Archive for the ‘Journalism practices’ Category

OK, it’s safe to let this secret out: I don’t drink beer. At all. But that didn’t stop me from writing this case study on Ballast Point’s package redesign for this San Diego craft beer and spirits producer.

That’s because as a reporter and writer I don’t let anything get in the way of getting the article done and done well. Ballast Point products aren’t sold in Missouri yet, but no worries. A few extra telephone calls and photographs and I learned exactly what the package design looked like.

It’s not what I know or don’t know, drink or don’t drink. It’s my drive to learn everything I can about any subject I’m assigned that makes me love my job, and I think that passion for getting it right no matter what shows in this case study for Package Design magazine.

Take a look and see what you think.

Rebranding Brews Sales — Ballast Point craft brewery got a fresh look — and improved sales. Read about how MiresBall made this craft beer and spirit producer stand out in the crowded market.

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As a freelance writer, I love unusual assignments, like the one I received from Sarah Redohl of the Columbia Business Times. She wanted me to find the origins of the rock and stone so visible in Columbia’s buildings.

Seemed simple. How hard can it be to find a hole in the ground that produced enough rock for much of the University of Missouri’s White Campus as well as many fine homes along the older parts of Columbia?

So much for simple. Until 1971, Missouri quarries were barely regulated. People could open one — and close one — without much left in the way of documentation. Old maps didn’t help much. Old documents simply referred to the quarry south of town. How south? Where was town when that 1906 document referred to south of town? As the town grew, so did south of town, of course.

But shoe leather and research helped me find tales and documentation on past quarries and nearly forgotten industries, including Columbia’s brickworks. We used to have eight of them, the most recent one closed in 1984. I talked the remaining owner of that firm, Liz Kennedy, who was kind enough to show me the brick samples she kept in her backyard. She told me her family’s company furnished the brick for much of the MU campus, many for buildings now fated to be demolished and replaced. Soon that legacy of local brick could be lost as well.

Except for this article and this reporting.

The Rock that Built Us –Doug Mertens of Mid-Missouri Limestone fights the image of quarries as dirty, dangerous places. Instead, he says they’re essential to life as we know it today, supplying not just building materials, but the necessities for infrastructure from streets to sewer drainage. At one time, Columbia, Missouri boasted 30 quarries and eight brickworks. Today, many of those quarries are forgotten, built on or around. Today, one is part of a local park, another is the behind a university building. The history of Boone County’s quarries translates into the stone and brick buildings that still stand today.

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As a freelance writer, I never let anything keep me from completing an assignment — not even a 10 1/2-hour time difference for one source or an unreliable internet connection for another source.

For this piece, I interviewed one person via email, because her training schedule in Pune, India, kept her from making our appointments to talk via Skype. I interviewed a source in Rwanda via Skype text messages because her internet wasn’t fast enough to touch base by Skype.

No matter. I got the story — and my client the International Center at the University of Missouri got the news they wanted for their website.

Read the piece below:

Study abroad paves the way for post-graduation opportunities — The way to Dubai, a master’s degree and a position as news director at Rwanda’s first private television station started with study-abroad programs for these three University of Missouri graduates.

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Credit unions, little known, not-for-profit financial institutes, are taking on the banks, pushing against a limit on the value of commercial loans they can make. This article led me to learn about this unusual financial organization and gave me the opportunity to exercise objective journalism, letting each side have their say. The article was published in the Columbia Business Times.

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One of the things Jim Fisher, a writing teacher at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, taught me is to arrive at an interview at least five minutes early. The person being interviewed is probably nervous and there’s no need to make him or her more nervous by arriving just on time or late.

And so I do make sure I’m there early. But sometimes there’s no way to make someone trust me as a journalist. They may have been burned or misquoted and despite my assurances that I accuracy check all my articles, i.e. let a source review for accuracy the entire article before submitting to my editor, some people still are nervous.

That was the case with Travis Huff of Pure Audio when I interviewed him for this article, Creating sounds of something great, published in the Columbia Business Times on August 19, 2011, reprinted from Columbia Home’s August/September 2011 issue.

After the initial interview and then a change in focus from the editor, Travis asked if I could interview him by email. No problem, I thought, except for follow-up questions. Journalists know that the follow-up question can be the most important one of an interview. There’s no way to know everything we need to know before we arrive, so when a source says something interesting, it is crucial to follow up with a question.

What followed were several days of emails. But then I learned another downside of email interviews. Travis’s answers were great. But they were very formal. We all write in a more formal tone than we talk.

So how to bring a business story to life? Ask the people who are affected — Pure Audio’s customers.

The result is an article that highlights what Pure Audio really does. Sure, Huff explained that the company installs digital sound and video systems for homes and offices. But John Schuppan and others explained what Pure Audio really does — help people enjoy the digital sound and video systems in their homes.

Now that’s something worth writing about.

Here’s a summary of the article:

August 19, 2011, Creating sounds of something great, Columbia Business Times. Columbia firm Pure Audio & Video Specialty installs digital media systems in new and older homes, simplifying the music/video system. Yes, you can have just one remote for the whole house, and no the television does not have to be the focus of a room. A reprint from Columbia Home, August/September 2011 issue.

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Like Kermit the Frog said about being green, being a journalist isn’t easy. That’s why the Society of Professional Journalists provides resources to help journalists in their pursuit of excellence.

Below is a link to the SPJ’s online journaliststoolbox.

The SPJ, founded in 1909, is dedicated to “the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty,” according to its website.

For more information on the SPJ, see its website at

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One of the core missions of journalism, I believe, is to explain why something is important.

This article does exactly that, in concrete and subtle ways. First, it outlines the expansion of the Centro Latino and the role of Eduardo Crespi.

Under Crespi’s direction, the Centro has been serving the growing Hispanic community of Columbia for 11 years. Now, he’s expanding its educational offerings in an effort to stem the tide of obesity in this population and the community as a whole.

The article outlines the obesity rates and the results of the problem. But it also highlights the results of one man’s efforts, multiplied through networking and community effort.

You can read the article at the link below:

June 10, 2011, Centro Latino: Relocating, Expanding Mission, Columbia Business Times. The 11-year-old Centro Latino, is moving to a new location and starting a new operation, Comedor Popular. Guided by Eduardo Crespi, the center, which provides assistance to Columbia’s growing Hispanic population, will now offer meals and education to stem the tide of obesity and related illnesses.

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As a journalist, I can become jaded. A story too good to be true often is just that.

But not in this case. When I first spoke to Freddy Spencer, it seemed hard to believe that despite being out of the office nearly more than he was in it during 2009, his fledgling real estate office increased sales and number of agents. He credited his positive attitude.

As a journalist, that seemed like a flimsy thing to peg his success on. But when I spoke to his agents, friends and family members, that’s what they kept talking about, along with his faith and support of them. I still checked with the corporate office, to check his numbers. I checked with other sources as well. That’s journalism, double checking and triple checking.

In addition, I spoke to many people, several of whom I didn’t quote in the article. I was looking for the “real” reason Spencer’s company thrived despite his absence. In the end, it seemed that a story too good to be true really was.

You can read all about it in this article about Freddy Spencer, his family and his business via the Columbia Business Times website.

Below is a blurb about the article and a link to it.

April 29, 2011, A Realtor’s Ordeal Birth becomes blessing, business gains perspective, Columbia Business Times. In the last couple of years, Freddy Spencer of Century 21 Advantage, has faced a trifecta of trauma: he launched his real estate office just as the housing market crashed, his mother died suddenly in 2008 and in 2009, his son was born with a rare heart defect. Despite these odds, his company thrived. Spencer — and his agents — credit his positive attitude, faith and his support of his agents.

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I just found this great article on the history of downtown retailers in my hometown, Columbia, Missouri.

Unfortunately, there is not one single citation of the source of the information in the article, “There &Gone,” published on pages 30 and 31 in Veterinary Medical Review, Spring/Summer 2005. The writing is excellent, very easy to read, but there’s no author cited, so there’s no way to know who wrote it.

Nor is there a credit, a source or even a date on a single one of the photographs. Finally, there’s a mash-up of three or photographs.

In journalism, there are only a handful of reasons not to cite sources, i.e. the information is common knowledge (the Missouri River runs through Missouri), it is easily found in resource material (the population of Columbia recently hit 100,000), or the reporter saw/heard/experienced it him or herself (if you are at a fire and hear and explosion).

But in this article, information such as when K-Mart was at its zenith, it was the country’s No. 2 retailer. This information is not common knowledge, it not easily found, but it is possible the reporter knew this personally.

Why should anyone care about citing sources? It is hard to rely on information if you don’t know where it came from. For example, you don’t want health information from someone who is not qualified to provide such information. I’m not saying the information in the article is not correct. I’m just saying as a journalist, it’s my job to double-check it and to cite my sources.

For now, I’ll just enjoy reading this article in the hopes that I will be eventually be able to find sources to confirm what it reports.


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