Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Some Thoughts in Your News Conference Stories

1)Jacobs presents the problems at the jail in this order:

 a) crumbling walls
 b) overcrowding
 c) 17 escapes caused - by implication – by previous two problems
d) jail food
e) rape of juveniles, which he called “the worst part”

I liked it when you changed the order in which you presented these. Some of you put food last, which I liked because it is not related to the state of the actual building. Jacobs said he was quitting because he couldn’t get a new jail. Food is a complaint that would not be resolved by a new building. I also liked it if you put the rape problem higher – since Jacobs suggested it was the “worst” problem and I also liked it if you put escapes higher since arguably that’s something that would immediately affect the community. Even if you don’t care about how “jailbirds” are treated, you care if they are back on the street.

Bottom line: I liked it when you used news judgment to change the order in which Jacobs presented his complaints.

2)Jacobs final comment that “As of 8 p.m. tonight you won’t have my butt to kick around anymore. San Francisco here I come” was tricky because your deadline came before 8 p.m., and it wasn’t clear if Jacobs meant he would officially resign at that time or if that’s when he was leaving town. Remember that he said he was announcing his resignation, which is not quite the same as specifying that he had already done it. Some of you used his final comment as a kicker, without trying to explain it. That was fine. Some of you ignored it, which was acceptable since the news is the resignation.

3)Yes, Jacobs’ theatrical excess was a trap. I didn’t want you to spend too many words on his behavior and not on what he said. But neither did I want you to ignore his bellowing, cigar-throwing and wall-pounding.

4) Usually I want you to bury the “when” in your lead. But in this case, I can imagine leading with “Less than two hours ago….”

5) That Bronze star. It’s actually irrelevant, but I didn’t mind your mentioning it near the end of the story. The Juanita rumor. Oh no. It’s unconfirmed, and irrelevant given what we know at this moment. Therefore, its ethically dubious to include it. Moreover, it’s potentially libelous, something we will talk about in more detail soon. If it turns out to be false, it could result in a libel suit the newspaper might lose.

6) Big big point. The thing we learn during the press conference – the news – is that Jacobs is resigning as sheriff. That’s the news, and I wanted it in the first 100 words.

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