South Florida Schools Gets “Scoholed”

October 31, 2011

by Heather Keroes

Our proofreader is going to love reading this blog post.  News stations in South Florida are reporting that a Lauderhill elementary school has failed its spelling test, misspelling “school” as “scohol” on a painted road sign.  According to a Miami New Times blogger, this is nothing new.   Apparently, South Florida schools have been called “scohols” or even “shcools” a few times over the last few years.  You can see the latest misspelling here.

WPLG-TV reports that the mistake was made a few days ago and “no comment has been issued from the county.”  While it’s definitely not encouraging to see centers of learning misspelling their signs, you’d think that the county would have issued a statement as soon as the news hit … even if it’s just to say that it was a mistake and the road sign would be repainted as soon as possible.  On slow news days, stories such as this can spread quickly, sometimes making their way to national news.  The story is already highlighted on the Orlando Sentinel’s homepage, which is many counties removed from the “scohol” in question.  This is a good reminder of how we need to act quickly to support our clients, no matter the size or significance of a crisis.

Is it Really a Big Deal if Journalists Share Personal Opinions?

October 26, 2011

by Dan Ward

I monitored an interesting online chat this afternoon in which Reuters columnist Jack Shafer answered the question, “is it really a big deal if journalists share personal opinions?”

Shafer made some strong points regarding reporter bias, admitting that as human beings all reporters inherently are biased, while stating “I think the best journalists can do is rely on an objective method to their work – be honest, be fair, not bury inconvenient arguments, and be prepared to change their minds.  We don’t expect scientists to be ‘unbiased,’ we merely expect them to be honest in their pursuit of scientific truth.  I want us to apply the same standard to journalists.”

Shafer’s comments appeared to support a view that journalists should make their views known, which drew many questions from chat participants (primarily full-time journalists) about how this can be done effectively.  Should it be in the form of commentary that attaches to their “objective” stories?  Should their views be expressed in the story itself?  Should they keep their views to themselves on the “official” news channel while feeling free to share views on their own social media networks?

While it might be helpful in my job to know precisely where journalists side on certain issues, I tend to agree with commenters who prefer journalists refrain from sharing their opinions.  As one commenter stated, “I will say that the ‘objectivity’ standard forces reporters to be fair.  No one can be 100 percent objective, but they can come close.  It gives us something to strive for.  It forces reporters to consider opinions and facts from different angles.”

So where do you stand?

Avoiding the New Normal

October 25, 2011

by Kim Taylor

When I saw this post from Harvard Business Review, I wondered if the author had been peering over my shoulder when he wrote it.  I’ve been struggling with this one for a long time and it’d been the subject of a recent discussion in our office.

In a professional services business, you’re not selling jars of peanut butter, you’re selling time; and generally speaking, a finite amount of it.  And while we’ve always proclaimed that our business is not an ‘8 to 5’ gig, we’re not brain surgeons, NASA engineers or first responders either, and therefore the workday should include a logical beginning and end.

How, then, do you reconcile that against growing competition, client demands and a recession-induced smaller workforce?  It certainly seems that at some point the message we’re sending is mixed.

But more importantly, it creates a slippery slope, a “new normal” as the author points out:

“But once you begin expanding your work hours on a regular basis, working “normal” hours starts to look like slacking off. In other words, if you establish a pattern of staying late, your extended hours become the new normal.”

We periodically look for opportunities to close up a few minutes early—but convincing our team it’s actually OK to go is often a struggle.

What are your time management tips for avoiding the new normal?

WikiLeaks Springs a Leak

October 24, 2011

by Dan Ward
I’ve often questioned anyone who labels WikiLeaks a “news organization” (as it proclaims itself to be) or calls it a peer of the news media.  The organization’s refusal to abide by ethical principles of journalism and eagerness to release information that puts lives at risk eliminates its credibility as an objective resource.

WikiLeaks does share one thing with mainstream media, however.  It’s leaking cash. In a statement released today, WikiLeaks announced that it is suspending publishing until it can raise funds to pay for its operations, costs that include $500,000 for salaries, $300,000 for “campaigns” and $400,000 for productions.

In the interest of full transparency, I wonder whether WikiLeaks will now also reveal the details behind those costs. Will the publications such as The New York Times and Guardian that so often publish its leaks press the organization for information on how it spends its money?

Terrestrial? No Thanks

October 24, 2011

by Dan Ward

My wife just started a new job that requires a long commute, so she’s now driving my car (which gets better mileage) while I head to work in our old gas-guzzler.

This means that, for the first time in more than five years, I’m once again listening to terrestrial radio.
I’ve had SiriusXM in my car for longer than I can remember, gladly paying a monthly subscription for the ability to listen to (mostly) advertising-free news, talk and music.

My wife’s car, sadly, is old school. So each morning, I tune in to a news/talk station to find out what’s going on in the world and in my community. After three weeks of this, all I can say is “how in the world do you non-satellite-radio morning commuters do this?!”

Instead of getting news/talk, I spend my mornings listening to a non-stop stream of paid advertisements, with an occasional break to find out that, whaddya know, I’m stuck in traffic and the sun is shining. A 15-second news break is all that interrupts the block of bids for my banking business.

Seriously, I respect all those who sit through the non-stop ads to get a tidbit of news information each morning. As for me, call me spoiled, but Sirius is about to double its subscription base in the Ward household.

What’s the Score?

October 21, 2011

by Dan Ward

Earlier this week, I spoke to a group of students and young professionals, and encouraged them all to subscribe to the print edition of the local newspaper, which provides more complete coverage than online news.

I’m beginning to wonder if I provided bad advice.  If the print edition is simply going to serve as a teaser for stories that can only be found online, why bother subscribing?

When I walked out to get my newspaper this morning, I was looking forward to what coaches and players had to say following UCF’s disheartening loss to a previously winless team.  I was looking forward as well to coverage of the pitching duel in a great World Series Game 2.

What I got instead was “for results, go to” along with a headline predicting whether a certain player will play … in a game completed the night before.

Neither game ended terribly late, so a decision had to have been made fairly early to drop the results from early editions (the “final edition” that arrived at my office had complete results).

My hope is that this is not an example of online editions and mobile apps being used as a “crutch” when stories are approaching deadline.  There used to be a day not too long ago when the print edition would be held in order to get the story.  Now you can just tell your paid subscribers to join the online masses for information.

Journalism Without Critical Thinking

October 20, 2011

by Kerry Martin

Forget Casey Anthony.  Personally I’ll be happy when the case of Anthropologists v. Scott is finally over in the court of public opinion.

While every liberal arts professor in higher education is picking up their pitchforks (or rather, writing in their letters to the editor), the news media is giving each and every one a platform to do so in the pages of their papers.  I’m not saying I agree or disagree with any one side (I believe the arguments of both), but I do think it’s getting plenty of attention.  Worst of all, when every known argument has already been made, it starts to get to the point that even weak theories and arguments are getting press.

Take for example this column from today’s Miami Herald about the case for poetry as an economic engine.  It piqued my curiosity as I wondered how this writer could back up the claim that this field would drive our economy.  Sadly, he couldn’t.  Or, at least, not without creating major flaws in his argument.

The crux of his reasoning is that poetry majors write so much and print out so many pages of paper that they are driving the paper industry (and the industries that produce printer toner, pencils, legal pads, etc.).

Really?  Office Depot owes its whole business profit to poetry majors?  Where is the logical thinking that these students could be consuming these and other products even if they weren’t poetry majors?

Would science majors buy lab supplies like beakers, safety goggles, and chemistry sets?  Would film majors buy DVDs, software licenses and other technology?  Would any other major still print out term papers, essays, notes, etc??

It’s great to support the grounds that citizens need a well-rounded education, but doing so in a way that lacks critical thinking doesn’t help.  Maybe journalism majors aren’t getting as well-rounded an education as we thought.

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