More about mistakes

Last week, I wrote about how the news media tends to make mistakes when reporting breaking news. During the past week, even more people in news media have reported inaccurate material. Shockingly, even the AP made mistakes last week.

In a memo released today, Associated Press executive editor Kathleen Carroll apologized for the AP’s errors. “We made mistakes because we didn’t follow our own very good guidelines,” she said. The guidelines she is referring to are requiring multiple sources, using anonymous sources only when they have a good reason to remain anonymous and being clear to readers about what the AP does not know.

These are very good rules. But do they also apply to social media?

On Thursday, thousands of reporters (and tweeters) wrote and spoke about Sunil Tripathi, who they said was a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. However, the suspect’s name had been crowdsourced from Reddit, and it was incorrect. Sunil Tripathi is actually a missing person who has nothing to do with the Boston Marathon bombings.

What could both the news media and social media have done differently to ensure that their reporting was accurate? Using the AP’s guidelines, thousands of internet users likely count as “multiple sources.” I think the problem in this case is that these were not thousands of knowledgeable sources. They were sources who thought that a picture released by the FBI looked like Tripathi. But they weren’t people who knew Tripathi and could vouch for his location and behavior. They also generally weren’t authority figures, such as members of the Boston police force.

Internet commenters can be great sources, but it’s important to know when to use them. Generally, I wouldn’t trust internet sources about breaking news during a national tragedy.

As for mistakes in broadcast media, this news anchor was fired after only one day on the job for making a mistake:


His mistake was to swear on daytime television, and he lost his job over it. However, I doubt that the journalists who reported erroneous material about the Boston bombers were similarly fired. Why does the news media treat profanity as worse than falsely accusing someone of being a terrorist?

Solidarity Sing-Along Continues After Recall Election

Solidarity Sing-Along Continues After Recall Election

Sound Clip: [singing] Oh, you can’t scare me. I’m sticking to the union. I’m sticking to the union. I’m sticking to the union. Oh, you can’t scare me. I’m sticking to the union. I’m sticking to the union ‘til the day I die.

Narration: The Solidarity Sing-Along was a cornerstone of protests before Wisconsin’s recall election. But the Sing-Along is still going strong months after Governor Scott Walker won the election.

The sing-along meets every Monday through Friday in the capital rotunda from noon to 1 pm. It attracts 30 to 40 participants. Many of these singers are regulars. Some singers are visitors from other parts of Wisconsin, including conservative areas of the state. Others come from across the United States to participate in the sing-along.

Brandon Barwick is the unofficial leader of the sing-along. He says that participation in the sing-along has decreased since the recall election. Barwick expects more people to participate in the coming months.

Barwick: With Paul Ryan being the VP candidate, especially as the presidential election gets nearer, I think our numbers will grow.

The sing-along still expresses anti-Walker and pro-Union sentiments. But Barwick says that the sing-along has transcended the issue of recalling Walker.

Barwick: There’s a bigger picture than just Scott Walker. This is happening all across the country, the type of stuff that Walker and the Tea Party are doing–how their policies benefit the rich and hurt the poor.

For many of those who oppose Walker, the protests ended when Walker won the recall election. But for the solidarity singers, the protest is just getting started.

Sound Clip: [singing] Solidarity forever! Solidarity forever! Solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong!

For Webhawk news, this is Sabrina Gaylor.

Pennsylvania Declares 2012 Year of the Bible

Pennsylvania Declares 2012 Year of the Bible

Mixing religion and government tends to be controversial.

Pennsylvania lawmakers recently declared that 2012 is the year of the Bible. Lawmakers say that they passed the law because the Christian Bible is an important part of American history.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Madison-based organization that supports the separation of church and state.

Rebecca Markert is a lawyer representing the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She says that it is unconstitutional to call 2012 the year of the Bible.

Markert: It’s unconstitutional because it endorses religion, which is a violation of the Establishment Clause. Therefore, we had filed a lawsuit against the sponsor of the bill, Rick Saccone, and other employees at the House of Representatives.

Brian Zwick is the president of The Navigators, a Christian fellowship organization at UW–Whitewater. He also opposes the bill.

Zwick: It doesn’t really seem like something that the government should be responsible for, and I think that the churches should be responsible for encouraging people’s religious growth and for providing that environment.

For WebHawk News, this is Sabrina Gaylor.

Entrepreneur Steve Jobs Gives Inspirational Stanford Address

During yesterday’s commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs told the crowd of graduates that dropping out of college, being fired from his own company and being diagnosed with cancer were some of the best things that ever happened to him. He said that his decision to drop out of Reed College, along with later being fired from Apple Computer, freed him to follow his dreams.

Jobs, 50, founded the influential company Apple Computer in 1976, along with longtime friend Steve “Woz” Wozniak. Jobs also founded Pixar Animation Studios, known for creating such beloved computer animated films as “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.”

During Jobs’ commencement address, he told graduates to follow their hearts, do what they love and live every day as if it were the last day of their lives.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” Jobs said. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Jobs discovered that he loved what he did after he was fired from Apple Computer. After Jobs had a dispute with fellow executive John Sculley, who had formerly worked for Pepsi, Jobs was forced out of his own company.

Spending time away from Apple Computer turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Jobs. He had time to start the computer company NeXT and to found Pixar Animation Studios. After Apple bought NeXT, Jobs was able to return to Apple and continue doing what he loved.

Jobs accomplished all of this without a college degree. He briefly attended Reed College, but quickly decided that the expensive liberal arts college was not worth all of his working-class parents’ savings.

Instead, Jobs decided to remain at Reed College as a drop-in student for over a year, sleeping on the floor in his friends’ rooms and returning soda bottles for five cent deposits in order to take elective classes.

One of these classes, calligraphy, turned out to be influential in Jobs’ later career. In his calligraphy class, Jobs said, he learned how to make typography beautiful by using serif and san serif typefaces and proportionally spaced fonts.

At the time, Jobs had no use for calligraphy, but his knowledge of typography was integral in the development of computer fonts. If he had never taken a calligraphy course in college, neither Mac nor Windows computers would have multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts, Jobs said.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” Jobs said.

Jobs also told Stanford graduates to remember that they are going to die. He came face-to-face with his own mortality last year when he was briefly diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Fortunately, Jobs actually had a curable form of pancreatic cancer. However, his brush with death became a source of inspiration, reminding him to live every day as if it was his last.

Jobs told graduates to follow his example:

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

“You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Operation Beautiful Event Held on Campus

Vit, a 17-year-old Canadian girl, had been in inpatient treatment for six months when her doctors asked her to eat a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. As someone dealing with severe anorexia nervosa, Vit ate the sandwich but found it far from appealing.

She hurried to the bathroom, planning to throw up, when something stopped her–a Post-it note that read, “You’re good enough the way you are. You’re beautiful. operationbeautiful.com.” Vit later cited this note as the driving force behind her recovery from anorexia nervosa.

This is one of many stories that Caitlin Boyle, a 27-year-old woman from Charlotte, N.C., shared on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Boyle gave a speech titled “Operation Beautiful: Empowering Women and Men to Find Their Own Healthy Ideal and End Destructive Negative Fat Talk” at 7 p.m. in the University Center’s Hamilton Room. *

Boyle, who has been featured on The Today Show and the Oprah Winfrey Network, educated students about the importance of positive body image, as well as teaching them to recognize photoshopped images and warning them about the dangers of eating disorders. Boyle is editor of OperationBeautiful.com, writer of the blog “Healthy Tipping Point” and author of the book “Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-it Note at a Time.”

OperationBeautiful.com features a collection of photographs of uplifting Post-it notes from supporters. Boyle began the project by leaving a note that read “you are beautiful” on a bathroom mirror when she was feeling down.

“That’s kind of the sneaky thing about Operation Beautiful: you’re writing these notes in theory for a stranger to find, but you’re making yourself feel better, too,” Boyle said.

Boyle is writing a second book that will be released on July 17: “Operation Beautiful for Best Friends,” a book geared toward younger girls. Thirty percept of 3-year-old to 6-year-old-girls want to change something about their body, Boyle said, and the average American girl goes on her first diet when she is only 8 years old.

Operation Beautiful has garnered massive support at the UW–Whitewater campus. Jill Mallin, a psychologist at the University Health and Counseling Center (UHCS) who arranged the “Operation Beautiful” event, said she was pleasantly surprised that the event was so popular.

“I really enjoyed seeing how involved the audience was and how they seemed to be really tuned into the message that Caitlin was giving, and I also liked seeing everybody in the community and on campus turn out and show how important we think this issue is,” Mallin said.

Operation Beautiful’s message has spread through campus, with notes proclaiming empowering messages such as “you are beautiful” and “decide you are worth it” littering the mirrors of residence halls, the doors of the University Center, and the walls of academic buildings such as Heide Hall.

“Janitors across America probably hate me,” Boyle joked.

The UHCS is sponsoring a 6-week workshop for students who want to feel better about their bodies. The workshop meets every Wednesday from March 7 to April 18 from 4–5 p.m. in Ambrose Health Center 2023S.

Proposed Budget Cuts Compensate for Loss of Blast Furnace

Under his new proposed budget for 2013, Kittatinny Mayor Gustavus Petykiewicz would increase the city tax rate to 4.3 mills, lay off four city employees and require residents to pay for their own garbage collection.

These proposed budget cuts would compensate for losing over $100 million of taxable property, and $400,000 in tax revenue, after Susquehanna Steel Corporation’s Blast Furnace was decommissioned. The assessed value of property in the City of Kittatinny fell by 10% following the decommission.

Kittatinny’s tax rate would increase from 4 mills to 4.3 mills, about an 8 percent increase. Under these increased taxes, a resident with a house worth $100,000 would pay an extra $30 in taxes.

The proposed budget would also completely eliminate spending for garbage pickup, requiring Kittatinny residents to pay for garbage pickup separately on their water bills.

“This is painful and difficult for me,” Petykiewicz said. “These are not decisions I make lightly.”

Petykiewicz’s proposed budget would reduce Kittatinny’s police force from 10 to eight officers and eliminate the police early shift, which is from 4 a.m. to noon. Schuylkill County sheriff’s deputies would handle emergency calls during the early shift on a contract basis.

Chief of police Roman Hruska said that he opposes the proposed cuts. “I cannot stand by idly as police chief and watch a city of this size go without police patrol when we may have a life-threatening situation,” Hruska said.

Hruska said that he would be willing to take a 10 percent pay cut, effective immediately. He said that he encourages all other non-unionized city employees, including the mayor and the city engineer, to take pay cuts as well.

Petykiewicz said that he would consider taking a reasonable pay cut. Hruska’s plan would save over $30,000.

Two members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) would be laid off, while the remaining employees would receive a 3% raise as specified in their contract. This contract could be re-opened to reduce the salaries of AFSCME employees. AFSCME President Martha Mittengrabben said that the union is willing to discuss re-opening the contract.

Under the new budget, the Police Department would also receive over $54,000 for a new police cruiser that Petykiewicz called “absolutely imperative.”

Petykiewicz said that he invites all Kittatinny residents to participate in the comment sessions of the City Council meetings, held on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.

“This document is not set in stone,” Petykiewicz said. “We must discuss it and come up with a solution we can all live with, but we do not have the option of doing nothing. By law, we must balance our budget, so let’s get to work.”

Veteran Gives a Unique Perspective on Military Life

When Kayla Williams was walking her three-legged German Shepherd through the park, a stranger stopped her, asking if the dog had formerly worked for the U.S. military. The dog had never seen combat. However, Williams had recently returned from Iraq. One of her pet peeves, she said, is that because of her gender, her dog is assumed to be a veteran more often than she is.

Williams, a former U.S. Army sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division and author of the book “Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army,” spoke at UW–Whitewater on Feb. 6.

Early in life, a military career was never in Williams’ plans. After earning her undergraduate degree in English literature, Williams became increasingly unhappy with her civilian life. “I was devastatingly terrified that I’d end up with a minivan and 2.5 kids,” she said.

When a confrontation with her boss left her unemployed, Williams made the decision to enlist in the U.S. Army. In 2000, an army career seemed lucrative: Williams could be paid to learn Arabic, a skill she coveted, while remaining confident that she would never enter combat.

After 9/11, everything changed. Williams, who had been safely studying Arabic in the U.S., was soon deployed to Iraq, where she worked as an Arabic linguist in a military intelligence unit from 2003–2004.

Being female in the military posed a unique challenge for Williams, since only 15% of the U.S. military was female. The few women in the U.S. Army often faced sexual harassment and assault, she said. After dealing with a particularly alarming incident of sexual harassment, Williams made the difficult decision to act cold rather than friendly to her brothers-in-arms. She said that merely smiling could be taken as a sexual invitation by some men.

Williams’ advice for other women who decide to join the U.S. Army reflects her difficult experiences: “When you cry–and you will cry–do it in the bathroom where you’re alone.”

After returning home from Iraq, Williams married Brian McGough, a former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant who was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. She is currently writing a second book about McGough’s recovery from his traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Williams and McGough have a young daughter, who Williams said she would not discourage from a military career despite the hardships she has endured.

An Introduction

This is the blog that I will be using for J237 (Reporting for News Media at UW–Whitewater) during the Spring 2012 semester. I am excited to start posting my journalism assignments here!

I am struggling with the issue of pursuing a journalism career while dealing with a physical disability that limits my ability to work. I highly recommend that anyone else in this situation take advantage of UW–Whitewater’s Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD).