Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Journalist profiles’ Category

roy-peter-clark

Poynter announces Roy Peter Clark’s retirement plans.

Roy Peter Clark is retiring from Poynter.

Part of me wants to congratulate Roy and wish him well. Part of me wants to tell him he can’t leave us. Journalism still needs him too much. I guess we’ll just have to savor and make the most of his services for the rest of this year and in his continuing projects with Poynter (I think it’s more of a semi-retirement).

I can’t remember when I started reading Roy’s work, but he has multiple books on my shelves, including a three-ring binder version of Writing Tools before it was published. I do remember the first time I saw Roy teach, at a National Writers Workshop in St. Louis, probably in 1995. As he often does, he used music to teach us about writing, teaching a writing lesson in how Aretha Franklin put her own mark on Otis Redding’s song “Respect.” By the end of his workshop, Roy had us dancing up on the stage (I apologize to anyone who saw me dancing, but I was swept up in the moment).

We’ve crossed paths again and again in the years since, at 10 or more Poynter seminars in St. Petersburg, a few more National Writers’ Workshops, a Write Your Heart Out workshop in Washington and probably a few other conferences. Twice we did email Q&A’s about Writing Tools. We’ve discussed journalism ethics on my blog and evangelicals in politics for Poynter. Inspired by Roy, I’ve used music in my own writing workshops (but, unlike Roy, I don’t actually play or sing myself). And last month, when I was in town for other business in St. Pete, we just went out for a while to talk as friends.

I can’t think of anyone who’s elevated journalism more than Roy or helped more journalists in more ways.

Enjoy retirement, Roy. But if you get bored, we still need as much coaching as you can keep giving us.

Read Full Post »

Teresa Schmedding transformed the American Copy Editors Society. Newspapers will miss her leadership, but ACES won’t, because ACES has adapted to the changing landscape better than newspapers have.

Teresa is leaving newspapers to become managing editor of Rotary International. Her move says something about journalism on two counts:

  1. Newspapers are losing too many valuable contributors.
  2. Editing skills remain valuable, even if newspapers no longer value them.

I first met Teresa about a decade ago, when I was leading a seminar for news editors and copy desk chiefs at the American Press Institute. Someone recommended her to me to lead one of my sessions, and she did an outstanding job. I can’t remember the exact topic, but I think it dealt with copy editors’ role in the changing digital environment. What I remember was that she was an excellent teacher and struck the exact right tone for an editing workshop: upholding standards but not fussing over trivial points. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Tim McGuire coverI wonder if I’ve cited anyone in this blog more frequently (or been cited more frequently by anyone in another blog) than Tim McGuire.

Last week Dean Chris Callahan announced Tim’s plan to retire from the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, and I have to cite Tim again: To wish him well and to thank him for his contributions to journalism and journalism education. And especially to thank him for his friendship, advice and contributions to my blog. Update: Tim has written about his retirement on his own blog.

Tim was prominent in journalism when I was still obscure, and I knew of him for years before I actually met him. By the time we became friends, he had moved to the classroom from the newsroom (most notably the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he was editor). Back in my writing coach days, before we had met, I was citing his advice on tight writing in my first blog, Training Tracks, written for newsroom trainers.

Tim and I met in 2007, when I came to the Cronkite School to lead a Newspaper Next workshop for the American Press Institute. (We might have shaken hands earlier at a convention, but this was my first memorable interaction with Tim.)

He blogged about the workshop, with kind words for my presentation and some of the N2 concepts. He criticized API’s marketing, because of the light turnout at the workshop. I responded saying that API had actually probably saturated the newspaper-industry market by the time I reached the Cronkite School. I personally had done an earlier presentation in Arizona, and my colleagues and I had done several dozen more throughout the country, including others in Utah and Las Vegas.

Whether Tim was right or I was about the marketing, our conversation at the workshop and the ensuing exchange on the blog and by email started a friendship that I cherish. And, as with many close friendships, that wasn’t our last disagreement. I think we agree much more about journalism and the news biz than we disagree. But we likely both enjoy the good-natured give-and-take of our disputes more than we do our agreements (as good friends often do). (more…)

Read Full Post »

I have never shared the view that a newspaper’s front page needed to be a sacrosanct opinion-free zone.

The New York Times published a front-page editorial about gun violence today, and I blogged separately about that.

As I wrote that post, my mind quickly turned to the Des Moines Register’s wonderful run of cartoonists who produced editorial cartoons running regularly for Page One. This started out as a section of that post, but I quickly decided it was worth a separate post.

I worked a decade (in two hitches, 1977-85 and 1998-2000) for the Register. During both stretches, and for decades before I showed up and eight years I left, the Register published page-one editorial cartoons by three of the greatest artists in journalism history: Pulitzer Prize-winners Ding Darling and Frank Miller, as well as Brian Duffy (who should have a couple of Pulitzers).

I’d like to see a newspaper today revive the front-page editorial cartoon (with digital animated and/or interactive versions). Innovation doesn’t have to be a tug-of-war between invention and tradition. It can mean updating and adapting the best parts of your heritage. Editorial cartoons, particularly at the Register, are a piece of newspaper heritage worth updating and adapting.

Brief reflections on each of the great Register cartoonists:

Brian Duffy

Duffy is a model for innovation and perseverance as a cartoonist.

I was disgusted in 2008 when the Register cut Duffy’s job after 25 years, losing an important voice and a valuable distinction for one of my favorite papers. I was editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and Duffy produced some cartoons for us, one of his first steps in establishing what is now a statewide network of media customers. We explored the possibility of a deeper arrangement with the Gazette, but I left in 2010 without being able to work that out.

He also draws national cartoons for King Features, local cartoons for the weekly Cityview newspaper and draws live cartoons on a Thursday morning television spot on KCW123 Great Day. An avid cyclist, he draws monthly cartoons for Momentum Magazine. Duffy published another book of his cartoons this year.

I asked Duffy this morning for an update and some cartoons to use. The cartoons he sent, from 1994 and 1999, illustrate how persistent the gun violence issue in our nation is and how long Congress has been under control of the National Rifle Association:

Duffy Golden Idol

TARGET PRACTICE

Duffy has been lampooning the Iowa Caucuses since 1984:

duffy_trump

Like Miller and Darling before him, Duffy frequently addresses issues in Iowa agriculture.

Iowa tourism brochure

As you’ll see shortly, Miller was the master of the obituary cartoon, a form in which Duffy also excels:

Duffy Schulz

Frank Miller

One of the regrets of my career is that I was too shy as a young journalist at the Register to ask Miller, a fellow Yankee fan, for the original of a cartoon he drew (alas, for the sports section, not the front page) to accompany a sports commentary that I wrote.

One of the most-heartbreaking stories of my early career was editing Miller’s obituary, masterfully written by Ken Fuson.

Miller won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for a cartoon on nuclear war:

Frank Miller 1963

No one was better at the obituary cartoon:

John Lennon

I wasn’t able to quickly find another of Miller’s obituary cartoons in the excellent Iowa Digital Library collection of his work, but will add one if I find another.

In an earlier post, I used these Miller cartoons about Richard Nixon:

Frank Miller cartoons

I liked Miller’s tribute to the Des Moines Tribune, which died in 1982, a year before Miller did:

Occasionally a huge breaking story would chase an editorial cartoon off the front page, but the Page One cartoon was such a Register institution that Miller held his place on the cover on a day with two historic stories:
Des Moines Register front page, Jan. 21, 1981

Ding Darling

Darling was before my time, but launched the tradition of cartooning excellence on the Register’s front page, winning Pulitzers in 1924 and 1943.

This cartoon won Darling the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

This cartoon won Darling the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

This cartoon, with the caption, "What a Place For a Waste Paper Salvage Campaign," won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

This cartoon, with the caption, “What a Place For a Waste Paper Salvage Campaign,” won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

In addition to his cartoons, Darling is perhaps best known as a champion of conservation. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge at Sanibel Island, Fla., is named for the activist cartoonist who led efforts to protect the area from development.

Darling conservation

Which editorial cartoonists are updating?

If you know someone who’s using editorial cartoons on Page One or updating cartoons successfully for the digital age, please share images or links. Editorial cartoons are a rich part of journalism tradition. I hope they are an important part of our future, too.

Read Full Post »

I don’t think I ever leaked a newsroom memo to Jim Romenesko, but I kinda wish I had, and I’m thankful to everyone who did. No one brought more transparency to the news biz than Romenesko, who shined his blog’s spotlight into the dark corners of an industry with little fondness for our own medicine.

Jim has decided to retire from journalism’s best must-read news-about-news blog, but perhaps it’s better to describe his future as a semi-retirement.

“I’m going to continue to tweet and put up posts, but at a leisurely pace,” Romenesko said by email Monday after I wrote to wish him well. “I’m enjoying traveling, sleeping in, reading the news and watching Colbert/Wilmore before opening the laptop in the morning. When I see something that interests me — the Post-Gazette Jenner column controversy, for example — I’ll pursue it. I’m not going to unplug my devices!”

It appears he’ll still follow the news biz and share links to interesting stuff, maybe more on social media than on the blog. But don’t look for his exhaustive report of interesting stuff every morning, not if he’s sleeping in.

Romenesko invariably told just part of the story, but that was the point. Romenesko seldom wrote a long story about anything. But if someone else wrote a good story about something of interest to journalists, Jim made sure the rest of us in the news business knew about it.

His longest posts often were brief introductions to a newsroom memo or a news-company memo.

The irony of it was always amusing: Editors who exhorted their staffs to develop sources who would leak them juicy inside information did a slow burn (or a private chuckle) when their own staffs invariably leaked to Romenesko. (more…)

Read Full Post »

I am saddened by the news that GigaOm has shut down its operations, burdened by debt.

I regard Mathew Ingram as one of the most important, insightful commentators on digital media (and not just because we often agree). I hope he continues blogging under his own banner or gets snapped up quickly by another media outlet that recognizes the importance and value of his voice.

More on Mathew shortly, but first a salute to Om Malik, the founder of GigaOm. I admired what he built and salute his entrepreneurial spirit. Like Dan Gillmor, I am sad that this venture appears to be ending. (I didn’t use the word “failed,” because Om succeeded journalistically, and because he had a nice nine-year run. When afternoon newspapers closed in the 1980s and ’90s, I didn’t say they failed. Like GigaOm, they succeeded for years. Life cycles of successful ventures may be shorter in the dynamic digital age.)

I was pleased to meet Om over breakfast last year at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. I hope I told him how much I admired the business he built. What I remember best about the conversation is Om’s great story about how he came up with the name GigaOm for his business. I won’t retell it here, because it’s his story and I won’t do it justice (if you have a link to somewhere he’s told it publicly, let me know and I’ll link to it).

March 11 update: I didn’t originally address the business aspects of this in depth because I don’t have much expertise in the area of venture capital. But I highly recommend Danny Sullivan’s post comparing the VC approach with what he calls the “Sim City” approach of bootstrapping a company and growing slowly, which is working for thriving Third Door Media. (And, he notes, other digital media companies are thriving on VC investment.) There are multiple paths to lasting success. Back to my original post’s salute to Mathew Ingram:

I also met Mathew in person at the International Journalism Festival. He was a keynote speaker at the 2013 festival and I was a panelist. We had been digital friends for a few years and both were pleased to finally meet in person. It was in joining Mathew and his wife, Rebecca, for breakfast last year that I met Om.

Rather than gushing my admiration of Mathew at length here, I want to show by links to some of his posts that have caught my attention through the years (and some of mine that have cited his work). Mathew would approve of a tribute in links, I’m sure, because one of my dozens of links to him was in my 2012 post about linking that linked to his post about whether linking is just polite or a core value of journalism. (It’s a core value; we haven’t won that fight yet, but we will.) (more…)

Read Full Post »

Dori Maynard

Dori Maynard

I was on a diversity panel with Dori Maynard a couple years ago, and opened by saying it was like being on a watchdog journalism panel with I.F. Stone. I said if Dori and I happened to disagree during the discussion, people should follow what Dori said because she would be right.

We lost Dori to lung cancer yesterday, and I am heartbroken.

Dori was the conscience of journalism. She was a wonderful combination of fierce, gentle, patient and persistent, and an absolutely outstanding teacher. She constantly reminded and taught us that diversity is more than a social issue, it is a journalism value, a matter of accuracy. We need to reflect the diversity of our communities in our coverage to cover the community accurately, Dori would say. And reflecting the diversity of our communities in our staffs would help us achieve the goal of accurate, diverse coverage of the community.

Whatever your excuse for failing to achieve diversity goals — and journalists and newsrooms always have excuses about diversity, because we nearly always fall short — Dori had an answer. Not a combative answer that called bullshit (though you knew she was calling bullshit), but an answer that explained why and how you needed to do more. An answer that made you want to do more. And an offer to help you do more.

I can’t think of anyone in journalism who more consistently called on our profession to do better and be better and helped us do better and be better. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Carr's 2008 memoir, The Night of the Gun

Carr’s 2008 memoir, The Night of the Gun

Last night’s death of David Carr leaves a bigger hole in the media than the suspension of Brian Williams from NBC News or the planned departure of Jon Stewart from The Daily Show. 

By coincidence, Carr’s last Media Decoder column/post for the New York Times was about the simultaneous career changes of Williams and Stewart (as was my most recent blog post). I really don’t care much who fills the NBC anchor chair while Williams is gone for six months or longer, and I’m only mildly interested in the jockeying for Stewart’s chair. But I worry about who will decode media for the Times, and I doubt anyone can approach Carr’s mastery of this field that I cover and teach and where for decades I worked (unless this blog and occasional consulting entitle me to still use the present tense).

I didn’t make this about me so quickly (and it won’t be for long) to compare myself to Carr. I would lose such a comparison quickly, as you can tell if you read the Williams/Stewart links above.

And I certainly don’t claim any special connection (we never met). My only Decoder mention that Google can find or that I can recall was a derisive dismissal of my paywall criticism (which I defended in a comment on Carr’s post). We never exchanged emails (not because I never sent him one), but I think we had a Twitter exchange or two. But the first tweet I found from Carr directed at me was also derisive:

That criticism I defended as well, but here’s the point: Carr’s opinion and analysis mattered. When he disagreed with you, you stopped a moment to ponder his point, and, even if he didn’t win you over, he made you think. His reporting was thorough, his analysis incisive, his criticism fair. (more…)

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Matt DeRienzo

Matt DeRienzo

If you’re interested in transforming your news operation, you should contact Matt DeRienzo right away.

In my time at Digital First Media, I never saw an editor who was more imaginative or determined in facing the challenges of digital transformation. If you’re looking for a leader for a digital news operation or a newspaper that’s moving too slowly in becoming digital-first, Matt should be at the top of your list.

I wanted to capitalize “Digital-First” in the headline and paragraph above, because no editor working for a newspaper fits that description more than Matt does. But since he’s leaving the company that still uses that name, I guess I’ll use lower case.

For all his digital skill and passion, Matt is a journalist first. He led DFM’s Connecticut newsrooms through excellent coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy, innovated in coverage of politics, led reporting on a small town’s bullying of rape survivors and many more journalism achievements.

Matt also understands the business challenges facing journalism in this time of transition. He was publisher of the Register Citizen and saw the business value of the Newsroom Cafe that helped his operation return to profitability while increasing community engagement.

Where other people make excuses, Matt gets things done. When I first visited DFM’s Connecticut newsrooms in June 2011, a few months before Matt became editor, the whiteness of the staffs was really noticeable, an unfortunate situation especially in a community with as diverse a population as New Haven. As with other newsrooms around DFM and throughout the newspaper business, the Connecticut news staffs have shrunk since 2011. But, by making diversity and quality dual priorities, Matt used the vacancies he did have to increase both the diversity and the excellence of the staff.

When a couple staff members plagiarized on his watch, Matt responded not just forcefully, by firing the offenders, but creatively, by asking me to develop a quiz and training to help prevent future problems.

Matt didn’t just demand more of his staff, he developed a plan to provide training and incentives to meet the demands. (That the training incentives weren’t entirely successful doesn’t diminish the creativity of the approach; to succeed at innovation, you need to be willing to risk and fail, and Matt fears neither risk nor failure. And the plan did succeed in providing more training for the staff.)

I worked closest with Matt in Project Unbolt, the effort to “unbolt” DFM newsrooms’ culture and workflow from the print factory that dominates most newsrooms, however much they’ve tried to develop digital skills. Matt enthusiastically volunteered to be a pilot newsroom as soon as I proposed the project. He embraced the concept and led his newsrooms in pursuing the transformation. I’m not sure you ever reach the finish line in such a race, but I didn’t see any newsroom pushing farther or faster than Matt’s.

I don’t know what lies next for Matt. But I know his departure is a huge loss for DFM. And his arrival will be a huge gain wherever his next stop will be.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Rick Tapscott

Rick Tapscott

Few people had more impact on my career than Rick Tapscott, who died Sunday.

Rick hired me twice and by leaving the first time and agreeing to extra duties the second time, he really gave me three or four great opportunities. He lured me away from the Des Moines Register in 1985 with an offer to be assistant national/mid-America editor for the Kansas City Times. Then he left to join the Washington Post, giving me the opportunity to run a newsroom department for the first time in my career. Thirteen years later, he brought me back to the Register as religion editor (really a reporting role) and writing coach.

We became good friends, visiting in his homes Kansas City, Washington and Des Moines and our home in the Kansas City suburbs, socializing as couples and with our kids, who were about the same age. We shared with a couple other colleagues in season tickets to the Royals, going to the games together several times. (more…)

Read Full Post »

John Lumpkin

John Lumpkin

My friend John Lumpkin is retiring as director of the Schieffer School of Journalism at my alma mater, Texas Christian University.

I learned a lot about journalism while I was a student at TCU from 1972 to 1976. I learned from my professors — Lewis C. Fay and Elden Rawlings, who were journalism department chairs while I was there; J.D. Fuller, Doug Newsom and Jack Raskopf and adjunct professor Jim Batts. I learned from my fellow students, working all four years for the student newspaper, the Daily Skiff. I learned from visiting speakers, including Bill Moyers and TCU alumnus Bob Schieffer.

When I graduated, my first job took me back to the Midwest and I wandered away from TCU. My whole career, I’ve been based in the Midwest and in the Washington area. I developed ties with various Midwestern schools, speaking at local colleges and universities wherever I worked and teaching as adjunct faculty at three schools in Iowa and two in Washington. TCU seemed pretty distant for most of my career, beyond the mass mailings to alumni.

When the school was named for Schieffer several years ago, someone from the school asked for a comment about my TCU experience and the quote was one of several from students and alumni used widely in promotion of the event (I said something about becoming addicted to journalism as a TCU student and not planning to enter rehab). But that was about the extent of my ties to TCU for the first 30 years after I left.

John brought me back, though. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »