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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The legacy of puzzle master Merl Reagle and the gamification of news

Merl Reagle, a crossword-crafting master, died Aug. 22. (Credit: Tampa Bay Times) Merl Reagle had the soul of a copy editor and the style of a stand-up comedian. During his too-short life he was both of those and much more: musician, songwriter, author, and one of the world’s great puzzle masters. If you love crosswords – not cross words – … Read More
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The Virginia shooting and the dark side of the social media age

I saw a clip of Matt Lauer today. He said that viewing the video of the murder of two journalists “took my breath away.” Here is the man, I thought, who broadcast to me news of planes flying into the twin towers on 9/11. It must take a lot to take this veteran’s breath away. Then I watched the one-minute … Read More
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The language of migration: refugee vs. migrant

A file photo of a Syrian refugee carrying a baby over the broken border fence into Turkey after breaking the border fence and crossing from Syria in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)What is the difference between a migrant and a refugee, and which term describes a person crossing the Mediterranean Sea seeking asylum in … Read More
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This is why we write stories

Most of the texts we call stories in journalism are more properly called reports. The imprecision of our nomenclature matters because the differences between reports and stories are important, both in how they are produced and how they are received. The differences, I have argued, begin with the purpose of a report. In general, we write reports to collect, sort … Read More
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12 basics of interviewing, listening and note-taking

As a writer I would NOT give myself high marks for the crafts of interviewing, listening, and note-taking. But I have sat at the knees of journalists who are experts at these elements of craft: John Sawatsky of ESPN, Jacqui Banaszynski of the University of Missouri, and Tom French of Indiana University – all of whom have taught at Poynter. Read More
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The Journalist and the Activist: the legacies of Julian Bond and Gene Patterson

Julian Bond of the Georgia state legislature and civil rights leader is seen in 1968. (AP Photo)A half century ago, Julian Bond fought for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Bond is now dead, but his legacy lives on. So does that of the former newspaper editor and Poynter chairman Gene Patterson, who became Bond’s … Read More
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Why I always play music during writing workshops

The most fun I have as a teacher is when I can incorporate music into writing instruction. (Photo by Armondo Solares) I was 46 years old, and my life and time were filled by three pursuits: teaching writing, coaching girls soccer and playing in a rock band. My imagination was born, or reborn, that year in 1994. Read More
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Enough with the Hitler comparisons, already

A man holds a poster with a picture of German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a swastika. Merkel opposition said that the euro forces German taxpayers to rescue bankrupt southern European countries whose people denounce them as Nazis for their efforts. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis,File)Presidential campaigns tend to fuel the dark art of the false comparison. I covered this tendency … Read More
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The Best Newspaper Narratives Volume 2 - solid choices, leaves you wanting more.

George Getschow is to storytelling in newspapers what Carli Lloyd is to scoring in soccer:  dogged and indefatigable.  For more than a decade now, Getschow has served as leader of a tribe of journalists and authors devoted to the nonfiction narrative.  Members of the tribe come together each July at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference outside … Read More
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When the President uses the n-word, please quote him without those dashes

This is a file photo of Barack Obama from 2006. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)When judging whether or not to use taboo language, editors wisely consider the identity of the speaker and the context of the speech. So I hope that the use of the n-word by the President of the United States in a podcast interview about racism will allow … Read More
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What I learned about writing from Dusty Rhodes, the American Dream

Dusty Rhodes gives his Hard Times speech.One of the most popular professional wrestlers of all time has died at the age of 69.  His real name was Virgil Runnels, but his wrestling name was Dusty Rhodes, a Texas plumber’s son who became known as the American Dream. He wasn’t much of a ring performer compared to, say, the acrobatic … Read More
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Not to be 'hokey,' but writers need to put their whole selves in

My parents never made home movies so it was a delight when my cousin Steve Dumont discovered some that his dad, my uncle Paul, took during a 1958 visit to our Long Island home.  It is a precious artifact.  I am about 10 years old, and the movie captures me playing the piano.  There is no … Read More
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Mothers, please let your babies grow up to be journalists

Mike Clark with Diane Sawyer on the set of ABCWorld News. (Photo courtesy of Mike Clark)You would never know it by watching him broadcast the news in Pittsburgh, or by sitting in on one of his classes at Duquesne University, or by listening to him narrate the election of a new pope, but there was a time, … Read More
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Why “Louie, Louie” should be an anthem for journalists

The song I have sung most often in my life is “Louie, Louie.” I don’t know the words. Really. There are two sets of lyrics – maybe three. The original lyrics, written and performed by Richard Berry in 1955, describe a sweet island romance. In 1963, The Kingsmen covered the song.  The lead singer, Jack Ely, slurred the words.  The … Read More
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The winner for the best Pulitzer Prize lead is….

Let’s say you walk into a bookstore with about $25 in your pocket on the prowl for a good read.  You pick up one volume, open to the beginning and read a short chapter called “Leaflets”: "At dusk they pour from the sky.  They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses.  Entire streets … Read More