The First Amendment And Us

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, guarantees freedom of religion and speech, the press and the right of people to gather to protest and complain to the government.

It protects reporters against those who try to block us from reporting. But journalists in the United States have seen a rise in aggressive language and behavior by politicians and the public.  A lot of this aims at keeping us from doing our jobs.

Before a congressional election in Montana in the spring, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was body-slammed to the ground by Republican candidate Greg Gianforte, who went on to win the seat in Congress.

However, Gianforte was arrested and charged with assault.  In Gallatin County court in Montana, a judge sentenced him to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management classes.

Gianforte later donated $50,000 to The Committee to Protect Journalists and that group, with the backing of other press freedom organizations, recently set up U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. The site monitors interference with journalists or attacks on them in the U.S.

Recently, it posted something close to home.  A reporter for Gothamist was arrested by CUNY public safety offices for trespassing on the Bronx Community College campus. He went there to report about statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in the college’s outdoor “Hall of Fame for Great Americans.”

Despite the difficult climate for journalists in the U.S. today, we have history on our side.

Here’s what the First Amendment actually says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to freely assemble, and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

After the founders of the United States wrote the U.S. Constitution, some of them realized they had left out critical guarantees to safeguard the type of nation, free of tyranny, they and others wanted.

The newly minted senators and congressmen debated about whether “checks and balances” would protect the rights of the people, or whether they needed to write amendments to the Constitution.

Freedom of the press was one of the priorities for Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson wrote a letter to another lawmaker saying,

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Some wanted to rewrite the Constitution but worried that people would think that they intended to tear up what they wanted to protect. They turned to U.S. Virginia Representative James Madison, a good thinker and a good writer.

James Madison

Madison argued that, “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

In 1789 Madison drafted amendments and presented them to the House of Representatives. The House approved 17 amendments. The Senate approved 12 and the states ratified 10 in December, 1791 as the Bill of Rights.

Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States and James Madison became the fourth.

 

What Makes a Good Story?

 

 

People walking down the street

What Makes a Good Story?
Copyright Barbara Nevins Taylor, 2017

Curiosity Pays Off

All kinds of stories make a good report. But some will pan out and others won’t. We all bring personal history, individual interests and perspective to the job of reporting. You can bet that if you’re curious about something, others will find it interesting too.
Once you have a story in your sights, just remember that as journalists we temper what we bring to the table with a strong measure of objectivity, and an even stronger dose of fairness.

Define A Good Story 
So how do you define a good story? Think about your day and the challenges that you have. Think about your friends and family and how the commute to school or work affects them, what’s happening in their neighborhoods. How do they juggle kids and work, or kids and school? What does the drama in Washington, and President Trump’s tweets have to with them?
You can turn anything into a story. But the best stories have:
• A little drama
• A little conflict
• Pure joy
• Surprising new facts
• Need-to-know information
• Entertainment value
The stories don’t have to extend beyond your college or community to have meaning and impact. But remember you approach the world as a video storyteller now and that means that the stories require interesting video.
1. DRAMA:
A father races into his family’s burning home to save his children. He dashes through the flames again and again and brings five children out to safety. But neither he nor the firefighters can save the sixth child who is asleep in a room at the back of the house. Although it is grim, it is a true story and breaking news reporters find themselves covering a version of this tragedy again and again.
2. CONFLICT:
A community garden is set for demolition to make way for an athletic field. The gardeners and their plants provide a beautiful visual for video, and the conflict is clear. People want to continue to garden and people want to stop them in order to use the land for another, equally valid, purpose.
3. JOY:
A young ballerina from your community wins a competition and lands a job with a prestigious ballet company.
The debut of rare Siberian tiger cubs at a local zoo also falls into this category.
Some stories bring smiles to the faces of your viewers and offer opportunities for creative shooting, writing and editing.
4. NEW INFORMATION:
A doctor tries a new medical procedure in which he uses stem cells harvested from fat. He says that injecting one’s own stem cells into arthritic joints can ease pain and improve movement.
5. NEED TO KNOW INFORMATION:
The city council considers a sales tax hike. There’s a meeting where politicians, merchants and consumers will testify. A timetable and the items covered by the tax will be revealed.
6. ENTERTAINING INFORMATION:
Beyonce comes to your community to film music video. You have the opportunity to visit the set and report the story. In this category you’d also include fashion, new restaurant openings, or lifestyle segments that highlight new trends.

Enterprise

Some reporters like to come up with their stories and that’s called enterprise reporting. You might have a lead on an unreported element in breaking news, discover the cutest puppy in the neighborhood, get an exclusive interview with an interesting character, learn from a source about a Ponzi schemer or discover a contractor ripping off homeowners.

Unique Reporting 
News directors value enterprise reporting because it produces unique reporting that they can promote. Original reporting gives an organization bragging rights and allows them to draw in viewers with the promise that they’ll see something special that the competition doesn’t have.
Any reporter can produce enterprise work, but covering a specific beat or area means you can develop the sources and knowledge that tend to trigger new story ideas. Investigative, consumer, political, medical, business, entertainment, environmental, life-style, and technology reporters typically generate enterprise stories.
The list expands or contracts depending upon the size of the newsroom. But people with wide-ranging interests and curiosity have tremendous opportunities. You can report about virtually anything, if you come up with the story.

Competition
Competition plays a big role in newsrooms. While producing a news broadcast requires that you work hand in hand with colleagues, and you have to play nice in order to retain your job and succeed, people vie for the best stories and the stories that lead the newscast. General assignment reporters, those who do the important breaking and daily news stories, often view “specialist” reporters suspiciously by daily news reporters.
“What makes them so special? Why do THEY get extra time,” the rank-and file reporters often grumble.
Enterprise Reporters
But while enterprise reporters have the opportunity to take control of their daily destiny, they frequently work longer hours to dig deeper than the reporters who pick up an assignment and bolt to“run and gun” to cover a breaking news story.
Enterprise reporters depend upon sources to tip them to news stories. The hardest working reporters have the best sources. They also have the curiosity to follow leads, ask questions and uncover stories, and the tenacity to work at those stories a long time.

Quick Turns
You’ll turn some stories around quickly. Others stories will take weeks or even months of research and shooting and editing and writing before they’re ready. But if you realize th importance of face-time on the air, you’ll juggle. You’ll produce other stories that can get you on the air or on the web quickly while you’re working on your blockbuster.