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Posts by Roy Peter Clark

About Roy Peter Clark

Senior Scholar

Roy Peter Clark has taught writing at Poynter to students of all ages since 1979. He has served the Institute as its first full-time faculty member, dean, vice-president, and senior scholar. He contributes regularly to Poynter.org on topics such as writing, reporting, editing, coaching writers, reading, language and politics, American culture, ethics, and the standards and practices of journalism. He is the author or editor of eighteen books. His most recent include Writing Tools, The Glamour of Grammar, Help! For Writers, How to Write Short, and The Art of X-ray Reading.
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In Trump's anti-press rhetoric, a dark echo from the past

When I heard that Donald Trump had branded journalists as “an enemy of the American people,” I had a flashback. It was early in the 1980s, and I was running one of Poynter’s first seminars on media ethics. One evening, with popcorn served, we had a showing of a movie, starring Steve McQueen, called "An Enemy of the … Read More
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Rounding out portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in the news

Whenever pressure mounts on the American press to be more responsible, my reflex is to consult an ancient guide for wisdom. Published in 1947, "A Free and Responsible Press" is the work of a World War II-era commission, sponsored by Time magazine founder Henry Luce and led by Robert M. Hutchins, perhaps the leading intellectual of his day. Its … Read More
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15 rules for a saner news experience

There is little comfort in knowing that the crises we face in our political life today have been visited upon us before. It still helps to look back. George Santayana was only half-right when he said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." He might have added: "Even those who do remember the past sometimes fail … Read More
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40 things I learned about the writing craft in 40 years

This is the first piece I have published since my official retirement from Poynter on New Year’s Eve. I have lots of work ahead of me, but it has been fun and instructive to look back. If you reach your destination in decent shape, it’s easy to forget the bumps in the road behind you. Better to look at the … Read More
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Want to be a good writer? Keep talking.

I am retiring from The Poynter Institute on New Year’s Eve. As my wife and I watch the ball in Times Square slide down to 2017, our fervent smooch will not just mark a new beginning. It will be the first celebration of almost 40 years well-spent. When my retirement was announced — along with the news that I would … Read More
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What journalists can learn from Trump's campaign slogans

Political slogans have been with us almost since the beginning of the republic: "Give me liberty, or give me death." But they seem to have made a comeback in the age of Trump. Trump’s was the face that launched a thousand tweets. But it also inspired a dozen slogans that Hillary Clinton could never match. As my colleague Rick Edmonds … Read More
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Confessions of an alienated journalist, revisited

In his song “My Back Pages,” Bob Dylan, who just won the Nobel Prize for Literature, told the world that “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” All writers have back pages. For me that phrase signifies things that I wrote months or years ago when I was the same person — but different, maybe … Read More
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To write a great election story — or World Series story — rehearse your lead

Sometime this evening, election night, or early tomorrow morning, hundreds if not thousands of journalists will be working on their leads. If they are smart, and most of them are, that process has already begun. With the end of the race in doubt, writers will be immersed in a process we call “rehearsal.” Among other benefits, rehearsal offers an antidote … Read More
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What I learned about writing from listening to Bob Dylan

This Saturday night at a St. Pete bar and grill called Harvey’s, I’m playing a three-set gig with my long-time musical friend Dave Scheiber. I have not played in a while, and I have some new gear — a Hammond portable organ, so I went to his house for a brief rehearsal. Before long we were swapping the vocals in … Read More
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As American editors sharpen their pencils, some advice on writing short

If two examples constitute a trend, then a movement is afoot among editors to encourage short writing. It began at The Washington Post, where an editor argued that many stories could be tighter. Before you could say “Strunk and White,” an editor at The Wall Street Journal made the same case. What came next was predictable, and, from … Read More
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Between Trump and Hitler, New York Times book review doubles as political criticism

A tweet from Politico's Timothy Noah Wednesday called attention to a review by Michiko Kakutani of a new biography of Adolf Hitler. The headline for the review on the New York Times website reads: "In ‘Hitler,’ an ascent from ‘Dunderhead’ to Demagogue." I smiled at the clever parallel of those D-words. But I remained puzzled by Noah’s hint … Read More
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The Daily Beast set to publish new work from famed columnist Jimmy Breslin

The Daily Beast will publish Saturday the first major piece of writing by famed New York City columnist Jimmy Breslin in more than a decade. That news comes from John Avlon, the Beast’s editor in chief, who once included five Breslin columns in his anthology of great newspaper columns titled “Deadline Artists.” The Daily Beast has been running The Best … Read More
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A salute to Charles Osgood, the bard of broadcast news

At the age of 83, news veteran Charles Osgood will be leaving CBS "Sunday Morning," after 22 years as anchor. He is known for two trademarks: a dapper bowtie and a penchant for turning news copy into verse. His first collection of news poems was titled "Nothing Could Be Finer Than a Crisis That Is Minor in … Read More
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7 ways to write a "kick-ass" column, via Sally Jenkins

This morning on Twitter I awarded The Washington Post's Sally Jenkins a gold medal for a "kick-ass column" she wrote about Olympic urinator Ryan Lochte. Check out her lead: "Ryan Lochte is the dumbest bell that ever rang." As I read and then re-read her column, I realized that I had placed it in an important and … Read More
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