Letters for June 23-29, 2005
Cops, Look Out
Wait till you see next week's feature story: New Times reporter Trevor Aaronson never ceases to amaze me. You would never read an article on police corruption in the daily newspaper like Aaronson's June 16 "Cop, Judge, and Jury." Such a story would be too dangerous to cover for most reporters. (I assume New Times provides excellent health and life insurance coverage.)
Kudos to New Times for staying true to the alternative newsweekly format in supporting great investigative journalism. I thought journalism was a dying art, but Aaronson has shown that it's possible for a reporter to do a little research and actually spend some overtime creating news versus writing press releases.
Keep up the good work, New Times!
Columbia, South Carolina
Trust but verify
Herald, can you hear me? Chuck Strouse did an excellent job on the Nazish Ahmad story ("Steal This Prose," June 9). The question he didn't address was: Where were her parents? With a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and as one who later taught journalism, I'm amazed that she wasn't caught earlier. My daughter, who also graduated from UF in journalism, edited a book two years ago and found that most of the graduate students who were assigned to write separate parts of the text were just taking them off the Internet verbatim. It's a sad situation.
By the way, I wrote several recommendations for Silver Knight nominees, but no one ever verified anything with me.
Illegal and Wrong
Dubya is a chicken: I would just like to add something to Tailpipe's June 9 piece, about the OAS protests, "The Riot Wasn't." I'm the kid with the gas mask featured in the table of contents.
Though the city had an enormous budget for security, there were several injustices dealt to the protesters! First, on the day New Times covered them, we were all held in a seven-foot-tall metal cage; there were lines of riot cops and bicycle cops at the ready, hands on their Mace canisters and paintball guns. So, I guess all of the USA isn't a free speech zone!
Secondly, in a recent lawsuit, we won the right to have signs on sticks and carry other such things with us. It was also said that riot police would not be the first to meet the protesters if things got out of hand, but they were the first line of cops in between us and everything else. Also, none of the police had any identification on them, and when asked their badge numbers, names, or agencies, they wouldn't answer.
In general, the whole thing felt illegal and wrong. The second day of the protests, when President Bush was supposed to speak, they sneaked him in and airlifted him out in a Marine helicopter. Meanwhile, Jean-Bertrand Aristide himself was speaking to one of the Haitian protesters on his cell phone. So there I was, standing inside our free speech zone amid the Haitians, who were just happy to talk to their leader. Meanwhile, the words of a Navy man I met at the protest rang in my head: "I just don't want anybody to die anymore."
The Dean Responds
And invites us to help: Edmund Newton's June 2 article, "Adios, Ink-Stained Vets," regarding the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) at Florida International University (FIU), charges that I, and the school, censored student journalists writing for an experimental classroom website. The disgruntled former employees referenced in the article have put a "spin" on some routine management decisions that ultimately benefited all involved. The picture painted in the article is colorful but is completely inaccurate.
As a board member of the Student Press Law Center and as a frequent speaker on freedom of the press, I take the First Amendment rights of all citizens, including those of students, very seriously. I have worked to protect those rights for more than two decades. At the same time, I have an obligation to protect the best interests of FIU and SJMC -- and those interests were not well-served by a website without key standards of professional journalism: editorial policy and administrative oversight. The New Times piece says I pulled three articles from the website -- I did not. The website was not student-run. It was set up by an instructor who made all decisions about what was put on it. As editor, he had the right to remove those stories, and he did so with consultation with faculty members, including Kevin Hall.
If New Times had given as many column inches to the words of those who work here, your readers would have learned how we have overhauled SJMC to prepare students for professions that have grown more ethnically diverse and globally interconnected. We have revitalized a school that became outdated under the old administration.
Your readers would have also heard how we've infused the curriculum with international and multicultural-oriented courses and how we have vastly improved our writing program by teaching the tools of the trade -- grammar, AP style, story structure, etc. This is a dramatic change from the way J. Arthur Heise and Hall taught writing.
Finally, they would have learned that the faculty attrition has allowed us to hire journalists with recent field experience, instead of depending on "grizzled old reporters" who haven't written a word in a decade or more.
The SJMC has a distinguished record. We are continually working to make our curriculum even more responsive to the needs of today's students and their employers. We invite the South Florida media community to join us in our efforts rather than trying to undermine them.
Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver, Dean
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Florida International University
A statement by Donald Tobkin was misquoted in Sam Eifling's June 16 story, "The Doctor's Trials." The M.D. said a mentor had turned him "from a doctor to a healer."
Also, a June 16 concert preview, "CRAP Shoot," by Mark Keresman misstated the name of a local band. It is the Dharma Bomb.
Two New Times Broward-Palm Beach staffers were honored last week by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. Trevor Aaronson took a second place in feature reporting, and Bob Norman grabbed second in investigative reporting. In addition, Gold Coast magazine named Norman best investigative reporter in South Florida in its June issue.
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