FlipSide doesn’t flip, but it’s still FlipSide

FlipSide cover for October 16, 2014

FlipSide’s new cover, part of its overall redesign.

FlipSide, the York, Pa., Daily Record’s Thursday entertainment section, no longer flips. But we’re still calling it FlipSide.

Many folks are aware that the two sides of the magazine – each positioned 180 degrees from the other –  met in the middle. No longer. But the name reflects the other side of your work and home life – things to do when you’re away from both. Continue reading “FlipSide doesn’t flip, but it’s still FlipSide” »

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When you have a digital newsroom, you have this …

York, Pa., sports journalists have a to keep track of today.

No, this is not a TV station pictured above.

It’s a digital newsroom that produces content for multiple platforms, from digital to print.

The video screens on the desk of a York Daily Record sports editor shows part of the GameTimePa.com high school sports reach. Continue reading “When you have a digital newsroom, you have this …” »

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Newspaper box gets a new home

YDR Managing Editor Randy Parker shows off a newspaper box to 6-year-old Elijah Wonder, of York.

YDR Managing Editor Randy Parker shows off a newspaper box to 6-year-old Elijah Wonder, of York.

Six-year-old Elijah Wonder and his mother, Jennifer Hall, were inspired by the Little Free Library spots around York County and wanted to bring the free library idea into their neighborhood.

From there came the idea of Elijah’s Little Free Bookhouse and Word Event. Mother and son want to provide free reading materials to kids, especially those artistic youths in the neighborhood.

To get started, Elijah has secured some help — financially and donation-wise — from Irvin’s Books, Sonnewald Natural Foods and Donna Watkins the Bug Lady. All they needed was a home for those books.

So they turned to us. Friday, Elijah and Jennifer stopped by the YDR offices to pick up their very own newspaper box. Elijah filled managing editor Randy Parker in on his plan, and then helped Parker wheel the box out on a dolly.

Elijah plans to paint the box and decorate it with some animals. The box is slated to be placed in the Hope Street Garden and Learning Lab, the outdoor classroom for several organizations including Lincoln Charter School, where Elijah goes to school.

Elijah said even if you don’t go to school in the neighborhood, you can still borrow a book. He loves to read and wants to share books with others. His favorite books are the “Captain Underpants” series.

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Mark Twain on life in the newsroom

mark twainMy favorite fictionalized account of life in a newsroom comes from a a little satirical Mark Twain piece called “Journalism in Tennessee.”

In it, Twain plays a young, naive reporter who secures employment at The Morning Glory and Johnson County War Whoop and sets about writing the day’s community news dispatches from neighboring newspapers:

Continue reading “Mark Twain on life in the newsroom” »

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Don’t blame the media for rumors run wild

Police Barracks Shooting
This time last week, I was sitting in the newsroom trying to make sense out of the news of the state trooper slaying in northeast Pennsylvania.

Or maybe I should say lack of news. The online world was full of fevered speculation that state police were closing in on the shooter. A week later he is still at large.

“It was just inaccurate and wrong,” Trooper Tom Kelly, a state police spokesman, said of the coverage CHARISSEMARC-COLSIG3cin an article last week that took the media to task for getting it wrong. “It’s not the time for inaccurate reporting.” 

If you ask me, that’s the one the media got wrong. If anyone is to blame for the spread of ill-informed panic and speculation, it’s not the media, it’s the state police, who were, after all, in the best position to correct any inaccuracies.

As an editor, I consider the Pennsylvania State Police one of the hardest police agencies  to work with in the state. Some individual PSP troopers and public information officers are real communications pros who understand an informed press does a better job and an informed public makes for a safer society. But too many in the PSP still seem to think what we don’t know can’t hurt us.   Yes, I understand too much publicity can sour sensitive police investigations. But too often, I think, it isn’t public safety that keeps the state cops from talking. It’s the arrogant paternalism of “nothing to see here, folks. We know what’s best, so just move along.”

Sorry, but in a democracy, the police can’t be above public accountability. And in the digital age, it’s more vital than ever for law enforcement to keep folks informed.

Rumors don’t start in the newsroom; they are given life on social media. Rumor control has always been part of the journalist’s job, but it’s increasingly vital when anyone with a cell phone and a Twitter account can publish whatever strikes his or her fancy. We ought to be in the business of setting the record straight, and that’s not easy to do when officials don’t want to talk on the record.

Our job is to separate facts from fanciful speculation, and that’s tough to do when official sources of information keep us in the dark. The PSP seems to be doing a better job this week of keeping the public informed, so the press coverage, too, is naturally better.

Now, if they can just catch a break and catch that SOB. That’s the story I want to see confirmed.



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Emmy-winning Jason Plotkin: On the other side of the camera

Jason Plotkin accepts his mid-Atlantic Emmy Award for Gettysburg 150 videos. Check out this YDR.com story about this accomplishment.

He tweets a word of thanks to editor Brad Jennings.
Here he’s on the other side of the camera at the Emmys in Philadelphia. And he thanked a bunch of other folks, who worked with him on Gettburg 150, via Facebook.


Back behind the camera – Jay’s award-winning work, a collection of video stories.

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Remember Pass: Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep

The York Daily Record’s Donna Mandl demonstrates that she learned the lessons of how to use a fire extinguisher.

A dozen or more staff members at the York Daily Record/Sunday News and the York Newspaper Co. soaked in some fire extinguisher training recently.

West Manchester Fire Department officials provided an overview of the different types of fires in homes and business. And they passed on the fire extinguisher mantra PASS – Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep – that sticks with you.

Good stuff. And it also gave our journalists a chance to chat with West Manchester Township Fire Chief David Nichols.

That was a two-fer, an hour well spent.

Remember: PASS – Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep.

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Readership of hyperlocal or community news, by whatever name, grows at York Daily Record

Someone with great foresight at the York Daily Record decided in the 1980s that what is called hyperlocal news – community news about neighborhood happenings and personal achievements – should remain in the newspaper. Continue reading “Readership of hyperlocal or community news, by whatever name, grows at York Daily Record” »

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Selling papers a form of bias?

My recent posts about journalistic bias provoked a fair amount of response, including several who commented that media is biased in favor of selling papers — or more likely these days, moving the needle that tracks online readers.

I think that notion is overstated, but also at least partially defensible. I have to admit I’m biased in favor of keeping my job, which depends on getting people to read media content. But beyond such pecuniary concerns, an unread publication informs no one, so if we don’t make our stories compelling, if we don’t show readers why they need to invest time in our prose and pictures, then we aren’t really doing our job.

But there are, of course, limits to such dramatic tactics. People catch on to bait-and-switch pretty quickly, so if your story doesn’t deliver what the headline promises, you can be sure readers will stop believing your promises. And the dramatic elements of the story have to stay true to the facts. The old saying is that too much fact-checking has ruined plenty of good stories, but bad facts in bad stories will ruin your reputation as well as your stories.

When people used to accuse me of “trying to sell papers” — not that there’s anything wrong with that — I used to point out that they probably already bought the paper before reading the story they had issues with. We aren’t trying to sell papers, I would say, though we are out to sell stories — sell our readers on why they should care.

These days,  instead of captive audiences reading self-contained newspapers, we must attract online browsers who can click away from our reporting any second. Each story these days must stand on its own, or probably never get read.

That’s a challenge to be a better reporter, and to use all these new tools to give audiences compelling coverage. But it also should be a reminder that some stories need to be told, whether or not they’ll ever make the day’s most-popular list.




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Bias in the eye of the beholder

Discussion of the coverage of Ferguson provoked a number of comments on my Facebook page  regarding media bias, and while I have to agree there is “bias” in reporting, it’s usually not the kind people mean when they use the word.

Despite what some people think, I’ve never encountered a newsroom discussion of how to slant an article along ideological lines. If anything, the discussion will center around how to anticipate reader reaction to stories likely to provoke ideological response. People think we support the Democrat? Then we’d better make sure Republican responses get plenty of ink. We know that if readers don’t think we’re being fair, we have little chance of informing them.

But that’s not to say media bias doesn’t exist. Bias is part of the human condition, after all. We all like stories of the little guy struggling against the big machine. And we are — rightly, I think — always suspicious of official pronouncements and conventional wisdom. Reporters, though, by training and inclination, know enough to set aside their  own opinions while reporting. If anything, I think there’s a tendency for journalists to go out of their way to be fair to the side they think is in the wrong. Certainly, as an editor, I always challenge them to do so.

Media bias, I believe, is a more subtle matter of how we are trained to write and report. Stories need a focus, most often a single individual, and it’s always debatable how much you can generalize from a single instance. In Ferguson, critics say we are generalizing where we shouldn’t, that we are covering the story differently than if Michael Brown had been white.

I don’t buy it. Police shootings are news, no matter what races are involved. And so are protests. Ferguson is big news, not because of who was shot, but because of  the reaction to shooting. And we need to ask ourselves if Ferguson is representative of bigger issues — whether they be a growing divide between police and citizenry or the opportunism of  a relative handful of protesters.

Those issues are touched upon in an excellent thought piece in the Washington Post.  Closer to home, we’ve asked local law enforcement what lessons they draw from the far-away streets of Missouri.

Yes, you can choose to ignore the coverage, dismissing it as media bias. But what does that say about your own biases? The issues of freedom, equality and security raised by Ferguson have always been central to the American experience, and always will be. Ignore them — or wish them away as slanted coverage — at your own risk.




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