Daily Archives: May 28, 2014

How do you get college students interested in public affairs reporting? Central Washington University (CWU) journalism professor Cynthia Mitchell did it by making her COM 308 course all about marijuana legalization.

“It really has seemed to capture the students’ attention,” she says. “I’m getting far better stories than I normally do, and they seem far more engaged. So it’s going great, and we plan to continue” after this quarter, which ends next Thursday.

Students cover city and county government, business and economic development, public safety and other beats – all with a focus on recreational pot.

“We literally cooked up this idea the week classes started,” Mitchell writes in an email. “We’re at this amazing juncture in history and right smack dab in the middle of it — everyone’s eyes are on Washington and Colorado. As other states fall – or as it all goes south with a Republican president – we think journalists who are smart about marijuana legalization issues will be in high demand. (Ugh, I really didn’t intend that pun!) So it just makes so much sense to pursue it as an area of specialization for our student journalists.”observer

Word about the revamped COM 308 spread quickly around campus at the start of this semester.

“On the first day of class, one student sent a text message about the class to a friend, who happened to be playing at a local golf course,” CWU journalism lecturer Stephen Woodward tells me. (He came up with the idea of a marijuana-focused course, I’m told.) “The friend abandoned his game, rushed across town and got to class in time to enroll.”

Mitchell, who worked at the Wall Street Journal and Atlanta Journal-Constitution before going into academia, says:

The class has all been commanded to sleep with [Washington Marijuana Initiative] I-502 and the Liquor Control Board’s FAQs under their pillows, and we all subscribe to The Denver Post’s Cannabist website and to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s pot blog. We also start nearly every class by chatting about what people have learned about legalization from working their beats and from scouring the web.

Each week we tackle a different public affairs beat. Monday’s are a lecture from me and a Skype session with a beat reporter, Tuesdays are usually a field trip, and Thursdays are for in-class writing exercises on those beats.

The class is responsible for the CWU Observer’s “EverGreen Scene” page, one of the weekly paper’s most popular features, according to Mitchell.

Cynthia Mitchell

Cynthia Mitchell

“EverGreen Scene,” she says, has had “an impressive run of serious stories, which I think are pretty damn good and could run in a professional paper.

“The next step we’d like to take is creating a website devoted to these stories, with a one- or two-credit practicum attached so as to be able to continue coverage even when the Public Affairs Reporting class isn’t being taught.”

J-lecturer Woodward, a former Oregonian reporter, adds: “Cynthia and I are thinking way beyond a single course. As the rest of the nation contemplates the future of recreational and medicinal marijuana, we anticipate a growing demand – no pun intended – for journalists with serious expertise in the complexities of the marijuana industry.”

* Earlier: Video games journalism class debuts at University of Iowa (


* Fox 26 staffer: “Man I wonder who posted this from our morning show” (@MarcusESullivan)
* May 27: Maya Angelou cancels Houston appearance due to poor health (

“Is this real?” one of Saginaw (Mich.) News editor Jodi McFarland Friedman‘s friends asked after the tragic news about Lou Ferrigno was posted on her Facebook page.
“Well, USA Today is pretty credible,” she responded.
“But this site isn’t USA Today,” her friend pointed out. “It even says it at the bottom of the story.” …
“Uh oh,” the editor tweeted.

The story she posted comes from – whatever that is – and Lou Ferrigno is not dead. I’ve asked USA Today’s spokesperson if she’s aware of

* “Yup, I got suckered,” admits Saginaw News editor (

Tweet from’s content vice president

Reporter Sara Dorn: “Excuse me, ma’am! Do not attack me! Do not attack me, please. I just want to ask you…”

Richmond Heights (OH) Mayor Miesha Headen: “Sara, it’s not fair. Are you recording right now? …I’m going to let Chris know that I’m not giving you permission to take my picture.”

Dorn: “You do not have to give me permission to take your picture. This is public property.”

The mayor walks away, then turns around and says, “I apologize, by the way, for touching your camera.”

Dorn later told her publication: “I had a lot of questions and I can never get a hold of her on the phone so I jumped at the opportunity to talk to her.” The mayor said she was surprised to see Dorn’s camera. “I was not aware that public officials did not have to give consent for our images. I’d done video with Sara [Dorn] in the past and she had always asked my consent.”

* [Story and video] Mayor pushes away reporter’s camera (

-- ESPN via my iPad

— ESPN via my iPad

* The National Spelling Bee (@scrippsbee)
* Meet the spellers and their sponsors (

* Maya Angelou to journalists in 2013: “We need you.” (
* “We want to return The Inquirer to the great newspaper it has been for many years,” Gerry Lenfest says after winning a private auctioninquirer for the Philadelphia paper. ( | The new owners can expect a fight with the Newspaper Guild. “We’re done giving,” says the president. ( | Reaction from Inquirer and Daily News staffers: (
* Jill Abramson refused to sign a non-disparagement agreement, reports Ken Auletta. I’m not giving up my right to free speech,” she reportedly said. (
* Residents of Isla Vista protest news crews’ presence. (
* It’s easy to turn a complete lie into worldwide news. (
* Michael Wolff likes Jimmy Fallon. (
* Simon Dumenco alerts us to the “harshest, funniest” New York Times car review he’s read in ages. (
* In praise of the handwritten note. (
* Attorney General Eric Holder and journalists meet to discuss federal prosecutors’ pursuit of leaks. (
field* For the first time since 1974, Field & Stream puts a woman hunter on its cover. (
* Jorge Ramos, the most popular Hispanic news anchor in America, complains about journalists being too cozy with power. (
* Minority employment at newspapers hasn’t changed much over two decades. (
* Washington Post partner program signs up nearly 100 papers. (
* AP Stylebook 2014 has a new religion chapter with over 200 terms. (
* PSA: You can follow the National Spelling Bee on Twitter. (@ScrippsBee)
* Online news site Florida Current abandons reporting for posting of budget and policy notes. (

On Tuesday, I invited editors at UC Santa Barbara’s The Bottom Line – a student government-financed publication – to respond to critics of their decision not to cover the Isla Vista rampage. They sent this statement:

As The Bottom Line Editorial Board, we would like to address the inaccuracies in a recent Op-Ed [published by The Bottom Line], clarify our editorial process, and reaffirm our views on the recent coverage.

The Op-Ed that TBL published on May 25, 2014, “Op-Ed: Why We Have Not Yet Published Anything on the Isla Vista Shooting,” was written by a previous Executive Content Editor, and was approved to be posted by a few members of our current editorial board, but without consultation with our advisor and the majority of the editorial board.response In a mentally and emotionally compromised state, the editors directly involved in the publication of the Op-Ed misjudged the situation. Even though said piece is an Op-Ed, we effectively allowed someone who is not currently involved with TBL to speak for us and define our coverage of the Isla Vista tragedy.

The Op-Ed states that “we have decided to not immediately publish an article on the recent tragedy in our community of Isla Vista to minimize the emotional harm for our reporters, photographers and multimedia journalists.” Although minimizing harm to our staff and community contributed to our decision, it was not the main factor. We decided it would be best to gather all the necessary facts to report on such a grave and tragic incident, rather than rush to publication and print misinformation. This does not mean that our reporters and photographers refused to or chose not to cover the events of May 23.

Our staff has been reporting, interviewing, and photographing since Friday night in preparation for an online story published Monday and our regular print issue on Wednesday. Additionally, we have been covering the incident through our Twitter account, providing accurate live updates of the events.

We pride ourselves on factual and accurate reporting, not sensationalism and fear-mongering. We, as a news organization, do not want to contribute to the panic by exploiting the grief of our fellow community members. We serve our community first, and we took the steps that we thought were necessary to best serve that community. Our primary audience is UCSB and Isla Vista, who were rocked by a tragic event and have experienced a severe loss. We did not think it journalistically ethical to harass our community in its time of grief and shock, and decided to hold off premature publication of an article so that we did not hurt anyone through misinformation.

Sincerely, The 2013-2014 Bottom Line Editorial Board

* A tale of two papers: Mass murder and student media (
* Paper: We needed time to mourn and recover from this senseless violence (