Author Archives: dgriffith

Journalist, Activist Masha Hamilton visits Sweet Briar

Given that Masha Hamilton will be visiting Sweet Briar this week, we will be reading some of her writing.  Her visit comes at a great time for us, as she has done a lot of investigative work.

Please read the first article for Tuesday’s class and the second and  third for Thursday’s class.



Also, please do your very best to attend at least one of Hamilton’s events while she is one campus this week.  Her schedule is below:

Wednesday, November 2

* 3 – 4:15 p.m. (FAC) Presentation and Q &A with y:1 students and faculty

* 8 p.m. (Wailes Lounge, Wailes Conference Center) Lecture & slideshow presentation to Sweet Briar and the outside community about Masha Hamilton’s career as a journalist, novelist, and humanitarian, especially her experiences with women in Afghanistan. (One hour with Q & A, book signing in looby to follow.)

Thursday, November 3 

* 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. (FAC) Afternoon meeting and discussions with Salt Block business students on entrepreneurial non-profit business management and their work for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project

Friday, November 4  

* 8 p.m. (Murchison Lane Auditorium, Babcock Fine Arts Center.) “Out of Silence” reading/performance by Sweet Briar theatre students (Note: An image of Lalla Essaydi’s photograph Les Femmes du Maroc #17, 200, which is in the College’s permanent collection, could be projected on stage before and after the performance.)

* 9:30 p.m. Reception to follow the performance in the lobby of the Babcock Fine Arts Center.

Monday, November 7

* 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. (Pannell Art Gallery) Afternoon reading and Q & A with Red Clay literary magazine staff, creative writing students. (Director of Art Collection and Galleries Karol Lawson can arrange for Lalla Essaydi’s photograph Les Femmes du Maroc #17, 2005 to be on display in the gallery during the reading.)

* 7 p.m. (Sanctuary Cottage) Dinner with creative writing students and faculty

Tuesday, November 8

* 3 – 4:15 p.m. (Fletcher 200) Meet with creative writing students enrolled in the ENGL 334 Fiction Workshop: Research and the Fiction Writer.




Woodward and Bernstein meets the Beastie Boys

Some background music as you read Woodward and Bernstein.

Abramson takes over the ‘Grey Lady’– first woman ed-in-chief of the NY Times

Jill Abramson, first woman editor-in-chief of the New York Times

Former managing editor of the New York Times Jill Abramson has just taken over as editor-in-chief of the New York Times, becoming the first woman to hold the post in the history of the venerable paper. Check out this excerpt of a profile of Abramson in this week’s New Yorker:

Once, it was preposterous to think that a woman could become the editor of the Times. When Eileen Shanahan, who went on to become a well-respected economics reporter, arrived for an interview with Clifton Daniel, the managing editor, in 1962, she hid her desire to become an editor. “All I ever want is to be a reporter on the best newspaper in the world,” she told him.

“That’s good,” Daniel responded, as Shanahan told the story, “because I can assure you no woman will ever be an editor at the New York Times.”

Four decades ago, women and minorities were second-class citizens at the paper. According to Nan Robertson’s book “The Girls in the Balcony: Women, Men, and the New York Times,” only forty of the Times’ four hundred and twenty-five reporters were women, and this included not a single national correspondent. There were no female photographers, columnists, or editorial-board members. Not a single black journalist rose above the position of reporter.
In the late nineteen-seventies, after facing multiple lawsuits alleging discrimination against women and minorities, the company became more aggressive in promoting and recruiting staffers who weren’t white men. By 2010, forty-one per cent of the editors and supervisors were women; just under twenty per cent of all employees were minorities; and thirteen per cent of supervisory positions were held by minorities.

This June, the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., announced the appointment of Abramson and of Dean Baquet, who is black, as the new managing editor. Many who gathered in the newsroom that day were thinking of this history. Not a few women cried. Susan Chira, an assistant managing editor, says that she kept thinking that when she joined the Times, in 1981, many Times women were “sad, bitter, angry people who were talented but who had been thwarted.” Editors openly propositioned young women. “I can’t believe how far we’ve come. To see Jill take the mantle, I felt tingling. You have to praise and savor when a woman can earn it through merit. No tokenism here. Jill studied for this job. She earned it.”

Read more

Investigative Article Proposals and Bryan Alexander visit

For Tuesday’s class you will write a one-page proposal for your investigative article.

An investigative article is different from a news article in that it covers a story that raises complex issues, or has far-reaching effects that need to be explored.  As a result, investigative articles are longer that hard news articles (usually 3,000-10,000 words) and require more research and reporting.  This means that you will need to choose a subject for your article that is big enough and complex enough to warrant investigation.

That said, please follow the guidelines below:

  1. Be as specific and concise as possible when identifying the topic or issue.
  2. What is at stake?  Why is it important for someone to write about this topic?  What will be the benefits?  Who will benefit?
  3. Provide a list of people you will interview and resources you will use to aid your research.  Be ambitious.  If it would be ideal to interview a Senator, then put him/her on your list.  If it would be helpful to consult the National Archives, then put that down, too.  Note that for this assignment you will need to interview no less than 6 credible human sources, and consult no less than 6 previously published stories on, or relating to, the topic you are writing about.  (The College has a wonderful collection of full-text on-line databases.)
  4. What types of media would enhance the story, or help to better explain the complex data, ideas, or issues that comes with the story?

This is due next Tuesday.  Please send it via email before class begins.

Also, please remember that Tuesday we will meet in the Class of 1948 Theatre inside the FAC.  Bryan Alexander will be speaking to us about digital storytelling.  Check out his bio and the following links, so that you have an understanding of the really interesting work he does.

As you will see in his bio, he is on the staff of NITLE (The National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education), the organization that Sweet Briar President Jo Ellen Parker lead before coming to SBC.

Bryan Alexander, Senior Fellow, NITLE

Check out his blog, in particular this post, in which he discusses his self-imposed “Month of Digital Story-telling.”

Lastly, please read (in its entirety) his essay on Web 2.0 Storytelling.

Note that I have briefed Alexander on what we have been doing in our class so far.  I have told him about the class blogging project on tumblr and your long-term investigative article, so his remarks will be aimed at helping us realize the potential of the blog platforms and social media we have at our disposal.

Have a good weekend.

The Local Angle

Today we will spend the whole period looking at the structure of articles covering the local angle of a national or international story.

I have chosen a couple articles from college/university papers to help us understand how such stories work:


Finding the “Local Angle”

So, this next round of articles must be about a national or international issue, but written in such a way that it appeals to a local audience.  This is called finding the “local angle” for the story.

As we’ve discussed at length in class, the average reader is weary from being bombarded by so much information, so the journalist and news organizations have to find ways of reaching them and making the news seem relevant.

Here are a few examples of recent news articles that take a local angle on a national or international issue.

You will notice that in each of these stories there is a connection between the local and national.  The writer’s job in such stories is to foreground the connection between the national story and the local.  This is done through a lede that specifically mentions place right away.  In the first, a story from the Chicago Tribune, the writer mentions Lake Bluff, IL, a Chicago suburb.  In the second, students celebrate the national Banned Book Week on the campus of the University of Notre Dame (IN), and, in the third, the national news comes to Lynchburg, with a presidential candidate speaking at Liberty University.

The articles then quote the local participants (or those affected), and in some cases, bring in experts that help to put the meaning of the event into perspective.  Be mindful that not all readers will understand the significance of the national/international event or issue, so you will have to provide that, usually in the nut graf.

If you’re stuck on what to write about, consider what kinds of national/international events might affect Sweet Briar Students, or events that might be made more relevant by getting the opinion of Sweet Briar students and professors, especially those who study the issues raised by the news.  Here’s a list I came up with:

  • US economic crisis (unemployment, sluggish job market, etc.)
  • 2012 Presidential election
  • break-down in Israeli/Palestinian peace talks
  • continued turmoil in Libya
  • Economic crisis in Europe
  • 9/11 anniversary
  • upcoming speakers on national and international issues

Good luck, and let me know if you have questions/concerns.






Stetson Kennedy: folk hero

Here is a recording of “Stetson Kennedy” a folk song written by Woody Guthrie for Kennedy’s 1952 bid to become governor of Florida.  This version was recorded by Irish folk singer Billy Bragg and the American rock band Wilco on the 2000 album Mermaid Avenue vol. II.

“Stetson Kennedy”

I done spent my last three cents
Mailing my letter to the president
I didn’t make a show, I didn’t make a dent
So I’m swinging over to this independent gent
Stetson Kennedy
Writing his name in

I cain’t win out to save my soul
Long as Smathers-Dupont’s got me in the hole
Them war profit boys are squawking and balking
That’s what’s got me out here walking and talking
Knocking on doors and windows
Wake up and run down election morning
And scribble in Stetson Kennedy

I ain’t the world’s best writer nor the world’s best speller
But when I believe in something I’m the loudest yeller
If we fix it so’s you can’t make money on war
We’ll all forget what we’re killing folks for
We’ll find us a peace job equal and free
Dump Smathers-Dupont in a salty sea
Well, this makes Stetson Kennedy the man for me


Tumblr not just for Emo kids anymore

We already knew that hipster zines, like Vice, Blackbook, Nylon, and Paper were using the blog platform, but for the New York Times and the New Yorker to make the leap means that media moguls are recognizing that this is the next big thing.

Business Insider magazine has an interesting and timely article on the large number of respected and venerable newspapers and magazines who have started their own tumblr blogs.

Take a look at the article, and slide show that gives you the urls for the various tumbleogs so you can browse them.

Please pay special attention to the themes they have chosen for their blogs, and how the themes organize/present the various posts.

And, for those you still struggling to figure out how tumblr works, here is a tutorial–watch it!



The importance of “verification” vs. “affirmation”

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiell write:

One of the risks of the new proliferation of outlets, talk programs, blogs, and interpretative reporting is that these forms have left verification behind.  A debate between opponents arguing with false figures or purely on prejudice fails to inform.  It only inflames.  It takes the society nowhere (43).

The following videos drive home these risks through satire.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Journalism Ethicist
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Katie Couric on how to conduct a good interview