that callback sheet to one of the Web producers who was just coming in to start her shift. At least I’m hoping that’s where it was supposed to go.

At that point, I had about half an hour left of my shift. In that time, I got to do a quick first edit on Samantha’s Rick Scott piece. I just made a change to uppercase state Legislature.

Written by charmainemiller

February 12, 2013 at 4:18 pm

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Story Pitch 5

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Results of the Point-in-Time homeless person count

For this Monday, I was thinking of doing a follow-up on the story about the homeless count recently taken by the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry. The survey, which was meant to get demographic information from homeless people in the area as well as a physical count, was taken on Jan. 29. The story said the results of the count would be released on Feb.1, which was a Friday.

Coming in for my shift on the Monday after, I thought that it would be timely and newsworthy to do some reporting of the results.  But when I looked at an Alligator article on the same news, it didn’t mention a release of the results on Feb.1, but mid-February. I decided to call the writer of the WUFT story, Jessica Kegu, and we discussed which would be more newsworthy/worth pursuing.

Jessica told me that the results released Feb.1 were supposed to be very basic, such as the total number of homeless people counted. She told me the survey results would be released in greater detail in mid-February.

We both decided there would be more news in the detailed survey report, so I am hoping to chase this story later. I have already been in contact with Theresa Lowe, the executive director of the coalition, for another story. She is a valuable contact for stories concerning homelessness in the area. The thing is, I have already interviewed her as a stringer for the Alligator. Would asking her for an interview as a WUFT reporter be confusing or a conflict of interest? I was just wondering. If so, I  could easily assign this story to one of the online reporters or even a Web producer.

So this is my little dog-eared project.

Sources:

Theresa Lowe, executive director of the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry

Attendees of the coalition’s monthly meeting

Questions:

What trends did the survey from this year show? Are there any changes from last year, or over a range of years? What direction is this city headed in terms of helping the homeless? How will this data help the city allocate resources and better organizations helping with this issue? There was an abundance of homeless survey workers this year. Why do you think that is the case? Who handles the data, how does it get to the city, funding, organizations, etc.? Is the state involved?

I know this story may seem to convey a homeless person as just a number. I don’t want to do that. Getting homeless sources on this issue may be hard, but I’ll try to think creatively in the next couple of weeks about what I can do to make this more than a faceless statistics story.

Written by charmainemiller

February 9, 2013 at 5:40 pm

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