Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

IDS coverage (or lack thereof) of the Boston Marathon

In IDS on April 16, 2013 at 7:26 pm

One of my most rewarding moments as an IDS reporter was on the morning of May 2, 2011. Without relying on wire content, the management staff at the time and I had stayed up late to get stories that nobody else in the country had.

We localized the death of Osama bin Laden and were the only ones in town to do so.

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May 2, 2011

The morning that paper hit stands, we got word from a senior citizen in Bloomington, someone who had gone to bed before the news broke late Sunday night. When she awoke, we were the only ones to have a full story, big, above the fold, in a situation that really deserved it.

We reported the news.

Now compare that to what people saw on stands today.

April 16, 2013

April 16, 2013

So how did the IDS seem to play down the biggest terrorist attack on American soil in over a decade?

It’s easy to point the finger here to the fact that we don’t use AP anymore. It’s tough to go out and get the coverage we need and readers deserve without a wire service. But that didn’t stop us after deadline on May 1, 2011.


Nov. 7, 2012

It sure didn’t stop us on Nov. 6, 2012, either. We had months to plan, but we had a team of reporters and photographers around the region, from Columbus, Ohio, to Chicago, Ill., to Indianapolis and all around Bloomington. We ended up with a 100 percent exclusive newspaper, full of original content, which famed reporter and editor Bob Hammel described as “the best next-day AM election edition I have ever seen, at any level.”


Sept. 12, 2001

And more importantly, it didn’t stop the IDS staff on Sept. 11, 2001. That paper was recognized by the Society for News Design as one of the best designed papers, at any level, from that day. Granted, we had AP for the big, dramatic photos and stories in a four-page special section, but if you open this paper, you find that this is anything but an wire-reliant special edition.

Inside that paper are IDS stories and photos from around campus as well as the city and state localizing the tragedy. Even the sports, arts and Weekend sections had information relating to the terrorist attacks. It was a full-team effort to fill the paper with relevant information, just like we did this past fall with the election.

It is also not the case that coverage of the Boston Marathon attacks was either non-existent or impossible. When I first came into the newsroom after hearing the news, reporters had already looked up how many Hoosiers and Bloomingtonians were running in the race and reaching out to them. Michael Majchrowicz wrote a story about IU students who witnessed the panic after the bombs went off.


IU senior Patrick Mazzocco was 20 floors above the finish line, safely in his Sheraton Boston Hotel room with his parents and sister, when he felt “the deepness” of the first blast. And then the second.

It was like a cannon, he said, or even thunder.

“I was pretty sure it was race-related,” Mazzocco said. “I thought they were signifying the race was over.”

Peering out the window, it was clear to Patrick and his family that something wasn’t right. The family stood and watched as chaos ensued throughout Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue. White smoke filled the air, and people ran in every direction.

About 45 minutes prior to the blasts, Patrick’s sister, Lisa, 25, had completed the marathon, finishing just before the 3-hour, 30-minute mark.

Mazzocco, 22, had been observing the race near the location of the blasts less than an hour before they were detonated.

Upon Lisa’s finish, the family went about their afternoon, posing for family photos and deliberating where they would eat. After the family saw the commotion, their attention focused on what to do next.

According to the official race registry, there were 283 Indiana residents scheduled to run the race, nine of whom hailed from Bloomington.

Not included on the list is IU School of Medicine student Andrew Walker. Walker finished the race about two hours before the first boom shook the area. He communicated via text message that he was safe.

Ryan Piurek, director of news and media for IU Communications, confirmed three of the nine individuals listed from Bloomington have connections to IU. Among the confirmed individuals are Ethan Michelson, associate professor of sociology and law; Chris Muir, a graduate student studying evolutionary biology, and Rachel Noirot, a registered dietitian with Residential Programs and Services.

But why did we stop there? We had visuals available. They weren’t the best, but MCT Campus photos ran on the jumps page. Why didn’t we keep pushing with other stories to explore every possible IU-related angle possible? For example…

  • What do our local representatives have to say?
  • What can students and community members do to help the victims? (Blood donations, Red Cross volunteering, etc.)
  • Are there any ceremonies and/or fundraisers happening in town in the next few days?
  • We talked to folks who were visiting for the marathon, what about IU students from Boston?
  • How did people find out about the attacks on campus? I know there were some classes in the School of Journalism that stopped teaching and turned on the news. Was that common?
  • What will this attack mean for security at sporting events in Bloomington, specifically the Little 500 races this weekend?

I don’t want to sound too accusatory here, either. The staff has a lot of things to consider in situations like this and they did the best they could.

But it raises the question of how far do we go for national news? Especially without a full on-the-ground story or compelling visuals that others have. I hope we have a rainy-day fund to splurge on an AP photograph or a wire story to build off of, but I can’t be certain.


Ball State Daily News — April 16, 2013

And if you want a student example, look no further than our good friends in Muncie. The Ball State Daily News took the story and devoted the whole front page to it, complete with inside stories from Indianapolis, commentary on the opinion pages and a localization from an alumnus in Boston.

The editor-in-chief, Andrew Mishler, wrote a letter from the editor alongside their continued inside coverage.


The Ball State Daily News decided to run coverage of the Boston bombings on the entire front page for a reason. We want to respect the tragedy in Boston by giving it ­— and you, the readers — the coverage it deserves…

The first step toward responding is to be informed. For most, that likely started by watching the news Monday and reading coverage online, and it continues today by reading this edition of the Daily News.

The paper today not only reflects the significance of the bombings in Boston, but what we believe to be important for our readers to know.

We don’t want you to just be informed. We want you to remember why it’s important to be informed.

We got beat today, folks.

I’ve already talked to some people in the newsroom and I know this is going to generate a lot of different opinions. I want to start a conversation about it. Comment below and let’s talk about today’s paper.


UPDATE: To see more about how student newspapers covered the attacks, see this good post on College Media Matters.


Did somebody say San Francisco?

In Awards, Hearst, IDS on April 1, 2013 at 9:47 pm

And the Hearst awards keep rolling in.

Charles Scudder won first place in profile writing for his story “A queen comes home” and will join Claire Wiseman at the national writing competition in San Francisco this summer.




The forgotten queen steps onto the empty stage.

She looks out across the cavernous hall of the IU Auditorium. It’s bigger than she remembered. She sees the rows of seats where her friends cheered for her. She feels the crown tilting on her head, hears the flashbulbs popping in her face, catching her surprise as she made history. She never expected to win.

The stage is so quiet now. She thinks back to the Ebony fashion tour that followed her coronation, the dinner with Dr. King. She thinks about the slurs people hurled at her, writing letters, calling her at the dorm. The way her own yearbook ignored her reign. The man pointing the gun.

So much pride and so much hate, all beginning under these lights.

It just gets better from there. It’s well worth your time.

More good news: Mary Kenney won 10th for “Light from Darkness,” which she reported while studying in Hyderabad, India.


Metal doors clicked open, and the creaky train spat crowds onto the cement platform. Akshaya tried to catch her breath as people thudded past her, knocking into her hips and shoulders. She panicked.

The teenager had run away from home. Her father was a heavy drinker who beat her, her mother and her siblings. She was tired of it. Carrying a bag filled with clothes and silver anklets to sell, she boarded a train destined for Hyderabad, one of India’s largest cities.

Her excitement withered as she stepped onto the cement platform. The crowds pressed closer. She was scared, and she told herself she belonged at home with her family. She resolved to catch the first train going back and scurried to the information desk near the station’s main entrance. She asked a man behind a thick glass window how to go home, and he told her the next train to her village would leave around 3:30 p.m.

That was five hours away. She turned away from the window, and a handsome, well-dressed young man approached. He spoke Telugu, her first language. Hindi and English are India’s official languages, but most Indians learn languages native to their home state first, then tack on more if they are able to go to school.

The man told her there was no need to wait in the hot, crowded station. He lived nearby, and she could stay with him for a few hours. He promised to bring her back in time for her train. Charmed, she agreed, and they left together in a rickshaw bound for his two-room house. At the time, she was 18 or 19, she isn’t sure.

Once indoors, the man locked Akshaya in a back room. He and his friends raped her.

With this and previous wins, Mary is in the running for a wildcard ticket to San Francisco.

IU remains in the lead of the Intercollegiate Writing Competition by 28 points. We’re followed by Penn State. The last contest of the year, breaking news, is due Tuesday.

– MA