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Archive for April, 2007

QOTD: Be more concerned with your character than your reputation

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
— John Wooden

QOTD: Don’t write a story about mankind …

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

“Don’t write a story about mankind; write a story about one man.”
— Unknown

I don’t know who said those words. I saw it a discussion board on facebook and thought it was spot on. But I wish I knew who’d said this quote. I tried to find it for a bit, but gave up. Anyone know?

Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in telling the big story that we forget that even the biggest story is only as important as the individual voices and lives impacted by it. That’s what the whole concept behind using “real people” and “show don’t tell.” It’s about finding the soul of the story. And that soul isn’t in statistics or a recent survey. It can’t be touched on by a salient quote from the institute of whatever it is your writing about or a comment from the legislator who proposed a law to start or end it. It’s in the real people living the story every day.

My LinkedIn “industry” dilemma

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

So, I’m finally getting around to joining LinkedIn.

But I have a dilemma. I don’t know what industry to choose. It says to “Choose the industry that best describes your primary expertise,” but that is kind of hard.

I work for a newspaper. So, should I put newspapers? But does that brand me as old school and out of touch with the new media realities? There’s also online media, which might work for where I want to be in the future, but as I said in the beginning of this paragraph, I work for a newspaper. Most of my work goes to print, even if it hits the Web first.

There’s also media production, but that seems to sound more like radio or TV. Maybe it’s just the connotation I carry from the names of the sequences at my university. There’s also a broadcast media section, which obviously I don’t fit in.

I could just stick to writing and editing, or the even broader publishing. But even those don’t quite fit.

I ended up choosing newspapers, for now. You can see my page here, and connect with me if you like.

Before deciding on newspapers, I searched for several people I know or work with to see what they listed, and they’re kind of all over the place. There really isn’t one broad “news” or “media” section, which kind of threw me off as it forced me to pick a camp I’m not entirely comfortable picking. I may reevaluate that decision later on. Any thoughts on whether it was the best pick for now?

QOTD: Each of us should make the most of our lives

Friday, April 20th, 2007

“Each of us should make the most of our lives. We should give life our best — let us use our lives more wisely to chase our dreams, find our true purpose and be as happy and successful as possible.”
— Malcom X

‘Why is this carbon-based?’

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

As I was reading Paul Conley’s latest post about skills students need to get hired, something clicked. He references another post he made that’s worth reading: Folks with resumes need not apply. The more important post, however, is the three things j-school students need to know to get hired.

I agree with that entire post. But here’s the thing that clicked:

Few things tell me less about a prospective hire than clips from a college newspaper.
Yet most of the students I meet use clips as the center of their job-searching efforts. The students, apparently at the urging of teachers, are often quite proud of their clips. And they have come to believe that the perfect clip will lead to the perfect entry-level job.

Most importantly, a clip ties a student to the part of the industry that is least likely to hire him — print. When a student hands a clip to a publishing executive today he’s likely handing it to someone who has already laid off a slew of print-only reporters. It’s an exercise in absurdity for students to market themselves as talented print journalists to executives who have laid off talented print journalists by the thousands.

I learned this relatively early in my job search from an editor who was impressed with my resume, mostly by my demonstrated new-media experience. But she raised one extremely valid point about my package. In her words, “Why is this carbon-based?” Good question. Why was I, of all people, applying on paper?!

As soon as she said it, I knew she was right. It was the catalyst I needed to organize my professional work online. The next week, I registered a domain, started my blog, uploaded my resume and posted my clips online in one central location.

As I sent out a few more applications for jobs or e-mails to editors inquiring about postings or openings, it was that site I sent. Usually with the note itself serving as the cover letter and an attached resume document. I always offered to send a package of clips. But I was not once asked to.

Until about two weeks ago, I’d still been collecting the papers/tear sheets with my stories at the paper where I work now. Thinking, of course, I should keep my clips, at least the best of them, in print.

Now, I’m going to recycle the papers when I finish reading them unless it’s a presentation I think comes across better or particularly well in print, and even then, I’m saving it for my own benefit. Because, duh, it dawned on me, there really is no need to do that. The job I will apply for next is not going to be one where printed clips are expected. If they are, it’s not the job for me.

In fact, none of the papers I actually interviewed with when looking for a job post-graduation ever saw my clips in print before my in-person interview. A large part of me thinks it wasn’t those clips that got me the interview.

Paul Conley is absolutely on target. If all you have to show for yourself after your undergrad experience is a few solid clips from a newspaper, then you’re wasting your ink. (As well as several thousand dollars in tuition at a school that obviously didn’t adequately prepare you.) Seriously.

People will be far more impressed even by a blogspot or wordpress account that keeps a running list of your latest stories than by a stack of copies that will likely end up in some filing cabinent to be stumbled upon several months later and then tossed (and hopefully recycled). At least post your resume online. But why not step beyond that? At a minimum start a blog about something you care about. It’s free, and it’s easier than ordering a coffee at Starbucks. Then start making some videos or podcasts, start experimenting. Keep a flickr account. Organize your interests in del.icio.us. Etc. Show that you have mastered the technology that news organizations are moving towards not the very thing they’re running from. That will help you land the elusive job you covet.

And as for the alternate story forms Conley talks about in the latest post? You better believe this is important, whether you are writing for print or online. At every paper I interviewed with, I was asked how I would either re-do a story they had already run in an alternate way, OR given a hypothetical story and asked how I’d present it in a unique way, OR asked to give an example of a time where I had opted for a non-traditional story form.

And guess what? I’ve done a lot of non-traditional stories since starting my job at a newspaper. In tomorrow’s paper, I have six “charticles” running as a package for an annual award given instead of a linear story. This is real.

Not sure how I feel about these photos

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

So, I’m really not sure how I feel about the photo choice for the dominant at jconline right now. I normally avoid discussing things like this here. But as I feel this is going to be an issue not just for my paper but for many papers and news outlets, I felt it was worth my 2¢.

The more I think about it, the more I think my gut reaction was the one most people will have. And that kind of concerns me. As much as I hate to admit it.

I saw the video sent to NBC tonight. I mean, literally, for about 10 minutes everyone in the newsroom stopped what they were doing, heading where they were walking, saying what they were saying. All eyes transfixed by the video of the would-be killer.

That included the photos of him pointing a gun at the camera. One of which is now staring at me, a handgun pointed at me, from the front page of my newspaper’s Web site.

My initial reaction was, “Woah, shit!” I was seriously taken aback by it. And I knew exactly what it was. Seems the other visitors have a similar reaction. The first comment reads: “Why put up such a horrible picture like that on your front page of the website? Couldn’t you of at least used a different one of him?”

I have to say I agree. Ethically speaking — and we actually had a mini-discussion on the ethics of airing that video before NBC ever said they would — I am uncomfortable with that photo. First of all, it’s disturbing to me, an adult who has a pretty high tolerance for being disturbed. But something about having someone I know has killed 32 other people pointing a gun at me really disturbs me.

Now, imagine I’m not me, hardened to a lot of news and a lot of horrible things. Imagine I’m 13, scanning the Web and maybe stopping by the newspaper site for a current events assignment for class. Or, worse, imagine I’m one of the parents, siblings, friends of one of the kids who did die at that gun point. On second thought, I really don’t want to imagine it, because I know seeing those photos would be painful.

I’m not saying don’t show the public. I would have run the video on my newscast. I would have run a photo on my Web site and in my paper. But the one of the gun pointed directly at the camera is going too far, I think.

A preliminary scan of other news sites:

The New York Times has him with the hammer & a connection to some movie posted in a blog.
CNN has the same photo as the J&C as its dominant. Interesting especially because of the prominent NBC stamp on it. They’ve also got the video posted. (Man that’s one hell of a lucky scoop for NBC.)
MSNBC has text on the spread eagle, shoot-em-up pose.
Washington Post has his smiling face from the video as its main art.
IndyStar has a close up of him taken from the video. (Clicking inside you can see they have a smaller photo of him pointing the gun at the camera, but it’s not the same, OMG! IN YOUR FACE, photo.)
Chicago Tribune has his spread eagle pose with guns off to the sides. (But they’ve got the other photos in a gallery if you click through.)
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the story about the package, but it’s still under a photo of the crowd mourning.
The Beacon Journal doesn’t even mention the story except as one of the headlines in its nation/world link list.
The Columbus Dispatch leads its page with sports, but if you scroll down, there’s yet another photo of the guy pointing a gun at the camera. Again not as in your face.
The Detroit Free Press has the spread-eagle pose, but it’s not just the photo, it’s a screen capture with the MSNBC graphics on bottom?
The Roanoke Times has the memorial for those killed as dominant.

Va. Tech shootings front pages

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Take a look at these front pages from today.

Maybe it’s because all the time we spent analyzing front pages, especially front pages across the country when major breaking news occurred, in news design last semester. Maybe I’m just weird. But it is one of my favorite things to do to look at newspaper’s side-by-side and compare how they handle such stories.

It is such a gut-wrenching story and one people are just drawn to. Yesterday, I heard about it walking past a professor’s office as she was pulling up CNN.com. Then, when I walked into the j-school office, the entire room was transfixed, all eyes on the coverage. Even today, I was on the phone with one of my regular sources and he asks me, “I haven’t been around a TV today. What’s the latest news on the shooting?” And I told him what I knew (just from watching MSNBC in the background of our newsroom and periodic refreshing of Google news) and pointed him to jconline for the latest updates, including the Purdue connection.

Our front page, which rarely gives prominent play to non-local stories, was dominated by the massacre. With local flavor/reaction. Tomorrow’s front page will again be dominated with the fall out from the story — including a few Purdue grads who were among those killed, as well as other locals with Va. Tech ties.

Anyway, thanks to Poynter for pulling that list together. There’s also a good, detailed analysis of the fronts. I particularly found the comments about The Wall Street Journal vs. Canada’s National Post interesting:

Two of North America’s national newspapers provide the strongest contrast of how to report the shootings. Canada’s National Post devoted the entire page to the story, reversing out its flag and all the text. The headline command attention; demanding that readers delve deeper into the stories. By contrast, The Wall Street Journal put the story atop its ‘What’s News’ briefs.

If you want to see more, there’s always Today’s Front Pages, which also has an analysis of today’s pages. (There is no permalink, so hopefully that link holds for a little bit.) It reads:

Newspapers all over the world share a universal truth today: No matter what else is happening, the shooting deaths of 33 students at Virginia Tech made Page One.

For Virginia newspapers, no headline was too bold, no photo too large. …

Elsewhere around the nation, oversized, stark, often all-caps headlines told the story:…