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Archive for the 'Lists' Category

Letterman: Top 10 signs your newspaper is in trouble

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

In case you didn’t see this on David Letterman or linked at Romenesko.

Top 10 Signs Your Newspaper Is In Trouble

10. Covers all news that happens within one block of the office
9. Today’s exclusive — “Nixon Dead!”
8. Reporter sent to jail for refusing to divulge a source… Oh, and he also killed a dude
7. All horoscopes: “Now would be a good time to get out of the newspaper business”
6. Paper’s motto: “Suck it”
5. Every “hot” gossip item is about Jack Klugman
4. Managing editor and guy who wheels around breakfast? Same guy
3. Under “Weather,” it just reads “Yes”
2. Instead of “Garfield,” has a comic strip called “Garfunkel”
1. You endorsed Dennis Kucinich

(Bolded ones are my favorites.)

A list of random updates

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

Some random thoughts before I get off for the night:

  • Working Sunday really isn’t that bad, even the 8 a.m. shift when you’re alone in the office babysitting the scanner and updating the site. The drawback is there is pretty much nothing going on that isn’t somehow church-related. I’m not sure how my editor took it when my reaction was, “You want me to… cover a church service?” But luckily, we were able to come up with a pretty sweet angle. I’ll probably post that story in the clips tomorrow when it runs (not because it’s amazing or “clip-worthy” but because I liked it). Add to the mix that it was a holiday and Sunday, and today was the slowest news day of my working life.
  • I also work Christmas this year. Both of these holidays I inadvertedly talked myself into working. I should keep my mouth shut.
  • I have been wasting too much time on Twitter already. It’s cutting into my Facebook time. ;)
  • Speaking of Facebook, I have a question and want to hear some opinions. One of my co-workers, about my age and also a member of Facebook, today told me I was “brave for listing your political leanings” on Facebook. While I’m not a hardcore anything, and I do understand how having my political leanings known could be perceived as a conflict of interest, I’m wondering if it actually matters? I’m not out there crusading for any causes or signing and circulating any petitions. I know it really depends on the organization’s policy, and I would have to ask my editors if it was a definite don’t. But I wanted to hear some thoughts. I’ve discussed this blog with the powers that be at my paper, and we kind of came up with some ground rules. One of them being I can’t go off on political rants. (I wouldn’t anyway. I don’t know enough or care enough about politics to get into it. Most of it’s just semantics anyway.) But I don’t see how admitting I lean liberal is a horrible thing? It’s a bias I know exists and because of that, when dealing with issues where it comes into play, I almost overcompensate for it. I do not cover government where political parties really play any role, and I don’t really ever want to do such reporting. Though, the same person also raised the point that being registered as a member of one party or another falls in the same category. I definitely disagree with that. If I want to vote in a primary election, I have to pick one party or another. Should my job dictate that it is not OK for me to vote in a primary election, which is part of my constitutional rights? (Granted, either way it doesn’t matter this year — we have no contested seats in primaries in the county.) My argument was my Facebook also indicates I am “Christian.” Should that bar me from covering anything that has to do with religion because I have stated publicly what camp I stand in? I don’t know. But thought it was an interesting topic to bring up.
  • I have pretty much finished reading Somebody Told Me and can already tell that I am a stronger writer because of it. I think I am more aware of the nuances of word choice and descriptive details after noticing how effortlessly he weaved them in and impressed me. Seriously, at several points I was jealous of his talent at finding the perfect words and phrases to describe people, places, actions or even ideas. They say reading makes you a better writer. Anyone wanting to write, I recommend reading the articles in that book.
  • Currently, I’m reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I really like it so far. I read one of the quotes on the book that said it was like the Sound and the Fury meets the Catcher in the Rye. I agree, and think it’s equally as good as both of those classics.
  • All of this reading is part of my effort to get through the mountain of books I have purchased but not had time to read. It is actually getting ridiculous in that I am out of room on my shelves for anymore unread books. And I really miss visiting Borders. So I need to clear this queue quickly. I also really want to sign up for the local libraries, but I can’t because I feel guilty looking at the stacks of unread books for which I’ve actually paid.
  • At the end of this week is my 90-day mark at my job. This means I’ll be eligible for health insurance and all that fun stuff. That is, as long as they don’t think I suck too bad and decide, eh, it’s not working out. (The first 90 days are “probationary.”) I looked over my review checklist already, and it looks like I’ll be sticking around. So yay for not being horrible at journalism and not failing at my first job. I know it’s silly, but I have a tendency to worry about these things.
  • Also, I can’t believe I’ve only been here three months. It seems like I’ve been here for only a few weeks and also like I’ve been doing this for years. It’s hard to describe. There is still so much unconquered territory, even just on my own beat. (In my defense, I’m responsible for something like two dozen school corporations spread out across 10 counties, each with several schools.) But I’m also taking on more responsibilities here and starting some new projects. It’s also a reminder that I’ve been gone nearly a semester from the Stater, and yet that world still turns without me. God, so much to learn!

That’s all I’ve got. What, like that isn’t enough?

The wrong way to do polls

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

One of my biggest online newspaper pet peeves is user polls.

I brought this up the other day in a meeting. I thought it might be worth pointing out here as well because it applies to probably the majority of papers with online polls (at least the ones I’ve come across).

Things that annoy me about newspaper Web polls:

  • Why bury it at the bottom of the home page?
    I will never understand why the majority of these polls are tacked on to the bottom of the first page on the site. Think about it. When was the last time you scrolled to the bottom of a newspaper’s Web site, especially on the first page where the day’s top headlines, photo galleries, multimedia, special projects, forums, blogs and more entice you to click long before you ever reach that far. Chances are, it’s been a while. And chances are, if you actually did get to the bottom, you were looking for something in particular that you couldn’t easily find on the home page. I can appreciate that the home page is like the front page: valuable real estate. But, why bother if you’re just going to bury it? At least shuffle it so when it’s a particularly important topic, the poll gets higher play.

  • Why is there almost no context given to the question?
    You want to ask me how I feel about the head football coach resigning, fine. But, link me to the story so I can read it and feel I’m making a semi-informed decision. Or at least so I can follow up my vote with that story as you’ve now piqued my interest. Don’t make me do the work to find that story. Don’t make me think/search/go out of my way to find the article, event or whatever that sparked this question.
  • The polls don’t get included/mentioned in the stories themselves.
    Seems to me logical to include the poll with the story not just on the front page. I know this may be more technically difficult, but it would also get a lot more votes because anyone reading the story would see the poll. They’ve already expressed interest in the topic by clicking through to the story. They would probably vote just to see what their peers had to say. (Well, I would.) Even more of a pet peeve on this is when the sidebar on the story says, “Take our poll online.” And there’s no link or anything.
  • Publishing the results
    I think it was because representative samples was pounded in my head by my stats teacher in college. I don’t know, but publishing the results of the polls with out a disclaimer about how unscientific and unrepresentative the results are seems misleading. I don’t see them being quoted in stories or anything, but yeah. Actually, I remember the Record-Courier quoted a Stater poll once about students preference for semesterly graduation. No joke. Not only did they quote a highly unscientific poll (If I recall correctly it had only about 200 votes on it.), but they used the poll results from a different publication. When I read that in their story (which had lazy reporting anyway), I almost choked. Don’t do that.

I’m glad to get that off my chest.

Rules to be a good journalist

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

12 and a half rules to be a good journalist
(nod to Howard Owens where I saw it linked)

They are all good rules. Some more obvious than others. But it’s a list worth keeping in mind each morning as you wake up.

My favorites: Be a thriver, not a survivor (No. 7); Keep learning every day (No. 4); and Never be embarassed to ask stupid questions (No. 2).

I also like rule 11, although it may have the most clichés in a single paragraph I’ve ever seen:

11. WAKE UP ANGRY, AMBITIOUS: Get the fire in your belly to do something, set things right. Respond to injustice, inhumanity, corruption. Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable. Don’t think it is somebody else’s job. Be the change you want to see.

And of course, rule 12 is just what the short bio about me on the side of this blog says: I love what I do. As I often advised some of the younger students at Kent when they asked me for advice about whether to stick with it or change majors. If you don’t love it, get out. You’re not going to be paid enough to hate your job. But if you do, even 12-hour days and enough stress to crack most people isn’t going to deter you from rule 1, chase your dreams.

My vocabulary isn’t — that — bad, is it?

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

So, I happened across this list of 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know.

I’ll be honest. It made me feel stupid.

I knew just more than half of the words meanings on first glance. From taking the words apart and working out the potential meanings, I probably could make an educated guess on maybe 15 of the remaining words. But that still leaves about 30 of the 100 words I “should know” as a complete, “huh, wha?” for me.

I didn’t take the SAT. I took the ACT once and, happy enough with my score, went about junior and senior year stressing about other things. So, unlike many peers, I never worried about memorizing seemingly random word lists and meanings. I’m presuming that is where my peers would learn such words as bowdlerize, orthography and quotidian. Because I can’t imagine short of doing a lot of crossword puzzles or memorizing the dictionary, those are words that have ever come up in conversation.

You know, maybe I am better off not knowing these words.

My sister Brandiann is constantly on my case about my use of what she calls “Republican” words. Most of the time these words are not uncommon; they just have multiple syllables, and that frustrates her. I don’t try to impress people with my vocabulary. In fact, as a newspaper reporter, I don’t get that chance very often. Though, I admit, I’d love to see my editor’s face if I tried to squeeze in the word “incontrovertible” instead of undeniable.

But, it makes me wonder. If my college-educated vocabulary, which is hardly lacking in my opinion, is barely a passing grade on this list of 100, then where the heck does the average high school graduate fall.

And who the heck compiled this list? I can think of a few more practical terms that should be there, such as “APR” and “Interest Rate.”

But eh, that’s just me. And hasn’t this post proved that I apparently don’t know as much as I should.

A roundup of 2006

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Because it is now officially the last day of 2006, I am going to do a quick roundup of some important events/milestones in my life this year:

  • Being named editor of the DKS.
  • Putting out two “extra” editions of the DKS.
  • Living away from home for an extended period of time.
  • Completing my first internship.
  • Turning 21.
  • Graduating from college.
  • Accepting my first “real” job.

It doesn’t look like much, but most of those are huge milestones in one’s life/career. Looking back, I probably accomplished more of significance this year — in one year — than I did in my 20 years before. I’m sure 2007 will be a great year, but I don’t know if any year from here on out will hold as many important events.

Some notes about the blog

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

I’ve officially had this blog for more than a month.

In that time, I’ve missed exactly two days posting. So far, I’ve only missed one day in December. Most days I’ve had several posts. In fact, I’m quickly approaching my 100th post. I’d say that’s not bad.

I switched up the design on the top of the blog. What used to be a composition notebook is now a stack of newspapers. (Note to any of those wondering, that was actually just one week’s worth of the newspapers I’d accumulated in my office. I read four newspapers a day in print, sometimes more.) I think the newspapers hit the journalist part home more than the composition notebook did. Carl had suggested I add a computer, and I took some photos of my MacBook, but I decided my keyboard was enough for now. It’s subtle enough.

I added a calendar to the sidebar this morning. I’m still tweaking the design of it, but yeah. I also may add a few more things to the sidebar. Maybe a “What I’m reading” box, so everyone can follow along with my latest books. Plus, then I could keep a running list of the books I read and buy in 2007. (An idea I totally stole from Katie.)

I also updated the about page and the sidebar about myself. Now the sidebar is a list of random things worth knowing about me. It’s funny, but it’s a pretty quick snapshot of what I’m all about.

I am going to start in January doing a daily quote. (For those who don’t know, I’m obsessed with quotes.) I have a random quote in the sidebar already that changes with each refresh. But, I come across quotes I like every day. So, I think I’m going to start doing a “daily quote” or “daily inspiration.” It could be anything from something I read in a book to something I read in the newspaper to just a really good quote I came across. Today’s entry would be the one I just swapped into my e-mail signature:

“Fate loves the fearless.”
— James Russell Lowell

Finally, I wanted to note that now when you search my name in Google, the first result is this site. I don’t pretend to understand the inner workings of Google and how pages are ranked, added, sorted or anything. But at least now anyone wanting to know about me sees this before some random stories I wrote about May 4 for the 35th anniversary DKS a few years back. That’s reassuring.

Other than that, I think that’s all I have going on.