Archive for Skills

In an earlier posting I wrote about a Gallup survey on attitudes toward inter-racial marriage, a Pew report on same-sex marriages and a historic link between the two. (Inter-racial and same-sex marriages. Issues with a history and a lesson.)

The issue keeps coming up under the banner of “states’ rights.”

Here is the latest installment: Gay marriage ban debated in North Carolina

The comments of Bernie Cohen — the lawyer who argued (and won) before the Supreme Court that banning inter-racial marriages was unconstitutional — about his case and same-sex marriages still hold power:

Imagine the injury to our nation if the Court had flinched, or if the opposition had prevailed with arguments like “let the people vote” or attacks on “activist judges,” and had cemented discrimination into our Constitution.

The links of events from almost 50 years ago still resonate today and the links need to be made clear.

Sounds like a job for a good journalist.

Great piece by Robert Niles at the Online Journalism Review this week about journalism ethics and how science works: A journalist’s guide to the scientific method – and why it’s important

Intuitively we know that the scientific method of research, hypothesis, testing and revision is what we do as journalists. Niles details the connections nicely and ties in how scientists do their job with the SPJ code of ethics.


He fails to point out that journalists also need to understand the scientific method so they can get stories related to science right.

Specifically in the issues of evolution v. creationism and global warming, too many journalists fall short of doing their jobs right.

To start, look at the words used in most stories. Sources and reporters will use the term “believe in” when talking about global warming and evolution.

Belief is non-science. People believe in creationism. They believe in a deity.

Scientific data are accepted or rejected. And the basis for that acceptance or rejection is supposed to come from analysis of the facts and not what a person believes.

While journalists cannot do anything about what  sources say, (i.e. some presidential candidates: “I do not believe in evolution.”), it is wrong for a journalist to use such a term when discussing science or when framing questions.

Likewise, it is time journalists stopped giving equal weight to sources.

In a debate of what science to teach in science classes, scientists and science teachers should be given more weight and credibility than ministers or philosophers. Likewise, if a school board is debating including a course — outside the science curriculum — that compares the various religious creation stories, then ministers and philosophers should have greater  weight than scientists.

I would no more trust a person with only a theological degree discussing science than I would trust a scientist discussing religion.  But the standard style of giving equal time to “He said/She said” quotes rules out giving readers/viewers/listeners of the story the necessary context of who has the greater credibility in a given issue.


So many complain about how much the US imports from other countries. Yet, when a change occurs for the US to export, the story gets lost or ignored.

Well, that is not completely fair.

The Americus, Ga., media covered the event. NPR covered it. VOA covered it. Even the Economist covered it.

But the Atlanta Journal Constitution missed it.

It was: U.S. company exports chopsticks to China.

Yes, there is a giggle factor here but there is also a serious story of how US exports create local jobs.

Click here to see the search page for “chopsticks”.

Now look at these stories:

VOA: Chopsticks Carry ‘Made in America’ Label

NPRGeorgia Company Exports Chopsticks To China

WALP TV10Chinese will eat with GA chopsticks

Even China Daily picked up the story: US firm joins the dinner table

Now if I missed the AJC story, it was not from lack of trying to find it. (Here is the Google search.)

This is a small story. But it does have irony and — like I said — a certain “giggle” factor. But more importantly is shows that even in a small town a company can reach into a foreign market. That company can create LOCAL jobs that help the LOCAL economy.

More importantly, once you get past the irony, maybe (but I doubt it) some enterprising reporter might look at other small companies in the area that might be doing more mundane exports that also create or maintain US jobs.

Chopsticks to China is the hook for a series of larger stories it only people would look for them and look beyond the damned “Local. Local. Local” mantra.

Filed Under (Editing, Skills) by on 05-04-2011 and tagged ,

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

The article below was posted on today. Too bad there is no such country as the Dominican Republic of Congo

Ordinarily such a glaring error by the writer would be caught by the editor. But I am willing to bet all the money in my pocket against all the money in your pocket that there was no editor.

If there was an editor, then the writer and editor both deserve to be fired.

Just to be clear: There is a Democratic Republic of Congo and the Dominican Republic. Two different countries in two widely different parts of the world.

United Nations Plane Crashes in Dominican Republic of Congo

Posted by Josh on April 5, 2011 · Leave a Comment

A United Nations has plane has crashed in the Dominican Republic of Congo killing all of the 33 people on board aside from just one person. It is said that the accident occurred as the plane was coming in to land in the main airport of the country that is located in the capital city of Kinshasa.

It has now been confirmed that out of the 33 people on board the plane, there was only one survivor. Condolences have been offered to the families of those killed in the crash by the Security Council. It is thought that the plane missed the runway as it was coming in to land although the exact reasons for this happening are not yet confirmed. It is thought however that the wind conditions could have played a big part in the crash.

It is said that of the 33 passengers, four of them were the crew and the other 29 were UN personnel. It is said that the crew of the plane was Georgian. The plane in question was a Bombardier CRJ-200 jet which was part of Airzana Georgian Airways.

First posted at DC SPJ.

Storify is a great resource to assemble social media postings into a coherent story.

Andy Carvin of NPR has been in the forefront of working social media to tell the story of the Arab uprisings.

His latest example is a Storify posting that quickly debunked an assertion that Israeli arms were being used by the Libyan forces against the insurgency.

It is well worth a look for the story itself but also how Carvin was alerted to the story, how he fact-checked it and how he assembled it.

How to debunk a rumor.