UMass Journalism’s Howard Ziff Leaves Behind Larger-Than-Life Legacy

Howard M. Ziff, professor emeritus of Journalism at the University of Massachusetts, died early Tuesday morning. He was 81.

On the “Friends of Howard Ziff” page on Facebook, Ziff’s son Max reported Tuesday that his wife, Jane, and children Ellen and Donald (“Max”) were with him during his short stay at the Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst.

“An informal kaddish and gathering will be held at the Ziff house in Amherst in a few days. A memorial get-together is being planned for this summer. Details will be announced soon. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to “The Howard Ziff Lecture Series” at the Journalism Department of the University of Massachusetts,” Max Ziff wrote.

“Howard was a force of nature.  Of the hundreds of students telling stories about him now, it’s amazing how many of them never had a class with him,” said Karen List, the director of the UMass journalism program.

“He changed their lives through his personal interactions with them—advising them, getting them internships and jobs, having their backs, as more than one of them have said.  For Howard, it was all about the students, and the Journalism program strives to continue that legacy.”

Mark Stencel, NPR’s managing editor for digital news, will be joining UMass journalism students and faculty during the week of April 16 as the program’s first Howard Ziff Journalist-in-Residence.

Stencel’s visit will be highlighted by a public discussion on Wednesday,  entitled “Instanews:  Depth and Context in Motion,” where he will analyze the rapid changes occurring in the news business and how these changes affect the future of the business of journalism.  The talk will be in Room 227 in Herter Hall and will begin at 7 p.m.

Tributes to Ziff have been flowing since Journalism alum Jon Hite set up the page last week.  The page has grown to nearly 300 members, with everyone sharing thoughts and remembrances of Ziff the person and Ziff the professor.

A sampling:

* “When I started at UMass, I was a sit-near-the-back kind of kid. I started moving toward the front in Ziff’s class, simply for those wonderful stories. He’d wind up, get going, I’d lean forward, straining to hear … and his words would sink right into that professorial beard. If I sat near the back, I’d keep missing the punch line. So I moved up. And found my voice and my place at UMass.” — Darienne Hosley Stewart

* “The very first class I took at UMass, September 1983, was intro to journalism with Howard. Wasn’t sure I really wanted to major in journalism, or even be a journalist. He walked into that lecture hall — someone (probably many people) said later that he looked like he was there to take out the trash — and started to talk, and I knew I’d made the right choice. Howard, thanks for the encouragement, the stories, the advice, the complete lack of bullshit. RIP.”  — Phil Serafino

*  “My thoughts today are with the family and friends of Howard Ziff, a man much loved and admired by students and the community for his abilities as a journalist, teacher and mentor, and for his larger-than-life personality. I still remember the movie review program he hosted years ago on public television and how my Saturday was never complete until I had watched the movie he had recommended. We’ll miss you, Howard.”  — Stan Rosenberg

*  “I had Howard as a professor at the end of his long teaching career at UMass (I can’t figure out if he taught another class after the one I was in). I had always thought editorial writing was easy, until I took Howard’s class.

“I never understood how difficult it is to write 400 words and cover every detail, never mind doing it twice a week on top of a course load, writing for the Collegian and the other responsibilities/fun that comes with that. Howard would read our crappy editorials that we wrote the night before at 2 a.m. or just before class out loud and critique us, there was usually more red pen on the page from him with notes than our own work. Some students didn’t like his direct approach. I loved it. I loved that he cared. I loved that he wanted us all to succeed. I loved that he loved newspapers, reporting, and all the leg work forgotten by so many reporters now. He wanted us to live and breathe our 400 words every other day. And I did, even if I was crap at it. I looked forward to that 9 a.m. (10 a.m.?) class, even if I was a little hung over or barely awake.” — Kevin Koczwara

* “So I never took a course with Howard. But somehow I knew him, and he knew me. I remember the day one of my more senior Collegian colleagues told me that Howie “knew who I was.” I was awestruck. He represented all that so many of us wanted to be.”  Anne McCrory

* “I think back to when Howard saved my Irish arse after I fell below the academic Mendoza Line. There was little reason for his coming to the rescue of this teenage screw-up other than that enormous heart we all know so well. Through his intercession I got reinstated in school, with the bonus of a signature Chicago-style Howard story that will forever make me smile. In the many years since, I’ve tried to pass along some of that kindness, and when I have there is a straight line back to Howard’s empathy. At this hour I sit with immense respect for him, and gratitude for the privilege of knowing him. And affection, most of all affection.” — Daniel Guidera

*  “I just dug out my notebook from the summer of 2008, when I spent a few afternoons with Howard for a Journalism 300 profile assignment. In no particular order, here are some quotes:”

“You’ve got to read and understand the cultural forces that journalism comes from, the great traditions that it partakes of, the political and social philosophy and, at the center, good writing.””You’ve got to have the street experience — I don’t want to be an old fart but these days, people want to be journalists but they don’t want to walk the streets.”“We’re not social scientists; we’re writers and historians.”And, my personal favorite: “I like to say I was shot at three times in Chicago but only twice in Korea.” — S.P. Sullivan
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NPR’s Mark Stencel to visit UMass as first Howard Ziff Journalist-in-Residence

Mark Stencel, NPR’s managing editor for digital news, will be joining UMass journalism students and faculty during the week of April 16 as the program’s first Howard Ziff Journalist-in-Residence.

Stencel’s visit will be highlighted by a public discussion on Wednesday,  entitled “This Just In: News and Context in Digital Time,” where he will analyze the rapid changes occurring in the news business and how these changes affect the future of the business of journalism.  The talk will be in Room 227 in Herter Hall and will begin at 7 p.m.

“Journalism is looking forward to having Mark with us for a week,” said Program  Director Karen List.

“The depth and diversity of Mark’s experience will allow him to add significantly to our continuing conversation on Journalism and its place in society.  And that conversation is a perfect tribute to Howard and the legacy he’s left this program.  We’ll make sure it continues in the years ahead as we bring in a wide variety of journalists, including many of our own distinguished alums.”

Stencel’s bio is extensive and his career has spanned both the digital and print worlds.  His bio reads in part:  “Since Stencel joined NPR in 2009, the network has been recognized as one of industry’s leading digital news services, honored with the 2011 Eppy award for best journalism website from Editor & Publisher, a 2010 National Press Foundation award for excellence in online journalism, two Edward R. Murrow Awards, a Peabody award, and the 2011 Webby and People’s Voice awards for news from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.”

Stencel’s visit is being made possible by funds from the Journalism Program’s Howard Ziff Lecture Series, created upon Ziff’s retirement from UMass in the Fall of 1998. In the early 1970s, Ziff facilitated the move of journalism into a separate degree program called Journalistic Studies (later called the Journalism Department) in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.

During his visit, the digital pioneer will visit a number of different beginning and upper-level journalism classes.  Most professors are opening up their classes for visitors but you should check beforehand if you want to sit in.  Mark’s schedule:

April 17

9:30-11 a.m.           Newswriting with George Forcier (DuBois 720)

12:30-2:30 p.m.    All Faculty Lunch to discuss Journalism’s Future (107 Bartlett)

3:35-6 p.m.             Business of Media with Marc Berman (Bartlett 312)

April 18:

9:05-10:30 a.m.           Introduction to Multimedia with BJ Roche (DuBois 767)

11:30-1 p.m.                Lunch at Faculty Club with students

1:25-3:20 p.m.           Magazine Writing with BJ Roche (767 Dubois)

3:35-5:30 p.m.           Newswriting with Mary Carey (767 Dubois)

7-9 p.m.                       Public Talk, “Instanews:  Depth and Context in Motion” (227 Herter)

April 19

9:30-10:45 a.m.             Introduction to Journalism withDavid Perkins and Journalism Ethics with Karen List (301 Bartlett)

11:15-12:30 p.m.            Multimedia Journalism with Steve Fox (107 Bartlett)

2:30-3:45 a.m.               Investigative Journalism & the Web with Steve Fox (107 Bartlett)

Posted in Blogging, Business of Journalism, Future of Journalism, Howard Ziff, Howard Ziff Journalist-in-Residence, Mark Stencel, Multimedia | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why are we spending so much time ‘Measuring the Impact of Journalism?’

I love this question posed by Greg Linch in this month’s Carnival of Journalism.  Almost every newsroom these days is driven by the need/desire to generate pageviews.  The Washington Post’s newsroom receives hourly updates on what stories are trending in the “most popular” category. A recent New York Times article on the trials and tribulations of Marcus Brauchli noted that 35 reports a day track traffic to the site.

“Editors receive a midday performance alert, telling them whether the site is on track to meet its traffic goals for the day. If it appears that they might miss their goal, editors will order up fresher content,” notes the Jeremy W. Peters of The Times.

The Boston Globe’s newsroom has nice feature in it:  Three screens devoted to Twitter feeds — so reporters can see what is trending.  And, The Globe also has a major effort underway to find ways to get at audience through different methods thanks to their MediaLab operation

These efforts to generate pageviews; develop audience; get visitors to stay on the site longer — are not new.

Way way back in the early years of the Interwebs (pre-2000) I worked with one washingtonpost.com editor who was fond of photo galleries of animals.  Specifically, pandas.  Who doesn’t like a photo gallery with pandas?  Those of us at The Post at the time came up with the phrase:  “guaranteed pageview generator.”  There were a number of stories that we knew would generate pageviews — mostly celebrity news and anything with “Redskins” in the headline.

Did we become whores to the stories we knew would generate pageviews?  We tried not to.  The morning/afternoon/evening news meetings often became  battlegrounds where editors from each section fought hard for homepage space (back when homepage positioning mattered to pageview counts.)  But more often than not those arguments were fought on journalistic merit.

In 2002, I was the political editor at the site and spent months with my team building a package for the 2002 Election coverage.  It was a fairly involved effort with more than a dozen people involved. And, it was a fairly important election.  It was the first election since the 9/11 terror attacks and the first real test for George W. Bush after he won the contested 2000 election.

Most of the homepage the morning after Election Day was devoted to a major interactive feature we had developed which we dubbed Election Explorer. It was mapping before its time — giving state-by-state breakdowns.  We knew people would come to the site looking for results and analysis — we figured we would get a decent amount of pageviews.

Then, in the late morning, as the election coverage dominated the homepage, news broke that Winona Ryder had been convicted on two counts of shoplifting.  Despite my many pleas, the decision was made to blow up the beautifully designed page featuring election coverage to make way for the Winona news.  Several staffers, dismayed with the move to prioritize celebrity news over real news, were spurred to leave a few months later.

It’s only gotten worse….

Pick your story. Brangelina.  Justin Bieber.  American Idol.  The top “search” on The Post’s Web site right now is Mega Millions (the jackpot is $640 million but is this “news?”)

There has always been this push/pull relationship.  Do reporters and editors give readers/viewers/users what they want or what we as journalists feel they  need/should want?  (See: previous election coverage reference.)

Journalism used to be about finding that balance — trying to educate and inform as well as entertain.

Today, it seems more like we’ve become whores to the pageview count.

Perhaps we all need to remember that the true “impact of journalism” rests with the impact we have on people’s lives.  Have we given readers/viewers an amazing piece of writing or video that makes them appreciate parts of their life more?  Have we created an “Oh, wow” moment for readers/viewer?  Have we expanded someone’s universe?  Isn’t that why we got into this business?  Isn’t that what journalism has always done?

Perhaps the real question should be: “Why are we spending so much time measuring the “impact” of journalism?”  Because, it really isn’t quantifiable now, is it?

Posted in Carnival of Journalism, Web journalism | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Carnival of Journalism: Journalists as Capitalists

Haven’t we spent enough time asking what journalists can and can’t do?

Haven’t we spent enough time asking what the definition of journalism is?

Seriously, enough already.

When I saw this month’s Carnival of Journalism prompt from Michael Rosenblum, I appreciated the passion with which he challenged the traditional definitions of journalism (haven’t we all been there?) I especially appreciated the challenges to the dinosaurs’ belief that journalists should not be out there thinking about making money:

“Making money is no crime. In fact, it is the ulimate good. With money you can do stuff.  Without it, you are the perpetual victim and the perpetual employee, which is what most journalists are.  And that is crazy.”

Indeed.  Enough already.

Rosenblum cites Jeff Jarvis as the leading educator out there in the Entrepreneurial Journalism movement.  Indeed, but Jeff is not the only one.  My colleague BJ Roche teachers an Entrepreneurial Journalism course here at UMass, and like Jarvis, we are looking to expand our offerings.

Some will succeed.  Some will try and fail.  As the David ‘The Rad One’ Cohn has said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “experimentation is good.”   I tell my students that anyone who tells them anything is not possible in journalism today is “full of crap and doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

Seriously, enough already.

Students and entrepreneurs are the wave of the future of journalism.  Let’s stop trying to put the profession in a box.

I’ve spent years trying to convince old-school professionals and educators about the positive direction of the profession.  But, at some point we all have to say enough already and move on.

Can journalists make good capitalists?  Sure.  Why not?

Enough already.

Posted in Business of Journalism, Carnival of Journalism, Entrepreneurial Journalism, Future of Journalism, Teaching | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

After the Paterno Debacle: A New Twitter Ethos Is Needed

My blog entry taking a look at Twitter and the sloppy reporting surrounding the death of Joe Paterno was posted at the Online Journalism Review today.

Posted in Ethics, Paterno Coverage, Social Media, Twitter, Web journalism | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Preemption’ Strategy: Where are the hard questions?

During the runup to the Iraq War, The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus was one of the few national security journalists challenging the weapons of mass destruction assumptions being made by the Bush administration.  Unfortunately, the administration’s bogus claims were usually given A1 treatment, while Pincus’s stories often made their way onto A21.

At the time, I was one of the editors working on the newsdesk of The Post’s website and we would often try and get the “other side” from Pincus featured prominently on the homepage.  Still, you have to wonder what would have happened if his reporting was featured more prominently in the newspaper.

Pincus is still around, now authoring a column entitled “Fine Print.” He recently wrote a column which asked: “Has Obama taken Bush’s ‘preemption’ strategy to another level?” Pincus quotes a revised “strategic guidance” document which is startling in its bluntness:

“For the foreseeable future, the United States will continue to take an active approach to countering these threats by monitoring the activities of non-state threats worldwide, working with allies and partners to establish control over ungoverned territories, and directly striking the most dangerous groups and individuals when necessary” — emphasis added (by Pincus.)

I expected this column to get a lot of traction — for reporters and editorial boards around the country to pick up and run with this story.  But, the follow-ups have been relatively few. Where are the questions?  Where are the editorials? Isn’t this an issue worth probing?

To answer Arthur Brisbane’s recent question, yes, now would be the time to be a “truth vigilante.”

 

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Hiatus Is Over….A Rough Week for Ombudsmen

Hi and welcome back!  It’s been awhile.  Admittedly, the care and feeding of this blog fell off last semester (sometimes life takes over) but now I’m back to reviving my little plant.

So, of course, where to start?  As more than a few folks noted on Twitter the past several days, it’s been a rough week for newspaper ombudsmen.  Arthur S. Brisbane, the public editor for The New York Times, drew much attention  with his column which posed this question:  “Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?

The lede is poster-child verbiage for those wondering whether there are still out-of-touch editors roaming around in the mainstream media:   “I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.”

Oy.

My head hurts.

The backlash on Twitter and on the comments board for the article was predictable. Christian Moerk of Brooklyn captured the feelings of many:  “As a former Times freelancer, and ’92 graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, I’ll keep it short and to the point: Mr. Brisbane, even posing the question as you did reveals an appalling ignorance of what journalists are supposed to do for a living. You wouldn’t have lasted in a J-school ethics class for five minutes, let alone a newsroom.”

This old-school print mentality of he said/he said journalism still dominates too many mainstream newsrooms.  It’s one of the many reasons why journalists get a bad reputation.  Too many readers views journalists as nothing more than glorified stenographers.  NYU’s Jay Rosen calls it the “View From Nowhere.”  The Times should really know better (remember the assertions about the “weapons of mass destruction?)

Brisbane’s question on how to tell the truth while being “objective and fair” came on the heels of a column by Washington Post ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton, where he asked: “Is The Post innovating too fast?

Continue reading

Posted in In the News, innovation, New York Times, Washington Post, Web journalism | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

UMass Panel to Look Back at 9/11 Attacks on 10-Year Anniversary

(Updated: Aug. 29)

Mark Stencel, the managing editor for Digital News at NPR, will join a group of University of Massachusetts educators on Sept. 8 to take part in a panel discussion looking at how the U.S. and the world has changed in the decade since the 9/11 terror attacks.

“The terrorist attacks of 2001 and the beginnings of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq came as newsrooms were still grappling with what exactly it meant to be Web publishers,” said Stencel, who was an editor at The Washington Post’s web site on 9/11.

“At the time, our interactive online channels were still relatively new. For many of us, these channels for the first time provided global reach around the clock — including a new workday news audience — as well as nearly unlimited potential to dabble in new formats. But there were consequences: Newsrooms had accelerated deadlines and new competitors.
And we faced difficult questions about accuracy and what NOT to report.”

The panel, entitled “After the Towers Fell: A September 11th Retrospective,” will be held at 4 p.m. on Sept. 8 in the Campus Center Reading Room on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

“This panel discussion will be of great interest to anyone whose life was changed by 9/11–which means everyone,” said Karen List, director of the Journalism program.

The panelists for the event are: David Kotz from the Economics Department; MJ Peterson from Political Science; Linda Tropp from Psychology and Stencel. The panel will be moderated by Steve Fox of the Journalism Program, also a former editor for The Post’s web site.

Peterson will discuss the Bush administration’s response to the attacks; Kotz will look at the economic consequences of the attacks in the past decade; and Tropp will talk about general social psychological processes involved in group categorization.

A reception will follow the panel discussion. The panel is sponsored by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Journalism program, and the Departments of Political Science, Economics and Psychology.

Posted in 9/11 Anniversary, 9/11 coverage, Steve Fox, Teaching, UMass journalism, Web journalism | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Headed to AEJMC as New Journalism Conference Zeroes in on Education

If it’s August, it must be conference season.
I fly out (early) tomorrow to St. Louis for the AEJMC conference — also known as the annual geek gathering of journalism educators and researchers. It’s also the first of three conferences I’m attending between now and the end of September (as well as moderating a one-night panel at UMass on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.)
The busy start to the Fall semester pretty much made it impossible to attend the newest player on the journalism conference front:  Journalism Interactive: The Conference on Journalism Education & Digital Media at the University of Maryland on Oct. 28-29.  The conference is the brainchild of U-Md. Dean Kevin Close and John Jenkins, the president of CQ Press and looks promising.
“The reason for the conference is to encourage dialogue between journalists, scholars and educators about how journalism schools are incorporating emerging media into their curricula,” says Leslie Walker, one of the co-chairs of the conference.
“The rapidity of change in news is putting pressure on educators to anticipate a future that remains murky. So we think journalism educators need more opportunities to network with peers at other schools to identify promising emerging forms of storytelling, share new teaching approaches to digital media, discuss results of curriculum change and prioritize research questions.”
That’s a space occupied by many — including AEJMC, Poynter and ONA — so it will be interesting to see watch this effort.  While going to another conference with a Jeff Jarvis keynote may turn off some, the roster of speakers is impressive and includes the likes of:  Wisconsin’s Katy Culver and Stephen Ward; Duke’s Sarah Cohen; CUNY’s Jeremy Caplan; ASU’s Retha Hill; UBC’s Alfred Hermida; and Ju-Don Marshall Roberts of Revolution Health.
Walker (a former colleague at washingtonpost.com) says one of the goals of the conference is to create a place for educators to exchange ideas in an environment that seems to be changing constantly. That’s something I’ve wanted ONA to do for a few years now and I’ve been vocal recently about the over-focus on technology with ONA.
The cross-over is something Walker recognizes but she says there is enough room for all groups to co-exist:
“I’ve attended ONA and AEJMC conferences, and think their conferences and training programs are terrific. This is a smaller, more narrowly focused event than those are. We are more focused on education and classroom strategies than ONA, and more focused on digital media than the broader AEJMC conference can afford to be. We are hoping this can complement both AEJMC and ONA and would like to work with their memberships to make sure it’s not duplicative but complementary.”
I wish Leslie and all those involved the best of luck.
Meanwhile, I’m on two panels at AEJMC:  One on sports bloggers and one on how newsrooms and academia can collaborate.  I’ll post more after each panel.
AEJMC is always interesting because of the mix of new school and old school thinking.  But, I’ve been surprised at the number of panels and papers covering new media topics on the schedule.  That’s a good thing….and shows some distinct progress at AEJMC over the past several years.  But, we’ll see.  In recent years, there have been a good number of panels and panelists bemoaning the state of the industry, rather than seeing the creative possibilities.
My friend George Daniel at the University of Alabama provides a nice look at expectations with this blog post, and includes hopes of talk about the possibilities of social media as well as “Strategies for Combating the Mythology about the End of Journalism.”
I’ll give both a big HUZZAH!
More TK…..
Posted in AEJMC, AEJMC11, Business of Journalism, Future of Journalism, innovation, Partnerships, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Reporting from Afghanistan: UMass Journalism’s Ben Brody

Ben Brody filed this interesting image from Afghanistan recently for GlobalPost. (Courtesy of Ben Brody.)

I met UMass journalism student Ben Brody last year when we chatted about what courses he should be taking.  When we talk about “learning by doing,” Ben truly takes it to heart.  I told Ben I wanted to keep up with his travels this summer, and I recently had a Q&A with him over e-mail.  If you have any questions for Ben, leave them in the comments section and I will try and do an updated version in a couple of weeks:


July 12:  Things are crazy in Kandahar City with AWK’s assassination this
morning.  Since I’m tied to the computer anyway, here are some
answers.

1.  What are you doing this summer? I’m working for GlobalPost in Afghanistan covering the aftermath of last year’s troop surge, which I spent four months covering as well.  At this point I’m still planning to return to UMass in the fall.

2. How did you end up in Afghanistan?  What is your background? I am a former Army combat photographer and am deeply interested in America’s military commitments overseas.  I spent more than two years in Iraq when that was the main story.  Afghanistan is the main friction point right now, so of course that’s where I am.

3. How did you end up at UMass?  When I left the Army I knew I wanted to live in the Pioneer Valley and attend school.  Some of my friends went to UMass after high school
and did very well for themselves.  So I applied, got in, and have two semesters left.

4. Tell us about the conditions in Afghanistan this summer.  Southern Afghanistan is hot, dry and violent in the summer.  Some areas are better than last year so far, and some are about the same.  I wouldn’t say there’s anywhere in the south that’s more violent than last year.  Land mines, both manufactured and improvised, are a major
threat down here.  The casualty figures don’t reflect the scores of soldiers who are being maimed every week here.  The typical result of stepping on a mine is the loss of both legs, and often one arm.

5.  Do you feel like you’re making a difference?  Was I supposed to be making a difference?  America has been fighting in Afghanistan for ten years.  What is different about Afghanistan now?

Here is some of Ben’s work:

A report on the insane Catch-22 that is killing and maiming U.S. troops every day.

Soldiers being stalked by caracal cats!

Soldiers show their love for chest waxing and hot pants!

Much of Ben’s journalism can be found on GlobalPost’s AfPak blog.

Posted in Afghanistan, Ben Brody, GlobalPost, photography, photojournalism, War Coverage, Web journalism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment