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Archive for January, 2014

I’m leading workshops today on doing better stories. In two 90-minute workshops, we’re going to cover a lot of ground at the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association Symposium in Calgary.

The workshop will cover material in these blog posts:

Finding and developing story ideas

Suggestions for livetweeting

You don’t tip competitors on Twitter, you beat them

Tips on verifying facts and ensuring accuracy

My version of Craig Silverman’s accuracy checklist

How to verify information from tweets: Check it out

Organizing a complex story

Make Your Story Sing:  Learn from songwriters how to tell stories in just a few words

Strong from the start: advice for writing leads

Make every word count: Tips for polishing and tightening copy

I’ll discuss these stories:

The Homecoming

The Farragut Admiralettes

Roy Wenzl’s “mystery child” story

The rescue of the twins

Here are my slides for the workshop:

I’m going to use some songs and a video clip to make some points. Here they are (this will be more helpful for the people in the workshop; if you weren’t there, they might not all make sense):

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A complex story should not be challenge to the reader or viewer, however challenging it is for the writer. Careful work in organization of your reporting, digital production and writing will help readers make sense of stories that deal with cumbersome economic or technical issues, or with soap-opera tales that present multiple characters and confusing turns. These techniques will help keep the complex story clear.

Use digital storytelling tools

Reporters with long print experience tend to think they need to squeeze everything into the text story that they love to write. Digital First journalists need to think about the best tools for telling each part of the story.

The bigger the story, the more different digital storytelling tools you should consider. But an important part of organizing the story is to avoid overwhelming the reader or viewer with every fact and every tool you might use. Choose the most important information and then decide which tools share that information the best. Much of the success in a complex story is in those difficult decisions of what to leave out.

Videos and photos

For the strongly visual aspects of the story, use the best visual storytelling tools. Instead of writing a sidebar on a topic with visual appeal, or squeezing it into your text story, make it a Tout video or a longer video and give it prominent play in the package.

Or tell a story in a photo gallery. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an effective photo gallery saves you a lot of writing and lets the writer concentrate on the points that are best conveyed in words. (more…)

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I’m presenting a workshop on social media this afternoon for the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association, meeting in Calgary.

Links related to the workshop are my #twutorial series, especially the posts on breaking news, advanced search and livetweeting. We’ll also be talking about crowdsourcing and Facebook engagement, including the use of photos from your archives.

Here are slides for the presentation:

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Clayton Christensen, photo linked from API

Clayton Christensen‘s diagnosis of how the newspaper industry blew its Newspaper Next opportunity is dead-on.

In an interview with the American Press Institute’s Millie Tran, Christensen discusses several new disruptive challenges and opportunities in the media. But this exchange hit home with me (I added some links):

What did you think of the industry’s reception of the ambitious Newspaper Next project that you worked on with the American Press Institute back in 2006? Today, would you prescribe different things or in different ways?

CHRISTENSEN: My sense of the Newspaper Next project is that people read it as an interesting, academic exercise but somehow, whether it was our fault or theirs, the report was consumed at the level of the brain and not the heart.

Most newspapers decided that might happen to others but it doesn’t happen to us. And on a day-to-day basis, you don’t feel it until it’s over. And now there are a lot of people who are saying oh my gosh this really is happening in many ways. The degrees of freedom that are available are far more limited now than they were. (more…)

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Fifty years ago today, City Editor Gale Cook of the San Francisco Examiner sent the note below to his staff.

Gale Cook

Gale Cook

I remember memos like this from editors, saved a lot from my bosses and wrote a few for my staffs. I really like this one and share it with permission of Cook’s daughter, Jennifer Cook Sterling. Jennifer’s husband, Robert Sterling, is editor of the Marin Independent Journal, a Digital First newsroom, and Mimi and I enjoyed dinner at their home last summer. (Update: Robert has blogged about Gale and his memo, too.)

I will comment on some of Cook’s note, but I don’t want to interrupt it. So I’ll let it run in full (it’s long, as editors’ memos to the staff can sometimes be, five pages, single-spaced). Then I’ll comment. But one note here that will help you understand the first paragraph: The Examiner promoted itself as the “Monarch of the Dailies.”

TO THE STAFF:

I want to offer you some ideas for improving our newspaper – things we can do to strengthen the Monarch’s position in this jungle fight for circulation. (more…)

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This continues my series of posts on advice for a new journalism professor. This is a guest post by Lori Shontz, senior editor at The Penn Stater alumni magazine and an adjunct lecturer in the Penn State College of Communications.

Lori Shontz

Lori Shontz

I start every semester by telling students something like this: “Writing is a craft. Reporting is a craft. As you do things over and over, you get better.”

I’ve found that teaching is similar. I tweak, I worry, I experiment, I revise. I reflect.  So my transition from the newsroom to the classroom felt familiar. I learned to teach partially by reporting — asking questions of veteran instructors, observing and analyzing speakers, mulling over ideas just as I do as a journalist.

Reading other syllabi helps, too. I’ve found the journalism teaching community to be generous with their time and materials, and the syllabus exchange at Poynter’s NewsU is a terrific resource, too.

All that said, here are the three biggest things I’ve learned in nine semesters teaching a 200-level introductory news writing and reporting class at Penn State: (more…)

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Tim McGuire, photo linked from Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

I am delighted that Tim McGuire has responded to my call for advice for a new adjunct journalism professor.

Few professors can match Tim’s combination of newsroom and classroom experience. He’s the former editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Frank Russell Chair for the business of journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I highly recommend reading his post about respect, experimentation and different learning styles. It includes this gem:

I find that experimentation is the soul of effective teaching This is my 15th semester of teaching and I’ve never used the same syllabus twice. Sure, I keep some elements from previous semesters but every semester I essentially redesign my courses.

He also linked to an earlier post about engaging students.

A new journalism professor can’t do much better than a double dose of advice from Tim McGuire.

Earlier advice for a new journalism professor

Advice for a new journalism prof: Teach lessons a variety of ways

7 types of content to include in journalism classes

Curt Chandler’s advice to a new J-prof: Don’t assume, show examples

J-prof’s challenge: Use experience to teach specific lessons, not to bore

Teaching advice from Kathleen Woodruff Wickham: Learn how academia works

Chris Snider’s teaching advice: Students learn from presentations

Journalism teaching advice from Pam Fine: Get ready for grading

Teaching advice from Norm Lewis: What students learn is most important

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