Archive for November, 2013

Jeff Edelstein

Jeff Edelstein

Shaky journalism ethics and hypocrisy in the name of religion are a couple of my pet peeves.

I’m a little peeved now at Todd Starnes of Fox News.

Some background will help. My Digital First colleague Jeff Edelstein, a columnist at The Trentonian, broke the story Oct. 22 that MacFarland Intermediate School in Bordentown had dropped three overtly religious Christmas songs from its winter concert. You can agree or disagree with that move, and I’m not going to argue the merits of the school’s decision here, but it’s clearly newsworthy.

Starnes was one of many journalists jumping on the story after Jeff broke it, along with his Fox colleague Bill O’Reilly. The story fits their imaginary “war on Christmas,” so you can see why they would want to give it attention. But they didn’t bother to acknowledge the source of their information in any way.

I think an ethical journalist should acknowledge and link to sources. You can disagree with me on that and you’ll have some company. It’s not one of those ethical points on which journalists are mostly united, like that we should publish accurate stories and shouldn’t plagiarize.

But let’s get to the question of accuracy. Starnes tweeted this week: (more…)


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I’m in Regina, Saskatchewan, today to lead a social media workshop for the Saskatchewan Media Guild.

I’m delighted to be working with my old friend Don Gibb, Canada’s leading writing coach. We tag-teamed four regional workshops for the Canadian Association of Newspaper Editors starting about a decade ago, but I think the last time we worked together was 2006 or 2007.

While I won’t be talking only about Twitter today, the most helpful links accompanying today’s workshop are from my #twutorial series.

Here are the slides I’ll be using in today’s workshop.

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Buddy Bunker's photo of the homecoming of Lt. Col. Robert Moore won a 1944 Pulitzer Prize. He's hugging his daughter Nancy as his wife, Dorothy, and nephew, Michael Croxdale, watch. My 1997 and 2008 stories about this photo are two of the most memorable of my career.

Buddy Bunker’s photo of the homecoming of Lt. Col. Robert Moore won a 1944 Pulitzer Prize. He’s hugging his daughter Nancy as his wife, Dorothy, and nephew, Michael Croxdale, watch. My 1997 and 2008 stories about this photo are two of the most memorable of my career.

One of the best stories (and the longest story) of my career actually had a huge hole in it. But I got to fill that hole 11 years later.

This post continues my series providing updated journalism lessons from memorable stories of my career. (I welcome other veteran journalists to share similar updated lessons from old stories in guest posts.)

Today I’ll discuss the two stories I did on the people in the photo above, first an incredibly long print story and then a multimedia story. First a warning: This was the longest story of my career, 200 inches long (I like to joke, though it’s accurate, that I wrote 250 inches, but the bastards made me cut it). And that’s back when newspaper columns were wider than they are today. It ran more than 9,000 words. And that doesn’t count the sidebar about Bunker and the photo, the timeline or the cast of characters.

One thing we’d certainly do with this project today would be to make an ebook. It was well on its way to book length anyway. Since I’ll be posting the full story here, plus some background, observations and ways that I’d do the story differently today, it’s certainly going to be my longest blog post ever. If you spend the time to actually read all the way through, I hope that the story itself and/or my observations about it are worth your time.

The story is about the photo above and the people in the photo. I used the story frequently in writing workshops, long before I started teaching digital journalism tools and techniques. I’ll share some of those lessons, too. (more…)

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Verification HandbookI’m pleased to be involved in the Verification Handbook, a new project to help journalists and aid providers sort fact from fake.

The handbook is a project of the European Journalism Centre and is edited by Craig Silverman, with whom I’ve collaborated before in accuracy workshops.

I wrote Chapter 2, “Verification Fundamentals: Rules to Live By.” Other chapter authors, in addition to Craig, are Rina Tsubaki of EJC, Claire Wardle and Malachy Browne of Storyful, Trushar Barot of BBC News, Mathew Ingram of GigaOm, Patrick Meier of the Qatar Computing Research Institute and Sarah Knight of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (more…)

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Search-engine optimization sometimes gets a bad rap from journalists (more on that later). But I always thought a headline’s job was to attract eyeballs, to get someone to read the story.

That’s the job of a digital headline, just like it was when I wrote print headlines as a copy editor for the Des Moines Register 35 years ago.

What’s changed is how people find our headlines. Instead of having the newspaper delivered to their door, and browsing pages for a headline or photo that catches their eye, many people find our stories in answer to the questions they ask search engines. Just as I tried my best to catch the browsing reader’s eyes, now I try to catch the search engine’s eye.

But it’s a two-step process: I need some keywords (utilitarian and sometimes dull) so the search engine will find my story and I need an enticing headline, so people will click on it (getting onto the first page of search results only gets me the chance to compete with nine other headlines for your click).

Susan Steade has a great metaphor for the SEO headline: Business up front, party in the back. In other words, start with some keywords, so the search engine will find your headline, then have some fun, so people will click on your headline rather than the others the search engine presents. (more…)

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