Reporters covering the slayings

It was the kind of case one might expect to find in Philadelphia to the south or New York to the north, but the slayings of four young men over a few sweltering days in July became one of the biggest and most tragic stories to come out of the bucolic Bucks County suburbs in years. It began when Thomas Meo, 21, Mark Sturgis, 22, and Jimi Patrick and Dean Finocchiaro, both 19, vanished seemingly without a trace in early July. Cops arrested Cosmo DiNardo, a hulking 20-year-old with a history of bizarre behavior, and searchers started combing a tract of farmland owned by DiNardo’sRead More →

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

For many, the steady drumbeat of news about the scandal-plagued Trump White House is downright depressing. Indeed, a Google search of the phrase “Trump depressing” turns up nearly 800,000 results, from Jane Goodall lamenting the president’s climate change policies to Alec Baldwin threatening to ditch his hilarious Trump impersonation next season on “Saturday Night Live” because it’s too, well, you know. (“If everything stays the same in the country as it is now, I don’t think people will be in the mood to laugh about it come September,” Baldwin says.) The Atlantic calls this “the great liberal depression,” and it’s prompted one satirist to createRead More →

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In my journalism classes on the morning of the election, I was imparting some received wisdom to my students. “If you see North Carolina go for Hillary, then it’s all over for Trump. It should be an early night,” I told them, confidently. How wrong I was. Of course, I wasn’t alone (not that that’s any consolation). From the polling organizations to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com to the country’s major news outlets, many, it seems, missed not just the boat but the entire lake by a pretty wide margin. Jim Rutenberg put it this way in The New York Times: “The country’s major news organizations, asRead More →

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It’s early in the semester and students at the college where I teach journalism have just turned in their first articles for the student newspaper. Most of them are really good, but as always there are a few common mistakes that students make early on. Here are some of the problems I see most frequently: Long leads and long paragraphs – Remember, news stories should use a one-sentence lead. And paragraphs in news stories should generally be just 1 to 2 sentences each. I can always tell when someone has written their first news story, because it’s invariably full of giant paragraphs that look likeRead More →

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I’m a journalism professor, and one of the questions I’m most often asked by students is this: “Should I record my interviews, or just take notes?” It’s a good question, but one that reflects the insecurity journalism students feel when they go out to do their first interviews. Many are concerned that if they simply take notes they won’t be able to get down everything the interviewee says. So here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of notebooks versus recorders. Notebooks: The classic reporter’s notebook is a time-honored tool of journalists everywhere, and for good reason. The reporter’s notebook is the ultimate low-tech,Read More →