Teaching Examples


A very solo journalist
October 28, 2006, 12:33 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The one-woman news site I blogged about yesterday got its start because no one wanted to publish news about a town with only 430 residents.

As a student in an in-depth reporting course at the University of Florida, Cher Phillips completed a series of stories about the town where she lives, McIntosh, Florida. In spring 2006, she shopped the series around to local news organizations. They all sent her away.

Her instructor, an experienced newsman, assured her the stories were worth publishing. They talked about putting the series on a purpose-built Web site. In the end, Phillips set up a free blog on Blogger instead.

“Things the [town] council was putting forward were scaring people. They wanted to do things so quickly, they weren’t giving small-town folk a chance to keep up,” Phillips told me in an interview on Thursday.

“I had no method, no venue, for explaining this to people,” she added.

Phillips had taken an introductory Web course in the j-school but declares she is by no means an online expert.

Since starting the blog, the McIntosh Mirror, she has not missed a meeting of the town council. She wants to attend every code enforcement meeting too, but she’s not sure whether she can fit it in between her college courses and her full-time-job as a secretary in the university’s Center for Written & Oral Communications.

At the second town council meeting she attended, “it kind of all broke down” into arguments, she said. “It made me see a different side of McIntosh and made me want to look harder at it.”

Three members of the McIntosh council have resigned this year because of the ongoing issues in their town.

On her blog, Phillips takes care not to mix editorial comment with news reporting. Her method: Label each post in the headline, either “REPORT” or “EDITORIAL.” If someone from McIntosh asked her to post an essay or editorial comment as a stand-alone entry on her blog, she would do it, she said.

About 10 residents attend most town council meetings — usually the same 10 people. Sometimes Phillips is the only person in the audience.

At one meeting in June, though, about 75 people showed up to talk about what Phillips labeled “the Nazi ordinance.”

After that meeting, the blog really “got around,” Phillips said.

Phillips attended her first town council meeting in February 2006 on the advice of her instructor, John Marvel. She credits him in part for her knack for writing about public meetings in a professional, yet interesting, way. She also named Steve Orlando, her reporting lab instructor, as a mentor.

She cut her teeth as a public affairs reporter in 2001 as a staff writer at the Alligator, UF’s student-run daily. Then she was attending Santa Fe Community College, and the Alligator’s editor assigned her to cover SFCC’s search for a new president.

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1 Comment so far
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as one citizen of Mcintosh who was very involved in the town troubles, i want to state strongly that the MCINTOSH MIRROR was a huge factor in getting the news out to all the citizens of the town. most of us agree that Cher’s writting is reasonably unbiased and extremely informative. I believe that her blog is what gave the town, that had no formal newsletter a way to keep informed about issues that were scaring the town. I salute Cher Phillips and the MCINTOSH MIRROR for keeping up the intent of journalism which is to keep the public informed.
Sandra “Casey” Girardin.

Comment by casey




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