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Archive for October, 2014

I haven’t blogged much here about the peace ministry of my brother, Dan. I don’t often vary from journalism and media topics here (when I wrote about Dan’s memoir, Peace Warrior, I examined the media themes he addressed in the book).

I’m not going to stretch to connect this post to the media, except to observe that in my religion-writing days (1998-2000 for the Des Moines Register), I spent an ungodly amount of my time covering conflict and outright hatred among and within religious communities.

So I’m proud of Dan and his work in peacemaking and conflict resolution, especially in interfaith reconciliation, and I thought I’d share this slice of it here. This is his August address to the North American Interfaith Network‘s Connect Conference that he helped organize and host in Detroit this year:

If you’re interested in the Common Word organization that Dan mentioned, he had the URL wrong. Check the link above, rather than the .0rg link he mentioned.

Here is a link to learn more about the film Dan mentions, The Imam and the Pastor.

Dan’s books on these topics:

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Interfaith Heroes

Interfaith Heroes 2

An earlier post here about Dan:

Brother Dan’s reflections on Tiananmen Square

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With help from Dean Baquet and Clay Shirky, I set an all-time traffic record on my blog this month.

Posts relating to Twitter use by Baquet and his Times colleagues contributed more than 10,000 of the more than 40,000 views on the blog this month. My curation of Clay Shirky’s “tweet rant” about people who see new digital platforms as “the next Facebook” contributed another 3,000-plus. Together the topics contributed nearly one-third of my traffic for the month.

Leading the way was Baquet’s guest post questioning whether I and others were creating a “new priesthood” with “new rules for entry,” regarding who is a journalist.

It was an overstatement at best and an inaccurate metaphor. But it drew a lot of interest: more than 6,700 views in the month, including nearly 4,900 the first day, when I set a single-day record for views on the blog.

My initial post, saying that Baquet and other editors who attempt to lead their staffs in innovation undercut their efforts when they aren’t even active on Twitter, also got a good ride (though not even half the views of the response), with 2,800 views. Two other posts relating to the matter combined for another 1,000+ views:

Baquet’s guest post and my curations of tweets by Shirky and Lexi Mainland of the Times totaled more than 10,000 views. Perhaps I need to just post other people’s writing to the blog.

The October traffic exceeded the record I set in February, when I had 36,179 posts. And I passed the record by Oct. 28, so the longer month didn’t play a role in setting the record, just in pushing the total past 40,000, which I topped last night. I should end today a little over 41K.

Though the Baquet guest post was the giant of the month (if anything on a blog this small is a giant), I had two other days over 2,000 views and 16 more days of 1,000 or more.

Other observations about the month’s traffic:

I also set personal records for traffic and unique visitors on my much smaller blog, Hated Yankees. Though the Yankees, the usual topic of that blog, haven’t done anything in October, my second-favorite team, the Kansas City Royals, had a pretty good month, and I turned my attention to the Royals last month.

The month started with a guest post from my youngest son, Tom, a diehard Royals fan from when we lived there in his childhood. He shared his thoughts and emotions about the Royals’ incredible come-from-behind playoff victory over the Oakland A’s. That was the third most-read post of the month, with 122 views.

Hated Yankees had never topped 1,000 views in a month before, and it topped 2,600 views in October. My post on keeping my 29-year-old promise to take my oldest son, Mike, to a game in the Royals’ next World Series got more than 700 views and gave me the single-day traffic record on that blog, 510 views. And my post about going to this year’s Game Two got more than 100 views.

Part of this month’s big Hated Yankees’ traffic, though, was a 2010 post debunking the myth that strategy is more difficult in the National League. Somehow that has become the No. 1 Google result for “strategy National League.” Maybe the World Series prompts some searches relating to strategy and the designated-hitter rule. Anyway, a post that never topped 100 views in a month got over 600 views in October. Maybe someone linked to the post (though I didn’t get a pingback). At any rate, that post became the most-read Hated Yankees post, passing a 2009 post about Graig Nettles.

I also had a post on the International News Media Association’s Culture Change blog this month as well as a couple on the Social Media News Challenge blog.

I don’t know what November will bring, but I presume this will be one of the least-read posts of the month. My post about September’s traffic topped out at 79. But I try to practice transparency and I think you should study what’s working and what’s not, so I post this bit of navel-gazing now and then. I’ll probably update the numbers on the weekend, after the month is over.

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My latest contribution to the INMA Culture Change blog discusses nine ways a news organization executive can lead innovation efforts by example.

No, using Twitter isn’t on this list. I discussed that plenty in my post earlier this month about New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and his absence from Twitter engagement. Then Baquet responded, then more people responded. Whether I’m right or wrong on that, it’s been covered.

The premise of my post for the International News Media Association is that, whatever your view about the importance of Twitter for a news organization leader, you need to do more than tweet. If you’re active on Twitter, that’s not enough. And if you’re not using Twitter, you need to lead your staff in innovation by other means.

I hope you’ll read the post.

Here are my earlier Culture Change posts:

3 reasons to regularly praise staff members during transformation

4 tips for changing company culture by focusing on action over structure

10 steps toward a mobile-focused culture in your media organisation

Digital First Media pilot newsroom involves whole staff in its local version of culture change

Digital First Media slowly changes newsroom deadline culture to reflect digital realities

Time to dismantle the newspaper factory culture

 

 

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I’ve been blogging a bit lately about baseball on my other blog, Hated Yankees. I usually blog there about my favorite team, the Yankees. But recently I’ve been blogging about my sons’ favorite team, the Kansas City Royals.

I keep the baseball posts there, presuming that people come here because of interest in journalism, rather than baseball. But some followers of the blog are friends who may be interested in these personal stories or baseball fans also enjoying the Royals’ great post-season run. So I’ll just post a brief plug here for the Royals posts. My posts:

The Kansas City Royals’ amazing 9-game, post-season winning streak

Keeping a 29-year-old promise, I’m headed to the World Series

Decades of Royals (Kauffman) Stadium memories

Game Two was worth the wait for my sons and me

My youngest son, Tom, has also contributed two guest posts:

Tom Buttry reflects on his life (and last night) as a Royals fan

Kansas City Royals’ ‘all-lost years’ team

 

 

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At today’s meeting of the faculty of the Manship School of Mass Communication, I will be discussing why and how faculty should use Twitter.

Dean Jerry Ceppos asked me to discuss the topic following my discussion earlier this month about why editors should be active on Twitter. We agreed that a similar discussion of Twitter’s value in teaching communication students would be helpful.

Both to gather more views than just mine (and to demonstrate Twitter’s usefulness in crowdsourcing), I asked my tweeps:

My tweeps, as usual, were most helpful in their responses:



















My examples lean more toward teaching journalism than the other specialties taught in the Manship School: political communication, advertising and public relations. I think a lot of the advice received from other professors would be helpful in multiple fields, but I welcome your advice relating to a particular specialty in journalism or any of those other fields of communication.

Here are the slides I used (showing the tweets above as well as some examples I used):

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It would be hard to overstate what Ben Bradlee contributed to American journalism. Bradlee died Tuesday, and I join the parade of journalists saluting him as maybe journalism’s best editor ever.

Journalism’s proudest achievement of my lifetime was the Watergate reporting of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, which uncovered unconstitutional and un-American power abuses by the White House, including President Richard Nixon himself. The many abuses by presidents and their staffs since Nixon still do not match his arrogance in trying to manipulate an election and interfere with the execution of justice.

Many others played roles in exposing Watergate and bringing down Nixon: Judge John Sirica, Senators Sam Ervin and Howard Baker and their Watergate Committee colleagues, John Dean, Alexander Butterfield (who revealed the White House taping system), special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, Woodward’s “Deep Throat” source Mark Felt, the Supreme Court, Peter Rodino and his House Judiciary Committee colleagues. But no one played a bigger role than Woodward, Bernstein and their Post editors, led by Bradlee.

As recounted in Woodward and Bernstein’s book All the President’s Men and portrayed by Jason Robards in the movie, Bradlee was a sterling model for editors: challenging his reporters to nail down their facts, find better stories and make every story better; reporting the truth fearlessly; holding the powerful accountable, then standing by his reporters when they came under fire.

I never approached Bradlee’s perch in journalism, but as a mid-level editor for the Des Moines Register and Kansas City Star and Times, I saw his influence in some of the top editors I reported to. And I tried to ask the same kinds of tough questions of the reporters who worked for me.

As a top editor of the comparatively insignificant Shenandoah Evening Sentinel, Minot Daily News and Cedar Rapids Gazette, I never flattered myself that I was anywhere near Bradlee’s stature. But I damn well knew from his model what my job was: To make my newspaper the best it could be, to set and uphold standards and to protect our newsroom’s integrity. I never became as intimidating as Bradlee (or the Robards version of him). But they were somewhere in the back of my mind every time I told a reporter he or she didn’t have the story and needed to try one more source, verify or debunk one more report, push harder for a source to go on the record.

“You don’t have it,” might be an editor’s most important words to reporters, words that weren’t spoken often enough then and certainly aren’t today. But every time I spoke them, I knew I was echoing Bradlee.

I know I’m not alone in viewing Bradlee as the standard against which all editors are measured. I probably describe the experience of a generation or two of editors. We all aspired to be like Bradlee and we all fall short. I salute him for setting the standard so high. I’m not the one to measure how high I reached in journalism, but I know I reached my peak (or will) in pursuit of his example.

I never got to meet Bradlee, but I sat behind him in 2012 when Woodward and Bernstein headlined a 40th-anniversary panel discussion of Watergate reporting at the American Society of News Editors conference. Bradlee wasn’t on the panel but joined the discussion as his reporters deferred to him on a few questions. He was in his 90s then and you could see that he was fading. But he’ll never fade as an example to journalists.

As my former Omaha World-Herald colleague Ken Freed pointed out when I saluted Bradlee last night on Facebook, Bradlee himself was powerful, with close ties to the Kennedys. I’m not aware of any way that the Post, on his watch, went soft on the Kennedys. All media gave President John F. Kennedy a pass on reporting about his personal life, which was standard procedure in that time (and had been for Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower). And Kennedy’s presidency was before Bradlee took over the Post newsroom in 1965.

But I “liked” Ken’s observation anyway. Skepticism and pointing out something that might be unpopular seemed a fitting way to remember Ben Bradlee.

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I thought I was done blogging about whether top editors should be active on Twitter. Then last night, Lexi Mainland tweeted this:

As her Twitter profile says, she’s an editor on the Times’ interactive news desk. Not exactly agreeing with me (as you’ll see in some subsequent tweets), but sort of agreeing with me. So, given the interest in my criticism of her boss, Dean Baquet, and other top editors who aren’t active on Twitter, and Baquet’s response to me, and the response to Baquet, I thought I’d give the topic at least one more ride and curate last night’s Twitter exchange among several of us:

“Pontificating.” OK, that could be me.

What I’d say here is that Baquet and his predecessors, who have been similarly dismissive of Twitter in terms of personal use, have led a lot of great innovation at the Times. So “suffering” isn’t exactly the right word, and I don’t think I ever said innovation at the Times was suffering. In many respects, it’s been an innovation leader.

But a Times committee studied innovation and said the newsroom needed to do better. That’s true in any newsroom, but no other has identified the need (to my knowledge) as clearly or in as much detail as the Times. Baquet has embraced the report and said he plans to implement its recommendations.

My point is that you lead innovation more effectively by example than by exhortation. But back to the tweets (where I think I made that point):

Valid point: I believe Twitter is a valuable tool for every newsroom leader and editorial-page editor.

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