[Another in our “Notes From…” series - short notes by volunteers summarizing various events around the school, to help those of us who didn’t/couldn’t attend. Watch for several other “Notes From…” throughout the year. If you have one, send it in! Or let us know in advance that you’d like to do one; or after the event, too. You can see the master list of all the “Notes From” items here.]
Below, notes from a talk by Brian Ross of ABC News. Many thanks to the volunteer notes-takers. Feel free to post a comment below (free, one-timeregistration required).
By Renee Feltz, Gregory Catherine Simmons, Jaclyn Trop
ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross said his breaking of the Mark Foley story was an interesting example of the way old and new media are converging in the unfolding of investigative stories. The story challenged ideas about what information to present and how to present it, Ross told the 80 or so students who attended the talk. The event was part of a two-week series of workshops and classes for broadcast and new media majors at Columbia. Adjunct professor and alum Lennart (Lenny) Bourin, who is a colleague of Ross’s at ABC, introduced him.
Ross emphasized that stories published on the Blotter (http://abcnews.go.com/blotter) are vetted in the same way as reports ABC airs on its television and radio outlets. After confirming with Foley’s office that he was “Maf54″ in the IM exchange with a congressional page, Ross’s team published the story on their website. They felt it didn’t warrant the “front page” coverage of ABC World News until after other pages sent more scandalous IM’s in response to the vaguely disturbing ones cited online, and Foley’s office again confirmed he was part of the exchange.
Ross said one of the biggest debates about the television news report was whether or not to use the word “horny” when recounting the IMs. Online, the team published almost the complete copy of the exchanges, cutting out only the parts they felt verged on “soft porn.”
“The Internet has upgraded the quality” of the reporters and producers ABC hires, Ross said, because the medium requires sharp video shooting, research, and writing.
Two members of Ross’s investigative team accompanied him, including a recent Columbia Journalism graduate who will open an ABC bureau in Africa later this year.
Many students walked away feeling both inspired and that they had learned a great deal. Divya Gupta reflected, “You come into Journalism because you have a kind of proclivity for the underdog or because you want to change the world. Once you come into the profession, you realize you have to let go of that and just tell a good story.”
Ross suggested this book for working with anonymous sources:
Off the Record: The Press, the Government, and the War Over Anonymous Sources
by Norman Pearlstine, formerly of Time Inc.
[You can see the master list of all the “Notes From” items here.]