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 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tampa Bay Times should have alerted authorities earlier

A police device rolls toward a copter device, right, that landed on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)The Tampa Bay Times was wrong. That is my reluctant conclusion after reading the story “Ruskin flier eludes Capitol air security.”  The story, well known by now, concerns Doug Hughes, an eccentric postal worker who … Read More

The pseudonym as a crutch:  A big lesson from the Rolling Stone scandal

I can think of a half-dozen times in my writing career when I used a pseudonym for a character.  Every time, I regretted it.  The regret did not come from the exposure of some journalistic malpractice.  It came, instead, from my desire to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and being stymied from doing … Read More

Death and writing short - the missing SXSW session

I once heard the great Francis X. Clines of the New York Times tell a group of journalists never to apologize for writing about death.  “We tell the morbid truth,” he said. I was scheduled to deliver a workshop on “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times” on St. Patrick’s Day at SXSW.  But on Friday the Thirteenth … Read More

Why you should know the work of Claude Sitton – reporter

Claude SittonI noted with sadness the death of a great American journalist, Claude Sitton, who encouraged me early in my career, and who was a good friend of the Poynter Institute. The giants of the Civil Rights movement are passing from this life. Their witness must be remembered and celebrated, a legacy that should inspire us to re-double our … Read More

How to get the most out of a writing conference

I have attended a lot of writing conferences since I arrived at Poynter in 1979.  I have organized some, delivered keynote speeches and hands-on workshops, and I have sat in the audience as a learner, at times enthralled by the speaker, at other times amazed that so many people seem so engaged by a writer whose grasp of the writing … Read More

Is it time for news anchors to take a 'Vow of Chastity?'

News' anchors Katie Couric, Brian Williams, left, and Charles Gibson, on the NBC 'Today' show in 2008, for cancer research. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) Let’s think of the fall of NBC’s Brian Williams as the climax of a narrative that began in the 1950s when the television news business was still young. It was in 1958 that Edward R. Murrow … Read More