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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.

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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…)

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As LSU’s Director of Student Media, I occasionally fire off messages to student editors and station managers with suggestions that I usually expect them to ignore. They are independent and they are rightly in charge of their newsrooms, and I didn’t follow a lot of faculty advice when I was their age either.

I sent this message to the editorial board of our newspaper, the Daily Reveille, on Oct. 1:

Message to students

I just checked. I didn’t carbon anyone from the New York Times on the message. But the Times ran a front-page editorial this morning, calling for an end to “the Gun Epidemic in America.”

My students sort of followed my advice (or moved that direction on their own), running some opinions on the front page but more frequently than I suggested. That’s OK, too: The Reveille’s front page and editorials should reflect their judgment, not mine. I’m proud of their work, which has included excellent opinion pieces by columnists and the editorial board on page-one this semester, about such topics as mental health and racial discrimination at bars near campus.

As Kristen Hare’s Poynter piece that I shared with the student editors indicated, newspapers are increasingly responding to important issues by stating opinions on newsprint once reserved for “straight news”: the front page. The New York Times is following this trend, not leading it (nor am I, obviously). Hare’s piece was prompted by this Chicago Sun-Times cover: (more…)

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I taught a class today in professional codes of ethics for various media careers.

A central point of the class was to discuss whether and why ethics codes should be updated: How much do they present timeless principles and how much should they provide specific guidance relevant to today’s ethical situations and challenges?

I won’t review all the points I made here, but I cited these ethics codes (or principles):

I also cited these narrower but more detailed examinations of slices of journalism ethics, all of them completed in the past few years:

We discussed native advertising, product placement as efforts to blur the lines between advertising and news or entertainment, including the Cities Energized paid post in the New York Times.

I also cited blog posts by Tom Rosenstiel and Tim McGuire about the relative merits of independence and transparency as core principles of journalism ethics.

I also cited Bob Steele‘s 10 questions to make ethical decisions as advice that is as helpful making ethical decisions today as when he first published them in 2002.

I made points covered in more detail in these earlier blog posts:

These were the slides I used in the class:

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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…)

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I offer mostly curation, rather than fresh commentary, on the New York Times’ move from a daily page-one meeting to a daily meeting focused on digital platforms:

Poynter’s Ben Mullin explains the change, including Executive Editor Dean Baquet’s memo to the Times staff.

Mathew Ingram of GigaOm has a thoughtful commentary on the change, including how overdue it is.

I blogged about newsroom meetings last year when Margaret Sullivan reported the first steps toward a digital focus in the morning meeting.

I blogged some advice on leading newsroom meetings in 2013.

Changing newsroom meetings is hard. As I noted yesterday, I was not successful in changing meetings as thoroughly as I wanted when I was editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

I don’t say this to criticize Baquet or the Times, just to note how deeply entrenched meetings are in a newsroom culture and how hard it is to change them: The Times Innovation report, recommending a digital focus to the meetings, was completed last March. The change is now being implemented 11 months later. Of course, many other changes recommended in the report have already being implemented.

I’m not banging on the Times for taking 11 months to change its morning meeting, just saying this is a big and difficult change. I wish Baquet and the Times well in executing this change and in using it to continue culture change in the newsroom.

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Jon Stewart cut his old friend Brian Williams a break, making some really big media news to overshadow the story about the possible death blow to Williams’ career.

A suspension of the leading anchor of the old Big Three television networks for embellishing stories is a big deal. But the departure of the king of fake news is huge. Whom will we turn to now to learn what the news really means? Well, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Larry Wilmore and whoever replaces Stewart on The Daily Show, but more on that later.

The dual career moves — a suspension following an apology that only made things worse, contrasting with lavish praise following an announcement of a voluntary departure at some vague point later this year — were loaded in contrast and irony that tell us so much about television news and entertainment today:
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