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 →

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The other day, I went on a road trip. Not too far, just a couple of hours across a stretch of the vast east-west expanse we call Pennsylvania, a journey from the burbs north of Philly to Hershey, where my students, journalism majors at Bucks County Community College, would attend a luncheon to receive the awards they’d won, in a statewide competition, for their work on the college newspaper. On the drive, I got a chance to catch up with a student I hadn’t seen in a few months, one who had transferred recently to Temple University. James, I’ll call him, has one of thoseRead More →

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As a journalism professor I see lots of students who have big dreams. They imagine themselves working in glamorous jobs, usually in television, in the not-too distant future. They want to be ESPN anchors, host their own talk shows or be marquee columnists for top newspapers or websites. That’s fine. I never discourage my students from dreaming big. But too often these big dreamers lack three key elements in their thinking: 1) an understanding of the hard work and sacrifice that’s required to achieve such goals 2) a realistic assessment of what kinds of career goals are actually attainable 3) a sense of how importantRead More →

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The headline on a well-known journalism website – “There are now more Americans working for online-only outlets than newspapers” – seemed to be yet another one of those sign-of-the-times studies showing how print journalism is going the way of the dinosaurs in the brave new digital world. And someone not reading the accompanying article carefully might get the impression that there are now more journalists working specifically for online-only news websites – the Buzzfeeds and the Huffington Posts of the world – than for newspapers. But that’s not exactly what the numbers show. The article was based on data from the U.S. Bureau of LaborRead More →

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With great power comes great responsibility, the saying goes. And in the United States, the press has an enormous amount of power and yes, responsibility. That’s because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandates that the press not be controlled by the government, in contrast to many countries around the world, where press freedom is either severely curtailed or nonexistent. That unparalleled level of freedom has made the American news media very powerful. But that doesn’t mean reporters can simply publish anything they want, and in the U.S., libel law is where the power of the press and its responsibilities intersect. So every reporterRead More →