Posts Tagged ‘Kansas City Royals’

Six times last week, I taught a class that I first presented last spring when I was interviewing for my current job at LSU: writing for social media.

In the context of a beginning “Media Writing” class that we require of all Manship School of Mass Communication students, I teach the techniques of good writing in the context of social media. While my background is strongest in journalism, I apply the points of the class to other specialties within the Manship School: political communication, public relations and digital advertising.

This is going to be a long post, probably helpful only to mass-comm teachers (or last week’s students who would like a review). But that’s who I’m writing it for, and it’s long because I want to invite you to use some of my slides and points in your classes and/or to invite me to cover these or similar points in your own classes or in a workshop at your university or a conference. Of course, I could adapt the presentation to a professional audience, too.

I will tell about the class mostly through the students’ tweets. At the opening of the class, I assigned students to tweet about my points, ask questions on Twitter, make observations, etc. during the class, so they would be applying the lessons as they were learning them.

Many of my slides from the class will show in the students’ tweets. I will supplement with some of the actual slides that didn’t make it into their tweets. If you want the full slideshow (which I’ve already updated since the last of this week’s classes), I’ve posted it at the end of the post. I welcome and encourage teachers to use the materials here however they are helpful, or to contact me to discuss how to teach this topic in your class.

I’ll add context here and there, but mostly the students will tell the story:

Platform shapes the writing

I start with a discussion of how the nature of a social platform and your audience there shape the writing on the platform: the privacy of Snapchat, the professional nature of LinkedIn, the heavily female user base of Pinterest, the 140-character limit of Twitter, etc.

Social media writing basics

Part of my introduction covered some principles of social-media writing that apply in all situations.

I admit it: I did shout “Squirrel!” in one of the classes to illustrate the many distractions people face as they multi-task social media use into their days.

How to handle opinions

We also discussed how importance context (and your bosses’ expectations are) in learning whether opinions are encouraged, allowed or forbidden in your job.

Writing for memes

Before discussing specific social platforms, I discussed writing for memes, which appear on a variety of social media (and teach writing lessons for a variety of professions).

I always plan to update slides before a class where appropriate, and last week’s World Series win by the Kansas City Royals gave me some great memes to share along with the class (I wore my 2014 World Series t-shirt to Monday’s classes).

A note on updating old examples or visuals for a class or workshop: When I did this class last spring, I used some Rand Paul memes. Ben Carson and Donald Trump hadn’t yet risen to prominence in the Republican presidential race. I updated my slides for last week with memes about both. I’ll use the Carson memes in a later post about how he’s playing on social media and in professional media.

Error pages

I used error pages as another example of social-media-style writing in other contexts than social networks. For instance, the error pages of Clinton‘s and Marco Rubio‘s campaigns use humor in attempts to turn the error-page experience into an opportunity to volunteer or hear the candidate’s message:



Writing for Snapchat

Now we’re into the actual social tools, starting with Snapchat (which the students know much better than I do).

Gathering material to write about

Though the course is about writing, I point out how closely writing and reporting are entwined. Making some points about using social media to gather material for writing, I use some examples from earlier blog posts about how the Denver Post used social media to get a great story and photos about a mountain lion staring a cat down through a glass sliding door in Boulder and a hard-news story about rape and victim-blaming in Torrington, Conn.

I shared Andy Carvin‘s search tip for breaking news stories:

Visuals are important in social-media writing

In social media, I noted, words and your creative use of them can have a visual effect with or without photos:

The tweets above refer to some creative use of returns and a screengrab from a court docket by the Boston Globe’s Hilary Sargent in her coverage of the Dzhokar Tsarnaev trial last spring. Here are two of my slides from Sargent’s tweets:



I show some examples of strong breaking news coverage in tweets:

I talk about how Twitter can help tell an unfolding story:

I tell how Brian Stelter used text messages to tweet the story of the Joplin tornado when he didn’t have enough cell signal to make a phone call or access the Internet.

Twitter helps your writing

I tell how Twitter’s 140-character limit can help your writing:

Even in long writing, a succinct point is important

Toward the end of the class, I make the point that even in longer writing, such as books or political speeches, they should use social-media writing skills to make a memorable, brief point. I use those slides separately in an accompanying post.

‘Be your best self’

In the questions at the end of one class, I passed on this advice from a friend (though I couldn’t remember who). If this is your line, please identify yourself and I will credit accordingly:

Other students’ tweets

We wrap up the course reviewing the students’ tweets and praising them for some that illustrated the very points I had been teaching. You’ve already seen some of the best, but here are some others that I liked:

I don’t actually plan to boast/complain of being blocked, then later whitelisted, by Twitter for tweeting too much. But someone asked whether there was a limit on how much you could tweets, so I confessed to hitting the limit back in 2012:

Unrelated advice on posting photos in social media

If  you look at most of the photos posted above, they could use some tighter cropping. I’ll confess that I don’t edit all photos that I post to social media. The swift posting of live-tweeting in particular doesn’t allow much time for editing photos and keeping up with the story. But editing doesn’t take long. I’d say a quick crop and adjusting the brightness of a dark photo are usually worth the time.

Slides from the workshop:

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Facebook debate

My Facebook profile photo

My Facebook profile photo

Whether you regard Facebook as a beneficial, benign or sinister force in media, your vision probably rests in part on the value of all that data the digital behemoth has about us.

At least 10 Facebook posts this week by me, or posts on my wall by friends, have included some combination of the words Royals, Mets, World, Series, baseball and #TakeTheCrown. And I’ve “liked” many more posts and comments by friends who share my excitement and interest about the World Series. And my profile photo on Facebook shows me wearing a Royals hat. That’s a lot of data telling Facebook what I might have been planning to do tonight.

I do show some political interest on Facebook as well. But any posts I’ve made about the current crop of Republican presidential have been critical or sarcastic in nature and tone.

But when I went to Facebook tonight (to post something about the World Series), Facebook suggested I let my friends know I’m watching the Republican debate. Um. no.

I’m not worried or optimistic that Facebook knows what to do with all that user data it has.

Earlier posts about Facebook

(starting with one just two days ago):

Facebook sucks, except when it doesn’t, like on my birthday

Updated tips for Facebook engagement by newsrooms

Lots of precedent for media dependence on Facebook, including cautionary tales

Why does Facebook keep ignoring my choice of ‘most recent’ posts?

‘Remember when?’ photos have great engagement potential

Facebook engagement lesson: ‘It’s about community’

Community fun drives Facebook engagement

Jeff Edelstein’s Sandy engagement shows how to use Facebook during a big story

Facebook news-feed changes mean newsrooms need new engagement strategies

Facebook engagement tips already working for Register Citizen, Middletown Press

Correction on AP photos: Newsrooms don’t have rights to post them on Facebook

Why does Bill Keller write about Facebook without trying to understand it?

Facebook engagement tips: Use breaking news photos and calls to action

Engage on community Facebook pages, not just your page

Romeo and Juliet on Facebook: great fun and community engagement

Reach out through Facebook to gather information on tragic stories


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Many journalism ethics decisions are difficult. This one is not: If you don’t know whether the family knows of a newsworthy death, you should wait to report it.

Kansas City Royals pitcher Edinson Vólquez pitched Game One of the World Series last night, shortly after his father’s death. Reports conflicted initially on whether the pitcher learned of Daniel Volquez’s death in the Dominican Republic before the game, as reported by ESPN, citing an unnamed source, or was not told of the death until after he left the game after six strong innings, as Fox reported on its telecast.

The Royals said Vólquez’s wife called General Manager Dayton Moore with the tragic news shortly before the game and asked that he not be told until he was finished pitching.

News organizations reported the death while Vólquez was pitching, apparently before he knew the news. I think that was the wrong ethical decision. (more…)

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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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A lot of men my age draw too many life lessons from sports. But I’m a man my age, so I drew three career lessons from last night’s Detroit Tigers game:

  • Don’t let complaints about the things you can’t control distract you from focusing on what you can control and finishing your job.
  • Take responsibility for your work and admit your mistakes.
  • Tradition is no excuse for failure to innovate.

Focus on what you control

Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game last night. The baseball record book won’t reflect that, though, because first-base umpire Jim Joyce blew a call on what should have been the final out of the game. It was perhaps the toughest call for an umpire to make: a bang-bang play at first base, with the pitcher covering. Both men are in motion swiftly and the umpire needs to decide instantly with his naked eye which of two events several feet apart happens first: the ball hitting the glove or the runner’s foot hitting the bag (while also being sure the pitcher’s foot was on the bag when he caught the ball). Anyone who has umpired a few recreational games knows that’s a tough call. And when the crowd is cheering the apparent end of a perfect game, you can’t rely on the sound of the ball hitting the glove to help you out. (more…)

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