Tag Archives: KCRG

Want to Report? Find The Sometimes Indirect Route

Zach Kucharski, senior manager of newsroom operations for The Gazette and KCRG, speaks to MMU students in the KCRG studio. Joe Winters turned the lights on for us.

Zach Kucharski, senior manager of newsroom operations for The Gazette and KCRG, speaks to MMU students in the KCRG studio. Joe Winters turned the lights on for us.

When Chelsea Keenan, a business reporter for The Gazette and Source Media, graduated from college in 2010, it was a cold, hard environment for college graduates in the shrinking communications-media world.

She was one of three journalists who shared some time this morning with my Introduction to Journalism class, and she noted that she filled in the gaps before employment with some internships, including one at NPR. There, she was placed on the business desk, a beat she had never considered covering.

For her, finding the right niche, one she was not aiming at, and leveraging it with internships allowed her to enter the working world of journalism.

It’s a point I often make with students—the importance of beyond-the-class experience, both with student media and with internships. “I think I did about five internships,” she said. In other words, students, you have to get out there and hunt down the opportunities to gain experience.

And don’t be surprised if you end up doing something that you didn’t consider on the way to doing what you really want to.

Diana Nollen, arts and entertainment writer; and Chelsea Keenan, business reporter, chat with students in a fancy conference room also known as "the lunch room" and "room formerly known as cramped TV studio."

Diana Nollen, arts and entertainment writer; and Chelsea Keenan, business reporter, chat with students in a fancy conference room also known as “the lunch room” and “room formerly known as cramped TV studio.”

For instance, Diana Nollen, a more familiar name to me as a Gazette reader, writes about arts and entertainment, which she says is her “dream job.” But, on the way to that dream job, she worked on all kinds of other beats and had various editing roles.

She said she’s been in her dream job for three years. “I had a 30-year career to get to that dream job,” Nollen noted. As she said, students, don’t expect to land your “perfect” job as your first.

And yes, even if you didn’t expect to write about it, you might end up doing something surprising, like covering business, something Keenan said she wasn’t keen on while she was in school.

Which promoted Nollen to state something in almost exactly the same words that I’ve used with students: “A reporter can cover anything.”

My first job way back in the 1980s was as a sports editor, which was ironic because I had studiously avoided athletics and athletes when I was growing up. I think it was a very minor regret of my dad’s—he had a passive interest in football, for example, and would have preferred to share that interest with his son. To his credit, he didn’t push me, and I ended up a high school star of the debate team.

Anyway, I got that sports gig because I had covered sports as a part-time writer for “The Quad City Times” while I was in college. I got out of sports as quickly as I could, but it was still valuable to me as the first rung in a media career ladder.

And so it goes. Zack Kucharski, senior manager of newsroom operations for both the Gazette and KCRG-TV, noted that he has expected to write three stories one summer for a Gazette internship, when a reporter suddenly left. “And I wrote three stories a day,” he says.

My class had an interesting tour of the joint news operations of The Gazette and KCRG. The tour always sparks interesting discussions in class. And it’s always nice to hear the messages that I’ve stated so often to students coming out of the mouths of those working in today’s media.

Other points made in our brief session this morning:

  • Have 10 questions ready for every interview. That is a piece of advice Nollen said she learned in a high school journalism class. I haven’t used that number before, and I will in the future—but having lots of questions at the ready is an important basic that I have mentioned, as is listening to answers and adjusting the interview rather than sticking to your script, which is, based on the anecdotes she shared, something I think Nollen would also agree with.
  • Go there. It’s OK, in fact it’s normal, to speak with sources on the phone, but you get better interviews, more information and thus better journalism, if you can be physically with the source in his or her environment. Kucharski noted how important it is to watch and be sensitive to a source’s reaction, his or her nonverbal communication—something that is hard to do over the phone.
  • Take notes. Use technology, but be ready for it to fail. You may not pick up the sounds you think you did, your digital device can fill with data, and—they didn’t make this point, but I’ve added it to the list in classroom discussions—good notes make it a lot easier for you to deal with and understand the recording so you don’t have to listen to the whole thing over and over as you’re trying to write.

Even in this digital age, the digits that have flesh and bone are often the most useful to journalists—take notes.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the tour. Thank you, Zack, Diana and Chelsea for your words of wisdom. Thank you, Zack, for arranging and hosting the informative tour. And thanks to all the other Source Media people who were so helpful and kind to us—even the bald lab rat who was doing everyone else’s laundry.

We had a blast. I hope you enjoyed it, too.

CO 120 students in a meeting with Gazette journalists. We got to sit in on the morning KCRG-Gazette-web news session and then chat with three journalists. I enjoyed it and I think the students did, too.

CO 120 students in a meeting with Gazette journalists. We got to sit in on the morning KCRG-Gazette-web news session and then chat with three journalists. I enjoyed it and I think the students did, too.


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The Vexation of Bike Taxation

I read a story in the Gazette via the KCRG web site about Tower Terrace Road, and commented on it because it mentioned bike commuting. I even wrote about it on my biker blog.

Then, some guy named Mark made an anti-biker, and, to my eyes, anti-grey-haired man comment. Clearly Mark is not shy about sharing his “wisdom,” since he’s a “top commentator” on the site, which says something a bit depressing.  Click on the picture to enlarge it to read our brief exchange, unless you saw it on the KCRG site already.

Selection of comments on KCRG site. My minor tussle with Mark.

Anyway, I’ll ignore the ageist Social Security reference. I’m not there yet, rude dude. Instead, I wanted to write about his vexation on taxation.

Should bikers pay taxes for the roads they use? As I noted in my response to Mark, I, like most bikers, already do. But then again, let me concede that roads are largely maintained by gasoline tax revenue, and clearly I’ve reduced my “buy in” to local roads through my use of a bike.

Do I feel guilty? No.

Personally, I clearly benefit. I enjoy biking or I would not do it. I also enjoy driving—if I’m going to be in a car, I have a clear preference to be behind the wheel of the car and preferably a fun car. It’s a guy thing. It’s also my only excuse for owning a vehicle as impractical as a manual transmission VW Beetle.

Still, all things considered, I’d rather be on a bike. I’m up higher, I’m enjoying God’s nature, I’m doing myself some good—exercise and all that. It gives me some satisfaction to know my habits might end up in Mark being able to enjoy paying me Social Security for many more years in the future.

It’s true. I’m selfish, therefore, I bike.

But, Mark and all other anti-bike bigots out there, there’s more to the story. While I’ll admit my motivations for being a bike commuter are clearly selfish, and my habits cost society some road-use revenue, I’d argue that everyone else benefits from my biking, too.

From cleaner air. From more gas available for your SUV. From less congested roads.

Now, now, don’t e-mail me that you were on I-90 and some biker was there and he slowed everybody down, etc. etc. As a bike commuter, I’m choosey about where I ride, and based on the quiet streets and sidewalks I use, I personally don’t slow anybody much. I occupy much less road space and take up far fewer parking lot square footage due to my use of two wheels.

So I think it’s a wash, at least, and some karma in my favor, at best.

There is a logic about taxing bikes for road use.  Bikes and streets predate cars. One could argue that, in the historic sense, roads were paved for bikes before any asphalt was laid down with cars in mind. The “safety bike” craze was a 19th century fad, and our friend Ford didn’t foul the air with millions of Model Ts until the 20th century.

If I use the roads, should I not also pay for the roads?

Sort of. Except that you have to balance that logic against the amount of road damage I do on my bike (none at all) and the fact that others (pedestrians, joggers) are sometimes found on the public rights of way, too. By the logic that bikers use the roads and thus should be taxed for them, we would charge a sales tax premium on running shoes, too.

And there are other practical matters that argue against taxation for bikation. If you licensed bikes or required a spoke tax, or some such scheme, it would involve 6-year-old kids and their toys. My daughter Amanda learned to balance on two wheels while she was in kindergarten. Do we want to charge kids who can’t be licensed drivers for their bikes?

Plus, any bike license scheme creates a law enforcement hassle. When I lived in western Iowa, the city of Storm Lake required bikes to be licensed. I actually lived in Early, Iowa and commuted to Storm Lake, and rode on a bike trail there often on an illegal, unlicensed, Schwinn. Clearly, I was a criminal. Clearly the Storm Lake PD didn’t give a damn. Even in quiet Iowa villages, the cops do not have time to case after old grey-haired hippies on bikes to collect small license fees. Besides, in 10 years of flouting the Storm Lake laws, I wasn’t even aware that the law existed until I was about to move away from the area.

Bike licensing would be expensive to administer, hard to enforce, irritating to parents of young bikers and to old men who commute by bike—and in the end, would produce little revenue.  That’s why bike licensing is so rare.

And if the bikers are taxed under the premise that the streets have to be paid for by those for whom they were created, we’re back to having to tax skateboards and running shoes, too.

So, Mark, what are we to do?

Well, for one thing, look at ways to support roads beyond gas taxes. With more fuel-efficient pickup trucks, electric vehicles and hybrid cars, the gas tax alone probably shouldn’t be the only way roads are maintained. Even if I don’t drive on them or pedal on them, I live in a society whose existence and commerce depends on roads, so as a taxpayer, I say, go ahead, make my day, take my pay, use general tax revenue to put some tar in a pothole.

Not that I’m opposed to gas taxes. They not only make sense as a kind of road user fee. They also make sense for the same reason that tobacco taxes make sense. Those who purchase a known carcinogen and burn it in the environment in a way that causes all of us to suffer should pay some premium for their bad behavior.


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In A Warm Gazette Newsroom, Waiting For Vic by Rick

Gazette Newsroom

Gazette Newsroom, doubled as second TV studio, too, on caucus night. That's a U of I professor surfing, which is what I was doing, too.

Who would have thought it?

It’s 10:05 p.m. and Jefferson County is the biggest one with no votes counted. Will it tip Iowa to Mitt Romney? Rick Santorum?

I spent caucus night in the newroom of The Gazette, acting as an on-line and on-TV “expert” of sorts. I hope I sounded OK. It’s been fun and I wouldn’t mind a chance to do this sort of thing again.

The caucus results themselves are a bit of a surprise. Based on the kinds of things he’s said in the past, I don’t think Rick Santorum is going to play that well after Iowa, so if he pulls out a win (and even if he only comes in second, he has pulled out a win), he won’t be in the race in the long run. The Mike Huckabee of 2012.

A less likeable Mike Huckabee. Not sure Fox will be offering him an on-air deal soon.

Anyway, Iowa doesn’t really picked the nominee anyway, it just eliminates thet candidates who hang on, hoping for a miracle that doesn’t come. Sorry Michelle.

And the other Rick says the race is a marathon, but frankly I think he’s been done for a while.

So, on to New Hampshire. And while it was fun, I’m glad my TV time is drawing to an end. Any of you that caught the act on TV or online, what did you think?


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A Whirlwind Afternoon, Like Christmas Eve for Santa

MMU Band at Club Friday

MMU pep band plays at Christmas Club Friday, Dec. 9, 2011. I have it on good authority that Santa took this photo.

Friday was busy. It was bound to be—it’s that time of the semester. I’m downloading files to my jump drive and typing this—and I expect to finish the post before the files finish.

Although, of course, it’s hard to say as the time bar in Windows is wildly fluctuating—28 minutes left! No, 7! No, 34! 15 minutes remaining! Did I say 15, I mean 10 or 4 of 60!

It’s like a Bible-thumping preacher adding secret scripture numbers to calculate the day of the rapture.

But, I digress.

What was Friday like?

Final two classes in the morning, one a writing lab, one a final exam review that got done about 20 minutes early. The exam in that class should be fairly easy, but we’ll see come Monday.

Then, it was time to work on class proposals that have to be done in October (but might still work if I turn in drafts by Monday). Several students stopped by to ensure I would not finish my writing work…the final week of the semester a faculty member suddenly becomes popular.

Got a phone call from the PR office here at MMU. Channel 9 was working on a story about the Rick Perry ad, could I comment? They wanted me or a political science professor, I said Poly Sci would have more to say, but I would be back up.

Another call. Political science had punted it back. I was “on” at 2. I glanced at Google news to see if anything new was being said about the Perry ad—I was familiar with the controversy already having previously blogged about it.

But, at 2, got the call that the TV crew was running late. Re-set for 4, except I had a previous engagement that wasn’t really supposed to be over then.

I was a “helper” at Christmas Club Friday, if you know what I mean. I can’t say who I “was,” lest tender young eyes be reading this blog, but, ho, ho, ho, it was a good time. I have previous experience in this role—did it once before at MMU, and also worked as a Mall S**** C****** during graduate school.

The things we do for education.

The Mall gig was busier and more challenging. At one point a 10-year-old girl came tearing across the mall, at a quite time when there was no line, hopped up on my lap and said, “S****, all I want for Christmas is for my parents to get back together.”

Wow. It seemed to end well, I think I left her in a good mood, but basically I just had to explain that some gifts the jolly old elf isn’t meant to bring—the human hearts of her parents are under their own control. (At least as much as any of ours are, but once again I digress with either 2 minutes or 10 or something remaining).

Anyway, at MMU, I was mostly just waiting for female students to come treat me like a set piece for photos. It was a bit weird, but OK. Had some fun conversations. I would say 75 percent of the photo subjects probably recognized me right away.

After 45 minutes, someone had to go feed the reindeer. So I went quickly back to Campus Ministry, changed back into civilian clothes, and strolled across campus to Warde Hall.

Make it just by 4. The TV crew was waiting. I was interviewed for perhaps 10 minutes, and ended up being featured pretty prominently in the story. This link will go dead in a few days, I don’t think KCRG keeps its stories up much past 72 hours or so, but here it is, if you can see it.


After that, the President’s Christmas Party, followed by a bit of a party at home, were Theresa and her family were visiting along with Katy and Wyatt’s kids, who we watched over night.

Whew! And for the record, Windows did finish copying files first, by only a few seconds.


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