Video is by Ryan Tully.…
We’re quite fortunate here at NJ-SPJ to have former national SPJ president and Bergen Record reporter John Ensllin in our midst. Here’s his overview of Sunday’s panel discussion.…
Anonymous sources. The impact of citizen journalism on jobs. The importance of vetting and curating sources.
These were just some of the topics that were part of the conversation yesterday as 100 people packed the Montclair library auditorium for NJ-SPJ’s panel discussion: Who is a Journalist Now? For those of you who were unable to attend, stay tuned for more resources, including a YouTube video, more audio excerpts and a complete podcast. In the meantime, here are some highlights:
- Anonymous sources: While author Jonathan Alter noted anonymous sources are a “necessary evil’’ in journalism, he was also cautious about their use. His rule of thumb? No ad-hominem attacks. His comments were echoed by other panelists, including Peter Szekely, vice president of the Deadline Club, our sister organization in New York Deadline Club. Journalists, Szekely said, often use anonymous sources to give the impression that they are plugged in. “There’s a certain amount of swagger in using these [of anonymous sources], and I think we should, as journalists , really try and not to overuse it . . . and only use it when we absolutely have to.’’ Audio clips: Alter talking about his moral code on anonymous sources; Szekely on anonymous sources; and an exchange between Alter and state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg on the same topic.
- Citizen journalism: The role of citizen engagement in 21st century journalism was highlighted by Justin Auciello, whose Jersey Shore Hurricane News took off after it became lifeline during Hurricane Sandy. He noted over 200,000 people are feeding him real-time information, and asked the panel to comment on the use of citizens as both sources and contributors.
- Heather Taylor, communications director of the Citizens Campaign, an organization that trains citizens to use journalism skills to serve as watchdogs in their communities, championed the value of citizens who can bring “great value to what’s happening as boots on the ground.” “You can’t ignore that,’’ Taylor said. But she did not discount the value of a critical eye: ‘’You’re bringing it in and then you’re vetting it and you’re curating – that’s the big word today; it’s curation,’’ she told Auciello.
- Merrill Brown, director of Montclair State’s new School of Communication and Media, called citizen engagement in today’s journalism “a requirement for success’’ in today’s marketplace. “It is mandatory that we take seriously citizen input engagement with the right verification accompanying it, and that the journalism institutions that will thrive in the coming years, in the ace of all the troubles that journalism have, are those, who among other things, master this,’’ he said. Audio clip is here; speakers are Auciello, followed by Taylor, Brown and Alter.
- Free labor: Our panelists disagreed about whether citizen journalism has contributed to job loss.
When board member Bob Schapiro proposed this Sunday’s “Who is a Journalist Now?” panel discussion at a meeting last summer at the Nevada Diner in Bloomfield, it struck a chord. Yes!, we all thought, and since then Bob, and NJ- SPJ members Emily Kratzer, Jill Kuirsky, Tara Williams, Jane Primerano, Ron Miskoff and Miriam Ascarelli have been hard at work making it all happen.
Never did we expect to send out invitations and end up with all 100 of the seats filled. However, that is indeed the case, and so we need to let all stragglers know that you’re welcome to take your chances and come, but we can’t guarantee you’ll get in. From this point on, any further admissions will be based on fire safety rules for the room.
Thank you, all. Here’s to a great discussion on Sunday!…
Need the force of the New Jersey Open Public Records Act, also known as the state’s Right to Know law, to get the records you need? Here are three great resources that can help you along:
- The NJ News Commons at Montclair State has just launched its OPRA Sherpa service to help working journalists throughout the state to craft their public records requests for maximum effect. Such coaching is critical since OPRA success often depends on how your request is put together. Here’s the OPRA Sherpa contact form.
- The Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va. has a very handy, automated, fill-in-the-blanks letter generator for obtaining state and public records. The free service, found here, has been used more than 100,000 times since its inception in 1997.
- NJSPJ’s sister organization, The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG) is geared toward protecting and expanding public access to government records and meetings. You can reach out to the organization here.