Thursday, February 22, 2007

Interviewing Tips for Reporters

Most of this list of interviewing commandments is condensed from a reportby Karl Harter published in Creativity Connection from the University ofWisconsin-Madison.

1. Do your homework. Always be prepared.
2. Be punctual.
3. Tape whenever possible.
4. Note details, including mannerisms. (Realize, however, that a tic orevasiveness may not be the result of the questioning. Some people are normally shy or nervous.)
5. Avoid yes-or-no questions.
6. Take copious notes. If you get behind, ask the subject to give you amoment to catch up so you don't miss or misunderstand good information.
7. Be yourself. That should be simple because the discussion will be about the other person and you will have something to talk about. You won't have tocreate small talk.
8. Proceed from nice. Save the tough questions for later.
9. Drop names if it will help you get an interview.
10. Ask questions, shut up and take notes. Give the person plenty of time toanswer, even to the extent of prolonging pauses. (This will give you a chanceto catch up on your note taking and it will give the subject a change toreorganize, refine or embellish the initial response.)
11. Be sure the person knows your name and phone number.
12. Ask the person if you can call later if you need to clarify something.Then don't hesitate to call.
13. Be certain the subject knows the reason for the interview. If you suspectsomeone of cheating people, don't ask for an interview about the person'sunusual hobby.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

SPJ Chapter Hosting Media Critic at Noon Meeting, Feb. 21

The Southwest Missouri Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will host a brown-bag lunch discussion with Norman Solomon, an author and media critic, from noon to 2 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 21 in the training room at the Springfield News-Leader, 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, Mo.

Solomon writes “Media Beat,” a weekly syndicated column on the news media and politics that runs in newspapers across the country.

Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, a national consortium of policy researchers and analysts, and is a longtime associate of the media watch group FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting).

A collection of Solomon’s columns won the George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language. That award was presented by the National Council of Teachers of English and it honored Solomon’s book, “The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media.”

In 2003, Norman Solomon appeared on CNN more than a dozen times as an in-studio guest. Solomon’s op-ed articles have appeared in a range of newspapers including the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, New York Times, Boston Globe, Miami Herald, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun.

“Solomon clearly has strong opinions about what is right and wrong with the media. He believes that some journalists rely on bias instead of facts when reporting stories. This discussion will allow him to share his views and experiences with members of local media. It will also give local journalists a chance to question him,” said Michelle Rose, a local SPJ member and non-daily publications editor at the News-Leader who helped to organize this special event.

For more information, visit Solomon’s Web site,, which features a biography, his columns and information about his books. His most recent “Media Beat” columns can also be found at

For directions or more information on the program contact Michelle S. Rose at 837-1371 or by e-mail at

Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s largest journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. The SPJ chapter in southwest Missouri has about 25 members.

Monday, February 12, 2007

How to use the Sunshine Law

The Missouri open meetings and records law says that most meetings and records must be open, with a few exceptions that are to be "strictly construed." The most common are for personnel matters, legal advice and for discussions of real estate transactions when public knowledge might affect the costs.

Citizens may ask to inspect or obtain copies of records. It's best to put the request in writing, being as specific as possible about the records you are seeking. Under the law, a government official must respond to your request within 72 hours.

Public meetings must be advertised at least 24 hours in advance, with a tentative agenda of the meeting.

You can find more specific information about how the Sunshine Law works and how you can use it at several Internet sites. Among them: The state attorney general's site has the most complete information specific to Missouri's law. The site includes the full text of the law, a Q&A, judicial and attorney general opinions about the law, and sample forms for requesting documents. The information on the site also is available in a pamphlet distributed through attorney general's offices around the state. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press site includes "Tapping Officials Secrets," a state-by-state, searchable guide to sunshine laws in all 50 states. Also at this site: "How to Use the Federal FOI Act" and "The First Amendment Handbook." The Society of Professional Journalists publishes "Open Doors," a guide on how to use federal and state freedom of information. The text is available online or in a printed pamphlet. This site, a project of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, offers in-depth analysis of state FOI laws and provides comparisons between states. The Freedom of Information Center at the University of Missouri is packed with research on state and federal Sunshine Laws. It also includes sample letters for making an FOI request

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Top 10 Reasons to Subscribe to a Newspaper

If you're looking for an effective sales piece to enclose with sample copies, or almost any subscription promotion, here's an effective sales tool from the Blair (NE) Enterprise titled “TOP 10 REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!” It can be adapted for any newspaper.

10. We're really a lot of fun. It's not all hard facts and numbers. We'll give you weekly listings of what's happening in the area on our "To Do" page. You'll find weekly features on interesting people, recipes, "How To's", plenty of special columns, letters to the editor and much more.

9. Our focus is your community. No other publication in the world cares about your community as much as we do. No other publication is strictly focused on Washington County. That's our mission, and nobody does it better.

8. A free Enterprise mug or stadium cushion. If you take advantage of this free trial offer, then subscribe when we invoice you at the end of your trial subscription. Just pick up your free gift at the Enterprise office, 138 N. 16th in Blair, NE.

7. It's a really great deal. It costs you less than 30 cents an issue-and it's delivered to your door, twice each week. That's less than half price if you buy it at the newsstand. You'll be saving $42 a year off the cover price.

6. It's full of 'Classified' information. Classified advertising that is. Subscribers will get our Classified pages twice each week. You'll be informed about all those great deals, like garage sales, cars and trucks for sale, pets and much more.

5. Save money. You'll receive all the advertising, circulars and special sections that are brimming with moneysaving specials. You'll probably be able to save enough your first week of shopping to pay for your entire year's subscription.

4. Save time. We're your one-stop information source. We gather all the news and information from Washington County and pack it into two editions each week. It's always there to refer back to. You can scan our pages in a few minutes twice each week, and know what's been happening around your community.

3. Get to know your neighbors. Some months we have in excess of 1,000 faces in photos of the people of Washington County. You're bound to know someone who has their picture in the paper this week.

2. Be informed about your community. It's our job to find out the details. Whether it's covering the school board, city council, county board or any other important meeting, we're there, and we'll get you the facts.

1. FREE TRIAL OFFER. Here's your chance to give us a try, at absolutely no risk to you. It's easy. Just fill out the attached postcard, and drop it in the mail. The postage is already paid. Then enjoy your local newspapers!

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mark Rhoades, publisher of the Enterprise.