In this podcast, Anthony Green and Madlin Mekelburg discuss the suspension of sophomore basketball guard Martez Walker, the Departmentalization of the Center for Mexican American Studies and "Thread" the new UT centric dating app created by Zach Dell, son of Dell Inc. founder Michael Dell. They are joined by News Editor Jacob Kerr to discuss the ongoing problems the UT System faces with its MOOC initiative. Reporter Natalie Sullivan also joins the gang to discuss this week in crime.
Editor’s note: A 30 column is a chance for departing permanent staff to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (-30-) to denote the end of a line.
Although I’ve spent five semesters and held six positions at The Daily Texan, I can’t help but have a few regrets.
As a reporter, I wish I would have appreciated every story a little bit more. As a staffer, I wish I would’ve spent less time complaining and more time cultivating solutions. I wish I would have had the chance to mentor a few kids that have the potential to be really great. I wish I would have replaced the sign to the basement that fell off years ago. But most of all, I wish there were not an “us and them” attitude between the Texan and its audience. Texan readers don’t understand the Texan mechanics, and it can be frustrating for those working late in the basement — but why should they? After all, we only report on things because we expect readers not to know every nook and cranny of campus. Texan articles, and all news, should be less of a debate on story execution, and more of a conversation starter among readers. Not an easy task.
If one person picks up a Texan today, reads something informative and interesting and bothers to mention it to someone else, the Texan has done its job. And it needs to be better about making that connection happen. The Texan spends a lot of time defending itself, and with good reason — online trolls tend to focus on a misspelled word rather than the point of the article. Granted, quality work is absolutely necessary so that a reader’s first response is about the news or the sources and not about the reporter’s failings. The audience shouldn’t be forgiving of the Texan’s mistakes, so the Texan needs to strive to be better tomorrow than it is today. For new reporters, it’s hard to see the big picture perspective of how stories connect and the Texan’s role in telling them. But I’ve come to my perspective too late to put that to practice in the basement.
I leave with a lot of great memories and a few terrible ones. And it’s comforting to know that parts of the Texan have weaved their way into my life outside work. I found and fell for Jacob, my Swedish fish. The Texan, I’m sure, will continue to be the topic of long and nostalgic conversations while we navigate Austin’s creeks. The Texan gave me great friends in Bobby and Alexa, who make me want to be better and more like them. And a set of challenging mentors in Matt, Shabab and Laura. Riley will surely follow in their footsteps as a great leader. Thank you to the cast of TuesTeas. Thank you for the group texts, arguments over the use of queso, fancy maestro and headsets — looking at you Mustafa. The bonus of having a great time makes working at the Texan unforgettable, but try not to forget the point of that work as a staffer or as a reader.
Fifty years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Hugh Aynesworth published “November 22, 1963: Witness to History.” As the only reporter to witness JFK’s assassination, Lee Henry Oswald’s arrest and Oswald’s assassination by Jack Ruby, Aynesworth gives a factual recounting of what he has uncovered after a lifetime of reporting.
The Daily Texan interviewed Aynesworth at the Texas Book Festival this weekend.
Daily Texan: First, can you describe what you witnessed the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination?
Hugh Aynesworth: The day it happened, I wasn’t assigned to it, but I just thought I had to go see the president. I just walked over close to the depository building, really because the crowds were a little less over that way. I hadn’t been over there but, oh, probably five minutes when the motorcade passed me with the Kennedys. They were so happy. The crowd was, too. But then I heard what I thought was a motorcycle backfire, but it wasn’t. That was the first shot. And I didn’t know that for three or four seconds, then I heard another shot, then a third in I don’t know how many seconds. I probably would have run if I’d had a place to run, but we didn’t know because we didn’t know who was shooting, how many were shooting, where they were shooting from or why.
DT: In all of this chaos, what made you instinctively go into reporter’s mode. Can you explain your mindset during both of the assassinations?
HA: I really can’t. I was puzzled. I didn’t know what to do. I was a little bit scared, not totally, but I just knew that I had to start interviewing people, and it just kicked in.
DT: I read that you were the only reporter invited to Ruby’s funeral. What do you make of that?
HA: I gave them some information, Ruby’s lawyers. He got the death penalty in March of ’64. He’d been in jail until January of ’67 when he died, had cancer. I helped the Ruby family, I saw them as they came out of the hospital, and they took me with them to help plan the funeral. They didn’t know how to do it. They didn’t know his birth date. They didn’t know about his army record, or that he had certain benefits. So I helped them with that, and so they said, “You’ll go to the funeral with us, won’t you?” and I had just joined Newsweek magazine and I called the editor and he said, “My god, why aren’t you on the plane already?” Conspiracy theories were already being formed and I talked the family into letting three news people in to view the body. I’m real glad I did it because you haven’t heard any conspiracies about it not being Ruby.
DT: Why, 50 years after the event, did you decide to publish a book?
HA: Well, I’ve been working all this time. I’ve been running down conspiracy theories, and I’ve done a lot of editing. I just don’t have time to stop. I’ve been all over the world for various occasions, and I’ve covered a lot of other things. It was just time.
DT: As the only reporter still having witnessed these events, what responsibilities do you think come with that?
HA: To tell the truth, and that’s first and foremost, and it’s costly because all of these conspiracy people hate me.
DT: What advice would you give to young journalists as they interpret news today?
HA: You know, I can’t answer that because I look at news today and I am distraught. I see so much that is not news but is opinion, and that is, this new technology that has forced this on us, in a 24-hour news cycle … Technology has over taken us and we haven’t learned exactly how to do it.
According to Frankel, on the surface westerns are about a guy with a gun and the shoot-out, but in his new book, “The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend,” Frankel explores the film and American history of the 1956 John Ford film, “The Searchers.”
David Hoffman, a former Washington Post colleague of Frankel’s and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, said that Frankel’s “The Searchers” will be the cultural book of the season because Frankel took one strand of American history and followed it all the way through.
“It cuts from a really raw, serious, violent conflict to a great filmmaker trying to make a film,” Hoffman said. “History is best understood by somebody who can show that it cuts across culture, mythology [and] dirty old clippings. And that’s the great thing about this book. It’s a journey through history that is completely cutting across different times. And you feel like you’ll see things in a different way.”
Frankel is a former Washington Post reporter and a Pulitzer Prize winner. In his book, he addressed the incident in which Comanche Indians kidnapped 9-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker who grew up as a Comanche Indian, married a warrior and bore him three children before her American family came to “rescue” her and her infant daughter 24 years later. Frankel examines this event from both a historical standpoint and through the lens of John Ford’s film.
Frankel said his subtitle, “The Making of an American Legend,” describes how every generation re-imagines history, then changes what it doesn’t like in order to fit its own sensibility and needs. When writing the book, Frankel tried to put himself in Parker’s shoes.
“I think it was pretty clear by the way she acted how frightened she was, how vulnerable she felt,” Frankel said. “Can you imagine what that’s like? I had to. I tried to. I can’t feel those feelings in the same way, but I tried really hard to see what that would be like. It’s great to see her picture, to look in her eyes at her half-panicked ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here.’ You use every clue you can. You go with what they give you.”
Joseph McBride, Ford’s biographer and a film professor at San Francisco State University, described Frankel as a reporter at heart who does great research to find out about things lacking sufficient knowledge.
“His research is astonishing,” McBride said. “He has many great discoveries important for American history. He’s a great writer who tells the story very engagingly. It’s a very gripping book. I read it almost in one sitting. It’s rich. He understands people really well and is fascinated by complexities and varieties, which you can see in the book. It was a story [that] needed to be told.”
According to Frankel, the future is all decided but it’s the past that’s unclear. However, Frankel does not want to teach history lessons with his book, he wants to tell stories.
“It’s interesting to me to capture someone in a moment of crisis when they have to make decisions about what to do,” Frankel said. “They all lived such colorful, complicated lives. I feel like they were all searchers in a way, for a way to survive the world. You don’t make stuff up. You give [the readers] something powerful and meaningful and hope they get it, and they can decide how to live their lives or how to act based on it. I’ll be writing, I hope, until I leave this earth, and I’ll never be done.”
Frankel will appear at BookPeople on Wednesday at 7 p.m. for a reading and signing of his new book.
Published on February 27, 2013 as "UT Journalism school director discusses book".
Texas Sen. Mark Strama, D-Austin, and his wife, former FOX 7 news reporter Crystal Cotti, gave insight into the lives of both politicians and journalists at the start of the Communication Council’s spring lecture series Wednesday night at the Belo Center for New Media.
Cotti said upon her initial arrival to UT she knew she wanted to be a news reporter and immediately got involved with KVR.
“I started out as an intern on-air and stayed as an intern off-air”, Cotti said. “My strategy was, basically, I would stick around until they had to start paying me. And it kind of worked out that way. I stayed around as a regular intern even after it was over and then in the spring of my junior year, I took the place of the morning reporter for a three-month period of time. I finally got paid for three months and left on pretty good terms.”
Cotti said she landed her first TV job straight out of college with FOX 7 in Austin. This was roughly the time she met Mark for his first campaign in 2004.
“That’s sort of what it takes to be a successful reporter,” Cotti said. “Sort of having that sense of what’s going to happen before it happens. You anticipate it and know what questions to ask so you can have this story come out with meaningful content.”
Strama said one of the reasons they hired her as a reporter at FOX straight of college is because she was very aggressive. In the reporter world you’re always competing with other reporters for the scoop.
Strama said he originally wanted to work in the music business, but he eventually volunteered for former Texas Gov. Ann Richards’ campaign and was hired. After Richards won, Strama met state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who was impressed by his experience and hired him as his legislative director.
“He didn’t realize the only reason I was working for her is because we were using my grandmother’s town car to take people around,” Strama said. “He made me his legislative director which was an incredibly bad decision on his part but an incredible opportunity for me.”
Strama said he became interested in Texas politics again in 2003 because at that time the Texas Legislature was a total disaster.
“All the time they were making budget cuts, they were more focused on their political gain,” Strama said. “I got really frustrated with it and I moved back to Austin. That’s where I won my first political campaign. I was running against an incumbent in a republican district.”
Strama also announced yesterday that this will be his last term in the Texas Legislature.
“The biggest reason this will be my last term in the Legislature is in 2010 the Republican title wave that year took us from a House of Representatives that had a 76 to 74 republican majority to one that had a 101 to to 49 majority,” Strama said. “My ability to influence outcomes in the Legislature dropped dramatically.”
Strama said he announced his leave to make it easier for the four politicians running for his seat.
“Normally in politics you don’t announce that you’re a lame duck, you kind of marginalize yourself,” Strama said. “To make things easier for them I announced myself as a lame duck. I think the decision feels kind of liberating.”
Cotti said that it is possible that Strama will run for mayor of Austin but the decision will not be made until this summer. Strama says while he has a long list of reasons why he should run for mayor, he wants to have something to bring to the office if he wins.
John Burnett, UT graduate and National Public Radio’s roving correspondent based in Austin, exemplifies the meticulous journalistic style that has come to define NPR’s most popular programs. Even in an age where print media is in steady decline and celebrity-centric journalism takes precedence on TV networks, Burnett’s work as a reporter demonstrates that NPR is not only surviving the transition to the digital generation, but continuing to attract new listeners.
From the inundated streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, Burnett’s dynamic beat has brought him into contact with places all over the world for the last 27 years. For the past five months, the 6-foot-7-inch reporter has been working on an interim assignment based in Kenya.
“Right now, I’m covering religion for NPR in East Africa,” Burnett said. “But normally, I cover the [American] Southwest, which includes the borderlands. I’ve covered it for a very long time and speak Spanish.”
After getting his start on UT’s campus writing for The Daily Texan and studying journalism, Burnett traveled to Guatemala to learn Spanish and cover civil wars around Central America. Work for the United Press International helped him garner experience with radio broadcasting, and since finding his niche, Burnett has never looked back.
“The one thing I love about radio is that you have this extra dimension to report a story so you go in with your ears open; you’re not just looking for details but you’re listening for details,” Burnett said. “You just learn to use sound to illustrate a story.”
Yet, reporting for international news organizations isn’t a care-free occupation, especially since Burnett specializes in a region of the world plagued by cartel wars and drug trafficking. The United States-Mexico Border has a distinguished reputation for manipulating, terrorizing and killing Mexican journalists.
Although most reporting does not involve any hazardous circumstances, Burnett said, NPR has a hired security consultant who instructs reporters on “conceal and cover” techniques, first aid and situational awareness in countries with higher risk.
“[He and I] were in contact before I went to Mogadishu [Somalia] or the Congo. You have to have a pretty big security detail as a reporter; four gunmen around you at all times when you’re outside of the car, so it’s inhibiting, but it’s the cost of doing business there,” Burnett explained.
At times, travel has also been a difficult aspect of his work for NPR. Raising a family while constantly on the move is no easy task, and in his memoir “Uncivilized Beasts and Shameless Hellions,” Burnett thanks his family for their support even in his absence.
Julie Hiebert, a friend of the Burnett family, argues that in spite of continuous departures from his home in Austin, Burnett’s work seems to bring him closer to the community he often leaves behind.
“All of his family members have always been very proud of him and very supportive,” Hiebert said. “And in some ways I think he’s gathered more friends around him over the years. You’d think the opposite with someone who is so busy and so on. And I know when he goes places he makes friends, too.”
Burnett’s prowess as a journalist has earned him recognition and numerous awards including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television Digital News Association. His reports are frequently heard on member station KUT Radio, an affiliate of NPR that pays for daily programming, according to KUT news editor Matt Largey.
Burnett’s popularity has also landed him some time on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” for pieces such as updates on Lance Armstrong’s doping allegations and a special report on ivory poaching in Tanzania.
“You’ve got to learn early on not to be the funny guy. [Colbert will] cut you to ribbons otherwise,” Burnett said.
Burnett said that with nearly three decades of experience in reporting, he becomes rather “evangelical” on NPR’s role in the evolving status of journalism.
“Radio [is] a medium that works with the Internet generation because you can listen while doing something else. Plus, we transfer nicely up to digital, handheld devices,” Burnett said. “We cover the complicated, layered serious stuff that you need to know about to be an informed citizen. And I think people appreciate that it’s like ‘I’m gonna get my vegetables from NPR, I can get my dessert just about everywhere.’”
Printed on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 as: International reporter shares NPR experiences
Yesterday, local chef Paul Qui opened the fourth location of his East Side King food trailer in the back room of the Hole in the Wall, the long-loved bar and music venue on Guadalupe Street.
In the back room, East Side King has re-decorated by painting bright murals, installing Japanese beers on tap, and rearranging the furniture they inherited from the Hole in the Wall. Still, a line of vintage pinball machines stands at attention along one wall, harkening back to the bar’s beginning as an “arcade restaurant.” The division in the new space between the front room, where live music is played, and the back room, where East Side King serves food, is noticeable, but Hole in the Wall owner Will Tanner says he’s not concerned about the venues being perceived as separate.
“People kind of seem to flow out and spill,” Tanner said, gesturing toward the back room.
Of course, there are those who remain concerned about the integrity of the Hole in the Wall after the addition of East Side King. Since winning the 2012 season of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” Qui has gained popularity in the foodie world, while the Hole in the Wall has remained, well, that hole-in-the-wall on the Drag. Unhappy fans of the Hole in the Wall feel that bringing the likes of Qui, a former executive chef at Uchiko, into the back will ruin the dingy authenticity of the bar. This reporter, like many UT students, can’t speak to that dingy authenticity: prior to Qui’s venture, minors weren’t allowed inside the Hole in the Wall. Now all ages are welcome in the back room.
In that room, ramen is served hot and unceremoniously in disposable paper bowls, and the food is the better for its lack of pretension. The menu at the Hole in the Wall is intended to be a collection of “greatest hits” from the three other East Side King trailers. From the Liberty Bar location, for example, comes beet home fries and a Brussels sprout salad.
The latter is a favorite of Hole in the Wall general manager Alex Livingston, who sounded only a little out of place when he exclaimed,“I’m psyched about the Brussels sprouts. I’ve recently fallen in love with that vegetable, and it makes me really happy to think I’ll be able to eat
it every day.”
His ardor for the dish isn’t unearned. The salad is a hearty and refreshing mix of fried Brussels sprouts and shredded cabbage, with three dainty slivers of deep-fried bun for garnish. The beet fries are memorable for their bar-food-grease-meets-fresh-vegetables taste. Tiny chunks of deep-fried beet are accompanied by thick Japanese Kewpie mayo. The first taste is of spice, grease and all the good things a dark bar like the Hole in the Wall should offer, but the second bite gets you nothing but the fiber of fresh vegetables. The combination may not be for everyone, but it makes for enjoyable innovative dining.
After the appetizers, order the Gekkeikan Sake to wash it down (provided, of course, you’re of age). A friend put it best when she said that Gekkikan is what you imagine children’s mixed drinks must taste like: refreshing, smooth, magical.
But the real standouts of the menu are the three ramen options (which, incidentally, are the only ones that don’t come in vegan or gluten-free options). Sapporo Beer Bacon Miso Ramen may seem a little heavy, especially when you read that it’s made with two different forms of bacon, beer, butter and pork belly, but you didn’t come to a dark bar to behave healthfully, did you? The beer foam that tops the ramen is the answer to every time you tried to slurp the foam off the top of your cup, and the option to add an extra egg — a soft-boiled, soy sauce-cured egg — shouldn’t be missed. The pork belly is as tender and tasty as Thanksgiving turkey.
Now, the real question: do the dishes still taste good the morning after, in the cold hard light of your refrigerator? Well, results are mixed. Some leftover-samplers wrinkled their noses and said only “tastes like fish,” while others, like this reporter, ate the gelled ramen in all its salty, fishy glory till her spoon scraped the bottom of the paper bowl.
Printed on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 as: Top chef debuts new Asian venue
A Washington Post reporter’s decision to share the rough draft of a story with UT media officials before publication has prompted the newspaper to revise its reporting policy to discourage such acts in the future.
The Texas Observer reported Tuesday that Post reporter Daniel de Vise allowed UT media officials to review his story and suggest critical edits — some of which he adopted — before its publication. Although some journalists called de Vise’s actions unethical when news of his actions hit the web, the Post stood behind him. Two days later, the Post is singing a different tune and announced Thursday that in response to the issues raised, it will enact new policies to discourage sharing stories with sources without editorial approval.
Published on the front page of The Washington Post March 14, de Vise’s story, titled “Trying to assess learning gives colleges their own test anxiety,” examined the trend of standardized testing in higher education and used UT as a prime example.
“Our current policy doesn’t prohibit a reporter from sharing a story draft with a source, but we intend to tighten it to ensure that such instances are rare without dispensation from a top editor,” said Marcus Brauchli, Washington Post executive editor, in an e-mail to the Poynter Institute school of journalism.
Brauchli detailed these policy changes in a memo to all Washington Post staffers Thursday afternoon, according to JimRomenesko.com. In the memo, Brauchli said while some reporters covering a specific topic may share sections of their story for accuracy, entire stories should never be sent to sources.
In an interview with The Daily Texan, Gene Burd, associate journalism professor and former Houston Chronicle reporter, said journalists do not share articles with sources.
“You just don’t do it,” Burd said.
It is always unethical to share a full draft of a story with a source prior to publication, Burd said, adding he was shocked to hear of a Washington Post reporter doing so.
“There’s nothing wrong with rechecking and checking and cross-checking, but to provide a story or a text and get the source’s approval before you submit it, or certainly publish it, is just verboten,” he said.
According to the Texas Observer, in a March 5 e-mail to Tara Doolittle, UT’s director of media outreach, de Vise wrote, “Everything here is negotiable. Help me out by not circulating this material very far and by stressing that it is an unpublished draft. If you or anyone at the university has any concerns about it, I implore you to direct them to me. I’m one of a very few reporters here who send drafts to sources!”
Doolittle, along with UT media relations director Gary Susswein, reviewed the story and sent it back to de Vise with their edits. In the e-mails, Susswein said the story was bad and told Doolittle both of them needed to go through it with a heavy red pen. Doolittle told the Texan she checked the draft because the reporter offered and it provided for an extra measure to ensure accuracy. Both Susswein and Doolittle worked as journalists before they assumed their current positions at UT.
Susswein was out of town and not available for comment.
David Bassine, advertising junior and marketing director for Texas New Media, an organization promoting multimedia use in journalism, said the sharing of an article with its source seems unethical because it could inadvertently compromise the integrity of the piece.
“I‘m sure that it could influence something,” he said.
Wanda Cash, associate director of the school of journalism, agreed, telling the Texan she would only condone sharing even a portion of an article with a source in extreme cases to ensure technical accuracy.
“I was in the journalism business for 25 years before I came to UT to teach journalism and I’ve never, in my professional career and now in my academic career, condoned any kind of prior review of stories by news sources,” she said.
Kelly McBride, Poynter Institute journalism professor, said while the practice of sharing an article with a source is controversial, it is not unheard of, and helpful in certain cases.
“It’s best to do it in a way that the source understands that you are doing it simply for accuracy sake and that you’re not turning over editing to the source,” she said in an interview.
McBride said in this case the reporter’s e-mails do seem inappropriate, however, but she believes his intentions were fair.
“If I had been his editor, I would have instructed him to word his e-mails in a way so that he could have articulated his desire for independence as well as his desire for accuracy,” she said.
Editor's note: A 30 column is a chance for departing permanent staff to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (-30-) to denote the end of a line.
Upon entering college I thought I should be a broadcast journalism major. Then I realized a week into my freshman year that I missed having a pressing newspaper deadline looming over my head, and so I applied to the University Star.
The University Star is Texas State’s newspaper. Without the Star, I never would’ve made it to the Texan. Although my dream was to attend UT since my best friend Alexis and I decided we were both Longhorns in third grade, I followed my freshman brain and the three high school folks I no longer talk with to Texas State. I cried at Bobcat orientation — obviously it wasn’t meant to be — but was luckily chosen as a news reporter a few months later by an editor named Allen who would later become a close mentor, friend and reporter for The Associated Press.
I put in my time at the Star as a news and features writer and city beat reporter. After a few weeks I earned multiple front page stories and even had an entire front page to myself once. I was happy at the Star, but my burnt orange blood couldn’t take Texas State. Declining the chance to become a Star section editor, I walked fearlessly into the Texan newsroom last summer.
The Texan ran differently, but I wasn’t scared of the little try-out process necessary to become a Texan news reporter. I knew how to write, and looking back on things, I don’t know that I would’ve made it through those tryouts without learning what I did from those at the Star.
I think what Allen taught me most was how much effort a sincere journalist puts in and how to love the long nights in the newsroom and soak up the knowledge of those around me. I learned a lot, and while some use what they learn to get an edge on the competition, I wanted to use my knowledge to give back. I wanted to be to others what Allen had been for me, and so, despite only working for the Texan two semesters, I applied for the position of news editor this spring.
I earned each position that got me where I am now, and I hope that in my job as news editor this semester I was able to be that friend and teacher to others that I so valued in my first editor. Five fall classes and an LSAT prep course keep me from continuing my work here, but I know my reporter’s addiction will start twitching soon, and that same kind of cold turkey headache I get when I haven’t had my daily coffee will continue driving my reporting addiction as I serve as an election stringer for the AP this year.
Printed on Friday, May 4, 2012: Time to say goodbye: Jillian Bliss
After reading the article published in Thursday’s issue of The Daily Texan regarding the Norman Finkelstein lecture on Wednesday, I am truly disappointed in the journalistic integrity of the article and the writer. It presents a quick summary of Finkelstein’s lecture and then offers the opinion of two students that are both firmly entrenched in a philosophy that ignores human rights and international law. The overwhelming majority of attendants at the event could have and would have offered a much more moderate and helpful commentary on Finkelstein’s words but were ignored by the reporter.
I believe this kind of lazy and disingenuous journalism has become a trend at the Texan, and it’s unfortunate to me that the editors do not demand a higher standard for the content of their newspaper.
A big part of the lecture was devoted to carving out a voice for disenfranchised Palestinians in an environment that is so limited and stifled by the Israeli propaganda machine. I, as an activist, have never felt more overshadowed and belittled than I do right now, as the newspaper of my own institution is participating in the exclusion of the Palestinian voice for justice and human rights.