Archive for the ‘IDS’ Category

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.

1-p1-5-2-11 [Print] copy.indd

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

Congrats to new Student Media leaders

In Arbutus, IDS, Pub Board on March 30, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Friday was the spring meeting of the IU Student Media Publications Board. I sure am glad that the board decided to keep up the tradition of Texan editors. Congratulations to the new leaders of IU Student Media. Bios below are from a School of Journalism web report.


Heyleigh Elmore, 2014 Arbutus editor

Hayleigh Elmore, junior from Irving, Texas, has been appointed editor of the 2014 Arbutus yearbook. Elmore has worked as an Arbutus design and calendar editor for two semesters.Among her goals is to shape the image of the book by modernizing the graphic design. “I love yearbooking. I’m addicted,” Elmore said.





Max McCombs, summer 2013 IDS editor

Maxwell McCombs, senior from Austin, Texas, has been named the editor-in-chief of the summer 2013 IDS. McCombs has worked for the IDS for nine semesters and has held a variety of positions, including sports editor and managing editor. He said he plans to develop a Web-based mentality this summer with a goal to increase live-tweeting to supplement and improve print content.

McCombs said that becoming editor-in-chief is his last challenge at the IDS. He graduates in August.




Mark Kiereleber, fall 2013 editor

Mark Keierleber, senior from Newcastle, Wyo., will follow McCombs as the fall 2013 of the IDS.

Keierleber has worked for the IDS for four semesters, but also served as editor-in-chief of Northwest Trail, the student paper of Northwest College in Powell, Wyo. Keierleber said he is most excited to be able to work with a top collegiate newspaper staff. He said he wants to focus on improving multimedia content and promotion, such as more frequent posting of podcasts online.

Congrats to the new editors, and best of luck to them in the following weeks as they begin to build their staffs.


“On the podium above him, there was a can of Foster’s beer.”

In Design, IDS, Photography on March 26, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I remember every interaction I’ve had with IUPD Chief Keith Cash. He was a good friend to IU Student Media. In fact, in 2011 he was awarded the Trevor R. Brown Award, given each year to honor “a news source in the community who has been exceptionally supportive of IU Student Media.”

When he died Wednesday, I came into the newsroom and it was quiet, but reporter Hannah Smith was already on the phone with administration officials. After almost a week of some really intense, first-time reporting from the campus editor, the IDS gave it’s respects to the chief.




An urn bearing the IU emblem rested on a table below the auditorium stage. Between the American and Indiana flags was the police chief’s official department photoOn the podium above him, there was a can of Foster’s beer.

At 4 p.m., police officers filed in to the sound of a bagpipe. They were dressed in their formal uniforms, distinctive to their rank and department. Some wore black uniforms with flat caps, and others wore brown sheriff’s attire or navy dress pants with short-sleeved shirts.

They walked down the aisle and in front of the stage, filing into the rows, while the audience behind them stood, watching silently.

The officers stopped behind their seats as the rest filed in. They stood with their backs to the stage. In the overhead lights, their different badges twinkled on their chests.

Taped across their badges were strips of black cloth, matte against the gleaming gold or silver.

All had entered and the bagpipe stopped, replaced by ringing silence.

No one so much as coughed or moved. Then came the sound of whispered counting.

A group of officers filed past. The first held an American flag, folded into a triangle. The second carried the urn, embossed with the red-and-white IU emblem. Four officers followed behind them, one keeping time.

As they walked past, the hundreds of standing officers saluted.

In the back row, one officer removed his hat and bowed his head. His face crumpled as he began to cry.

This service was the final time they would salute IU Police Department Chief Keith Cash.

The IDS sent a team of three photographers (Chet Strange, Clayton Moore and Anna Teeter) to the memorial service and subsequent police procession. They came back with striking and emotional images. Freshman design chief Lacey Hoopengardner put it all on the page tastefully and with great class.

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Hannah’s story was full of emotional details about a man who was beloved in this community that absolutely hit you in the gut.

On Wednesday, Keith didn’t come to work. He wasn’t feeling well.

Coworkers said the absence was unusual for him.

Flint, a short officer with blonde hair in a ponytail, grew up in IUPD with Keith. Keith had been there 29 years, and she’s been there for 31. They started as cadets in the student cadet program and worked their way up.

For Keith and most IUPD officers, work is a 24/7 job. Friends said Keith was always working, even when doing other things. Minger said coworkers would get emails from Keith time-stamped at three in the morning because he worked so much.

“We had a staff meeting scheduled at 2:30, and he did not show up for the staff meeting,” Flint said.

For several weeks, Keith had been feeling as if he had the flu. During the staff meeting, he called Lee.

“He had called me in the meeting and said, ‘Hey, when you’re done with the staff meeting, can you give me a call?’” Lee said. “My wife’s a nurse practitioner, and he wasn’t established with a family doctor, so he said, ‘Do you think she could see me today?’”

Lee said she could, so he picked Keith up and drove him to the Internal Medicine Associates. On the drive over, Lee said Keith was joking and in good spirits.

“In there he was joking with the staff, and he was joking until they decided that he needed to be transported to the emergency department,” Lee said.

Lee asked him then, “Do you want me to go with you?”

Keith said no and said he had been feeling dehydrated. He said he expected they’d give him some fluids and release him.

However, he did ask Lee to do one thing.

“He actually called me from the hospital, to tell me he’d left his coat,” Lee said, shaking his head. “He asked me if I’d get it for him, and I said I would.”

While Lee went to get Keith’s coat, Minger headed to the hospital to be with Keith so that Keith would know someone was there with him.

Before Lee could bring Keith his coat, he got a call.

“The director called me from the hospital,” Lee said. “Then he called me back and said he’d passed.”

He had died of a heart defect he’d had his whole life but that had only now surfaced…

…The line of cars, stretching for several blocks, drove to Indiana Avenue and then up to 17th Street. At 17th and Woodlawn Avenue, the cars streamed beneath an American flag stretched between two fire trucks.

When they reached IUPD, dispatch sent out the final call over the radio for all officers to hear.

“This is dispatch,” the officer said, “and he’s gone home for the final time.”

When that came over the scanner in the newsroom, man oh man. What a fitting tribute.

Congrats, folks. You sure gave the chief a good send-off.


Hearst update: Sports Writing

In Awards, Hearst, IDS on March 3, 2013 at 4:04 pm

It’s a damn exciting week for Hoosier journalists.

Claire Wiseman won 1st place for her story, “The story behind the score.” That earns her a trip to San Francisco for the Hearst finals in June. From the story:


The outrage sparked by the game made those who were there reluctant to speak.

Arlington’s players appeared on television only once, on CNN’s “Starting Point” with Soledad O’Brien. They smiled into the camera as their coach said they were shocked by how decisively the Bloomington South players trounced them.

“They’d played longer than most of us,” one player told O’Brien, “and they worked very hard, and we just haven’t played before, and it was probably really hard for all of us.”

Arlington officials responded carefully as well. Though media attention was largely sympathetic to their team, the officials became wary of the impact further coverage would have on students. When asked what their team learned from the loss, Coach Jackson said perseverance.

“No matter what it is,” Jackson said, “you just gotta finish it.”

The parents of the Bloomington South players agreed together not to speak to reporters. School officials treated the game like ancient history.

“Everybody’s moved on,” said J.R. Holmes, Bloomington South’s athletic director. “It’s out of the news, and we don’t even discuss it anymore.”

The extreme loss touched a nerve. It raised questions. What do players learn from losing so badly? Can a defeat like this one really be considered a victory?

Wonderful stuff.

I (Charlie) also won 6th place for my story on Bob Knight’s troubled legacy. From that story:


One of the most revered and most infamous coaches in history, Bob Knight decided last fall to clean house, putting pieces of his legacy up for sale. Hundreds of items were to be auctioned online through a sports memorabilia firm.

Knight told the Associated Press he was selling the rings and the other artifacts to raise money for his grandchildren’s college fund. But here in Indiana, it was hard not to wonder. After a lifetime as a coach and an analyst for ESPN, it seemed unlikely that he was strapped for cash. Was it a coincidence that the auction would begin as the Hoosiers entered the season ranked No. 1 for the first time since he left?

The coach’s messy departure from IU — the firing, the lawsuits, the riot — was almost as legendary as his winning record. Since then, the university had repeatedly tried to reach out to him, inviting him to be honored at public rituals of commemoration. But the answer was always no.

Now, when the Hoosiers were back on top, Knight was selling off emblems of collective memory, even the ring symbolizing the unmatched perfection of 1976.

Was he just being a good granddad? Or was he telling IU that all those years together meant nothing?

These wins put IU further in 1st in the Intercollegiate Writing Competition. We are now 44 points ahead of Penn State, in 2nd place. Behind Penn State is Northwestern, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska-Lincoln, Arizona State, Mizzou, UNC-Chapel Hill and Syracuse.

The profile deadline is March 6. The final competition is breaking news, due April 2.


Some talented freshmen

In IDS on March 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Two great stories came out of the IDS this week, from two very talented freshmen.


Photographs of the student and her girlfriend, siblings and friends line her crowded fireplace mantle.

Mom and dad are missing.

The student spent the past six months reaching out to her parents through phone calls. Her attempts led to an occasional phone conversation and visits home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The holidays were the first time she saw her parents since they cut her off at the beginning of summer.

“The real heartfelt conversations between us are left for someone else now,” she said.

She said she hopes that someday they’ll be able to talk to her parents like that again.

“For a while, it was really hard to admit that they weren’t going to help me or be a part of my life,” she said.

Her parents’ attitude has improved since she achieved complete financial independence from them. She said their communication no longer revolves around her

“Since I’m independent, I can call when I want, tell them what I want, and if they act a certain way to me, I don’t speak to them,” she said. “It’s a healthier relationship.”

Tacked on the wall of her living room are the words “never give up.”

“The community here is really supporting,” she said. “If you have questions or fears, go to the office and talk to someone.”

She said she wants to be an advocate for children everywhere.

“I want to step in and be the person to help victims of domestic violence or other tragedies,” she said.

It’s her way of giving back to the people at IU that saved her.

“I’ve never been happier than now,” she said. “It’s experiences like this when you find out who really cares about you.”

I usually post the lede or nut graph of a story, but this time around I decided to go with the kicker. This is great, and I only wish this would have been higher. That detail, “Mom and dad are missing,” would have made a brilliant lede. What an excellent observation from a rookie reporter. Mr. Bloom is part of a very talented group.


Undocumented students like Chuy, students who were already enrolled in an Indiana college in 2011, might be given a second chance this fall.

If a new state senate bill, Senate Bill 207, is passed today, it could mean about 200 Indiana students would have their resident tuition reinstated, said Angela Adams, an immigration attorney for Indianapolis-based firm Lewis & Kappes.

Adams, one of the primary driving forces behind SB 207, said she is fairly optimistic about the success of the bill, thanks to the federal passing of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in June 2012.

DACA allowed any undocumented individuals who were brought to the U.S. at a young age and had resided in the country for at least five years, without a criminal record, to apply for deferred action status. These immigrants are now eligible to receive a renewable work permit for two years, a social security number and an Indiana driver’s license.

“It’s a whole group of kids who are now lawfully present in the U.S.,” Adams said. “That’s a totally different situation than we had last year.”

The Vidaurri-Rodriguez brothers no longer have to fear deportation and can get jobs to help make ends meet for the family, Chuy said. It has provided the family with some relief, but still does not guarantee them access to an affordable education, he said.

For Chuy, SB 207 means more than just regaining his own in-state tuition, he said. It could mean there would be enough money left over for a college education for his three younger siblings.

This year, Chuy’s younger brother, Lalo, is a freshman at IU. The brothers are currently splitting the private funding from the family’s sponsor.

Sam shows what strong reporting chops she has in this one. She did some great digging to find students who hadn’t been talked to by other media yet. Like I said, this class knows where its at.


Fighting for the underdog

In IDS on February 20, 2013 at 10:58 pm

The IDS produced a very newsy paper today, and I’ll be covering the paper’s reaction to this week’s merger news in the coming week.

But Ms. Katie Mettler’s beautiful, engaging profile of a woman who euthanizes animals is the real standout of the day.



Photo by Mark Felix, Design by Matt Callahan

The City of Bloomington Animal Shelter is a place where the specter of death lingers daily, but it’s still full of life.

Dogs are always barking, cats are always meowing and unwanted animals are always scuffling through the front door. Employees clean kennels, walk dogs, pamper cats, vaccinate the sick and feed the hungry. They give every animal that comes through the door a name and engage them in one-sided conversation. They fall in love.

And then, sometimes, they have to kill them anyway.

Illness, overcrowding and bad behavior make euthanasia a necessity, one used for safety and health control.

“There’s no time period where we say, ‘you’ve had so many days,’” Herr said. “We don’t do that here.”

Unless they exhibit dangerous behavior or regress in some way, the animals can stay. Sometimes otherwise friendly animals deteriorate while they’re at the shelter, developing bad habits and destructive behavior, a result of living between concrete blocks and constantly competing for attention. The animals interact with staffers and volunteers, but the shelter isn’t meant to be a permanent home.

Shelter animals don’t have a shelf life anymore, but they used to.

Herr remembers a day during her first year at the shelter in 2008 when they euthanized 27 cats and 10 dogs.

Katie has done some damn good work here and it’s worth taking a look at just how she was able to pull off what she did.

Let’s look at this transition:

She could save Roxy, adopt her and bring her back home. She and her husband had the room. But she never intended to adopt Roxy, and they wanted children one day. Could Roxy handle a curious baby?

Herr woke the next morning and came to work. She walked past staring eyes and drooling tongues behind chain link fences until she reached Roxy’s kennel. Clipped to her paperwork, which hung on the fence, was a colored clothespin. It meant she was in line to be euthanized.

Herr asked if she could be the one to kill her foster dog.

She owed it to her.

* * *

In Ancient Greek, euthanasia means “good death.” But for employees like Herr, it’s hard to find the good in killing the animals she cares for.

“I always try to keep that in mind and provide, which sounds horrible, but provide the best death that I can for that animal,” she said.

Herr has a ritual.

She tries to give cats wet food and plenty of attention before injecting them. She takes the dogs outside to romp around the yard. Herr likes to hold the animals when she euthanizes them. It’s not their fault, and she wants their last moments to be filled with compassion. Her face is the last they’ll ever see.

Sometimes Herr sedates the restless animals before intravenously injecting them with Fatal-Plus, the drug used to put them down. It’s a lethal dosage of Pentobarbital Sodium, the same drug used to control seizures, and works within seconds.

This is exquisitiely manufactured. Katie starts with the tight lens of Roxy’s story specifically. Just when we’re ready to hear what happens next, it’s time for a commercial break, creating suspense which takes the reader into the next section.

Cliffhangers are great, but what happens next is even better. Katie’s wide lens gives us general background about the process in a very clinical way that would be impossible while still telling the story of Roxy. Once Katie explains Fatal-Plus (what an awfully wonderful name for a euthanasia drug), she goes back into the tight-lens story. Simply elegant. Well played, Mettler.

Let’s just read this next section and all hug each other for a moment.

There was no owner to rescue her, no saving grace to keep Roxy alive. There was just Herr, the dog’s gentle, unrelenting advocate who for the past week tried to save the three-year-old’s life.

Now she had to kill her.

If only she’d had more time. If only the shelter had programs to help the pit bull mix.

Sobbing, Herr stroked Roxy’s ginger fur and injected the dog with Fatal-Plus.

Roxy stopped breathing within seconds.

Katie’s mix of heart-breaking narrative and well-researched news is divine.

GoodDeathIn the last decade, the shelter has cut its euthanasia rates by two-thirds, increased its adoptions significantly and decreased its intake numbers. Since Ringquist’s first year as director, the shelter has undergone a complete structural overhaul, rooted in promoting community interaction. The goal is to save more, kill less.

They educated the public on spay and neuter practices to reduce unwanted reproduction and solicited foster families to care for newborn kittens or sick dogs until they were healthy enough for adoption. They sought collaboration with organizations like Canine Companions to buy time for temperamental, untrained dogs to learn manners.

Euthanasia is still an undesirable alternative if the shelter’s preventative efforts don’t measure up. And sometimes they don’t.

This isn’t a sob story reminicent of a Sarah MacLachlan commercial, this is a compelling story about how, despite the love for animals, sometimes “the good death” is the only option in the shelter. Katie did a wonderful striking that balance. We can all take a note from what she did and how she did it. I know I did.

Job well done, Grumps.


Two solid dailies

In IDS on February 14, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Daily writing is tough.

These two folks really nailed it this week. Kudos.


Every winter, murders descend upon Bloomington.

No, not a spike in crime — a “murder” is one name for a flock of crows.

“It’s a rather draconian term,” said John Castrale, a non-game bird biologist with the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Castrale explained why the birds flock to Bloomington by the thousands each year.
“Crows are social animals,” he said. “During the winter they form night roosts in protected areas.

That lasts through the winter until mating season in the spring.”

Though the cacophony of crow caws can be an annoyance, Castrale said they do not pose a large health threat.

“There are some potential health concerns with accumulations of droppings below the trees they roost in,” he said. “The richness in the droppings can stimulate some naturally occurring fungus in the soil that could cause health problems.”

My two favorite things about this story. The tricky lede that makes you double-take (play on “murder”) and some sublime mid-story phrasing: “the cacophony of crow caws.”


The show must go on. Sometimes.

Before The Lowdown stand-up club took the stage Tuesday at the Collins Living-Learning Center, comedians expressed heavy doubts about performing for their scant

“If we get to 10 people, we do the show,” comic Tom Brady said.

“How about five?” regional touring act Ben Moore asked.

“Not four,” Brady replied.

Stand-up comedy, which regularly draws large audiences around Bloomington at venues like the Comedy Attic or the Indiana Memorial Union, sometimes experiences down nights.

Tuesday was one of those nights.

Jeff must’ve read “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold” before going to cover this show. Excellent reporting chops to make a story out of a dead performance. Quick pacing. Nice dialogue. Great scene-setting.

Kudos to Ms. Jula and Mr. LaFave.


Two weeks of great writing

In IDS on February 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I’m a little biased, but the last two weeks of the IDS have produced some really great stuff.

Specifically I’m thinking of four great stories that have been in the works for a few months.

I’ll get the conflict of interest out of the way and start with my story on Bob Knight. Knight recently auctioned his championship rings, and I used the auction as an opportunity to evaluate Knight’s legacy and his relationship with the university.


0000-Kn2069423603The coach’s messy departure from IU — the firing, the lawsuits, the riot — was almost as legendary as his winning record. Since then, the university had repeatedly tried to reach out to him, inviting him to be honored at public rituals of commemoration. But the answer was always no.

Now, when the Hoosiers were back on top, Knight was selling off emblems of collective memory, even the ring symbolizing the unmatched perfection of 1976.

Was he just being a good granddad? Or was he telling IU that all those years together meant nothing?

After my Knight story ran, Claire Wiseman wrote about the many factors that lead to a 107-2 score at a girls’ high school basketball game between Bloomington South and Indianapolis Arlington.


0000-sp1906392057These teams hadn’t faced each other in eight seasons. The last time they had played, in 2004, Bloomington South won 52-42. Back then, Arlington’s enrollment in seventh through twelfth grades was around 1,500 students. This year, unofficial numbers provided to the Indiana High School Athletic Association place it at 422.

Bloomington South’s enrollment last year was 1,699. This season, Arlington was by far the smallest school on Bloomington South’s schedule.

The December game between them was far from typical. Holmes said Arlington asked Bloomington South to play them when Arlington needed to fill a hole in their schedule. Both sides, he said, were aware of the teams’ differences.

“They knew it was going to be a mismatch,” Holmes said, “but they wanted their girls to experience playing against good teams.”

Arlington asked. Bloomington accepted.

Later in the week, Colleen Sikorski took a look at the phenomenon of “victim blaming” that sexual assault victims experience. She talked to victims, counselors and professionals to get a fully-balanced story.


0000-YE-1796640068He said his name was Brandon. He said he was a 23-year-old psychology major at IU and that he was from Ellettsville, Ind. She now doubts his story.

She invited Brandon to head home with her that night from the Taco Bell parking lot. She made it clear to him she didn’t want to have sex. She thought they wouldn’t go much further than making out. He seemed accommodating.

While “fooling around,” he pinned her arms back so her hands were at the sides of her head. She froze. And then he raped her, taking her virginity.

Nearly 17 months after the rape, she’s more eager to be the sober driver for nights out drinking. But she refrains from making a rule to always be in charge of car keys for the night. Making rules doesn’t help her admit it wasn’t her fault. Friends still suggest she not get drunk “this time.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Instead of ‘don’t rape,’ people say ‘don’t get raped.’ It’s not fair.”

Then there’s the rebirth of the IDS investigation desk thanks to freshman Sam Schmidt’s look into race at IU. As it tuns out, the percentage of African-American students at IU has consistently hovered at 4 percent since 1975. Along with online multimedia, really solid work from the investigations team.


0000-Un-1887071935For five years, Williams has been “the black girl” in class, the one who is always called on to answer questions about race, she said.

She said she no longer wants to be one of only five black students in a 200-person lecture hall.

Lott said she is tired of walking around campus and not seeing students who look like her.

“We dedicate four, five years of our lives here,” Lott said. “This is our world. I should feel like I have some say, some impact. I should be taken care of.”

Great stuff all around, and it’s only February. Mr. Auslen and his team are doing some fine work.


The problem with calling rape, “rape”

In IDS on January 16, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Read this lede.


It was a sleepover.

A 14-year-old boy and his friend were sleeping in a mutual bed. The 14-year-old awoke to the sensation of a touch on his genitals.

Afraid and unsure of what to do, as if paralyzed in a state of shock, the 14-year-old pretended to sleep. The other boy began performing oral sex on him and following the initial sexual acts, proceeded to force himself inside the victim.

The 14-year-old ultimately reported the series of events that unfolded that summer morning to Bloomington police.

After the report, a rape kit was completed at an area hospital.

This case, as it is recorded in police records, was a sexual assault. In fact, it was a number of things according to Indiana Code, including sexual battery and criminal deviate conduct.

But, according to the code, it wasn’t “rape.”‘

You want to know what happens next, don’t you?

That was the start of a project that began last semester, when IDS reporter and editor Michael Majchrowicz — who at the time was BPD reporter — found out that same-sex rape is not considered “rape” in Indiana. Later in the story:

Indiana law does not constitute sexual assault as rape unless it is between members of opposite sex. However, there is deviate conduct, “a person who knowingly or intentionally causes another person to perform or submit to deviate sexual conduct.”

Investigators and prosecutors typically file for criminal deviate conduct when an accused person makes forced sexual contact through means of anal penetration, oral penetration  or penetration with an object without the victim’s consent or if the victim is in a state in which they cannot grant permission.

Prosecutors, psychologists and advocacy leaders have made it clear that a change is necessary — some even calling the current code “archaic.”

The story is well-sourced and well-researched with input from investigators, counselors, prosecutors, local police records, legislative records and FBI records. It does a great job of explaining the problem with rape definitions from many points of view and does so completely and elegantly.

I know this took a long time to report and used a whole number of resources in the project. I’ve asked Mike to comment below and start a conversation about the reporting process. Make sure to read the story, linked above, and jump in with questions/comments if you have them.