Miller Charmaine

Charmaine's adventures in news writing and editing

Diary Week 10

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I can’t believe it is the 10th INF week already. It was a more eventful shift for me than last week.

When I came in, I started brainstorming story ideas. This is a part I enjoy about my job. I love consuming news.

Before the story idea meeting, I helped Samantha find a source, which subsequently lead to another source, that she could use for her story. I also came up with my story idea for the week, just in time to discuss it with Christina before heading up to the meeting. The day before marked the end of a 200-mile march the Coalition of Immokalee Workers made from Immokalee to Publix headquarters in Lakeland. Upon discussion with Christina, we decided the idea was a little too far out of WUFT coverage reach, but we clued Web producer Dana in on including it on In the News.

After the story pitch meeting, I exported a few audio files from KLZ for Dana to work on. I was told to provide an excerpt for the Morning News in 90. I had never done this for Morning News in 90, and I wasn’t sure of the format. So I just listed quick heds for each of the stories. Also, when I was in the post, I noticed the word “report” used to mean “resort,” and I changed it. I also changed the byline provided from a generic newsin90 to the name of the anchor, Faithful Okoye.

I then started on a longer story about Florida census results. I added a word, added a link to a ranking report, added a hyphen to “fastest growing” and changed metro on first reference to metropolitan. I was at loss for any style recommendations on whether to describe cities as x number of minutes or miles away from each other. I ended up keeping what the writer put. I also added a comma, removed Florida from Florida Gov. Rick Scott (on a story completely about Florida), capitalized the c’s in Starke City Clerk, changed census to U.S. Census Bureau, and capitalized the title County Administrator immediately before a name. Plus, I lowercased the B’s in baby boomer and changed a wording.

For In the News, I didn’t know whether to capitalize the “L” in secretary of labor. There was no Stylebook entry. The New York Times had “secretary of labor,” and the Los Angeles Times had “secretary of Labor.” I also made some typical edits like adding a comma, rewording a phrase, adding a fact that helped with the story and deleting a sentence that didn’t really contribute to the information.

That’s all for now, folks!

Written by charmainemiller

March 21, 2013 at 10:58 pm

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Story Idea 9

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Because we are well into tax season, (and with less than a month away from the final due date) I was thinking of doing a story that would be a round-up of free tax service providers in the area. I found a few that will help people of lower incomes:

VITA

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) appeals to UF students trying to build resumes for a base of volunteers who will help prepare tax returns for people of low to moderate incomes, according to its website. An accounting major friend of mine told me that many accounting students participate, but the program also accepts non-accounting students and volunteers.

Source: Ricki McWilliams, rickim@ufl.edu, 352-331-2800

United Way and UF

UF is partnering with United Way in a website that provides free tax preparations for community members making $57,000 (or less) a year, according to Gator Times. The website appears to be user-friendly, but I’d like to gather some opinions on this as opposed to other free online tax services like TurboTax. In-person appointments can also be made.

Source: Jennifer Stojkovic, UWTaxes@unitedwayncfl.org

AARP Tax-Aide Assistance

AARP Tax-Aide helps low- to moderate-income people, and especially those over age 60, with their taxes. The Gainesville Sun has a list of AARP Tax-Aide Assistance site locations in the Gainesville area and a list of documents to bring. They have a pretty comprehensive article, but it was published in early January. I wonder if we could get any opinions of people who have already made use of these services this year. The AARP Tax-Aide program has also been calling for volunteers. This is the volunteer contact:

Judie, 352- 339-1801, gator222@bellsouth.net

I just thought it would be neat to do a little tax round-up. We would need to distinguish it from the Gainesville Sun story, though. I think it would be to our advantage to find sources who may have already used these services. Or maybe we could get a representative that has a broader view of people in the area that have these incomes, namely of $57,000 or less.

Questions: Do they make use of these services? Are they aware of them? How many Gainesville-area residents are in need of the free tax help offered? How do UF student volunteers in these programs benefit or not benefit? What are the general demographics of the people who use the free tax help?

Written by charmainemiller

March 16, 2013 at 9:49 pm

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Diary Week 9

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It was a slow news day today. Dana, the Web producer, finished her In the News early, so I assigned her a fun little factoid piece about daylight saving time. I also assigned her a short piece on early voting in Alachua County for the mayoral election. She completed both stories faithfully.

Before any stories came in, I was scouring the WUFT website for things to correct.  I made a couple of minor changes to a story already published about sequester cuts affecting North Florida airports. I changed a “cancelled” to “canceled.” I also capitalized the first letter of it’s when part of a complete sentence following a colon: “The Ocala International Airport will also be feeling the impact of the sequester: It’s one of the airports with a control tower staffed by contractual employees.”

When I got to Dana’s In the News, I made a few changes. I added a comma to a sentence that was structured as an independent clause+conjunction+independent clause. I made some changes with word choice. I changed Catholic Church on first reference to Roman Catholic Church, against my gut but in line with AP Style.

Professor Sheehan then assigned me to a quick write-up warning drivers on State Road 121 and U.S. 441 about possibilities of incoming smoke. It was really fun to write. I liked the urgency in getting it up fast, to best warn drivers in a timely way.

I then edited Dana’s “Five little-known facts about daylight saving time.” I changed “states who chose” to states that chose. I changed Northern Marianas to the Northern Mariana Islands, upon looking it up. I abbreviated Senator Darren Soto to Sen. Darren Soto. I deleted an extra space. I placed attribution at the end of a sentence, added a comma to another sentence, reworded a few phrases and changed affect to effect for a noun. I also deleted the hyphen from draw-backs. Instead of “U.S. law states…” I changed it to “Under the current U.S. law…” based on the prevalence of sentences with “states” used as a verb.

The last piece I worked on was online reporter Samantha Shavell’s story on brain research awareness activities going on.  I reworded a phrase, added a comma, deleted a comma at one point and lowercased the b in brain. I also shifted attribution to the end of a sentence. I changed a phrase from “brainwaves were working strong” to strongly for the last word.

Written by charmainemiller

March 14, 2013 at 10:54 pm

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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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