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

Man reading a newspaper

How I might have responded to Clay Shirky’s student

Is it unfair to steer journalism students to jobs in print publications?

That question rumbled in my mind like a storm cloud after reading a provocative recent essay by Professor Clay Shirky. I learn a lot from his work and was eager to learn more.

Shirky described a recent moment in which he addressed about 200 students in a college journalism class. One student asked him, “So how do we save print?”

Shirky answered: “I was speechless for a moment, then exploded, telling her that print was in terminal decline and that everyone in the class needed to understand this if they were thinking of journalism as a major or a profession….This was a room full of people who would rather lick asphalt than subscribe to a paper publication; what on earth would make them think print was anything other than a wasting asset?”

Shirky concluded that adults were “lying to them.” Those lies, according to the professor, included futile efforts to save print by various revenue generating schemes.… Read more

Tools:
10 Comments

Monday, June 30, 2014

negative

Time clarifies: Ruined images in D-Day video were photo illustration

After two stories questioning the authenticity of what looked like ruined images in a video for Time, “Robert Capa’s Iconic D-Day Photo of a Soldier in the Surf,” Time has added photo illustration credits, Daniel Kile, vice president of communications for Time Inc., told Poynter in an email.

“TIME’s video and story have been updated to include a photo illustration credit. The film now includes a prominent label on the negatives and on the end credits (see attached for screen grabs). Our story has been updated to include an editor’s note about the change.”

A.D. Coleman wrote about the images on June 26 on his blog Photocritic International, with a guest post by Rob McElroy, entitled “The ‘Magnificent Nine’ Faked by TIME.”

As a professional photographer for the past 34 years, with a wealth of experience developing film, I could not explain why the “ruined” negatives shown in the video looked the way they did.

Read more
Tools:
5 Comments

Thursday, June 26, 2014

active or passive

In praise of the passive voice

Of all the technical advice I offer writers, none is more controversial than encouragement to use the passive voice. Most writers prefer the active, and so do I. But that preference has been distorted to the point of making the passive a taboo, expressed in useless phrases such as “avoid the passive,” or “there is no excuse for the passive,” or, with more humor, “the passive voice should not be used.”

  1. Criticism of the passive includes these arguments:
    It makes a sentence longer, requiring the addition of a helping verb.
  2. It is too indirect, violating the one-two-three progression of subject, verb, object, as in “Putin split his pants.” (Hard to imagine a writer preferring “Putin’s pants were split by him.”
  3. It allows the writer to avoid attribution of action, creating all kinds of evasion, especially in the political sphere, the classic example being “Mistakes were made.”

In “Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch,” a book devoted to verbs, Constance Hale notes that confusion springs from the word “voice” to describe the relationship between subject and verb.… Read more

Tools:
13 Comments

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

nola

Advance digital makeover of its newspapers — five years in and no turning back

It seems like only yesterday, but we are closing in on five years since Advance Publications shook up the newspaper business by stopping daily publication of the Ann Arbor News, dissolving the company and reincorporating as a web-dominant enterprise.

I was reminded to take a look back at the relentless, if controversial, strategy when Advance Local president Randy Siegel released one of his regular six-month progress reports to senior executives Friday and e-mailed me a copy.  (The full text follows at the end of this post).

In the manner of such communiques at Advance and other newspaper chains, the report was upbeat, noting big increases in web traffic and digital ad sales, spiced with mentions of journalism of note and editorial prizes.

As measured by comScore, Advance’s 31 properties were up 43 percent in visits year-to-year in April and 37 percent in May, Siegel wrote, and collectively comScore ranks the sites ninth among general news sites nationally.… Read more

Tools:
3 Comments

Monday, June 23, 2014

oxford

AP Style should adopt the Oxford comma

It’s great to see that Nate Silver’s 538 is finally hitting its stride. Stepping aside from the conflicts of politics and sports, the data site has decided to weigh in on a controversy that truly ignites the passion of partisans. Forget Red States versus Blue States, campers. Forget Brazil vs. Argentina in the World Cup. Want to see the fur fly? Debate the Oxford comma.

The Oxford or serial comma (which I prefer) is the one that comes before the “and” in a series such as: “Kelly, Al, Kenny, Ellyn, Jill, Butch, and Roy teach at Poynter.” AP style, which Poynter follows, omits that final comma, leaving “Butch and Roy” attached like “Siegfried and Roy.”

I devote a chapter in my book “The Glamour of Grammar” to my preference for that final comma, and now believe that AP style should now include it.… Read more

Tools:
23 Comments

Friday, June 20, 2014

PoynterImage-smaller

Access refined: Securely store your newsroom’s passwords

Twitter. Instagram. Storify. Pinterest. Bitly.

For editors, publishing and sharing the news often involves a frantic and time-consuming search for the right username and password. Was it written on an spreadsheet or squirreled away in a desk somewhere? Where did that sticky note go?

Worse yet, the litany of passwords each editor is supposed to remember makes the prospect of using the same codes for multiple accounts tempting. And harried editors usually have more urgent business than chasing down passwords, which can make consolidating them all on an easy-to-steal spreadsheet tempting.

But newsrooms searching for an easy solution for their password problems don’t have to look far. There are several inexpensive and easy-to-use password managers designed specifically for small teams who each need access to different accounts.… Read more

Tools:
1 Comment

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Poynter to host forum discussing leadership of women in media

The Poynter Institute announced Thursday that it will co-host a national forum focusing on the issues surrounding women in journalism and media leadership.

The forum, which will be held in partnership with the National Press Club Journalism Institute, will focus on the current conversation about newsroom culture as it pertains to women, which was invigorated by the firing of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson.… Read more

Tools:
1 Comment
innovators-delemma copy

Naysayers are swarming on Clayton Christensen and his “gospel of innovation”

Clayton Christensen

Updated 6-24.

If business school professors were pop stars, Clayton Christensen would be Beyonce. His 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, is wildly influential — in particular, it has been both the theoretical underpinning and rallying banner for would-be digital disruptors of legacy media.

Most recently, Christensen’s thinking is central (and repeatedly cited) in the leaked 2014 Innovation Report young digital staffers of the New York Times produced this spring.  They argue that the print newspaper on which the company built its reputation needs to be de-emphasized and that, borrowing from upstarts like BuzzFeed, the Times should embrace a newsroom culture of aggressive digital development.

This month, however, Christensen has begun to gather some formidable detractors as well as acolytes.  The lead critic is fellow Harvard professor Jill Lepore who unloads a long debunking article in the current issue of The New Yorker.… Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Editor Definition in English Dictionary.

How to report without editors

I was once asked by a top newspaper editor if I could help make his reporters more productive. Now they were responsible for three stories a week. Could I coach them to produce six stories a week? My answer was: “I could, but I won’t.”

I did not want to enable the ownership — which was cutting staff — to tell the big corporate lie: that they could do more with less. My reluctance, while principled, now seems hopelessly naïve and nostalgic. We’ve lost journalists by the thousands. Those who remain on newspapers, even as they cling to their jobs like cats on a clothesline, are being asked to perform miracles.

Their jobs, in cities like Louisville, Kentucky, are about to get harder. The Courier-Journal, once a great American newspaper, has fired some key editors.… Read more

Tools:
1 Comment

Monday, June 16, 2014

cnn-screen-small

Advice on publishing graphic photos from Iraq

It’s just a matter of time.

That’s what I told a Kalish Visual Editing workshop on the campus of Ball State University just last week. I told the group that it was a matter of time before they were forced to make a decision on a graphic photograph and they needed to be prepared to defend their decision.… Read more

Tools:
1 Comment