How To’s

Quick tips for building journalism skills, from reporting to using Twitter. Suggest or submit a How To.

obama-250

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)

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 editors to quote him fully by spelling the word out.

The BBC got it just right, I think, in this report:

US President Barack Obama has used the “n-word” during an interview to argue that the United States has yet to overcome its issues with racism.

“Racism, we are not cured of it,” the president said. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public.”

Here is the rest of that paragraph, as told to WTF podcast host Marc Maron: “That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Thursday, June 18, 2015

church-100

Church shooting: Choose your words carefully

This image has been provided by the Charleston Police Department.(Charleston Police Department via AP)

This image has been provided by the Charleston Police Department.(Charleston Police Department via AP)

I wanted to share some thoughts prompted by an email I got this morning by Matt Jaworowski, a Media General Digital Content Producer.

Matt noticed a barrage of social media comments wondering why journalists are not using the word “terrorist” to describe the man who shot up a Charleston, South Carolina church. Matt pointed me toward tweets like this one:

The shooter, who police say is  21-year-old Dylann Roof, killed 9 people including the pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

These hours, after such an event, are the times when journalists should be using subjective adjectives sparingly. Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

bogo-100

Leaders, want to increase the impact of your decisions? Shoot for ‘two-fers’

(Image created by Deposit Photo)

(Image created by Deposit Photo)

The other day I was in the supermarket, critiquing the blueberries, when I noticed the price: buy 1 pint, get 1 pint free.

That’s what I call a “two-fer” — two for the price of one. (I bought two pints.)

Later I stopped by the local convenience store for coffee and another sign caught my eye: buy any breakfast sandwich and get the second free.

Another two-fer. (In an unusual show of restraint, I paid for the coffee and fled.)

The whole “two-fer” thing got me thinking about some of the best leaders I’ve known and how they regularly turn the fruits of one good decision into something more – often something even more important.

They know how to get two-fers. Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Monday, June 15, 2015

carroll-250

5 things John Carroll taught me about great investigative projects

John Carroll speaking in this 2003 file photo. At middle is Todd Merriman, who was the senior editor/news of The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Kathleen Carroll, right, executive editor of The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

John Carroll speaking in this 2003 file photo. At middle is Todd Merriman, who was the senior editor/news of The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Kathleen Carroll, right, executive editor of The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

When John Carroll visited me and Poynter in January 2013, he was a trim, vigorous retiree in his early 70s. So the news Sunday morning that he had died of a degenerative brain disease, diagnosed earlier this year, hit me hard.

On reflection, among many generous mentors, John may have been the most important to me. As the obituaries noted, he had uncanny skill at commissioning and editing big investigative projects, which won multiple Pulitzers for four different newspapers.

I don’t know that John ever gave a full “how-to” account of his approach, but here are five principles that stuck with me gleaned from the time I worked for him at the Philadelphia Inquirer and conversations later in our careers. Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Friday, June 12, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 7.05.20 AM

The dismal double standard of World Cup coverage

uswnt.ap

Team USA’s Alex Morgan, top, celebrates her goal with teammate Lauren Cheney and Megan Rapinoe during the semifinal match between France and the United States at the 2011 Women’s World Cup. (Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

“Siri, when is the next Women’s World Cup game?”

“Sorry, I don’t know about Women’s World Cup.”

Her matter-of-fact response would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad. Finding information about the Women’s World Cup has been exceedingly difficult, at least compared to the onslaught of readily accessible coverage that the World Cup (not the Men’s World Cup, mind you), typically receives.

There are no auto-populated Google results for the match schedule. No CNN breaking news alerts for game results. Fox Sports, which is providing coverage of the tournament, didn’t create a bracket for fans. Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Thursday, June 11, 2015

hardtimes-100

What I learned about writing from Dusty Rhodes, the American Dream

Dusty Rhodes gives his Hard Times speech.

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 masked wrestlers of Mexican fame.  He had bleached blond hair and the body that, to borrow a phrase, looked like a burlap bag full of doorknobs. His signature move in the ring was the “million-dollar” elbow, which he pounded on the bloody foreheads of wrestlers such as Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Tully Blanchard, and countless others.

But as the television sport evolved, talking became as important as fighting.  Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Not to be ‘hokey,’ but writers need to put their whole selves in

Depositphotos_8337476_xs-1
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 sound, but you can tell that I’ve memorized a piece and that my fingers are working the keyboard.

In another scene, all the kids are dancing in a circle with my mom as choreographer.  At first it’s not exactly clear what we are doing but then, despite the lack of sound, the signs are unmistakable.  We are doing the Hokey Pokey.  We are putting various parts of ourselves in the circle and then we turn ourselves around. Read more

Tools:
0 Comments
People cast shadows on a rainbow flag during a Gay Pride Parade in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, May 23, 2015. (Andreea Alexandru/Mediafax via AP)

Covering a parade is not covering a community: 5 things to keep in mind this Pride Month

People cast shadows on a rainbow flag during a Gay Pride Parade in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, May 23, 2015. (Andreea Alexandru/Mediafax via AP)

People cast shadows on a rainbow flag during a Gay Pride Parade in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, May 23, 2015. (Andreea Alexandru/Mediafax via AP)

June is Pride Month, observed this month because the Stonewall riots occurred in June 1969. Stonewall is commonly thought of as the birth of the public, modern LGBT rights movement.

Here are five things to keep in mind and several examples to inspire you as you cover LGBT stories this Pride month.

1. There is no one gay narrative or trans narrative.

Empowering LGBT people to tell their own stories can provide a greater diversity of voices and show a range of experiences, as Katy Bergen did for the Sarasota Herald Tribune’s TransSarasota and The New York Times is doing on an ongoing basis in its series Transgender Today. Read more

Tools:
1 Comment

Thursday, May 28, 2015

success-secrets-250

Advice for summer interns: Don’t screw this up

Kelly McBride and her daughter Molly in New York. (Photo courtesy of the Kelly McBride)

Kelly McBride and her daughter Molly in New York. (Photo courtesy of the Kelly McBride)

My eldest got her dream internship. She starts next week. Here’s the letter I wrote, with help from my friends.

Dear daughter,

Congrats on getting an internship at a place where you already love the journalism. I know you got called as an alternate, after someone dropped out. That’s OK. None of us are qualified for our first job. So it doesn’t matter how much experience you have or how competent you are on day one. What matters is how open you are to learning new things and how fast you can learn them. You’re going to feel stupid and incompetent. Just own that, rather than hide from it. It will give you the emotional resilience to be unassuming and spongy. Read more

Tools:
6 Comments

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

api-lean-model-250

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

Tools:
1 Comment