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Q&A With WHDH’s Melissa Turtinen

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This photo, taken about two miles from the finish line Monday, was taken hours before the bombings. Photo by Melissa Turtinen.

This photo, taken about two miles from the finish line Monday, was taken hours before the bombings. Photo by Melissa Turtinen.

Melissa Turtinen, a 2009 UMass journalism graduate and now a Web Producer with WHDH-TV took time to share some thoughts about what it was like to be in Boston the day of the Boston Marathon bombings:

1.  Where were you when the bombings occurred?

I had taken the day off of work. Marathon Monday is one of my favorite days of the year. I had spent the morning watching the runners. When the bombings happened, I was sitting at a Brookline restaurant about two miles away from the finish line. I was about to order when I got a text from my co-worker asking if I was at the finish line. I assumed she wanted photos for our slideshow. I was wrong. She was making sure I was alive.


2.  What were your first reactions?  Were you working?
I assumed it was an electrical explosion. It didn’t even occur to me it could be something worse. When I asked my co-worker if she needed help. Her response was “I don’t know, I think so.” I got up from the table and got on the T. As text messages poured in it started to hit me. People were dying. The T stopped its service just down the road and I got off the T and ran, walked, jogged the three miles to work. During that time I had awhile to think, look at my surroundings, and take in what was happening. I was walking on a street that runs parallel to Boylston Street, where the bombing happened. I could smell it. Some people around me were also crying, others looked frantic and some people didn’t seem to know anything had happened.
When I got to work I put my emotions to the side. I pretended it wasn’t really happening. It’s the only way I could have gotten through the day.
I blogged about it last night when I got home… it’s a more detailed account of my reaction.

3.  How have you viewed the coverage?  Have you used social media?
Being one of the managers of 7News’ social media accounts, it was one of the main ways we provided information to our viewers. Our coverage started with trying to provide the most accurate and pertinent information first — links to Google people finder, information for how people could contact their loved ones, while we tried to confirm what happened so we could get the word out. A lot of our coverage started with video of the scene, because we had cameras at the finish line, including first-hand accounts from our reporters who cover — or run — the marathon every year.
It was definitely difficult to determine what photos and video were okay to post on our website. How do you determine what is too graphic while trying to convey what happened to those who weren’t there? It’s a thin line. What’s okay? I don’t think I’ll ever know the right answer to that question. Even the day after I was still struggling with what was acceptable to show viewers.
4.  What are your thoughts today?
Today was harder. It became a reality. It was harder to keep my emotions in check, but I knew I had to. Every new story of a victim, of someone reaching out to help someone, affected me. On the bus into work I found myself tearing up while scrolling through Twitter. When I walked to work there were numerous armed officials stationed a couple meters apart holding huge guns. I’ve never seen a gun that big in real life. I was nervous, sad, and finally starting to comprehend what was happening.
There were highs and lows throughout the day as victims were identified and officials released more information on their investigations. I was stressed at points because we were so busy in the newsroom. I was sad, angry, frustrated, exhausted and most of all emotional, but I think I was able to hold it together well enough to get my job done.
We stayed on the air from 4:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. When we do this during snowstorms viewers send angry emails, tweets and Facebook posts. Today we didn’t get that, even when there was a lull in new information. It showed how affected this city, the state, the nation, was by what happened on Monday.

Q&A With NPR.org’s Eric Athas

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Boston on the day after the Boston Marathon bombings. Photo by Eric Athas.

Boston on the day after the Boston Marathon bombings. Photo by Eric Athas.

Eric Athas, a 2008 graduate of the UMass journalism program and a Digital News Specialist with NPR.org working out of Boston shared his thoughts today:
1. Where were you when the bombings occurred?
I was working in our offices, which are more than a mile away from the site of the bombings.
I stepped out to get a coffee when my sister, who also works in Boston, sent me this text message: “What happened at the marathon do you know?” I opened Twitter on my phone and immediately realized how bad things were. I left the cafe and headed back to the office.
On my way I passed by a firefighter who was already gearing up. He yelled to another firefighter, “There was a terrorist attack, let’s go!” Everything became real at that moment.
2. What were your first reactions?  Were you working?
My first reaction was, Who do I know who might be at the marathon and are they okay? Fortunately, friends and family are safe.
Later in the day I went to WBUR and helped with their social media coverage. If you haven’t visited WBUR.org, you should. They are doing an outstanding job covering this story, both on-air and online.
3.  How have you viewed the coverage?  Have you used social media?
When I returned to the office after first hearing the news, I watched television news while scanning Twitter. I already follow a strong set of local sources who I’m familiar with so I had a reliable stream of information to watch.
4. What are your thoughts today?
Of course there are so many questions right now about how this happened and who’s responsible. But I think the victims and their families are in everyone’s thoughts today.

Opportunity: Boston Globe Co-Op

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The Boston Globe Co-op Program is seeking the brightest journalism students in the area for this January.  This is an excellent opportunity for students to be in the middle of the daily news operation and network with professionals in the industry–and it’s paid! Application deadline is Oct. 15 ; please contact Paula Bouknight.

Sports Journalism Scholarships

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Some interesting news on the scholarship front:
The Associated Press Sports Editors are sponsoring four $1,500 scholarship for collegiate sports journalists.

APSE, a national organization of sports editors, is awarding four scholarships to help motivate talented students to pursue a career in sports journalism. Collegiate sports journalists entering their sophomore, junior or senior years are eligible for the scholarship which will awarded based on the students’ journalistic work, their academic record, financial need, and geography. The scholarships will be awarded to students from four different regions of the United States. The winners will be chosen by the APSE scholarship committee, which is chaired by Joe Sullivan, sports editor of the Boston Globe and includes editors from all sections of the United States.

The deadline is June 1.

The following information should be included in your letter of application:

*  Personal: Name, address, age, phone number.

*  Academic: A copy of collegiate grades.

*  Financial: A brief rundown of your financial situation, with regards to how you plan to pay for tuition.

*  Five examples of sports journalism (usually stories but could also be sections the student has edited).

Mail information to:
APSE Scholarship
c/o Joe Sullivan, Sports Editor

The Boston Globe
135 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02205-2845

OR email information to jtsullivan@globe.com with links or PDFs.

Multimedia at The Boston Globe

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Here’s the live stream of the April 30 discussion that The Boston Globe’s Bennie DiNardo had with UMass journalism students and professors.