Miller Charmaine

Charmaine's adventures in news writing and editing

Archive for April 2013

Diary Week 14

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Things are winding down. I sat in on the story idea meeting. Stories coming in from online reporting students were scarce because they were all finalizing their enterprise stories. I’m excited to see those.

Editing In the News, I just came across something that didn’t seem right:

Before: Police Chief Steve Holley says the camera has allowed officers to see a drug deal in progress, get to an intoxicated driver before he drove away, and witness a car crash.

After: High Springs Police Chief Steve Holley said the camera had allowed officers to witness, among other things, a drug deal and a car crash.

I changed says to said. And even though I knew what the writer meant at first, the sentence just didn’t seem parallel in all of the things it involved. I also added High Springs, because even though the dateline was in High Springs, I know it’s a small town and it could be likely that a police officer from another area could have been involved. I just felt safer including it.

Then I added the bullet points to Morning News in 90.

I also worked on an MMC2100 student’s story submission. It was good, but it was lacking timeliness. I tried to work with the writer to get this, but through slowness on the writer’s part to get back to me and my miscommunication with the editor coming in after me, the story kind of just got lost. By the time I received the information I needed, Christina and I determined the story irrelevant in the time aspect. It was frustrating, because I usually work hard with students to shape up their stories.

Written by charmainemiller

April 21, 2013 at 4:54 pm

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Final Essay

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Likes: I loved working across platforms. I loved accidently sitting at the super desk on my first day, being alerted by a radio student on a top story and cranking out a WUFT clip that same shift. I really enjoy sitting in on the story idea meetings with TV students. I watch as they interact and laugh, wondering what their four years in the college have been like. And of course, Web editors do interact with them too. We may not see eye to eye regarding what is newsworthy (“anecdotes do not a trend make” played like a broken record in my head all semester) or which sources are the best to get at, but it is fun to discuss news. It reminds me that being a part of presenting the news is being part of something big.

I liked the people I worked with. Many of them had refreshing personalities and were easy-going. I guess it helped that my job was one of the top tiers for the Web team. I never felt like I had to boss people around.

Dislikes: On that note, the way I interpreted the roles was a bit ambiguous. Until a few weeks in, when Grier mentioned it in class, I didn’t really consider my position as Web editor over the other Web positions, which helped keep me grounded and, I hope, humble. As I got more comfortable in the newsroom and talked with other Web editors, I assumed more of a leader-type role. Because I am such an introvert, this didn’t look like anything drastic. I suggested story ideas to people. I edited their work and would let them know if I cut anything out. They started coming to me with story ideas and AP Style questions. I believe now I have struck a good balance, but I think I would have been more productive knowing earlier that I had at least a little influence over the stories and ideas coming in.

Another problem I ran into was the shortage of communication and quick turnover of editors. This can be expected, of course, in this trial semester. But I am still a little bummed an MMC2100 student’s story did not get published because of a lack of communication between me the Web editor after me. We agreed to hold the story until we got a more timely aspect to it. We might have had that in time if we didn’t wait around to request information from UPD. That was my fault.

What it felt like to be a newsroom editor:

As you already know, I really grew into my role of Web editor. I liked that we were the ones that responded to Reporting and MMC2100 student submissions. We were the ones to decide if these stories were timely, newsworthy, and a good fit for our audience. I even liked to read through some of the replies to students from my fellow Web editors. Usually, the replies from the Web editors were explaining why we couldn’t publish their story. I was proud of such a kind and professional-sounding group. I think we remember that time, not too long ago, when we ourselves were Reporting students.

And when a story did have potential, I loved adopting it. These stories often missed a crucial piece of information, or the lede was buried significantly, or a fact needed to be verified. I took it upon myself to work with the writer in getting these, to give the story a chance. I fought for the publishing of these stories. And usually, the writers were excited to help. Those were the best moments of the gig— feeling like those editors who fight for their writers.

What I still need to master: I’d like for my heart rate not to go up when I open up a lengthy legislative or crime piece. I have gotten better at not being so overwhelmed by the task of editing these pieces, but I need more confidence. I want to understand the laws being discussed. I want to make sure the most relevant wording can be used without convicting a person, or getting us in legal trouble. Practice is really what I think will get me to these goals, because I’ve already experienced some increased confidence with these stories as the weeks have gone by. I’ve noticed that with these stories, fact-checking is not as easy as quickly reading off the first page that comes up in a Google search. I try to carefully look at three or four sources on what a law or term means before deciding what to do.

I also noticed that with all stories, I cannot simply go line by line. In a way, yes, I am going line by line to fact-check and look for grammar/AP Style/spelling errors. But at the same time, I need to get better at keeping the meaning of the story in mind while checking. I’ve noticed that both in the INF and the Alligator, I can get lazy or rushed and systematically go through each line while forgetting the lines before it. Before I know it, I’m at the end of the story, and I don’t know what the story is about. Editing, I’ve discovered, is not only about the mechanics. I also need to keep the meaning in mind. Is this story newsworthy? If so, what is the most newsworthy thing about it? Just asking this question can lead to uncovering buried ledes. And if I don’t understand the story after reading it through, most likely there are readers who won’t understand as well. I can call the writer at that point, to clarify.

On dealing with people: I thought just because I wasn’t reporting this semester I wouldn’t be dealing with people. Wrong. I have realized there are things that combine people and editing that bug me. I don’t like when I’m editing and a writer sidles up next to me and challenges me on the changes I make. I don’t like when writers get defensive over reconstructed sentences. If those are changes I feel are necessary, I need to stand firmly on my decision, accompanied by an attitude of grace. I should remember how I feel when editors change my carefully constructed words around on an article. I should remember the skepticism I have of the changes editors make because that piece is mine, and I’m proud of it. I have discovered I need to be gently firm, describing my reasoning and keeping in mind how I feel when my pieces are edited.

This class and everything in between: Throughout the semester, I frequently called this class my “half job” because even if I’m in one day a week and don’t get paid, I feel a loyalty toward my newsroom and work hard to express that. The story pitch requirement kept me on my toes and gave me an insatiable hunger for news. I didn’t want to look completely stupid in front of the TV people. This drove me to consume news so naturally, I would open my laptop and my fingers would already be guiding me to my favorite news sites. It really was just a great way to get me energetically exploring the news. I used to think knowing as much news as possible about an area like Gainesville would cause me to run dry on ideas. But it helps to know exactly what is going on. Some story ideas build off of others. Or by knowing all the news reported, you can actively think about what news is slipping through the cracks unreported. I think this is the most valuable type of news anyway.

My only regret in this system is that students like myself are more motivated to give a story idea to WUFT than the Alligator. I will admit, I was a bit torn over one of my ideas I pitched to WUFT instead of the Alligator in the name of good grades. I hope both outlets will continue to thrive, and I believe they will, because of the different audiences they serve and unique offerings of each.

What it takes: I suppose I will form my answer to what it takes to be a good editor through my experience with good editors and things that have worked for myself in the role. A disciplined humility. An insane knowledge of news. An empathy for and personal investment in the coverage area. A forgiving spirit. A dedication to verification and conciseness. A love for good storytelling. A solidarity with writers. Over all, a dedication to the truth.

Written by charmainemiller

April 19, 2013 at 8:06 pm

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Diary Week 13

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It was a typical Monday morning. I went into the newsroom, had a chat with the online reporter about her story, searched the Web for a story idea of my own and went to the story pitch meeting with TV at 9:30.

I then edited a story by online reporter Stefanie Cainto. The story was on a Florida Senate ban on texting while driving. It was overall very clean, and I only made a few edits. In one sentence, “Results of the poll, led by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service in and the UF Bureau of Economic and Business Research…” I deleted the word “in.” I also included a brief definition of nonmoving violation, for those like me who didn’t know.

I also edited the In the News. I ran into some difficulty with a brief about a married couple. The original sentence is this: “Hakken and his wife lost custody of their two boys after his drug-possession arrest in Louisiana.” I changed it to this: “Hakken and his wife lost custody of their two boys after Joshua Hakken’s drug-possession arrest in Louisiana.” It’s more awkward, but I thought the distinction had to be made.

I also edited a story that came into our Gmail account from an MMC2100 student. I thought because of the time element (it was an advance for an event on April 20) it was not publishable immediately, but I went ahead and gave it an edit, making a note in our WordPress to hold it until we got closer to the date of the event. There were a few things I changed:

“The entry fee is based on a sliding donation scale from $10-20 and kids 12 and younger can participate for free.” I was wondering, is the money amount supposed to be from $10-$20? That is what I changed it to in order to be safe. I also changed “kids” to children.

A few befores and afters:
1. The festival will incorporate local businesses and the community in a celebration of the season. There will be local bands performing live, food from local food trucks, activities for kids such as face painting and garden planting, farm tours, and many other family-friendly events.
2. The festival will feature community businesses in a celebration of the season. Local bands will perform live music, and food will be provided by area food trucks. There will also be other family activities like farm tours, face painting and garden planting.

1. Some locally led workshops include demonstrations about composting led by Gainesville Compost and a beer-brewing workshop hosted by Tall Paul’s Brew House. There will also be several other country-living workshops such as homesteading, weaving, pottery and more. (Note: “and more” sounds like an ad or PR-speak to me)

2. Some locally led workshops include demonstrations on composting by representatives from Gainesville Compost and a beer-brewing workshop hosted by Tall Paul’s Brew House. Other country-living workshops will be offered on skills like homesteading, weaving and pottery.

1. Swallowtail Farm incorporates the community into the farming process in many ways, from providing food to local restaurants to offering events like the Spring Festival. (Still sounds like PR-speak. They do all of this amazing stuff!)

2. Swallowtail Farm aims to incorporate the community into the farming process by providing food to local restaurants and hosting events like the Spring Festival, among other initiatives.

1. Through having very open relationships with the community, Swallowtail Farm hopes to teach people about the value and importance of locally grown food. While locally grown food is more expensive than industrially produced food, the benefits outweigh the price. One aspect about locally grown food that Shitama finds important is the health benefit.

2. Through having very open relationships with the community, Swallowtail Farm hopes to teach people about the value and importance of locally grown food. One aspect about locally grown food that Shitama finds important is the health benefit.

I also deleted a quote that I thought didn’t contribute in a meaningful way. It was right before or after the line saying that the event would hold country-living workshops.

“We wanted to do country-living and -skills workshops,” said Emily Eckhardt, one of the farmers at Swallowtail.

I also edited Web producer Dana Edwards’ story on Bradford County’s classes offered for teen parents. I checked all of the statistics carefully. Everything checked out except the AP Style for day care. Two words.

 

 

Written by charmainemiller

April 11, 2013 at 11:18 pm

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Diary Week 12

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Slow news day. Unfortunately, there is not much to report here.

I made the bullet points and excerpt for the Morning News in 90.  I talked with the online reporter, Samantha, about story ideas. She wanted to do a story on Florida legislation being decided on “growlers,” which are 64-ounce beer containers. It was a good idea, but she couldn’t get in contact with anyone during her early morning shift. I opened the email account for freelance submissions, and lo and behold, there was a submission on the same story. The writer had contacted a legislator and several Gainesville brewery owners. I thought it was a good story. I regretted having to contact the online reporter, though, to explain the situation. She was a good sport about getting scooped.

I then edited In the News. Here are some excerpts:

Dove World Outreach Center is selling its property in Gainesville for relocation to Tampa. Pastor Terry Jones and 15 members of the congregation will move to Tampa as well. Jones claims the center needs to downsize and the ideas of the congregation do not complement those of the city. The Independent Florida Alligator

Dove World Outreach Center is selling its property in Gainesville for relocation to Tampa. Pastor Terry Jones and 15 members of the congregation will move to Tampa as well. Jones said the center needs to downsize and the ideas of the congregation do not complement those of the city. The Independent Florida Alligator I changed this to “said” instead of “claims” because claims seems to imply suspicion or editorializing.

Adopting the referendum would allow the residents to vote for City Commissioners who oversee the utilities of the precinct, while not adopting the referendum would allow residents to continue to not be affected by City Commission decisions.

Adopting the referendum would allow the residents to vote for city commissioners who oversee the utilities of the precinct, while not adopting the referendum would allow residents to continue to not be affected by City Commission decisions. I thought city commissioners was a general title, therefore lowercased. 

Authorities monitor several brushfires as reports of fires rage west of Orlando in the Kissimmee area and east of Oviedo. Rain is forecasted this week, though thunderstorms and lightning could cause spark fires. Orlando Sentinel

Authorities monitor several brushfires in Central Florida, including fires raging west of Orlando in the Kissimmee area and east of Oviedo. Rain is forecasted this week, though thunderstorms and lightning could cause spark fires. Orlando Sentinel The first version makes it sound like the reports were raging west, as opposed to the fires. 

I also edited a story on the mayoral runoff election. All I found was a use of “their” in reference to an alliance. I changed the pronoun to its.

I also suggested a story to the Web producer, Dana. We have fallen into a practice of doing “little-known facts” pieces on random holidays. But for this April Fools’ Day, I wanted to do something more original. I asked Dana to use Storify to round up social media tidbits about the day. Some of them were pretty funny. I was impressed with the result.

Written by charmainemiller

April 4, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized