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Posts Tagged ‘Roy Peter Clark’

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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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Few techniques helped me more when I was a reporter than when I learned the value of writing as I reported. It challenged my discipline, but when I succeeded at incorporating writing into my reporting process, I found that it improved both processes.

With today’s digital formats, many journalists have to write as they report: liveblogging events, covering breaking news stories as they unfold, reporting routine beat news or even investigative stories over time as you nail down important developments.

But this was one of my most popular and effective workshops back when I was doing lots of writing and reporting workshops. And I think lots of reporters still cling to the old linear process of reporting first, then writing, when breaking stories don’t force them to write as they report. I think learning the value of writing when you report, even if it’s not a breaking story, will help improve your writing and reporting, as well as helping you succeed in situations where digital formats demand better integration of your different work processes.

So I offer this old workshop handout, not much updated except for this intro, because I think it might still have value.An earlier version of this handout was posted on the No Train, No Gain website. I often paired this, either in the same workshop or in companion workshops, with my teaching about Using Story Elements. The process of writing as I reported and the mentality of thinking in terms of story elements were critical to whatever success I achieved as a reporter.

I addressed both the process and the use of story elements in telling how I wrote the homecoming and twins stories, two of the best narrative efforts of my career. (more…)

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Al Tompkins and Roy Peter Clark of Poynter argue in separate pieces that news organizations should identify mass killers, rather than withholding their names and photos from publication.

I admire both men greatly and have featured Roy’s writing insights in this blog. But neither of them is at all convincing here.

Most journalists and news organizations have not embraced my call to stop giving attention to attention-seeking mass killers. However the Sun News Network has decided not to publish the name of the suspect in the recent New Brunswick slayings of three police officers.

The Sun News decision prompted Al to address the issue and Roy was agreeing with Al’s post. Please read Al’s and Roy’s responses to this post, at the end of my original post.

Roy is one of my favorite writers in the business, but this piece was not as strong as he usually writes. The headline tells you what the piece is about: “What Harry Potter teaches about naming killers.” And here’s what Harry Potter teaches about naming killers: Nothing. Harry Potter is fiction. He teaches us nothing more about naming killers than Murphy Brown taught us about American families or morals back when Dan Quayle found her “lifestyle choice” disturbing. (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 another Training Tracks blog post from the No Train, No Gain archive. It originally posted March 29, 2005. Any updates from me are in bold. It includes links to a couple of my favorite stories and some outstanding narratives by other writers.

When a reporter asks for help, a writing coach needs to respond with helpful advice right away.

When I was writing coach at the Des Moines Register, a reporter asked me to take a look at a draft of a story he was working on. I said I’d take a look and get back to him. But I was busy. I can’t remember what I was busy with, but a day slipped by, then a couple of days, then a week or two. Then I found out I would need surgery and I was off work for a little more than a month. As I was sifting through the mound of stuff that accumulated while I was gone, I found the reporter’s story. It was an enterprise story that hadn’t run yet, so I responded with some advice and an apology. The reporter was understanding, probably giving me a pass because of the surgery. But he never asked for my help again.

The best training opportunity is when someone wants to learn. Ever since I blew off that reporter, I try to drop what I’m doing and respond right away when someone asks me for help. Pride of authorship keeps too many reporters from asking for help. When one does request help, that is an excellent opportunity for a writing coach or editor to have an impact and teach a new skill. (more…)

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I’ve been updating old posts from my Training Tracks blog here, trying to resurrect my contributions to the No Train, No Gain archives. Usually I provide a brief update at the end. This post, however, was about Roy Peter Clark reaching the halfway point of his series, “Writer’s Toolbox.” Since that series became a book and then a blog, I decided to update with a new Q&A with Roy. He graciously took the time to answer my questions by email.

Roy, we did a Q&A in 2004 when you were halfway through your Writer’s Toolbox series, which became the book Writing Tools, published in 2006. How did the book do? How many copies have been sold? Did it have subsequent printings? Is it still selling well?

Thanks for asking, Steve.  The success of the book “Writing Tools” has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my career. We’ll be closing in on sales of 100,000 soon. It’s been translated into Danish and German. Scott Simon on NPR generously referred to it as emerging as a “small classic.”  Much more important — and gratifying — are the regular messages from writers young and old who testify that the book helped them in some important way.  That was my mission in the first place.

Of the 50 tools, which is your favorite? (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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