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API has a new take on innovation — ignore the tribal nature of news organizations at your peril

One model was for a single-subject news website shows the staffing structure of the site. Rather than present the team in a typical org chart, they use concentric circles to show that each group is connected. (Image from the API report)

One model was for a single-subject news website shows the staffing structure of the site. Rather than present the team in a
typical org chart, they use concentric circles to show that each group is connected. (Image from the API report)

News organizations have become more “tribal” than ever, according to a pair of new reports from the American Press Institute, and effective innovators must work with that reality rather than try to bulldoze change through.

At news organizations, Jeff Sonderman, deputy director of API and co-author of the report, told me by phone, a frequent problem is that “we come to the same building every day, but we may not really be working toward the same goals.”

Knowing the need for change or even being willing to change are no longer the big issue, Sonderman said, “but how to do it, how to make it work and stick is.”

The API report identifies reporters as one tribe. Read more

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Poynter's Butch Ward spoke with Jacqui Banaszynski recently at a Master Class. (Photo by Ren LaForme)

‘Don’t be boring’ and 6 other interviewing tips from Jacqui Banaszynski

Poynter’s Butch Ward spoke with Jacqui Banaszynski recently at a Master Class. (Photo by Ren LaForme)

Poynter’s Butch Ward spoke with Jacqui Banaszynski recently at a Master Class. (Photo by Ren LaForme)

In the 1980s, when she was a reporter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Jacqui Banaszynski spent months reporting on the story of a gay Minnesotan couple with AIDS. She had to work with her editors and her sources and fight to tell the story the way she felt it should be told. The result was not only heartrending but also informative for an audience that wasn’t yet comfortable talking about gay couples, let alone seeing photos of them or learning about the disease that disproportionately affected their community. Her feature story, “AIDS in the Heartland,” which won the Pulitzer for feature writing in 1988, is still held up as an example of in-depth, immersive reporting and extensive interviewing. Read more

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

How to write great captions for your photos

caption-natgeoNational Geographic magazine’s Managing Editor David Brindley stopped by Poynter last week to give a Webinar on Writing Effective Photo Captions. Given the recent eye tracking study that showed people spend a lot of time reading photo captions, we asked Brindley to give us his top tips. (A video of this conversation is below.)

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Naturally, National Geographic puts a lot of emphasis on photo captioning, but it’s interesting to note that they have full-time staff dedicated to the task.

Brindley says photo captioners will interview the photographers and photo editors; they’ll even talk to people in the photo. If the image is of nature or an animal, they will talk to an expert in the field and get information on what is going on in the background. Read more

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Friday, May 08, 2015

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5 questions for a (formerly) pissed off journalism student

Polo Rocha

Polo Rocha

In a column yesterday for The Badger Herald student newspaper, University of Wisconsin-Madison senior Polo Rocha began with a confession.

“I started reporting this column as a pissed off journalism student,” Rocha wrote. “It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the wonderful classes and professors I’ve had at University of Wisconsin’s journalism school. It’s that my experience there lacked something.”

What should students expect from their journalism school experience nowadays? And how much and how fast should journalism educators adapt to keep up with a media landscape which Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour recently called “the Wild West.”

As Wintour shared in a New York Magazine interview, “You walk on the street and get a Starbucks and things have changed by the time you come back to the office.”

Or the classroom. 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 ABC  World News. (Photo courtesy of Mike Clark)

Mike Clark with Diane Sawyer on the set of ABC
World 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, in his childhood, when news anchor Mike Clark had a difficult speech impediment.

He stuttered.  It got so bad that his older brothers, his school friends, even his Dad made fun of him.  “Just spit it out!” they would tell him.

“It was significant enough that I still remember my machine gun-like stammering,” he remembers, “and the searing heat filling up my cheeks and my ears when people would mock me.”  Tough going for a six-year-old. Read more

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Friday, May 01, 2015

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Indemnity clauses leave freelancers open to lawsuits

Forbes contributor Dolia Estevez is on her own.

Two years ago, Estevez identified a former spokesperson for Mexican president Felipe Calderon as one of the “10 most corrupt Mexicans of 2013” in a story she wrote on the Forbes website.  The spokesperson sued Forbes and Estevez under New York law.

The claims were various: one for defamation, against Forbes and Estevez together; one for intentional infliction of emotional distress, against Estevez only; and two for interference with business relations, against Estevez only. The spokesperson demanded money damages.

Instead of defending its contributor, as it would have if she were a staff writer, Forbes told Estevez she was on her own, invoking a provision of its standard freelance contract stating that web writers are “responsible for any legal claims arising” from their work. 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 production values sucked.  Because of those things, “Louie, Louie” became one of the greatest rock songs of all time.

Oh, by the way, we are writing this in part because Ely just died at the age of 71.

By 1964, rumors spread through my high school: The lyrics of “Louie, Louie” were filthy.

“I promise I’ll never leave her again,” a sailor’s lament, became “I promise I’ll never lay her again.”  Which made no sense.  Read more

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Monday, Apr. 27, 2015

Social media provides op-ed writers opportunities and challenges

Tony Messenger, left, listens to John Harwood talk about using social media to connect with his readers.

Tony Messenger, left, listens to John Harwood talk about using social media to connect with his readers.

Social media provides professional opinion writers and editors with new opportunities and huge challenges.

John Harwood, chief Washington Correspondent for CNBC, told a roomful of op-ed writers and editors that they have the opportunity to convert a burden to a benefit Sunday night in Washington D.C. at the joint event with the Association of Opinion Journalists and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Like much of his audience, Harwood was in newspapers first and still writes a regular column for the New York Times in addition to his television work. He told of a key event in his use of the even-more-immediate forms of social media:

“The whole phenomenon of journalism by social media seemed vain and stupid,” he said. Read more

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Wednesday, Apr. 22, 2015

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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 swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles.  Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say, Depart immediately to open country.”

That’s a fine opening, I would say.  I like the setting, defined by action.  I like the little mystery of what “they” are.  I like the text within a text, suggesting a city under siege.

It’s fair to say that other folks like that beginning too.  Read more

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Friday, Apr. 10, 2015

newsU

Knight Foundation reinvests in News University

Vicki Krueger is the Director of Interactive Learning and has been managing News University for 3 years and has been with the project for 10 years.

newsU-300Ten years ago, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation made an investment in e-learning at Poynter. Since then, News University has grown to more than 325,000 users in 200 countries and territories around the world, 400 courses, and training in seven languages. About 2,000 people a week enroll in e-learning modules at NewsU. It has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

Now, in honor of NewsU’s 10th birthday, Knight is making a new investment of $195,000 in the leading online training site for journalists, educators and anyone interested in the craft and values of journalism. Knight funding will support the first phase of the most ambitious rethinking and retooling of Poynter NewsU since it was launched in April 2005. Read more

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