A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Letters to the editor: June/July

By Quill

SPJ should apologize to medical news company

To The Editor:

The May 2006 “In Brief” item trying to start a controversy about the use of TV stories from Ivanhoe Broadcast news misses SPJ objectivity by a wide margin, and we (SPJ) should apologize. As Ivanhoe’s Julie Marks said, “We sell them (TV stations) stories, and they can use them as if they originated the reports themselves.”

The key word is “sell.” TV stations pay for the reports, and they own them. It is analogous to a newspaper’s use of a report from New York Times or LA Times or Washington Post wires any way they choose. They bought it; they own it.

I do not have, nor have ever had, a link to Ivanhoe in any way, shape or form. But I admire the work they do in bringing important, well-done medical stories to viewers all over the country that they otherwise would not know about. For example, a station in Nashville can get the latest heart research news from the Cleveland Clinic without spending thousands of dollars to send a crew to Cleveland. On behalf of SPJ, Ivanhoe, I apologize.

Lee Bailey

Past President,

Cleveland Professional Chapter

Follow these criteria for better story selection

To The Editor:

Robert Buckman did a fine job in the April Quill, examining the daily ethical dilemma for editors in determining story content and placement.

I’d like to add a footnote on selecting content. If you asked all newspaper editors to send you their selection formulas, you would draw a blank. There aren’t any such things; story selection is far too complex to be formularized.

But what about criteria? What are the main considerations that go into the selection process? A few years ago, at the American Press Institute, I moderated a seminar for 35 executive and managing editors of large newspapers. As part of that, we broke into six groups and tried to list, and rank, the main selection criteria. When we pooled the six reports, this was the result:

Four main criteria, in this order:

* Significance (in the sense of importance, impact, relevance, cost, scope, intensity).

* Proximity (in either geography or impact).

* Human interest (in its broad definition of personality, character, color, surprise, novelty, adventure, drama, memories, pastimes, fun/entertainment, relationships, conversationality).

* Timeliness (newness, immediacy, originality).

Five lesser selection criteria were listed, in this order:

* Serving the public agenda (issues, questions, problems, controversies, positives and negatives).

* Analysis, evaluation, meaning.

* End game (decisions, results, reports, conclusions).

* Service, coping (how to and what for).

* Quality of writing (just too good to pass up).

Good stories might have several of those criteria. Usually, the more the merrier.

Edward Wardlow

Sarasota, Fla.