Thursday, February 26, 2009

Washington Watchdogs - links online

You can listen to the Washington Watchdogs American forum on WAMU or you can watch it on C-SPAN. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SOC job and internship fair!

Spring 2009 Job & Internship Fair
Thursday, March 26, 2009, 1-4pm
Interested in recruiting? Want to be recruited?
Register today at

The School of Communication, Alumni Programs and
American University Career Center
cordially invite you to the

SOC Alumni and Student Networking Reception

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
7:00 P.M. - 8:30 P.M.

American University
Mary Graydon Center
First Floor, Rooms 4 &5

This is an opportunity to meet and learn from SOC alumni and leading communications employers.

Organizations that will be represented include APCO Worldwide, BNA,
Booz Allen Hamilton, CBS News, EFX Media, Ketchum,
National Cancer Institute, and USA Today.

Hors d'oeuvres and refreshments will be served. Business attire is requested.

Join SOC Professor Chris Palmer for a pre-reception networking workshop
6:15 P.m. - 7:00 P.M. in MGC 3

Students should RSVP through AU CareerWeb (events tab)
Faculty & Staff can RSVP for the reception through stop by between classes

Thanks to Jack for the latest on Twitter as news delivery system!

Read here for Twitter's role in reporting on the Turkish plane disaster.

Still having trouble with AP Style?

If you're still having trouble with basic AP Style rules, go to this link and learn these few rules. They fit most situations, including in-class quizzes!

Oh nooooooooo! Congress-types Tweeting

It seems that Congress has come to Twitter. See Dana Milbank today. Look for Twitter's obituary soon!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Quiz – Oh dear, it’s been awhile!

Name: ______________________

1. Name the four basic tenets of the SPJ Code of Ethics.

2. According to the reading, the American Society of Newspaper Editors began a five-year campaign in the late 1990s to find out how the public really felt about journalism. Participants were pleasantly surprised to find that most people thought journalists were doing a good job. T / F

3. One issue that ASNE researchers found out was that reporters can act ethically and within journalistic guidelines but the public may still find what they did objectionable. T / F

4. Who won the 2009 Oscar for best male actor?

5. President Obama this week will carry on a tradition of new presidents in delivering his first speech to __________________?

Correct the following for spelling and style (there could be more than one error):

6. The first meeting of the committee will be at 2:00 P.M. on Sun., January 26th.

7. Boston, MA, is the home of Old North Church.

8. The city counsel will meet at 3 p.m., Fr., November 7.

9. There were more than sixty persons waiting in line.

10. First National Bank has lowered its prime interest rate to 10 per cent.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Students demand Journalism curriculum changes

San Jose State student Suzanna Yada makes demands of J faculty at

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A for effort? Not exactly.

Read all about it in the NYT.

Announcements, etc.

Great discussion today on American Forum and your interview stories. Just a reminder that the stories are due on your blogs by noon tomorrow (Friday 2/20). If you didn't get yours back until yesterday, you have until noon on Saturday.
For Monday, you have a reading packet on ethics and related issues. We will likely have a quiz on that, including style and current events.
*NOTE: I need your submitted commitment to an on-campus or off campus event by midnight tonight! I will approve your ideas. You need to attend your event as soon as possible. The on-campus event can be a meeting or panel discussion, but please avoid film screenings. If there is nothing else, these can be a last resort.
If you are going to an off campus event, you need to call ahead to confirm the time and place. Familiarize yourself with the handouts on covering press conferences and meetings. You should get as much information as you can ahead of time -- the agenda, participants, information sheets or handouts. Try to talk to a human being before you go to get the lowdown on what is expected to happen. Conduct interviews while you are there and be sure to get contact information. Get identifying information for all the people you interview. You must have the full name of everyone you quote in your story.
*NOTE: There is no class next Thursday to allow you time to attend your event and write your first draft. This will be a shorter story -- about 700-800 words. The first draft will be due Monday, March 2, in class.
Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns about this, your interview story or anything else.
-You know who...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Where to look for off-campus meetings and events

Look here for D.C. neighborhood meetings. Also, try googling "Washington, D.C., neighborhood meetings" and you get a lot of useful stuff.
Capitol Hill hearings: here and here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A good grading policy!

Ha! Some students say I'm a pushover. Obama has a good take on that allegation:

Speak Up! People Will Think You're Smarter

New research shows that people who speak up in groups are perceived as leaders and as knowing what they're talking about. Even professors might be influenced!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hate Twitter? Better Get Used to It!

The future is now!

Ethics Guidelines for Journalists Using Facebook, MySpace and Twitter

A Ha! New proposed ethics guidelines for using social networks in journalism. Thanks Ethan Klapper!

Friday, February 13, 2009

On the need for good writing in journalism

Check it out in Editorialiste -- an article about a lecture at Columbia by Tina Brown .

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

College Culture Needs Overhaul

Opinion by Charlie Szold.

David - please cater our class!

I forgot David Lewis' food column in the Eagle. Yum!

American Forum - be there!

Hear your professor's real voice!
An American Forum: Washington Watchdogs: An Endangered Species?

Download flyer (PDF)
Download Podcast

The news industry is in distress and the recession has made a dire situation critical. Newspapers are declaring bankruptcyand even folding. Nowhere are newsrooms being slashed more than in Washington, where some venerable bureaus are being shuttered all together. Will there be a vacuum in coverage of Congress, the White House and federal agencies? Is our democracy at stake? Or, have the Washington watchdogs grown fat and lazy? Are there any silver linings for leaner and meaner journalism? This American Forum will look at what many say is a crisis in the survival of Washington news coverage.

Tuesday, February 17, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
MCG 3,4,5
Mary Graydon Center
American University


Mark Whitaker,
senior vice president and Washington bureau chief, NBC News

Melinda Wittstock
founder and CEO of Capitol News Connection

Bill Kovach
founding chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists

Suzanne Struglinski
she is Senior Editor of Provider Magazine


Wendell Cochran
Associate Professor and Director, Journalism Division, American University, School of Communication

For more information, contact the School of Communication at 202-885-2074 or go to www/

American Forum archive

An American Forum is sponsored by Laird B. Anderson and Florence H. Ashby

An American Forum is produced in cooperation with WAMU 88.5 FM

Washington Unplugged

For broadcast students, this is CBS News' newest effort online -- the first major network to produce a show just for online (as far as I know):

Watch CBS Videos Online

Big brains debate the future of newspapers

Walter Isaacson with Jon Stewart on how to save newspapers: focus on Isaacson's piece in Time.
Another view from Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Homework/assignment updates

The profile FIRST DRAFTS are now due to me via e-mail by noon on Friday.
For Thursday, please watch the Obama press conference tonight. In a half page, single-spaced, tell me who asked the most effective questions and how you could tell this was a MEDIA EVENT. Read the main story about the press conference in The Washington Post tomorrow morning. Analyze the coverage. What did the Post pick out as the most newsworthy topic? (Bet we can guess that one.) What was the angle? What type of lead did the Post use? Do you agree with their approach? Note the story structure. Did it have an attention-grabbing lead, a second graf that builds and expands on that, good quotes/background/context, etc.
On Thursday, we'll have guest speaker Emily Freifeld of She'll tell us what it's like out there -- in the big, bad real world of new media!

Our class members write for the Eagle

Ethan Klapper demonstrates exactly what we talked about in class today regarding finding "the news" in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session such as a press conference. Take a look at his story on the front page of the Eagle or online here. Also, Travis wrote a story about a topic near and dear to our hearts -- food on campus! And, finally, The Eagle has new information on the web site to make it easier to work for them. Check it out.

How Tweet It Is!

New York Magazine on Twitter -- as only NY Mag can do it...

Emily Freifeld to speak to our class

Emily Freifeld
Emily Freifeld, an American University School of Communication graduate, is a multimedia producer on the politics desk at, where she co-hosts the daily politics podcast as well as the weekly show on XM’s POTUS ’08. Freifeld also produces humorous videos to accompany the daily column, “The Sketch,” by Dana Milbank, and writes for the “Channel ‘08’” blog.
Before coming to, Freifeld interned at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, U.S. News & World Report, the Brookings Institution, WTOP Radio News and her local PBS affiliate.

Journalism Education's Broader, Deeper Mission

By Dan Gillmor of Arizona State.

Obama's Saturday Radio Address

Obama's Saturday Radio Address

Quiz - Oh No!

Quiz – Style/Reading/News - 2/9/09

Name: _______________________________

1. (Correct for style.) Senator Edward Kennedy (D.-Massachusetts) introduced the bill.

2. (Correct for style.) The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the case did not involve the 1st Amendment.

3. (Correct for style.) Sven Swennson, twenty-nine, of Hays, Kansas was indicted.

4. President Obama, in an action directly related to today’s class topic, will ______________________________ tonight.

5. Name one winner of a Grammy award last night. ________________________

6. Reporting a speech story is one of the easiest jobs of journalism because there is little need for background information or context. T / F

7. The presidential press conference is the “granddaddy” of press conferences and is a media event in and of itself. T / F

8. The top news of the morning is the continued wrangling on Capitol Hill over the Obama-supported:
a. planned pullout from Iraq
b. closing of the Guantanamo prison facility
c. economic stimulus package
e. automaker bailout plan

9. In writing a story about a speech or press conference, reporters always look for:
a. ways to play up the gaffes of those speaking
b. ways to make the speakers look bad
c. body language that says the speaker is lying
d. the most newsworthy points and responses

10. Speech and news conference stories generally follow the same guidelines as most other stories, including an attention-grabbing lead (usually a summary lead), a second paragraph (nut graf) that backs up the lead and expands on it, a third paragraph with a great quote or two, etc.
T / F

Obama Meets the Press, But Cautiously

Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post on Obama's beginning relationship with the press: Obama Meets the Press, But Cautiously.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Profile guidelines redux

A link to the profile guidelines already on the blog. The rubric:
--20 points, your subject meets the guidelines and is compelling
--10 points, you quote the right number of people as stated in the guidelines
--20 points, your writing overall is in journalistic style with an attention-grabbing lead, transitions and great use of quotes, background and description
--10 points - no factual errors
--5 points -- no wordiness or unnecessary/boring info
--10 points -- your story is publishable with minor editing
--5 points -- style/usage/grammar errors
--10 points -- you include necessary background info and stats
--10 points -- you include the "profile story" elements in the class handout

Have the rubric, the profile handout and my rules to write by at the ready when you sit down to write!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jumpstart Your Journalism With Social Media

An amazing panel of some of the leading thinkers/doers in Social Media. Go here. (

2008 Top Ten Newspaper Sites

The Big Guns take top billing for the best newspapers sites. Check it out.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Speaking of Rush Limbaugh...

Bloggers focused on him a lot last week. See this link for the newly launched weekly analysis of bloggers by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Good news for newspapers online

Top Newspapers Saw More Readers in December

Nielsen Online reports a 16 percent year-over-year increase in unique visitors to the top 10 newspaper Web sites, growing from 34.6 million unique visitors in December 2007 to 40.1 million in December 2008.

The number one online newspaper destination in December 2008, with 18.2 million unique visitors, was the and took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots.

Top 10 Newspaper Web Sites (Dec 2008 vs Dec 2007 U.S., Home and Work)



Unique Audience (000) Dec-07 UA

Unique Audience (000) Dec-07 UA

Percent Change

Top 10 Online Newspapers

















LA Times





Wall Street Journal Online





Daily News Online Edition





Chicago Tribune





New York Post








10. Francisco Chronicle




Source: Nielsen Online, January 2009

Chuck Schilling, Research Director, agency & media, Nielsen Online, said "Nine of the top 10 newspaper Web sites experienced positive year-over-year growth," driven, in part, by the holiday season, the weakened economic news, and political reporting.
Not only are more people visiting newspaper Web sites, but they are also visiting these sites more often than they were a year ago, says the study. The number of total visits to the top 10 newspaper sites increased 27% year-over-year, growing from 199.6 million in December 2007 to 252.7 million in December 2008.
"Despite the current troubles for the traditional newspaper industry, people are visiting newspaper sites more and more often to stay on top of current events," said Schilling.
Nielsen Online also reported December 2008 data for the Top Parent Companies/Divisions and Top Web Brands. The parent level is defined as a consolidation of multiple domains and URLs owned by a single company or division.

Top 10 Parent Companies/Divisions for December 2008 (U.S., Home and Work)



Unique Audience (000

Time Per Person (hh:mm:ss)


















News Corp. Online
















Apple Computer







Source: Nielsen Online, January 2009

Example: The data indicates that 55.2 million home and work Internet users visited at least one of the Facebook-owned sites or launched a Facebook-owned application during the month, and each person spent, on average, a total of 2 hours, 7 minutes and 58 seconds at one or more of their sites or applications.
The brand level is defined as a consolidation of multiple domains and URLs that has a consistent collection of branded content.

Top 10 Web Brands for December 2008 (U.S., Home and Work)



Unique Audience (000)

Time Per Person (hh:mm:ss)










MSN/Windows Live








AOL Media Network








Fox Interactive Media















Source: Nielsen Online, January 2009

Average U.S. Internet Usage, Combined Home & Work, (Month of December 2008)

Sessions/Visits per Person


Domains Visited per Person


Web Pages per Person


Duration of a Web Page Viewed


PC Time per Person


Active Digital Media Universe


Current Digital Media Universe Estimate


Source: Nielsen Online, January 2009

For more information, please visit Nielsen-Online here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Perfect quote structure!

Note the quote/attribution/quote structure. This is from The Washington Post, 2/5/09, and it's about the phenomenon of the "25 random things about me" alerts on Facebook:

"Attention is power," said Michael Stefanone, assistant professor of communication at the University at Buffalo. "You see this in waves, friends contacting friends with this request. It's self-serving."

Using video for your profiles

Jaclyn and I had a good conversation after class today about ways to use video for your profile stories. Too bad it wasn't in class! But the major point was that you don't have to videotape your entire interview. It's, of course, a good idea to record the interview; you can use your videocamera for the purpose of recording it for your records and writing purposes (you can even just use the audio), but for your "sound bite," you can do that at the end of the interview. In other words, you could talk to your subject, have a great interview and then at the end ask if you might do a quick question on video, which is a requirement for the article (from your demanding professor!). This will give you an advantage because you can then go back and focus on a really interesting part of the interview and have the person elaborate on that. Your subject will most likely come up with something new and interesting to say that you can use in your story. Good luck!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What every journalism student should know!

In case you were wondering, look here.

Journalism Organizations and Professional Sites

Journalism Organizations & Top Professional Sites

Media News:

  • Romenesko. Jim Romenesko of the Poynter Institute links to the latest media-related news, updated throughout the day.
  • Daily Briefing. Daily media stories from the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
  • AP Industry News. Media industry news daily from The Associated Press.
  • PBS Media Watch. Media stories from PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
  • CNN Reliable Sources. Transcripts from the CNN media show.

Selected Top Sites for Journalists:

  • American Journalism Review. AJR's Newslink provides links to nearly 5,000 newspapers, listings of journalism awards and fellowships and full text of selected AJR articles (Disclosure: I am a senior editor of AJR).
  • Investigative Reporters and Editors. IRE includes a searchable database of more than 11,000 investigative reporting story abstracts, handouts developed by speakers at IRE conferences, campaign finance data and sources and a directory of investigative reporters worldwide, plus details on IRE contests, programs and conferences.
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The committee provides some of the most practical tools for reporters, such as the Freedom of Information Act letter generator, state laws on open records and public meetings, updates on Freedom of Information cases from around the country and a legal defense hot-line for journalists.
  • The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Poynter Online gives details on the institute’s week-long workshops, which are some of the best journalism educational opportunities available, plus research from the institute on various newsroom topics.
  • Society of Professional Journalists. The Electronic Journalist includes news stories on press issues and lists more than 60 journalism contests.
  • Columbia Journalism Review
  • Editor & Publisher
  • IPI Report (International Press Institute)
  • Romenesko’s Medianews
  • Salon Media
  • USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review
  • Slate Magazine
Minority Journalism Organizations:

Women & Journalism:

Is Journalism a Safe Major?

Q & A from Joe Grimm, the "Ask the Recruiter" columnist for Poynter online:
Q. I know a lot of questions you answer come from students graduating from college or older adults who are already working in the journalism field, but I'm hoping you can still help me.

I'm going into my freshman year of college and I've wanted to study journalism for a couple of years now. I read your column every day, and it doesn't take much to know that journalism isn't the best profession to be in right now. Is it foolish for me to work toward a journalism degree when the industry is in such bad shape?

I've always been optimistic about the profession, but I'm starting to wonder if I should even bother trying to have a career in it.



A. If you love it, do it.

I see a lot of people who are excited and passionate about journalism in forms that were unimaginable five years ago. At the Communication College's orientation, established students were recruiting for traditional organizations like the campus paper, but also for online magazines, game building, animation, video and audio. There is a lot innovation going on. Get into that.

At a faculty meeting, a colleague talked about how excited recruiters outside of journalism are about the skills that journalism schools teach. This tells me that journalism is a good platform degree. Just as many law school graduates wind up in good jobs that are outside the legal profession, the same can be said for journalism grads.

So, if you have the passion and can tolerate some rapid change (and where is that not happening?), keep going, but look for innovative ways to tell stories and pursue emerging career paths.

Monday, February 2, 2009

New deadlines - already!

I have decided to change the deadline for the rough draft of your profile story to next Wednesday, Feb. 11, at noon to give you enough time to schedule interviews.
I'll try to give a quick turnaround on feedback so we don't get bogged down.
Based on your feedback, it seems many of you also want to learn more at this stage about interviewing, so we will do that next class.
There will be no quiz next class on your reading packet handout on covering speeches. (A couple of you left without picking yours up.)There may still be a quiz on style/news.
The profile story needs to be about 1,000 words, which I don't think I had specified before.
It also needs a "sound bite" from your subject, which is a short video clip of the person saying something short and pithy. This should go on your blog along with the final version of your story.
For homework this Thursday, then, you will be diving into your profile interviews and stories. Bring your questions about the process to class!
Your final inauguration stories are still due on your blogs by noon on Wednesday (Feb. 4).
I hope everyone is happy with the new deadline but does not feel it is too lax. I don't want to hurt you (!) but I also want you to try to work as if you are in the real world. I think this is fair since you have other interviews to schedule besides your main one.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Revised syllabus calendar!

Your revised syllabus calendar is now on Blackboard. I will hand these out in class. Unlike courses with "static topics," journalism classes are often changing due to current events, outside events and your progress in acquiring skills throughout the semester. Your assignments will always be made as clearly as possible - either in class, on Blackboard or on the blog. I am available anytime for questions. I reward flexibility!

For the quiz on Monday

See the post: Professor Walker's Rules to Write By. It will be from there and current events (usually from the front page of The Washington Post or The New York Times.)

More syllabus highlights!

Forget the game highlights. Here are syllabus highlights -- commercial-free!

Academic Integrity – yours:
Academic integrity essentially means "intellectual honesty" -- honesty in the use of information, in formulating arguments, and in other activities related to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. With the Internet, academic honesty, particularly in journalism-related classes, is being pushed to the limits. If you start down the road of plagiarizing others now, it could halt your career before it starts or haunt you throughout your life. In recent times, for example, top journalists have been fired and publicly humiliated because they stole the work of others.
The University’s Academic Integrity Code sets forth standards of academic conduct. It is new this year, so please review it. By registering, you have acknowledged your awareness of the code.
Here are some examples of Academic Code violations that are pertinent to this class:
 You plagiarize by copying others’ work, either unpublished or published in print or on the World Wide Web.
 You make up sources and/or citations.
 You collaborate with others on work that you, alone, agreed to do by enrolling in the course.
 You use work done in another class for this class.
 You fail to attribute material to the proper source.
 You misrepresent yourself in seeking material for the course.
Academic Integrity – mine:
I will do my best to uphold the high scholarly and ethical standards of my discipline. I respect my students and make every effort to foster honest academic conduct and to ensure that my evaluations reflect each student’s true merit. I respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student and never want to exploit, harass or discriminate in my treatment of students. I will defend your academic freedom.
I want to encourage you in your quest for knowledge. I want to maintain a positive atmosphere in which you are free to ask questions. I will adhere to the syllabus as much as possible, offer timely feedback and make myself accessible. I will strive to offer you a look into a unique area of knowledge and experience.
I’ll do my best to be on time.