A reflection on a newspaperman

Cat Donavan was an editor at the DePaulia, the school newspaper, and our intern.  She took great inspiration from her father and wrote this on the eve of his retirement. It is a testament not only to him but to the thousands of journalists who do the right thing day in and day out.

This is what she posted on Facebook and is republished with her permission.

By Cat Donavan

My Dad retires tomorrow after 39 years with the Indianapolis Star. I’d like to take a moment to tell a story and talk about my newspaperman father.

Mom was always the first to rise in the morning at the Leyden house. She’d head down to the kitchen, make coffee and turn on the 10-inch television to the 5 a.m. local news. This was the 90s before the Internet and before smartphones sent breaking news notifications within minutes of some disaster. If anything happened overnight, you actually did have to wait for the newspaper to hit your door or the early TV news.

So, mom was always first to know if bad news broke. Her method of relaying that information to my sleeping father was by shouting up the staircase. So, you can imagine as grade school children, Maureen and I would be startled awake and hear with regularity things like:

Tom! A building’s on fire downtown! Tom! So-and-so’s dead! Tom! There’s been an explosion!

Occasionally, Dad would take Maureen and me to the Star on a Saturday so he could finish something up. I loved these Saturdays! It was so exciting to drive downtown and walk into the humming newsroom. Dad would always remind us how to properly greet his coworkers and mind our manners. I looked up to newspaper people. I very much still do today more than ever. They have their thumb on the pulse of an entire city! When my childhood friends would ask me what my Dad did, I was so proud to say he works at the Indianapolis Star.

The industry transformation my Dad has witnessed over nearly four decades is remarkable. When he started in 1980, the newsroom was filled with typewriters and a thick cloud of cigarette smoke that hovered at desk level. He watched the paste-up machines and printing presses go and the computers arrive. Film cameras were swapped out for digital. And after decades of overseeing the City and State desks, Indystar.com was born. Dad saw where things were headed and he embraced the change by applying for a job on the new Online desk.

The date was Dec. 13, 2003 and I was home from college on winter break. It was early morning, still dark outside. And like so, so many mornings before, my mom shouted up the stairs.

“Tom. Tom! TOM!”


“They found him. They found Saddam Hussein!”

I heard my Dad quickly get out of bed, walk across the hall and crack my door open.

“Wanna go downtown?”

“I’ll be ready in five minutes.”

It was probably 6 a.m. when we headed south down Central Avenue for 307 N. Pennsylvania Street. We arrived to the surprise of the security guards at the backdoor and headed upstairs where we were the first in the newsroom that morning.

At the time, I was a cub photographer at my university’s student newspaper. So, as Dad fired up his computer I excitedly asked: “What can I do?” Thinking to myself, I just finished a trimester of Journalism 101. I can call the White House for comment. Maybe the State Department? One of these rolodexes must have Colin Powell’s cell.

My Dad smiled and asked: “Do you know how to make coffee?”

So, if you worked that day in 2003 and had a cup of coffee from the newsroom kitchen and thought to yourself, “this tastes off,” now you know.

I’ll finish with this. Since Nov. 9, 2016, my family group text would often turn to daily commentary on these bizarre, sad and frustrating times. But never once did my Dad respond with his opinion on any political conversation in our private group text. Even after being labeled an “Enemy of the People.” Why? Because, just like so many other journalists digging to get to the bottom of their stories, on a never-ending quest for the unbiased truth, he’s a newspaperman. A human pillar of the First Amendment and a free and open press, which he spent his career upholding and protecting at The Indianapolis Star.

Since Jan. 13, 1980, the citizens of Indiana have been better off because of my Dad. Whether as a reporter, city editor, state editor or online editor, he worked long hours every day to bring Hoosiers the real news they needed to be educated about their community, make decisions for their families, hold people in public offices accountable or just appreciate their state a little more.

As you can imagine, the qualities that make my Dad a good newspaperman make him a great father. He’s an exceptional listener. And living in a house with three ladies he did a lot of listening. He is patient and open-minded. And through my teen and young adult years, he always had a way of making my exaggerated life crises seem manageable.

At home, he taught us the importance of honesty, respecting others – especially those you might disagree with, standing up for what’s right and using our voice. And you better believe that after working a long day and getting home late and tired, he sat down with me every night at our kitchen table to help me with my math homework.

Congratulations, Newshawk. I love you, Dad.


(Photo circa mid 90s taken at the Indianapolis Star.)

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, dog

Heidi Wigdahl DePaul alum sheds light on her world as multimedia journalist

 By Ashley Collins
     On Sunday, November 4, 2018 at 2:55 p.m., I sent an email to Heidi Wigdahl, multimedia journalist and DePaul alum asking to set up an interview.  I sat in my bed anticipating that it would be a couple of days before she responded. I was in the process of editing my resume, when I finally decided to refresh my page and there it was. I couldn’t believe she had responded so quickly, I took a double look at the time the response was sent and it read 2:58 p.m.
      “Absolutely. I would be free Tuesday after 7 p.m. Otherwise, possibly Monday night after 7 but Tuesday would probably be better,” she wrote.
      Wigdahl, who has been a multimedia journalist for eight years started her career at KTTC in Rochester, Minn. which at the time was ranked 153 in television market size. Wigdahl believed that starting her career in a smaller town allowed her to grow and prepare for the next opportunity.
      “I produced. I anchored. I was a reporter. I was a videographer. I was an editor. I did it all,” she said. “I also had a boss that was very hands-on and he would go through live shots with you and critique you on what you did.”
     Wigdahl said she began to look at television stations between 100-200 as she applied to positions not only in broadcasting but in print as well. With no specific strategy, Wigdahl remained open and receptive in the beginning of her career which led her to her next opportunity in Knoxville, Tennessee at WBIR-TV.
      “Straight out of college, I very much went in with an open mind to take whatever I could get,” she said. “Go where you can do what you want to do, you’re going to be doing everything anyway.”
      Wigdahl used best practices when starting a new position such as reading the station’s content online and watching full newscasts which allowed her to get a “feel” for the type of station she was going to work for. Whether they focused heavily on lifestyle stories or investigative stories was important for her to know beforehand.
      Over the last eight years, Wigdahl has received several awards including two Regional Edward R. Murrow awards for Writing and Hard News. In 2015, Wigdahl was named “Best TV Reporter” by the Tennessee Associated Press and she also received a regional Emmy for video journalism. She has been recognized by the National Press Photographers Association, Midwest Broadcast Journalists and more including at the College of Communication at DePaul University where she was named “Journalism Student of the Year.”
      Heidi’s persistent patience, passion and skills has led her through her successes in journalism including her time at DePaul University.  Included in her time at DePaul was an internship with Carol Marin and Don Moseley.
      “The most valuable experience for me were things as simple as watching Don and Carol’s old work. I remember Don showed me this clip of Carol during 9/11 and she’s covered in ash in her blazer, those are the things that stick out to me hearing from people who’ve actually done it,” she said. 

      Wigdahl’s time at DePaul University not only opened doors for her but in the process, she said that her biggest takeaway was, “You have to be a human first and then a journalist, I love journalism because I love telling people’s stories and shedding light on different people and communities.”

Making Nice with the White House:

A reporter’s relationship with a president who hates him

By Megan Stringer

“It’s a badge of merit,” said Sam Donaldson of the White House correspondent position on CNN this week. But now one correspondent’s press pass has been revoked and some are wondering what makes a White House press correspondent respectable after all?

Donaldson spoke out in support of CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, who this week had his White House press pass suspended by President Donald Trump’s administration. CNN and Acosta are now planning to sue the White House for the suspension.

“If he (the president) can select the reporter, then what is freedom of the press?” Donaldson asked.

It’s a question many are now asking after Acosta was publicly berated by the president at a news conference after the midterm elections. Acosta asked a question about the president’s characterization of a caravan of migrants making their way to the United States, seeking asylum.

In response, President Trump insulted Acosta’s personal moral character, saying he is a “rude, terrible person.” He refused to take a second question from Acosta.

Acosta’s press credentials were suspended by the White House later that evening, along with the explanation that Acosta showed “inappropriate behavior” when a White House aide touched his arm as she tried to take away the microphone from Acosta. (The video shared by the White House has been altered to make Acosta look worse, and in a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Acosta had placed “his hands on a young woman.”)

However, Acosta’s method of questioning has come under scrutiny as well.

“CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” President Trump told Acosta live on air. There are many reasons the president might think this. Sure, it might be because he doesn’t like fielding tough questions about his rhetoric and decisions. But the president’s supporters might be wondering if Acosta’s attitude has something to do with it.

It’s Acosta’s rough questioning style that made him a household name, according to The Washington Post. But ABC’s Sam Donaldson was arguably one of the first White House correspondents to tackle that style of question-asking, under a Ronald Reagan Administration. If the president went too long in between press conferences, Donaldson would simply find ways to throw him questions during any public appearance. Now, Donaldson is telling Acosta to “keep it up.”

Acosta has done much the same, but in the face of a different presidency. President Trump does not dodge in silence the way Reagan did, but instead, might come back with a quip attack on the media or a factually incorrect statement. As seen in past encounters, President Trump’s routine response to Acosta’s questions is to simply insult CNN as the “enemy of the people,” rather than provide any sort of answer.

“I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news,” President Trump once said to Acosta during a news conference about the allegations contained in the Steele dossier, or the private report that alleges connections between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

And indeed, with a president who won’t answer questions even during the prescribed press conference time, it might be time to just shout those questions into the void of the White House, looking for answers anywhere you can get them.

That’s what Donaldson would do.

“The reason we yell at Reagan in the Rose Garden is that’s the only place we see him,” Donaldson told the New York Times in October 1987.

But President Trump isn’t necessarily hiding from the public in the same way Reagan was. The current president is accessible for questions, just not for answers.

So then, what does that badge of honor look like for a White House press correspondent? Acosta has said that comparisons drawn between Donaldson and him gives him the badge of honor that Donaldson had.

But at the end of the day, you can’t just have tough questions to wear a White House press badge of honor. Donaldson found out the way that worked best to get Reagan to answer questions. That’s what reporters do this job for –– get answers, so that people can have them. But if Acosta’s method isn’t delivering answers the same way Donaldson’s did, then maybe it’s time to rethink that method.

Shouting questions into the void might have worked before, but what worked in the past doesn’t always work in the future. As reporters face an increasingly unfriendly White House –– that takes steps to remove press credentials for reporters it doesn’t like –– there’s got to be a new way to ask tough questions. And, most importantly, to get answers.

The Good, Bad and Scary Truth:

MSNBC’S Kat McCullough Braun

By: Nes Charif

Doing what you love for a living sounds like the perfect story, especially when it’s centered around producing stories. They say every ‘good’ story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you couldn’t already tell this blog is coming to you straight from a student journalist. This is my perspective before I hit the field of journalism but what better way to prepare myself than to get some advice directly from one who’s been here first, Kat McCullough Braun.

Braun is a fellow Blue Demon and protege of my current mentors Carol Marin and Don Moseley. Once Upon a Time, she was in my shoes as I hope to one day be in hers. Earning her MBA at Northwestern University, Braun continues her work now as an investigative producer for MSNBC in New York City.  She gave me a little insight about what to expect, how to react, and to keep moving forward.

One thing is for sure, being in the journalism industry will always keep you on your toes. I could tell you that just trying to keep up as a student reporter. It’s hard to get bored. Whether it be out there reporting or behind the scenes as a field producer there are always opportunities to grow and change. When asked about how she decided on being a producer versus an on-air reporter Braun said, “Well the short answer is I haven’t made that decision yet. It always changes, there are always things — opportunities that come up or different types of shows that are starting. There’s always things changing and when we were in school we all had to do all of it. You had to be on camera, had to be in front of the tele-prompter, you had to do the behind the scenes one-man band stuff.”

The beauty of it is that it is always changing, and you don’t have to make one decision and it’s true—they do train us for it all. I can tell you that firsthand. It’s always rewarding knowing you’re doing important work that can really impact change to society. But as we all have learned, that reward comes with a price. As much as it’s a privilege to be able to ask questions and challenge those in power, times prove it’s also a risk.

Just last week Kat McCullough Braun was in the subway just under CNN’s New York headquarters as the cable network received pipe bomb packages in the mail and the emergency sirens went off. Braun said, “I think the biggest challenge right now is how polarized everybody is, and how nasty people can be towards each other and having to endure nasty tweets, comments–when reporters are getting mailed bombs, that’s a scary time. “

That incident hit home to everyone in the industry: to be deliberately attacked because you are doing your job diligently yet being hated to the point of violence because of negative rhetoric by a powerful figure and to realize that journalists upset powerful people and may become targets and that is the biggest downside.

Kat sometimes avoids telling people what she does for a living because it might spark a conversation she just does not want to have, so instead she tells people she’s an “assistant.”

These attacks only motivate Braun and other journalists more. We know we are poking at something important and that why the hate is so strong, something we are doing is right. Braun said,“It’s needed more right now than ever in my life time. To be a real journalist- not somebody who’s typing whatever crazy thing comes to their head on a blog or saying whatever untrue thing they want to say on television, you know, to actually have standards and integrity is really important right now.”

Now I ask myself does loving your job really mean loving it? Just to break it down–Is reporting on sad stories, shootings, corruption and, let’s be real, a lot of negative things lovable? I mean, as a reporter you must take all of it in, research and deliver the news all while keeping your composure and showing no sign of how you’re really feeling inside. In case some people forgot—yes, reporters are human beings –we do cry too.  Not to mention having your credibility attacked by the most powerful leader in the nation and attempts to blow up your work place and everyone in it. So, why do we do it?

You might not get it now, but it’s damn important. Someone needs to tell the world what’s really happening and it’s a hell of a job that’s a Hell worth keeping. I love the importance of it.

I asked Braun if she loved her job after being in the business for 10-plus years. She said,“Yeah… you know not every day is you know sunshine and rainbows and it’s hard, I mean last week was hard. But I think it’s important. And I believe in the working condition at work and people you work with. I’m glad to have had the opportunities that I’ve had.”

There is good is journalism and there is bad journalism and most certainly there are risks. Knowing all these truths will not end my journey before it begins. It only makes me want to go out and tackle the world even more.



“It’s not a reporter’s job to be friendly. It’s a reporter’s job to tell the truth.”

by Madison Gardner

When I was told that I would be interviewing a DePaul alum that works in Buffalo, New York I went straight to Twitter – the stomping ground of journalists across the country and the world. When I got to Jenn Schanz’s page I saw a tweet pinned at the top that read, “It’s not a reporter’s job to be friendly. It’s a reporter’s job to tell the truth.” This tweet set the tone for our conversation.

A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jenn picked up and moved to Chicago to study journalism at DePaul University. Here, she took advantage of her time and interned with the Chicago Tribune, the Council of American-Islamic Relations and finished off her college resume with an internship at NBC5 Chicago under the Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence’s own Carol Marin and Don Moseley. After college, she went west to KLKN-TV in Lincoln, Nebraska. After her first market, she then headed east and made temporary roots in Buffalo, New York where she has been working for WIVB for 3 years.

Schanz is the recipient of several impressive awards – a regional Edward R. Murrow award, three Associated Press awards and a Nebraska Broadcasters Association Gold Award. Some of these awards came from projects and stories Schanz had been following for some time. So, I asked her, as someone who has been working on stories longer than just the daily deadline, how does she keep from getting invested in a story and developing personal biases? This is something Schanz and her station are currently trying to tackle. A big story unfolding right now for WIVB pertains to the Catholic Diocese and abuse allegations. Schanz said that when you speak to people and hear their stories it’s hard not to become invested. Schanz admits that it is “unrealistic to not draw any biases.” But also says that reporters should recognize these biases exist. Jenn says that she routinely checks herself by having several people read over her story before it makes its way onto air. Doing this ensures the story is as objective as possible.

When dealing with sensitive stories like the one that’s unfolding in the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, Jenn says it’s important to have sources and establish these relationships early in your career. Having these relationships with people in the community helps, but it is also essential to fact check them and not get too comfortable in the relationships. Shanz says that she will always push people to expand by doing so professionally. She says there is a difference between professional and pushy. Once Schanz made twelve calls in a day to a Public Information Officer, this she said was being persistent – “It’s in the tone.”

Navigating these professional relationships within your market can sometimes be a bit tricky. She’s seen reporters who come off too strong and bombard someone with questions to the point they no longer want to speak to the media and she’s also seen people who don’t challenge public officials, taking everything they say at face value. There is a happy medium and Schanz tries to meet this on every interview she does – She refuses to let anyone push their own agenda and she’s not afraid to fact check them. At the end of the day, she says “making people uncomfortable is our job.”

Schanz on top of this also had advice for journalists about to break into the industry. First, she mentioned the paycheck. She knows the struggle of making little money but she does believe with time it gets better. She also believes a reporter stepping into their first market should take advantage of local and community papers. Here, she said she has found hidden gems for story ideas and these outlets have kept her even more informed about the community she was living in.

Something else that she believes new reporters need to know is that it is not all about them. She shares that she has seen too often young reporters taking selfies and making stories all about themselves, when in reality our job is a service to the people. Sometimes it seems innocent taking a selfie or being on your phone, but to others in the community it could be seen as insensitive or inconsiderate. A time she remembers being held accountable and learning from this very mistake was when Schanz was with her photographer and they made a parody lip sync video for social media. Schanz mentioned that Don Moseley of the Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence politely informed her that this could potentially be taken the wrong way by her audience. This ultimately was not her intent but Schanz removed the video immediately. This is an example highlighting something that seems innocent on the surface but could do some damage if the story that’s being reported is sensitive.

Finally, Schanz has agreed that at times it is hard to keep from becoming complacent and comfortable in the role of a reporter, especially on the first few jobs. The best advice she offers is to keep challenging yourself and not just come to work and leave. She made staying informed and following her favorite journalists a priority. It wasn’t the paycheck, time off, or enterprise stories that pushed her over the first job hurdle, but rather the satisfaction she got out of telling a good story.


Martha Raddatz on objectivity, ethics and international reporting

By Marissa Nelson

 Seasoned global correspondent talks about her responsibilities as a journalist

 The famine in Ethiopiafrom 1983 until 1985 was the first traumatic story Martha Raddatz covered as a young reporter.

 “It was stunning,” Raddatz said over the phone. “I mean people were dying right next to us. Mothers were running after our truck trying to give us their children so they wouldn’t starve.”

 One night, as Ethiopians and volunteers washed and dressed the dead in white shrouds before burial, Raddatz remembers walking up a hill toward a large tent to distance herself from the “intimate scene.” 

“I was crying and then I remember just thinking, ‘I had no right to do that, I was not the one suffering,’” Raddatz said. “I have a job bigger than myself where I can tell people about that and hope that people would care or could help, or just in anyway inform the world what is going on in certain countries.”

For Raddatz, journalism isn’t just something she wants to do (which she does). However, it is also a job that she feels she has a responsibility to do, particularly when it comes to reporting on U.S. forces and global affairs. And she does so with respect, dignity and intentional decisions based on journalism ethics and objectivity. For instance, she wears bright colored scarves in war zones and finds unique locations to report from, like an ice fishing festivalin South Korea, near the North Korean border.

“They’re important stories for Americans to see and important stories for Americans to learn about the world, what our place is in the world, what our responsibilities are in the world and how that affects people,” Raddatz said.

Raddatz is the Chief Global Affairs Correspondent at ABC News and co-anchor of “This Week with George Stephanoupolis.” She has had a versatile career covering everything from presidential campaigns and the Pentagon to reporting from conflict zones around the world including Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bosnia.

Though Raddatz appreciates being able to use her skill set in many different ways, she doesn’t hesitate to name her favorite. “Oh, definitely international reporting,” Raddatz said. “I would probably rather be covering conflict in Iraq than doing a presidential debate, but they’re both very challenging in very different ways.”

Raddatz’s journalism career began the day she dropped out of college during her junior year at the University of Utah to work at KTVX, a local TV station in Utah. Since then, Raddatz has developed a remarkable resume. She has been the chief correspondent at the ABC affiliate in Boston, the Pentagon correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) and the White House correspondent for ABC. She co-moderated the town hall presidential debatein October 2016 between now President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And she’s the only television reporter who has flown in an F-15 fighter jetto cover a combat mission over Afghanistan.


Raddatz flying in an F-15 Fighter Jet in 2010. (Image courtesy of ABC News)


Raddatz has been recognized many times for her reporting, both domestic and international. She has earned four Emmy awards, the Walter Cronkite award for excellence in political journalism and the Daniel Pearl Award from the Chicago Journalists Association. Most recently, Raddatz received the George Catlett Marshall Medalfrom the Association of the U.S. Army, which she is “really, really, really” proud of.

“Fewer than one percent of our country is serving and it’s a voice that has to be heard,” Raddatz said. “These people are volunteering for all of us. I couldn’t not do it. It was, it is too important not to do.”

Having spent 25 years reporting on the U.S. military, Raddatz has built relationships with those in the armed forces, including soldiers and their families. However, Raddatz said that these relationships do not inhibit her reporting.

 “The people I respect the most in the military understand that part of my job is if something goes wrong I need to report that,” Raddatz said. She mentioned a book she wrote in 2011, “The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family,” about a 2004 battle in Sadr City, Iraq that killed eight American soldiers. Last year, National Geographic turned it into a seven part documentary series. Raddatz said she knows the soldiers in the battle like she knows her family, and she knows their families too.

 “I really would givehuge props to the army for cooperating with that because it was a story about things gone wrong,” Raddatz said. “It was a story of heroism, but it was also a story of one of those who was injured badly became an anti-war protester and the army said, ‘Tell the whole story, just tell the truth.’”

 No matter the relationships she’s cultivated with her sources, when reporting on U.S. policies and what they do, Raddatz said that she does so objectively. She said that it’s important for a journalist to monitor and question their work, asking, “Am I doing this right? Am I staying objective?”

 Though objectivity, for Raddatz, isn’t simple. It’s not black and white and there’s no clear rule to follow. It takes judgement, introspection and continuous personal evaluation. For instance, Raddatz said that she is not objective about service and sacrifice.

“I’m an American, too,” Raddatz said. She mentioned a time when she reported in Africa and another reporter, who was moved by the poverty and starvation, wanted to help the community they were in on his day off. His editor said he couldn’t because he was becoming too involved in the story.

“My reaction to that is, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Raddatz said. “That reporter wanted to help people. Helping people and, as I said, service and sacrifice, I think cross no ethical lines. We are human beings and I think better reporters have a soul. They understand the complexities of the world and want to make it a better place. ”

 Header image courtesy of Politico




Even with procrastination there’s still a deadline

By Ashley Collins

Procrastination is a barrier for many writers. There’s the story, the deadline, the headline and maybe a sub-headline, that can leave you stuck.

Imagine covering a story about a family who discovered that their great-grandfather is still living. Where do you go from there? You start writing, right?  Wrong. You interview, you do your research and you make contact with the family. Today is Monday. Your editor wants it in Wednesday at 12 P.M. to be in Thursday’s headline. You have two days to break a story. Then what?

So, you get started. Let’s start with the headline. You can’t figure it out, so you wait. Take a break, think about it. Mind you it’s 3 P.M. and you don’t touch your computer again until 6 P.M. You have some phone calls to make. So, you call the family. You set-up times to interview the next morning. Fast-forward, your interviews are complete. It’s Tuesday at 5 P.M. in the evening. What are you going to do?

You take your time. Why? Because your procrastinating, you pretend you have all the time in world, knowing you don’t but you do. In an article written in The Atlantic by Meghan McArdle she wrote, “Forced into a challenge we’re not prepared for, we often engage ‘self-handicapping’: deliberately doing things that set us up for failure.”

Journalists are said to be the worst procrastinators. Why? Because, well, there’s just so much going on. Your editor sends you three stories to cover, an assignment editor keeps calling and you have this long list of to-dos that you have to prioritize. So, how do journalists do it? They don’t do anything, they just write. You naturally write on deadline because you have to. Writing is a form of art and it’s your job.

Honestly, it’s fair to say that all journalists procrastinate. At this very moment while you’re reading this you’re thinking about that time you skated across thin ice to meet your deadline. It’s okay, you got it done, right?

McArdle said, “If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are.” Meeting deadlines and writing is critical in a journalist’s career, you know when to get something done. Right.

You get distracted, it’s natural even amongst the best of them like Mike Royko and John Kass. They too procrastinate, right? But you know what sets them apart, they turn in that article Wednesday at 12 P.M. You put down that Iced Coffee with a shot of espresso and your story flows. You type effortlessly, answering the question of, “How this family discovered their great-grandfather and how they plan to move forward?” Your 800-word article is complete. Your headline reads, “Hey great-grandfather is that really you?”

They met their deadline and so did you.



Journalism Is the World’s Superman

Fake News Is Our Lex Luther

By: Nes Charif


As a child, I always wanted to be a journalist. It was all I could ever imagine doing. I didn’t want to be a Disney princess or dress up a Barbie, I wanted to be Lois Lane. Yes, that feisty reporter for the Metropolis newspaper, the Daily Planet, and none other than Superman’s love interest—also a fake character in the world of D.C. comics. Nowadays, some may say that the comic character and real-life journalists are comparable, both being ‘fake’. Those of you diving into the world of journalism must have heard or read about it frequently in the last couple years, “Fake News.” The worn-out phrases popularized by the president of the United States himself, Donald Trump. You’ve heard it relentlessly, but what does it really mean for journalists now?

When I tell people I study journalism I get one of the same two responses almost, always. “Don’t tell me you’re a liberal pushing propaganda and fake news.” Or, “Good. That is so important.”

Indeed, it is important. But, don’t get me wrong fake news is just as significant because with the country being more politically divided than ever it is crucial you set yourself apart and make it clear that you are a serious journalist with high ethics, honesty and integrity.

To do that, you need to know some vital information about the industry right now. Some of that information I’m learning myself every day. The art of journalism is ever changing and is not what it used to be. One of the biggest technological cultural breakthroughs is social media. This is where it becomes dangerous for journalists and people start getting confused. That is because it is the center of fake articles being spread virally by one simple click. It is also where people dig to find information about you from years prior. For some of us new journalists that means childhood. This is how the world communicates the fastest now, this is where some conspiracies are born and despite all attempts to eliminate them, they live on the internet forever. Remember that when you send out your next tweet. Someone wise once told me, “You always want to tell a story, you never want to be the story.” A saying all journalists should eat, live and breathe by. In today’s world credible journalists are now being singled out by the president, and his supporters who have lost their faith in the practice of journalism. This has made it difficult for journalists to stay out of the story and forced to defend their integrity.

Recently, American journalist and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was accused of dramatizing a live shot from his 2008 hurricane Florence coverage. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., condemned the anchor on twitter posting a picture of Cooper standing a few feet under water while just a couple yards away stood his camera crew with their feet just inches below the water. Donald Trump Jr. claimed Cooper was exaggerating the news as he does when trying to make his father, the president, look bad. With a vast public response from Trump supporters and retweets of the alleged overplay, Cooper was forced to address the rumor on CNN defending his credibility with footage from his live shot that day and again explaining on air that the water where he was standing was actually subsiding and that he was moving out of the way from the road in which was being used to evacuate people. A total of eight minutes broadcasting the truth debunking what was rumored to be ‘fake news.’

Reiterating fake news and what it means for journalist now? It means that we are inevitably going to be attacked for doing our job if we report something someone doesn’t like. Now, we are being watched more closely than we have ever been, it’s almost unprecedented. Even if you do everything right, someone will always question your credibility and it is our duty to always be prepared with facts, evidence, and the truth. The change that has come to journalism will really test the teachings of our predecessors and we cannot disappoint. Our line of work is in jeopardy and there is little to no room for mistakes.

Not long ago, my professors and also directors for the DePaul Center for Journalism and Excellence, Carol Marin and Don Moseley told our class that “Journalism is giving up part of your freedom.” That means be aware of what you say, make sure it does not sound biased because it will be grounds for scrutiny. Speak on a factual basis, we all have opinions, I know. Keep them to yourself. Keep in mind that in some cases, you have to be careful of what you wear. During the gubernatorial forum on NBC 5 this past September I remember a classmate making a comment to Carol Marin about wearing the color red to moderate the forum. Perhaps indicating to viewers that she supports a particular political party, this was not true, but it was something Carol said was a concern because it may look that way when in reality it was the chosen color for technical reasons on camera.

My fellow journalists, the world needs us, and they need us to be well prepared for whatever comes our way. Fake news does exist, but so do we. Those of us who are dedicated to find out the truth no matter who tries to stop us or discredit us is what will keep journalism thriving. The battle with fake news is just a hiccup we may encounter, but remember that the facts are on your side. Believe in yourself, and with that journalism will prevail. My fictional hero, Lois Lane said it best, “There are three rules in journalism – believe none of what you hear, half of what you see and everything you write.”





Not Just a Statistic

by Madison Gardner

Numbers and statistics are a helpful tool many journalists use to their advantage, but sometimes someone’s narrative gets completely overshadowed by this reporting technique. According to the Chicago Tribune, there have been over 2,300 people shot since the beginning of the year and it is no shock that the number will continue to grow. Reporters can’t possibly tell each of these 2,300 stories, but the ones they do tell, deserve time, compassion and empathy. For a young reporter about to break into the industry, it is increasingly important to develop skills early on to help tell the stories of victims in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, our current reporting default focuses heavily on statistics or the bigger picture rather than individuals.

The “who, what, when, where, why, how” in any story is important. In crime stories the “who” should always be the most significant. Dakarai Turner, a general assignment reporter at Fox32 in Chicago has had his fair share of reporting homicides, rapes and assaults. He says that being genuine and respectful are what land him the interviews – not bombarding victims and their families with questions and demands. Out of ten victims he approaches, he believes that at least six will speak with him. He says it’s because he thinks about how he would want to be approached, and how he would want someone to treat his mother. It’s not because he beat his competitors to the story – it’s because he genuinely cares.

When taking a look back in Chicago’s somewhat recent history, we can examine the treatment of Hadiya Pendleton’s story. Pendleton was a 15-year-old girl who was shot just one week after performing at President Obama’s inauguration and whose name has made the headlines for years. This is one of the perfect examples of journalists pushing the easy statistic-based coverage aside and giving someone a true narrative.

So how does a reporter approach a victim? Well if you’re not a veteran reporter, there are a handful of things to take into consideration when approaching a victim. According to the Media Crime Victim Guide, there are a number of steps a journalist can take to ensure a comfortable environment for victims/survivors. Very rarely will you find a victim that is composed and eager to speak immediately after something has happened to them or someone they know. So as a reporter on a deadline, the most important thing you can do is create a genuine human connection and respect their wishes – even if it means leaving without an interview.

It’s sometimes tricky to be both courteous and compassionate but still try to meet those harsh deadlines in the every-changing news cycle. The main takeaway here is that as humans we all have emotions and that compassion can’t be taught – it is innate. Journalists must take each and every opportunity to make a story more than just a statistic by giving people platforms to share their own narrative.




When ‘Buzz, Buzz’ Replaces ‘Knock, Knock:’

The Rise of Push Notifications and the Death of Moderation

By Megan Stringer

Striking workers. Suicidal nannies. Political name bashing. Mayoral run announcements. Celebrity profiles. Terrorist attacks. Mass shootings. Movie reviews. Smarter living tips.

These are just a handful of any given story topics I get from push notifications throughout the day (and the wee hours of the morning –– a 3 a.m. push notification is not uncommon either).

As an active citizen and news consumer, I might want to immediately know if Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn’t running for re-election anymore. But I’m not so sure I need to be urgently informed about a Lady Gaga profile.

That doesn’t mean both aren’t equally important. I strongly believe that hard political news isn’t more essential than well-done features and narrative reporting. A diverse media diet is crucial, but so is the way in which that diet is delivered and consumed.

While push notifications are a great invention for urgent breaking news and announcements waiting on full stories and context, they’re often abused by major news outlets. What was once a way to immediately provide functional and pertinent information for steadfast readers has grown into just another way to prompt readers to click on an article and give another page view. But page views don’t always build trust and relationships, two things news publications should be more focused on than metrics alone.

When I checked my phone around lunch break today, after not tuning into the news for around four hours, here’s what I saw from the New York Times:

“A suicidal nanny and three babies stabbed: An attack at a New York maternity center exposed the underground industry of ‘birth tourism.’”

While this might be a fascinating and meaningful story, it doesn’t make for a good push notification. Editors should carefully consider not only the stories they push out to readers and subscribers, but the wording they use in them. Suicidal nanny is sensational and sensitive. While someone might click to learn more, there’s no hint to what this story really entails other than some likely drama.

When a publication sends out a push notification to a reader’s home screen on their phone, they’re actively interrupting that reader’s day and their thought process. Rather than people asking for and seeking out information, it’s provided to readers without context in what’s considered their personal space. They’ve downloaded your app because they trust you, and they still care about the news you can give them.

It’s important to make sure that information is accessible. However, there should be a balance between availability and overzealous, sensationalized content. People will read something if it impacts them, even if it doesn’t seem like a flashy story.

If a reader is receiving a push notification from an outlet, they’re likely a loyal follower of that reporting. Push notifications are different from advertisements in the sense that you can’t randomly stumble across them. You probably won’t get push notifications until you’ve downloaded a publication’s app.

Some might argue that it’s okay to bombard readers then, because they’ve downloaded the app –– that’s what they’re here for. But at the same time, that devoted reader has given your news outlet precedent over other endless platforms. So what are you giving them in return? Are you abusing their faithful readership?

In the case of the suicidal nanny push notification, the New York Times is.

If language matters in our reporting, it matters in our social media posts and push notifications too. The story branded with the death of children and a suicidal nanny draws comparison to the types of push notifications sent out in June this year, when celebrity figures Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain took their own lives within weeks of each other.

The news is often a tragedy of necessity. Those push notifications were hard on a lot of people. While news junkies want to stay in the loop, it’s a lot to ask of somebody emotionally to tug them out of whatever they’re doing and bring to mind topics like suicide, murder or natural disasters.

Some news organizations recognize this and have been working to better connect with readers. USA Today launched a version of their app earlier this year that allows readers to choose from specific topics they want alerts on, rather than broad categories. For example, people can select news categories like Hurricane Michael and Russia, rather than simply environmental issues and politics. It’s a plus for the readers, who get information they want and can use, and for publications, who learn more about each individual mobile reader.

This is an improvement from the past couple years, when the online media site Mic sent out push notifications that played video directly on a viewer’s lock screen. It’s one thing to tell people a story is published, but another to throw them right into it.

Overall, local news outlets seem to understand this concept better than national outlets. Push notifications I receive from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times are exactly the sort of breaking local news that I turn to them for. Because I respect their process of mobile circulation, I still turn to them for feature and other more narrative reads. I won’t necessarily do that for a news organization if I feel like they’ve betrayed my trust by bombarding me with content they only want me to click on for their metrics. Citizens are smart, and can sense that.

So instead, I swipe the notification away.