Reporter receives award for video confession

Well, even though I’m the worst blogger in the short history of bloggers I thought I’d try to get in here and post something.‬

After writing a story about the Naples Daily News staff’s coverage of the investigation into the violent murder of a mother and her five children, I’ve been following the case of Mesac Damas, husband and father of the victims and the man charged with their deaths.‬‪

In 2009, Stephen Beardsley, with camera rolling, simply asked Damas if he killed his wife and children. Surprisingly, Damas answered, “Yes, I did.” The confession was recorded as Damas was being extradited from Haiti, where he had fled after allegedly committing the crimes. Beardsley had followed the story to the island with fellow Daily News staffer, photographer  Lexey Swall.‬‪

Beardsley won a first place award for breaking news video in the 2010 Florida Society of News Editors journalism competition. The Naples staff won first place for online breaking news for its coverage of the Damas tragedy. Swall also won first place for a non-deadline video for an unrelated story.‬‪

You can read the background of how Beardsley obtained the confession from Damas here: http://escrippsnews.scrippsnet.com/articles/399-suspected-murderer-makes-confession-to-naples-pair (Apologies, my embedded links aren’t working today.) The Naples Daily News continues coverage of Damas’s case at naplesnews.com/damas.

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Better late than never ….

If I was a reporter covering breaking news and the Northern Kentucky Forum was my assignment, my editor would have fired me last Thursday. Between work and midterms and class assignments, my blog got neglected. But I’m back now.

I went to the Northern Kentucky Forum at NKU last Thursday evening, “News in the Information Age: What happens to democracy if the presses stop?” According to displaced journalist Dr. Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, now of Princeton University, several things happen: overall voter turnout decreases, incumbents are re-elected easier, fewer candidates run and candidates spend less on their campaigns.

However, his research wasn’t well received by the audience. One problem was with the narrow scope of the study.

Schulhofer-Wohl said he used information from the 2004 and 2006 elections as a baseline to compare with 2008 election data. Based on this information, Schulhofer-Wohl said there was less voter turnout in the suburbs, but added that they were not able to study every community. He also only used one election to study the effect of going to a one-newspaper town. Critics of the study agreed that in about 10 years, with a few more elections post the Post, the study would gain more credibility.

After Schulhofer-Wohl finished his opening comments, Rich Boehne, the CEO of The E. W. Scripps Company, Schulhofer-Wohl’s former employer, was immediately called out to defend his company’s decision to close the Post at the end of 2007.

After calling himself chum, the bait thrown out behind ships to attract the sharks, Boehne agreed with the 44 percent of the audience who said they are less informed after the Post’s closing, but added that “more than one thing can be true at the same time.”

As the second truth, Boehne cited the malady today’s newspapers face: running a financially successful newspaper while supporting enterprise reporting with decreased income.

“Since WW2, classified ads have fueled newspapers,” Boehne said. “The Internet killed that.”

Referring to how difficult it is to harness the power of the Internet, Dennis Hetzel, NKY.com manager for Enquirer Media, said, “The web it like trying to wrestle a rhino that is running like a cheetah.”

Despite the obviously negative financial affect the Internet has had on newspapers, none of the panelists seemed ready to condemn it.

Jacque Steinberg, a New York Times media reporter turned education blogger, said its “exciting to be in a job that didn’t exist 20 years ago.” He added that readers are better served with the niche reporting that new media, such as blogs, provide.

Hetzel cited the interaction that the Internet brings to readers. When Hetzel tried blogging on for size, he said a short, three-paragraph blog entry sparked more reader interaction than any 25-inch editorial he had written.

The final audience poll of the evening asked the participants what was their preferred source of local news. Nearly half the audience answered with newspapers and their Web sites, 25 percent said they use television news stations and their Web sites and 16 percent said they use online news sites. Only one percent said they use bloggers to get their news. However, the poll was not clear if the category included news organization-employed bloggers or just unaffiliated writers.

With that quirk about the poll addressed, the panelists agreed that the poll showed that readers were moving toward getting their information from multiple Web sources.

Hetzel stressed the need for newspapers to “unshackle from one platform” and use multiple methods to tell a story.

Steinberg said he still likes to think that the news is based on good, shoe-leather reporting. Despite how someone decides to tell the story, Steinberg said the media “will still rise or fall based on content.”

To view Schulhofer-Wohl’s study in its entirety, click here.

Intimidation

You know the scrawny kid in “Little Giants” who uses an alka seltzer tablet to foam at the mouth? That’s what I think of when I think of the word “intimidation.” And intimidating is exactly what blogging does to me.

I’m not sure why blogging is so difficult for me. Usually I can churn out words easily, whether it be a quick news story or an essay for an international politics class. I think it might have something to do with writing about me and what I think rather than something that’s happening and what other people think about it.

So, without actually doing anything rememberable (yes, I know that’s not a word) in this my first blog entry, I’ll leave you with a little video from youtube. And maybe next time I’ll go off some more on how much plagiarism annoys me, I’ll rejoice that a student newspaper won an open records lawsuit against their college, or I’ll get into the extent of Twitter’s ridiculousity. (In answer to the question at the end of the story, I choose the latter option.)