Sept. 8, 1974 was a dramatic day for news in the U.S. Richard Nixon was pardoned by Gerald Ford. Nixon, of course, was the first president ever to resign from office. Oddly enough, it was the same day that Evel Knievel attempted his much anticipated jump of the Snake River Canyon. The front page of the Spokesman-Review on Sept. 9, 1974, reflected both events.
The Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, has published a huge package on the 40th anniversary of Knievel's jump because it was a story in the paper's backyard. You can check out the anniversary package here.
Readers may be interested in my Sunday column on photographers and reporters who work overseas, covering conflict and its ramifications. Former Spokesman-Review colleague Holly Pickett shares her views on why their work is so vital to keeping the world informed on what's happening. http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2014/sep/07/journalist-takes-risks-to-witness-and-inform/
Colleague Dave Oliveria asked his Huckleberries followers how they feel about our new online comment policy that we launched on Monday. Granted, while the poll he posted is not a scientific one and should be considered as such, the results are interesting. See DFO's item and a couple of comments posted on his blog.
I have read 301 comments posted in response to my Sunday column about our new commenting system. And the number keeps rising, which I consider a good sign. Reader engagement remains a key ingredient for any newspaper and its website.
Many of the comments are thoughtful, argumentative, informative, satirical and very critical. I'm OK with that. In fact, I appreciate the blunt feedback.
Colleague Mike McGarr did an excellent job last night, in my view, of responding to quite a number of comments in helpful ways. He was doing that, by the way, along with his other duties of editing stories, writing headlines, reading page proofs and updating breaking news stories.
Several of the commenters suggested we recruit volunteer moderators or hire someone to just monitor the comments. My experience in business and in life is that you get what you pay for, so I am not inclined to recruit volunteers to monitor our comments 24/7. As for paying someone new to do it, that's part of the issue. If I had money in the newsroom budget, I would want to use it to hire another reporter to help us gather more news and information.
Our new comments policy goes into effect today. Please give it some time to play out. In the meantime, I intend to move my part of the conversation to this blog, where I can more easily post what we're learning about our new system. I also believe writing about the comments in a blog format will make it easier for readers to offer us new thoughts on what we're doing.
Associated Press Media Editors recently conducted a survey of newspaper and online editors to ask them how they manage public comments on newspaper websites. I am an APME board member and in that role I wrote a story summarizing the survey results for APME. The article follows.
By Gary Graham
Newspaper managers and editors strongly support online comments about their daily content and most are unlikely to ban comments, but that doesn't mean they are satisfied with the quality and tone of comments.
An APME Sounding Board survey of newspaper editors, publishers and online editors in April drew 101 responses and 94 percent of the group reported that they consistently allow comments. Many of the respondents said they believe allowing comments is important to encourage community discussions in a public forum.
Editors were critical of the general nature of comments because, in their view, comments are too often negative, off the topic, uninformed and lacking civility. Several editors said a small number of individuals tend to dominate the online conversation.
Asked how likely is it that their organizations will ban online commenting, 71 percent said it is unlikely and another 11 percent said they never would. Nine percent said it is very likely they will ban all comments and another 8 percent said such a step is likely. While the majority of editors who responded said they are not inclined to eliminate all comments on their sites, many attempt to ban readers who consistently abuse the website's policies on commenting or ignore the standards altogether. One editor said the comments don't reflect poorly on the website and that editors should spend less time worrying about the nature of the comments.
Fifty-five percent of those responding said they place a moderate amount of value on commenting and another 14 percent said they placed a great deal of value on it. Editors said the comments are beneficial because they encourage an exchange of ideas and that readers often have suggestions for follow-up stories or point out inaccuracies.
The editors surveyed seemed relatively split on the issue of allowing anonymous comments. Fifty-four percent do not allow anonymous postings, but 46 percent do. Only 38 percent of the news organizations require commenters to identify themselves by first and last name. Several editors noted they restrict commenting to online or print subscribers.
More than half, 56 percent, use a comment-hosting service. Of those services, Facebook appeared to be the most popular with 61 percent of the editors using it, followed by Disqus with 21 percent. Only 12 percent of the editors report the comments are monitored by staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Twenty-seven percent monitor comments 13 to 16 hours a day, while 15 percent monitor only two to four hours daily.
Editors who only allow commenting through Facebook said the Facebook emphasis on using a first and/or last name has resulted in a slight improvement in the level of community conversation, but others noted many commenters don't seem concerned about the lack of anonymity.
Several editors who responded said that in a time of diminishing newsroom resources they are concerned about the amount of staff time required to moderate the comments. One editor requires that all comments be reviewed and cleared by an editor before they are posted on the newspaper's website.
Thirty-eight years ago, the United States experienced a wave of patriotism as it celebrated the nation's bicentennial. There were countless events and special observances throughout the year of 1976, focusing on our history, momentous events and the iconic individuals involved.
Today, in looking at the Spokesman-Review's front page of July 4, 1976, I was caught off guard by another story that happened to gain worldwide attention at the same time of the U.S. celebration: the famous Raid on Entebbe. I had forgotten that important event occurred on July 3-4 on the other side of the globe.
In June 1976, terrorists hijacked an Air France plane with 248 passengers and eventually forced the pilot to land at Entebbe in Uganda, where dictator and madman Idi Amin supported their cause. Many of the hostages were released unharmed, but not the 102 Israelis and Jews. The terrorists threatened to kill them unless 40 Palestinians were released in Israel. The Israelis engineered a successful and dramatic commando raid in which the hostages were safely released. The unit commander, Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, older brother of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was the lone commando killed in the raid.
SI's online site served up a glowing piece on the wonders of Hoopfest. You can check it out here.
Addy Hatch has had a lifetime interest in all things India, where she now is and will be for the next two weeks. Addy's traveling with one of her sisters and plans to post on Facebook. I told her I would share her travelogue-in-brief on my blog because international travel is always fascinating to read about. Here's her very first post upon arrival:
“Not sure what I expected on my arrival in India but it sure wasn't a Muzak version of 'Total eclipse of the Heart.' At 3 a.m.”
You can find her on Facebook at Addy Hatch Hanley. One of many things she'll be doing is meeting up with former Spokesman-Review reporter Jim Hagengruber, who works and lives with his family in India.
Many of us in the Spokesman-Review newsroom receive daily telephone calls and emails from readers about a variety of issues, ranging from late or missed delivery of the morning edition and complaints about specific stories, columns or overall coverage to suggestions for stories and requests for coverage. We value the feedback and story tips and we know it is important to keep open the lines of communication with our readers.
A couple of phone calls I received this week have remained in my thoughts because of the nature of the reader complaints. On Memorial Day, we published photographs of every Spokane-area military personnel who died while serving either in Afghanistan and Iraq. We may be the only newspaper in the country who has done this consistently each Memorial Day for the past several years. A 92-year-old veteran called me on Tuesday to tell me he and his friends were highly insulted because we didn't include any photographs of World War II servicemen who died in that epic struggle. The reader did not hold back in his criticism of us and accused us of ignoring that generation of Americans and Canadians who gave their lives in the fight to preserve our freedom.
A couple days later, I received a second call about our coverage of WWII veterans, this time from a retired politician. He blasted us for ignoring the arrival of 89 veterans on one of the Honor Flights when they returned to Spokane International Airport the other evening. The reader said it's another example of why we are the “most liberal newspaper” in the country. “Even Harry Truman said that.” Actually, Truman called us one of the worst papers in the country at that time, not the most liberal, but that's another story. I explained to the caller that there are several Honor Flights each year taking WWII veterans on a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the war monuments and other sights and that we simply don't have the resources to cover every one of them.
I pointed out to both of our critics that we actually focus on more substantial stories about war veterans throughout the course of a normal year. I also pointed out that last Nov. 11, we published a special 72-page section devoted to in-depth stories about many veterans, including quite a number of WWII survivors. I also explained that we routinely do stories on key anniversary dates such as Pearl Harbor Day, D-Day and Veterans Day. It often seems that no matter how much we write about WWII, it never seems to be enough.
We mean no disrespect to those who served in the miltary or who are currently doing so. We certainly recognize our society's eternal debt to those who have and continue to defend us on several fronts. Despite the criticism we receive from time to time about our military coverage in general, I remain immensely proud of the good work that my colleagues produce.
I am frequently reminded by readers that those who serve in the military are the ones who guarantee us a free press and the right to report as we see fit. While that is certainly true, it's also a bit more complex than that, in my view, if for no other reason than a different kind of fight for press freedom continues every day in this country in the courts and halls of government. We take none of our freedom for granted.
Not all of our readers this week complained, of course. One wrote me an email to inform me that she spent three hours on Sunday reading the paper because there was so much good content in it.
Finally, a nice gentlemen passed me on the street on Thursday and said, “Love your red socks, man.” So there's that.
The School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho is now the first fully-accredited journalism program in Idaho.
The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications voted earlier this month to accredit the university's program. It is the first time such a program has been accredited in Idaho by the accrediting council and represents a significant upgrade in the school's status among U.S. journalism programs.UI is now one of 116 accredited programs
Other accredited journalism programs in the Northwest are at the University of Washington, University of Oregon and University of Montana.
Dr. Kenton Bird has been director of the UI program since 2003. He earned a Ph.D. in American Studies at Washington State University.
My heart is in Muncie, Indiana, tonight, where my colleagues from the BSU at the Games team that covered the Sochi Olympics are gathered for a farewell party. I miss the gang but I want to send a special shout-out to the seniors who will be graduating in a few days.
Faculty leader Ryan Sparrow is the uncommonly serious one on the right. Students who I can identify here include Kourtney Cooper, Kathie Green, Allyson Burger, Kyla Eiler, Matt Amaro, Ryan Howe, Zach Huffman, Jeremy Ervin, Dominque Stewart and Holly Demaree. The future of journalism is in good hands.
I offered a vodka toast to the group our last night in Moscow. They owe it to themselves to mark the occasion tonight with a final toast. Vodka optional.
Idaho native Bruce Reed, a former aide to two U.S. presidents and a vice-president, was the keynote speaker Monday night for the 17th annual awards banquet sponsored by the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Rights.
Reed recalled being in a planning meeting with President Bill Clinton. Clinton told him he should “pickled and put in the Smithsonian” because he was such a rare breed: an Idaho Democrat.
Reed, a native of Coeur d’Alene, now serves as the president of the Broad Education Foundation located in California. He co-authored with Rahm Emanuel, currently the Mayor of Chicago, the book The Plan: Big Ideas for America.
Kim Barker, a reporter for the Spokesman-Review in 1995 to 1998, reviewed a book on Afghanistan for the New York Times Book Review that will be published Sunday. The book, titled No Good Men Among the Living, was written by Anand Gopal.
Barker is a former foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and wrote about her experiences as a journalist in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Her book, Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan, was critically well-received. She read from her book in May 2011 at Auntie's Books.
Barker is now a reporter for ProPublica.
Here's a link to her review.
An unusual appeal by a Boston marathon runner worked.
Runner Ruth Beberman sent me an email the day before Monday's race and asked if the newspaper could help her find a woman from Spokane named Katie, who she believed created the handmade scarf that Beberman had received as part of a project launched by the Old South Knitters Club of the Old South Church in Boston. ESPN's report on the scarf project said the thought was to wrap runners in marathon blue and yellow scarves knitted with love and courage.
Spokane resident Lorna Doone Brewer saw a Facebook post by a Spokesman-Review reporter about Beberman's plea and sent me an email in which she said she believed it was a scarf she had made.
Beberman emailed a photo of the scarf to me and when I shared it, Brewer, recognized it as one she made for the project. “Yep! That's it!,” Brewer wrote in an email.
But what about Katie, right? She's Katie Louden, a longtime friend of Brewer and fellow Gonzaga University grad. Brewer had asked Louden if she wanted to help on the scarf project. Louden created a purple scarf with silver trim and gave it to Brewer to include in a box of eight or nine scarves destined for Boston. Brewer included a card that said the scarves were made by both her and Louden. Brewer surmised that the church organizers simply used a preprinted card that said, “This scarf is interwoven with love and courage” and signed it,” Katie, Spokane, WA.”
ESPN reported the Boston church group’s goal was to knit a few hundred, but the project went viral, and by race weekend they had more than 7,000 scarves from knitters across the country and around the world.
I provided contact information on Brewer and Louden for Beberman, who intends to thank them for the scarf.
Oh, about the name Lorna Doone? I had to know if she was named after the cookies. When she was a teenager, her mother read Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor, published by an English author in 1869. Her mother decided she would use that name if she ever had a daughter. She's frequently asked about the possible cookie connection.
The University of Montana has chosen an NPR reporter as the new dean of journalism. Larry Abramson will replace former Spokesman-Review newsroom exec Peggy Kuhr, who was promoted earlier to a vice president's role at the school.
The Washington Post published a story today about a report the National Low Income Housing Coalition compiled to show what the hourly wage is needed to afford a one-bedroom apartment. The story includes a U.S. map that readers can use to drill down to the county they live in.
I checked several counties of interest:
Spokane County: $10.50
Stevens County: $9.06
Whitman County: $10.37
King County: $17.56
Kootenai County: $11.44
Bonner County: $11.17
Ruth Beberman, 57, is a runner who finished the Boston Marathon on Monday in 4 hours, 36 minutes. She sent me an email on Sunday, asking if we could help her find a woman from Spokane named Katie, who made her a yellow remembrance scarf. Berberman would like to thank Katie. If you happen to know Katie or have suggestions on how we might find her, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment below this blog.
NPR's Ari Shapiro shares some interesting insights from his reporting in Ukraine. The anecdotes he describes are a good reminder of how complicated it has become in Ukraine. One of the few humorous passages is about one of the happiest women he's ever met.
Gabriel García Marquez was a literary giant known around the world, but in his early days he was a journalist.
The University of Texas' Journalism in the Americas blog has this interesting take on the author's regard for journalism:
Garcia Marquez began law school in the 1950s but dropped out to become a journalist. He lived humbly in the Colombian cities of Cartagena and Barranquilla working as a reporter in local newspapers.
“It was a bohemian life: finish at the paper at one in the morning, then write a poem or a short story until about three, then go out to play skittles or have a beer,” he said in a 1996 interview with The UNESCO Courier.
He didn't stop producing journalism even after he had earned literary fame, the BBC said.
In a 1996 speech read before the 52nd General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), García Márquez called journalism “the best job in the world“:
Journalism is an insatiable passion that can only be digested and humanized by its brutal confrontation with reality. No one who hasn't suffered it can imagine that servitude that feeds on the unexpected occurrences in life. No one who hasn't lived it can even conceive the supernatural heartbeat produced by news, the orgasm of having an exclusive, the moral demolition of failure. No one who wasn't born for this and is willing to live only for this could persist on an occupation that is so incomprehensible and voracious, with an ouvre that is over after every news item, as if it were going to last forever, but that doesn't allow for a moment of peace while it starts all over again, with more ardor than ever in the next minute.