Seven Deadly Journalism Sins

Posted on March 12, 2013 by maburdei.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Kevin Goldberg, Journalism Law professor at Mason and attorney at the communications law firm, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC, spoke with our class about the ‘Seven Deadly Sins Committed by Young Journalists’ and how to avoid them. He compared the seven deadly sins (pride, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, and envy) to common mistakes journalists make.

The lecture took up the majority of the two and a half hour class and was chock full of useful information about communication and journalism law.

With details obviously too great for one blog post, just the essentials are below:

  • Make sure you stop before you post or publish. Figure out if you are fairly using or referencing someone else’s intellectual property.
  • Stop. Think. Does what you’re writing defame or misrepresent someone?
  • Have you done your due diligence and researched your subject to accurately write about them?
  • Have you tampered with quotes? (You better not have…)
  • If you messed up did you publish a retraction or a correction?
  • In trying to obtain information, did you violate someone’s reasonable expectation of privacy? (again, another don’t)
  • Intellectual property can be used it specific ways. Make sure you are referencing and using patents, copyrights, and trademarks according to their rules.

Think you know everything about intellectual property rights? Test your knowledge here.

For more info on all things media law,  check out Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth’s Communication Law Blog.

Steve Buttry comes to Mason

Posted on March 2, 2013 by maburdei.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Steve Buttry. Google him. Or better yet, just click here to see why he’s a big deal in the journalism world.

Buttry came to Mason on Feb. 26 to talk to journalism students about what he does and how to succeed in the business.

Obtained from

Learning how to learn is the most important thing you’ll learn, Buttry said.

Buttry is the Digital Transformation Editor for Digital First Media and Journal Register Co.

What does that mean?

Well, when a new form of technology comes along, companies can react in two ways.

1. Ignore the new technology.


2. Force their product into that new space. 

Buttry is a multi-platform specialist. Buttry learns and teaches others how to work new technology and makes writing and creating on that platform part of the process. He takes new technology and formulates what opportunities it could bring.

The internet was the first major technology to transform everything. 

Mobile is the second.

Smartphones and wireless devices are taking over and transforming how we reach new information and interact.

Technology is a tool to tell a story in different ways. –Steve Buttry


Advice for Young Journalists/Professionals:

Buttry said blogs build reputations in journalism. That’s why you should have one. Write everyday.

What Buttry asks entry-level applicants:

  • What is your worst mistake?
  • What lesson did you learn from your worst mistake?

What he looks for:

  • A strong social-media presence
  • Video skills or someone trying to develop video skills
  • The variety of what an applicant is trying or doing (ex. video editing, blogging, use of audio, learning Photoshop, etc)

For more on Steve Buttry, check out his blog here.

Kevin Sites at GMU

Posted on March 1, 2013 by maburdei.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Kevin Sites, the renown backpack journalist best known for his coverage of global wars in his Yahoo! blog Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone,  came to Mason on February 12 to speak to journalism students.

Sites presented several points he felt were important to mention to young journalists.

Check out some of the highlights below:


Photo obtained from courtesy of Kevin Sites.

Shrink the Footprint: Backpack journalism is all about traveling light to get the best story. With backpack journalism, all the equipment needed for a traditional news crew is shrunk and there is more of a direct deposit from capturing the news to posting the news.

Sites used to be a field producer for ABC, NBC, and CNN. But he noticed that when he was talking to people with a small recorder or just by means of an in-person interview, he got a more genuine response from them. Talking to people with large cameras, boom mics, and an entire field producing crew is intimidating, and Sites found that people would build themselves, or their stories, up in front of the them. Their quotes would change, their posture would change, their whole personality would change.

“Shrinking the footprint” makes the standard interview more of a conversation and gets to the heart of who people are and what they’re dealing with.

Report in 3 Dimensions: People live in 3 dimensions, so it’s incomplete to tell their narrative in text alone. Sites emphasized the importance of knowing when to shoot video, take photos, audio record, and use text. They all have a different effect. All can be used to illustrate a larger truth, but you have to know when to use what. You can’t do everything, but leverage those mediums to tell a complete story, Sites said.

Exploit the Tension: Every story needs tension or conflict, otherwise it’s not a story. That doesn’t mean you can’t tell happy stories, Sites said. The tension, might be the war within yourself. As a journalist, you can affect peoples’ lives forever. Do you choose to tell a story or not? Do you choose to continue filming for the sake of the story or drop the camera to physically assist someone in need? Do you tell a story even if it could get you or a person in authority in jeopardy?

Storytelling is Healing: After covering roughly 20 wars and dealing day by day with this reporter-tension, Sites developed symptoms of PTSD. Soldiers often get this–it’s the result of guilt associated with killing or surviving.

How to treat it?


Sites discovered that storytelling was a way to mitigate the symptoms of PTSD. Sharing stories is therapeutic. Storytelling is part of the healing process. It helped him with his PTSD, but for the soliders…

The Things They Cannot Say

” They’re not using it so much. That’s the problem. It’s the things they cannot say. You get to this position where we come back and we don’t think society is going to understand and so they’re really not talking about their experiences. We as a society have to engage them to get them to tell the stories. And we have to ask them the proper questions. And the problem is we come back and we ask them these deeply disrespectful questions–‘Hey, did you kill anyone?‘– Now, wanting to understand what that’s like, if it actually happened, is not the bad thing. It is a sense of curiosity that we have in society. We should know about it, but we have to ask in the proper way. And it means showing respect to the soldier or marine by letting them control the dialogue to some extent.

You tell them, ‘Listen. I want to understand what you experienced over there. I want to understand what you went through and I’ll be here as long as it takes for you to tell me that. And tell me when you’re ready, but I really want to know because I care about you.’

And that allows them to be back in control, it shows respect for their complex experiences, which can be funny. I mean, they might be ashamed because some of them are funny and they don’t want to seem politically incorrect if they tell you something was really cool or  ‘I felt really powerful.’ They’re worried how people are going to react to that and they’re worried also that they did something that they’re not proud of. It’s a difficult situation when you come back from a war zone and all everybody wants to do is pat you on the back and say ‘thanks for the great service.’ What if you did something that you’re not happy with? …It would probably compound the injury to some extent.

Getting them to talk about these things, enlarging the dialogue, is our role in society. That’s something we have to do very proactively and we have to engage them in that way…

Everybody’s experiences are different and that’s kind of what we have to appreciate–is the idea that war experiences are complex and unique and there isn’t a one size fits all in dealing with those issues.”

For more on Kevin Sites, check out his website or his newest book, “The Things They Cannot Say.”

Better Than Your Average Library

Posted on by maburdei.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Libraries, databases, resources. They’re everywhere. And Mason offers access to ones that you otherwise would need a private or expensive membership to access.

In a presentation at the Library Resource room today, our talented class of online journalists learned how to access all these resources. More interestingly, however, we discovered some new and uncommon databases that make the research process exceedingly more intriguing.



  • Social Explorer: Get access to US census data–current and past data that is. Even cooler? You can create your own maps and reports with this research tool to illustrate your findings and analyze “demography and social change.”


This last one is unrelated to research, but I still found it incredibly awesome…if you’re a musician, that is…


  • Library Music Source: Most musicians know sheet music costs money. With Mason’s subscription to this database, you can access “the largest collection of Western Classical sheet music ever assembled” for free. Cheers to studentdom! 


For more databases and resources, check out