The wait for “I’m sorry”

This is an emotional piece of writing passed along to me today by my friend Matt. Several other friends who commented on my Facebook post said things like, “Goosebumps” or “Made my morning.” Be prepared.

From The Oregonian:

“As the days passed, I thought about this strange tale. There was no news. If no one ever heard a word about James Atteberry and Larry Israelson, it wouldn’t matter.

Or would it?

A good feature story is about something universal. When it comes to apologies, no one gets a pass in this life. Everyone deserves one, and everyone needs to give one.”

#goodwriting

 

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Because lists work

Interesting journalism news abounds this week, including some great rebuttals to the newsmakers.

• A defense of journalism in contrast to the study that found a reporter’s job to lie among the worst.

• One author’s keen answer to the Pulitzer jurors awarding no prize for fiction? We all lost. Kudos for sporting a good title.

Plus…

• Martin Nisenholtz, former senior VP of digital at the NYT, shares where he finds daily news.

• And one photog recounts her story: When press credentials won’t save you from handcuffs.

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Ailing advice

Fox News CEO Roger Ailes spoke to students at UNC last week. His comments were mildly irritating to a budding journalist like me.

Believing him becomes a tough sell when he says, “I think you ought to change your major,” but later follows with, “Democracy depends on freedom of the press.”

Which is it?

Relatedly, though some would accuse the Pulitzer Prize of perching on the edge of the garbage heap, the argument doesn’t play. “Journalists showering praise on other journalists”? Sure. Isn’t that what every awards ceremony is, from the Oscars to the Heisman?

Awarding honors to industry work wouldn’t make sense if the nominees and judges didn’t come from the same industry. What good would a Pulitzer be if the decisions were left to biologists? Scientists don’t seek to be experts of the written word.

The Pulitzer is slow to change, but the award remains a testament to outstanding reporting, from real-time disaster coverage to a local news that exploded into national issues debated across the country.

Joseph Pulitzer might be dead, but his prize, and journalism itself, isn’t outdated.

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Spelling B

Change is constant, but spelling might not win the day in a fight for proper grammar.

Interestingly, the issue of correct spelling and grammar have popped up in two well-known titles. Wired published an article arguing that evolving language positively benefits a changing, updated society.

On the other hand, Inc. ran an editor’s letter in this month’s issue that praised copyediting and other grammatically correct editors for their work.

This debate isn’t one. I don’t like tradition for tradition’s sake, and Lee Simmons, a copy editor for Wired, gave the best reason for the upkeep of proper spelling: consistency.

If each person who wants to communicate turns writing into a  choose-your-own-adventure exercise, the efficiency of written language ceases, buried in the multiplying variants of the word “demise.”

Some might wrongly argue that loosening the grammar reins will carve the path to easier communication. Truth lies in the opposite direction. Learning several versions of each word will complicate the message. After all, communicating a message remains the goal of writing.

And what of the tricksters in our language? Hello, homophones and homonyms.

Abbreviations work in texting and Twitter, but a few extra letters in their proper order make the writing world go round. Spelling bee, anyone?

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Paying in change

The headlines about newspaper economics make our industry sound like a fiefdom, with all the weak serfs fleeing toward the protective walls built of $100 bills.

One in 10 U.S. daily newspapers now has a paywall or subscription service.

The L.A. Times has a membership program. Gannett plans to leave only USA Today in the haystacks of free content outside the castle walls, while the NYT cut its number of free articles from 20 to 10 each month. Meanwhile, legislators in Missouri have plans to eliminate tax subsidies for newspapers in the state.

Depending on who you read, the ratio of lost print dollars to digital dollars gained could be as bad as 7:1 or an even more stark 22:1. Yikes. Put differently, for every $11 a print newspaper earns, the publication gains about $1, not enough to buy a Coke but just enough to buy a song on iTunes.

The NYT has been lauded for its effective conversion to an online paid service, but the bite-size iTunes pricing model stands as a potential solution. The explosion of apps has shown that, if nothing else, people pay for an experience that is properly packaged and priced. Which leads us to the most basic of marketing principles: the 5 P’s.

Any discussion of journalism economics must incorporate a breakdown of:

People
Product
Presentation
Pricing
Promotion

The most familiar, of course, is product. Everyone knows that journalists write articles, take photos and produce videos. Sometimes there’s an infographic or an interactive timeline. We create content, right?

No, we create value, specifically, value added to information that exists for anyone. We shape and mold available information. We talk to people. Journalists know their audiences — not well enough, but we’re getting better at reaching out.

Humans possess a unique capacity to tell stories, an attribute not often found in the animal kingdom. We cherish stories and construct our identities around past memories, present experiences and future plans. All involve stories.

Journalism needs to shift faster toward a digital future if we hope to continue to see days when our stories inform, entertain and beget change for our readers, even if they’re paying in coins to read them.

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