The Famous Gingrich Cake…

Sixteen years ago Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House when CBS anchor Connie Chung paid a visit to his father, Robert. In honor of her visit, the elder Gingrich made his “Pig-Lickin’ Good Cake, pig being a nickname for a finger.

Robert Gingrich, who died in 1996, had adopted the three-year-old Newton after marrying his divorced mom. We’re not sure how far the cake goes back in the family history but as a politician, Newt has shown a penchant for “licking the icing” but we’ll leave it at that.

 After tweeting and blogging their brains out all semester following the president, the GOP race, political issues, lobbyists, and the media, my students should know once upon a time there was a humane side to all this.

In honor of the final class for Press and Politics and as a way to recall a time when media and politicians could come together over cake, I decided to pull out my yellowed copy of the recipe published in the Washington Post.

For anyone interested, here is the recipe at Cooks.com: http://tinyurl.com/6oqrk27


A Politician and a Journalist Walk Into A Classroom…

It’s no joke. Last week, on two separate days,  we were lucky enough to have speakers who represented both aspects of our class. The first was Delegate Albert Pollard, Jr., who earlier this year announced his retirement from the Virginia State Legislature. The second was Daniel Petty, a UR graduate now working as the social media editor for the Denver Post.

As a delegate from a rural community, Pollard gave students a particularly interesting political insider’s point of view. Pollard is a forty-something who throughout his 10 years in the House of Delegates Pollard represented the farmers and fishermen of his community. He was there to get things done, er, or so he thought.

For more on that, students were presented with a copy of his book, “Outsider Looking In: An Outsider’s View of the Inner Workings of Virginia Politics and Policy.” The book is not your typical look at how the “sausage” is made, it’s more a carefully worded, at times, tongue-in-cheek at other times cheek-biting look at modern political discourse.

Students will be posting on their blogs their own stories on the visit.

Later in the week the class got an insider’s view of how social media is used by The Denver Post. Daniel Petty hails from  UR and has been working at the Post for two years. As social media editor he has helped to develop the paper’s social media strategy, which includes using Facebook and Twitter to interact with audiences and create content for readers. (Note to self: – Does social media define a difference between reader and audience?)

Petty told students about rumors – “they happen in all forms of communication…Twitter amplifies them,” transparency – “is the new objectivity…the power of the link is your own version,” and while online remember you are always being watched so “be the best version of yourself….You can never really outrun the fact that you are a journalist.”

Social media helps reporters become more human, Petty said, because people trust individuals more than institutions. That’s where using social media to build a reputation and a brand is important.

He also said social media allows journalists to go directly to the people. On Twitter it is the people following you who can help you track down a story. They also will be there when you make a mistake.

“They will call out your mistakes but forgive you if you fix them quickly,” he said.

Students in this class are following 2012 presidential candidates on Twitter.  See what they have to say on Twitter @PamelaDAngelo1/urpresspolitics


Press and Politics in Africa…

Last week students heard  first hand just how savvy news sources have become when the Voice of America’s reporter Peter Clottey discussed a text message on his smart phone from a jailed African rebel leader.

 Clottey, a Ghanaian who is about to become a U.S.citizen, was invited to speak about his political beat covering sub-SaharanAfrica. His sources include judges, government ministers and of course, rebel leaders. VOA has changed over the years and is no longer a mouthpiece for the U.S.government, having hired respected independent journalists like Clottey to report and edit the news, and put in place an independent board to oversee its operations.

 Students came well prepared asking questions about press freedom, the recent Kenyan pipeline explosion and that country’s upcoming elections, what it’s like working for a U.S.government-funded media verses the Ghanaian press, and whether Western aid during a famine is the best solution to a cyclical problem.

 Clottey talked about the difficulty for African reporters in trying to bring objectivity to their reports. He said controversial sources when given a voice often create problems for a new democracy. “Even people who are murderous have supporters,” he said.

 He also addressed a student’s question about the lack of African politicians dealing with the horrid conditions of  illegal settlements such as the one inKenya http://tinyurl.com/3ooxnzf
devastated by the oil pipeline explosion.

“These are bread and butter issues,” he said. Across Africa people settle in areas illegally but politicians look the other way because if the settlements are recognized, governments may have to build proper housing and most are cash-strapped, Clottey said.

 In response to one student about the state of the continent, Clottey said, “The African continent has improved but there’s a huge amount of room for improvement.”

 Students recorded some of Clottey’s responses and will put together their own audio report in class on Tuesday. These will be posted on their blogs where you can listen to them. Stay tuned…


Getting Run Over In the Rat Race…

The past few weeks have brought news to my doorstep in the form of natural disasters – earthquake and hurricane. On deadline through the kindness of others, I managed to file my stories.

 After the earthquake the TLC staff at the University of Richmond lent me a lab room and helped me with technical problems. After the hurricane, a neighbor with a generator and a five-spot enabled me to send my story. Last week President Obama came to UR and I was prepared, or so I thought.

I got up at 5 a.m.and drove from my home two-hours east of  Richmond, got in the ticket line by 8 a.m. behind half a dozen students and was able to interview several for National Public Radio. I snagged a few tickets in case some of my students were unable to get their own, and then headed to my office to prepare for class. Indeed, some of my students had been turned away after tickets ran out. I heard the university would be printing more so I put that in my story. Big mistake!

 After class I filed my story and headed for home. Before I left I had a conversation with another professor who enlightened me about the tickets. He had talked with university officials who told him tickets were printed by the White House. Oh. I had so much going on the information didn’t sink in. I left for my long drive home.

About 45 minutes later I had my DUH-OH! moment. I pulled over and called the university and was told it was the White House that printed the tickets but only the White House could tell me whether they had extras on campus or had to print more. I called NPR and told them to spike my story and once I had my facts right I would refile. Then I started the drive home again. B-r-r-r-ring! Cell phone. Pull over to take the White House call that confirmed they had a reserve of tickets on campus  they had released. Drive home, fix story, file. PHEW!! Am I glad the original didn’t air.

My bad. I went with information from people I thought knew and never confirmed with the right sources. Deadlines can do that to you sometimes but it’s a poor excuse for terrible reporting. This time I was lucky enough to have fixed it in time! Thank you Prof. Tom Mullen!

Perhaps this has made me more conscious of errors increased by haste or, maybe there are just a huge amount of people making mistakes. Wrongly sent tweets (Rep. Weiner), wrongly released cables (WikiLeaks) and smaller ones like this from Amazon.com:

Dear Valued Customer,
We sent you an email on September 10th and invited you to try endless.com with a unique discount code. However, we inadvertently overlooked adding the code in the email. Please accept our sincere apologies for the mistake. You will find the correct discount code below.

And when I opened the latest Vogue Magazine a huge spread by Bellevue Collection contained the wrong year for their Fashion Week. A black patch was stuck over the offending error – KA-CHING! That had to cost a bundle.

I am not pointing these out to make me look or feel better. They actually make me feel worse. We are becoming a high-speed society learning to live with error and with that there is not only a monetary price tag but a credibility price tag. When you are inaccurate you lose the faith of your followers. I am truly thankful most people are still humble enough to make corrections. As my editor said to me after I corrected my error: “Of course, it’s always best not to make the error!”

I rather like the Formula One analogy: In a high-speed world remember to apply the brakes before you hit the turn, otherwise you’ll end up in the field and out of the race.


Gatekeeping Revisited…

During our first week of class we discussed WikiLeaks as a gatekeeper. In light of last week’s events I am posting this link http://tinyurl.com/3v5gyo3 and ask, Now what do you have to say now about  WikiLeaks as a gatekeeper?

 We’ll talk about it in class this week. If you have time please check out this editorial  http://tinyurl.com/3wasj4j   as well.

For a look at what students had to say about gatekeeping and social media click on their name on the blogroll at the right. There are some interesting thoughts.


The Politics of Natural Disasters

With Hurricane Irene the big story, the class will consider the politics of disasters.

For next Tuesday on their blog post, they will read about coverage and analysis of Hurricane Katrina and then blog their own analysis of a natural disaster of their choice – hurricane, tsunami, typhoon, earthquake, etc.

Some of what they will consider:

Was there enough science to properly educate the public?

Was there too much drama and not enough fact?

Did politicians abuse the situation to look good or did they actually do a good job?

How might the story have been covered better?

Was the government there for the people? Was the press able to cover that angle?


GATEKEEPING on the Fourth of July

The class agreed the parade float (see post below) was out of line. When they took on the role of citizen, students said they were disturbed. However, not everyone felt a citizen journalist within. Twittering a photo and a comment seemed to work as a way to respond. However, I forgot to ask, “To whom would you tweet this?”

When I asked the class what they would do as a reporter for a paper in this town, students agreed this was a story, and, as an Associated Press reporter, a national story.

Then I revealed that a story was done but it yielded no letters to the editor of any kind. The quiet little community may have had a great deal to say but no one said a word…out loud. Life went on and but not everyone looks at the individual on the parade float in the same way. Parade organizers will be on their toes come next year and that’s a good outcome.

Perhaps, in some cases, it is better for a community to handle its own odd citizens in its own way, rather than giving a platform to one voice that is better off not being heard in a national story. Then again, was this one person one of many and should a story be done to open a national platform for discussion on the state of race relations in the U.S.?


Dec. 9: Finals are due by 5 p.m. iPods should be turned in to CTLT.

For Nov. 15: Just like the previous assignment, only this time find a case of what you consider to be unethical politicking and blog about it (350-500 words). Again, be prepared to discuss your findings in class.

Due Nov. 10: Find a case of unethical reporting and blog 350 to 500 words. (Please note the change in required word-count from the syllabus). Be prepared to discuss your findings in class.

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