TCU drug busts: Anatomy of an editor’s decision-making

In the wake of this week’s drug busts at TCU, the institutions involved are getting a lot of scrutiny, and that’s good. Did TCU blow things out of proportion? Were the Fort Worth police more interested in headlines than justice? Was the media irresponsible?

I’ll leave the answers to the first two questions to the experts and our columnists. As for “the media,” I can speak only to the actions of my newsroom.

This post is definitely not the official position of the Star-Telegram; it’s just my opinion. But I was the editor supervising the initial coverage, so I’ll answer for the decisions we made.

I’ve read the stories, columns and comments over the past four days, and I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on our coverage. I’ve come to two conclusions:

1. I wish we had done a better of job of emphasizing the relatively small-time drug-dealing outlined in the arrest warrant affidavits. The comments of TCU and Fort Worth police at the morning news conference seemed to describe something more sinister than the affidavits actually contained. We needed a headline to that effect as part of our first-day coverage.

2. Aside, from that, I think our coverage on the whole was comprehensive and fair. Whatever your stance on drugs, or TCU, or police, this was a big story in Fort Worth.

We have written on the university’s crisis response, the scope of the allegations, the football team’s involvement and the police’s identification of the wrong man.

Our editorial board has encouraged the university to be more forthcoming about allegations of drug use by football players. Randy Galloway gives TCU props for not trying to cover things up. Columnist Bud Kennedy has become a high-profile skeptic of the entire communications effort.

In today’s media world, that kind of depth and reasoned analysis is too often missing from coverage of events, and I’m proud of our newsroom for taking the time to provide it.

Continue reading


Five things series … Editing video on your iPad

Colleague Eva-Marie Ayala and I had some fun with the iPhone and Fort Worth’s new parking meters on Monday. In the process, I learned five key things about editing in the iMovie iOS app.

1. Move clips from iPhone to iPad: After shooting the video, I used Apple’s camera connection kit to import the clips to my iPad. (Editing on the iPhone’s small screen is not a fun experience.) Unfortunately, you can’t import just any video format, so if you shot video using something other than an iPhone, you’ll just have to see if the iPad will accept it. You’ll know it worked if the Photo app opens.

2. Keep your expectations low: I edited the clips in the iMovie app and overall it worked OK. The biggest drawback: The app version does not allow you to separate audio and video tracks, so B roll is not an option.

3. Use WiFi to export full-res video: I exported the video at full resolution to YouTube (It took only a few minutes.) and was happy with the quality. Uploading the HD file to Vimeo took about 15 minutes on WiFi (for a 44-second video), and I saw little difference in the quality.

4. Export to your Mac if necessary: I ended up exporting the clips to iPhoto via the sync cable so I could handle B roll in Final Cut Pro, thus ruining the entire iPad-only experiment (oh well).

VIDEO: Fort Worth parking meters, on YouTube

5. The iPad works for breaking news: Trying to shoot and edit the entire project on mobile devices wasn’t as awesome as I had hoped. But if you’re not as addicted to FCP as I am, and especially if you’re handling breaking news, the setup will work just fine.

Just know going in that your post-production options are limited, unless you want to move to a laptop.

30 days to the digital transition: The miracle smartphone

In my last post, I posited that Twitter might be the shortcut to the digital transition that we’ve been searching for.

Now, I’d like to make the case that the new generation of smartphones, especially the iPhone 4 and 4s, may be the only hardware we need for field reporting.

AME/Metro Lee Williams checks out the high-tech iPhone tripod solution on the left (the Joby GorillaMobile) and the low-tech version made with clips and a card on the right. Photo and Rube Goldberg tripod by David Kent.

In my six years working for the Star-Telegram’s digital operations, I have learned to use at least nine cameras and/or camcorders, plus three digital voice recorders. And Windows computers. And Apple computers. And iPads. And Android tablets. And so on.

And I’ve put many of my eager colleagues through that hell along the way.

But in midsummer 2011, I bought an iPhone 4. And I realized that I was holding a simple yet high-quality device that would allow us finally to spend more time creating content than we do learning technology.

With the iPhone 4 and its newer sibling, the 4s, journalists can shoot good-enough video and photos, can record decent audio, can access high-quality productivity apps, can stream live video, can keep in touch with the office through video chat, IMs or text, and can even attach a Bluetooth keyboard and write an entire story in a pinch.

Continue reading

A blind reporter’s digital journalism includes a lesson for us all

Liz Campbell with Gabe, her guide dog.

Liz Campbell with Gabe, her guide dog. Photo by Joyce Marshall/Star-Telegram

A big challenge for digital journalists at a newspaper is figuring out how much time to spend helping colleagues learn the required skills.

It’s hard to overstate how much we appreciate those who don’t need much hand-holding.

Enter Elizabeth Campbell, a blind reporter who has worked various beats at the Star-Telegram over the years.

Liz has accepted that today’s journalists must create content that works across platforms, not just in print.
She can’t shoot videos or take photographs, but she found at least one new platform that she can master — audio storytelling.

She refused to settle for the “I’m too busy” rationale, and she didn’t give in to the technical challenges.

She simply pulled out her iPhone, opened the built-in Voice Memos app, and recorded a short audio clip while interviewing riders for a story about bus transportation.  Continue reading

How to become a digital-first journalist in 30 days: Twitter

My New Year’s resolution is to be more patient with colleagues trying to make the digital transition.

This decision is less about me (impatience is, shall we say, an issue of mine) and more about what I see when I look around our newsroom. Finally, everyone has accepted the reality that change is afoot. And, with a few exceptions, everyone is willing to try to be a part of it.


But those who waited to jump in have a new problem: A significant loss of resources has us all scrambling. Finding the time to learn new skills is nearly impossible.

Never fear, however. I have a three-step plan to get up to speed in just 30 days, without being forced to ask for help. Continue reading

Good morning, Star-Telegram. Can we talk digital, first?

“A Digital First journalist views a story as a process, not a product.”

— Steve Buttry, The Buttry Diary

“When digital comes first and print last, then the article is something you need to put together to fill the paper; it’s not the goal of the entire process. The process is the goal of the process: keeping the public constantly informed.”

Jeff Jarvis,

“Change the meetings to change the culture.”

— Star-Telegram Digital Strategy Committee

“So, what are you going to do about changing the meetings?”

— Jim Witt, Star-Telegram executive editor

“I hate meetings.”

— Me

We have a structural challenge in our newsroom, starting with the morning meeting. It’s still built around the old model of print story as assembly-line product, with pieces added along the well-worn path to a one-time ship date.

In a digital-first world, the daily story is not a linear creation but an organic project that grows and changes — in public — throughout its useful life, which can last several days past print publication. Continue reading

Using your iPad as a mobile newsroom: Part I, the apps

This month, we got the news that Gannett was purchasing iPads and iPhones for use by journalists in the field. This prompted me to start thinking more seriously about how Star-Telegram journalists could do just that, as part of an experiment I’d like to conduct with select reporters.

I decided to pull together a post on best iPad apps for journalists. And, to follow up, I’m going to spend the next week using (almost) nothing but my iPad, iPhone and bluetooth keyboard to create content, just to test out how realistic this experiment might be.

iPad with case and keyboard

I should note that this is obviously not a true test. I’m mostly going to be home working on non-deadline tasks. On the other hand, it’s probably best to work out the bugs in a controlled situation, so that’s what I’m going to do. More info on the test itself will come soon, part of what I hope will be a series of posts on using mobile devices to create content in the field.

Let’s start with some suggested apps for journalists.

Continue reading