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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Bloody shoes worn by Orlando doctor reveal power of detail

As journalists and other writers try to make sense of the terrorism and slaughter in Orlando, they should take wisdom from Jim Dwyer, who covered both attacks on the World Trade Center for The New York Times. Speaking to reporters at a Poynter seminar, he passed along advice he learned from an editor: “The bigger, the smaller.” How do we … Read More
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Can 'public journalism' reform campaign coverage?

At a time when America and American journalism seems befuddled by what constitutes effective campaign coverage — especially in the era of Bernie, Trump and Twitter — maybe retro is a place to look. But before we go back in time, let’s look at today. Criticism of press practice on election coverage has rarely seemed so furious. Among the complaints: … Read More
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By shedding "Tribune," Tronc loses a connection to its watchdog past

I have been following the news that Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, along with other properties, will be renamed as "Tronc." That name was coined as a combination of Tribune, Online and Content. A branding strategy has been to lowercase the name, the opposite of the uppercase POLITICO. For my tastes, the … Read More
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What Muhammad Ali taught me about writing

Something strange happened to me on Friday night. I grabbed a T-shirt off a shelf and headed for bed, turned on ESPN and then drifted off. I awoke at about 12:30 a.m. and realized the television was still on. As I reached for the remote, I heard and then saw the news. Muhammad Ali was dead at the age … Read More
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Misremembering Kitty Genovese

It appears that The New York Times will be without a public editor for the month of June. Margaret Sullivan now writes columns for The Washington Post, and her successor, Elizabeth Spayd, sets up shop in July. To avoid a June swoon, I volunteer to fill the job for a day — pro bono. This generous act was inspired … Read More
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Where are all the women writing longform? Check the history of the Pulitzer Prizes

Why aren’t there more women doing longform narrative journalism? That is a question that Lane DeGregory, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times, asked on her Facebook page. It sparked some interesting comments, from both men and women, and continued a discussion provoked by a recent comment from Gay Talese. Talese, one of the founding parents … Read More
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Let's extinguish political clichés this year, starting with 'firestorm of controversy'

The purpose of this essay is to drown a political cliché: “create a firestorm of controversy.” I can’t think of any handy phrase in our political lexicon more overused than this one. In a morning’s Google search, I have found thousands upon thousands of examples on an endless series of topics, most of them dated from the last decade. When … Read More
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For Obama's visit, let's revisit 'Hiroshima' — the book, not the city

When I read the news that President Obama was to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima, one of the two atomic bomb sites from World War II, my thoughts rushed to a book by John Hersey. That work, titled "Hiroshima," hit me hard as a high school student, and I have written about it several times since then. My … Read More
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Here's what the AP Stylebook needs to change in its 2016 edition

The AP Stylebook is a fine guide for journalists. For consistency and efficiency, it works. On occasion, it changes with the times, mostly for the better. At other times it clings to its preferences in spite of countervailing arguments. I have made such arguments, drawing my evidence from such guidebooks as "The Elements of Style" by Strunk & White. For … Read More
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This may be the best analogy in the history of journalism

Awarding Pulitzer Prizes to writers from the New Yorker has opened up a can of words. Magazine writing is just different from its newspaper cousin. There are many reasons, of course, perhaps the greatest of which is the width of the columns. Wider columns inspire longer paragraphs, which can make magazine stories seem more discursive. There are many … Read More
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And the winner for the best Pulitzer Prize lead in 2016 is….

Last year we instituted an invisible prize for the best lead from the annual crop of stories to win Pulitzers. It sparked some good conversation about the craft and a couple of the winners even offered to buy me lunch (not a requirement, but much appreciated). We're continuing that tradition this year. I have read all the leads in … Read More
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This Pulitzer season, let’s root for the little guy

I always have a rooting interest in the Pulitzer Prizes. It goes in this order: Me or one of my friends The Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times A small newspaper, the smaller the better We can predict that the prizes on Monday will include winners from the power conferences: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street … Read More
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Hate and racism in the South gave rise to 'social justice journalism'

This year marks the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes, a celebration in which the Poynter Institute is a key player. About a year ago, we were commissioned by the Pulitzer Prize board to conduct a marquee event on March 31 and April 1 in St. Petersburg, Florida to honor those winners connected to the theme of “Social Justice and Equality.” … Read More
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The secret to being a better writer? Re-read your own work

I just wrote an essay for Signature that frames revision as an act, not just of writing, but of reading. The occasion was the publication of my new book "The Art of X-ray Reading," from which I drew my experience of re-reading "The Great Gatsby." I described how seven readings of the book over almost 50 years revealed … Read More