The Weekly Illumination — Issue 12

Welcome to the the Weekly Illumination, a JTM newsletter offering a quick look at the week in journalism with a focus on what’s working in today’s news ecology. In this week’s Illumination we’ll look at upcoming news endeavors, explore revenue models, and examine the practice of sending reporters on paid trips.

Correspondent Confidential, an animated series about reporters

When Carrie Ching, a journalist who worked as a senior multimedia producer for six years at the Center for Investigative Reporting, looked for a way to tell the heartbreaking story of a young girl with severe mental retardation who was raped in a Northern California facility she found animation the best way to deliver the story with the sensitivity it demanded. Now Ching has launched an animated series for Vice about the personal stories of investigative reporters, reports Johana Bhuiyan for Capital New York.

The first episode of Correspondent Confidential tells the story of Mimi Chakarova who went undercover as a prostitute in Eastern Europe to document human trafficking.


In the building that once held Al Gore’s Current TV a group of people from Al Jazeera, which purchased Gore’s network to create Al Jazeera America, are creating a new internet network entirely separate from the new television network. Janko Roettgers had a chance to get a sneak peak of AJ+ and filed a report about the new project for GigaOm.

Keep calm and carry on

This week the Illumination’s blog reports on a talk at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism between James Risen, a New York Times reporter who is facing prison for refusing to reveal his sources, and professor and investigative reporter Lowell Bergman.

“The best way to cope with it — to fight back against the government really — is just to not let it get to you anymore,” said Risen. “What can you do about it except surrender or fight? And I’m not going to surrender.”

 Why self-publishing e-books makes sense

Anthony Hayward’s seminal book on John Pilger’s documentary work is more than twelve years old, but when he suggested writing an update his publisher wasn’t interested. So Hayward decided to publish his own ebook and explained in a column for the Guardian why he’s happy with his choice.


The historic Wells Inn in Sistersville, West Virginia is starting a new publication and is looking to hire a reporter who’s willing to perform double duty by staffing the front desk. Although Romenesko reports the Inn explicitly states that it doesn’t intend to compete with the other papers in the area, the upcoming newsletter may be able to outlast its peers thanks to money from the Inn.


The New York Times is about to roll out three new premium products as part of its Paywalls 2.0 initiative, reports Ken Doctor for Nieman Lab. The new initiatives include a food & dining app, a product focused on aggregation, and an opinion site that Doctor thinks will have the hardest time convincing people to fork over their money.

A look toward the future

When a News Corp. executive spoke of the top nine challenges facing journalism at an event last month in West Virginia, the final challenge he outlined is the fact that advertisers themselves have become the conduit for their messaging. Newspapers and advertising once depended on the other to succeed, but advertisers are now decreasingly dependent on media companies to deliver theirs ads to an audience.

“We have to start thinking, how do we engage with these brands, how do we help them do this,” said News Corp. Senior Vice President and Deputy Head of Strategy Raju Narisetti at a talk covered by Maryanne Reed for PBS Mediashift.


In an interview for Fortune magazine, Ted Turner told Patricia Sellers that “Standalone print is dead. But print in conjunction with audio and video, I believe has a future.” Although the complete interview is behind a paywall Romenesko has shared some highlights he received from the magazine.

For a different perspective on where the news business is headed, check out this interview by PBS Mediashift’s Mark Glaser with George Brock, a writer and editor at the Times of London, about his new book “Out of Print.”


In our last edition of the Weekly Illumination we linked to a story about how the news media in Flint, Michigan never stumbled onto the past felony convictions of two candidates until after they were elected. This revelation prompted futurist Steve Outing to ask: Have we hit rock bottom with local news yet?

Outing then lays out a list of ways that local news could potentially reinvent itself to reclaim its role in keeping its citizens aware of the important issues in their communities.

Should news organizations accept paid trips for their reporters?

Even at the leading network for sports news, decreasing revenues are requiring managers to do more with less. But did ESPN FC, the company’s soccer network, cross a line when it sent Phil Ball to cover Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup on an all-expense-paid trip, courtesy of the Qatari government?

The story Ball reported casts a glowing picture and suggests that dwelling on the systematic abuse of workers’ rights “obscuring the potential advantages and disadvantages that this event might spawn.”

“Why bribe the officials if you know your sales pitch is the best?” said Ball in his article. “One thing is a new futuristic concept, another is to see through the entire process ethically. It’s not as easy as it looks, and  Qatar is hardly the only country with these problems. It’s just more under the spotlight.”

Matt Yoder suggests that the network broke “nearly every code of journalistic ethics.” But Ty Duffy writing for USA Today’s thebiglead drew a different conclusion.

“The salient issue is not that a writer took an expenses-paid trip, which is noted at the beginning of the piece. It’s that the reasoning and conclusions reached are, at best, dumb and, at worst, heartless,” said Duffy. “No reader was misled about the nature of the reporting.”

As the backlash worked its way through the blogosphere Friday morning, ESPN FC took down the story leaving behind only a tweet.

“Carefully re-evaluated our recent Qatar story and decided to remove it. It did not meet our journalistic standards,” said @ESPNFC, the network’s official Twitter account. “We apologize.”

Should news organizations send reporters on these sorts of trips or should companies only send people to far-flung places if it can cover the costs? And when a publication decides that an article it has published is a problem, is it better to remove the article altogether or to affix a correction to the story and leave it online like an all-but-forgotten open wound?

Odds and ends & odd ends

Job(s) of the week

The Asian American Journalist Association is hiring a reporter in Nebraska to tell stories around issues faced by minority and LGBT communities in the state.

JTM is looking for freelancers to write about successful journalism initiatives and is paying up to $250 per story.


The Illumination is a curated collection of stories about journalism innovation, notable job opportunities, grants and updates about Journalism that Matters. It is distributed to e-mail subscribers, through the JTM Google Group, and posted to the Illuminations blog.