Archive for August, 2013

In a workshop on blogging today, I mentioned that photos make great blog material. Of course, writers (including me) need to remember to use photos, videos and other visual elements in our blogs (like I didn’t in this one). But I noted that some photojournalists have excellent blogs that revolve around visual content — sometimes all photos, sometimes the stories behind photos.

A photojournalist in the workshop asked me for some examples. I provided a few quick ones:

Digital First colleague John Strickler’s Strick’s Pics

My former Cedar Rapids Gazette colleagues’ Refocus blog

The Boston Globe’s The Big Picture

The New York Times’ Lens

Reuters’ Photographers Blog

Carmen Sisson’s blog

Jonah Kessel’s blog

NBC News’ Photoblog

Look, the staff visual blog of the York Daily Record

I knew I was overlooking some good ones, so I quickly crowdsourced this on Twitter:

Note that these are two separate blogs from the Toronto Star photojournalists and photo editors:

Here’s the link to the Darkroom.

What are some other photojournalism blogs that you like?


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I have spent most of this week at the Marin Independent Journal, working with new Editor Robert Sterling and his staff. Here are links and slides for some of the workshops I’ve led (the slides are from earlier workshops on the same topics and might have been updated or edited some for this workshop):

Links on social media:

Facebook engagement



Liveblogging sports

Twitter search

Using Twitter on breaking news

Other Twitter tips

Writing tight

Writing leads

Attribution and linking

Beat blogging

Telling the Truth and Nothing But

Slides on engagement and social media:


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I’m pleased that the Society of Professional Journalists is considering an update to its Code of Ethics.

The SPJ Code of Ethics has guided journalists for decades, but hasn’t been updated since 1996. I called for an update in a blog post nearly three years ago, then in a follow-up cover story for Quill magazine and discussed the need for an update in an #spjchat Twitter chat. I applaud new SPJ President David Cullier for calling on the Ethics Committee to consider an update.

In a discussion Sunday at the Excellence in Journalism conference, SPJ Ethics Chair Kevin Smith and some other Ethics Committee members acknowledged a need for at least some fine-tuning, though some said they did not see the need for heavy revisions.

I won’t belabor here the points I’ve made before, but I’ll summarize briefly. The journalism landscape has changed dramatically since 1996 and I think the need for an update is clear and compelling. The code offers little to no guidance for journalists on digital issues such as linking or personal use of social media. The “act independently” section offers little to no guidance for self-employed journalists covering areas in which they have personal interests or those working for organizations involved in advocacy or with direct interests in the topics they cover. The code is silent in the debate over the proper role of opinions in journalism.

SPJ played an important role in journalism by updating its code in 1996. It should play a similar role now, inviting several journalists involved with the challenges of digital journalism and changing business models to join the Ethics Committee in updating the code. You can contribute to the discussion by answering the committee’s online questions.

The need for extensive updating was most dramatically underscored by a young journalist (and I apologize for not getting her name) who said during Sunday’s discussion that the SPJ Code doesn’t provide guidance for the issues she faces. If the code isn’t helpful to such journalists, it needs to be updated, period.

I will repeat here a suggestion I made Sunday, when those minimizing the urgency of an update were saying the code offers timeless principles (an oversimplification in my view), but the Ethics Committee has offered more detailed advice on various timely issues. The SPJ Code is not hyperlinked at all on the organization’s website. Links within the code to relevant elaboration by the Ethics Committee would be a valuable help to journalists while the committee considers whether and how to update the code itself.

I should also express appreciation here for the new book, The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century, by Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel. I intend to read and review the book, but haven’t had time yet. I was involved last fall when Kelly and Tom led a discussion on developing new guiding principles for journalism ethics, and I made some suggestions for Poynter’s new guiding principles.

I applaud Poynter and SPJ for recognizing the need to continue providing current, relevant leadership in journalism ethics.


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Robert G. Kaiser told a humbling story in the Washington Post Sunday: The Post nearly ignored Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech and his historic “I have a dream …” theme in its coverage of the march on Washington 50 years ago.

It’s not the first big story a newspaper (or most of the news media) has missed. Collectively most of the media blew the coverage of intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as well as the developments that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. The Lexington Herald Leader ran a front-page correction in 2004 for its failure to adequately cover the civil rights movement.

Here’s my question: What are today’s historic stories that we will look back on and say that we missed the real story or the importance of the story?

Update: Linda Deutsch writes about covering the march.

Twitter reactions

Update: Sally Duros says the historic story we’re missing is the “death of the public schools.”

Update: Thanks to Steve Fagan for a thoughtful response to this post, wondering if newsroom staff cutbacks won’t prompt some newsrooms to provide shallow coverage of some historic events in their communities.

Without question, cutbacks are causing us to miss important stories and raise the importance of good news judgment in how to use resources (which have always been limited). But I should point out that Kaiser’s piece makes clear that the Post heavily staffed the march, but barely noticed the most important part of the story. So staffing isn’t always the reason for failures by newsrooms.

Also, I doubt that newsroom staffs have been cut as severely since 1963 as Steve speculates. The annual American Society of News Editors newsroom census has counted nationwide staffing in newspaper newsrooms since 1978 (or at least figures are available online going back to 1978. I don’t know what the trend was from 1963 to 1978, but I suspect it was growth. Newsroom employment totaled 43,000 in 1978 and grew to a peak of 56,900 in 1990. It was stable for most of the next two decades, never dropping below 53,000 until 2008. In the past six years we’ve lost 17,000 employees, with 38,000 counted this year. That’s a severe loss, but I suspect it’s about the same as in 1963, not half or one-third less as Steve speculated. Update: Steve updated his post to reflect these numbers.

That said, Steve’s point remains valid. The cuts in recent years have been staggering and we need to beware of missing or minimizing important stories. Steve also had the great idea of linking to the I Have a Dream speech’s text. So I copied that move and added a video:

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Teresa Schmedding, photo linked from dailyherald.com

This guest post by Teresa Schmedding continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.


Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes — Peter Drucker

I remember, way back in the dark ages, when I was promoted from copy editor to an “editor” management position, I knew exactly what I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to be anything like the bad bosses I’d had in the past.

I didn’t want to be a boss that blamed his/her subordinates for his/her mistakes. I didn’t want to be a boss that settled for okay instead of amazing. I didn’t want to be a boss that didn’t listen. I didn’t want to be a boss that sugar-coated the facts. I didn’t want to be aloof and unapproachable.  I didn’t want to be autocratic, but I also didn’t want to be laissez-faire.

But what qualities did I want to have? Open door. Straight shooter. Honest. High standards. Fair. (more…)

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I’ll be leading two workshops today for the Excellence in Journalism conference in Anaheim.

First I’ll be leading Kindling the Flame, a leadership workshop that used to be my most popular workshop before innovation and digital skills began to dominate my training. I’m pleased to do the workshop again (can’t remember when I led it last).

Related links for the leadership workshop:

The handouts I used to use for the Kindling workshop for newsroom executives and copy desk chiefs.

My advice for new Digital First editors series.

Related links for the Digital First workshop:

How a Digital First approach guides a journalist’s work

Digital First journalists: What we value

10 ways to think like a Digital First journalist

Questions to guide a Digital First reporter’s work on any beat

Slides I’ll use for the Digital First workshop (I won’t us slides in the leadership workshop):

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I have been leading workshops this week at Digital First newsrooms in the Los Angeles area. The workshop varies in each newsroom, depending on questions and issues the journalists raise. Here are some links that supplement the discussions we’ve had:


Tips on liveblogging for journalists

Don’t be selfish on Twitter

Facebook news feed changes mean newsrooms need new engagement strategies

Using Google Voice for multimedia projects

Pottstown Mercury’s wanted-poster-style Pinboard is resulting in arrests


You can quote me on that: advice on attribution for journalists

Plagiarism and Fabrication Summit: Journalists need to use links to show our work

Linking and checklists could have prevented journalists from Manti Te’o ‘girlfriend’ hoax embarrassment

4 reasons why linking is good journalism; 2 reasons why linking is good business

A quiz to teach journalists about plagiarism and attribution

Social media

My #twutorial series of posts

Whether I use slides in the workshop depends on whether we’ve had projection available. And I’ve skipped around in the slides in the workshops, so different groups saw different slides. But these are the slides I used:

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I like competition in the news business.

I competed fiercely with the Des Moines Tribune when I worked at the Des Moines Register and with the Kansas City Star when I worked at the Kansas City Times, even though both times the same company owned both newspapers (and eventually they shut down the afternoon papers). More recently, I enjoyed battling over western Iowa turf with the Register when I worked at the Omaha World-Herald and I enjoyed TBD‘s competition with the Washington Post and with other Washington TV stations.

I always mourned the end of the competition, whether I worked for the surviving organization or the one that died or pulled back.

I also like when journalists get jobs. So I applaud and welcome the Orange County Register’s challenge in Long Beach to the Press-Telegram (a Digital First newsroom I visited Tuesday) with Monday’s launch of the Long Beach Register.


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This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

A busy editor might be tempted to dismiss diversity as a buzzword or a lofty goal you don’t have time for. You need to regard it as a matter of journalistic integrity and business survival.

Accuracy is the core of journalistic integrity, and your news will more accurately reflect the events and issues of your community as your staff better reflects your community. And your news organization will have a more prosperous future if your content appeals to the entire community, not just the aging white audience you probably have now. Your content will have broader appeal if your staff brings broader experiences and perspectives to news coverage.

The top editor needs to say the right things about diversity, but actions always trump words, so what you do is far more important than anything you say.

So here’s some advice from a middle-aged white guy for recruiting, hiring and retaining a diverse staff and for making sure that your content reflects the diversity of your community: (more…)

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I’m helping my Digital First colleagues recruit for several newsroom leadership positions.

I also know that hundreds of journalists — including, I suspect, some strong leaders — have recently lost their jobs with Patch, Gannett and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Other good journalists are still looking for work after earlier cutbacks elsewhere. Still others fear for their companies’ future and are looking for a better company to work for.

So here’s my offer to journalists who think they have what it takes to lead a Digital First newsroom (including Digital First colleagues who think they are ready to lead a newsroom or a larger newsroom): Make your pitch. (more…)

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In my years discussing disruptive innovation while teaching Newspaper Next concepts, I often said that newspapers’ advertising/circulation blinders kept us from developing a digital marketplace such as Amazon.

Well, now, we finally have Amazon’s disruptive founder in the newspaper business, with the Washington Post’s announced sale to Jeff Bezos.

I don’t have time to analyze the deal today — and wouldn’t trust such swift analysis if I did — but I am glad to see such a disruptor coming to the newspaper business. I think we can count on the Post moving beyond the narrow advertising/subscriptions model that is collapsing.

To see Bezos bringing his disruptive approach to the newspaper of Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee, Bob WoodwardCarl Bernstein, Dana Priest, Carol Guzy and Gene Weingarten is exciting and intriguing. I look forward to it in anticipation.

It’s not what Matt Thompson and Robin Sloan forecast in EPIC 2014, but that did forecast an amazing Amazon merger. So I’ll post it here as a reminder.

Disclosure: My wife, Mimi Johnson, published her novel, Gathering String, using Amazon’s self-publishing services.

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I got a chuckle (OK, and a bit of an ego boost) last week when a student blogger likened meeting me to meeting Brad Pitt. A louder chuckle (and not quite the ego boost) when I saw the photo accompanying a plug for my blog as one of the “experts” discussing the Boston Globe sale:

Other experts cited are accompanied by their real photos. I recognized Alan Mutter and Ken Doctor right away and Google searches confirmed that Michael Scully and Howie Carr were the people pictured with their comments. Jim Dempsey, a former columnist for the Worcester Telegram, got a stack of newspapers for his illustration. I presume they chose to illustrate me with a photo of some guy reading the newspaper (and about the age of a typical newspaper reader, too). But I’m pretty easy to find in Google. Or you could email me and ask for a photo.

For the record, this is what I look like. And the blog is The Buttry Diary, not The Daily Buttry.

Steve Buttry mug 2013

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