Monday, May 21, 2007

Keynoter Wayne Slater

"This is the moment I've been looking for." - Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News political writer, in reference to seeing a woman moon George W. Bush as he did a slow roll on train through a small Illinois town. He said Bush thought it was fabulous.

The man behind "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush" closed out Saturday's workshop with a keynote speech.
There was nothing to particularly learn from Wayne Slater's speech, then again it isn't billed as a workshop, but it was interesting nonetheless.
He talked about how they were looking for a publisher for 'Bush's Brain,' and that it was rejected one after the other. Slater said one problem they had was that no one had ever heard of Rove. As Rove gained more attention, they finally found a publisher.
But a problem arose when Slater got a tip from a friend saying another publisher had a book about Rove with the exact same title, "Bush's Brain."
"I was unhappy about this," Slater said modestly.
He understood that it's all about competition, but he thought the title was stolen in a completely unethical way. Slater really liked the title they had, and he did not want to give it up. So eventually Slater and his publisher got their way, and the other Rove book would end up being called "Boy Genius."
Slater shared some interesting tidbits about Rove. For instance, Rove was apparantly a champion debater in high school and he would use blank debate cards to intimidate the opposing debater.
"A lovely little bit of detail," Slater said.
Rove also ran for student senate in high school, and he took the campaign very seriously. During the student assembly, the day before the election, Rove rolled in with a VW convertible with two cheerleaders. The place went nuts, and it worked, Slater said.
Another interesting bit of information was that Rove is apparantly an atheist. It's sort of ironic that for a guy who centered Bush's campaign around motivating Christian conservatives is an atheist.

What I Learned...A Student's Perspective

The students blogging on this site were given two assignments. First, post reviews for the sessions you attend. Second, pick one hot topic in journalism and get as much feedback as possible on that topic. While the first assignment was simple, I wondered how successful our group would be in the second assignment. What topics would we choose and would we get enough intelligent feedback to actually complete the required 10 page paper?

Now, as I review my notes, I'm astounded by the amount of information and the range of topics I learned about in just two days. My group of students was privileged to attend dinner with the panelists Saturday night and at my table I witnessed debates about victim's rights, Mary Mapes and Dan Rather, the future of online newspapers (what happens when the electricity goes off?), politics (Obama, all the way), and a myriad of other issues. I should point out that before dinner even started, I was fascinated by Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Eric Nalder's interview with our trolley driver (Nalder is always investigating) and I noticed other panelists showing genuine interest in the students, answering questions, and encouraging students to ask more. David Ryan's absolute love and enthusiasm for his online projects at made all the students want to move to Kansas. Tom Robbins (Village Voice) made us all wish we had a New York accent and the guts to take on the mob. I strained to hear Maro Robbins (SA Express News) debate with Kym Fox and David Ryan regarding victim's rights. This was good stuff.

At one point in dinner, Karen (a fellow classmate), tapped my shoulder and told me to look around. The noise in our room was deafening and the reason, as Karen was pointing out, was that students and professionals were gleefully and hotly debating, discussing, and instructing at every table. I wasn't surprised to see journalists talking, but I was impressed with how patiently they listened to the students and how excited and interested the professionals were to the newcomer's views. It was a theme I saw repeated throughout the conference-an open sharing of ideas, a genuine interest shown not just in other professionals in their fields, but for high school students, college students, and educators as well.

On the way back to the hotel, we listened to Nalder interview two tourists (turns out they were from France!). At the hotel, we sat by the pool, students and professionals, and talked about all we had learned. Again, I was surprised to hear the professionals say they had learned something (I thought they knew it all) and it occurred to me that the reason I love journalism so much is that journalism is an evolving process. We are always learning, investigating, reporting, looking for another angle with a million different tools and voices available to help us tell a story in a million different ways.

Shawna Williams, a freshman from Anderson High School in Austin, summed it up when she said, "I was thinking about getting into journalism, but I wasn't sure. Now, after being here, I really want to be a journalist."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Investigative Reporting with Tom Robbins and Eric Nalder

Tom Robbins from the Village Voice began this discussion by praising the the role of muckrakers such as Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens. He said muckraker was a title that he wore proudly. Robbins stressed the importance of "saving your strings" which means filing away every piece of information that comes your way whether it seems relevant or not. You never know when random strings will tie together to make an awesome yarn.

Eric Nalder reminded the audience that the material coming to you from the source should be the beginning of the story not the end. Both panelists spoke about the need to learn how to amass information using the Freedom of Information laws.

Nalder commented that the three most important things he looks for in new journalist are:
1. curiosity
2. organizational skills
3. computer proficiency

I was surprised when he said that knowing how to write was necessary, but not nearly as important as these other three qualities.

Loose Lips

"I welcome it when people get angry at me." - Eric Nalder, investigative reporter

Pacing back and forth in front of the audience, a tired looking Eric Nalder discussed "Loosening Lips: the Art of the Interview." 'Loosening Lips' is basically a list of tips divided into three sections: the set up, reluctant people and getting all the goods.
From his laid-back, casual demeanor, and his rather expressionless face and single toned voice, one wouldn't expect Nalder to be a particularly engaging speaker. But the crowd, including myself, seemed to pay attention to everything he said. Plus, he has been reporting for 37 years and teaching workshops for 20 plus years (in five different countries), so obviously his workshops are popular and in demand.
During the workshop, Nalder covered everything from the more difficult tasks like "hypnotizing" an interviewee to the simple things like remembering to ask a source, "How did you know that?" The latter tip immediately brought to mind a recent interview I did with someone from the financial aid office who gave me a few statistics, but I never asked him the source of that information. I'm sure the numbers are correct, but the source where he got those numbers could lead me to more information. Even better, I wouldn't have to use the word "said," but could instead attribute the information to its actual source.
Exemplifying loose lips, Nalder had begun the workshop by telling a story he wrote about a guy named Gary, who basically "stole" houses. As he tells the story, one can see how Nalder took over Gary psychologically. The source who had initially said he would never talk could now not shut his mouth.
Because the document is available online, I won't go into detail about the tips, but one of them I found interesting was for a reporter to quiet his or her ego. He said this is one of the greatest obstacles facing reporters, particularly young journalists. To help quiet one’s ego, he recommended organizing notes and doing background on the issue and interviewee. He said meditating, or the process of thinking about nothing, also helps, along with filling yourself with the vision of a good interview.
Another problem young journalists have, he said, is listening for logic. For example, a reporter might skip over a piece of information or not ask about it in fear of sounding ignorant. This also ties in with the ego thing.
"There are no embarrassing questions, only embarrassing answers," Nalder said.
Then there's the tip, "Use What You Think You Know." For example, instead of asking a source if they did something, ask them why they did it even if you don't have it confirmed.
I had mentioned in my previous post that I had never really thought about the way I conduct interviews, but the workshop definitely made me want to hone my interviewing skills.

Sessions with Eric Nalder

Eric Nalder of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer hosted three separate sessions for this year's conference. His first session, Loosening Lips: The Art of the Interview, may have been the most popular. With a slow and somewhat hypnotic cadence, Nalder described how he fine-tuned his natural instincts and became "a student of the interview."

First, he reminded the audience that the research a reporter does before the interview is as important as the interview itself. Nalder accused journalist today of being too disorganized. He went on to describe the extensive backgrounds he compiles before each interview. He emphasized to the audience how this preparation can empower the reporter and project confidence to the interviewee. Nalder also stressed the importance of choosing the place, time and setting of the interview so that you are in control.

Control is key in an interview and Nalder is a master of control. As he slowly walked us through some of his interviews, the audience seemed breathless. After hearing Nalder explain his thought process, the questions he asks and the ways in which he manipulates his subjects, I saw a look of awe cross over many of the faces around me. One attendee summed it up best when he said, "I've been calling myself an investigative reporter, but after listening to Nalder I realize that I have only been scratching the surface of things. He (Nalder) is amazing."

Nalder gave examples of how to deal with reluctant sources, how to drain a source, and how to get it on the record. He also gave examples of techniques such as mirroring, hypnosis, and ratcheting.

In his second session, Investigative Reporting, Nalder and Tom Robbins (Village Voice) both gave tips on how they work their way into organizations.

Nalder's last session was Sunday's keynote speech. During this session, he tied together everything he had spoken about on Saturday with the added element of how to operate in a hurry. Nalder reminded reporters that often your best sources are your co-workers. Use your fellow journalists. Many times they'll have a key piece of information and can point you in the right direction.

Nalder gave great examples of "reporting by hanging around"-a technique he used at one point to take over a warrant unit of the Seattle Police Dept. In a Q&A following the keynote, everyone seemed enthralled as Nalder led them step-by-step through the process of taking over an organization. The audience was obviously impressed with Nalder's natural ability to notice the smallest details combined with his highly developed organizational methods.

As Nalder's time ran out, a small murmur of protest rose from the audience. We all recognized the value of what we were hearing and hated to have it come to an end.

To read more about what Nalder refers to as "beautiful techniques for interviewing" go to

Quotes from Eric Nalder
"The greatest obstacle you're going to run into in any interview is yourself. You need to quiet your ego."

"Avoid arguing. Learn to let their anger flow over you."

"The most important question that you ask a person in any interview is-how do you know that? The next important question is -how else do you know that?"

" Documents can lie. You need to double-check everything, even the spelling of a name."

So You Think You Have a Book?

Donna Gehrke-White, writer for the Miami Herald and author of The Face Behind The Veil:The Extraordinary lives of Muslim Women in America, and Bill Celis, former education correspondent for The New York Times and author of Battle Rock: The Struggle Over a One-room School in America's Vanishing West, discussed the long process of getting a book published. A lot of reporters publish books about crime, politics and education.

“Write a book that has legs,” said Celis. In other words, write a book that will appeal and sell for a long time.

In order to get a book published, a book proposal must be written. Both Gehrke-White and Celis suggest getting an agent because an agent has insight to the publishing world. The book publishing world is a hard market, but it is possible.

“The book proposal is what’s going to sell you,” said Gehrke-White. “It needs to be strong.”

Gehrke-White noted that the introduction in the book proposal is key when submitting an idea to a publishing company. It needs to be dramatic and compelling. The most important question is “why is this important or should I read this book.” She suggests using the proposal as a road map to writing your book.

“It has to grab them by the throat in the first few paragraphs,” said Celis.

Another important part of the proposal is the author’s biography. Celis commented that this is not the time to be modest and you want to show you are an expert in what you are writing.

“If you won an award in kindergarten, include it,” said Celis. “Put where you grew up. You want to appeal to your hometown papers and schools; any way to identify to as many niches as possible will help you sell books.”

The final key component to the proposal is a sample chapter. It could be just a synopsis of your book idea, but it is a way for the publisher to see your writing style and get excited about your book.

When submitting your book proposal, look for books similar to the genre of your book, find out who the publisher is and submit proposals to them. Have an idea of who might buy your book and some statistics to tell the publisher. Marketing the book is pivotal to its success. After submitting proposals, remember to send a thank you note. The book publishing world is very polite and proper.

“Always be nice; book editors have long memories,” said Celis.

Gehrke-White was asked what she liked most about being book authors.

“There’s an entrepreneur in me, and I like the marketing part of it,” said Gehrke-White. “And that royalty check is pretty nice too!”

Donna Gehrke-White suggested these books for those interested in getting a book published:

Thinking like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published
by Susan Rabiner, Alfred Fortunato, Alfred Fortunato

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott

Word Pictures of People: The Art of the Profile

Bill Minutaglio gave a comedic presentation on his experiences conducting profile interviews. He is a national, award-winning journalist and has been an author for 28 years. He has written for several newspapers including the New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. He is the author of several books including, City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster that Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmarked Legal Battle, which I look forward to reading. Minutaglio said that this book was one that he was most proud of. It tells the story of the Texas City explosion in 1947, which killed an estimated 25 percent of the town’s population of 16,000 people.

“Writing stories on a deadline is difficult,” said Minutaglio. “The best profiles are written with the luxury of time.”

Minutaglio told an experience of when he set out to interview Allen Ginsberg, an American Beat poet. He is best known for “Howl” (1956), a long poem about the self-destruction of his friends in the Beat Generation, a group of young American writers in the 1950s. He wrote about destructive forces, such as materialism and conformity.

Minutaglio knocked on Ginsberg’s door at Rice University. A grumpy gurgle came from inside. Minutaglio began to ponder whether or not to leave, but Ginsberg’s door opened, with crazy hair, glasses crooked and sweating.

Ginsberg began to apologize for his appearance and tardiness to the door, but that he had just passed some kidney stones. Minutaglio found himself in shock, but soon realized that it was the perfect ice-breaker to begin his interview.

Minutaglio also shared his experience on the Today Show. He was invited to discuss his book, The First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty.

As he waited in the green room, which Minutaglio said actually had green carpet, he found himself being stared at by a man across from him. After a few moments of sharing sliced carrots, he realized that he was John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted. Minutaglio said he felt compelled to tell Walsh, that to his knowledge, he was not wanted for anything.

He finished his session with a piece of advice on profile writing.

“Drive the profile with intimate detail,” said Minutaglio.

For a more in depth look at Bill Minutaglio and his writing, visit his website here.

A Teacher's Impact

Michael Quintanilla of the San Antonio Express-News gave a very prepared and formal presentation. He began by thanking everyone that put on the conference but he did not stop there. He continued to ask all women at the conference to stand and he thanked them for just being women. He spoke of the qualities he associates with women. Michael gave a little background information from his past and told of all the women that impacted his life and helped him grow over the years. He jokingly told the story of his mother driving him to crime scenes when he was on the police beats because he did not have a car. His presentation then evolved into a reminiscence of his fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Lazaro. He quoted things she said and told of her high expectations. Mrs. Lazaro went to great lengths to push her students to do their best. Michael said that she had even given her fourth grade students senior level schoolwork. He also spent a lot of time describing the way she looked, dressed, and carried herself.
Michael also introduced some of his former classmates who shared in his admiration of Mrs. Lazaro. When Michael's presentation was over, Mrs. Lazaro's sons said their thanks. Her son, Vincent, said it was the best piece of journalism he had ever read. It must have felt great for Michael to hear how his writing had brought many people's feelings to words. Simple human interest stories that take almost no time to write can leave the biggest impact on people's lives. He finished it up giving advice to the other writers. He said not to be afraid to put lifestyle and past experience into the story to help the writing and to give it personality. He gave great advice for future writers and truly demonstrated the joys that can come from journalism.

Covering The Border

Covering the Border break-out session really appealed to me, not only because of the interesting stories told, but because I am an immigrant. Many of the conference sessions dealt with immigration and border issues, and gave me a reporter’s view of issues facing America.

Alfredo Corchado, Mexico City writer for the Dallas Morning News, and Mariano Castillo, San Antonio Express-News border reporter, discussed issues of illegal activity around the Mexican-American border.

"It is difficult to tell the story from the Mexico side because of the violence," said Corchado. “There is an effort to silence the voices along the border of the Mexican-American reporters."

The drug cartel is a powerful organization that makes it difficult to conduct interviews. According to Castillo, people are skeptical to talk to journalists because they are not sure if the journalists are legitimate or work undercover for the cartel. Also, in six years, 34 Mexican journalist have been killed or become missing.

“The two most dangerous places for a journalist to work today are, first, Irag and second, Mexico" said Corchado.

"80 percent of what I report is on the drug cartel,” said Castillo. “Narco [narcotics] traffic is the biggest story on the border."

Corchado spends most of his time on the border covering murders. He mentioned that murders happen on the border all time. Although they are not always in the news does not mean they are not happening. He also commented on the increase of 10 or 12 murders in just the past few weeks.
"It has become more difficult to investigate murders," said Corchado. “The Cartel is doing a better job of getting rid of the bodies."

Alternative Press Gives The Story

As veterans of the journalism world, John Dougherty and David Pasztor know that digging deep is a key ingredient for getting a good story.
John MacCormack, San Antonio Express-News reporter, introduced Dougherty and named his many accomplishments as a journalist.
"Dougherty is a hack," said Pasztor, managing editor of The Texas Observer to a laughing audience on Sunday. The discussion began at 10:45 a.m.
Pasztor described The Texas Observer as a "liberal publication with attitude." The magazine published four stories that presented immediate action in the Texas legislature.
"None of the stories were a product of black-bagging," Pasztor said. "It was a product of cut-and-dry reporting."
Both journalists said the main difference between alternative press and daily publications are the parameters. They, unlike "dailies," have more time and can run more words in a story.
"The window of opportunity gets smaller and smaller," Pasztor said. "The luxury is time and space - not money. It's all about ideas and being aggressive."
He said that as a non-profit organization, The Texas Observer does not have to negotiate with industry and stockholders as do the daily publications. There is no worry rate of return and he described stockholders' expectations as "utterly unrealistic."
Dougherty agreed with Pasztor in the sense that time and aggressiveness are important in the role of a good journalist.
"I do nothing different than what I was taught in journalism school," Dougherty said. "Be a good, solid reporter."
He said his difference as an alternative journalist is he has an opportunity granting more time, which gets the stories no one else can.
Dougherty was awarded as Arizona's journalist of the year three times for long-term work on his series about secluded fundamentalist Mormon communities in Northern Arizona who were "misappropriating" the government's money to fund polygamist families with up to 50 children. He said the issue that interested him were underage girls being forced to marry into incest.
"I was faced with the challenge of a closed society," Dougherty said. "They believed if they talked to you, they were condemned to hell."
Dougherty stressed the importance of the public records law, and how it is important in handling almost any story.
"(In Mormon polygamy,) a man needs at least three wives to have eternal life," he said. "There were 40-year-old women who didn't know they could vote, have a bank account or a driver's license. It is a society where all social freedoms are crushed."
He said girls as young as 13 were pressured into marriage with older men. They were ignorant to the marriage until the day before, when assigned by the prophet. If they refused, the girls were kicked out of the community and "condemned to hell."
"These marriages were not civil marriages, but spiritual marriages," Dougherty said.
He said the mainstream Mormon church will not talk to him about the matter. They stopped polygamy in 1890 when the Supreme Court upheld Mormon church v. United States. Fundamentalists believe in polygamy now and claim that it is "freedom of religion."
Pasztor and Dougherty brought to light many good points in the field of journalism. I agree with Pasztor when he said being a good reporter means keeping your ears open. Even if you do not have the luxury of time and space, you can do that.
"There are more than enough people willing to read a 4,000 or 5,000 word story," Pasztor said. "There are a lot of smart readers. We are able to say 'those are the kind of readers we want.'"

Human Tales of Immigration Enforcement

Attending the Human Tales of Immigration Enforcement break-out session was a great way to start off my National Writers’ Workshop experience. Dianne Solís, senior writer for the Dallas Morning News, and Juan Castillo, writer for the Austin American-Statesman, led our discussion over immigration reporting.

“Immigration is the beat that just keeps on giving, from commerce to culture, tax policy and terrorism,” said Solís. “It’s full of tension, which is essential to good story telling.”

Solís shared some of her reporting experiences, beginning with the immigration enforcement issue in Farmers Branch, a suburb outside of Dallas. Farmers Branch proposed an ordinance barring illegal immigrants from renting apartments. Solís gave us closer look at an accidental activist and former Marine, Salvador Parada. He was former illegal immigrant given amnesty in 1986. Parada campaigned the proposed ordinance be put to a public vote.

Solís also discussed the immigration raid of the Swift & Co. meatpacking plants, one being in Cactus, TX. These raids involved Swift & Co. plants in six states and led to the arrests of almost 1,300 illegal immigrant workers. She said that the raids uncovered stories of compelling human drama, such as families being separated.

“Many families are mixed status families,” said Solís. “An estimated 3 million children have parents that are illegal immigrants.”

The meatpacking industry investigations shed light on our broken immigration system and exposed the issue of identity fraud of U.S. citizens by illegal immigrants.

The second speaker, Juan Castillo, shared his frustration over the impasse in fixing a 20-year immigration problem. He focused on the Hutto Detention Center for detained illegal immigrants. Castillo discussed his challenges obtaining information and reporting over its controversial accommodations.

“The human consequences of this impasse and how states and cities are trying to deal with the impasse is unconstitutional,” said Castillo. “The core of the problem is that mothers, fathers, and babies are in jail, although they call it a detention center, it is a jail.”

Castillo emphasized that these detainees are not criminals, but are housed at Hutto Detention Center which used to be minimum security prison. Many of the immigrants at the Hutto Detention Center are waiting on asylum. Presently, there is a congressional subcommittee investigating the conditions in the detention centers.

“Our objective is to shed some light on things that are happening in the shadows, such as Hutto Detention Center,” said Castillo. “It’s a human story, no matter how you think.”

Muslims in America

Covering the Muslim Community was a great session. It was very small and intimate and became more of a discussion rather than a session. At one point, Amjed asked everyone to go around the room and introduce themselves which made everyone, or at least me, a little more comfortable. While growing up in a small town I was never introduced to this religion in any way, shape, or form besides what I had seen on television. This made the session very informative and interesting.
Abe Levy started it off with a brief introduction leading the group into a general knowledge of issues and problems that Muslims face.
The Miami Herald's Donna Gehrke-White spoke first. She addressed the fact that there are many Muslims in America. She gave examples of great women from her book, and discussed her book explaining what information it covered. Donna stressed the fact that Muslims are just like Americans. The children especially are alike in the fact that they deal with generational gaps and trying to fit into society while still maintaining their strong Muslim faith. She spoke of the strong family and spiritually oriented community that fits right into American society. It was obvious how passionately she felt on that subject by the way she addressed this topic.
Amjed Baghdadi finished up the session. He began his portion by joking about actual issues that people associate with Muslims today. He made a crack about the problems he faces when carrying an unmarked box in public. Even though he said it humorously he was completely serious. He discussed some of the many problems and prejudices he faced after 9-11 and still faces today. He said that for up to two months after 9-11 he was still calling in to radio stations trying to get the truth of the Islamic faith out to the public. One DJ even claimed Amjed was an anomaly when he could not beat Amjed in their on-going argument. It was amazing to hear how people can really be treated for being different. Amjed did leave the group with one "take home" message. He said there is a huge difference between culture and religion. The majority of what we see and hear today on television and in the media is not really Muslims. Usually they are other types of people or the images are taken out of context or distorted. He also told the actual definition of Islam which means attaining peace by your submission to the word of God. Amjed included the rules of war that the Islamic faith follows.
This session was incredibly enlightening and eye-opening. The panel was very knowledgeable. It was great to get a different view point on the subject from those who know the truth and the faith.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Becoming the Utility Player

Dr. Cindy Royal defined many web-related terms for the packed discussion. Royal, along with fellow panelists ,Ben Olivo and David Ryan, also asked the audience to redefine visual media and their journalistic role.

Dr. Royal referred to the role of utility player as a person who can adapt by relying on a broad skillset. Coming from an educator's perspective, Royal emphasized the need to instill skills in students that allow for more adaptability involving visual story-telling.

"I tell all my students to have a broad base of skills. Once you have that broad base, you need to decide what tool best tells the story," Royal said.

Royal also suggseted media packages to create interactive opportunites for the audience. Royal played former Texas State student media packages, "Mutt Strutt", "Children of Men", and "Sakura Festival".

Ben Olivo of followed Royal's presentation and elaborated on using the web-base tools to create a collaborated vision.

Olivo presented "Life of the Party", which mimics the quality of YouTube and "Spelling Bee", to demonstrate non-traditional visual combinations.

David Ryan,, was the last to address the topic of what tools aid the utilitary player. Ryan explained the concept of consistently adding to your workflow instead of working on a new idea each time.

"It's not about going out, gathering, and then writing a story. It's abut getting into your workflow and using your existing practices," Ryan said.

The Future of Journalism

Arguably the most common question in today's news is "Where is journalism going?"
This was the topic of the forum to kick-off the National Writers Workshop this morning in the Fiesta Ballroom. Guest speakers included David Ryan of and Tricia Schwennesen, Rich Marini and Hector Saldana of San Antonio Express-News.
Our professor and mentor, Kym Fox, introduced the panel and asked this ultimate question.
Ryan began the discussion, saying at, based in Lawrence, Kansas, they allow comments on all of their stories. This brings a certain level of involvment to the community. Although this is a fantastic idea in theory, it is not as fruitful with all locations the publication reaches. LJWorld is a publication of World Online. Steamboat Pilot & Today is also a World Online publication for Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The majority of Steamboat Springs' population does not have the usual desk job, and does not allow them the same daily internet access.
"We don't get the level of readership (we hope for)," Ryan said, in reference to the amount of hits to the Web site in Steamboat Springs.
The discussion led to the "hot" topics of blogs v. citizen journalists and comedy is the news.
Blogging has become a way for virtually anyone to become a journalist. During the recent Virginia Tech massacre, students were taking videos of the shootings with their cell phones, uploading to the internet and sending to the news stations.
Where do we, as journalists, place ourseleves in this culture of blogging and online journalism?
Schwennesen said our goal as journalists should be to reach a broader audience. Personally, I agree with that.
A question from an audience member to the panel addressed tailoring your writing to specific audiences.
"A lot of sites allow readers to filter what they want to read," Schwennesen said. "We, as a business, need a good balance between what they want and what we consider useful."
Fox said that her role as an educator is a constant challenge teaching the role of media in democracy.
"(You) want to be a champion of First Amendment rights," Fox said. "How do we manage all that with the continuing responsibility of the press?"
Ryan suggested that on the internet, time virtually does not exist.
"People's lives are hectic," Ryan said. "When do you have time for the news? (Online) news can present itself as they want it when they want it."
On the issue of blogs becoming a major source of information for the general public, Saldana questioned if all the information is good information. This lingering question is a perfect example of the public assuming their information is credible because they "read it on the internet."
Credibility is the key ingredient in honest journalism. Political satirist Jon Stewart brands himself as a non-journalist, yet being credible holds importance to his program. I agree with Saldana when he referred to Stewart as a touchstone. He has become the pattern, or model, of the generally younger audience. Stewart and Colbert speak to an already informed audience. This is how their audience understands the humor in the news.
"Stewart's audience is better informed than Fox News'," Rich Marini said.
Schwennesen said that as a journalist she does not let Stewart's humorist news affect her work.
Fox said the evolution of Jon Stewart has brought more "hard-hitting news." He is a news aggregator, which is someone who collects from multiple sources.
Ryan said he takes Stewart's show for exactly what it is.
"The fool or jester can say more than the average," Ryan said. "Using comedy, satire and sarcasm allows complex communication."

*Roy Peter Clark was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, but was unfortunately unable to attend due to a sudden illness.

Investigative Reporting

Sat. May 19th 2:45pm-3:45pm, Fiesta Ballroom

: Discussion on learning tricks to the trade from cracking the code of secret organizations to uncovering public corruption.
Tom Robbins, an investigative writer for the NY Daily News for 12yrs until 2000. New York neighborhood writer for 30+ years. Robbins experience includes being the Editor of City Limits magazine, aimed at neighborhood activism. He worked as a staff writer for the New Yorker Observer and the Village Voice His recent achievement Served as the Spring 2007 Jack Newfield professor and taught an honorary course on urban investigative journalism at the Hunter College Integrated Media Arts
Eric Nalder , served an investigative team leader for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Nalder holds 35 years of reporting experience and has received two Pulitzers in national and investigative reporting for series of articles on oil tankers. Nalder published one book, “Tankers Full of Trouble”, which won the Investigative Reporters and Editors book award in 1994.

Multimedia Panel Preview

Saturday, May 19, 2007
10:45am - 11:45am, Crockett

Topic: Stories Degree Zero
Discussion based on the idea of storytelling basics using the latest media trends in online journalism and the consumer influence on online media.

Intro by Kym Fox-Texas State Mass Communications Professor


Cindy Royal – An assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University in San Marcos
Dr. Royal has served as an assistant instructor then professor in Mass Communication studies since January 2003. Her research interests include the social implications of the Internet, and a dissertation on how women's media and Web sites represent women's usage of the Internet. Currently working studying people's motivations for creating online content.
Prior to 1999, Dr. Royal had a marketing career at Compaq Computer and the NCR Corporation. Royal worked as a journalist for Austin Business Journal and Texas Music Magazine before moving into teaching.

David Ryan-
David Ryan is the online editiorial projects manager for the site, based out of Lawrence, Kansas. Ryan has been creatively involved in every aspect of online news websites since 1999. Before creating websites, Ryan was involved in the Ph.D. program in American Literature and American studies at the University of Kansas and has a Master in Arts in fiction writing from Temple University.

Ben Olivo - Currently, Olivo serves as the entertainment editor for
As an editorial assistant, Olivo started his career working for the San Antonio Express-News. In 2000, took a break and worked on an internship covering the malaria beat for the Cambodia Daily with the World Health Organization. Olivo rejoined the express news staff upon his return to San Antonio in 2003.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Loosening Lips: The Art of the Interview

“My interview techniques...feel casual, but are in fact a scientific unraveling of the information contained in brain cells.” - Eric Nalder

Investigative reporter Eric Nalder has learned a thing or two about interviewing in his 20 plus years of experience. According to America’s Investigative Reports, Nalder is “known for his ability to get people to open up and tell all they know, on the record.”
Through his own experience and discussions with other journalists, police investigators, etc., etc...Nalder has compiled "Loosening Lips: The Art of the Interview," which provides tips on how to set up and prepare for an interview, how to deal with reluctant interviewees and how to get “all the goods.”
In my experience as a novice reporter, I've never really thought about how I conduct my interviews, so I'm interested to see what tips Nalder has to offer.

The hour-long workshop will be held at 1:30 p.m. in the Fiesta Ballroom.

For more information about Nalder, check out Carrie's post below.

Keynoter Wayne Slater

For more than 20 years, Wayne Slater has been covering national and state politics. Getting his first start as a reporter for the Parkersburg (W. Va.) Sentinel, Slater moved on to work for the AP in Colorado, Kansas, Illinois and West Virginia.

But it was in Texas with the Dallas Morning News where Slater would become a well known, award-winning political reporter. Serving for 15 years as the paper's Austin bureau chief, he covered seven sessions of the Texas Legislature and the administrations of five Texas governors.

Slater is not only a reporter, but also an author, professor and blogger. He received a lot of attention for the New York Times bestseller "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush," which was also made into a feature documentary. Along with co-writer James Moore, Slater would follow up 'Bush's Brain' with two other books, “Rove Exposed: How Bush’s Brain Fooled America” (2005) and “The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power” (2006).

Slater has an extensive knowledge of Bush, having conducted numerous interviews with the president. He even traveled with Bush's presidential campaign for 16 months. Slater can be seen during this period in the documentary "Journeys with George."

Catch Slater's keynote address at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Fiesta Ballroom.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Joys of Journalism

The Joys of Journalism will be from 12:00-1:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Michael Quintanilla will be explaining the importance and significance of human interest stories. He will also be dedicating a reading of his own story about his fourth grade teacher Mrs. Lazaro. Quintanilla will be joined by a few of Mrs. Lazaro's students and her son, Vincent Lazaro. Judging by his past presentations, this should be interesting.

Michael Quintanilla is a journalist for the San Antonio Express-News. He is famous as a fashion guru from his writings in the Los Angeles Times. Some of his work was included in The Los Angeles Times Pulitzer Prizes in 1992 and 1994. As an award winning journalist, he is widely known for his human-interest pieces, profile writings and personal essays.

Covering the Muslim Community

Covering the Muslim Community will be presented from 2:45-3:45 p.m. on Saturday.

The presentation will be introduced by Abe Levy of the Express-News. The panel is compiled of Amjed Baghdadi and Donna Gehrke-White. The main focus of this session is to explain and discuss the ways to handle writing about the Muslim world. Since 9-11, the Muslim community has become a highlight for public scrutiny and judgment. Amjed Baghdadi and Donna Gehrke-White will lead the way to a new concept of approaching and writing about Muslims.

Amjed Baghdadi was raised in Texas and attended Texas A&M. He is a health-care consultant. As well as the director of public relations for the Islamic Center of San Antonio. He has also served as president for a university Muslim association, a Muslim awareness committee and an Islamic community center. He loves discussing his faith and contemporary views with non-Muslims.

Donna Gehrke-White grew up near St. Joseph, Missouri. She graduated magna cum laude from Drake University in Iowa. She continued her master’s degree in Latin American Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. Throughout her career Gehrke-White has written for The Louisville Courier-Journal, The Associated Press and The Miami News. Donna Gehrke-White is currently a journalist for the Miami Herald. Donna is married to Timothy J. White. He is an editor at the Miami Herald. They have two children, Nicholas and Alexander. She has covered many fascinating articles, won national awards for her reporting, and shared in two Pulitzer prizes. She also wrote “The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America.”

Eric Nalder

Eric Nalder has received two Pulitzer Prizes, one for national reporting in 1990 and another for investigative reporting in 1997. He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer in public service in 1992. Nalder published one book, Tankers Full of Trouble, which won the Investigative Reporters and Editors book award for 1994. He has received more than 60 state, regional and national journalism awards and he has taught interviewing and investigative reporting workshops in five countries. Nalder has been a reporter for 34 years, minus nine months spent as a pig farmer. He heads the investigative team of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and lives in Suquamish, WA. He has also lived in Norway, France, Lebanon and Afghanistan.
Nalder spent three years at
the San Jose Mercury News before joining the P-I on Aug. 30. Prior to that, he worked for The Seattle Times for 17 years. He also worked for the Everett Herald, Lynnwood Enterprise and Whidbey News Times.

Eric Nalder's focus at the conference includes two workshops concerning his specialty: investigative reporting. His first workshop, Loosening Lips: the Art of the Interview, starts Saturday at 1:30 and features successful techniques for finding the facts of a story. Techniques from the Loosening Lips workshop can be found on the IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors) website along with many other tips from Nalder. Nalder will also host (with Tom Robbins) the Investigative Reporting workshop beginning at 2:45pm.

On Sunday, Nalder delivers the keynote speech at 9:30am followed by a Q&A session at 10:45am.
I plan on asking Nalder about his time in Lebanon (he graduated from high school there) and his time in Afghanistan.

Eric Nalder has a large following of fans both among his readers and his co-workers. After reviewing his comments on the chat site,
I understand why. Open and friendly, he answers questions honestly, spreads credit around liberally, and accepts criticism graciously (although he seldom makes mistakes). His specialty is getting the facts and getting them right.

Roy Peter Clark

Roy Peter Clark will kick off the conference at 9:30am with a review of his latest book, Writing Tools:50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. (Copies will be on sale at the conference.)

Clark is touted as a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. He has gained fame by teaching writing to children. In Writing Tools, Clark states that anyone can learn to write if they have the right tools. Exerpts from his book can be heard on the Ponyter Institute Podcast.

Clark will stay for a Q&A session from 10:45-11:45am. I plan to ask him questions regarding the most effective techniques for teaching young writers. I am interested in holding workshops for high school student and would like his input.

Roy Peter Clark

As a Vice President and writing teacher of the Poynter Institute, Roy Peter Clark had taught students and teachers alike on various writing techniques. He has published many books on writing well in the newsroom. Clark will be the first keynote speaker to start the workshop on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

He was born in 1948 in New York and graduated with an English degree from Providence College in Rhode Island and received a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He worked with the American Society of Newspaper Editors to improve national newspaper writing.

A fact I found interesting is Clark was named one of America's first writing coaches. I also like that he is a semi-frequent guest on NPR.

Clark worked for two years on a story about his "intensely personal family history," in a story called "Three Little Words." It was published in the mid-nineties over a series of 29 days in the St. Petersburg Times, set in the time of AIDS. Last year, he was featured a few times on NPR and once on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Speaking about Alternative Press

Alternative press is one of the two topics I chose to cover. David Pasztor, managing editor for Texas Observer, and John Dougherty, freelance investigative reporter for New York Times, will speak at this forum Sunday from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m.

After being expelled from the University Missouri-Columbia, Pasztor's career in journalism has flourished through papers based in Kansas City, Dallas and Phoenix. Numerous publications interviewed Pasztor in regards to Molly Ivins' death in January, who was also an editor for the Texas Observer.

What rightfully catches my eye about his writing are the clever story titles, such as Spanking a Freshman and Low-Hanging Fruit. A knack for attention-getting titles is something I strive for as a journalist, so it will be 'fruitful' to pick up a few of his tips. Also, Pasztor being expelled in college is a mystery to the internet. My curiosity takes precedence, so this is an ideal question to ask him.

Being a veteran to the Phoenix New Times as an investigative reporter, John Dougherty won the 2006 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for his series
"Polygamy in Arizona."
These days he is a freelance investigative reporter in Tempe who submits to the New York Times. He has recent work about confined fundamentalist Mormon groups in Arizona and the Keating Five.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Journalists Write a Book

After lunch on Saturday, I will be attending Journalists Write a Book break-out session. At 1:30 p.m., Donna Gehrke-White, Miami herald reporter and author of "The Face Behind the Veil," and Bill Cellis, former New York Times reporter and author of an upcoming book about Edgewood ISD, will give us a more in-depth look at writing their books.

Wayne Slater and Eric Nalder

For the 2007 National Writers Workshop in San Antonio, I will be covering keynote speaker Wayne Slater, former Austin bureau chief for Dallas Morning News. Slater is known for his coverage of George W. Bush, having reported on the controversial figure for more than a decade. He is the author of Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush.
The second workshop I will cover is Loosening Lips: the Art of the Interview, featuring Eric Nalder of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

NWW: Alternative Press and Roy Peter Clark

The weekend of May 19th and 20th will harvest the third annual National Writers Workshop at the La Quinta Inn and Suites near the River Walk and River Center Mall in San Antonio. This will be my first experience at a workshop, let alone a writers workshop. As a writer and a journalist, this is quite exciting for me.
I will be covering Saturday's Alternative Press Forum, featuring John Dougherty, freelance investigative reporter for New York Times, and David Pasztor, managing editor for Texas Observer. The other forum I will 'blog' about is early Sunday morning, specifically Keynoter Roy Peter Clark, writing coach for the Poynter Institute. This will be a wonderful experience for writers, journalists and anyone who is interested.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Texas State journalism class studies at NWW

Students from Texas State University's School of Journalism & Mass Communication are attending the National Writers Workshop in San Antonio May 19-20 as part of a class offered during the university's 2007 mini-session. Seven students are participating in the course. Prior to the workshop, we are researching workshop presenters so we're ready for an invigorating weekend with a multitude of media professionals.

During the workshop, we're splitting up to make sure we have someone at each session, then we'll blog each session so we can share what we've learned.

Stop back from time to time and check out what we've posted. First, we're working on the pre-conference research, so if you'd like to know a little more about some of the presenters who will be at the NWW in San Antonio, this is place to be.