The continuing adventures of Beau Yarbrough

My most-read stories of 2014

Monday, January 5, 2015, 18:22
Section: Journalism

This is my last 2014 round-up story, I swear.

Rialto Unified logoThese are based on our internal measurements, so I can’t reveal exact numbers without getting my fingers broken, but here’s my most-read stories from last year. (They pale in comparison to the reads crime, sports and photo galleries get, of course.) Although the stories you expect to be here are, they’re not in the spots I would have predicted, personally:

1. San Bernardino teacher accused of racist slur in classroom

Far and away my most-read story of the year, even putting together all the reads of my Rialto Unified Holocaust assignment coverage from the Sun, Daily Bulletin and Daily News.

On Friday, Sept. 12, I was at the Sun, writing up my court coverage of another story (one of the seemingly endless follow-ups to the California Charter Academy indictments) when LaRue Bell’s family came in, and asked to speak to a reporter. The district responded quickly to my inquiry about Bell’s assertions about his teacher and I thought that was that. But the story attracted a great deal of attention, emails from supporters of the teacher and several additional weeks of coverage. I intend to follow up on her job status now that the school year has started up again in January.

2. San Bernardino teacher arrested for alleged sex with minors

The second most-read story of the year was, again, a fairly simple one from our standpoint: The police reported that a teacher had been arrested for sex crimes with children. In the interest of finding other possible victims, the police put the news out, along with her picture, and we did the same, for similar reasons. But from the very beginning, her defenders proclaimed her innocence in numbers we typically don’t see and suggested there was more to the story. This fall, the district attorney ended up dropping all charges against the teacher, citing an “insufficiency of evidence.”

3. Holocaust denied by students in Rialto school assignment

This is the story I thought would be the top one of the year, as it made international headlines, changed the curriculum for Rialto Unified’s ninth grade students this year and led to numerous shakeups in the district. It was my top story at the Los Angeles Daily News, but only came in third place, trailing the two stories about San Bernardino City Unified teachers. I’m happy that my editors backed me up on my desire to post all 2,000 student essays online, via DocumentCloud, although I feel sympathy for anyone else who reads through all 2,000 hand-written essays.

4. Rialto Unified defends writing assignment on confirming or denying Holocaust

This was the big story that dropped in May, sending ripples across the nation and overseas. Within minutes of this being posted online, the district began getting emails from around the world, according to documents released under the California Public Records Act. One of the immediate impacts was that news sites across the country did their own versions of the story, sometimes crediting the Sun or me, sometimes not. Still, the story was the second-biggest for me on and did well overall for the year.

5. Hundreds mourn Chino car crash victims at tearful vigil in Eastvale

This story, written with Greg Cappis, who was covering breaking news that Saturday night, was by a large margin the most-read story in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin this year, ahead of the initial story about the car crash I worked on earlier that Saturday morning and Rialto Unified Holocaust follow-up stories. Both likely got additional views from a grim coincidence: There was not one, but two Southern California three-car crashes that killed multiple teenagers that night. We received comments, tweets and emails from people scolding us for getting the facts wrong, when they thought they were reading about the Irvine crash, rather than the Chino one.

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I'm in the Columbia Journalism Review. Sort of.

Thursday, July 17, 2014, 0:39
Section: Journalism

My name was one of those in an ad taken out by the California Teachers Association, announcing the winners of 2013 John Swett Awards for Media Excellence.

I won an award for my coverage of the parent-trigger movement in the San Bernardino Sun and Los Angeles Daily News.

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Investigative Reporters and Editors 2014 conference panel liveblogs

Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 10:10
Section: Journalism

Investigative Reporters and Editors logo

I just returned from a 10-day vacation in San Francisco, both for my father’s 70th birthday and to attend to the 2014 Investigative Reporters and Editors conference.

As the Los Angeles News Group helpfully paid for my membership and conference fee, I liveblogged the 19 (!) panels I attended. I attend IRE conferences — this is my second; I attended the 2010 conference in Las Vegas as well — for the practical advice and “how to replicate my awesome investigation” outlines and tips, not war stories, so note that the liveblogs are light on those and favor news-you-can-use (assuming you’re an investigative journalist, at least).

Here then, are the liveblogs. I’ll be updating them shortly to add any supplemental tip sheets and handouts provided by the speakers:

  1. Investigations that focus on forgotten victims
  2. On the beat: Education
  3. 60 (data-driven) ideas in 60 minutes
  4. The Kingmakers: Tracking money and influence in politics
  5. Open records: New challenges to access
  6. Small newsrooms, big stories: Doing data-driven investigations with limited resources
  7. The data-driven story: Conceiving, launching and taking it home
  8. Campus coverage: Student loans debt and aid
  9. Mining documents to build your investigation
  10. On the beat: Local government
  11. Investigating veterans issues
  12. Deep dive: Mobile-first journalism making big stories work on small screens
  13. They’re watching you: Investigating the surveillance society and protecting your work from prying eyes
  14. How to find stories in government contracting data
  15. Campus coverage: Sexual assault and other crimes on campus
  16. Investigating in a small town
  17. Using Twitter data to tell stories/
  18. Friendly fire: Investigating do-gooders and crowd-pleasers/
  19. Open source tools for news
  20. Web tools, tips and tricks for investigations%

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The greatest journalism video of all time

Thursday, February 20, 2014, 9:13
Section: Arts & Entertainment,Journalism

EIJ13: Our Digital Shadows: Journalists and Online Reputation

Friday, November 1, 2013, 8:00
Section: Journalism

Excellence in Journalism 2013Journalists need to carefully guard their online reputations, according to Marie K. Shanahan, a professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut, speaking at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism 2013 convention in Anaheim, California on Aug. 26.

Credibility is a key component if you want to be a successful journalist,” Shanahan said. “It’s your calling card.”

Where once, journalists only had to worry about their tweets and public Facebook posts, now all sorts of publicly visible social media interactions are under scrutiny.

“Now ‘public’ includes any online posts,” including liking an image on Instagram.

This should be familiar territory for journalists, even if they’re not used to being the objects of the scrutiny: We use search to do research on our sources; there’s no reason people aren’t going to do the same to us.”

Shanahan recommends that journalists vanity search themselves on Google and Google Images.

And don’t be fooled that deleting an image or post or tweet makes it go away: “The Internet is a giant copying machine; it never really forgets.”

Likewise, restricting a Twitter profile is just a red flag that a journalist has something to hide, she said.

Shanahan recommends journalists be pro-active about their online reputation:

“Use a consistent byline” online and regularly associate their identity with the company they want to be known as working for. (And find out the company’s social media policy and abide by it.)

Get journalists should get their own Web domain, preferably with their byline name as the URL, which will rank high in Google searches for that name.

She recommends that journalists use nice headshots for their profile pictures on social media: “Don’t make your Twitter profile pic an egg. No one trusts an egg.”

Shanahan also recommends that journalists take a look at and


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Veritas odit moras.