Recording Phone Calls

Young woman with red hair and smart phone.

We want to make sure that you take special precautions to stay safe when doing an interview. The best method now, not always, is using your phone. You can record with Voice Memos. But it may not be the best quality. You can also get an app that does a good job.

Rev Call Recorder is available for free in the App Store. It says it provides free and unlimited call recording.

TapeACall is a favorite in the podcast world. It offers a free trial for seven days. That might work for your next assignment. But they ask for a credit card and that turned me off.

THE LAW AND RECORDING PHONE CALLS

Federal and state wire-tapping laws govern how, or if, you can record a telephone call.

You could be prosecuted or sued if you don’t follow the rules. So it’s imperative to understand and abide by them.

Federal law requires one-party consent. That party could be you. But individual states have their own laws. New York and New Jersey require only one-party consent. Again, that could be you.

But twelve states including California and Florida require all parties to consent to the recording.

You can check the laws of all the states here.

The Ethics of Recording A Call

It is always important to be as transparent as possible. Before you hit the record button ask your interviewee if it is okay with them. You want to make sure they are comfortable with having their voice and words recorded. They generally say, “Yes,” and appreciate being asked. This is the ethical thing to do when you are dealing with a regular interview.

The rules, not the law, change when you are interviewing for a story that requires undercover work. News organizations have different rules for their reporters and you want to make sure that you follow them carefully.

Journalists have a responsibility to honor the trust of the public and the people they interview. Please take this seriously.

Truth and Journalism

Wayne Barrett an investigative reporter for the Village voice wrote:

“My credo has always been that the only reason readers come back to you again and again over decades is because of what you unearth for them, and that the joy of our profession is discovery, not dissertation.

There is also no other job where you get paid to tell the truth. Other professionals do sometimes tell the truth, but it’s ancillary to what they do, not the purpose of their job. I was asked years ago to address the elementary school that my son attended and tell them what a reporter did and I went to the auditorium in a trench coat with the collar up and a notebook in a my pocket, baring it to announce that “we are detectives for the people.”

How to Write a Pitch

How to Write a Pitch

A pitch describes the story you want to tell. You need to write a short paragraph that gets attention and explains what you plan to do. So avoid writing, “I want to write about the Churro Lady,” because that’s not a story.  It’s a general idea. You want to look for an angle.

Your Churro Lady pitch might read like this:

“When police arrested the Churro Lady in the subway for selling sweets, they said she was selling without a license. I want to find out what it takes to get a license and if she could have gotten one. I’ll contact the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, and talk to food vendors who have licenses and those who don’t.”

Or, “When police arrested the Churro Lady in the subway for selling sweets, they said it sent a signal to others who sell things or perform in the subway for money. I want to find out how others who sell or perform in the subway will be affected. I’ll talk to sellers and musicians and people who use the subways to find out what they think. I’ll also get a comment from the Mayor’s office.”

Ethics in Journalism

Shot of hands with a Phone and news spelled out in the center over a globe and a newspaper

What is ethics?

Merriam Webster

Definition of ethic

1 ethics plural in form but singular or plural in constructionthe discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

2 a: a set of moral principles a theory or system of moral values

Every good news organization has a handbook with a written policy or guidelines that spell out the way they want journalists to act while gathering and reporting the news. Managers, editors, producers, reporters, photographers and anyone who works in serious journalism takes these guidelines to heart and tries to follow them.

While there may be some corporate deviation, standards remain pretty much the same from one organization to another.

Remember:

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America says:

The Bill of Rights

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to freely assemble, and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So we have a mandate to report and cover the news and how we do it is critically important.

We have basic values.

We tell the truth.

We remain independent and as objective as humanly possible.

We report fairly giving all sides of a story and giving multiple viewpoints of a story when possible.

We work to present a rounded picture of what we are reporting with context.

We are accountable. We report what we know and stand behind our work and correct errors.

Journalists serve the public

The New York Times puts its guidelines online

Other news organizations do the same. For example:

The Daily Beast

Buzzfeed

The foundation of journalism ethics is simple.

This list reflects the Code of Ethics created by the Society for Professional Journalists.

  1. Report fairly and accurately

a. To do that you need to make sure that you verify what people tell you.

How do you do that? By finding more than one source for the information.

2. Avoid conflicts of interest. If you do have an interest in the story you want to disclose it upfront.

3. Do not take gifts, favors, free travel or other perks that could compromise your reporting.

4. Distinguish news from advertising or native content.

4. Update your story to make sure that it is accurate. Things change.

5. Be careful about making promises to people you interview.

6. Identify your sources clearly.

7. Consider your sources’ motives. Why are they talking to you? What is their bias?

8. Be careful about granting someone anonymity. An anonymous source may have a

motive to stay hidden that could undermine the truthfulness of the story. If you use

an anonymous source, explain why.

9. Make every effort to get both sides of a story. Make sure if people are accused of something that you give them every opportunity to respond. This may take extra work.

10. Use undercover reporting only when you must and then explain why you chose to do it.

11. Hold the powerful accountable.

12. Give voice to the powerless.

13. Avoid stereotyping.

14. Label advocacy and commentary.

15. Do not distort information including visual presentations. Make sure that you label re-enactments clearly.

16. Never plagiarize.

17 . Always attribute.

18. Be accountable and transparent.

a. Correct mistakes quickly.

b. Respond to criticism.

c. Explain your ethical choices.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/24/business/media/james-wolfe-ali-watkins-leaks-reporter.html

Easy to Make Mistakes, So Verify

The Parkland shooting shows us how easily you can make a mistake and report things that are untrue in the rush to get a story out quickly.

Two things stand out:

  1. The false report that Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who killed 17 and wounded 14 others at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, was connected to a white supremacist group.
  2. There have been 18 school shootings since January 1st, 2018.

Let’s tackle the first false report.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that follows hate groups, wrote on its blog the day after the shooting that Cruz was associated with a Jacksonville, Florida, white supremacist group, Republic of Florida (ROF). The ADL had previously been contacted by someone who described himself as the leader of the group.

The ADL told Politico it picked up the information on 4chan, a bulletin board where self-described ROF members claimed Cruz was one of them.  News organizations picked the story up and people on 4chan kept it going. One of the users described it as “prime trolling opportunity,” and the discussions involved fooling reporters and feeding them the story that Cruz was with ROF.

The same kinds of conversations between these trolls about the false connection showed up on Discord, a gamers’ app that attracts neo-Nazis, about a concerted effort to fool reporters.

Politico posted these exchanges from the bulletin boards:

“On the Discord chat, a user called Curbstomp suggested sharing generic photos of ROF and claiming they depicted Cruz.

“I have an idea . . . We can just take a pic of masked ROF members and claim one of them is Cruz,” Curbstomp wrote.

Members of the Discord chat swapped potential photos.

Others joined the chorus on 4chan, interspersing jokes with purported confirmations.

“I can confirm this guy was trying to enact a race war and got kicked out of ROF,” wrote another poster.”

Reporters from AP and ABC contacted the trolls and supposed members of the group and went with the story.

But shortly after the first report, on Thursday, February 15, 2018, the Broward County sheriff said it wasn’t true.

How do you verify a claim that someone is in a hate group?

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups. Contact them and ask.

The FBI monitors hate crimes. Some local law enforcement agencies do too. Contact them and ask.

ProPublica, a non-profit news organization, began Documenting Hate, a project that collects data from journalists from more than 130 news organizations as well as independent journalists, local law enforcement, community groups and civil rights groups to try to get a clear picture of what is happening in America

The Anti-Defamation League has been a reliable source in the past.

The bottom line is that Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter are good sources for leads and ways to connect with people. But you have to be extremely careful, because we know that people in chat rooms, on social media, and trolls are determined to spread false information and use reporters to to do it.  Take your time. Report only what you know.

 

 

2. Mistaken numbers about school shootings.

PolitiFact traced the first error to surface to a tweet from ABC reporter Jeff Greenfield.

In the rest of the world, there have been 18 school shootings in the last twenty years. In the U.S., there have been 18 school shootings since January 1.

It picked up 130,000 likes on Twitter.

Greenfield apparently picked up the statistic from Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The number of 18 does not mean that there were 18 incidents of someone going into a school and shooting students, as Cruz allegedly did.

Instead the number includes a man committing suicide in a school parking lot and a student unintentionally firing an instructor’s gun. You can see the full list here.

If we use careful language, we would not classify many as school shootings.

Checking Facts:

PolitiFact checks claims of politicians, reporters and others in the news.

FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center

Snopes.org was founded in 1994 to research urban legends. It has become a go-to source for checking out internet rumors.

Open Secrets.org, part of The Center for Responsive Politics, follows political contributions and money spent on lobbying. It followed where the National Rifle Association (NRA)  money went in the 2016 election.

 

Sunlight Foundation shines the light on government and government officials using public records, technology and information from civic groups and journalists,

See Through New York, a project of the Empire Center, shows you salaries of every public employee in New York State as well as pension information.

 

Jimmy Breslin’s Grave Digger Story

‘It’s An Honor’

New York Herald Tribune, November 1963

By Jimmy Breslin

WASHINGTON — Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9 a.m., in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call he had been expecting. It was from Mazo Kawalchik, who is the foreman of the gravediggers at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where Pollard works for a living. “Polly, could you please be here by 11 o’clock this morning?” Kawalchik asked. “I guess you know what it’s for.” Pollard did. He hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment so he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

When Pollard got to the row of yellow wooden garages where the cemetery equipment is stored, Kawalchik and John Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, were waiting for him. “Sorry to pull you out like this on a Sunday,” Metzler said. “Oh, don’t say that,” Pollard said. “Why, it’s an honor for me to be here.” Pollard got behind the wheel of a machine called a reverse hoe. Gravedigging is not done with men and shovels at Arlington. The reverse hoe is a green machine with a yellow bucket that scoops the earth toward the operator, not away from it as a crane does. At the bottom of the hill in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pollard started the digging (Editor Note: At the bottom of the hill in front of the Custis-Lee Mansion).

Leaves covered the grass. When the yellow teeth of the reverse hoe first bit into the ground, the leaves made a threshing sound which could be heard above the motor of the machine. When the bucket came up with its first scoop of dirt, Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, walked over and looked at it. “That’s nice soil,” Metzler said. “I’d like to save a little of it,” Pollard said. “The machine made some tracks in the grass over here and I’d like to sort of fill them in and get some good grass growing there, I’d like to have everything, you know, nice.”

James Winners, another gravedigger, nodded. He said he would fill a couple of carts with this extra-good soil and take it back to the garage and grow good turf on it. “He was a good man,” Pollard said. “Yes, he was,” Metzler said. “Now they’re going to come and put him right here in this grave I’m making up,” Pollard said. “You know, it’s an honor just for me to do this.”

Pollard is 42. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the 35th president of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.

Yesterday morning, at 11:15, Jacqueline Kennedy started toward the grave. She came out from under the north portico of the White House and slowly followed the body of her husband, which was in a flag-covered coffin that was strapped with two black leather belts to a black caisson that had polished brass axles. She walked straight and her head was high. She walked down the bluestone and blacktop driveway and through shadows thrown by the branches of seven leafless oak trees. She walked slowly past the sailors who held up flags of the states of this country. She walked past silent people who strained to see her and then, seeing her, dropped their heads and put their hands over their eyes. She walked out the northwest gate and into the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. She walked with tight steps and her head was high and she followed the body of her murdered husband through the streets of Washington.

Everybody watched her while she walked. She is the mother of two fatherless children and she was walking into the history of this country because she was showing everybody who felt old and helpless and without hope that she had this terrible strength that everybody needed so badly. Even though they had killed her husband and his blood ran onto her lap while he died, she could walk through the streets and to his grave and help us all while she walked.

There was Mass, and then the procession to Arlington. When she came up to the grave at the cemetery, the casket already was in place. It was set between brass railings and it was ready to be lowered into the ground. This must be the worst time of all, when a woman sees the coffin with her husband inside and it is in place to be buried under the earth. Now she knows that it is forever. Now there is nothing. There is no casket to kiss or hold with your hands. Nothing material to cling to. But she walked up to the burial area and stood in front of a row of six green-covered chairs and she started to sit down, but then she got up quickly and stood straight because she was not going to sit down until the man directing the funeral told her what seat he wanted her to take.

The ceremonies began, with jet planes roaring overhead and leaves falling from the sky. On this hill behind the coffin, people prayed aloud. They were cameramen and writers and soldiers and Secret Service men and they were saying prayers out loud and choking. In front of the grave, Lyndon Johnson kept his head turned to his right. He is president and he had to remain composed. It was better that he did not look at the casket and grave of John Fitzgerald Kennedy too often. Then it was over and black limousines rushed under the cemetery trees and out onto the boulevard toward the White House. “What time is it?” a man standing on the hill was asked. He looked at his watch. “Twenty minutes past three,” he said.

Clifton Pollard wasn’t at the funeral. He was over behind the hill, digging graves for $3.01 an hour in another section of the cemetery. He didn’t know who the graves were for. He was just digging them and then covering them with boards. “They’ll be used,” he said. “We just don’t know when. I tried to go over to see the grave,” he said. “But it was so crowded a soldier told me I couldn’t get through. So I just stayed here and worked, sir. But I’ll get over there later a little bit. Just sort of look around and see how it is, you know. Like I told you, it’s an honor.”