Making Sense of the Media


It's not often that the news media is shocked by a story about its own business.

Journalists talk shop - a lot.

There is no shortage of speculation about the future of this TV chain or that newspaper.

But nobody saw the sale of the "Washington Post" to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos coming.

Courtesy the Simon Family

NPR host Scott Simon has talked about his mom on-the-air before, and he's mentioned her in social media.

But this was different. His mother,  Patricia Lyons Simon Newman, was in a Chicago Intensive Care Unit. Her son was by her side. They both knew she was dying. And Simon was tweeting about the experience to his over 1 million Twitter followers.

In a few days, Simon's mother was dead at the age of 84.

Making Sense of Royal Baby News Coverage

Jul 29, 2013

You can understand why the British were hanging on every scrap of news coverage about the impending birth of a baby to Princess Katherine and Prince William.

But, why was there so much American coverage of the birth of George, now third in line to become King of England?

Are Americans that interested in a powerless monarchy we once fought a revolution against?

If you've seen stories in the past few days about Cleveland's Charles Ramsey supposedly being out of work, broke and homeless, then you'll want to read this update that has word from the man himself:

Ledger of Lakeland

Allegations of sexual impropriety in the Lakeland, Florida police department (LPD) have shaken the police department and the community.

A State Attorney's Office report details allegations of consensual and forced sexual encounters involving more than 20 LPD officers or former officers.

And the Lakeland Ledger newspaper can take a lot of credit for helping bring the scandal to light.

What Kind of Media Consumer Are You?

Jul 12, 2013
Carolyn Kaster/AP

Are you a traditional consumer of media, a social consumer or a lurker? 

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project" said that the recent glut of news from the Supreme Court,  the George Zimmerman trial and a filibuster in the Texas legislature revealed how many different kinds of news consumers there are in the digital age.

"This was the week I realized how dramatically everything has changed in the way we consume news," explained McBride. "And, at the same time,  how firmly some of our roots are still planted in the old platforms."

CNN, HLN Televising Dueling Zimmerman Trial Shows

Jul 1, 2013
Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel

HLN network chief executive Scot Safon resisted any impulse to call his boss, Jeff Zucker, to say "What are you doing to me?" when he learned that CNN scheduled a nightly hour on the George Zimmerman murder trial for the same time HLN was airing one.

So far, the call hasn't been necessary.


Neal Conan has hosted NPR's Talk of the Nation for more than a decade, but this week it's Conan himself who has everyone talking.

On Thursday, the veteran journalist will host his final broadcast of the call-in show, which airs four days a week.

Edward Snowden: A 21st Century Daniel Ellsberg?

Jun 24, 2013
National Security Agency

Defense contractor employee Edward Snowden says he released information about the National Security Administration's "Prism" data collection program because he believed the government was doing wrong and was not going to tell the American people.

Just about everybody is packing a smart phone these days -- a smart phone equipped with a pretty decent digital camera.

And, as a cost-cutting move, the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper has fired all of its photographers and will, instead, rely on reporters taking news pictures with their smart phones.

But, Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project" said having a camera does not make someone a professional photographer.

Making Sense of the CNN-Buzzfeed Channel

May 31, 2013

What do the first 24-hour cable news network and a website known for cute cat videos have in common?

Well, CNN and Buzzfeed are about to share a YouTube channel.


Live, street-by-street television coverage of the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma was not enough warning to prevent the deaths of 24 people.

But, Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense Making Project" says coverage of emergencies like this still has room to get better in the digital age.

The revelation that the Justice Department got a hold of phone records at the Associated Press in an effort to track down a leak has already had a chilling effect on the news media.

That's the conclusion of Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense Making Project."

"If you're working at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) or the Department of Agriculture and you think there are stories that the public ought to know, you are very unlikely to call a journalist right now," said McBride.

Washington Wizards

When Washington Wizards Center Jason Collins announced in a "Sports Illustrated" article that he is gay, it was a huge deal in the media.

And, Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense Making Project" said the coverage was justified.

"This is big," explained McBride. "We have been waiting for this moment in the United States for a good three or four years."

Where's the Coverage of The Gosnell Trial?

May 13, 2013

The media has not provided wall-to-wall coverage of a particularly grisly trial of a Philadelphia abortion doctor because editors and producers say there has not been a hunger for more coverage from readers, listeners and views.

But Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense Making Project" said that the media has missed a chance to have a very important discussion by providing more coverage of this story.

Making the Choice To Use Anonymous Sources

Apr 15, 2013

"Mother Jones" magazine decided to publish recordings of a campaign strategy session in the Louisville, Ky. offices of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell while keeping the source of that recording anonymous.

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense Making Project" says some stories are worth the risks involved in using anonymous sources.

The Associated Press Stylebook has decided to recommend against the use of the phrase "illegal immigrant" by journalists because of concerns about accuracy, according to Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense Making Project."

Since 1953, the AP has been publishing a stylebook that has become a go-to resource for journalists, writers and advertisers when it comes to style and usage.

But, the AP kicked up some controversy recently when its new stylebook recommended against using the phrase "illegal immigrant."

Facebook Profiles and the Gay Marriage Debate

Apr 1, 2013
Human Rights Campaign

Changing your Facebook profile picture to support gay marriage is not the same as protesting in the streets.

If you checked out Facebook in the week that the Supreme Court heard two cases on gay marriage, you saw many people's profile pictures changed to a pink equal sign on a red background.

More Media Fallout in the Steubenville Rape Case

Mar 25, 2013
CNN/Huffington Post

The media needs to do a better job of covering rape cases.

That's what the widely covered rape trial of two Steubenville, Ohio football players shows, according to Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense Making Project."


Guilty verdicts March 17 in the rape trial case of two Steubenville, Ohio football players proved, again, how strong a role social media played in this case.

And, Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense Making Project" said it is just the beginning of this new age of social media power.

The two young men may not have been charged at all had they not, themselves, posted incriminating photos of the victim on the internet.