Becoming a more effective writer

Journalists know the name Roy Peter Clark. He’s the longtime writer still probably best known for his 29-part serial narrative piece, “Three Little Words,” published in the St. Petersburg Times, which eloquently chronicled the story of one family’s experience with AIDS.
Clark, connected with the Poynter Institute, teaches writing and is the founder of National Writers Workshop. Here’s a link to his latest online chat about writing.

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And now for something completely different … some good news


“As we head into the second half of 2012, amid much despair given downward ad trends in print and stalling ones in digital, let’s pause to consider some good news about the trade. The good news is too well balanced by the bad, but it’s still important not to lose sight of it. It’s not a matter of being Pollyannish, but of being realistic: Within that good news are seeds of what will sustain whatever forms the next stage of the news business.”

                                                                                                                                            – Ken Doctor

Writing for Nieman Journalism Lab, news industry analyst Ken Doctor offers a Top 10 list of bright spots – with a bonus observation – as we plunge into the second half of 2012. The last three points really resonate with me, particularly No. 11.

Speaking of upbeat: Here’s a brief musical video clip from my daughter’s current favorite movie.

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Breaking news: The bored embrace Facebook

Here’s breaking news: Boredom drives people to Facebook. Unbelievable, eh?

The Huffington Post reports that a recent university study “suggests we use the social media site to cure a simple ailment: boredom. In addition to satisfying our “entertainment” needs, Facebook also attracts us by providing an outlet for “interpersonal communication” and “self-expression,” according to the researchers’ report.

One question: Was this study of 417 undergraduate students, published in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, really necessary? Reminds me of the “research paper” I co-authored in college studying the effects of video gaming on interpersonal skills.

The article raises the questions: What if we grow too accustomed to constantly being connected, filling our minds with entertaining or pointless facts? Do we really need to stalk our latest crush for 26 minutes via Facebook when bored?

Which reminds me of this Rockwell video.

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“All the President’s Men” finale

The inspiration for a generation of journalists.

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Every story can be localized

My first job out of college was working the nights and weekends shift at the Delaware County Daily Times in suburban Philadelphia. Working 3 to 11 p.m. or 4 to midnight was a sweet gig for a 22-year-old – believe me.

Of course, being the last reporter to arrive at work on weekdays meant picking up assignments that my colleagues hadn’t been able to get around to (or had managed to avoid). High on that list of reporting chores was “localizing” a wire story. I distinctly recall so many times getting to work in the late afternoon and being told to find a local angle. Sometimes the best I could do was turn in a few decent quotes to be added to the wire piece. Other days, I developed a strong sidebar that accompanied the main story. The ace of finding local connections for stories was Rose Quinn, who works the crime beat there 25 years after joining the Times staff.

I was reminded of those days while reading Pam Hogle’s short Poynter piece, “5 ways journalists can localize global issues, events.” In these times of dwindling newsroom headcounts, and more and more expected of those on deck, it’s understandable why readers don’t see those types of stories that put big issues into local context. It’s also inexcusable, especially when the information and sources are so readily available.

Consider Hogle’s second tip: “Highlight local connections to world events”: “One way to bring global events home and highlight the diversity of your community is to attach a local name and fact to an international news story. Find an immigrant or longtime local resident with ties to a country that is in the news.” Readers will be drawn to that story, and perhaps learn something about their neighbors.

Earlier this year, Poynter offered the live chat webinar, “How to take a global approach to any local beat.” Take some time to scroll through the chat, which includes this dead-on observation: “In a sense, the local-global view is the largest possible ‘useful’ context to every story whether it’s from the labor beat, business beat, environment beat, etc.”

Remember: Think local.

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Another brick in the paywall

In his recent Ebyline Blog post, Peter Beller looks at the growing trend of newspapers erecting content paywalls – which newspapers are participating and why.

I’m not a fan of paywalls – the online revenue strategy gives readers another reason to abandon newspapers. Posting to the blog, Carroll Corcoran offers an eloquent argument against paywalls:

Consumer outrage at being told to pay for what was heavily promoted as free is a force to be reckoned with these days. Look how fast the banks backpeddled on the debit card charge idea. Look at the Occupy movement… even if you think it’s stupid, it’s a symbol of what consumers think and do when confronted with a demand by a large corporation to pay up. And why would media companies be treated any differently.

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Chronicling what returning veterans face

Seven newspapers in the Digital First Media group are chronicling the everyday challenges faced by veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As detailed in an Editor & Publisher story, “American Homecomings,” which debuted May 1, is essentially a public service project; in addition to the veterans’ stories – told through narrative, video and photos – the site features a searchable database for national veterans services, relevant veteran news from other media outlets and a list of blogs for veterans, soldiers, and the military.

Here’s link to several of the initial stories.

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