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Archive for July, 2016

This has been updated to add a response from NPR at the end.

Jay Rosen does an excellent job of parsing NPR’s comical gymnastics to avoid using the P-word in its reporting on Melania Trump’s plagiarism last week.

I won’t go into the detail that Jay did, but I recommend reading Jay’s post. I’ll concentrate on one point: whether plagiarism must be intentional, as NPR reporter Sarah McCammon argued:

McCammon also argued that professional journalism standards are somehow different from academic standards:

I don’t know where McCammon learned ethics, but she couldn’t be more wrong. I’ve spent decades longer in journalism than in academia, and I never recall a newsroom where intent mattered one whit. If you stole someone else’s material, that was plagiarism, period. (more…)

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I led three workshops Thursday for the staff of the Penny Hoarder in St. Petersburg, Fla.

First I led a workshop on coming up with original story ideas. I used many of the tips in my blog post on story ideas. Here are the slides:

My next workshop dealt with interviews. I used some of the tips in these posts:

Shut up and listen

Getting personal

Interviewing advice from veteran journalists

When it’s good (and bad) to be ‘stupid’ in interviews

Tips for persuading reluctant news sources to talk

Eric Nalder’s advice on interviewing reluctant sources

‘Uh-huh’: Does it ruin audio or keep a source talking (maybe both)

Here are my slides for the interviewing workshop:

I didn’t have any slides for the third workshop, on using data to find and support stories, but I showed the data available at these sites (thanks to Tom Meagher and Maryjo Webster for steering me to some of them):

Census Reporter

American Fact Finder

Census Bureau

Data.gov

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Pew Research Center

Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research

The workshop used some of the tips in my post on mining the data on your beat.

 

 

 

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Cancer 3.0

Mimi and me at Tom's wedding last October

Mimi and me at Tom’s wedding last October

Shaking the sugar down on my way to Houston

Shaking the sugar down on my way to Houston

Tom spent the Fourth of July posting photos from his wedding last October to Facebook. I liked a photo of Mimi and me together on that happy day, so I made it my profile photo. More than 200 people “liked” it and another 20-plus commented, all encouraging messages. Several noted that I looked good. I was tempted to note that the photo was from last October. But I got some similar comments about looking good when I posted some photos from the road that same day on the way to Houston.

I do look good. I don’t say that boastfully, but kind of ruefully. I look (and feel) better than my news: I was at the MD Anderson Cancer Center last week getting my third major cancer diagnosis. This time I have pancreatic cancer.

I was honored and uplifted by how many people encouraged me during last year’s treatment for mantle-cell lymphoma. If you were heartened in some way by my kicking-cancer’s-ass narrative, please know that I did kick that cancer’s ass. My lymph nodes look great, and they’ve gotten a close look the last three-plus months in a PET scan, an MRI, two CT scans, two endoscopic ultrasounds and lots of lab tests as doctors have tried to figure out what the hell was going on in my pancreas. (more…)

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Either William Allen White or Mark Twain advised writers to substitute damn for very in their writing. Then the editor would remove all the damns and improve the writing.

More later on who provided that advice, but I thought of it when Luke Palder, founder and CEO of ProofreadingServices.com sent me a link to the image below:

Infographic-Very-20

I don’t know anything about the price or quality of the service of ProofreadingServices, but I applaud both clever marketing and helping people improve their writing. And very hardly ever improves writing, so I’m glad to share this advice and give Palder and his business a plug.

As for who gave the very/damn advice, I heard long ago that it was White, the legendary editor of the Emporia Gazette. More recently, I hear it attributed more often to Twain. If they both said it, Twain would likely have been first, having been more than 30 years older than White and having risen to prominence earlier. Quote Investigator looked into the matter and cited White as the likely source of the advice.

After I published this post, I got this help from Twitter:

Whoever said it, the advice is outdated. Only the most prudish of publications shrink from using damn any more, but you probably shouldn’t overuse that word any more than you should overuse very. Once or twice in a workshop, I facetiously suggested using fucking instead. But that gets published nearly any place online any more. Including here. So try using the substitutes above.

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