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Meet 2016 SFJ diversity fellows from Bradenton Herald, Washington Post, UT-Austin

May 24, 2016 Leave a comment

We are excited to introduce our 2016 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows! They each will receive an expense-paid trip to attend our annual conference, happening in Aug. 10-13 in Austin, Texas.

Get to know them a little here.

Jenny Abella, The Washington Post

AAJA VOICES 2014 mugs

Jenny Abella

Jennifer Abella has been a copy editor at The Washington Post since 2000, when she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Currently the copy chief for Washington Post Magazine, she has held several positions at the paper, including features copy chief and deputy

copy chief of the universal news desk. In her spare time she is a pop culture junkie and Anglophile who blogs and manages social media for UNC’s annual Jane Austen Summer Program.

Q&A

Q: Tell us about your current job.

I oversee copy editing and production for The Washington Post Magazine: I slot copy, oversee proofing, manage production deadlines, publish stories to the Web and compile our entertainment calendar.

Q: What are some of the favorites stories you covered?

We’ve done some great stories recently, including a mascot boot camp and an infographic about black superheroes going mainstream.

Q: How do you use social media?

I am on social media every day mostly for personal use, but also to support my volunteer work for the Jane Austen Summer Program in North Carolina. My work with JASP allows me to experiment —  on a small scale —  with concepts I’ve gleaned from working at The Post.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

I love learning about the personal angles of stories — not just policies or politics, but also the way they affect people’s lives.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” – Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice”

It applies to anything you love, really — you don’t even feel it happening; it just happens.

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

I am thoroughly addicted to Twitter, particularly news accounts that have a geeky/entertainment bent: The Mary Sue, Hitfix, IGN, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter.

For fun, I read young adult literature as well as pop culture-centric nonfiction.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I’d like to get back in touch with the roots of editing and working with writers to craft a strong narrative without losing the writer’s voice. I’m also really interested in the impact of social media on features stories. I’d love to learn more about crafting compelling social headlines for our content and how other publications enhance their long reads for the web in an age when readers have such short attention spans.

 Amaris Castillo, Bradenton Herald

Amaris Castillo Photo

Amaris Castillo

Amaris Castillo is a law enforcement/island reporter for the Bradenton Herald, where she has worked since 2014.

Castillo has a multimedia series called Bodega Stories, where she publishes stories and portraits of people who frequent her parents’ Latin market in Saint Petersburg, Fla. The project is her small way of preserving language and culture, which means a lot to her as a first-generation American.

Castillo was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Dominican parents and has a master’s from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from the University of South Florida.

Q&A

Q: Tell us about your current job.

As the law enforcement/island reporter for the Bradenton Herald, I am regularly sent out to cover breaking news situations such as shootings, fires and crashes. I also report on Anna Maria Island, a 7-mile barrier island that’s filled with challenges related to tourism and all that it brings to residents and business owners. There are three cities on the island, so my job is to keep track of what’s going on in each city. As the night reporter at my newspaper, I’m also called on to cover general assignment stories that range from graduation ceremonies to animal rights protests.

Though law enforcement and the island are my primary beats, I am always searching for interesting feature stories, as well as stories on the immigrant experience — one of my interests.

Q: What are some of the favorite stories you covered?

One is a series on a Honduran boy who crossed the border to reunite with his parents in Bradenton and the challenges he now faces as he seeks asylum. Another story I enjoyed working on was the historic and absolutely bizarre election tie-breaker in Bradenton Beach between an ousted mayor and current-mayor/former- vice mayor — it was one of those “only in Florida” stories where I witnessed an election tie broken through a deck of cards.

Though interviewing people who are grieving after losing a loved one is extremely difficult, I feel it is an honor to tell their stories. Some of my favorite stories have been about grieving and loss; I wrote a story about a grieving mother who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose just days prior to our interview, and I also recently sat down with a local family who lost four relatives in the Ecuador earthquake. It means a lot to have people willing to speak to me despite their overwhelming grief — I do not take this lightly and always do my best to treat what they tell me with great care.

Q: How do you use social media?

I use social media to share my work, as well as the work of my colleagues and other journalists I admire.

I also use social media as a reporting tool; there have been times where these networks have helped me reach a new source. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I am able to dig and dig and dig until I am able to reach someone I need to speak to for a story.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

Features journalism is important to me because it stretches beyond the formulaic and cut-and-dried story. It allows journalists to expand and try to incorporate feeling and the essence of a source in the story — the exhausted eyes of a grieving mother, the nervous face of a graduate about to step onto the stage and receive his diploma. I am drawn to feature stories because they bring me in and make me feel as if I am a witness to what’s being done and what’s being said.

Features journalism not only informs the public, but it engages the public.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“Nothing happens unless first we dream” by the late poet/writer Carl Sandburg.

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

For news, I read the Bradenton Herald, Tampa Bay Times, The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, to name a few. I also listen to NPR and different podcasts on my commute to and from work.

For fun, I enjoy watching Buzzfeed videos and I enjoy reading cultural sites such as Remezcla. I also really enjoy reading independent media like The Mash-Up Americans and La Galeria Magazine.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I hope to leave the SFJ conference inspired, rejuvenated and with tools on how to become a better storyteller. My newspaper is smaller compared to other area newspapers, and so I hope to learn and soak in as much as I can to bring this knowledge back to my colleagues.

I look forward to meeting features editors from all over the U.S. and asking them what makes a great feature story to them personally — what are some do’s and, most importantly, what are some don’ts? I am so excited to be in the same space as others who are passionate about features journalism and look forward to productive discussions and workshops that will be both challenging and stimulating.

Emily Gibson, The University of Texas at Austin

emily

Emily Gibson

I was born in Baltimore, Md., and grew up reading preteen tabloids such as Tiger Beat and J-14. Thankfully, my taste in magazines and journalism evolved, but my appetite for it didn’t.

I measure my lifetime in what blog or project I was writing at the time (my first “novel” was written when I was in grade school and was called Lobster Face, my first middle school blog was about music and was called CantBeatIt, I currently co-run a magazine, etc.)

When I got to high school, I took a newspaper course and that small taste of newsroom experience confirmed what I already knew: that I was going to give this journalism thing a shot.

Q&A

Q: Tell us about your current job.

I currently intern for The Austin Chronicle, I am the communications assistant for the UT School of Biomedical Engineering and I run my own magazine, SMEAR Magazine, which published online and in print (we are currently working on our second print issue.)

Q: What are some of the favorites stories you covered?

I wrote a story about Texas’ first theatrical wrestling league run completely by female-identified people, which was a really awesome experience. I also worked on a story about the Austin Music Census citing a lack of gender diversity in the Austin scene, and how women musicians in Austin responded to that.

Most recently, I did a story about front man John Pelant from a band called Night Moves, which was a good experience because I had wanted to do a long form music feature for some time.

Q: How do you use social media?

I use social media to start conversations. Whether it is a joke status I post on Facebook or a questioning tweet about a policy or a news event, my main goal is always to get people talking and comfortable talking to each other. I think that, at its core, that is the purpose of social media: to be able to talk to people and bring people from different backgrounds and perspectives together.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

Features journalism is what attracted me to the field. Being able to meet people from different backgrounds and tell their stories seems like such an ideal job that I often have to remind myself that it is something I am really working toward. I think it’s important to use these platforms to tell stories that make people think – to represent the unrepresented voices and to provide a different perspective on issues. The fact that I am pursuing a job where I can tell people’s stories that could possibly incite some sort of change is exciting to me, and it is important to me to become the best features journalist I can be so I can better represent these people and their stories.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” – Chuck Palahniuk

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

For news, I read The Austin Chronicle, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and Texas Monthly. For fun, I typically like to read memoirs – the most memorable one I have read in the past year was “Slave: My True Story” by Mende Nazer, and I am currently reading “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise” by Ruth Reichl. I also like to read music magazines, specifically Impose and Pitchfork. And fiction-wise, I typically enjoy books that are a little strange or dystopian – Chuck Palahniuk and Margaret Atwood, for example.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I am extremely excited to attend the SFJ conference. I hope to learn about the industry from people working in the field and hear the stories of how they decided to pursue features journalism and their favorite stories they’ve worked on.

Apply now for 2016 Diversity Fellowship

January 26, 2016 Leave a comment

SFJ is now taking applications for its 2016 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship for journalists of color.

The fellowship covers all costs to attend our 2016 conference in Austin, Texas, from Aug. 9-14. Conference programming will focus on storytelling on all platforms.

Applicants should have a high interest in features journalism.

Deadline for applying is May 5.

SFJ diversity fellow

And, the winners are…

June 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Photo courtesy Flickr

SOCIETY OF FEATURES JOURNALISM HONORS THE BEST IN ITS FIELD

FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES:
Betsey Guzior, SFJ President, 803-771-8441
Merrilee Cox, SFJ Executive Director, 301-314-2631

The Society for Features Journalism has honored four Pulitzer Prize winners and three Pulitzer finalists as part of its 2014 Excellence-in-Features Awards contest.

Also receiving awards were nine newspapers for outstanding features sections and journalists in 14 other categories. Contest winners were announced today.

More than 600 entries were judged in the contest, which honors the craft of feature storytelling and the people who do it for a living at news organizations and wire services in the United States and Canada.

Pulitzer Prize winners who won SFJ awards included:

–Liz Balmaseda of the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, who place first in arts-and-entertainment commentary in the small newspaper division. She won a Pulitzer for commentary in 1993.

–Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post, who placed first in SFJ’S Arts and Entertainment Commentary Portfolio category in the large-newspaper division. He received a Pulitzer for criticism in 2013.

–Eli Saslow of the Washington Post, who placed first in Narrative Writing in the large-newspaper division for “Into the Lonely Quiet,” a poignant look at a family who lost a child in the Newton, Conn., school shooting. He won a Pulitzer this year for Explanatory Reporting.

–Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, who placed second for his General Commentary Portfolio in the large-newspaper division. He has won two Pulitzers for Feature Writing.

Others honored by SFJ included this year’s three Pulitzer Feature Writing finalists, a category in which no award was given. They are:

–Scott Farwell of the Dallas Morning News, who won SFJ’s Series or Project award in the large-newspaper division for “The Girl in the Closet,” a series about a woman’s efforts to lead a normal life after years of severe abuse. He was a Pulitzer Feature Writing finalist for that series.

–Christopher Goffard of the Los Angeles Times, who placed first and second in SFJ’s General Feature category. He was a Feature Writing finalist for “The Manhunt for Christopher Dormer,” which was not entered in SFJ’s contest.

–Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who was the writer of the series “The Course of Their Lives,” which earned two SFJ awards. He was a Pulitzer Feature Writing finalist for that series.

Also winning awards was Carlos Frias, who was an SFJ Diversity Fellow last year. Frias, of the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, received honors in General Feature, Short Feature and for his body of work in General Commentary and Feature Specialty Writing.

Winning best-section honors in the small-newspaper category (circulation of 90,000 or less) were the Colorado Springs Gazette, Edmonton (Canada) Journal and Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

In the medium-size category (circulation of 90,001 to 199,999), the winners were the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, St. Louis Post Dispatch and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.

Winners in the large-newspaper category (circulation of 200,000 and above) were the Los Angeles Times, Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Washington Post.

Among smaller newspapers, those receiving the most awards were the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, with nine, and the Edmonton (Canada) Journal and (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, with seven apiece. In the middle-sized newspaper category, the big winners were The Virginian-Pilot with 10 awards, CNN.com with five and the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman with four. In the large-newspaper category, the Washington Post received 13 honors, the Los Angeles Times won 11 and the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times had nine.

SFJ will recognize the winners at its national conference Aug. 20-23 in Nashville. SFJ is an organization that promotes and celebrates features journalism.

For a complete list of this year’s winners, please see this link: https://featuresjournalism.org/sfj-26th-annual-contest-winners-by-category

FOR CONTEST INQUIRIES: 
Suzy Fleming Leonard, contest co-chair, 321-543-4261
Jim Haag, contest co-chair, 757-446-2977

Digital technology changes journalism ethics

October 15, 2013 Leave a comment
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Kelly McBride

By Greg Braxton
2013 SFJ Diversity Fellow

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — Ethics have always been a hallmark of journalism. But the advance of digital technology within newsroom is fueling an ethics revolution.

That was the message behind the session, “Ethics In a Digital Age,” officiated by Kelly McBride, a Poynter Institute faculty member specializing in media ethics.

“Journalism ethics will change,” McBride said during a spirited address during the Society for Features Journalism conference at the institute.

Although independence has been held as one of the pillars of journalism, readers now are valuing transparency over independence, said McBride.

“When we are transparent, then we have the trust that is crucial in a relationship with the audience,” she said. “We have to show people why they should believe, we have to communicate why we are trustworthy.”

Read more…

Creativity can still be nurtured in newsrooms, says Geisler

October 15, 2013 Leave a comment
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Jill Geisler

By Greg Braxton
2013 SFJ Diversity Fellow

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — The business of journalism is such a relentless beast filled with deadlines and constant pressure that it can have a negative, even stifling impact effect on creativity and attitude.

In a session spiced with good humor and energy during the Society of Features Journalism conference, senior Poynter Institute faculty member Jill Geisler, who specializes in leadership and management, spoke on how to nurture creativity with newsrooms, and how to heighten it without sacrificing the demands of producing news.

“We’re often so tied up on the product,” said Geisler in an address that was mainly geared to editors. “We have to be as good at growing and nurturing people as we are about the product … you want your most creative people to be engaged in the workplace.”

She provoked laughter among the attendees when she said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun,” noting that “play” is important to people who are creative.

“Set up a climate where playfulness can or can’t happen with creative people,” said Geisler, who also said that editors should not be reluctant to use “tough love” when necessary.

Geisler provided several tips, including leading “with Feedback Glasses,” instructing editors to have continued meaningful interaction with their reporters and staff so that there is an understanding of mutual goals, which will fuel motivation between both parties.

Read more…

Reporter talks about profile story that turned tragic

October 15, 2013 1 comment
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Leonora LaPeter Anton

By Greg Braxton

2013 SFJ Diversity Fellow

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — Personality profiles can be the most insightful, involving pieces in print journalism, providing in-depth glimpses into fascinating figures while simultaneously allowing writers time and space to display their craft.

But every so often, the process produces results that can be unexpected, and, in some instances, even tragic.

Tampa Bay Times enterprise reporter Leonora LaPeter Anton encountered that delicate situation with her award-winning 2012 profile of a woman suffering from persistent genital arousal disorder, a rare debilitating disease that produces unwanted sexual feelings and responses. The intricately detailed story which exposed the humiliating ordeal of Gretchen Molannen also proved to be a troubling experience for both Molannen and the seasoned Anton, who detailed their encounters during a gripping session at the October conference for the Society for Features Journalism.

Before the story with Molannen was published in late November, she committed suicide. She took her life on Dec. 1, the day after the story appeared online.

Choking up at times as she recalled the experience, Anton defined the experience as a journey between her and Molannen, two people that always had a trace of possibility that something horrible may happen.

Read more…

Editors use their beats to find inspiration for books

October 14, 2013 Leave a comment
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Diane Cowen

By Carlos Frías
2013 SFJ Diversity Fellow

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — In the 40 minutes it takes Diane Cowen to commute from the Houston Chronicle, she’d considered, conceived and came home ready to celebrate the idea for her first book.

Cowen, the Chronicle’s food and religion writer, burst through the door, heading for her computer, and called out to her husband, “I’m going to write a cookbook!”

His response? “OK. What are we going to have for dinner tonight?”

They went out to dinner.

She came up with the idea for “Sunday Dinners,” a book that examines the Sunday mealtime traditions for famous families of faith such as Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes, simply by thinking about her beats — something she suggests any reporter can do.

“I thought sarcastically, ‘I guess I could write a cookbook for religious people.’ I literally laughed out loud in my car and then… I thought, ‘That is not a bad idea,’ ” she said during the Society for Features Journalism panel examining how books can spring from the newsroom.

Read more…

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