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In Other News

Reporters on Reporting

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In Other News: Reporters on Reporting by Stephanie Forshee & Rosie Downey is now available on B&N and Amazon. Yes, you read that correctly. Thanks for your support!

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Don’t Walk. Don’t Run. Fly.

Before my grandmother Toula Maye (Rendos) Bianchi passed away earlier this year, she granted me permission to make her a published author. Writing was a strong suit of hers, and she seemed to think I inherited my talent from her.

After re-reading an encouraging letter she wrote to my sister and me when I was in high school, I concluded she may be right.

Here’s what she had to say, which I think is applicable to many of my friends, peers and colleagues.

“My main goal in life is for you to be the best person you can be, and be true to yourself and never let any other person make you feel that you are less than you know yourself to be. You always know within yourself who you really are and you always know within yourself the difference between right and wrong, and the old saying “to thine own self be true” is always a good rule to follow all of your life, in all circumstances.

All choices you make in life can be based on this idea. You will know within your own mind what is the right thing for you and what you can accept and live with in your own heart. There will be times when life will make you feel desperate or unhappy, even traumatized. That is part of living and growing and learning. But never forget you are the most important person in your life. Only you can make the decisions that will determine what kind of life you will live or what kind of person you will be.

Other people can influence you, can make a very deep impression on you, can even make you doubt yourself. But if you only remember that you are the master of your fate, you control your destiny; you can overcome influences that may alter your behavior or your opinion of yourself. You are the one who controls your life, your decisions, your behavior, your beliefs. No one has the control over your mind but you! The world is a very confusing place, things change so fast. You are young and the world is a place to play and enjoy and take things for granted. Then comes a time when you are confused because you are faced with feelings and insecurities that you haven’t had to face, never knew even existed.

You are in a physical and mental change and don’t know what is happening to you or how to handle it. This stage of maturing is very strange and scary. It’s a time when you turn to your friends who are also making these changes. You feel like they understand, are the only ones you can turn to for acceptance. You, and they are depending on each other for support. No one understands the way you feel because they are too old or too young or too insensitive or whatever they are that makes them separate from you and your friends.

Each change in your growth and level of maturity will have these changes and you will never be secure with yourself and sure of your decisions and choices because life keeps changing and never stays the same, never. You have to know yourself well enough and know what you really want your life to be like for you to make the choices and decisions that are right for you. Having God in your life is a must because He is the only one you can ever truly depend on.

Human beings will be human, think human thoughts and do human acts. They are not your support. People will come and go in your life. Some of them may seem to be the most important part of your life at times. This passes. Life goes on–moves on. Some people may be a part of your life and there may be a long-lasting friendship or kinship. But this is a part of living that makes things seem worthwhile and this is good. We always need people in our lives that we can relate to and depend on to give us the comfort human beings need. God wants us to have that and he will provide the people he wants us to have. There will be very few people in your lifetime who will be the true friend or the true love. There are a select few out of the many people you will encounter who will have any lasting effect or influence on your life. You will have decisions to make about people and will have to analyze their feelings, their behavior, their motives and you will have to decide what influence you will let them have on your life and your behavior. Another saying that is too true, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” If you always surround yourself with the people you feel God would approve of you can be sure you will be in the right company.

You are the master of your dignity. You can make decisions just by following your instincts. God gave us an internal mechanism that tells us our basic instincts. You automatically know if something is wrong. God also gave us the power to make decisions, right or wrong. Usually when someone makes a wrong decision about a lifestyle or life altering situation it is because they go against their basic instinct and choose the thing that satisfies the worldly nature of the human being. Life seems so sweet sometimes when we cater to the flesh and not the soul. Human nature is like that. It’s hard to rise above it, but it’s a choice to be made because every decision, every choice we make has its repercussions. We have have to live with ourselves and our minds and our memories. They never leave us. We may try to forget or ignore them but they are there in our subconscious. We can never overcome our regrets and never feel totally forgiven for our poor choices, our indiscretions and our sins. This is hard to comprehend at an early age and I’m sure is not what a young person is interested in hearing, but every year will bring you closer to the reality that this is the way things are and will be.

Now is the time to think seriously about where you want your life to lead you. It’s your decision and you have to make the choices, then work to reach your goals. You are making decisions about your life. You are the one to live it. Don’t do things for other people, do them for yourself. You are the one who will need to be satisfied with the way you handle yourself. Don’t do things to make other people proud of you. Do things that will make you proud of yourself. Do things in a way that will make you feel you have done the best you can for your own self-esteem and your own dignity. You are the one who will live with your actions. Others can have your best interest at heart, they can love you and care about you, they can want the best for you always, but they can’t do it for you. You have to do it yourself. You must always be able to say to yourself, “To thine own self be true.” If you are true to yourself you will make very few mistakes that will alter your life in a negative way.

Your goals now at a young age are to build a future life for yourself, one that you can be satisfied with and enjoy. You have decisions about your vocation and your avocations. You must take responsibility for you. You are facing a fearful world.

You are young and it is an imposing time in which there is total uncertainty in future security. Our world as we have known it is changing in a drastic way and you are going into a phase of maturity that already is full of insecurity and fear of the unknown. It’s a hard time for you to accept more adult responsibility and deal with it in a mature manner when you are a “child.” You want to be a mature adult, and be treated as such, but you are on the brink, and here is where you have to take responsibility for the decisions you make if anyone is to treat you like a maturing young adult or a child. If you want to be viewed as a mature young adult you have to show signs of responsible behavior. If you need the comfort of a child, it’s okay, you are still a child. You don’t have to be mature overnight, it isn’t expected of you. Even grownups have their “inner child” that needs comforting and reassurance. No one is ever so mature that he doesn’t have that need.

My main wish is that you have the confidence in yourself and the desire to be the best person you can be in the eyes of God. Make your good grades in school for you. Don’t try to make good grades to please other people. It’s fine for others to want you to do well, but it’s more important that you want to do well for yourself because you know you are the one who will benefit from it. Your grades don’t have to be A’s unless you are capable of making A’s if you try. If you are not capable and you have put your best efforts into your studies then any “grades” you make are acceptable. You are the one who has to want to do your best or be satisfied with less. If you are capable and want to have a better future, go for the grades. They can only improve your chances. Some people don’t have the desire to put forth the effort. That’s their prerogative. Each person has his choice of what they want their future to be like. That’s their “life choice.” Sometimes people never overcome that “life choice” and they never fulfill their potential. Some never even realize they have potential. Some may in later years, realize they want more out of life and go for self improvement. But for anyone who has the ability and the desire to be the best they can be, it would be a sin against themselves not to put out the greatest effort possible when the opportunity is always there to be taken advantage of.

My point to be made is that you are in control of what decisions you make, even at a young age, in regard to preparation for your future. A good education is a must, and a privilege. You can never be ashamed of a good education. It also builds self esteem and dignity. I know you want to be well educated, but I want you to enjoy being educated. I want you to enjoy learning and growing mentally. I want you to be interested and involved in all kinds of things, to explore all the opportunities you have available to you. You have the choice to make your life as full and interesting as it could possibly be.

Fly! Don’t walk, don’t run–Fly! It’s your choice, to walk, to run, to fly. Whatever gives you satisfaction with life. Don’t deprive yourself if a little effort can put you where you want to be. Only you in your heart know where that is. You may not be aware at this point what exactly you need to complete yourself but you will learn something every day if you keep your heart and mind open and trust God to show you the right way.

You must keep this in mind daily: ‘With God I can.'”

 

Toula Bianchi

July 1, 1934 – March 3, 2017

 

 

 

Reading Guide for In Other News

Journalism professors rejoice. We have created a reading guide for In Other News: Reporters on Reporting by Stephanie Forshee and Rosie Downey.

Please let us know if you have suggestions for questions to be added to the list.

Thanks for supporting In Other News. –Stephanie & Rosie

 

 

In Other News: Reporters on Reporting by Stephanie Forshee & Rosie Downey

Reading Guide

Chapter 1: Mara Leveritt

What tips does Mara give about how to contact someone in prison? Are there other strategies you might use?

Do you think video cameras should be allowed or required in court trials? How would that help or hinder the reporting process?

Advanced: If you were writing about someone in prison who didn’t want to talk to you, who else might you use as sources?

Ethics: How do you feel about Mara’s decision to later work with a source from her stories, Jason Baldwin, and co-author the book Dark Spell with him?

 

Chapter 2: Christina Bellantoni

Do you agree with Christina’s belief that a journalism degree isn’t mandatory to practice journalism? What other areas of study or college degrees would be beneficial?

Christina’s choice to cold-call the editor at The Washington Times and say she was about to get a judge thrown off the bench showed tenacity. Is this an approach you would consider?

Advanced: Would you follow your editor’s directions if they asked you to publish the home addresses of city council members? If not, what comprises would you offer?

Ethics: If you were promoted to a position in the White House Press Corps., how would you make sure your reporting was fair and balanced?

 

Chapter 3: Gilbert Bailon

If you were in the position of covering a potentially dangerous situation such as the Ferguson protests, would you voluntarily cover such an event despite the violent environment? Why or why not?

Do you believe the national media outlets have a West Coast bias? Do you believe the national media outlets have an East Coast bias?

Advanced: How can national news outlets do a better job of covering the entire U.S.? Which regions do you think receive the smallest amount of coverage nationally?

Ethics: How can an editor make sure they are giving a story like Ferguson the proper amount of coverage? When does it become excessive or exploitative?

Chapter 4: Carrie Lozano

How can documentarian journalists differentiate themselves from documentary filmmakers who don’t have a true journalistic approach?

Carrie mentions how her male colleagues have received more attention and job offers than she has. What do you think can be done to shift that type of imbalance?

Advanced: Would you allow dramatic recreations or creative editing in a documentary that you were making? If yes, how would you defend yourself to critics?

Ethics: Do you agree with Carrie that a source for a documentary should never be given the questions ahead of the on-camera interview? What if they will not agree to the interview otherwise?

 

Chapter 5: Kendall Taggart

Kendall gives her opinion about what she thinks the role of an investigative reporter is. Do you agree with her? How would you define the job of an investigative journalist?

Kendall acknowledged that she and Alex had trouble tracking down sources on Facebook. How do you imagine you would contact someone on Facebook? What would you write to them?

How do you feel about Kendall’s decision to move to BuzzFeed’s investigative team after working for an outlet like the Center for Investigative Reporting?

 

Chapter 6: Joan Ryan

How do you feel about Joan’s comment that she didn’t leave journalism but journalism left her? Do you think she should have pursued other traditional news outlets or do you agree with her decision to become a media consultant?

Joan mentions that all aspiring sports journalists should learn on-the-job by covering boxing. What sport(s) would you recommend for aspiring sports journalists looking to acquire the most valuable experience?

AP and other news outlets have implemented software that can report on baseball games. How would you make the case for using a reporter to cover the game instead of using a machine.

Advanced: Do you feel that the female role in sports journalism has changed over the past 20-years? Which format (print, broadcast, digital, documentary) of sports journalism offers the most opportunities for women?

Ethics: If you were Joan, how would you have maintained your relationship with USA Gymnastics? How can you make sure you are reporting the truth and ensuring future access to events and athletes?

 

Chapter 7: Sonari Glinton

What are the biggest differences in Sonari’s job in radio and that of a print reporter?

Sonari often uses humor in his NPR reporting, do you think that is only appropriate in specific news organizations or can it be applied to all reporting?

Do you agree that a reporter must be willing to move locations to move up in their career? Would you be willing to move every few years to advance your career?

 

Chapter 8: Terry McCarthy

After reading Terry’s chapter, would you consider working as a foreign war correspondent? Why or why not?

Working as a foreign war correspondent requires travel to various countries. How would you prepare yourself to communicate with people in a certain country or region, even if you are not fluent?

Advanced: As important as reporting internationally is, sometimes there comes a time when it is simply too dangerous. Which countries or regions do you consider to be too dangerous to travel to at all and how do you determine that?

 

Chapter 9: Geoff Edgers

Geoff told Sandra Bullock’s PR representative that he doesn’t conduct interviews via email because “you can’t get information from an email.” Do you agree with his approach? Are there times when you think you could or should accept an interview via email?

What do you think about Geoff inserting himself into his documentary Do It Again?

High school: In addition to Geoff’s full time job, he takes on a lot of side projects. What types of side projects would you take on once you become a journalist?

Ethics: Can you recall examples of entertainment journalism where you felt the reporter was too “star struck” and it interfered with their reporting? What problems does this pose ethically?

 

Chapter 10: Andrew LaVallee

Would you consider uprooting your life to move to somewhere like Hong Kong? Why or why not?

Andrew started out as a reporter and worked his way up to an editor role. Is that something you’d like to do in your own career or would you prefer to progress on the path of a reporter?

Andrew was hired by The Wall Street Journal six months out of J-school. What would you do to prepare if you were hired by such a large organization without having reported at a smaller organization?

 

Chapter 11: S. Mitra Kalita

What are your thoughts about Mitra’s choice to move around from city to city and publication to publication? She has written for some amazing news outlets. Do you think it’s worth it?

What is there to learn about Mitra’s approach to work-life balance?

Advanced: Mitra has been recognized for her efforts in increasing diversity in readership. Do you have story ideas that you would pitch if your goal was to attract more minority readers?

Ethics: Do you agree with Mitra’s choice to cover the experiences of religious minorities in New York on Sept. 11, 2001? What other minority stories could she have told?

 

Chapter 12: Michael J. Berens

Mike won a Pulitzer in 2012 and was a finalist twice before that. How do you think the recognition helped him to advance his career?

Most of Mike’s reporting involves a self-made database. What types of information do you think would have been in his database he created for the methadone story?

Advanced: How would you pitch a lengthy investigative story to your editor if you estimated it would take 1-2 years to complete? How would you justify the costs and time commitment?

Contact stephanie@insideothernews.com or rosie@insideothernews.com.

 

 

John Oliver’s Love/Hate Relationship with Journalism

Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver took on the journalism industry this week. His best line?

‘The media is a food chain which would fall apart without local newspapers’

Amen. Watch the segment here. Every minute is worth it. I promise.

 

First Edition: Lynn Povich

By Samar Khoury

In 1970, 46 women sued Newsweek for sex discrimination, making them the first women in media to sue their employer. That lawsuit was a groundbreaker in bringing attention to the still pervasive issue of discrimination against women in the workplace.

Lynn Povich was one of those women. Her 2012 book, The Good Girls Revolt, details her time at Newsweek and the lawsuit that inspired women to take a stand. Now, that book has evolved into a dramatized series on Amazon.

Povich started out as a secretary at the Paris Bureau of Newsweek magazine in the 1960s and worked as a reporter and writer at Newsweek in New York. During that time, only men were hired as writers, and women were usually hired on the mail desk or as fact checkers. Being promoted to reporter or writer was rare for women. Even if they had the same experience, they usually ended up in lower positions than men.

Povich and her female coworkers at Newsweek realized that they were being discriminated against, and they decided to take action. In secret, they started to organize how they would battle sex discrimination in the workplace.

So, on March 16, 1970, Povich and the 45 other female employees filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying that they had been discriminated against at Newsweek.

They started a trend.

“When we sued, the story was picked up by papers not only around the county but around the world. That was really good,” Povich said. “On the one hand, publicity was excellent and did what we wanted it to do, which was embarrass the editors so they would do something quickly. Because it was in the media, and the media wrote about it, women in other news organizations began to organize.”

Two months after the Newsweek complaint, women at Time, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated sued for sex discrimination, and in the next few years, women from Reader’s Digest, the Washington Post, Newsday, the Detroit News, the New York Times and other publications also sued. “In that sense, [the lawsuit] had a huge impact for women in journalism,” Povich said. “We started the ball rolling.”

The lawsuit raised awareness, but some women faced problems, including Povich. Her boss supported her and suggested she be promoted to a writer, but matters changed when her editor moved to a different department.

“My new editor was very bad, and I almost left,” Povich said. “When he got fired two years later, I did well again, and, ultimately, I was promoted, which was the biggest surprise of all because most women who were in the front line of these lawsuits did not do well.”

Although Povich and the other women received support from a lot of the writers and their immediate superiors, some editors did not approve of what they did.

“There were some men who were resentful and against affirmative action. Some of the top editors thought it was terrible. One of the top editors said, ‘Let’s just fire them all,’” she said.

Following the legal complaint, women who tried out as writers were rejected, despite writing for the New York Times magazine and the Atlantic. “It was very odd that they could be published in other publications and somehow not at Newsweek,” Povich said. “The women really felt that the men, their editors, really wanted them to fail. So that was a tough time for the first women who came forward.”

However, Povich recognized that the lawsuit would not bring immediate results. “As Betsy Wade at the New York Times said about their own suit, ‘We did a brave thing, but we knew it would be for the next generation.’”

Eventually, things looked up for Povich.

In 1975, she became the first female senior editor at Newsweek, and in the next few years, she packaged seven Newsweek cover stories into books—one of which she turned into a CBS Reports Television documentary—and launched Newsweek on Campus and Newsweek on Health.

In 1991, Povich left Newsweek and became Working Woman’s editor-in-chief, then moved on to be East Coast managing editor/senior executive producer of MSNBC.com. Since leaving MSNBC.com in 2001, Povich has freelanced and written books.

Years following the lawsuit, Povich still felt compelled to tell her story.

The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard had requested the legal papers from Povich, and she realized she needed to give them more of the history of the lawsuit before sending the papers. “Once I started interviewing people, I realized that it could be material for a book. It kind of came upon me as more of a surprise,” she said.

In 2007, Povich decided to write The Good Girls Revolt, which PublicAffairs published in 2012.

After the book release, Povich received inquiries about television and film.

“I was reluctant to sell it because it was about me and my friends and I knew television would do something different with it,” she said. Eventually, after getting a call from a contact at Sony, Linda Obst—an editor she had known at New York Times magazine—she allowed the book to be made into a series on one condition: that they fictionalize it. Amazon eventually bought it to make a pilot.

In December, Amazon picked up 10 episodes of the show, for which Povich acts as a consultant. There will be no character playing her.

“I just wanted people to know we were the first and why we did it and how we did it,” she said. “It would be worth be getting out the word to a larger audience—that was always my interest, which was to have people know we were the first.”

Now, looking back, Povich wishes she had written the book sooner.

“I always say I am an affirmative action baby,” Povich wrote in her book, “and proud of it.”

Edited by Annie Zak

Update: Good Girls Revolt is now available to stream on Amazon Prime. Watch here. #GoodGirlsRevolt

 

 

 

 

Mara Leveritt: Making a Reporter

Devil’s Knot author and investigative reporter Mara Leveritt shares her tips on what she thinks is important when considering whether or not to take on an investigation of a criminal case. Mara is one of the 12 journalists featured in In Other News: Reporters on Reporting by Stephanie Forshee & Rosie Downey. The book was successfully funded on Kickstarter in December 2015 and is now available on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble. For more information about Mara, visit her website at http://www.MaraLeveritt.com.

“If it’s a public record that you should be able to get, I say fight like hell.”

– Mara Leveritt

First Edition: One Year After the Pulitzer

By Alex Vejar

Former Daily Breeze reporter Rob Kuznia made headlines last year after he won a Pulitzer–only for the journalism world to learn he had left the industry. Shocking to some, he had left the Torrance, California newspaper for a role in PR.

Kuznia told reporters he left the industry because he could barely afford to support himself. A year later, he’s still working in PR, but has been given an opportunity to write for major news publications like The Washington Post.

One year ago this week, Kuznia — along with colleagues Rebecca Kimitch and Frank Suraci — won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting after uncovering corruption in the Centinela Valley Union High School District.

Kuznia’s stories led to the firing of the District’s superintendent, who received an exorbitant amount of pay through his salary and a litany of abnormal incentives. Several programs the District cut were reinstated as a result of Kuznia’s work.

But those results took years of work, and a little bit of luck.

In 2010, Kuznia was hired to cover education for the Daily Breeze, a Los Angeles newspaper servicing the South Bay area of LA County. He wrote stories about several school districts, much like any young reporter would.

During that time, the City of Bell was caught in its own controversy in which its City Council found a way to pay themselves massive salaries upwards of $100,000 a year for what are part-time positions. Bell’s city manager at the time earned nearly $800,000 a year.

So when the compensation of Centinela Valley superintendent Jose Fernandez came into question by the teacher’s union, the Bell scandal was fresh on Kuznia’s mind.

In December 2010, he wrote a story reporting on Fernandez’s $300,000 salary, but it didn’t gain much traction in the community. “Nobody really cared that much,” Kuznia said in a phone interview.

But an anonymous email changed everything.

A year and a half after that initial story, Kuznia received a message providing details about Fernandez’s then-current contract. The user previously worked in the school finance department, and the specifics of their message were difficult for Kuznia and his colleagues to ignore.

The emailer, who had read Kuznia’s 2010 story, suggested that he request Fernandez’s W-2 forms from LA County, which the newspaper had not thought to try. The user also used so many specific figures that Kuznia felt confident to monitor Fernandez’s pay more closely, which he did for the next year and a half.

When Kuznia’s investigations confirmed the data given to him via email, he wrote the first of many stories detailing Fernandez’s lofty contract and compensation, along with the systemic corruption in other aspects of the Centinela Valley school district.

“We knew it was a big story in part because of Bell, and in part also because the school district just had a long, sordid history of corruption,”Kuznia said. “And so we knew this was a place that was ripe for a story like this.”

Reporting the Investigation

Kuznia’s first big story on Fernandez’s salary came in February 2014, reporting that the former superintendent earned over $663,000 in total pay in the 2013-14 school year for a district with only four high schools and just over 6,600 students. John Deasy, former superintendent of LA Unified School District — which consists of 900 schools and over 655,000 students — earned only about $390,000 in total pay in the same school year.

The story sparked a Daily Breeze investigation that brought other details about Fernandez and the Centinela Valley high school district to light. Kuznia was taken off his other beats to free him up to solely research and report developments regarding Centinela Valley.

In the midst of reporting the first story, Kuznia received a surprise call from a retired high-ranking finance administrator of the LA County Office of Education who had recently retired. Upon hearing that Kuznia was looking into Fernandez’s compensation package, the man offered to help him understand the language in the former superintendent’s contract.

“A lot of [the contract] was written in such a way where a reasonable person just isn’t going to be able to spot all the goodies,” Kuznia said. “He sat down with me and pointed out some things I wouldn’t have spotted.”

Kuznia also consulted with at least two payroll experts about Fernandez’s contract to confirm its novelty, he said.

Throughout his reporting process, Kuznia spoke to several anonymous sources, some of whom had to provide him with verifiable documentation to validate their claims. In addition, in order to use information told to him under condition of anonymity, Kuznia had to hear the information from two sources.

Some of Kuznia’s sources included people who had been spurned in some way by the school district, he said. After the first story about Fernandez’s hefty contract, deputies of the former superintendent became more helpful, especially after Fernandez was put on leave as a result of the fallout from the Daily Breeze’s reporting.

“After we were kind of able to crack the nut with that first big story, a lot other stuff started to come a lot more easily than it otherwise maybe would have,” Kuznia said.

After a few stories on the investigation were published, it became clear that the Centinela Valley story required more time and resources. Kimitch, a reporter at one of the sister papers of the Los Angeles News Group, joined Kuznia, who said she excelled at public records requests, poring over documents and investigating.

“From the first day she came in, we hit it off really well and worked together really well,” Kuznia said. “I was really glad to have the help because a story like that is a lot of pressure to put on one reporter, especially a beat reporter who’s got other stories to worry about too.”

After months of stories about Centinela Valley, Kuznia’s responsibilities widened to reporting on education throughout the entire Los Angeles area. While he enjoyed covering one topic for quite some time, Kuznia was happy that he got back to reporting a breadth of stories.

“It was a balancing act,” Kuznia said. “I didn’t want to let [the Centinela Valley story] slide. I didn’t want this to slip out of our grasp and lose the story to competitors. But I also like writing other kinds of stories that are maybe more explanatory or enterprise-y or kind of feature-y. After a certain point, I think I probably, on my own, started gravitating toward writing stories about other districts again.”

In Centinela, Fernandez was replaced and programs were added to the district’s schools, but Kuznia said the investigation impacted the district on a larger scale.

“I think beyond those specific examples, I think there was a culture shift where the people who were running the district took pains to say how they were now going to start putting the students first,” Kuznia said. “It felt like they were being sincere for the first time in my time that I’d been there.”

‘I Won’

Like any other day, Kuznia woke up on April 20, 2015 and hopped into his 1989 black Honda Accord named Rhonda, drove to the LA Metro train station and rode the Expo Line to his job at the USC Shoah Foundation, where he has worked for the past two years.

The only difference about that day — a Monday — was the highly anticipated announcement of the 99th annual Pulitzer Prizes. Kuznia’s editors had submitted his work for the local reporting category, so he checked on his phone to see if he had, by chance, been among the finalists. But the prizes wouldn’t be announced until noon on the West Coast, meaning Kuznia had to wait four hours.

During the waiting period, Kuznia employed every strategy he could think of to take his mind off the impending announcement. He attempted to work, check his Facebook and read articles online.

Right at noon, Kuznia decided to take a short walk around the USC campus. When he heard the clock tower chime 12 times, Kuznia walked for five more minutes. No one contacted him in that time, which led him to believe he did not win the prize.

Just as he walked back inside his office building and sat down at his desk, his phone began buzzing in his pocket. It was Suraci screaming in Kuznia’s ear that the Daily Breeze had won the Pulitzer. Kuznia said at that moment, he screamed “holy shit” in front of his colleagues.

“At that point, my phone kind of turned into a fire hose,” Kuznia said. “All these congratulations were just pouring in.”

The first person Kuznia told of his win after hanging up with Suraci was his then-girlfriend, Alta. He informed her with a simple text message saying, “I won.”

That same day, he returned to the Daily Breeze offices for a celebration with his former colleagues. During the party, Kuznia was flooded with interview requests from The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and others. In fact, he received so many calls, he skipped work the next day to accommodate all the reporters who wanted to speak to the Pulitzer Prize-winning man who no longer worked in journalism.

Life After the Pulitzer 

Kuznia recalls how he left the Daily Breeze in 2014 not because he was tired of being a reporter, but because his job wasn’t paying him enough money. While he was able to pay his rent, he was not able to save any of his earnings.

With his position in public relations at the Shoah Foundation, he’s in a much more comfortable financial position.

But that’s not to say Kuznia doesn’t miss journalism. He has recently taken on various freelance assignments from The Washington Post, reporting on stories such as the Bill Cosby controversy, the California drought and the shootings in San Bernardino.

Kuznia said that even though working for The Washington Post is not his main gig, he feels he as though he has moved up in the journalism world.

“That’s been a big deal for me because it’s freelancing at a level that I’ve never worked at before when I was a full-time journalist,” Kuznia said. “In a way, even though I’m not doing it full time anymore, it feels like I’ve sort of advanced in this field a little bit just because I’ve had this opportunity to publish some stories in an outlet that’s national.”

Kuznia said he loves the work he’s doing at the Shoah Foundation. However, if a national newspaper outlet came knocking, he may consider a move. He said it would be a “dream” to work at a large outlet.

But Kuznia is not thinking about that possibility — yet.

“I haven’t gotten to that bridge yet,” Kuznia said. “If and when I do, I will address that question at that point.”

Full Circle

This isn’t the first time Kuznia has had to “reassess” his path. He grew up in Grand Forks, North Dakota and based on a high math score on this ACT exams, Kuznia’s college counselor suggested he become an engineer. But a chance encounter with his high school English teacher while working as a bag boy at a grocery score shifted his thinking.

Kuznia, then a high school senior, recalled his former teacher and her husband standing in line at the store. With her Southern accent, she turned to her husband and bemoaned Kuznia’s choice of becoming an engineer. In her eyes, Kuznia was the finest writer in her class, and called it “a waste” that he would pursue any other career.

“I thought I’d had my whole future plotted out,” Kuznia said, “but that kind of threw me for a loop again, so I had to reassess what I wanted to do.”

While in college, Kuznia decided to write for the school newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, but he only occasionally contributed articles in his freshman and sophomore years.

Kuznia landed a job as a columnist for his college paper, and also freelanced for a few local weeklies in Minneapolis during his senior year. However, upon graduation, it took him some time to land a reporting job.

He worked as a janitor in Minneapolis and temped at a bank. Then, after moving back to Grand Forks, he worked at a sugar beet factory, delivered pizzas, mowed lawns and chalked football fields as a member of a maintenance crew — all the while littering the country with resumes seeking a job in journalism.

One attempt finally stuck: a job in Oregon for the Rosenberg News Review, which paid him $9.50 per hour and gave him his first beat — covering city hall.

In 2000, he visited a job fair held by the Bay Area News Group and was offered a position at the Fremont Argus, where he covered night cops and eventually transitioned to his first school district beat.

Kuznia wanted to be in the Bay Area so badly that he would have taken almost any job offered to him, he said.

“I was going for location before job,” said Kuznia, who had friends in the area. “I don’t know what the dream job would’ve been anyway, but I really wanted to get to the Bay Area, and so it was sort of like I was willing to to take whatever reporting job opened up.”

Ten years later, he started at the Daily Breeze, setting him up to cover the biggest story of his career.

 

First Edition: Linda Kramer Jenning

First Edition: Linda Kramer Jenning

By Ali Boone

From the first moment you listen to Linda Kramer Jenning speak, you are immediately taken by the way she shares her experiences. There is a sort of soothing and thoughtful way she approaches her words, a way that can only come from someone who has dedicated her entire career to getting at how to tell a solid story. Having come from a background consisting of work at People, Glamour, Time, and the Associated Press to name a few, Linda is a seasoned journalist with a passion for her craft.

Linda’s interest in reporting began when she wrote for her high school paper and then continued into her college years where she had the opportunity to report for the Associated Press during the summers. Upon graduation, those summer gigs led her to a full-time position with the AP – taking her from New York to San Francisco and places in between.

Having watched the journalism world transform over the years, Linda agrees that one thing hasn’t changed: the need for good storytelling. She thinks that stories need to engage the audience but also make a difference. Of course, they also need to be factual and balanced.

While she started as a print journalist, Linda did a stint as a broadcast supervisor at the AP and later reported for the CBS affiliate in Portland, Oregon. She found working in broadcast created different challenges.

With broadcast, there are things you have to think about like how the reporter or anchor is going to read the script. “You can’t have five words that start with P in a row,” Linda says. Another consideration is how the visuals are going to play in. She also learned how to do stand ups and voiceovers, among other skills.

“It’s a rich way to be able to tell a story,” she says. Writing for broadcast was maybe the steepest learning curve in her career, but one that helped her when she returned to print because it gave her a better understanding of the visual element of stories.

Like many magazine journalists, Linda began her career as a freelancer. While living in Oregon, she reported as a stringer for Time magazine. Looking to take on more freelance articles, she moved to Washington and met with the bureau chief who suggested she take her pitches to People (owned by Time Inc.) because it was very freelance-driven at the time.

Freelancing with People quickly turned into a full-time position in 1990. During her time there she focused on political profiles and breaking news stories. She also covered the occasional celebrity who came to advocate a cause.

While working for People, she witnessed four presidential cycles and was able to report firsthand on some of those campaigns. There were times when she was one of a handful of media allowed access to sit on a plane with presidential candidates like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

She remembers moments she was able to chat with the candidates, witness memorable speeches, and even experience the “hanging chad” presidential election in the year 2000 when George W. Bush and Al Gore faced off in the close race for the title of commander in chief.

Linda says that it’s in those moments when you’re in the front row seat of history, when unexpected things happen, that you’re reminded of why you got into this crazy business.

While she has had many incredible journalism experiences, she says that it’s difficult to find someone in the business that has not been laid off at some point.

After spending close to two decades at People, the managing editor in New York unexpectedly announced that they were shutting down all the domestic bureaus except for its New York and Los Angeles locations. This led Linda to her career at Glamour magazine that started in 2007.

Linda knew that along with fashion and beauty, Glamour had a great reputation for writing about politics, among other issues of interest. So when she heard that Glamour was looking for a part-time editor in Washington D.C. she decided to go for it.

Being a “little older” and not a typical fashionista, Linda admits that she met with a personal shopper prior to her interview. She believes it’s true that you dress for the job you want and also that first impressions make a difference. While her outfit was not the reason she got the job, she knew taking the steps to look the part helped with creating a good first impression.

Despite her efforts to dress for success, Linda didn’t go into fashion reporting at Glamour – although she says working with the magazine gave her a deep appreciation for the intensity and challenges of good fashion reporting and how well Glamour executes it.

One aspect of her job was to create regular memos to the editors in New York suggesting younger women in D.C. who were doing things that could make stories for the magazine, and also to keep the editors up-to-date on issues that were important to their readers like violence against women.

One of the projects Linda was a part of while at Glamour was assisting with the Glamour Women of the Year festivities. She constantly kept an eye out for women all over the world who might merit consideration for becoming Glamour Women of the Year, and part of her responsibility was to try and get those women to agree to participate.

Back in 2008, Glamour decided to honor presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and because of the contacts Linda had made while at People, she was able to help get Hillary to agree. She also had the opportunity to conduct interviews for a few of the magazine’s cover stories, one of which was the interview with former First Lady Laura Bush and her daughters that ran in November 2011.

Assisting with Glamour Women of the Year events and interviewing these powerful women was such an incredible and inspiring experience that Linda says it makes you ask yourself, “What have I done with my life? Not enough because women are so awesome!”

Linda is passionate about seeing women grow and excel in her own industry, too. Throughout her years working in journalism, Jenning has noticed positive changes for the role of women in the business. She’s thankful that there are more women working in news today than when she first started.

There were times she remembers being the only woman in the newsroom, and when she wasn’t the only one, there were rarely more than two. Linda notes that women are also covering more types of stories and are not limited to a few, stereotypical beats.

As to how she was able to defy the odds and continually advance to new positions as a female journalist, she says, “You need to be your own best advocate. I was one of those women who thought if I did really good work I would get noticed and rewarded for it. And sometimes that did happen, but I learned over the years that you do need to also speak up and put yourself out there for that next job that you want and not be afraid to take risks.”

After eight years with Glamour, Linda decided to pursue new challenges and more writing opportunities. Linda currently teaches as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and is very active with the Journalism and Women Symposium, or JAWS. In 2014, she served as the president for the organization where she mentors and encourages the women of JAWS to tell their stories.

 

Kickstarter Edition

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Hello, everyone. First and foremost, AHHHHH. Thank you. What a month it has been. We have one week left for our Kickstarter campaign to fund In Other News: Reporters on Reporting.

Everyone’s support has been simply amazing. We’ve been blown away by the pledges, the social media love and the positive feedback about our book – coming to you in February.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far. If you haven’t had a chance yet, you only have seven more days! Hurry up. Don’t forget.

Just in case you’d like to hear more about the project or would like to pledge, you can find our Kickstarter page here.

Also, Stephanie was interviewed by the It’s All Journalism podcast, and you can listen to that here.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please reach out to us at stephanie@insideothernews.com or rosie@insideothernews.com.

Stephanie & Rosie

#weresoclose

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