A new book on digital journalism and ethics

51JSmCXh6HL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_A couple of essays I wrote for the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy have been published in a new book called A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics. I examined the complicated journalistic questions that arise from social media curation and how building an online social network forced me to rethink traditional standards of objectivity.

Other writers tackle the ethics of anonymous commenting, photo manipulation and credibility questions surrounding amateur restaurant reviews. The book is available through Amazon for $9.99.

All politics is local (journalism)

One of the many political opinions on display lately. Photo/Meg Heckman
One of the many political opinions on display lately. Photo/Meg Heckman

It’s been a decade since the bitter cold winter when I started covering politics. Plenty of Democrats wanted a chance to unseat President George W. Bush, so New Hampshire was bustling with candidates. It was a rare stump speech that  didn’t reference 9/11, and most voters I met knew at least one person stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Everyone who turned out to hear the potential challengers or, later, the president himself believed that this election would somehow make things better.

Sure, politics has plenty of problems. There’s too much money. Too much celebrity. Too much disconnect between the loud debates and the everyday lives of most Americans. But the political process is also beautiful. A campaign is a microcosm of a community: coalitions, networks, passions that bring people together and drive them apart. In the months before an election, voters become more public with their anger, their fears, their hopes. They display their opinions on lawns, on car bumpers and with pins on their lapels. Collectively, we consider who we are to ourselves and who we want to be in the eyes of the world.

And, as a journalist on the campaign trail, it was my job to find them at their coffee shops and their town halls, flip open my notebook and listen.

When I decided on the career shift that would eventually land me a teaching job at UNH, I assumed I was done covering politics. I was wrong. Which is awesome. Because I really missed it.

Since early June I’ve been filing dispatches from New Hampshire for the Boston Globe’s new political section, a visually stunning effort called Capital that appears Fridays in print and throughout the week online. (Here’s Poynter’s take on the project, and a look at the section’s design philosophy.) Capital was great when it launched, and it’s only gotten better since then.

As for my own contributions, I’ve written about the new proprietor of an old political landmark, the GOP’s quest for a perfect site for the 2016 Republican National Convention and Bob Smith’s return to politics after a 12 year hiatus.

Tonight, I’m heading out to work on another piece, and I’m looking forward to hearing what stories New Hampshire’s voters have to tell.

This month’s goal: $12,000 for JAWS

Updated 7/3/2014: Thanks to dozens of generous donors, this project was a huge success. We raised nearly $9,500 during the month of June, and we’re confident we’ll reach the $12,000 mark by the end of the summer. Running the campaign was a lot of fun — but also a lot of work, which is why things have been quiet around here for the last month. I’ll be back to my regular blogging habits after Fourth of July weekend. — MH 

Crowdrise_logo_151x48-1For the next 30 days, I’m leading a crowdfunding campaign to send 10 early-career female journalists to a conference organized by the Journalism & Women Symposium. Our goal is to raise $12,000 — enough to provide these talented women with several days of mentorship, networking opportunities and leadership training.

Programs like this are crucial to newsroom diversity, and newsroom diversity is vital for telling accurate stories about all segments of our society. Although women are the majority of entry-level reporters, they are far less likely than their male peers to rise to management positions. Supporting emerging female journalists is one way to counter that trend.

I gave $25 to the campaign this morning, and it’s my goal to convince 10 people in my social and professional networks to do the same by the end of this week.

Please visit our CrowdRise page, watch our fantastic video and consider supporting this important cause.


J schools reboot for next generation needs

Journalism education — much like journalism itself — is in the middle of a massive reboot, one with the potential to redefine how news is produced and consumed in the decades to come. Students still learn the basics, but digital is the default, and the most innovative schools are churning out graduates with skills newsrooms may not yet know how to use.  Read the full story at NetNewsCheck.com.

School’s out for summer

What the hell happened to the last month? Actually, I know exactly what happened: finals. Lots and lots of finals to grade. And portfolios and projects and essays to read. And students dropping by my office to talk about their summer plans* or ask advice on applying for jobs. It all unfolded at a pace similar to the week before an election: dizzying, thrilling and, in hindsight, rather blurry.

It’s over now, and I’m looking ahead to a summer of consulting, freelancing and — here’s the tricky one — wrapping my head around what it means to be a writer in a beautiful, fascinating and overwhelming digital world.

The consulting is already underway. I’m spending a few days each week in the newsroom at the Concord Monitor, the newspaper where I worked as a reporter and, later, web editor for many years. The paper’s staff is young and talented, and it’s my job to help them build stories with all the digital tools at their disposal. (I suppose it’s a little like a professional version of last year’s Summer Tech Camp.)

I have some stories in the works for NetNewsCheck, and I’m hoping to finally start a reporting project that’s been on my list for years. (Details to come.)

As for modern writing, I’m heading to a workshop in a couple of weeks that explores the intersection of writing and yoga. I’m not sure what to expect, but I hope to understand why I seem to struggle more now than ever before to put a few decent sentences on a page.

I’ll be blogging about it all, so please stay tuned.

*Speaking of summer plans, be sure to follow my colleague Tom Haines as he embarks on the first leg of a journey through what he calls “landscapes of fuel in America.” He launched his blog last week, and it’s already a great read.

Where the Women Are: Measuring Female Leadership in the New Journalism Ecology

Here she is: My thesis. Download, share, quote and ponder.

A huge thank you to the organizers of the Society of Professional Journalists’ New England chapter for inviting me to unveil my research at today’s conference. Here’s the slide deck from my talk:

And here are links to a few of the books, articles and people I mentioned in my talk:

The beginner’s mind

Seeing the light at my yoga studio yesterday afternoon.
Seeing the light at my yoga studio yesterday afternoon.

I seldom write about my yoga practice because, on most days, it defies words. But many of the concepts we discuss at the studio percolate into other aspects of my life. One of those notions — what Zen Buddhists call “the beginner’s mind” — has seemed especially relevant as I’ve navigated my new job teaching journalism at UNH.

The beginner’s mind calls for abandoning preconceptions and staying open to new possibilities, no matter your level of experience. For me, this means remaining always a student, both of writing and of the many platforms on which stories will live in the years to come. Many of my students adore Tumblr, something I’d decided I was too busy to use. That changed last month when, at their urging,  I launched a Tumblr of my own. It’s called 1,000 words, and it’s a venue to publish some of my photography.

Yes. Photography.

Taking pictures is wildly intimidating to me. I’ve worked alongside dozens of the finest photojournalists in the business and worried that picking up a camera myself would somehow dilute the value of their work. (Or encourage a short-sighted newsroom bean counter to eradicate the photo department in favor of “good enough” images from reporters’ smartphones.) But I don’t work in a newsroom anymore, and I needed to better understand the visual nature of the web.

About a year ago, I started taking pictures with intention. At first, I used my iPhone. Later, I bought a Nikon D5100 and began learning about aperture and shutter speed and focus. Thousands of pictures later, I still have no idea what I’m doing — but I’ve decided that probably makes me a more compassionate teacher. I’m no expert, just one beginner in a classroom full of beginners, all looking for great stories to tell.

Scenes from a thesis

A collection of photos I took while researching my thesis this fall. All photos taken with my iPhone 4. Some were toned with Instagram.