We want you to join our new partnership

What matters to you?

It’s a constant pursuit in our newsroom – seeking better connection and conversation with the people who make up our community, and a better understanding of what they want and need us to cover.

Today, The Eagle joins a robust and growing partnership between journalists and readers.

We want you to join, too.

We’re one of the newest partners in the Public Insight Network, in collaboration with American Public Media. Since Minnesota Public Radio pioneered PIN in 2003, more than 60 newsrooms and 150,000 sources have joined PIN to share ideas and contribute their insights for stories by print, radio, television and digital journalists.

Joining is easy. You can sign up at kansas.com, and also find our FAQ and privacy policy there. The short of it is that we won’t spam you, share your information with marketers, ask you for money or use information you give us without your permission.

Everyone is an expert at something. Everyone has life experiences. Our goal is to open a line between you and our journalists to share ideas and help us be better. I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to sign up and get the conversation started.

- Sherry

 

Thanks for a great Medallion Hunt

Hundreds more readers participated in our Wichita Eagle Medallion Hunt this year, and I want to thank all of you for sleuthing with us.

We brought the Medallion Hunt out of retirement last year, and we were thrilled with the response and the level of participation last spring. Then the entries grew by 62 percent this year.

I know it takes a lot of time and effort to read and decipher clues, and we appreciate those of you who jumped in to solve the riddles. We hope many of you learned a little more about Wichita and its history along the way.

Congratulations to this year’s winner, Jeremy Tomlinson, and thanks to everyone for playing. We hope to see you next time.

New health section coming Tuesday

We’re excited about the launch of a new section in your Eagle next Tuesday that will be devoted to living well — both physically and mentally. The new Healthy Living section will focus on getting (and staying) fit, eating healthy, managing stress, sleeping well, coping with illness, and everything else you want to know to live happy and healthy. Readers have frequently told us that health news is among the most important topics on their mind, and we’re happy to be expanding your Eagle and bringing you more of those articles and features.

Healthy Living will expand on the Tuesday focus of the former WichiTalk page, aiming to offer you advice and useful information to aid your mind and body. You’ll also find a column by Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, a feature named “What’s New on the Health Beat, a health-events calendar and “Boomer Life,” which focuses on health issues that affect the Baby Boomer generation.

You’ll also find the comics and puzzles moved to the new Healthy Living section.

Online at Kansas.com/healthyliving, you’ll find still more articles and features on important current health issues.

We want your feedback and your ideas for what you’d like to see in the section in coming weeks. Drop a note to Features Editor Lori Linenberger at llinenberger@wichitaeagle.com and let us know what you think.

Here’s to your health.

Why Sunshine Week matters

Today is the start of Sunshine Week, a national initiative on the importance of open government and freedom of information.

It’s about making sure the public has access to information that affects lives and communities.

While many government records are open to the public, Kansas law still allows many important records to be kept from public view.

Consider the closed child-in-need-of-care records, which include the SRS investigation used to decide whether to remove a child from the home. Numerous times, family
members have offered to give us the CINC reports on their cases. Usually they are parents who are angry that SRS took their child, or grandparents who are upset that
SRS left the child in the home. Even though the parents want to give us the filesto write stories about their particular case, we can’t look at them. They are closed
under state law, and reading them is a misdemeanor.

Not being able to review records has a chilling effect on our ability to report on government’s intervention in the lives of children and families.Closed records also rob
residents of their abilityto scrutinize how the public institutions their taxes support are doing their jobs.The state allows media and others to petition the court in the
case of a child’s death or near death, but even that doesn’t assure the records will be open. Remember Adam Herrman, the 10-year-old boy from Towanda who
disappeared a decade ago? The Eagle, KWCH-12 and the Associated Press filed a motion in Butler County District Court to get the SRS child-in-need-of-care record on
Adam. We hoped to find out more about the police and SRS investigation into allegations that Adam was being abused. We also wanted to know just how a child could
vanish for 10 years without anyone noticing.

The judge declined to release the records, saying there was no finding that the child was dead even though prosecutors and police were investigating the disappearance
as a possible homicide.Here are other cases where open records would better serve the public. These are routinely available in other states.

„øChild care records. Want a list of all child care homes in Wichita so you can pick the best one? Forget it. We had hoped to build a searchable database on our web
site, Kansas.com, to allow parents needing day care to search child care homes, view the inspection reports and read the inspectors’ comments. State agencies are
prohibited by law from releasing a list of the child care homes. Parents can call the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in Topeka and ask about violations at
an individual home, but it is not as convenient as searching a database.

„øWant to know what reason police had to arrest someone? You won’t be able to find that out either. Kansas is the only state that closes probable-cause affidavits,
which spell out the legal justification for arresting a person.

„øWant to know which neighborhoods in the county are gaining value the fastest? Real estate sales records are closed to the public. The Sedgwick County Appraiser’s
Office has posted sales information on its web site for those who wish to challenge their property appraisals. But past information is not available under the law, making it
impossible for anyone but real estate agents and appraisers to track trends over time.

We want your feedback

We’ve put together a survey that seeks your feedback on The Eagle and Kansas.com. We hope you’ll take some time (about 15-20 minutes) to take the survey, at www.kansas.com/survey. Your feedback is important to us and our ongoing efforts to improve our print edition and Web site. We appreciate your time.

‘Best of Eagle’ awards honor staffers

One of my favorite newsroom gatherings every year is the day we announce “Best of Eagle” winners for our staff from the previous year’s work. In choosing winners, we look back over our best work of the previous year, and it’s always a reminder for me of how many talented journalists the newsroom is fortunate to have.

Throughout the year, we have in-house monthly contests to choose the best headline, photo, writing and page design. (For 2010, we’re adding a monthly contest for the best innovative work on Kansas.com.) At the end of each year, we ask outside judges to pick the best from the monthly winners. These are the Best of Eagle winners, and each receives a plaque and cash award. Their names are also engraved on plaques that remain in the newsroom to honor all previous winners.

On Thursday, we announced this year’s winners:

Headline: Rod Pocowatchit for his headline “Claws and Effects,” with a subheadline “Fight scenes, loud explosions drive X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” The headlines ran on the May 1 Go! section for the opening of the Hugh Jackman film.

Page Design: Rod Pocowatchit for his Go! section cover design for the movie “Angels & Demons.” You don’t need any more evidence of the range of Rod’s talents: best headline, best page design, and he writes weekly about movies in the Sunday Arts & Leisure section. This is the third time Rod has won the Best of Eagle design award, and his first award for headline-writing.

Writing: Roy Wenzl for his series, “The Miracle of Father Kapaun.” The eight-part series, published in December, recounted the Kansas priest’s life and death in a Korean War POW camp, through the voices of fellow prisoners who say Kapaun worked endlessly to lift their spirits and give them hope that they would survive. This award marks the seventh time Roy’s work has been honored as a Best of Eagle winner.

Photography: Fernando Salazar for his powerful image of Jacie Brown holding newborn Aiden, her son who would live 51 minutes, but touch his parents’ lives forever. This was the third time Fernando’s photographs have been named Best of Eagle.

We also honored Travis Heying’s multimedia work on video, audio, photographs and a 50-minute documentary on Father Emil Kapaun. Travis is a six-time winner of our photography award.

Congratulations to all of the Best of Eagle winners, as well as the monthly contest winners, for their hard work in bringing you a newspaper and Web site we’re proud of.


Did you have the right answer to Friday’s trivia question?

goaldigger

An interesting thing happened with Friday’s Trivia for Tickets question: most people got it wrong.

Friday’s question was “How many copies of Elton John’s ‘The Goaldiggers Song’ were pressed?” The correct answer was 500. This is backed up by multiple books about John, including “Rocket Man: Elton John From A-Z” by Claude Bernardin and Tom Stanton, “Elton John: A Visual Documentary” by Nigel Goodall, and “Sir Elton: The Definitive Biography” by Philip Norman.

So, in this day of the Internet being viewed as the Land of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know and More, how did hundreds of people choose the wrong answer?

My guess in one word: Wikipedia.

The relevant part of Wikipedia’s entry about the song says “Only 1,000 copies were pressed, with 500 of those being signed by Elton.”

Guess what number most people submitted? Yep, 1,000.

Wikipedia is a great resource. The majority of it is factual and its references can be great starting points for finding authoritative information. As a user-generated site, however, it is not infallible. This is an example of one of those times.

If you’re one of the people who got it wrong, take heart. There are dozens of chances to enter Trivia for Tickets, a new one every day, to be exact.

If you’re not playing, you should. Every day The Eagle is printing a trivia question about Elton John or Billy Joel. Once you’ve figured out the answer, go to Eagletrivia.com and make your selection from the choices given. Each week we’re drawing a name at random from all correct answers that week and giving away an iPod Shuffle and a $50 iTunes gift card. At the end of the five-week game, all correct answers from every week will be entered into a grand prize drawing for front row tickets to the Elton John / Billy Joel concert on March 3.

There are four weeks left in the game, so it’s not too late to join in.

Thanks for feedback on puzzle

Thanks to all who dropped us a note to let us know you’re delighted to have both crossword puzzles now in the TV book. Quite a few of you wrote to say thanks for returning the old puzzle — and I think this is the first time I’ve ever been told I brought balance to someone’s life.

And others thanked me for not ditching the new puzzle from the New York Times. I appreciate the feedback, and I’m glad everyone is satisfied with the outcome.

Practices vary on newsroom Facebook use

Over the past month or so, I’ve gotten a few emails from readers who said they sent me a “friend request” on Facebook and wondered why I hadn’t accepted it. Two of them pointed out that they are already Facebook friends with a few other Eagle newsroom staffers, and they weren’t sure why there were differences among Eagle news staff in the connections they make on social media networks.

So let me talk a little bit about our social media guidelines as a newsroom, and mine individually.

Earlier this week, the newsroom staff had a great lunchtime discussion about how our personal and professional lives intersect on social media networks. We updated the newsroom’s ethics policy over the summer and added a social media section for the first time, and one thing is already clear — it needs to be more specific to give our staff more guidance in how to use networks like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace without compromising our credibility as a journalists (and, by extension, The Eagle’s).

Earlier this month, Mashable.com quoted a study in which more than half of employers surveyed block social media sites on work computers. At The Eagle, I believe that connecting to these networks, especially within our community, is an increasingly important part of our job. I encourage our staff to be engaged in digital community conversations as part of their job. And to do it with the same sound ethical guidelines we’ve adhered to in the print business for many decades.

The use of social media is evolving so rapidly, though, that stories are abundant of people who have harmed their careers and their employers’ reputations by exercising poor judgment in Tweets, blog posts or Facebook updates. Being a news organization just adds an extra few layers of complication, and we don’t yet have all the answers on how to handle every situation that can arise. Our guidelines and practices will change as we make mistakes, or discover ethical dilemmas we hadn’t anticipated.

In our discussion last week, I told our staff that I won’t issue rules on who they should or should not invite or accept as Facebook friends. Common sense should guide decisions for journalists who use Facebook as a mix of personal friends/family and professional connections. It’s common for journalists to have professional acquaintances connected to them on Facebook. I view it as a great compliment to our staff that readers and sources in the community want to have connections to our staff on social networks — they see our writers, editors, visual journalists, etc., as approachable, or they wouldn’t want to connect to them.

Some of us are, frankly, unsure how far to go in opening the doors of our Facebook pages. We’re figuring it out as we go, and, at least for me, practices change over time as use of the social network grows. It’s not that there are hoards of people banging at my Facebook door by any means. And I don’t have earth-shattering posts on my Facebook page (and I don’t update it often enough — I’m working on it). But I do have family members there, and my vacation photos, and conversations with close friends.

So a month or two ago I decided that I was not going to connect with people on Facebook if I don’t know them. It’s not meant as a slight to anyone. I just consider it something of an extension of my personal space, and I want to make sure that I know who the people are who are stopping by. At the same time, I’m not willing to suggest to Eagle staff members with their practice should be. That needs to be a personal decision. I do, though, ask that they be aware of the implications of people they might accept or invite as friends, and the potential for those connections to reflect on them in their role as a journalist.

Twitter is a much more open space, in my view, and I follow people there whom I have never met in person.

We’ll be working on a more specific social media policy in the coming weeks. If you wonder what other companies — both inside and outside the media business — have established for policies, Mashable points to a great directory of policies at Social Media Governance.

Any Fultz family still in Wichita?

Sharon in Asheville, NC, writes that she’s closing her furniture/consignment store and found an old photograph marked, “Uncle Floyd Fultz and Family.” She thought the family might want to have it. It’s stamped F.A. Wesely Studio in Wichita. Obituary archives indicate Floyd Fultz passed away in 1956. If you’re a surviving family member and would like to have the photo, drop me an email at schisenhall@wichitaeagle.com and I’ll put you in touch with Sharon.

Fultz family photo

Fultz family photo