Monday, September 30, 2013

Three Things You Can Learn From Kathleen Carroll

Sarah Kenney

Being a video production student as well as a journalism major, I can honestly say that print media has been a struggle of mine. Editing footage came more naturally to me than composing appealing articles so I started to disconnect myself from the print world, until Kathleen Carroll came to town and gave me the knock in the head I needed.

After seeing her speak at Ohio University while accepting the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism's highest award, I realized that journalists are a community no matter what they concentrate in, and we share common beliefs that made me proud to be a member of this community. What she shared not only has changed my outlook on the media community but has helped to shape my code of ethics as a journalist. Three sections of her speech stood out to me: how to be a watchdog, accountability and diversity in journalism. These are arguably the three most influential aspects of journalism today, and to hear Kathleen Carroll touch on them only made me more sure of my beliefs in them.

1.) How to be a watchdog

To hear this be a topic of discussion tonight was interesting considering it was the topic of my first blog post. Finally I was able to grasp the full context of what it means to be a Watch-Dog. How? That is the question. Reporters need to be asking how constantly. That simple question should be put on a pedestal that reporters should be reaching for with every piece of work they do. As Carroll explained, people crave the how, and if answered it can be the greatest accomplishment a journalist can achieve. How could it have been prevented? How is it solving the problem? How well is what we are doing working? These are all questions that can make all the difference in the content you present to your audience and if done correctly can add to your credibility as a news source.

2.) Accountability should not only be for your audience, but also yourself

Accountability is a constant subject of debate in the world of media today, with so many reports coming out with false facts based on speculation, unreliable sources or misinterpretation of facts. What Carroll brought to the table was the idea that reporters are under pressure to build content, and that reporters during a breaking news situation will go off of what is true at that moment. She used the example of the navy-yard shooting. It was believed that there could be other shooters, but it was known that one of them was dead. It had been reported by the Washington D.C. Police Chief, Cathy Lanier, that they were investigating two other potential suspects in the shooting. This sparked ideas that this could have been a planned shooting or potential national security threat. Later we learned that there was only one shooter.
Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier briefs press regarding 2 other potential shooters at the Washington D.C. Navy Yard.

Carroll explained that reporters were working based off of the information they had been provided at the time and built content based off of that to fill the need of providing information for the public. While many scrutinize this as a lack of accountability, Carroll encouraged us to be rigorous in news gathering and ask the how questions. Be accountable to your audience and also to yourself, because the mistakes, as she said, your audience will remember for years.  

3.) Newsrooms need to reflect the diversity of their consumers

When a female audience member asked the question regarding diversity and women in the newsrooms, Carroll answered very frankly that we have a long way to go with diversity. “Newsrooms need to reflect the consumer we represent” she explained. While she said she never wanted to be “the girl editor” she also went on to say that there are not enough women in power for it to not seem unusual anymore. Hearing this only made me more determined as a growing, female professional. If this comment does not make you determined I don’t know what will. I believe that this generation of women journalists have the power and determination to change this and not only diversify the workplace with different genders but also include other races and cultures into the newsroom.

Kathleen Carroll is a woman who I now look up to as an excellent role model in the world of journalism. To see these three ideas I have learned in class actually be applied by a real world journalist has only solidified my belief in them even more. She certainly gave me the realization I needed, and I could not be more determined to not just be focused on my sole area of concentration but to be a proactive member of this community.

Accountability Journalism: A Professional's Perspective

Jenna Finer

Ohio University had the honor of hosting guest speaker Kathleen Caroll this week. Caroll is the highly respected executive editor and senior vice president of the Associated Press (AP), one of the world's largest and oldest news organization. If you'd like to read more about her bio, you can here. For the Bobcats who are unfamiliar with this agency, looking at one of their textbooks may ring a bell: the AP Stylebook, which is used in many of OU's journalism classes.

Photo Courtesy of

Titled "The Two Most Important Questions in Journalism," Caroll's speech was interesting and moving. Personally, I had no idea about the controversies surrounding the Associated Press, as well as the journalists who work for them overseas. For example, the recent conflict that AP had with the United States Justice Department. An investigation was sought out after the AP broke a story on Al-Queda's plan to attack the US. Twenty-one of of AP's phone lines were recorded and seized. While the case is still on-going, Caroll explained the significance of the situation in regard to a very important element of journalism: accountability.


Accountability Journalism

Who is accountable and why? These are two of the five W's that journalists (and students of Scripps School of Journalism) live by.

1. Who
2. What
3. Where
4. When
5. Why

"These are the foundational questions," said Caroll. "The most important views of journalism start with something else -- how." She went on to describe how we neglect accountability journalism, and its impact on fulfilling our roles as reporters. "We ignore accountability journalism to our apparel. So how do we make this a part of our everyday work?" she asked. "Accountability journalism is something we should do every day, on every beat."

Those in the audience, including me, may have produced some uncertainty with Caroll's claim. Journalists cover issues that hold the powerful accountable, such as governments and institutions. Another tool we've learned is "watchdog journalism," which Caroll said is "important, but nothing special."

"We Never Talk About Our Sources"

Kathleen Caroll said that this is the key to The Associated Press's credibility. It contributes to their accountability, by not holding someone else accountable, but themselves. This establishes a good relationship with the news organization and their sources, which is useful for future reference with a new story. This system is probably why the AP has been around for so long; the trust built with journalists is a foundation for a successful company. Kathleen Caroll's personal triumph in her career as journalist, editor and leader is something I aspire to be one day and will continue to work toward while studying journalism.

I left the Baker auditorium with Caroll's closing remarks on my mind. When asked by a student on her desire to be an editor she replied, "Most of us who gravitate to this profession do it because we love the process..and I still like it." I admire her passion towards this field of interest, and hope that it is an area to which I can one day contribute.

Going the Distance for Diversity

Meredith McNelis

We have become all too comfortable with taking the easy way out. In a place where libraries were the main source of knowledge, Google now reigns supreme. Journalists should not cover what is convenient to them; they should cover what is suitable for their audience. Diversity is lacking from many news outlets because many are taking the easy way out. They have to get up from their desks, step away from their computer screens and dive into reality. They must step back and include everyone in their community and audience.

Step Outside the Box

Most of the time, when students are assigned with a research project that involves interviewing fellow students, they turn directly to their neighbor that lives down the hall or a friend. In doing so, their friends may not answer the questions in an appropriate manner. They might just answer them in a way that they know the interview wants to hear. This creates a sort of bias in the reporting. Going to an outside source or someone you do not know as well, allows the interviewer to gain a different perspective. If the interviewee does not know them that well, it allows them to be more candid with their answers.

This creates a sort of lazy foundation that could be carried on to an aspiring journalist in the professional world. While it does not seem as big of a deal from a high school or college perspective, continuing on this sentiment in a newsroom is detrimental.  For example, how can a community, or even the nation, gain a solid insight to an election if they only have a select demographic reporting and gathering information on it? The infographic below displays just this problem.

Most newsrooms that lack diversity, lack diverse reporting. Because of this, news stations may internalize worldwide issues and only report on them from their own perspectives. Why is this so? Because it is convenient. If a newsroom is run by predominantly Whites, their reporting directly reflects that because they often do not seek views outside their own. It is easy to report what you personally believe in and to interview people with similar view as your own, but it takes a determined and principled journalist to seek out other conflicting viewpoints. It should be second nature to do so, but for many it takes a conscious decision to step outside of the box.

Community Journalism as a Model for Success

Perhaps, major news stations should take a step back and look at community journalism. Yes, they do cover a smaller portion of the United States but what they do cover is all-inclusive. Smaller news publications and newsrooms look at their community under a microscope; they see everything that goes on, are involved in everything that goes on and feel that everything that goes on is important, vital information. The Tampa radio station WMNF does a great job in including their community in their news stories. They take people directly from their community and allow them to host shows about all different races, demographics and ethnicities. This creates such rich diversity in their broadcasts because they are allowing novice reporters to come in and talk on a more personal level.      

To report on an all inclusive, unbiased nature, journalists must create further diversity in their news coverage. Whether it is making a conscious decision to put personal ideals aside and incorporate a diverse range of information or including people directly from your community, diversity must be present. Without it, how can people paint a clear picture of the differences in a society?  

Gender Identification Controversy

Carly Maurer

After Private Manning declared that she planned to live out the rest of her life as a woman, the media was in a frenzy to decide what was the appropriate way to refer to her.

A handful of news outlets decided to respect her wishes and refer to private Manning as Chelsea Manning from here on out and use feminine pronouns. Among these were Reuters, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Daily Intelligencer and The Huffington Post.

The fact that so many media outlets decided not to, however (including The New York Times, CNN, ABC News and The Associated Press), was a horrible decision in my eyes.

What About the Transgender Community?

This decision shows they are out of touch with the transgender demographic in our society. The Associated Press Stylebook states the following about the term transgender:

“Transgender - An umbrella term (adj.) for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF). Use the descriptive term preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.”

Who cares if you don’t want to call Manning ‘she’ because she still has a male genitals?  As a reporter for a news outlet, it is not about you or your beliefs! She asked to be referred to as a girl, she has made the decision to biologically become a girl, and she already considers herself a girl despite the fact that her body represents that of a male. They should have followed the AP Stylebook and used the term she preferred.

The proper term at a drag queen show is ‘she,’ and I’m sure it is safe to say that a number of them have not had a gender change surgery. Why did so many news sources find it necessary to use surgery as a quota for being referred to as a woman? These major publications should have respected her wishes and her right to self-identify. As Janet Mock tweeted, “Self-determination is a cornerstone of our nation.”

The decision to continue calling her Bradley and ‘he’ was disrespectful to the LGBT community. The Transgender Law Center even tweeted that the media should refer to Manning as Chelsea, ‘she’ and ‘her.’

This decision sparked a lot of debate, some of which is showcased on Storify. One of the posts that stuck out to me was David Walton’s, “You can oppose what Chelsea Manning did and still think she’s entitled to be referred to with the correct name and pronouns” tweet. I think he is exactly right. By referring to Manning with the ‘she’ pronoun, news outlets would not be saying they support her or don’t support her. They would simply be respecting her wishes and choosing not to alienate a giant demographic of people in the U.S.

Credit: CBS News

Public Confusion 

As for thinking the public would be confused, news outlets could simply clarify in their articles. One can even say something like “Private Manning, who from now on wishes to be referred to with feminine pronouns or as Chelsea….”  I don’t see anything harmful in doing this. Times public editor Margaret Sullivan explained that their goal was to provide clarity to their readers and respect the subject's preferences. Why did they find this so hard to do?

“It’s tricky, no doubt. But given Ms. Manning’s preference, it may be best to quickly change to the feminine and to explain that — rather than the other way around,” Margaret Sullivan declared.

I think she came to the right decision and I was glad the Times was transparent about this decision but I still believe they waited too long. They were not among the first to make the decision to use the term ‘she.’ It seems to me they were overly hesitant and are now going back and trying to explain after the fact, which is exactly what Sullivan indicated wouldn’t be the best way to handle this change.

What About Music Artists?

New York Magazine had a very good point in their article when they brought up the fact that music artists change names all the time. People don’t stop to wonder which one they should call them, instead they respect their wishes and call them by their new name. The fact that there is stigma encompassing the switching of names with regard to sex change shows a bias in the reporting and, in my honest opinion, a lack of acceptance.

The decision to continue referring to Manning with masculine titles was a big mistake by the majority of the media. I think it sadly damaged our credibility and supported the public’s perception that the media is biased toward the majority and does little to speak for those who are underrepresented. It is time that we remember journalism is about giving a voice to the voiceless, not amplifying those already being heard.

There are no stupid questions

Alexandra Newman

As an advocate for human rights, I think that everyone needs to be considerate of what people identify as, whether that be gender, sexuality or anything else. In the case of Bradley Manning, or as she is known now as Chelsea Manning, I think the media needs to be respectful of her choices.

Although it may be true that she does not really identify as a woman and is just doing this to be in a woman’s prison instead of a men’s prison, it is imperative that we recognize the bigger picture here.

A blog post on the Human Rights Campaign website does a good job of summing up the whole situation. It makes a point to say, “What should not be lost is that there are transgender service members and veterans who serve and have served this nation with honor, distinction and great sacrifice.”

Just because society as a whole can’t figure out how to accept the LGBTQA community (even Pvt. Manning’s Wikipedia page is confused), doesn’t mean that our journalists should be just as ignorant. Equality starts by recognizing every one is different and was raised a little bit different. The media needs to compensate for this by being fair.

It is our duty as news gatherers and presenters to be fair to what people want/feel/are. We can’t be fair, one of those concrete ethical rules, by not respecting the trans community.

Photo courtesy of
Something else I would like to point out is that transgendered and transsexual are two different things. Transsexual is after you get the surgery to become a male or female and transgendered is “all in your head” and how you present yourself on the outside.  I have noticed that people use these interchangeably and that is not fair.

When the pregnant man came into the news a couple years ago people freaked out. They couldn’t just accept that this person was born with female reproductive parts and just doesn’t physically look like a female and that they identify as a man.

Something else I would like to point out is that not everyone fits into the gender binary. Some people don’t identify as a man or woman. When this occurs people freak out because they just simply don’t know what to do or how to act around these people. You should act the same around all people, because all people have feelings.

If you don’t know which pronoun to use with someone, use a gender-neutral pronoun like “they” or just ask them. In school they tell you to ask questions when you don’t know something; the same applies to the real world.

Now back to Chelsea Manning. She specifically sent out a letter asking to be called “she,” and I don’t think it gets much more simple than that. It is easy to be confused when this person has been in the news so much as “Bradley Manning”, but if we want to be fair to this person, no matter what they have done criminally, we have to respect their wishes.

If we were doing our jobs right at journalists and human beings then there would be no question in regard to what to call this or any person. Just ask what they prefer to be called. Even better yet, if they TELL YOU what they want to be called, your job is 100 times easier!

How should the media handle gender/sex changes?

Scott Proietti

A little over a month ago, Private Bradley Manning stirred up quite a bit of controversy when the natural male at birth decided that he would like to be considered a woman and referred to as "Chelsea." What? A male named Bradley now wants to be considered a woman by the name of Chelsea? When Manning's lawyer uttered those words to "The Today" Show" reporters, producers and editors were at a loss of words. Manning is an army private who was sentenced to 35 years in prison over the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history.
Manning poses in a recent photo wearing a wig and lipstick

We all have to wonder how the media should handle this situation, given that Manning has not undergone any gender transformations to date and is still physically a male from birth. He wants to begin hormone therapy, but no one is totally sure how the military will handle Manning's request.

The Associated Press, National Public Radio, The New York Times, Glaad and The Huffington Post have all weighed in on the issue. Anna Bross from NPR said that until Manning's desired gender change physically happens they will be using male-related pronouns to address the former army private. Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for Glaad, a gay-rights group, stated that nearly every major style guide today says the media should use the pronoun preferred by the subject and that the media is behind in covering transgender people.  The New York Times decided to cater to their readers on the issue. Dan Baquet, managing editor of The Times noted that the company generally caters to whatever name a subject may prefer, but in this case a sudden name and gender change would confuse the readers too much. The Huffington Post followed Manning's wishes and referred to the private as "she."

NPR, The Huffington Post and The New York Times all offered differing opinions on how to handle Manning's gender transformation in the media. NPR saying that Manning is still a "he" until his gender is physically changed is quite different than The Huffington Post granting Manning's wishes immediately and referring to the private as "she." The New York Times seemed neutral on the issue, but chose its readers' understanding as being more important than Manning's desired name and gender change.

If I were a spokesman or worked for any of these media outlets, I would most likely agree with Dan Baquet from The New York Times. He's completely right in saying their readers are the newspaper's primary constituency. Without an audience, a newspaper cannot survive. All due respect to Bradley Manning in his wishes to become a female and live the rest of his life as "Chelsea," but his wishes are not as important as keeping an audience and making sure money continues to flow through a company. Whenever Bradley Manning officially completes the legal process and physical procedures required for his gender change, he can be referred to as "she" or "Chelsea." However, until those things happen for Manning, the media owes the reader much more than it owes a criminal. Manning should be referred to as a "he" or "Bradley" to keep the audience informed and less confused about what is going on surrounding the former Army private.

Newsroom Diversity: A State of Survival

Erik Opheim

The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) released its annual study of newsroom diversity on June 25th, 2013, and an article printed in the Washington Post, "Newsroom Diversity: A Casualty of Journalism's Financial Crisis" gained a lot of noteriety following its release. The results, which show a 9-to-1 white/minority supervisor ratio as well as a decline of the percentage of minorities in the newsroom (13.76 percent in 2006 to 12.37 percent currently), might cause many to immediately blame the media industry.  However, further research into these specific results paints a different picture.

Here is the actual report.

In our economy, where a majority of people are struggling to simply keep their head above water, how can news organizations attempt to rapidly fix the decline of minority employment?  At what point does the pressure, or even blame for that matter, come off of these organizations? When do the organizations begin focusing on the facts that got them into this situation?

What is happening:  An inevitable dilemma all news organizations are facing in these tight conditions are cutting costs.  Competition to obtain the most readily and professionally available journalists has slowly morphed the minority employment percentage in light of these organizations trying to survive (in their own right).  Layoff policies and union contracts have left unprotected minorities on the front of this list.  Aside from that, and focusing on the economy once again, minorities who on average make less money as it is, are more prone to take buyouts as incentives for companies to cut costs.  These minorities are much more vulnerable to accepting any sort of buyout compromise, as they are literally in a state of survival.

This can be summed up well with the quote journalist Sally Lerhman recalled in an executive saying: "Wondering about diverse voices and perspectives is a bit like wondering about the fate of Mrs. Gardner's rose garden after a tornado has decimated the entire village."

What this executive means is that diversity might not be related to the bigger picture of what is actually happening.  Rather, the lack of diversity may just be a tiny reflection of a greater problem that has occurred.

If news organizations need to make money to survive the same way employees need to make money to survive, wouldn't these minority results change naturally if opportunities were genuinely the same?

Image from
The article by Bob Papper, of the Radio Television Digital News Association, is quoted as saying, "What television stations learned over time is if you want to appeal to the audience in your market, you need to look like your audience."

Well, what if your audience literally (from a numbers standpoint) does not have as many active, qualified journalists applying for jobs at their local news organizations?  Ethnic minority interns have dropped down from 27.2 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2013.  Is it even ethical for an organization to go out of their way to hire those that create a more balanced ratio if quality news is on the line?  How is a news organization supposed to consider hiring employees diversely when the pool of journalists to hire from is, in fact, a majority white?

If an organization can't represent their audience in the newsroom due to lack of available journalists, isn't that the economy's fault?  If we lived in a perfect world and equality actually existed, maybe the system would gradually work itself out and equal opportunity would prove itself real.  School costs a lot of money in today's day and age, money that many, maybe even a majority of an audience does not have.  Sadly, this is removing them from the nightly news discussion.

I feel with the economy placing constraints on everyone, we (as a population), as well as news organizations have found ourselves in survival mode.  Until the economy is mended I don't see how this problem can be fixed in one night.  A decline in newsroom minorities is directly related to it's balance with the economy, and until it is fixed problems like this may only continue to worsen.