Archive for June 12th, 2014

Al Tompkins and Roy Peter Clark of Poynter argue in separate pieces that news organizations should identify mass killers, rather than withholding their names and photos from publication.

I admire both men greatly and have featured Roy’s writing insights in this blog. But neither of them is at all convincing here.

Most journalists and news organizations have not embraced my call to stop giving attention to attention-seeking mass killers. However the Sun News Network has decided not to publish the name of the suspect in the recent New Brunswick slayings of three police officers.

The Sun News decision prompted Al to address the issue and Roy was agreeing with Al’s post. Please read Al’s and Roy’s responses to this post, at the end of my original post.

Roy is one of my favorite writers in the business, but this piece was not as strong as he usually writes. The headline tells you what the piece is about: “What Harry Potter teaches about naming killers.” And here’s what Harry Potter teaches about naming killers: Nothing. Harry Potter is fiction. He teaches us nothing more about naming killers than Murphy Brown taught us about American families or morals back when Dan Quayle found her “lifestyle choice” disturbing. (more…)


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Returning to my March discussion of unbolting enterprise stories from the Sunday story, I’m going to discuss how the New Haven Register staff handled two enterprise stories earlier this year.

I encourage you to look at both story packages:

  • Mark Zaretsky’s story on the Five Satins, the group that recorded the classic song, “In the Still of the Night” in a New Haven church basement 58 years ago (and, amazingly, all the singers are still alive). The story included a video and photo gallery by Peter Hvizdak.
  • Digital First’s Connecticut newsrooms collaborated on a Sunshine Week project checking the compliance of state police departments with the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

I’ll deal with the Five Satins here and with the Sunshine Week project in a subsequent post. First, an admission: I should have published both of these posts much earlier, when the stories were still fresh. Life intervened and pushed them back on my to-do list for too long, but I want to publish them as I’m wrapping up my contribution to Project Unbolt.

I also should note at the outset that my observations about the Five Satins story are a rewrite/update of an email I sent Mark and the editors after the story initially published online. The story was well under way by the time I arrived in New Haven, pushing for the staff to rethink how we handle enterprise stories.

The Five Satins reflected some of the unbolted enterprise approach I’m advocating (published online Monday, six days before appearing in print on a Sunday; strong multimedia elements). But I thought deeper planning for the digital audience could have resulted in improved engagement and stronger digital content, so I provided suggestions for doing better in future stories. (more…)

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