The leading theme on the blog this year was Project Unbolt, which occupied most of my attention the first half of the year. I worked with four Digital First Media newsrooms on their efforts to “unbolt” from their print workflow and culture and produced more than 30 related posts on this blog and more for the INMA Culture Change blog.
The project’s posts drew good traffic, but nowhere near my best traffic of the year. My post introducing Project Unbolt drew more than 3,000 views, and my “manual” linking to all the Project Unbolt posts and my post on how an unbolted newsroom works each drew more than 2,000.
Other notable posts of the year dealt with my professional transition: the closing of Thunderdome by DFM (nearly 4,000 views, my third most-read 2014 post), noting the response on Twitter (more than 2K), taking a new job with LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication (1,100+) and sharing job-hunting tips (1K+). My farewell to my DFM colleagues was meaningful to me (and to some of them, I hope), but drew fewer than 300 views. A post on preparing for your next job hunt while you’re still working drew just over 400 views.
As in previous years, Twitter was a recurring theme on the blog and one that drew attention. I received nearly 3,000 views for a post noting that editors who aren’t active on Twitter undercut their pleas that their staffs need to innovate. I mentioned Dean Baquet as such an editor and invited him to respond. He was kind enough to respond, warning that social media use could become another bogus “priesthood” for journalism. That post drew more than 7,000 views, my second-most-viewed 2014 post. And it resulted in the busiest day ever for visitors to the blog. A third post on the matter (noting that Lexi Mainland, an editor on the Times interactive desk, had agreed that it’s important to have a top editor active on Twitter) generated another 600 views.
I blogged a fair amount about the New York Times last year, and some of those posts attracted pretty good traffic. An embarrassing Times correction (later named correction of the year) prompted a post about why journalists should link (nearly 2,500 views); a follow-up post about links being a matter of ethics, not just convenience (just over 300); and a later post applauding Patrick LaForge for exhorting his Times colleagues to make better use of links (not even 300).
The New York Times Innovation Report directly inspired three posts, one on newsroom meetings, another asking why the Times didn’t publish the report itself and a guest post from the Times’ Amy O’Leary addressing my question. A fourth post addressed both the Innovation Report and the change in editors, saying that the challenge to the Times leadership is changing the newsroom culture.
Another post about the Times repeated a point I’ve made frequently: Journalists, not sources, are responsible for the accuracy of our stories.
Back to my Twitter posts, the only 2014 post that drew more traffic than the Baquet guest post was also about Twitter, addressing whether you tip the competition on Twitter (my answer: No, you beat them). I also got more than 3,000 views for curating Clay Shirky’s “tweet rant” about new social tools. The rant was on Twitter (thought not really about Twitter), but my observations were as much about Twitter as the new tools (which I’ve been too distracted to explore myself).
Personal posts occasionally attracted some attention. A Nieman Lab report on gender discrimination prompted my observations about how gender has been an advantage in my career. That and my Cancer 2.0 post each drew more than 1,000 views. Yesterday’s farewell to my hair drew more than 500 views. Other personal posts generally didn’t attract much attention (such as my post on a gift from Dad, which got barely 200 views). That’s OK. This is a journalism blog, and I try not to make it too personal or self-indulgent.
While Project Unbolt dominated the first part of the year, we didn’t launch it until late January, and I set a monthly traffic record in January (since broken in February and again in October, when the Baquet and Shirky posts both published). That post on Twitter competition was the big driver, but two other January posts did pretty well, too: My first post of advice for a new journalism professor (nearly 2,800 views) and a 50-year-old memo from San Francisco Examiner editor Gale Cook (1,200).
That advice for a new prof became a series. My two other posts in the series, on content for journalism classes and on using your experience in class, didn’t even combine for 1,000 views. I was completely clueless when I wrote them that I’d be a new full-time professor myself by the fall. I was offering advice from my adjunct experience. I should check my advice and see how well I’ve been following it myself. I added to the series with an explanation of why I let my students use laptops during class (nearly 1,000 views). I also posted the teaching philosophy (barely 400 views) I had to submit when applying for a different teaching.
Plagiarism was a frequent topic of the blog this year. I became fascinated by the tepid response to allegations by the blog Our Bad Media of plagiarism by Fareed Zakaria. I noted that the bloggers’ use of ridiculous-sounding pseudonyms (@blippoblappo and @crushingbort) seemed to distract Zakaria’s employers and defenders from the detailed documentation they provided. Eventually I did an email interview with the bloggers (including some questions from my students). My most-read Zakaria post (1,800-plus views) argued that there’s no such thing as low-level plagiarism. In other posts on plagiarism, I noted a case where a Michigan editor defended extensive identical passages and shared some types of plagiarism identified by the ethics class taught by my dean, Jerry Ceppos, both drawing in the 400s.
I also blogged several times about revisions to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. A couple of those posts drew nearly 1,000 views. The blog version of my keynote address to a digital journalism ethics symposium at the University of Colorado, on updating and upholding ethics, got 900 views.
Beyond Project Unbolt and the job-hunting posts, I posted tips for journalists on covering traumatic news, interviewing rape survivors, promoting a book, networking with veteran journalists and grabbing screenshots when a tweet seems too good to be true. I updated an old writing-workshop handout on organizing complex stories. I had expected to update more old workshop handouts once I started teaching. Maybe in 2015.
I saluted a couple giants of journalism who died this year: Ben Bradlee and John Seigenthaler. I also saluted Walter Cronkite, who died in 2009, but I visited the Cronkite Memorial in St. Joseph, Mo., as well as the Cronkite Gallery in Phoenix this year.
My posts about historic front pages or some old stories from my reporting career don’t get much traffic, but I enjoy them, so I posted several this year: about Nixon’s resignation, the death of the Kansas City Times, Super Bowl III, the release of the Iranian hostages (upstaging Ronald Reagan’s inauguration), Lyndon B. Johnson’s death (overshadowing the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision and my interview with Mikhail Gorbachev.
Gene Weingarten suggested this year that I change the name of the blog to Mmm, Smooth Buttry Goodness. I think he was trying to make some silly point about branding, but I called his bluff and agreed to change the name for a month, if we could raise more than $500 for the ACES Education Fund. We raised $725, so I went with a new name (header designed by Ivan Lajara) for a month.
Baquet and O’Leary were two of several guest contributors on the blog this year. Chip Scanlan, Lori Shontz, Pam Fine, Tim McGuire, Steve Klein, Curt Chandler, Chris Snider, Kathleen Woodruff Wickham and Norm Lewis contributed to that series on advice for a new journalism professor. Chuck Offenburger and Buffy Andrews contributed advice on promoting books. Nancy March contributed guest posts on a community partnership and Project Unbolt. Christopher James, Tony Adamis, Viktoria Sundqvist and Kevin Moran (and his Berkshire Eagle colleagues) also contributed on Project Unbolt. Jeff Edelstein and Ben Garvin contributed other guest posts.
Jay Rosen wasn’t a guest blogger, but frequently inspired posts or contributed to the discussion. His post about his “digital thinking” class prompted a post from me. So did a post on journalists quitting their jobs. He also figured prominently in my posts on the engagement chain reaction, students using laptops in class, the reaction to Baquet’s post, the Twitter reaction to my being fired, my Colorado ethics speech (Jay was the other keynoter and we enjoyed a nice dinner with Mimi the night before).
Other people I recall who merited multiple references in the blog were Jim Brady, Jerry Ceppos (clearly I suck up to my bosses my mentioning them here), Tim McGuire, Mandy Jenkins, Matt DeRienzo, Robyn Tomlin, Margaret Sullivan, Buffy Andrews, Kelly McBride, Mónica Guzmán, Tom Meagher, Ivan Lajara, Craig Silverman, Jill Abramson, Teresa Schmedding, Laura and Chris Amico, Doug Worgul, Clayton Christensen, Mathew Ingram, Angi Carter and Mimi (and I’m sure I left a few out).
I’ve been blogging here more than six years, and my archives produce search traffic every day. Eight of my 10 most-viewed posts of 2014 were produced in earlier years:
- If you hit Twitter’s (stupid) follower ceiling, use lists to follow people (2013, 33K views in 2014)
- You can quote me on that: Advice on attribution for journalists (2011, nearly 11K views in 2014)
- The 5 W’s (and How) are even more important to business than to journalism (2011, 9K views in 2014)
- Tips on verifying facts and ensuring accuracy (2010, nearly 8K views in 2014)
- The 5 W’s (and How) of writing for the Web (2011, 7K views in 2014)
- Embrace discomfort: my address to the Arizona Newspapers Association (2012, nearly 5K views in 2014)
- Newspapers don’t need new ideas; here are lots of ideas for new revenue streams (2011, nearly 4,500 views in 2014)
- Nearly everyone gets an obituary; if not, journalists can and should still verify deaths (2013, 4K views in 2014)
This is my primary blog, but not my only one. On Mimi’s and my travel blog, 2 Roads Diverged, the most-viewed posts of the year reviewed our visit to Venice and the 49 states I visited before making it to Alaska. (The Alaska post might have been my favorite of the year.)
On my Hated Yankees blog, I bid farewell to Derek Jeter, but actually paid more attention to my second-favorite team, the Kansas City Royals. I promised my oldest son in 1985 that I’d take him the next time the Royals were in the World Series. I delivered, taking all three of my sons to Game 2 against the San Francisco Giants.
After my lymphoma diagnosis, I started posting about my treatment on Caring Bridge.