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Archive for the ‘Training Tracks archive’ Category

A Poynter column by Jill Geisler and a blog post by a George Mason University journalism student reminded me of a blog post I wrote more than seven years ago.

I strongly recommend reading Jill’s Don’t wait to thank someone great, in which she tells how Andy Potos and Jim Naughton shaped her career and why she is glad she expressed her gratitude before last August, when Naughton died and Potos suffered a brain injury.

I looked for some key quotes to use from Jill’s piece, but decided just to encourage you to read it. The best lines come near the end and they’ll have more power if you read them in context.

Then a blog post about a new webcast, Late Night Patriot, gave me some unexpected credit. I spoke almost a year ago to Steve Klein’s classes at George Mason and something I said helped prod Jake McLernon to work on his webcast idea. In a blog post by another Mason student, Ryan Weisser, Jake, also known as “Jolly J,” credited me:

“Buttry telling us that if you have an idea, you’ve got to work with it, just motivated me to start something new,” said McLernon, a senior majoring in communication from Herndon, Va.

I was pleased that I was able to give Jake a push. We don’t always hear from the people we are able to help with advice, motivation or instruction. I thanked Jake in a tweet and he responded.

Jill’s post and the exchange with Jolly J brought to mind a blog post I wrote when I was writing a blog about newsroom training for the American Press Institute. Since those posts are no longer available at API’s site, I’ve been trying to rebuild the Training Tracks archive. So here’s my post, originally published July 15, 2005, about thanking mentors:

Many years ago, I spent some time covering agriculture. I remember quite a few farmers getting eloquent and a bit emotional talking about the satisfaction they felt in watching the seeds they planted in the spring grow into a mature crop.

Trainers, writing coaches, editors and other newsroom mentors sometimes don’t get that kind of satisfaction. Some of the seeds we plant blossom elsewhere. Or we move on before they do. Or we didn’t even notice where they took root. We may never see or learn what became of our advice or example. Life gets busy for us and the people we help and they or we forget to stay in touch. (more…)

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This was originally published Feb. 12, 2008, on the Training Tracks blog I wrote for the American Press Institute. I repost it today as a supplement to a separate post about Bob Steele’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist. I removed outdated links and added a couple of updates.

Bob Steele

I hesitate to write about Bob Steele‘s accomplishments, because I don’t want this to sound like a eulogy. He’s not dead and he’s not retiring. He’s not even fully leaving Poynter.

But Bob’s contributions to journalism — specifically to the teaching and thinking about journalism ethics — have been monumental and his semi-departure from Poynter seems like a time to take note of those accomplishments.

Journalism is one of the most ethical pursuits in the world. Not only do we hold ourselves to high standards, but we enforce those standards with great transparency and public verbal floggings of offenders. Still, we don’t think enough about our ethical standards and how to make good ethical decisions. We think about those things a lot more — and a lot more clearly — though, than we did before Bob began teaching and writing about ethics for the Poynter Institute in 1989. (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, May 31, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

The colleague’s lament is familiar:

“Our staff here has been dramatically slashed (we’re down to two news reporters on day shift). It’s quite a change for our paper, which has gained some measure of acclaim for the time, staff we devote to special projects work (which now appears to be a bygone era).

“Unfortunately, smaller staff size is the new reality. One of the things I’m preparing to pitch to upper management is a radical review of what we cover, how we cover it, etc. I know I will face resistance because, well, some people think the approach to community news coverage is a static endeavor. But honestly, with two reporters we can’t be everywhere. And if we try to be everywhere just to please people, rather than focus on what’s really needed, the entire product will suffer.

“Do you have any examples of papers facing the same situation, staff size, which adapted and prospered? Or, do you have any advice?” (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, April 20, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

Visiting Bryce Canyon in 2007

I’ve done some exciting and inspiring travel in the past month.

I visited Bryce Canyon, where centuries of sedimentation followed by tectonic upheaval followed by wind and frost erosion left the earth in fascinating, massive columns of sandstone called hoodoos.

I visited Mainz, Germany, where in a darkened room of the Gutenberg Museum I looked at the first editions of the Bible printed with movable type and even older and more ornate Bibles crafted by hand.

I thought about the modern newspaper in both of these places where nature and man displayed these ancient treasures. (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, Sept. 27, 2006, after the release of the Newspaper Next report, a collaborative project between API and Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

I get really annoyed when I look for a place to plug in my laptop computer at an airport.

I look around the lounge for an electrical outlet. Often no seats are within reach of an outlet. Sometimes you could reach an outlet by stretching the cord across a busy area where people are likely to walk. The few outlets around often are occupied by travelers charging computers, cell phones and other electronic devices between flights. Sometimes the travelers are sitting on the floor, because the only outlet they could find was not near any seats. This is true even at huge hub airports that get lots of passengers waiting between connecting flights. Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare are two of the worst.

As my exasperation over these airports’ failure to modernize grows, I look around the lounge and invariably see a large bank of pay telephones. Rarely do I see any of them in use. But I see lots of passengers on cell phones.

Airports are taxpayer-supported, with hardly any competition. Airlines choose which airports they will use based on other factors than passenger convenience. Passengers don’t often pick which airports they will use. They choose by fare and destination, sometimes by frequent flier plan. And they put up with whatever airports that means. So airports don’t have to innovate or even update. I’m sure that wiring a major airport for the 21st Century (or even the late 20th) would be a massively expensive undertaking. So they don’t and passengers sit on the floor to charge our computers between flights.

At a recent state association conference, I spoke following a panel of state political party chairs. In the question-and-answer session, a publisher noted that the parties, and their candidates, don’t hesitate to ask newspapers for free publicity when they are making announcements or staging events. Why, he asked, were they spending nearly all of their advertising dollars elsewhere? (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site in my old Training Tracks blog, Feb. 10, 2006, after the two-day Newspaper Next symposium, introducing the disruptive innovation principles of Clayton Christensen to the newspaper industry. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

Newspaper people learn early to trust our “gut feeling.”

Your gut often proves right in covering a news story or operating a newspaper in the traditional market. Your gut, of course, is just the voice of experience.

When it comes to innovation, your gut will steer you wrong, we learned Thursday on the final day of the Newspaper Next Symposium.

“Whatever is your first answer is the wrong answer,” said Scott Anthony, managing director of Innosight, API’s partner in the Newspaper Next project to transform the newspaper industry. (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, Feb. 9, 2006, after the first day of a two-day Newspaper Next symposium, introducing the disruptive innovation principles of Clayton Christensen to the newspaper industry. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news business, Breaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I removed outdated links.

At a recent meeting of well-meaning newspaper executives, somebody suggested convening a reader panel for an upcoming conference. I suggested including some non-readers. A colleague dismissed the suggestion as a waste of time.

I wasn’t feeling particularly feisty, so I didn’t pursue the issue, but I thought the statement, and the lack of a challenge to it from other colleagues, said a lot about our business and where we are.

Wednesday I heard a lot about our business and where we could be. We could be important to those non-readers (non-users or non-consumers might be a better way to describe them).

I spent Wednesday at the Newspaper Next Symposium at the National Press Club. The symposium, which continues Thursday, presents the initial work of API’s project to develop a new business model for the newspaper industry. The project won’t be finished until later this year, but I was excited about what I heard. (more…)

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This is the third of three 2007-8 posts about social media I am republishing in connection with my address today to the Arizona Newspapers Association, which refers to the middle post. I have not updated, except to remove or update outdated links. The earlier posts included my first post about social media and my first post about Twitter. I think this one holds up better over time than the first two.

Here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned about social networking: Connection grows from activity.

When I reached out to connect with people on Facebook, we connected. When I twittered a lot, people connected with me. When I joined Wired Journalists and formed some groups and started some discussions, other journalists joined the groups and started discussing journalism with me. When I started recommending friends on LinkedIn, they started recommending me. When I created a MySpace page and left it there without reaching out, only one friend and one jailbait spammer found me.

The thing I can say most certainly after a few months of serious social networking is that I know enough about it to know that I really don’t know much. The cliché of political campaigns (especially for the early losers) is that a campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve run hard enough to recognize that social networking is a marathon where you sprint. And the finish line sprints faster, always staying well out of sight.

I’ll write separately about Facebook and LinkedIn shortly (I’m trying to learn to write shorter, more frequent posts). But my different experiences on MySpace and twitter will illustrate how activity leads to connectivity. (more…)

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At the Gutenberg Museum

I originally posted this Nov. 30, 2007, on my Training Tracks blog at the American Press Institute. Since API’s web archives are gone, I am reposting it here because it is part of a series of three blog posts from 2007-8, one of which I mentioned in my keynote address for the Arizona Newspapers Association today. It originally was published without photos (I don’t think we could publish photos in that blogging software, but maybe I just didn’t know how). I have updated the links and added photos. I’ve added one update in the text and a lengthy update at the end. I think this was my first blog post about social media.

Can a graying guy who can operate a typewriter, recognizes a pica pole and remembers the smell of molten lead figure out the social-networking world of Web 2.0? I’m trying.

In the last few months, I’ve been adding friends on Facebook, connections on LinkedIn and sharing (presuming that someone has actually found them) bookmarks on Facebook plunge. Almost right away, people started finding me. This time I wasn’t passive. I used Facebook’s search for college classmates and found a woman who had worked on the staff of the Daily Skiff with me more than 30 years ago at Texas Christian University. We quickly reconnected, exchanged catching-up emails and became Facebook friends. I also found a former city editor with whom I’ve been sort of out of touch and reconnected with some other former colleagues.

While I found a lot of professional acquaintances on Facebook, I also found personal evidence that Facebook participation still has a wide generation gap: Of my 14 brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, I was the second to post a Facebook profile. I quickly added my sister-in-law (the youngest of the 14) as a friend. However, I found 10 nephews and nieces on Facebook (interestingly, though, none of my three sons; I’m not sure what that says about them or me). I did not invite any of my nieces or nephews to become friends; I’d read or heard somewhere that the presence of old folks like me is taking some of the luster off Facebook and MySpace for younger users. And I’m curious how long (if ever) it will take them to notice me and invite me to be their friends (can an uncle be a friend?). (more…)

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I originally published this blog post Jan. 25, 2008, on my Training Tracks blog when I was at the American Press Institute. It’s no longer online there, but I have republished here, because I am referring to it in my keynote address for the Arizona Newspapers Association.

I have not updated my outdated and/or ignorant references to Twitter (I botched the 140-character limit; was very tempted to fix that huge error and the clumsy uses of twitter — always lower case then — as a verb). I did take out some outdated links (I may later add links to blog posts that are no longer available, if I republish them).

A couple months ago I wrote about my efforts to learn more about LinkedIn, Facebook, Flickr, Delicious and the world of Web 2.0. I’ll update you later on how those efforts are going, but right now I want to invite you to learn about twitter along with me.

As I mentioned in that last post, I’ve joined some social networking sites aggressively, trying to connect with people I know on them. I didn’t get twitter, so I joined it passively. It’s a site where you enter brief (240 characters or less) blurbs about what you’re doing. I didn’t get that. So I entered passively. My first twitters, Dec. 28 and 31 and Jan. 16, reflect that I didn’t get twitter and was waiting for someone to find me. And if they had found me, they would have been bored. (more…)

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This is another post republished from my Training Tracks blog at the American Press Institute. I added a few links that were not in the original. While the specific examples might be outdated, the general point still applies. This was published originally July 5, 2005. I have already republished a subsequent Training Tracks post that referenced this one.

You’re reading this online, so you have some understanding of the importance of computers in our lives. Unfortunately, too many of our colleagues aren’t doing enough to recognize the importance of computers in our profession.

The past two weeks, I have spoken at two outstanding journalism conferences: The South Asian Journalists Association meeting at Columbia University in New York and the National Writers Workshop presented by the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I don’t just speak when I go to conferences. When I’m not speaking, I listen to the other speakers. I’m listening to tips to make me a better journalist, listening for tips to cite in my training or writing for journalists, watching other speakers’ presentation techniques to steal some ideas if I can.

I heard lots of helpful tips at both gatherings. I might pass some of those tips along in a future column. For now, though, indulge me in a rant about a couple things that disturbed me.

At the SAJA conference, I sat in on a session on investigative reporting, led by a New York couple, Tom McGinty of Newsday (and formerly on the staff of Investigative Reporters and Editors) and Jo Craven McGinty of the New York Times. Tom asked the audience how many use spreadsheets regularly. A few hands went up, not even one-third of the journalists in the room, I’d guess. I think you’d get the same response, if not less, in most gatherings of journalists.

This is 2005. Public records are stored electronically. If you can’t access and analyze records, you’re not a competent reporter. I’m not saying you need to be a full-scale computer geek. I’m certainly not. In fact, I’m a bit embarrassed that I haven’t developed my computer skills further myself. But I can and have written page-one stories based on computer analysis of data. (more…)

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Since I wrote yesterday about overcoming obstacles, I thought this would be a good time to republish this post from my Training Tracks blog at the American Press Institute. I think it’s the first time where I discussed this in writing, though I know I have repeated the point in writing and speaking many time. It’s one of the principles of journalism practice that I believe most strongly.

I edited lightly to update, adding a few links, but have not checked the links I published at the time to see if they are still active, though I think I should leave them in either way. This was published originally Aug. 16, 2005. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed with the writing; I tried to tie two points together and probably should have addressed them separately. But this is an archival post, not a rewrite.

The post refers to some other posts about computer-assisted reporting. I will republish those posts soon. The post refers to a comment by Iqbal Tamimi on one of those posts. Because the original post is no longer online, I can no longer find the full comment.

I figured I was done writing about journalists and computers for a while after three posts on the subject in a month’s time. But then I heard Sree Sreenivasan. And then Iqbal Tamimi wrote me. So I’m addressing the topic one more time.

I’ve read Sree’s “Web Tips” columns for a few years now. He wrote once about the “No Train, No Gain” web site that I help Dolf Els run along with some other newsroom trainers. After Sree interviewed me for that column, we’ve kept in occasional touch by e-mail and we finally met in June, when I spoke at a conference of the South Asian Journalists Association, of which Sree is a founder. I finally heard Sree train journalists last week at API’s seminar for news editors and copy desk chiefs. (more…)

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