Posts Tagged ‘Ken Fuson’

Today more than two dozen veteran journalists share a lot of advice on interviewing, especially about dealing with nerves.

It turns out the journalism student who started the conversation has a lot of company. Even veteran journalists get nervous when they interview, sometimes extremely so. But lots of us learn to overcome our nerves and invite people to tell their stories, and we’ve enjoyed careers even though the nerves never go completely away.

The conversation started this week in a private Facebook group, where a journalism professor sought aid from some former colleagues, asking for advice on helping a student who “is really struggling when he has to interview people in his intro to reporting class. He gets very nervous and just can’t do it.”

Veteran journalists in the group offered great advice. I updated an old handout on interviewing and sought still more advice. Some of the advice overlaps, but I regard that as reinforcement, not repetition.

The responses here (lightly edited, often at the writers’ request) come from the original conversation on Facebook and comments on yesterday’s blog post from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email (comments and photos used with permission):

Advice for the student

Yvonne Beasley

Yvonne Beasley

Yvonne Beasley

Yvonne, city life reporter and Reno Rebirth digital project manager at the Reno Gazette-Journal, gave this tip:

A wise, introverted photog once told me “you can put on another personality. You’re acting. Be a great actress.” Another thing is: That uncomfortable feeling goes away with age.



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Leading my workshop on Making Routine Stories Special. Photo by Bryan Cantley

Leading my workshop on making routine stories special. Photo by Bryan Cantley

I’m updating some old workshop handouts that I think will be helpful in teaching journalism, maybe in some of my classes, maybe in some of yours. “Make routine stories special” was my most popular workshop about a decade ago, when most of my training focused on traditional writing, reporting and editing skills as well as leadership.

In a meeting of Digital First Media editors in New Haven last year, Tony Adamis of the Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y., suggested that some tips in improving coverage of routine news would be helpful, and I promised to dust off this handout and update it. Well, that evening I learned about upcoming upheaval at Digital First Media that would bring the end of my job. So it took me a while to get around to it, but here it is.

What I’ve done here is grab an old copy of my workshop handout from those days, dated April 2003, update it with some newer tips on making routine stories special and add some links. I’ll also update references to the journalists who provided some advice for this workshop when I was doing it originally more than a decade ago and provide links, where I could find them, to the journalists today. Where I could not learn what some journalists are doing today, I have cut them out.

In most cases, I could not find the stories referenced still online, but I’ve linked to stories where I could. I welcome your help in updating this with new stories and links illustrating these techniques as well as new tips for covering routine stories.

After my tips, I’ll tell the anecdote I used to use in the workshops, a story involving the cap I’m wearing in the photo above. So here are my updated tips for making routine stories special: (more…)

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A professional journalist’s experience is both essential and dangerous when teaching journalism.

Whether you’re hired as a full-time professor or as an adjunct, your career has given you countless lessons and insights you can share with students. And it’s given you countless irrelevant stories you can bore students with. And the relevance of your lessons is perishable in a swiftly changing marketplace.

This is my fourth post offering advice to Jenn Lord Paluzzi, a Digital First colleague who was hired as an adjunct professor and asked for advice for a first-time journalism professor. I blogged earlier this week about the different ways that people learn and about the types of content you should include in a course. A post by Curt Chandler discussed the importance of examples and of learning how your students use media. I’ll be publishing other posts next week from Kathleen Woodruff Wickham about learning about academia and Pam Fine about grading.

Let’s focus here on how to help students benefit from your experience in the field (which probably is a big reason, if not the sole reason, you got the teaching job). You want to share enough of your experience to give your teaching authority without making the class all about you. (more…)

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Students learn journalism best if you teach them several different ways.

A colleague who’s starting her first journalism classes as an adjunct professor asked, “Any advice for the first-time professor?” I’ll answer here and in at least a couple more posts over the next week or so.

Update: I originally posted this before hearing back from the colleague about whether it was OK to use her name (since she asked the question in a private email). She quickly identified herself after I posted:

I’m teaching my 10th college class now and have learned a few things about teaching in the classroom (and in hundreds of workshops and seminars for professional journalists). But I recognize that many friends in journalism schools have far more classroom experience than I do. So I invite them (you, if you’re teaching journalism) to weigh in with some advice, too. Much of this applies as well to training your professional colleagues. For my colleague and other new journalism professors (and perhaps for veterans, who should always be learning, too).

I’ll start by addressing the wide variety of ways that students learn and how I gear my lessons and assignments to teach students in a multitude of ways. I believe students learn in at least these ways (several of which overlap): (more…)

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This is the handout for my workshop on short narrative writing. I used to do this workshop quite often, but haven’t done it for a couple years. The handout was originally posted at No Train, No Gain. I am posting some of my NTNG handouts here, with some updating, because NTNG is no longer online.

A common conflict in newspaper newsrooms today is newsholes getting tighter and writers complaining about space limitations on their stories. While space is not limited online, busy digital readers still favor tighter stories. Without question, some stories lose important substance as they get cut for tighter newsholes. But writers should not assume that length restrictions preclude quality narrative writing. Listen to some of your favorite ballads. Study the storytelling of the songwriters. They tell powerful stories in fewer words than the average daily news story. Use those techniques in your stories. (more…)

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Monday night I criticized a Pennsylvania newspaper’s plan to charge loyal online readers to read the obituaries. Today I want to suggest a more innovative, future-focused approach to obituaries.

I was interested that Ernie Schreiber, editor of the Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era, cited my Newspaper Next experience in scolding me for Monday’s post. He clearly had an awareness that N2 was about innovation, but (like many of his peers in the newspaper business) he did not learn the core principles of disruptive innovation that we taught in N2.

One of the fundamental lessons of N2, based on the disruptive-innovation research of Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen, was that innovation opportunities rest in identifying “jobs to be done,” needs people have. Innovators who provide welcome solutions to those jobs are on the path to success, Christensen says. (more…)

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When I read Philip Lee’s ignorant anti-Twitter rant, Notes on the triviality of Twitter, my first reaction was that I needed to write another anti-anti-Twitter-rant rant.

But I’m getting tired of those rants (maybe you are, too). I previously noted how Leonard Pitts, Edward Wasserman and Paul Farhi wrote foolish things about Twitter without bothering to learn what they were talking about. Do I repeat myself just because Lee has echoed their whining, or could I find something new to say?

Lee did say lots of ignorant things about Twitter, but they are things I’ve addressed before, so I won’t dwell on them here. He has tried Twitter out (barely, 34 tweets in nearly a year), which the others noted above had not.

I want to address Lee’s concern about Twitter and storytelling: (more…)

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First Amendment plaqueI was a panelist yesterday, Wednesday, April 15, at First Amendment Day at Iowa State University. Dr. Michael Bugeja, director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State, opened with remarks that I recommend reading first. My response follows (I ad-libbed a few lines, but mostly followed this prepared text):

I’ll start with a couple requests. If you have a cell phone, please get it out and hold it up. Now, if you have used that phone today to send or receive written communication or images, whether by text message, email or web, please open or activate your phone so that the screen lights up. Now wave that phone and look around you. (Nearly everyone in the crowd, mostly students, waved a glowing phone.)

This is the future of freedom of the press. It is healthy, it is thriving and it will not be stopped, even if the companies that own printing presses can’t find their way to a prosperous future. The light of freedom shines as bright as those lights we see throughout this auditorium. (more…)

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I was a panelist for a First Amendment Day program at Iowa State University Wednesday, April 15. Dr. Michael Bugeja, director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State, introduced the panel with these remarks, which he gave me permission to post to his blog (I added the links). My response to Dr. Bugeja is posted separately.

Thank you for coming tonight to our panel discussion … whose title, “Can there be freedom of the Press without a Press?” is not about journalism or the future of journalism education; it is about democracy and the future of democracy.

This is how we will proceed:

I will make an opening statement based on the title of our discussion, and each participant will have 10 minutes to respond to it with their own opening statements. Then the panel will respond to each other’s statements for an additional 15 minutes. Finally, we’ll ask each panelist to make a brief summary conclusion on the premise: “Can there be freedom of the press without a press?”

We have a telling array of evidence in the selection of our speakers. We had invited Nigel Duara of the Associated Press to be here tonight; but I advised him not to after his wire service expressed concern that he may exercise free speech and voice opinion. For instance, he might have mentioned that some newspapers here in Iowa are contemplating eliminating the AP because they can no longer afford it.

Nigel’s absence testifies to the title of this panel discussion: “Can there be freedom of the press without a press?”

Perhaps the AP should host its own panel discussion. I would title it: “Can there be an Associated Press as long as there is Google?” In 2004, I urged the AP to sue Google because it was distributing its content for free-an aspect of Internet that has destroyed journalism as we knew it.

Keep the word “free” in mind and see how, if at all, the Internet has changed the meaning of that word.

Internet is not the devil in this discussion. Google is. Internet is the hell where Google resides. Rather than sue the devil, as I have been advocating for years, the Associated Press has other plans for the dominant search engine, according to Business Week, which reports:

The AP plans to build an online destination where it hopes Web users can easily find and read its news stories and those of other content creators. When it comes to compiling online news, the AP wants to out-Google Google. The Web search giant “has a wacky algorithm” for collecting news stories, AP Chief Executive Tom Curley says in an interview. “It does not lead people to authoritative sources.”

Google does not lead people to authoritative sources? Here’s a flash for the AP: Your brainstorm happened five years too late.

Google so dominates distribution — we used to call that circulation, the lifeblood of news — that fewer readers are subscribing to print outlets, believing they can google (yes, Mephistopheles, I used your trademark as a verb) national and international news.

Two of our panelists present tonight are still employed because their audiences are local — Angie Hunt, a KCCI reporter and Greenlee School teacher, and Steve Buttry, editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette (Buttry note: apparently Dr. Bugeja was unaware of my title change). True, KCCI and the Gazette have an Internet presence, but their on-air and print reports mitigate against the Web’s tendency to … distract in a multitasking environment, to disrespect others in the cloak of anonymity, and to disorient in the obliteration of time and, more important, place.

“There is no ‘there’ there,” and that is the source of our woe.

That phrase is not mine. The avant-garde writer Gertrude Stein coined it 80 years ago about her urban childhood. The entire quote is worth noting: “The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there, there isn’t any there there.” That appears in her book, Everybody’s Autobiography.

The Internet is writing everybody’s autobiography. The trouble is when you get there, there isn’t any there there.

Where do you want to go today?

Many remember that this was the motto of Microsoft, which is not the devil. Microsoft merely provides the Window through which we glimpse the devil while exploring hell.

In a 1997, C-Net News analyzed a Microsoft commercial. I’ll read from that report:

In advertising, there’s a long tradition of making products seem more elegant than they really are by playing classical music in the background. …Now, Microsoft’s image makers are following suit with a TV spot for Internet Explorer accompanied by the sweet sounds of the Confutatis Maledictis from Mozart’s Requiem. …

As the TV screen flashes Microsoft’s “Where do you want to go today?” slogan, Wolfgang’s lyrics sound off “confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis.”

That phrase in Latin means “the damned and accused are convicted to flames of hell.”

Where would you like to go today? How about Des Moines?

Ken Fuson, one of the finest writers in the country, was bought out last year by The Register. Kelly Eagle, one of the best magazine journalists we at Greenlee ever trained, was let go this year by Meredith Corporation.

Fuson was doomed by Gannett’s dance with the devil. Eagle was let go because print is dead.

That phrase became popular in 1984. Some recall that year as the title of a dystopia by George Orwell. Others, as the year Apple released its Macintosh Computer. Neither had anything to do with “print is dead”-a line from the movie, Ghostbusters.

In that film, secretary Janine Melnitz is flirting with computer nerd Egon Spengler.

Melnitz: You’re very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too.
Print is dead.
Melnitz: Oh, that’s very fascinating to me. I read a lot myself. Some people think I’m too intellectual but I think it’s a fabulous way to spend your spare time. I also play racquetball. Do you have any hobbies?
Spengler: I collect spores, molds, and fungus.

Print is dead. Its obituary was prophesied in another 1980s movie, Broadcast News, about the demise of standards in television. Here is a quotation from that screenplay:

What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I’m semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing-.

Google’s slogan, by the way, is “Do No Evil”

-he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance… Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen.

That was the feeling in 2007 at the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. There was a lot of selling happening then, particularly by Gannett. Senior Vice President for News Phil Currie was touting the launch of the Gannett Information Center that has replaced the traditional news room.

As I have told many of my downsized friends at The Register, Internet doesn’t define “information” the way that newspapers do. I tried to explain that to Currie, but he had places to go.

In 2003, before Gannett fathomed the concept, I wrote about what information centers would do to journalism. This citation appears in “Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age” which was marketed at the height of convergence, by my publisher, Oxford University Press, as a subversive book:

Imagine traveling to a community and stopping at the visitors’ information center, asking about sites of interest. Instead of reliable data, you get gossip and conjecture. When you complain, you are told that “information” is not necessarily grounded in fact. “That doesn’t make sense,” you say. In virtual domains, it does.  According to historian Theodore Roszak, “In the past, the word (information) has always denoted a sensible statement that conveyed a recognizable, verbal meaning, usually what we would call a fact.” In the high-tech media age, information has lost its common-sense definition, Roszak notes, and has come to mean electronic messages that can be counted, catalogued, encoded, and decoded.  The depreciation of information not only impacts education as Internet use expands, especially in schools, but also the reliability of journalism, with the audience typically unable to cipher fact from factoid and factoid from fiction.  Worse, some do not recognize those distinctions. Many more do not care.

When I wrote that, Gannett’s stock price was $82 a share, with revenue increasing 23% over the previous year. In 2007, when Gannett promoted information centers at AEJMC, its stock price had fallen to $60 a share.

Last week Gannett’s stock was selling for $3.75, up from a low of $1.85.

In 2007, few in AEJMC were paying attention to my warnings. This year I was asked to expound on them to launch a new association Web site, aptly named, “Hot Tops,” and oraculate on the future of journalism.

Because I know the nature of Internet, I also know how to use it to generate revenue. That requires us to think more like Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, than Gannett’s Phil Currie, who recently retired.

In my post I explained that there are few, if any, successful business models for mass communication on the Web. It’s the nature of the platform. Internet does not charge for information that sells once. It gives that away for free. Internet vends information about information that sells more than once in a databank.

This is a devastating coincidence for print journalism more than other platforms. Newspapers believe that information has value. By the time information is printed, processed, distributed and read, it is old news on Internet. To counter that, consultants told publishers to invest heavily in online journalism and make the news interactive, palatable and pretty.

Those consultants forgot one fact: It really doesn’t matter how inviting or engaging your Web portal is if those who visit there don’t want to pay for anything.

We are coming to terms with that fact. It is in our interest to do so. Each newsroom is a storehouse of information about information-databanks full of records-appropriately called “the morgue”-court records, cop reports, murders, drunk drivers, sport statistics, births, deaths, financial data, housing starts, foreclosures, last wills and testimonies of all sorts. We’re learning how to vend that information, selling it more than once, and when we master that skill, the nature of newsgathering, not the technology, will change.

We will have created a successful business model. In the trade-off, we will create news that affirms opinions rather than informs the populace. We no longer will be defenders of the Constitution but generators of the e-conomy. Bit by little bit we will lower standards where they are important and coax along with flash over substance.  And we will talk about all of us really being salesmen-better that, than no journalism at all-monetizing new media via the concept of “free” as Google does when it does no evil.

To test that, google the word “free.” You’ll get “The Freesite.com” telling you how to get free stuff on the Internet. You’ll get free clickers, free cell phones, free credit card checks, free software, free magazines, an article titled “Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business,” free spyware, free anti-virus ware, free shareware, free Web sites, free templates, free downloads, free download managers, free music, free games, free  email, free greeting cards, free hit counters, free icons, comics, dream trips and dates,  all for free, free, free!

And then you get by chance or serendipity, the Detroit Free Press, which happens to be a Gannett newspaper that recently limited home delivery and print editions, placing more emphasis on digital audio and video and mobile offerings. Journalism pundits are saying that freep.com is the future of journalism.

I’m not so sure. Does journalism have a future? Can there be freedom of the press without a press? Can there be a free press if we give away the press for free? Ah, there’s the rub. If information has no value, then what will become of our news values, from fact to follow-up, from prominence to proximity, from usefulness to timeliness?

Let’s hear what our panelists have to say.

I was the first panelist to speak. Now read my response.

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