Bob Stepno's Other Journalism Weblog
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Friday, September 17, 2004

My news writing classes are working through a textbook chapter on things to avoid, including repetition, cliches, platitudes, euphemisms and "gush"...

Meanwhile, the remnants of Hurricane Ivan, another kind of gush, were threatening to turn Saturday's Tennessee-Florida football game into water polo. So I asked the class to come up with "local angles" for non-football-related storm stories. With links on my home page, I pointed them to newspapers closer to the storm, and to a Sam Venable column that brought the storm home to East Tennessee farmers.

The students volunteered some good ideas, but I was surprised that none of them suggested calling the university public relations office to ask whether any TVA-connected UT faculty are experts on, say, flood control.

A class full of journalism majors might think "calling the PR office" counted as something like cheating. But some of these students are PR majors, so I was surprised that they didn't point us to the "public information" professionals.

My first journalism professor and my first city editor both warned me about PR people as a source of time-wasting press releases and pitches for stories full of fluff. But, based on personal experience, I found myself telling the class about times when a university news office did help me track down an expert source for a story or get some questions answered.

Coincidently, a few hours later blog-savvy PR guy Steve Rubel's weblog alerted me to yet another PR weblog -- this one affiliated with ProfNet, which I've known as a service that specializes in finding campus experts to answer reporters' questions.

"MediaInsider: The Blog" is very new -- even its ProfNet link was empty this afternoon. In the long run, I don't know whether it will be a good source for student reporters, or primarily of interest to public relations students. Either way, perhaps my students can warn the PR bloggers if they're in danger of becoming classroom examples of cliches, repetition, platitudes, euphemism and gush.

7:32:44 PM    

The Extra! Extra! site at Investigative Reporters & Editors tips its hat at WSMV in Nashville for digging through the numbers to determine that Tennessee has not spent three-quarters of the federal money sent here for Homeland Security.

Tenn. slow to use Homeland Security money. Nancy Amons of WSMV-Nashville reviewed documents from Tennessee's Office of Homeland Security, finding that "about a quarter of the money Congress appropriated for first responder grants in 2002 and 2003 has been converted into equipment or training for Tennessee officers..." [Extra! Extra!]

6:17:22 PM    

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