Climbing the journalism ladder

From a college radio station to national networks: a conversation with Kate Snow

 By: Erica Carbajal

As Senior National Correspondent and anchor of NBC’s “Sunday Nightly News,” Kate Snow is often on-air multiple times a day. Now in the COVID-19 era, Snow reports and anchors from her basement that’s been converted to a temporary news studio set. To this, add raising two kids and a case of the novel virus in her household.

Through all of this, Snow has continued delivering news updates, many related to the way this pandemic has ravaged nursing home centers.

Some of the stories became personal, as Snow found herself giving updates on how her husband, Chris Bro, was fighting a COVID-19 infection, and how her family was navigating this unnerving experience. Fortunately, he’s since fully recovered.

“It’s been a challenge,” Snow said.

Yet, it’s her strong foundation in the field (and now, help with her family at home as camera operators) that’s made it all possible.

As an undergraduate at Cornell University, Snow worked as a radio reporter for a local station, WVBR. After completing her graduate degree in international studies at Georgetown, Snow landed a job as a producer and booker for CNN in Atlanta.

“After doing that behind the scenes job for two years, I really wanted to be a reporter again,” she said. “I sent out about 100 tapes and got three offers.”

Snow ended up taking the offer for her first television news reporting job in Carlsbad, New Mexico at KOAT.

That meant taking chances, a lesson many young reporters sometimes need reminding of.

“I ditched a good life in Atlanta, left a boyfriend and all my friends and moved across the country,” Snow said.

From there, she made her way to the KOAT headquarters in Albuquerque before climbing her way to national network life. Before joining NBC News, Snow reported for ABC’s Good Morning America as a White House reporter.

With this background and having covered a multitude of sensitive issues like suicide and sexual assault, Snow was prepared to cover another problem a lifetime—coronavirus, even if she didn’t know it.

Adapting to remote video reporting even has its positives, helping to foster a more natural feeling interview, Snow said.

“Doing interviews by Zoom or Skype took some getting used to, but I appreciate that it’s a direct conversation and without a camera crew, lights and huge set-up,” she said. “Sometimes the conversations feel even more personal and authentic.”

COVID-19 has been a difficult thing to grapple with, and Snow reiterated part of what it means to be a journalist amid times of crisis, even if you, the reporter, are feeling new levels of anxiety.

“I’ve certainly said many times, to grieving families that what is most important is that they control their own story,” Snow said. “We are providing an outlet right now for people to remember and honor lives lost.”

In 2018, Snow had the first interview with Andrea Constant after Bill Cosby was found guilty of sexually assaulting her. Earlier in 2015, she interviewed 27 of Cosby’s accusers in a hotel ballroom.

“It took a lot of work to study all of their individual stories, understand the context, see patterns between their stories and reach out for Cosby’s response to each of them,” Snow said. “I was armed with a lot of information and research prior to sitting down.”

Whether she’s covering sexual assault or COVID-19, Snow said there are parallels in all stories.

“I’m a bit of a type-A preparation freak,” she said. “I always want to study and read a ton of background before any project, the same goes for this pandemic.”

Snow has covered and continues to cover many peoples’ stories. Perhaps all because she took that chance and moved across the country.

“It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

 

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Detroit reporter defines her responsibility of halting the spread of misinformation during COVID-19

By Hannah Mitchell

As protestors in Michigan demonstrate their frustrations over the stay-at-home order and parts of the state begin to reopen, Detroit broadcast reporter Jenn Schanz, shares how she curbs the spread of misinformation and the importance of local news in the times of COVID-19.

“In the early onset of the pandemic, this was one of the hardest-hit areas,” she said. “Metro Detroit has seen how serious this is from the get-go. I reported on the need for additional space for morgues. And that was like sort of a really sobering story to do because that put it in context as well.”

As Michigan’s COVID-19  fatalities are the fourth highest in the nation, Schanz has transitioned into a role as a gatekeeper of misinformation. A role she assumes as her civic duty as a local news reporter.

“When it first started, people either weren’t aware of how serious it was or wanted to downplay it,” she said. “Something common in Michigan is ‘Oh, it’s just the flu. It’s not as bad as the flu.’ It was one I think a lot of people were comfortable with sharing. Every time we talk to experts, and we have doctors on the air and they are saying ‘Hey, it’s not just like the flu and here is why it’s not just like the flu’, we could give people that information just so they can digest it themselves.”

Schanz’s Detroit Metro team received backlash from these reports.  She said that certain people were very angry because they had connected with a narrative that made them comfortable and they didn’t like contesting information.

“They didn’t like hearing different and I think I definitely know where that comes from,” she said. “There’s been so much anger and people are frustrated, and people are out of work. And people aren’t doing well. And the economy is tight. You’re gonna have people looking for someone to blame. And that’s definitely happening in Michigan.”

With 44% of Americans getting their news from Facebook, social media is a big player in how people perceive the news. According to Schanz, viral videos circulating in Michigan claimed the origin of COVID-19 was a lab in China and the virus was intentionally implanted by the Chinese government to hurt the United States.

“A lot of people are now getting their news from Facebook quickly,” she said. “We know that’s the truth. So, the danger is that if people are constantly treating Facebook as their source and people are sharing conspiracy theories and misinformation, you run the risk of a huge portion of your community not happy with that.”

As a local news reporter, she deals with accusations of being called ‘fake news’ by social media hecklers. Although not a daily occurrence, it is a phrase she said that has been very common during the pandemic.

“I’ve been called fake news and harassed on social media. And that’s not unique to me. That is not like my story. I think that’s several reporters’ stories.”

According to a Statista survey, 65% of North Americans trust traditional news outlets to provide general news and information, with 10% reporting to knowingly share fake news on social media.

In order to curb the spread of misinformation, Schanz has set personal guidelines with how she responds to inaccurate comments on her social media accounts.

“I always respond if the person is spewing misinformation, commenting, and commentating something that potentially someone could read and believe true, I immediately correct it,” she said. “I feel that is my responsibility.”

Along with correcting false information, Schanz supplements her corrections with resources to factual information.

“If someone wants to share a conspiracy theory, I immediately comment and say, ‘That’s not accurate. Here is the information if you want to see more on the facts of the situation.’”

The survey also reported that 40% of Americans rely on local news to stay informed. Schanz takes this seriously and said that her role in halting the spread of misinformation and clearing confusion in Detroit emphasizes the importance of local news.

“That’s why I think local news is so important, it’s always been important, but it’s especially important right now,” she said.

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Ward’s wars

Correspondent Clarissa Ward makes foreign reporting feel relatable, finds untold narratives

by Brita Hunegs

Clarissa Ward has ridden in cars with Jihadi fighters. She’s walked the rugged terrain of Afghanistan with the Taliban and illegally crossed the border into Syria from Turkey to sit and talk with anti-regime forces. As a foreign correspondent covering global conflicts, she’s been in the crosshairs of some of the most politically consequential theatres of the 21st century, writing and broadcasting stories that few others have the tenacity to excavate. Still, Ward does not consider herself a political person.

“I like to travel to places that no one else in the world can get to make connections and find common ground and try to understand things better.” said Ward, now chief international correspondent for CNN.

Born in London in 1980 and raised between the United Kingdom and New York City, Ward cultivated an appreciation for dynamic conversation as a young child, listening in on the dinner party conversations of her parents’ multi-national cohort of friends.

In 2001 Ward was in her senior year at Yale University, studying comparative literature. Her passion for multiculturalism began when her father gave her a copy of Anna Karenina as a child. Her passion for the news, however, began after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when she realized journalism was the tool to “trying to understand what was going on and why it was happening and trying to get to the root of dysfunction and miscommunication,” Ward said.

She began her career at the Moscow bureau of CNN, and eventually covered the Iraq War, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, from the ground, for Fox News.

Speaking seven languages and having lived in countries around the world including Russia, Lebanon, China, the United States and Britain, Ward is in a prime position to track common threads of humanity that have helped her cover all the various people and cultures she’s documented as a journalist, while maintaining an appreciation for the nuances that punctuate every stitch.

“There are things that you realize bind people all over the world, curiosity about the other,” Ward said. “When you experience that you understand that there is a lot more that joins us than which differentiates us, which is not to gloss over the very real differences in cultures and values and education and upbringing.”

Ward is excited by illuminating the lives of the people affected by conflict, “The goal is really to try to give a voice to people who don’t have a voice and let their stories be told.”

However, she’s careful not to conflate her journalism with activism. She sees herself as a vessel for people’s experiences, holding onto them until they can be handed over to the public.

“Your job is not to prescribe policy or to come up with solutions for some of the world’s worst problems. Your job is to shine a light on those problems, and present people with an accurate fair and in-depth assessment and understanding, both intellectual and emotional,” Ward said. “Then people can make their own decisions.”

Her reporting is helping policy decisions be made at the highest levels of government. Ward even addressed the United Nations in 2016, relaying her experience covering the battle over the Syrian city of Aleppo.

“We both understood in that moment that we were absolutely powerless to protect ourselves,” she told the Security Council of being under the siege of a bombing campaign with her colleagues and Syrian civilians.

In her pursuit of gathering all of the information, she’s become a target of disinformation. In 2019, her comprehensive investigation about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s private military groups in the Central African Republic sparked such vitriol within the Russian government, a propaganda outfit launched a smear campaign against Ward and the news package. A 15-minute video they released revealed she had been tracked and filmed while producing the story.

“On one level it’s sinister and quite frightening… but on another level it’s somewhat satisfying because it’s made it clear that our reporting is hitting a nerve and we’re telling a story that some people would rather not see told,” Ward said in an interview on CNN.

Though she’d had vast experience in international journalism, and all that comes with it, there was still something new Ward wanted to do and it had intimidated her for a long time– writing a book, “Usually if something scares you that much it’s probably worth trying to do,” Ward said. In September, On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist, will be released.

Ward says she also wrote the book for her son, who was born in 2016, so he could “have a record of his mom before she was his mom.”

Above all, Ward advocates for listening, “Otherwise you get into this dangerous territory of echo chambers that I think we have, you know, perilously close to, particularly in the US, but all over the world,” said Ward.” Just because you listen to someone else’s ideas, it doesn’t mean it has to be a point of weakness.”

Ward is now based in London and, while we spoke on the phone, she was navigating the avenues of the city, heading to Downing Street to cover the news of the day. Pregnant with her second child, she’s covering the COVID-19 crisis from her home front, admittedly a different phenomenon for her. She’s continuing to report on and investigate from unique angles.

“I keep my goals pretty humble; keep telling the stories that need to be told that people aren’t hearing, and that other people aren’t telling, ideally. If I can get to a story that no one else is getting to then that’s great,” Ward said.

 

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In a World with no Sports: CBS Sportscaster Greg Gumbel Talks Sports Journalism

By: Bella Michaels

It’s NFL Draft Day. Rather than sitting in his broadcast studio wearing a suit and tie, CBS sportscaster Greg Gumbel is sitting at home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wearing a blue Under Armour t-shirt and a white ball cap.

“I’m coping,” Gumbel said. “Spring was a bit strange without March Madness. I’ve been doing that every year since I returned to CBS in 1998.”

In a world without live sports, the three-time Emmy Award winner keeps himself busy with swimming, chasing lizards in his backyard and rocking to his theme song “Brown Sugar” by his favorite band, The Rolling Stones.

While sports are on pause, journalism isn’t.

But Gumbel doesn’t quite consider himself a journalist.

“I would consider my brother more of a journalist than I am,” said Gumbel. “He does those things like dig deep down and get into the backgrounds of people and sometimes things that aren’t very pleasant.”

His younger brother, Bryant Gumbel, is most known for his fifteen years of co-hosting the “Today Show.” He currently hosts the HBO investigative series “Real Sports.”

“I think [Bryant] is superb at what he does,” said Gumbel. “But I don’t want to watch a college quarterback, who threw for four-hundred yards last week and then go back and learn that his maternal grandmother is the one that taught him how to pass because his parents left him all alone.”

He cares about what happens on the field and why it happens. He focuses on accurately relaying, to viewers and listeners, what he sees on the field.

Gumbel says sports journalists need to improve the intent and focus of their work.

“There are far too many people in my field who are more concerned about nailing someone to the wall than they are about getting information,” said Gumbel.

He’s not a big fan of sports talk radio. “There are a few who do it intelligently,” Gumbel said. “Most do it to be argumentative.”

Raised in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago, Gumbel grew up in a family that highly valued education.

“The fact that it was a racially diverse neighborhood was terrific,” said Gumbel. “I miss Chicago, and I thought that it was as integral to me growing up as my dad was. My dad was a hell of an influence on me and my brother.”

His late-father, Richard Gumbel, was a probate judge and also served through an illness in the Philippines during World War II. He marched forward despite having both his tonsils removed in the midst of it all.

“My dad, if there was one thing he was vehement about, was to be educated,” said Gumbel. “His mandate was to listen carefully, think clearly and speak distinctively.”

But many in sports talk radio don’t do those things, and that’s why Gumbel wanted out after two months working at a radio station.

He was hired on a three-year contract to be the first morning man on WFAN radio, the first all sports radio station in the U.S.

“I go back to sports talk radio because they’re the ones with the biggest mouths and trying to make the most noise,” Gumbel said. “But the fact is, they’re trying to make a name for themselves more than delivering information.”

This also applies to insiders– reporters that specialize in getting and giving out information before anyone else.

“They all want to claim to be the ones who broke the story,” said Gumbel. “Not once, when I’ve heard any piece of breaking news in the sports world, did I ever say ‘Gee, I wonder who had that first…’ It just doesn’t seem that important to me. But it is important to them, and apparently to the people who hire them. But that’s not me.”

He believes sports journalism is straying away from the most important thing: the game.

Sports shows these days have many hosts that sit around and talk for several hours leading up to the game.

“It’s a problem because I think you could talk something out to the point where I’m not interested anymore,” Gumbel said. “If you watched all of that, by the time you get around to kick off, you’re almost tired of the game.”

Now in a pandemic, there is no game.

Would Gumbel refuse to call a game that didn’t have fans? No. Does he think it would be tremendously different? Absolutely.

“If you don’t have [the fans], then I would worry about going out of my way to create excitement– which I hate,” said Gumbel. “What I do on air– my reaction– is not rehearsed. It’s genuine.”

 

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Facebook Evicts Fake News

The social media giant is taking the fight to fake news, but will their reforms harm balanced reporting?

By Dan Beedie

 

Propagandists poisoned the information pool during the 2016 election, and it all took place on social media. Many stories and posts on sites like Twitter and Facebook maliciously attacked candidates, politicians and public figures. The line between what was fake and factual had become blurred.

 

So, how do we combat this scourge of fake news on social media?

 

The question is becoming increasingly more relevant, and Facebook believes they have the answer.

 

Last December, Facebook announced a multi-part plan to combat fake news. Under the proposed plan, the social media site would allow third party fact checkers, such as Politifact and FactCheck.org, to diagnose stories that may be inaccurate. Then the ‘Facebook Journalism Project’ was introduced in January of this year. Among other benefits, the project intends to train the public on how to find and identify reliable news sources.

 

“I recognize we have a greater responsibility than just building technology that information flows through,” said Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, noting the demand for more aggressive news policies on his website.

 

Due to the reforms, Facebook acknowledges that it is greatly responsible for a large portion of consumption and distribution of media, and this should be celebrated. However, journalists and the public should not be so eager to hand over the power of deciding what is or is not truthful to a social media site.

 

Let’s not forget, just last year Facebook faced ethical scrutiny for keeping popular conservative news off the ‘Trending News’ sidebar. Those who present the truth must hold a standard of being fair and balanced, and Facebook’s track record hasn’t appeared to meet those standards.

 

Also, for Facebook, getting people to their site to communicate amongst themselves will always be a higher priority than providing factual information. While social media sites and news outlets function in order to make a profit, newspapers and TV news programs are in the fact-providing business, and social media sites are in the public engagement business.

 

Facebook’s campaign against fake news is still in its early stages, but more questions need to be answered. Will Facebook’s fact checkers ask for reporters to release sources to determine their credibility? What about private conversations, will those be fact checked as well? Who, if anyone, will serve as a check against Facebook’s powers to censor news material?

 

Social media sites need to take action against fake news. It is troubling to think that intentionally false news sites affected our election process. However, a pinch of skepticism is necessary when discussing Facebook’s future role in the fact providing business.

 

Lets not give Zuckerberg the keys to the car just yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newton Minow to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Bravo to Newton Minow, selected by Pres. Obama as one of 21 winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Newt just visited the DePaul Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence when his daughter, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, was our guest.  Of course he’s our favorite but others joining him include Michael Jordan, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Have Passion For What You Do

Rather, former news anchor at “CBS Evening News,” spoke Friday night at a community conversation held by Poynter in St. Petersburg, Florida. Included in the audience were members of the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists, with journalists from 70 countries.

“This is a once-in-a-generation election,” Rather said, “because I think it will reverberate for quite a long time.”

Before this election, Rather said, it was a given that fact and truth counted for something. Politicians were held accountable. The country has never had a campaign that went as low as this one did, Rather said, or one where both candidates both had such negative approval ratings.

But it’s worth remembering, he said to the citizens and international visitors in the audience, that freedom of the press is enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

“In our system of government and in our society, a free and independent, truly independent, fiercely independent press is the red beating heart of democracy.”

With a few exceptions, Rather said, the press didn’t distinguish itself in this election. Now, it’s gut-check time.

The press now must do three things to cover President-elect Donald Trump, he said.

One, ask tough questions. Two, “and perhaps more important, ask tough follow-up questions,” he said, not for the benefit of circulation or ratings or demographics, “but because these questions need to be asked.” And three, the press has to dig deep with investigative reporting.

It’s gone a bit out of style, Rather said, “but it’s going to be needed over the next year and a half to two years in particular.”

All of that has to happen in an era that Rather admitted was a different one from his own, when deadlines happened every day, every other day if you were a star. Now, journalists are expected to tweet, Facebook, blog and more.

“There’s a deadline every nanosecond,” he said.

And that leaves less time for actual reporting.

Still, he said, it’s hard to think of a craft, profession or skill whose standards have endured for so long.

Rather took questions from the international journalists in the audience, but his answers may resonate with American journalists now, too. What advice did he have for journalists who feel threatened by their government?

“Some days, in some ways, danger is my business,” Rather said. “That’s what the craft is about.”

He knows what it’s like to balance journalism with family and bills and obligations. He had to make those choices himself, including trekking into Afghanistan in 1980 after the Soviet Union invaded. His wife and daughter asked him not to go, Rather told the audience, but he told them it might be one of the great stories of his generation, and he wanted to get it.

There are a lot of downsides to journalism, Rather said.

“But when it’s at its best and you’re part of it, you have a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself,” he said.

The evening’s last question: What advice did he have for women to help stay in journalism?

To be a journalist and to be a good journalist, Rather said, requires passion. Do you have it? Can you develop it? And then, can you sustain it?

Journalists might not make a lot of money, the odds of being famous are so small it’s not even worth thinking about, he said, “but you can live an adventurous life, and at the end you may say some of what I did counted. Some of it mattered.”

Who’s Right?

Same Story, Two Networks: CBS, NBC Differ on Arizona Republic Story

After the Arizona Republic endorsed a democratic presidential candidate for the first time in its 126-year history, outraged readers launched death threats at the paper’s staff.

On Oct. 17, as part of a package about rising tensions in the elections, NBC devoted 20 seconds to the threats.

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NBC Graphic

Mi-Ai Parrish, president of the Arizona Republic, said people are spitting on students selling subscriptions and a man threatened to pour boiling water on anyone who comes to his house on the paper’s behalf.

On Oct. 19, CBS ran a nearly three-minute package about the paper’s endorsement and subsequent firestorm.

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CBS reporter Lee Cowan detailed the rude, hateful and threatening emails and phone calls to the paper.

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However, the tone of calls and emails improved after Parrish wrote another editorial thanking those who respectfully disagreed with the paper.

Was it a mistake for NBC not to include how things are getting better at the paper and therefore promote a more fearful tone? Was what NBC did sufficient to tell the story or did it need to be done in the way CBS did? Is this story important enough to warrant coverage from all of the networks?

Carol Marin, political editor for NBC Chicago, said she doesn’t quarrel with the way each network covered the story.

“Someone at NBC decided they wanted a multifaceted story with examples of how the climate in and around this election has become poisonous,” Marin said. “What CBS did was pull out in a fuller way this one instance and I think each is valid.”

Marin said the networks have more discretion when covering this story which is not breaking news and likes that the three networks did not “march in step”.

“It’s a fascinating story to me, but then, I’m the press, Marin said. “I think this is a jump ball.”

This story illuminates the rising tensions between politics and media during this election. Programs with limited airtime have to decide which stories warrant coverage. This story is valuable but not mandatory.

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