Tags Posts tagged with "Journalism"


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On this page, we do the work of democracy.

The first editorial ever published in our newspaper [“The spirit of ’76,” April 8, 1976] declared our opinion pages as “a forum where everybody has an opportunity to be heard.” Through the many changes over the last 47 years, we affirm this creed unconditionally, subject to concerns of libel and good taste.

For nearly half a century, our staff, columnists and letter writers have broadcast ideas to the North Shore public each week. This page is our weekly community dialogue keeping vital communication channels alive.

Debate ennobles citizens. Through spirited exchanges, we empower our peers to interpret and digest local current events, enabling rational, informed decisions at the ballot box.

But how our times have changed.

With innovation, many of our discussions have moved from the printed page to the digital screen. Citizens today take their disagreements to social media, where opinions are not subjected to rigorous editorial standards and vetting procedures.

Social media often discourages thoughtful dissent. Unfiltered, shielded by screens, we inject venom and misinformation into our public forum. The natural consequence of this toxic social media culture is the decay of civility and decorum.

We live in a hypercharged, decidedly polarized political context. We expect media outlets and tech companies to squelch meaningful exchanges. We seek only information affirming our existing — often incomplete — worldviews.

Instead of debating, we dehumanize and delegitimize our political opponents. Through our collective softness and fear of dissent, we paint a warped picture of reality.

While our staff may object to some of the sentiments advanced on this page, we remind our readers that we are moderators, not censors. We hold up the words attributed to Voltaire, the great French philosophical champion of free speech, who once wrote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

We disagree with outlets and tech companies that censor divergent speech, stymie political discourse or needlessly encroach upon our deliberative process. However, we disallow hatred or what appears as personal attacks. 

As journalists, we cannot bend our editorial code to meet the censorial standards of our age.

For this republic to endure, we must return to honest disagreement. So in this spirit, let us continue this noble work, allowing the conversations to flourish.

Image from Stony Brook University

Amid the sound and fury signifying nothing, to borrow from William Shakespeare, Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism has joined a national solutions journalism program.

Stony Brook, NY; Stony Brook University: School of Journalism’s Dean Laura Lindenfeld

That means the journalism school will teach its students how to do much more than complain or highlight issues or problems.

Instead, the school will teach developing journalists how to use data, tell compelling stories and search for answers to problems that are as broad and challenging as climate change and institutional racism, among others.

The solutions journalism hub is “going to help attract people to the field [and provide] a sense of learning from each other,” said Laura Lindenfeld, dean of the Journalism School. “I’m really proud that we’re the hub in the northeast.”

The other journalism hubs include the University of Georgia, Northwestern University and Arizona State University.

“These new hub universities are showing a serious commitment to leading this important work in their regions and nationally,” Francine Huff, Solutions Journalism Network’s director of journalism school partnerships, said in a statement. These four journalism schools have an amazing wealth of talent and resources, and the Solutions Journalism Network is excited to partner with them.”

While SJN provides no monetary gain to the schools, Lindenfeld would like to pursue fundraising around this designation.

Being a part of the solutions journalism network “signals to the community of journalism and foundations about what we care about and what we are about,” Lindenfeld said. “A tighter focus and mission is advantageous and genuine.”

Lindenfeld plans to have ongoing interactions with the other three hubs as a part of a learning community.

To be sure, the concept of using data and sharing compelling stories as a part of a solutions driven journalism effort isn’t new to SBU’s journalism effort.

“We were already doing a chunk of this,” Lindenfeld said. The designation ensures the school is more specifically focused on this, even as Stony Brook will still teach other forms of journalism. “It marks a commitment to making sure we are doing deep, rich storytelling that’s data driven and is looking at a response to problems, rather than just pointing them out.”

Solutions journalism can help drive the focus of stories in an increasingly complex and contentious world, the SBU dean continued.

SBU doesn’t plan to replace balance and professionalism with solutions.

“We are not talking about advocacy journalism or advocacy communications,” Lindenfeld said. “We are talking about the highest standard of ethical journalism that seeks fair, balanced perspectives.”

Lindenfeld urges students to figure out if the data supports or refutes any hypothesis they have about a story.

“You’ve got to always be open to the idea that you could be wrong,” she said. “Trust but verify.”

Solutions journalism includes an understanding of history and context.

Stony Brook has integrated a data analysis and storytelling class into the undergraduate curriculum, where the school helps students dig deeper into how to analyze and tell stories about data.

Solutions journalism will become a cornerstone of the master’s program, Lindenfeld said.

Lindenfeld believes this approach to journalism and communication, regardless of the eventual field graduates enter, should help alumni secure jobs.

“How can it hurt to have a better understanding of data analysis?” Lindenfeld asked.

Down the road, she would like to have an endowed chair in solutions journalism at Stony Brook.

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“Propaganda begins when dialogue ends.” — Jacques Ellul

Democracy cannot flourish without a well-informed, enlightened public.

Many miles away from Long Island, against a backdrop of a momentous war in Ukraine, there is another war for the public consciousness of people everywhere. It is a war against a free and independent press, against openness and transparency with the public, and against truth itself. In moments of greatest agitation, those who most fear the truth will do whatever it takes to bury it. 

During a teach-in last week at Stony Brook University, Distinguished Professor Leonie Huddy of the Department of Political Science, said, “We are also in a propaganda war.” 

The Committee to Protect Journalists is a nonprofit that promotes independent journalism and defends press freedom worldwide. According to the CPJ website, five journalists have already been killed since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24. With abhorrent regularity, journalists are now being targeted and killed. 

Aware of the risks, Louise Callaghan, a Middle East correspondent for The Sunday Times of London and virtual panelist at the SBU teach-in, told the audience that she will return to the warzone to report the situation in Ukraine on the ground.

From the bomb shelters of devastated Mariupol to the Long Island North Shore, journalists have incredible responsibility. The Founding Fathers wrote freedom of the press into the First Amendment of the Constitution because they understood journalism was a necessary deterrent to unchecked power. Journalists shine light upon those who hide behind the shadows of deception, whose greatest weapons are disinformation and fear, as not even their nukes can topple what is true.

Right now, dictators and their propagandists are waging a war of ideas, seeking the total annihilation of reason and free thought. Journalists, such as Callaghan, are among our last lines of defense. Whether one is a local reporter on Long Island or a foreign correspondent in Ukraine, the principle remains. So long as journalists are there to shine light on the powerful and the wicked, to distill fact-driven, unfiltered information to the public, then autocrats and their propagandists will never prevail.

This staff editorial is dedicated to the journalists who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of transparency and truth. 

Shoreham-Wading River High School students Andrea Castillo-Manas and Katelyn Roberts were each honored with a Quill Award in the Adelphi University Press Day competition. 

Andrea, a senior, won third place for Best Opinion Piece for her article, “The Concern for Long Island’s Future.” Katelyn, a freshman, won first place for Best Opinion Piece for her article, “Uniformed Injustice: Sexism Rooted in Athletic Uniforms.”

Both articles are published in the high school’s digital newspaper, “The Pause.”  

“The journalism students are so proud of their peers,” said English teacher and journalism club adviser Sara Trenn. 

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Imagine the hope in newsrooms across the nation to know that a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate may resuscitate the news business on local levels.

New outlets, especially print media, have been suffering for decades. In the late 1990s, computers became a staple in homes and gathering information became easier than ever for readers. The introduction of smartphones, social media and apps helped hasten the downward slope of print. The pandemic was the final nail in the coffin of many magazines and newspapers across this nation as they saw advertising dollars diminish due to many businesses shutting down. Even if temporarily, they felt there was no reason to place an ad.

Sponsored by U.S. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA), the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, if passed, will help local newspapers as well as digital platforms and local radio and television stations on multiple levels, as subscribers, advertisers and news outlets will be able to take advantage of tax credits for five years.

Americans who subscribe to a local nonprofit news publisher will be eligible for a five-year credit of up to $250 annually. That credit means covering 80% of subscription costs in the first year and 50% in the following four years. That credit can even be used when making a donation to a local nonprofit news publishing company.

Businesses will have more financial flexibility to spend on advertising with local newspapers, television, radio stations and digital-only platforms as well as nonprofit news organizations with a five-year credit of up to $5,000 in the first year and up to $2,500 in the next four years.

Local news outlets will be able to retain and hire more journalists as their five-year credit will be up to $25,000 per journalist in year one and $15,000 in the following four years. This can cover 50% of compensation up to a $50,000 salary in the first year and 30% of the salary up to $50,000 in the last four years.

The federal government providing tax credits helps news outlets and, at the same time, keeps its distance by not being closely aligned to any media platform. This allows journalists to continue providing unbiased reporting.    

For local publishers and journalists, whose job it is to keep readers up to date on what’s going on in their town and share their neighbors’ achievements, the task has become difficult as the number of newsroom employees has shrunk to a small percentage of what it once was and resources are stretched thin. At times the financial constraints prevent reporters to be everywhere they need to be to ask important questions.

So, it’s no surprise that many newspaper journalists support the Local Journalism Sustainability Act as the bipartisan bill can be the answer in helping to keep jobs.

One problem with tax credits is that they only go to businesses that show profits, because credits come off the top of the taxes they pay. Small businesses can have no profits or razor-thin ones at this time.

With that being said, we applaud our local congressmen Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) who are co-sponsors of the bill. And, we urge our readers who believe in local journalism to contact their federal representatives and ask them to support this act.

SBU Journalism Newsroom

By Daniel Dunaief 

Stony Brook University recently announced that the School of Journalism will be renamed to the School of Communication and Journalism. The School is the first, and only, in the 64-campus SUNY system that is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

The new name aligns more closely with the School’s expanding undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and with the increased demand for professionals with backgrounds and experience in different communication-related disciplines.

“Communication goes beyond journalism, and Stony Brook’s School of Communication and Journalism will offer new opportunities for our students to explore important fields in science communication, health communication and mass communication, in addition to journalism,” Fotis Sotiropoulos, interim university provost and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences said.

In the past year, the School has begun to offer graduate programs in science communication, in collaboration with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and in public health, in collaboration with the Stony Brook Program in Public Health. Additional programs are in development.

“Faculty at the School and the Alda Center work closely on communication research, particularly in the field of science communication, and by renaming the School, we will be able to foster additional communication research,” said Laura Lindenfeld, dean of the School, executive director of the Alda Center, and vice provost for academic strategy and planning at Stony Brook. “Effective communication builds trust among people, enhances mutual understanding, and creates opportunities for collaboration. Now more than ever, we need effective communicators, and Stony Brook is eager to help fill that need.”

The School of Journalism was founded in 2006 and enrolls approximately 250 students. Its faculty include Pulitzer Prize winners, award-winning international and foreign correspondents, and experts in digital innovation. Graduates have gone on to work as reporters and media professionals at organizations around the country, including the New York Times, Buzzfeed, Moth Radio Hour, Council of Foreign Relations, Major League Baseball, and Nieman Lab.

The School is home to the Alda Center, the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting and the Center for News Literacy. It also offers the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists, a one-week intensive program designed to introduce students from across Long Island and New York City to the possibilities of journalism as a career.

Learn more about the School of Communication and Journalism at www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/journalism/

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Not every publication out there is “Fake News.”

During last week’s insurgence at the U.S. Capitol, a photo — taken by a journalist — has made its way around social media, memorializing the words “Murder the Media” written on a wall inside The People’s House.

That’s disheartening to say the least.

Now more than ever, facts are important — whether you like us or not. 

The fact that journalists, reporters and photographers down in D.C. are now sharing their stories about that Wednesday’s events — how they were attacked, name called, hurt and threatened — is a terrifying thought.

The media has always had a rocky relationship with readers. A lot of the time, many people don’t like what is being reported on or how it’s being said. That is something this field has dealt with since the first newsletter came out centuries ago.

But the last four years are on a different level. It’s a whole new battle.

There have been many times that reporters at TBR News Media were harassed on assignment, also being called “fake.” 

We are your local paper. We are the ones who cover the issues in your backyard, who tell the stories of your neighbors that you live beside, and we showcase your children, whom you love, playing their favorite sports. 

We aren’t commentators or analyzers, except on our opinions pages that are clearly labeled.

We are the eyes and ears of our community, and we do the heavy lifting when you have questions. We interview your elected officials and bring awareness to issues other larger papers or TV stations forget to research or mention.

How is that fake? 

Now more than ever, we ask you to support what we have put our hearts and our livelihoods into. 

Next time you might think that the media had it coming to them, just remember that those reporters who have been hurt and humiliated don’t come into your workplaces, breaking your equipment and ridiculing you for what you do.  

We serve all the public and are proud to do so.

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Journalism is under attack.

It’s a sentiment shared by Laura Lindenfeld, the dean of the School of Journalism at Stony Brook University after years of. Efforts to undermine the press “remind me why journalism is so critical to democracy,” she said. “We have our work cut out for us.”

SBU J-School Dean Laura Lindenfeld took over in March after serving as interim dean for several months. Previous dean Howard Schneider officially left the position at the end of 2018 to focus on bringing SBU’s news litearcy course to public schools. Photo from SBU

Lindenfeld, who came into the position in March this year after serving as interim dean, said she is encouraged by what she sees at the journalism school, where she lauded students for their engagement, motivation and passion.

“That gives me an incredible sense of hope about our ability to overcome,” she said.

Data from Gallup shows that, as of September this year, trust in media is higher than it was in 2016, but not by a sizable amount. In that survey, 40% said they trust the media a great deal or fair amount. 33% trust the media “none at all.” The difference is most expressed when looking at political party, with only 10% of republicans trusting the media to any real degree, while 73% of Democrats share more trust.

Meanwhile, the journalism school has taken several steps to prepare its students for a challenging world.

In addition to providing the same kind of ethical training other schools offer, Stony Brook is immersing them in a digital program in which they can tell factually based, compelling stories. The school is also urging students to become part of local communities.

Professors encourage students to “listen beneath the surface” and to hear stories and gather information “they might not have heard otherwise.”

Lindenfeld is a strong believer in the school’s DEI program, which stands for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“We need to be thinking about how important difference is” and how important it is to “listen beyond what we think we are saying,” Lindenfeld said.

Additionally, the journalism program at Stony Brook is inextricably intertwined with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, which the dean used to head up. Named after the famed TV and movie actor who brought an improv-driven effort to Stony Brook to encourage researchers to share their work and their passion for science with the public, the center also serves as a resource for journalism students.

While students at the journalism school aren’t all training to become science journalists, they do have a “unique opportunity to understand and think beyond what they imagined” to appreciate what audiences might be feeling. Journalism students “get a dose of improv” in their education.

The school is planning a new class that will start this spring that teaches data and statistics through storytelling, combining the kinds of data that inform economic, demographic, and epidemiological information with an underlying narrative that engages the readers, driving them through the story. Elizabeth Bojsza and Julia Hathaway of the Alan Alda Center are teaching the class.

The journalism school has long promoted its news literacy class, which guides students to discern between fact and fiction and addresses how to understand thoughtful, effective, ethical journalistic practices. The class is made available to non-journalism students as well.

This spring, the school is also offering a class for graduate students in which scientists engage with journalists. Stony Brook invites journalists to attend, where they practice interviews and get to redo them, enabling them to ask questions in a compelling way. Taught by journalism professor, Pablo Calvi, the class is titled Engaging with Journalists.

Lindenfeld said she believes “great story telling will prevail” in journalism. She also believes that people will pay for editorial products they value.

The journalism school also provides its students with an education in business. A year ago, the school hired Sree Sreenivasan, who is the Marshall R. Loeb Visiting professor of Digital Innovation and Audience Engagement. He will help students understand how to build a digital audience.

Lindenfeld would also like to see the school add other degree programs. The university is a “knowledge production machine” and has the opportunity to create programs in communication and mass communication that draw on some of the journalistic principles.

As for the nuts and bolts of writing, including grammar, word choice and punctuation, The J-school dean said she is committed to great writing.

“Rules are there for the sake of clarity, flow and engagement,” she said.

Passionate about food culture, Lindenfeld looks at the recipe of the day in the New York Times. She has observed how the cost of ingredients has decreased during the pandemic.

Not to mention, people are experiencing a resurgence in home cooking.

“I do fear for restaurant culture,” Lindenfeld said.

Lindenfeld urges students to listen and hear people from a wide variety of backgrounds, including to those whose ideas or ideologies might conflict with their own.

“Hearing involves a willingness to be changed by the other,” Lindenfeld said. She urges students to respect those with whom they are speaking “with dignity.”

Photo by David Ackerman

When The New York Times recently published an editorial titled “Don’t Cancel That Newspaper Subscription,” it caught our attention. Not just because of the subject matter — anything about the general decline of local newspapers is, of course, something we’re very concerned about — but because of the struggles each reporter and editor faces while trying to do their jobs.

The beginning of the editorial tells the story of John Seigenthaler, initially a young reporter with The Tennessean who saved the life of a man he was interviewing back in the 1950s. Seigenthaler went on to become editor and then publisher for the local paper and was at the forefront of civil rights coverage in the heart of the segregated South. However, the piece is not a love letter to the local papers of the 20th century; it’s a cry for help for the publications of today.

The editorial touches on how newspapers and their newsrooms have become smaller over time, even before the coronavirus pandemic diminished the amount of advertising, the main source of revenue papers rely on. Over the years, local publications have been suffering as more and more readers take to the internet to get their daily or weekly dose of news. It also doesn’t help that the false moniker of “fake news” is thrown around by too many without a care for the consequences such an impetuous statement can create.

According to the editorial, newsrooms across the country lost half their journalists between 2008-19. Citing a recent Business Insider article, the writer Margaret Renkl, said “a staggering” 7,800 journalists lost their jobs in 2019.

The writer goes on to tell the story of how The Tennessean recently ran an ad that many found appalling and racist, but she urged people not to cancel their subscriptions. She not only cited how the publisher quickly tried to rectify the situation by pulling it from future editions and firing the sales manager that approved it, but she pointed out many other things, too. Despite the extreme lack of judgment in placing the ad, even with a shortage of journalists due to cutbacks over the years, the paper still covers and publishes a variety of topics that show it is still doing everything in its power to maintain a balanced and reputable publication.

We get this. There have been times when some may not have been pleased with an article, letter or editorial in our newspapers. That is perfectly fine, and we invite reasoned criticism from all in our letters to the editor. But as Renkl wrote in her editorial, “As the ‘first rough draft of history’ journalism will always be prone to mistakes.” We, perhaps beyond any other industry, not only invite justified review of our papers, but we also actively try to improve, working many, many hours to try to get the story of local happenings. We cannot be everywhere and cover everything, but we do our best.

Canceling your subscription to a newspaper only hastens the death of journalism. We’ve written it before on this page, and we’ll put it out there again: If newspapers and journalists didn’t exist, who would tell you what leaders are up to? Who would be there to challenge their responses when something doesn’t sound quite right? And this is even more important with our local leaders, especially as more news networks focus on the national side of our society.

Without local papers, where would readers go to find out what fun activities are going on right in their own town? Who would celebrate the academic and athletic achievements of our local students?

Unfortunately, the days of local newsrooms brimming over with editors and reporters, who could run out and cover every incident in town, may be over, but pulling out a newspaper from the mailbox or picking one up on the newsstand doesn’t need to end.

Let’s work together to keep local journalism alive. With each subscription, just like with each ad, we are empowered to continue and enabled to cover more of our communities’ activities for the benefit of all.

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For journalism to be effective in not only covering the events of the day, but also uncovering mistruth and misdeed, it requires access to people and records. 

As local journalists, that usually means sitting in an interview or talking on the phone with our local school district, village and town officials, as well as our local, state and federal representatives and officials. More often, though, we find a certain lack of … well, frankly, the ability to connect with some of them. 

This issue needs to be addressed.

Journalism is financially struggling, locally and nationally. Advertising dollars have plummeted, and staffing is short on people. The Pew Research Center has reported print circulation for weekday papers was down nationally by 8 percent for 2018 over the previous year, and 9 percent for Sunday papers.

So, as newspapers struggle to maintain current standing, access to information from all these local sources is now at a premium. 

Too often, information is withheld, embargoed or stymied. Though it is more rare, some officials resort to tactics of intimidation to prevent the release of information. Some sources are afraid to comment on issues for fear of public retaliation. 

Cases of great importance, like that of the ongoing health issues at the Northport Middle School, have bureaucratic hurdles that include using public relations firms as contact people. Something as simple as getting an official’s comments or requesting documents through the Freedom of Information Law can often become problematic. 

It seems to take more work than it has in years before. 

In modern times, the number of public relations professionals only seems to increase, while the number of journalists decline. Bloomberg News wrote this year there are six PR professionals for every one journalist working in the field. This is up from a less than two-to-one ratio just 20 years ago. If you were to check our inboxes, you would likely have to shield your eyes from the blinding number of emails we receive daily from PR firms.

That is not to say we oppose these professionals. They are often a very useful and necessary component of business. And a good PR person can make a reporter’s work a little bit easier. But of course, that’s only when good things are happening. When there are issues, we often find communications professionals actively make getting even simple comments from officials that much harder.

We as journalists often prefer to speak directly to officials when the need arises. That’s what the public expects. We thank the many people who have worked with us on stories, both public officials and spokespersons alike, but we also ask everyone to understand the importance of the press, often regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy, even at the levels closest to the community.

Restricting access to even the smallest bits of information hinders the effectiveness of government by the people. It’s problematic for both the journalist and the municipal body that maintains government operations.

In the great tug of war match between journalists and officials over information, the knot in the rope should always land on the public’s side of the line, and our role is to be the watchdog for the people.

We thank the officials and communication specialists who honor that premise and work diligently to uphold high standards. Our world is a better place when that happens.