Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Does the New York Times Have Trouble with the Word Plagarism?

I am a regular reader of the NYTPicker blog, which covers the good, the bad and the ugly surrounding the Gray Lady. On Feb. 14, the blog mulled the curious case of business reporter Zachery Kouwe after receiving a letter from Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson.

In the letter Thomson said parts of an article written on Feb. 5 by Kouwe were “identical or nearly identical” to an article published by WSJ hours before the NY Times version was printed. After an investigation, Times editors investigated and discovered there were more examples of Kouwe lifting parts from published stories.

On Feb. 15, the NY Times’ Editor’s note acknowledged that Kouwe “appears to have improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations.” Sounds like plagiarism to me, although that word never appears in the note. When questioned about the status of Kouwe, the paper declined to comment, citing they don’t discuss personnel matters.

Fair enough. But yesterday’s NYTPicker cited a case where Kouwe was condemned for doing something similar in December 2008. So my question is – with all these accusations and pretty substantial proof, why did it take until yesterday for the Times to take action? No, I take that back, because Kouwe ended up resigning yesterday, according to the Times' own story. According to the Times, he was facing “disciplinary action, including dismissal.”

OK, call me cranky, but the first lesson you learn in your journalism class is the definition of plagiarism: “The act of appropriating the literary composition of another author, or excerpts, ideas, or passages therefrom, and passing the material off as one's own creation.” (Cited from The Free Dictionary) And the penalty for plagiarism is immediate firing. Or at least it was back in the day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

NYTPicker Blog Focuses on New York Times Foibles, Errors and Conflicts

For good or bad, blogs -- and free blogging platforms -- have given a voice to a new crop of citizen journalists that focus on everything from the environment to the media. I have become obsessed with reading the NYTPicker blog, written by a group of anonymous journalists who write daily about the good, the bad and the ugly at the Gray Lady.

What makes it so interesting is that they're right about things far more than they're wrong. The Feb. 7 post reports in detail about how the New York Times is handling its coverage on the unfolding Toyota recall scandal. "But what these stories have failed to show is that the NYT been consistently late to report on details of the unfolding scandal," according to the NYTPicker. The blog also details how the New York Times' coverage -- published later than other news outlets -- seems very similar to stories published earlier by the Los Angeles Times, among others.

The Jan. 31 blog post outlines how a "puff piece" Sunday New York Times profile by Andrew Martin on "Richard Eitelberg, the founder and president of Hartsko, a company that lends money to small businesses to tide them over on pending purchase orders," was missing one important fact -- that the subject had pled guilty in May 2003 to felony charges of computer intrusion. "Did Martin had access to information about the case of 'USA vs. Eitelberg' -- which pops up as the lead item in a Google search of 'Richard Eitelberg' -- and choose not to include it, or did the reporter simply fail to adequately research his profile subject? There's been no comment yet from New York Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty and New York Times business editor Larry Ingrassia to NYTPicker on the story.

But the New York Times did respond to a Dec. 27 post that blasted regular freelance contributor Prof. Mary Tripsas, a business-management expert and member of the Harvard Business School faculty. Tripsas, who studies and writes about customer innovation, wrote a glowing piece on 3M on that very topic. The problem was, noted NYTPicker, Tripsas didn't mention that she and other researchers were flown to St. Paul, Minn., for a visit and picked up the tab on their travel and accommodations, which violates the newspaper's rules. NYTPicker's Jan. 3 post reported that Tripsas was fired, with New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt writing a column calling the situation "an embarrassment" and acknowledging NYTPicker's revelation. The newspaper also issued an editor's note about the situation.

But I also like the fact that NYTPicker is ready to admit when it's wrong, which happened in a Jan. 20 post about the New York Times pay meter story. It will also praise New York Times reporters on their good work, which was the case on the paper's coverage of Haiti in a Jan. 15 post.

The New York Times, like most newspapers, has had to carry out layoffs on the editorial side as it tries to balance keeping its place as one of the world's premier newspapers against the face of continued drops in advertising. It's inevitable that things will fall through the cracks at newspapers, and wecan be sure that blogs like NYTPicker -- unheard of only five years ago, will continue to grow and expand their watchdog role.

Monday, February 8, 2010

MediaShift Offers Keys To Finding That First Journalism Job

In 1985, when Ronald Reagan began his second term as president, the unemployment rate hit 7.4%. There was no Internet, CNN was only five years old and the three main networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- only competed with newspapers on the dissemination of news. 1985 was also the year I started my career, after graduating from American University with my journalism degree.

Now, 25 years later, I have a career that I love and I've had to reinvent myself and how I work to remain relevant -- and employed. I decided to take on a labor of love, reviewing resumes from students and those just starting out who are members of the National Association of Black Journalists.

I had some great people help me out at the beginning of my career, so I strongly believe it's only right to do the same for these young people. Competition is fierce out there, and anything that can give young journalists an edge -- including an employer-friendly resume -- I'm willing to help out.

Which is why I really enjoyed this post -- Flexibility, Freelance Key for Journalism Grads in Tough Job Market -- on PBS's MediaShift blog. It is tough out there, and students need to really think outside the box to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

The MediaShift blog post covered how students are freelancing, volunteering and taking non-traditional jobs as ways to get in -- and stay in - journalism. I see resumes that are full of work done in school. This is a good start, but you need more. Options include freelancing or even volunteering to write for local newspapers or online news sites; starting your own blog on your beat of interest; and going to graduate school.

For those just getting out of school or are stuck in that first job and are ready to move on, research the beats you write about. Are there competing publications or Web sites that may have job openings? Is there a trade association with its own magazine/newsletter/Web site you could write for? Is there an independent online news site (like California Watch, MarylandReporter or Texas Tribune) that you might consider? Is there a way to create your own journalism-based Web site, like what former Washington Times sports reporter Mike Jones has done? These are all options that are available for journalists trying to get their foot in the door.

Do you have any ideas you can share? Let me know in the comments section. And good luck with that job hunt!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Taking Your Job Hunt to the Next Level

In my day job, I cover the business aviation/private jet industry. Even people with no interest in the topic have seen the beating the industry has taken in the media. That, coupled with the global economic meltdown, tight credit markets and companies scared to buy jets, has caused a large amount of people being laid off in the business aviation industry.

I became "friends" with Clint White, an unemployed corporate aviation pilot who took his job hunt to Twitter (@tdwnds1) and via his blog,
Aviators' Thoughts. I would offer links to his blog via one of my company's blog. I also had the chance to meet him at a major industry trade show this fall, where he wore his uniform and networked like crazy, telling me "you never know who you might meet."

After more that a year of relentless optimism and searching, White finally got not one, but two offers during the traditionally slow Christmas holidays. And he credits hard-core networking and a social media campaign for getting him those two offers, one of which he ended up accepting.

I have recently been critiquing resumes for young people either trying to get into the market or looking to move up to the next level. Yes, the market is especially tough, but there's no reason why you can't craft your own job search campaign. And I'm happy to say that the advice I've given young people on their resumes matches well with the Web sites I'll be leading you to that offer tips on how to do this.

First, the list is long, but the Interview Angel offers up
101 Ways To Find A Job. Angel offers an exhaustive, but informative list of tips that can ramp up your job search. My favorite tips include:
  • Proofread your resume - during my critiques, I was amazed how many journalists had typos, grammar errors and sloppy editing.
  • Customize your resume - don't use one resume for 12 different jobs. Craft it for the job you want.
  • Use your blog as a platform - Clint White can attest to the power of this one.
  • Create an elevator pitch - My blog post on this tip is here.
I'm a big fan of the Mashable blog, my sherpa for all things social media. Last month, writer David Spinks did a great post: HOW TO: Boost Your Resume Over the Winter Break. Among his best tips are find a mentor, take your blog to the next level and volunteer.

Yahoo! News has a great article:
Smart Networking For Job Searchers. I am not only a true believer in the power of networking, I can attest to its power when looking for a job. How? The last time I actually applied for a job was in 1992, when I was hired for my first job in aviation. Ever since then, I have either had jobs created for me or been recommended for jobs after making inquiries. You can also get some great networking tips from this Mashable post: 4 Steps for Effective Online Networking.

The SquawkFox blog tells you
6 Words That Make Your Resume Suck. When reviewing resumes, I am no longer amazed when I see writers using these six words -- and plenty of them do. I advise using strong action verbs with descriptions and the numbers (if relevant) to back it up.

I always recommend that job seekers include their social media activity -- but only if it is professional. I have managed to create a personal and professional profile on Facebook and my personal Twitter account is locked. The Digital Inspiration blog posts on
Why Job Seekers Should Worry About Their Online Reputation.

If you have any other tips or tricks, I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Life Without Print Newspapers?

I spent the holidays on the West Coast with my family. As I've written in the past, I enjoy debating my father -- an avid newspaper reader -- over the delivery of news. When I'm visiting family, I will pick up the newspaper, because it's there.

So I read this post from the Comms Corner blog with interest. The deal is that blogger Adam Vincenzini is swearing off reading a print newspaper for the next year. He notes the importance of doing this, since he's a PR professional that needs to feed his news habit. Under this experiment, he will:
  • rely even more heavily on digital channels.
  • spend more time on the websites of the papers I'd normally read.
  • experiment with more apps, gadgets and widgets to deliver content from those outlets to me.
  • My Factiva alerts and the like take on greater significance.
  • probably read e-editions where possible (like the version of The Metro delivered to my inbox each day at 6am).
I stopped my delivery of the Baltimore Sun more than a year ago, so I have been there, done that as far as Vincenzini's experiment is concerned. The news, for me, now comes via NPR and the News Feed Elite app on my iPod Touch. For a mere $1.99, I have access to almost 200 media publications and blogs, including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and my Sun.

It will be interesting to follow Vicenzeni this year, and it will be even more interesting to see if he goes back to reading print publications in 2011. Watch this space!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Including Those of Color in Future Journalism Efforts

The National Association of Black Journalists has a very active listserve on Yahoo Groups. Some of the bigger discussion topics are about including journalists of color on all the new media sites -- ones like Mediaite, Gawker, local ESPN networks like ESPN Boston and Huffington Post -- and of giving us access to the resources needed to become entrepreneurs and create our own new media models. You can read a post about that on the NABJ Digital blog here.

So it was with great interest that I read a post on the blog about NPR beginning to staff up its new local news effort, dubbed Project Argo. Project Argo won $3 million in foundation support from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Knight Foundation to tap a dozen unnamed local stations in the NPR network and setting them loose to offer “in-depth topical coverage of issues with broad national relevance and a strong local focus,” according to the site.

The funding is still being finalized but NPR is putting the pieces in place for a summer launch of its ambitious local news effort, known internally as Project Argo. Named by digital head Kinsey Wilson with Jason and the Argonauts in mind, this project is in search of a different kind of golden fleece—armed with $3 million in foundation support and a dozen stations committed to Wilson’s explains what NPR hopes to accomplish: “We want to demonstrate that we can build both authority and audience around the coverage of particular beats in these communities.”

When this project was first announced, I remember seeing a flurry of postings on the effort and how NABJ members could become involved. NPR has been up and down with hiring journalists of color, laying off what was seen as a disproportionate number in 2009, including several right after NABJ held a fundraising event at the station’s headquarters in October. NABJ President Kathy Times and VP-Broadcast Bob Butler sent a letter Oct. 27 to NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller taking her to task over the layoffs.

In her Oct. 29 response to Times and Butler, Schiller offered a more focused breakdown of people of color on NPR’s staff. She defended her organization’s effort to maintain diversity and admitted that NPR could do better, saying she was working to boost the numbers.

To that end, NPR announced Dec. 15 that it had hired Keith Woods, currently the dean of faculty at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, as its vice president of diversity in news and operations, effective Feb. 1. This is positive step, and we can only hope that Woods is able to back up Schiller’s commitment. Getting some journalists of color involved with the Argo project would be a great start.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday New Media News Roundup

  • Three industry forecasts predict that online will take in more advertising dollars than print by 2015, reports The blog post includes several charts that illustrate the point.
  • A week after the Federal Trade Commission's 2-day workshop on the state of journalism, the Online Journalism Review blog asks what should the government do help journalism.
  • Former managing editor and new BusinessWeek Editor Josh Tyrangiel has a YouTube video on storytelling across different platform.
  • CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves offers his optimism on the local media business an in interview with Variety.
  • Now that the Comcast-NBC Universal deal has been officially announced, NBC CEO Jeffrey Zuker has only nine months to prove himself to his new bosses, reports Bloomberg.
  • Finally, the 24/7Wall Street blog posts about 1o brands it predicts will disappear in 2010. At the top of its list: Newsweek magazine.