The Spokesman-Review : interns

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sasha Davis: Ethics and Gifts

Going on assignment can bring many opportunities for free items. Recently, I have been doing video for various news stories, and while I’m out on interviews it seems like someone is always offering something.
Last week, I went to Silverwood Theme Park to get some video for reporter Jared Paben’s story on the park’s economical impact. After our guided tour by the director of marketing, we were offered free t-shirts and rides. Although she was insistent, we politely declined and explained our policy. In Cheney, a local tavern owner I was interviewing offered to buy lunch. I think he felt a little insulted that I declined, but I explained the situation. It is important to have these policies to keep news free of outside influence. The Spokesman Review’s code of ethics states, “Gifts of significant value, meals, cars or use of cars, liquor, beer, wine, tickets and lodging will not be accepted or solicited, unless they are for review purposes.”
Yesterday, I was interviewing a 69-year-old Australian man. As he entered the room with great excitement, he handed me a little koala bear toy. I set it down on the table hoping to “forget” it after the interview was over. After hearing his inspirational story containing medical problems and finding purpose and hope in a rescued dog, I walked to my car empty handed. However, as the car started, the man ran out and knocked on my window saying, “You can’t forget your bear lass.” I took the bear and thanked him. It would have been uncomfortable to say no.
The Spokesman’s ethics code also states, “Gifts of insignificant value- Key chains, calendars, small food items, pens- may be kept if it is awkward to return them.” I think this situation fits this category. If you are not sure what the difference between a significant and insignificant gift is, just ask your editor. It seems pretty clear, but it is always better to ask if you are unsure.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Shefali: International News in a Local Paper

It's a double edge sword. When a paper like the Spokesman Review puts international news on their front page-there's one of two reactions: either we are applauded for keeping international news (like the War in Iraq or the Lebanon Conflict) on the front page-open and out there. Or we are criticized for printing hard reminders about the war and not enough local coverage.

I was talking to a housemate of mine who said he read the paper and was tired of seeing stories about the War in Iraq and stories on the Lebanon Conflict. But it was frustrating because what he meant by 'reading the paper' was that he read all of the A-section. That's about it. It was hard to argue with him because we were speaking two different languages. Part of the problem with journalism I see these days (and I’m no expert) is that reporters tend to assume that our readers are a certain type of reader--when they aren't.

Perhaps we assume readers read the entire paper-we cater to the audience that sits in the metro car or at the breakfast table with the paper wide open scanning anything and everything. We aim to please in the newspaper industry and I don't see that as a problem--it's when we are so detached from our 'customers' that I get a bit scared. Are we trying to put out a paper that suite us...or them? We assume that people know to look in the B-Section for local news. We assume they know to read the whole story to get the whole story--but do our readers know what an inverted pyramid is?

I told my housemate this dilemma. I told him that the Spokesman never claims that it's a source for international news--but we print what we feel is significant. I got to tip my hat to the newspaper I interned at for nearly 10 weeks. The Spokesman knows that it's a watchdog tool for the community but what good is a watchdog if it doesn't know who it's watching. This newspaper certainly takes it's time to get to know readers and listens to them--it's a hard thing to do. Not everyone has nice things to say about the paper. But my hope is that those who critique the paper still respect us as a publication for listening.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sarah Slavick: Israel and Lebanon

I'm excited to announce that an Israel-Lebanon page (potentially) will be published in the Aug. 20 issue of The Spokesman-Review.
I'm trying my best to condense information on hundreds of years of conflict in an effort to promote an understanding of issues that, though they're thousands of miles away, affect us today - and will affect us for a long time to come.
I'd like more people to feel that their newspaper is a form of civil service, which aims to make them informed citizens. I hope that the page on Israel and Lebanon will aid in that service.
Intern tip for the entry: When you're interviewing or writing a cover-letter for an internship, talk about why you're passionate about the field, not just what you're good at.

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