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Restoring trust after big mistakes like CBS’ Benghazi whopper

When a newsroom makes a big mistake, it’s a sign that something in its newsgathering process went awry. With trust between journalists and the audience they serve so fragile, it’s crucial that newsrooms take significant and swift action after major mistakes.

In this chat, we’ll talk about what CBS could do after significant doubts emerged about the veracity of a source used in its 60 Minutes’ story on the U.S. compound attack in Benghazi.

Keep reading to explore how corrections and clarifications can be among the best tools (in addition to accuracy) for establishing and maintaining audience trust.

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How news nonprofits are making money

How can nonprofit news organizations diversify their revenue streams? A recent report from the Knight Foundation surveyed 18 nonprofit news outlets between 2010 to 2012 to find the most effective practices in the areas of finances, organizational structure and audience engagement.

Although most nonprofits increased revenue, relying less on foundation grants and bringing in money from individual donors, sponsorships, events and syndication, financial stability is still a big concern for nonprofit news.

Our guests: Anne Galloway, the founder and editor of Vermont-based VTDiggerMark Katches, the editorial director of the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, and Mayur Patel, the Knight Foundation’s vice president of strategy and assessment.

VTDigger is a five-year-old organization with six full-time employees and an annual budget under $400,000; CIR was founded in 1977 and has a staff of 73 and a budget of $10 million.

You can replay this chat at any time and find our chat archives at www.poynter.org/chats. Read more

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Monday, Nov. 18, 2013

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Let Abe Lincoln become your writing coach

Tomorrow, Nov. 19, turns out to be the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. To celebrate, Poynter published a chapter I wrote about it in my recent book “How to Write Short” last week.

There is a great opportunity for us as readers, writers, editors and students to look at an enduring work of literary culture and ask the question “Why.”  What was it — what is it — about these 269 words that stick with us?  I like to call the process X-ray reading.

Join us for a chat about Lincoln’s great speech, and, more important, about his skills as a writer and an editor today.  There is no reason why Honest Abe’s writing tools can’t exist on your workbench.

You can replay the live chat on this page at anytime after the chat has ended. All of our live chats are archived at www.poynter.org/chats.

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Tuesday, Nov. 05, 2013

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Ethics of unpaid internships

Unpaid internships have been getting a lot of attention recently, most of it unwanted, as the result of lawsuits and canceled programs.

ProPublica has been covering the issue, from Northwestern’s residency program to harassment legal loopholes leaving unpaid interns vulnerable.

It recently raised $22,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to hire intern Casey McDermott to document the story of countless unpaid internships across the country.

Replay the live chat to read what ProPublica’s reporting intern Kara Brandeisky and McDermott had to say on whether we are at a turning point in unpaid internships, how widespread the practice of hiring unpaid interns is and strategies for getting and surviving one.

You can find any past chat at www.poynter.org/chats.

 

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Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013

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How to turn hard facts into easy reading

I was recently hired by a department of the federal government to conduct a workshop on how to write reports that were short and clear. The director of the department who hired me pointed out the problem in her own official title. It was 29 words long.

I am “vice-president and senior scholar” at the Poynter Institute. I am embarrassed that my title is too long — and it’s only five words. What could I possibly do with 24 more?

“Bureaucracies,” I moaned, “is where language goes to die.”

The sixty policy wonks in the room collectively rolled up their sleeves. They understood the problem. They knew that they worked in a language club where jargon and thick information were king and queen. But they were stuck.

They wanted to know “how” they could change. They wanted to know “how” in the world it’s possible to take very hard, very complex, very technical, very academic, very abstract elements and turn them into easy reading. Read more

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Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013

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How journalists can build their own powerful brands

Dan Schawbel, author of “Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success” and  “Me 2.0″ and founder of Millennial Branding, talked to Poynter and a live chat audience about what a career brand is—and what it is not—and how journalists in particular can further the brands that make them unique in their newsroom or the marketplace. Strong journalistic brands do for people just what they do for companies, leading to greater reach and opportunity.

 

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Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013

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Have you lost that writing feeling? Is it gone, gone, gone…?

The dialogue with a stranger on a plane often goes something like this:

Stranger:  “What do you do for a living?”
Me:  “I’m a teacher.”
Stranger:  “What do you teach?”
Me: “I teach writing.”

The response from the stranger is almost predictable. Odd looks. Nervous laughter. Usually followed by an admission that he doesn’t like to write, or that she tried to write in school once but it didn’t work out, or that he has to write as part of his job — but hates it.

Even professional writers will confess their loss of passion for their craft.

So do we hate writing? Or does writing hate us?

This feeling has many different names: writing anxiety, writing apprehension, writers’ block, paralyzing procrastination, aversive conditioning. The best description of the problem comes from the international reading scholar Frank Smith, who once described literacy as “a club.” Usually, something bad happens in school that persuades people that they are not fit to become members of the “writing club.”

This is a very sad state of affairs. Read more

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Wednesday, Oct. 09, 2013

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Living on AIR: Strategies for freelancers

Freelancers will find that Sue Schardt, executive director of AIR, Inc., has a world of strategies to help them succeed. AIR is the Association of Independents in Radio and, in 25 years, has grown to 900 members. It describes its network as “a global social and professional network … representing an extensive range of disciplines, from NPR news journalists and reporters, to sound artists, station station-based producers, podcasters, gearheads, media activists, and more.”

Schardt and her team offered many tips on how to start freelancing, how print journalists can contribute to radio and how to start podcasting. You can revisit this page at any time to replay the chat.

 

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Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2013

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Why stories need a focus … or do they?

If there is one writing lesson that Poynter has taught for more than three decades now, it’s that good stories need a sharp focus.

I once heard my friend Chip Scanlan say that all parts of the writing process amount to these three words: focus, focus, focus.

We focus the:

  • Story idea
  • Reporting
  • Structure
  • Ending
  • Language
  • Revision

And, yes, we probably even focus the focus.

I have compared focus to the way that the eyedoctor tests you for new lenses. The image is supposed to get sharper and sharper with each slight correction.

But there’s always a big but, isn’t there?

How do we account for great works of art that defy all attempts to declare a focus? Does Hamlet have a focus? Or Moby Dick? Or Huckleberry Finn? What makes these works great (and perhaps flawed at the same time) is a certain recklessness on the part of the writer, a sense that the story cannot be easily defined or confined by theme or “focus.”

It is OK to face the question: “What is your story REALLY about?” and answer, “It’s REALLY about a lot of things.”

 

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Exploring the new role of developer advocate

In today’s career chat, we’ll talk with Chrys Wu, who has just been named The New York Times’ developer advocate.

Wu has worked in a variety of media and roles, pushing the envelope for digital journalism. Her work includes development, audience development and digital storyteller. From 3 to 4 p.m. ET, we will talk about how developers contribute to news reports, why they need an advocate and how advocates can benefit newsrooms.

Twitter users can ask questions ahead of time using the hashtag #poynterchats. You can revisit this page at any time to replay the chat after it has ended.

 

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