Archive for January 2012

Attorney speaks on ‘New Rules for the Digital Media Age’ at MPA convention

January 28, 2012

Note: These are live notes from a workshop at the Michigan Press Association convention. Follow the live Tweet stream at #mpa2012.

Michigan Press Association general counsel Robin Luce Herrmann led a discussion Jan. 28 with her team of attorneys at the 2012 Michigan Press Association convention about latest Michigan media law matters. Topics included “How to protect your Internet assets.”

Media in the digital age

Terms of use and privacy policies
Need rules for people accessing and using your digital products. How will you manage posts that you may allow, copyright issues, editing and removing posts.

Report Abuse buttons: Used to manage content. Allows people to alert us to potential problems on website.

Terms of Use posted on website. This is a contract between media and user. You tell them what they can and can’t do. You want to protect your intellectual property, copyright.

Using social media for newsgathering: Many reporters now look to social media to gather news. We use it to find out what’s going on in the communities and world around us. How can a reporter use that for a news story or can he/she use it and what are the risks. If a Facebook page is public, with no privacy settings, then, according to Facebook’s terms of use, you are allowing everyone to access and use that information and associate it with you. When using social media for newsgathering, keep these things in mind: What does that site say in its terms of use; you don’t want to violate the policy if take something from the site. Facebook’s terms of use are straight forward, but Twitter’s less so. Attorney suggested consult with MPA attorney when you want to use something from social media website. Make sure you’re not violating terms of use. Even so, the site won’t provide “absolute protection” to you if someone complains.

You should treat information collected on social media sites the same way you would if someone came in and handed it to you in person. You verify the person who gave it to you is a reliable source and has the right to give you the information, and whatever they give you, you independently verify.

You have to be careful of confidential sources as there are degrees of protection. Keep in mind that smartphones are good newsgathering tools, but they could harm your confidential source because they can track where you have been, and that info could be subpenaed. If trying to keep a source confidential, you may want to leave your smartphone back in the newsroom and just take notes.

A lot of law enforcement agencies have outdated policies and that can come into play if videoing at a scene of a crime and they see it as interfering with an investigation. Our most concern is to be able to get the story and then educate police on the issue if they overstep bounds and try to restrict us in doing our jobs.

Michigan is a one-party consent state, so we can record phone calls as long as the other party agrees.

Anonymous posters: Some publications are using Facebook to police posters because there are some protections. If you allow anonymous posters, you have to be upfront with your terms of use and whether you would out them if it came down to it or you thought it was newsworthy. Everyone has some degree of protection for its anonymous posters.

In a lot of jurisdictions across the country, there have been some tests developed. We have a First Amendment right to speak anonymously. In order to reveal an anonymous poster, you have to notify the poster, tell that poster. Court has to review the complaint first, before considering whether to reveal anonymous poster. Media’s terms of use may require you to post on the anonymous poster’s behalf.

Intellectual property
Intellectual property involves domain names like your website, Twitter and Facebook accounts, Twitter handle and copyright. Question of copyrights. Who owns the photo and can I use this? If it’s a work-for-hire and copyright is transferred. It’s a question of fair use. Fair use determines whether we can use it. Fair use is whether in advances discussion. A mechanical process involved, forces of nature and a machine can’t be copyrighted.

Stock photos and Google images: Images taken from the web can be risky to use. If you Google, sometimes you’ll pull up database images and you can’t necessarily use those images.

Can’t trump access to public records under copyright. Law enforcement, for instance, can’t copyright photos from crime scene if you get your hands on it and publish it.

Domains and social media handles: Domain names registered on first-come, first-served basis. If you have a trademark, you may be able to take your domain name from someone else if someone else got it first.

Facebook and Twitter have detailed terms of use policies and you can get your name back if someone else owns a social media account using your company’s name. If employee opens social media account, do you have an agreement with employee who created it to get it back if they leave your employment? Non-competition agreements protect newspapers when sales people with connections to customers placing advertising leave your employment. Urged protect property (social media) accounts. Need to specify whether you can use your social media accounts and blogs after the employee leaves employment. If want control, though, the paper could be held responsible for posts.

Posting gone wild: Defamation and Devaluing Your Image
Online comment section: In print, any third-party content can be vetted. However, online comment section, there’s no review and it’s automatically posted. This raises questions of liability, if it’s defamatory content. If you’re a web host, you are generally not responsible. But if you’re a content provider, then you’re responsible.

You have to be careful what you do with respect to what is posted under the Communications Decency Act. It’s OK to remove for relevance, you can edit, but can’t insert defamatory materials; if you remove content and change message and it becomes defamatory.

You can be held liable for republishing third-party content into your own larger posting. A website owner who incorporated a third-party email is an example.

If an employee uses social media to make favorable comments about a service or product of his employer and does not disclose his employee relationship. If you’re a reporter and retweet a story, are you endorsing that information and if doing it under a newspaper account, is the newspaper endorsing? You have to be careful.

Publishers may be liable if give employees tools and encouraged to Tweet. Social media is becoming inseparable with some job functions.

You should have a social media policy.

Workplace issues
Concerns: Employee productivity and blending of work and personal lives
Pluses of social media: Marketing and business development, recruiting tool, knowledge gathering tool and increases communication among employees

When looking to hire people, if you look at their social media you may find out things you aren’t supposed to learn in hiring process, such as health issues, political affiliations, religious background, etc. If you make those attempts and the potential employee finds out they may assume you discriminated against them. Google has a policy not to Google information about a potential employee, because you can’t use that information in making your decision.

Social media at work: Employers allowed to monitor employees’ Internet use at work; no expectation of privacy; company policy may give privacy rights. There are still potential issues an employer could be exposed to information regarding protected classes or the information gathered could be misused.

Kevin Slimp talks successful newspapers at MPA convention

January 28, 2012

Note: These are live notes from a workshop. Follow live tweets at #mpa2012.

Kevin Slimp, known as @newsguru on Twitter, presented “What I learned this year from successful newspapers” at the Michigan Press Association’s annual conference Jan. 28 at the Amway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids.

Successful qualities

Loyalty to the staff in tough times. You can’t keep cutting expect people to buy your product.
Constant investment in quality
Regular training for staff
Close relationships between publisher and staff
Close ties to community
Quality journalism

Wise County Messenger in Decatur, Texas: Slimp is a consultant to the newspaper industry and visited the publication at the invitation of the publisher. He looked at the print product and thought it was incredible for a weekly newspaper, especially the photographs. Learned the photographer had been honored as Photo Journalist of the Year for his work 17 years in a row. Talked with editorial team about what they might do differently and the advertising team about new ways to generate revenue. He met with the photographer who was interested in improving even more. “He said I just really want the photos to look as good as they can,” Slimp said. He visited the photographer multiple studios and Slimp saw his extensive work with celebrities. But, most of all, he’s impressed with the fact he would invite kids to come in on Halloween to have their pictures taken and kids would line up around the block. These photos were displayed all over the studio. The paper was putting in a pool table and ping-pong table because he wanted it to be a place where staff likes to work and has a good time. Produced a one-sheet that listed in paragraph form top news items and put these in coffeehouses and restaurants

Learned from his visit: Strong staff, loyal management, a focus on strengths

The Jasper Hearald in Jasper, Ind.: Focuses on its strength of photography, that’s what readers want. Collegiate Photographer of the Year took job there over New York Times and Chicago Tribune because Jasper known for photography.

The online paper is subscription only to drive readers back to print.

Learned from his visit: It’s community centered, focus on quality, emphasizes strengths.

The Auroran in Canada: Hired five new sales representatives and the paper grew tremendously.

Successful newspapers don’t cut their staffs. Once you cut the staff, quality goes down, businesses stop advertising, he said.

An investment in sales staff can pay off. Investing in online presence can pay off. Contests help.

The Times Leader in Princeton, Ky.: Publisher wants newspaper to be as good as it can be and the staff to be as happy as it can be.

Learned from publisher: Support staff with no reductions, emphasis on quality in all areas, record profits, not scared to invest in resources: press and new equipment.

Prescott Journal: Slimp learned key to success there was investment in technology, investment in new staff, making work fun and meaningful and investing in new publications.

Index-Journal: Didn’t cut staff even when lean times. Kidsville in North Carolina, which needs to be licensed and distributed through school systems, 24- to 28 pages, full color. Google “Kidsville” for details on how to use/produce.

Key to successes there: Producing niche publications, investing in technology, investing in training.

Slimp: Support staff (no reductions in numbers), regular training for staff, emphasis on quality and strong community support key to successes.

Times-Free Press in Chattanooga, Tenn.: Last year it was the fastest growing paper in 2010 in the industry. About 38 percent increase in print circulation. Publisher bought MacBook for every employee involved in reporting and/or design so they would know they were important and they would take it home and work on it. And it worked, he said. Example of a large paper doing something right: Growing, successful, making a profit, because making employees feel important and investing in resources.

Let staff know we value them and that they are important.

MPA conference presents “Making Social Media Work for You’

January 27, 2012

At the Michigan Press Association’s annual conference Jan. 27 at the Amway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids,

Gov. Rick Snyder was the keynote speak at the Michigan Press Association conference.

after a luncheon featuring Gov. Rick Snyder as the keynote speaker, social media was among the topics reporters, editors and publishers were interested in. Matt Resch moderated a panel discussion looking at social media — how it’s used now and speculating how it will be used in the future. The panel was billed as being composed of “a college student, a young newspaper entrepreneur and others who understand the importance of new technology for reaching out to readers and advertisers.”

Journal Register Company’s own Rick Kelley was among the panelists speaking on social media.

Resch referred the audience to “Social Media is a Cocktail Party,” written by a social media consultant who advises large companies on social media efforts. The book explains how people use it and interact with it. The book notes a lot of simple rules: The party will go on whether you are there or not and the same is true with social media. It will go on whether you decide to be part of the conversation or not. You first get to “the party,” listen and see where you fit in. Jump in and speak in circles where you feel comfortable. Don’t be slick or fake, because people can sniff it out and walk away.

News media is the content provider. Look at Twitter or Facebook pages and they have links and topics coming from content providers, Resch said.

Social media strategy important, panelists say. How has audience influenced how you have inserted social media in your business plan. Kelley said we have two audiences: print and online. Knowing we have two audiences allow us to do a better job of targeting. Look at platform demographic, not just age demographic.

It’s about engaging the audience through social media. Facebook polls allow topics and questions to go viral. Find comfort level of readers. Ask people to “like” you. This will drive you to top of news feed.

Resch asked who owns social media accounts: news organization or individuals? Kelley says the law is not keeping up and it will be a major issue as case law sorts out this and other related questions.

Tweeps follow you for a particular reason: They find value in what you’re tweeting, whether news links or particular interests or insights. Panelist notes that the beauty of social media is held in transparency. It’s evolving and moving faster than we can keep up with. One panelist says business owns its account but individual accounts held by the individual.

Twitter account Panelist Kate Jacobson, editor in chief at Michigan State University’s State News, says it’s fun to produce multimedia journalism — to do audio, video, social media, use smartphones in the field while posting breaking news.

Multimedia element should be different than story. Don’t repeat the story. Should be a sidebar of sorts, Jacobson said.

Let people behind the scenes to see how the newspaper industry works. Let them into your editorial meetings. It’s about transparency.

A lot of people don’t understand their privacy settings. People need to learn about privacy issues on social media, one panelist said.

Community Media Lab and citizen journalists discussion prompted by Kelley brought some questions from the audience about libel and potential lawsuits when you’re dealing with people who are not trained journalists. One audience member said she thought in the future it will be the citizen journalists who will be held liable, not the news organization, just as bloggers are responsible for their content.

Mashable.com best resource for social media do’s and don’ts, one panelist said

Tips from panelist

Spotify playlist for local musicians; fashion editor should have an account on pintrist; photographers should shoot behind-the-scenes photos using smartphone and upload to Instagram. These are social media tools and they are designed for sharing. Suggested staying active on Twitter. You can create filters on TweetDeck to customize news feeds.

MPA conference presents ‘Behind the Microphone’

January 27, 2012

Kent County Sheriff Lawrence Stelma, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Director of Corporate Affairs Helen Stojic, Fennville High School basketball coach Ryan Klinger and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell talked about what it’s like to “deal with the media” and the Jan. 27 Michigan Press Association conference in Grand Rapids. It was billed as a way to get “pointers from a perspective that can yield better stories for newspaper readers.” It was moderated by Ron Dzwonkowski of The Detroit Free Press.

The face and the voice of City Hall is interpreted for its citizens through print and electronic media, said Heartwell.

Stelma: Command staff or officers authorized to speak if media liaison is available. Primarily, though, media requests come to him. He attended FBI Academy and was trained in how to deal with the media. “We always tell people. ‘We work for you.’” “We use the media as much to assist us get the work done … as they need us to do the job you must do.”

Stojic: BCBS cares what’s reported about the business. “We want people to know we do care.”

“When I get calls … I direct them to the right person to help them out,” she said.

Klinger asked how many dealings with media he had before the tragic death of basketball player Wes Leonard thrust the school district in the media. The coach said he heard from people around the world about it. Stories were written from around the world. Klinger said he told players to be honest and show your emotion” when responding to press questions about death of teammate. Klinger: “For me it was about representing Wes Leonard and his family … To me it wasn’t the most comfortable thing to do, but something I felt we had to do.”

Stojic said she runs into people who say they wouldn’t want her job because she has to “deal with the media.” But she thinks it’s important to be proactive and keep reporters informed. She was asked if it’s her job to make BCBS look good. She said it’s her job to tell the company’s story and there’s a lot of misinformation out there, like on the Internet, that they have to counter.

Stelma asked if he always tells the truth. He said he does, but often media has a tip or information and they know he knows, but for some reason the sheriff can’t reveal the information at that time. “I just tell them I can’t devuldge the information at this time.

“I can tell them, but they know. … It’s the balancing of what information is important to the community for safety reasons.

“There’s a delicate balance.”

Mayor Heartwell asked if he always tells the truth. He was bound one time by a nondisclosure agreement to not talk about a project in the city and he said he would never do that again because he needs to work in public’s best interest as a public servant. He often says he can’t comment, and would not lie.

Heartwell said he often gets his first knowledge of an incident from the media, rather than from his own police force because they’re busy on the case. When asked for comment, he doesn’t like to admit or tell the media this is the first he is hearing about an incident in the city, but he understands why he’s placed in that position.

Stelma said he often gets caught up in the media’s frenzy to get the story out first. “I actually get involved in the tension of the media (battling for the story).” He has a media line and encourages reporters to call that line, which is answered regularly. He does not share his cell number, but he does share email address.

Stojic asked how much authority does she have to speak for BCBS or does she have to ask her boss at some point. She said she has a lot of leeway, but she doesn’t like “playing a doctor on television.” She’ll help the reporter get an expert source when needed, such as a doctor or nurse. “I don’t know everything off the top of my head.”

Stojic said an employees sometimes circle a story in print and tell her how the reporter got it wrong. She says she always tries to get it right and it’s rare her boss or an employee points to anything she got wrong.

Klinger asked about his dealings with reporters and were they all the same. Most, Klinger said, were respectful, even though he could sense they were competitive for the story. “For me, it was about if I could get the message across about the player we lost, the family, how great our community was, that was special for me, whether I had to do it five times or a hundred times. I never said no to them because I didn’t want to turn away that opportunity.”

Stelma doesn’t distinguish between media and citizens in covering story pr shooting video or photos.

Sheriff Stelma doesn’t go off the record with reporters because it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Stojic says she has gone off the record to give background on a topic to a reporter when doesn’t want to give official comment just yet. “We want to make sure the information is correct,” she said.

Live blogging from the Michigan Press Association conference

January 27, 2012

Note: This is a live blog post and notes from the Michigan Press Association convention. Follow live tweets at #mpa2012.
Heritage Media reporter James Dickson asks question of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

It has been about six years, but I am finally back. And a lot has changed in the industry since I last attended the Michigan Press Association’s annual convention in Grand Rapids. I am ready to learn some new techniques to apply to my craft, and I’ve brought two colleagues along for the ride. Heritage Media-West reporter James Dickson and copy editor Tanya Wildt are with me after making the 138-mile trek from Ann Arbor at 5:30 this morning.

Our first session, hosted at the spectacular Amway Grand Hotel, is “The Shape of Things to Come,” and the presenters are current and former college newspaper editors, and the talks is being moderated by Joe Grimm, professor at Michigan State University, who was introduced by Ken Winter, North Central Michigan College and Michigan State University Journalism School instructor, consultant and Petoskey News-Review editor and publisher. Listen to the talk here.

Do you think of print or digital when you think of a job in journalism? This was the first question posed to the student panel. Kelsey Schnell says, “Yes, I will work online,” notes they’re talking about eventually ending print edition of student newspaper. “Ideally, I’d like to stay in print, but I guess I will go where the job takes me,” says Mike Martinez.

How and where do you get your news? The second questioned posed to the panel: Mostly online, phone, through news apps; Twitter and picking and choosing what’s interesting.

Poll: How did you find out Michael Jackson died. Many heard on television, from radio, Twitter, Facebook and print. Make sure to fact check Twitter reports.

Important to uphold standards of journalism. Example, how it was tweeted that former Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno died before he had.

Student editor suggests write a 200-word preview with a photo and put it online, and response from audience will tell you whether to write a followup and produce video, possibly write a column. Let the audience help steer your efforts. Don’t waste time on a story about something no one or very few care about.

It’s important to know your readers, market and demographics. Serve both print and online readers, and cross promote everything.

Question from the audience: When is the last time you used a phone (to do an interview)? “It’s still old-school journalism in this new realm,” Kate Jacobson says, stating she prefers phone or in-person interview over email. Don’t let people hide behind technology and craft carefully-considered answers. Journalists want authenticity.

Advice for smaller or private colleges: Work in social media if you have fewer resources. “It’s free, so it’s not hard, and just brand yourself,” said Jacobson. If it’s a commuter campus, report and Tweet on local road conditions. This will help drive traffic, bring in an audience that you can share other news with. “Don’t worry about the size (of your audience; it’s about the activity (and engagement).”

Jacobson: MSU State News seeing a shift to online advertising and it’s “pumping serious gas in our car.” Print is down to six pages because print advertising is down. Subscriptions help a little bit.

What alerts do you have out there to get the news, Grimm asked. “Hard news matters.” More students interested in writing features. News aggregators like Gawker, Google and Yahoo have good news alerts, pulling from a variety of websites. Gawker has clever writers who aggregate content.

Most news originates from websites. In the new world, students were asked, “What will people pay for?” Students “don’t like paying for stuff.” Students willing to pay for some news content if it’s exclusive content and just what they want. One student pays for ESPN sports. He pays for small-town news because it’s not as shared on social media and those subscriptions are reasonably priced. Long-format writing, one student pays for. Has had a subscription to Esquire since he was 15.

Some college newspapers hoping to monetize Twitter stream by putting ads in feeds.

Thoughts on local community journalism. How do we build community and conversation like our local newspapers have done. Students say great thing about social media is community can share content, comment on content on social media. This builds community and conversation.

One student’s parents didn’t renew subscription because the newspaper isn’t “fun” to read anymore because it got so whittled down as advertising support dropped off and pages were cut, limiting local news coverage.

The session concluded with: “We’ve got to write something good before we tell someone to read about it.”
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder answers question of Eastern Echo reporter at Michigan Press Association convention.

Reporters using technology for journalism

January 2, 2012

A few weeks ago, I introduced the Digital Draw, a box in the newsroom containing colorful strips of paper with various technology tools listed to produce journalism. Every Friday, my staff draws from the box and has a week to incorporate one of the suggestions in their work such as crowdsource a story from Twitter, create a Storify or timeline using Dipity, live Tweet a meeting or produce a photo slideshow using user-generated photos.

We’ve had success with this effort, and I wanted to share with readers some of our work and seek feedback on what else we could be doing or exploring.

Cops and courts reporter Ben Baird selected create a Google map to incorporate in his reporting. He applied it to a story he wrote on a series of retail thefts in Saline. A week earlier, he picked “post to a blog,” and did so, writing about a ridealong with a sheriff’s deputy and incorporated a video.

Chelsea/Dexter copy editor Erica McClain chose “create a Storify,” and covered the arrival of University of Michigan football players in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, based on chatter on Twitter.

Online Coordinator David Veselenak also drew “create a Storify,” and did so on the topic “Washtenaw County preps for New Year’s Eve,” compiling Tweets from area residents talking about their plans. He also had “live Tweet a meeting.”

Manchester/Ypsilanti copy editor Tanya Wildt picked “find a story on social media and pursue it,” and found the perfect topic as our publication’s agriculture reporter and Washtenaw County Farm Bureau’s 2011 Ag Communicator of the Year, “Michigan places 10th in USDA’s winter farmers market list.”

General assignment reporter Krista Gjestland drew “create a podcast,” and interviewed a gap year student in Ghana using ipadio.com for a phonecast.

The first week, I drew “create a sound slideshow,” creating a photo slideshow and incorporating the voices of residents weighing in on cuts proposed to the Humane Society of Huron Valley and the second week I picked “create a photo slideshow using user-generated photos,” using photos submitted by the Milan Public Library depicting their holiday activities.

County government and entertainment reporter Sean Dalton selected “hold a live chat” and “crowdsource photos for a slideshow.” He’s still working on both, but says he has sent out Tweets asking for participation. In the meantime, he crowdsourced a story on Twitter.

Education reporter James David Dickson had “find a story lead on social media and pursue it” writing about a children’s author offering to design a new University of Michigan mascot. He also found a lead on Twitter about Lake Superior State University’s banished word list. Next up for him is “crowdsource photos for a slideshow.”

City government, health and environment reporter Amy Bell selected “create a Google map” to complement a story and “crowdsource a story using social media,” which she did after seeing The Bling Thing in Saline bragging on Facebook about its holiday sales.


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