A resource for education reporters

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The Education Writers Association is the largest group of journalists who cover public and private schools, as well as higher education. It has more than 2,500 members and provides a variety of free online resources.  In its section on K-12 education, the association says:

In most communities, K-12 education is a major industry. It consumes a large share of tax dollars and is one of the largest employers. A journalist writing about schools will cover everything from budgets to debates over values, from clever student inventions to university research studies, from ways to teach algebra to charter schools.  One of EWA’s goals is to get education reporting out of school board meetings and into classrooms and communities where education takes place.

For ideas of how to go beyond the traditional meeting story and provide more in-depth coverage,  check out this link for background information and national trneds.

Moscow School Board meets Feb. 28

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The Moscow School Board will meet Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. in the music room of Moscow Junior High School, 1410 East D St. The agenda includes reports on the grade reconfiguration plan that will go into effect later this year, new courses at Moscow High School, and a series of personnel actions. For the meeting’s agenda, see the district’s website.

Meet Holly Bowen, guest speaker for Feb. 27

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Holly Bowen covers Idaho K-12 and higher education for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, where she began her reporting career in 2009 shortly after graduating from the University of Idaho’s School of Journalism and Mass Media. During college, she served as opinion editor for the UI Argonaut and news editor for the North Idaho College Sentinel. She is originally from Post Falls and moved to Moscow in 2007.  Please come to class prepared to ask Holly a question about her education, experience or beat.

New angles in the Amanda Knox case

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Andrea Vogt, who spoke to our class last month, filed a story for The Week, a British news magazine about a new legal development in the Amanda Knox case. The family of Meredith Kercher, the British student who died under mysterious circumstances in 2007, has asked the Supreme Court of Italy to overturn Knox’s acquittal.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported this week on a potential bidding war among publishers for the rights to publish Knox’s story.  Interesting, the Times used an anonymous source in its report:

“The book will have very broad resonance,” said an executive whose publishing house is among the bidders. “The world has heard from everybody else, but the world has not actually heard from Amanda Knox.”

Photo: Amanda Knox at her appeals hearing in 2011.  (Agence France Press, Getty Images via NY Times)

Extra-credit opportunity: Martin Forum

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Shadman Bashir, an expert on the tribal areas of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, will speak Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7:30 in the College of Law courtroom.
His topic is “The Tribal Regions of Afghanistan/Pakistan” Bashir will explain the region, its key players and their respective goals and the value the region holds for those regional powers. The program is one of a series of Martin Forums sponsored by the Martin School at the University of Idaho.
JAMM 327 students may attend for extra credit. Please submit a one-page reaction paper in class on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Meet guest speaker for Feb. 15, David Johnson

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David Johnson

David Johnson, a roving regional reporter and weekly columnist for the Lewiston Tribune, will speak to class Wednesday, Feb. 15. His topic is how to make public-affairs stories more interesting by taking a human-interest angle.

Johnson began his newspaper career in 1975 at the Idahonian, now the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. He is the author of No Ordinary Lives: One Man’s Surprising Journey into the Heart of America, published in 2002.  Johnson is mentioned in the current issue of Columbia Journalism Review.  Writer Kevin Coyne talks about noted war journalist Ernie Pyle and then mentions how this genre of journalism seems to be fading, with a few exceptions.

… A notable and enduring holdout is David Johnson at Idaho’s Lewiston Tribune, who for a quarter-century now has been opening the local phone book at random to find the subjects for his “Everyone Has a Story” column.

Please come to class prepared to turn in a question for Dave about his approach to interviewing, reporting and telling stories.

Militia story relies on anonymous sources

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Brandon Macz, a UI JAMM graduate, wrote the lead story in the Feb. 11-12 Moscow-Pullman Daily News headlined: Militias on the Palouse: Armed men hide their names and faces in fear of backlash from the community.  The story begins as follows:

For the past 13 months, men from around Latah and Whitman County have been joining quietly what they call the 57th and 75th battalions of the Lightfoot Militia. They profess a belief in their constitutional liberty to serve in a joint militia and in a duty to serve their communities. Their public face includes a website, a Facebook page, frequent Craigslist postings and fliers hung up around the area.

The story goes on to describe a condition imposed by members of the militia: “They declined to talk, however, unless the Daily News identified them only with first names and generalized occupational descriptions.”  What do you think of this arrangement? Do you think the newspaper was justified in granting the militia members anonymity?

Later in the story, Macz quotes several named sources: the Spokane and Whitman County sheriffs, a Pullman police captain and the Moscow police chief. He also extensively quotes an expert on militias, Steven Chermak, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University and author of the book, “Searching for a Demon: The Media Construction of the Militia Movement.”  Do these sources balance the quotes from Jeff, Steve, Robert and Tosh, all identified as militia members?

The full story is behind the Daily News’ paywall, but students interested in seeing it should e-mail me.

Feb. 14 Update: Many news organizations have policies that describe circumstances when anonymous or confidential sources can be used.  The Associated Press Statement of News Values and Principles lists these conditions for using material from anonymous sources:

1. The material is information and not opinion or speculation, and is vital to the news report.
2. The information is not available except under the conditions of anonymity imposed by the source.
3. The source is reliable, and in a position to have accurate information.

Do you think the Daily News story passes this 3-point test?

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