Medill Professor Highlights Daily ‘News Gems’ Online

Elise Foley

By Elise FoleyContributing Writer

For most journalists, criticism comes more often than congratulations.

Jon Marshall, an adjunct lecturer in the Medill School of Journalism, is trying to change that. His News Gems blog, sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists, highlights outstanding journalism from across the country.

Marshall posts each day with a description and link to a story he finds compelling.

“I consider what I’m doing like a daily Pulitzer Prize,” Marshall said.

Marshall started the blog in summer 2005, in response to growing criticism of the media industry.

“A lot of the criticism was valid, but the vast majority (of journalists) are doing good work and interesting stories,” he said. “I wanted to let the world know about these stories and give the reporters a pat on the back.”

Another goal of the blog is to provide examples of good journalism for both student and professional journalists, he said.

“It is easy to be critical but more valuable to look at best practices,” said John Lavine, the dean of Medill. “Work like Jon’s … is important if journalism is to thrive in the digital age.”

The Society of Professional Journalism’s journalistic ideals are similar to Marshall’s, said Medill senior associate dean Richard Roth, the group’s sponsor.

“SPJ is about the kind of good journalism that Marshall highlights, the kind of journalism made possible by a free and unfettered press, by openness and – by golly – by men and women dedicated to honesty and truth-telling,” Roth said.

News Gems receives about 500 hits per week, according to Marshall. He said he doesn’t advertise for the site, relying on word of mouth instead. He often receives e-mails and comments on the site, especially from reporters thanking him for featuring their work.

He said he tries to vary the publications featured, but admits that some newspapers are featured more often.

“The New York Times puts tremendous resources into reporting, which allows them to have great reporting,” Marshall said. “More money should go into good reporting.”

Marshall considers the quality of the story’s idea, reporting and writing in making his selections, as well as photos, graphics and maps.

“(Good stories) take reporting beyond the norm and go into challenging territory,” Marshall said. “They need a willingness to write about people and places that are not mentioned enough in the news.”

Marshall subscribes to 11 newspapers in total and reads various other publications to find stories for the blog.

“I’d be happy if I could read news all day, ” Marshall said. “I get paid to do what I like the best.”

He also gets a chance to counteract negative opinions about journalists, a group which he feels are wrongly disliked.

“Hey world, we do a lot of valuable stuff,” Marshall said.

Reach Elise Foley at [email protected]