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I’ve been blogging a bit lately about baseball on my other blog, Hated Yankees. I usually blog there about my favorite team, the Yankees. But recently I’ve been blogging about my sons’ favorite team, the Kansas City Royals.

I keep the baseball posts there, presuming that people come here because of interest in journalism, rather than baseball. But some followers of the blog are friends who may be interested in these personal stories or baseball fans also enjoying the Royals’ great post-season run. So I’ll just post a brief plug here for the Royals posts. My posts:

The Kansas City Royals’ amazing 9-game, post-season winning streak

Keeping a 29-year-old promise, I’m headed to the World Series

Decades of Royals (Kauffman) Stadium memories

Game Two was worth the wait for my sons and me

My youngest son, Tom, has also contributed two guest posts:

Tom Buttry reflects on his life (and last night) as a Royals fan

Kansas City Royals’ ‘all-lost years’ team

 

 

At today’s meeting of the faculty of the Manship School of Mass Communication, I will be discussing why and how faculty should use Twitter.

Dean Jerry Ceppos asked me to discuss the topic following my discussion earlier this month about why editors should be active on Twitter. We agreed that a similar discussion of Twitter’s value in teaching communication students would be helpful.

Both to gather more views than just mine (and to demonstrate Twitter’s usefulness in crowdsourcing), I asked my tweeps:

My tweeps, as usual, were most helpful in their responses:



















My examples lean more toward teaching journalism than the other specialties taught in the Manship School: political communication, advertising and public relations. I think a lot of the advice received from other professors would be helpful in multiple fields, but I welcome your advice relating to a particular specialty in journalism or any of those other fields of communication.

Here are the slides I used (showing the tweets above as well as some examples I used):

It would be hard to overstate what Ben Bradlee contributed to American journalism. Bradlee died Tuesday, and I join the parade of journalists saluting him as maybe journalism’s best editor ever.

Journalism’s proudest achievement of my lifetime was the Watergate reporting of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, which uncovered unconstitutional and un-American power abuses by the White House, including President Richard Nixon himself. The many abuses by presidents and their staffs since Nixon still do not match his arrogance in trying to manipulate an election and interfere with the execution of justice.

Many others played roles in exposing Watergate and bringing down Nixon: Judge John Sirica, Senators Sam Ervin and Howard Baker and their Watergate Committee colleagues, John Dean, Alexander Butterfield (who revealed the White House taping system), special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, Woodward’s “Deep Throat” source Mark Felt, the Supreme Court, Peter Rodino and his House Judiciary Committee colleagues. But no one played a bigger role than Woodward, Bernstein and their Post editors, led by Bradlee.

As recounted in Woodward and Bernstein’s book All the President’s Men and portrayed by Jason Robards in the movie, Bradlee was a sterling model for editors: challenging his reporters to nail down their facts, find better stories and make every story better; reporting the truth fearlessly; holding the powerful accountable, then standing by his reporters when they came under fire.

I never approached Bradlee’s perch in journalism, but as a mid-level editor for the Des Moines Register and Kansas City Star and Times, I saw his influence in some of the top editors I reported to. And I tried to ask the same kinds of tough questions of the reporters who worked for me.

As a top editor of the comparatively insignificant Shenandoah Evening Sentinel, Minot Daily News and Cedar Rapids Gazette, I never flattered myself that I was anywhere near Bradlee’s stature. But I damn well knew from his model what my job was: To make my newspaper the best it could be, to set and uphold standards and to protect our newsroom’s integrity. I never became as intimidating as Bradlee (or the Robards version of him). But they were somewhere in the back of my mind every time I told a reporter he or she didn’t have the story and needed to try one more source, verify or debunk one more report, push harder for a source to go on the record.

“You don’t have it,” might be an editor’s most important words to reporters, words that weren’t spoken often enough then and certainly aren’t today. But every time I spoke them, I knew I was echoing Bradlee.

I know I’m not alone in viewing Bradlee as the standard against which all editors are measured. I probably describe the experience of a generation or two of editors. We all aspired to be like Bradlee and we all fall short. I salute him for setting the standard so high. I’m not the one to measure how high I reached in journalism, but I know I reached my peak (or will) in pursuit of his example.

I never got to meet Bradlee, but I sat behind him in 2012 when Woodward and Bernstein headlined a 40th-anniversary panel discussion of Watergate reporting at the American Society of News Editors conference. Bradlee wasn’t on the panel but joined the discussion as his reporters deferred to him on a few questions. He was in his 90s then and you could see that he was fading. But he’ll never fade as an example to journalists.

As my former Omaha World-Herald colleague Ken Freed pointed out when I saluted Bradlee last night on Facebook, Bradlee himself was powerful, with close ties to the Kennedys. I’m not aware of any way that the Post, on his watch, went soft on the Kennedys. All media gave President John F. Kennedy a pass on reporting about his personal life, which was standard procedure in that time (and had been for Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower). And Kennedy’s presidency was before Bradlee took over the Post newsroom in 1965.

But I “liked” Ken’s observation anyway. Skepticism and pointing out something that might be unpopular seemed a fitting way to remember Ben Bradlee.

I thought I was done blogging about whether top editors should be active on Twitter. Then last night, Lexi Mainland tweeted this:

As her Twitter profile says, she’s an editor on the Times’ interactive news desk. Not exactly agreeing with me (as you’ll see in some subsequent tweets), but sort of agreeing with me. So, given the interest in my criticism of her boss, Dean Baquet, and other top editors who aren’t active on Twitter, and Baquet’s response to me, and the response to Baquet, I thought I’d give the topic at least one more ride and curate last night’s Twitter exchange among several of us:

“Pontificating.” OK, that could be me.

What I’d say here is that Baquet and his predecessors, who have been similarly dismissive of Twitter in terms of personal use, have led a lot of great innovation at the Times. So “suffering” isn’t exactly the right word, and I don’t think I ever said innovation at the Times was suffering. In many respects, it’s been an innovation leader.

But a Times committee studied innovation and said the newsroom needed to do better. That’s true in any newsroom, but no other has identified the need (to my knowledge) as clearly or in as much detail as the Times. Baquet has embraced the report and said he plans to implement its recommendations.

My point is that you lead innovation more effectively by example than by exhortation. But back to the tweets (where I think I made that point):

Valid point: I believe Twitter is a valuable tool for every newsroom leader and editorial-page editor.

I was a long-distance participant in a workshop today for the Madison, Wis., chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

My first session, about going digital-first in your newsroom, drew heavily from my Project Unbolt posts, particularly those on breaking news, enterprise reporting, routine daily reporting and the post about the Five Satins story. Here are the slides for that workshop, on which I collaborated with Joel Christopher:

I collaborated on the second workshop, on mobile news-gathering, with Nick Penzenstadler. That relied heavily on my posts about live coverage and my livetweeting tips. Here are Nick’s slides (used with his permission), followed by mine:

Nick Penzenstadler SPJ2014

I told faculty of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in January that one of their most important jobs was to help students learn for themselves how to use new tools. That’s what I’ll be doing next semester: I’ll be teaching without teaching.

Dean Sarah Bartlett had asked me to speak at a faculty meeting about what journalism graduates needed to succeed in digital media. Back then, I was thinking I’d be working the next several years at Digital First Media. A key point of my presentation was that students needed to learn how to use digital tools — not that a school needed to teach any particular set of tools, but that students needed to learn how to learn new tools by themselves. Whatever tools a journalism school teaches students, some of them will become obsolete before long, and new tools will come out soon after any student graduates. So it’s important that journalists have some experience and comfort with the process of figuring out how a tool works and how to use it to do better journalism.

Well, that Digital First thing didn’t last as long as I thought, so I’m teaching now. And next semester, I will be teaching a class in interactive storytelling tools. Only I won’t be teaching the students how to use the tools (some of them I may not know myself). Instead, I’ll be guiding the students in exploring how to learn new tools themselves. Continue Reading »

Numbers always demand context.

Twitter is used by “only” 19 percent of Internet-using adults. That was the word Ann Friedman used in a Columbia Journalism Review piece, following up on the discussion of New York Times Twitter use started by Buzzfeed and continued by me, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and others.

Friedman’s piece gave reasons why a journalist might want to use Twitter as well as some why you wouldn’t. She’s enthusiastic about Twitter and I applaud her contribution to this discussion. But I’m going to pick at that one word, because others have used that 19 percent figure as a reason to dismiss Twitter. On Twitter and in a comment on Friedman’s post, people zeroed in on that number as a supposed sign that Twitter isn’t important (Ivan is channeling others here, not expressing disdain):

But 19 percent of adult Internet users is a lot. Let’s do the math:

How much differently would Friedman’s piece have read if she had written “a whopping 40 million Americans” instead of “only 19 percent”?

My opening point was that numbers demand context. So here’s some context for you: 19 percent of adult Internet users or 40 million Americans is more than:

The point is: Internet use is huge and 19 percent of its users are a lot of people. Google, Amazon and Facebook have bigger audiences, I presume, maybe a few more. But there aren’t many bigger digital audiences than Twitter’s.

And, as I’ve said many times before, Twitter is an excellent tool for finding sources on breaking news, liveblogging and many other journalism uses that have nothing to do with the potential size of your audience.

Don’t use 19 percent as a measure of how small Twitter is. It’s a measure of how big Twitter is.

Update: I remembered this after initially posting. I made a similar argument here a couple years ago, when the numbers were smaller.

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