Archive for the 'journalism' Category

A plug

February 27, 2008

I meant to do this last month, but please visit Life In A Bubble, the blog of a fellow former Minnesotan trying to break into journalism here in DC. I met Jessica at a women-only career seminar and totally understand how hard it is to do what she’s doing. So in the name of chicks supporting other chicks, check her out (even if you’re not a chick). Ta-da!

Comments redux

February 22, 2008

Continuing the comments discussion from yesterday, Mindy McAdams’ 6 Tips for Comments on Stories and J-blogs says more than I ever could about comments. This is a great series of tips.

Put the rules where everyone will see them. Check out Michelle Ferrier’s clever illustrated explanation of why this works.

Make the registration process and form as short as possible. I favor the kind of form that asks for exactly three things: A username, a password, and my e-mail address. The e-mail address will save me if I forget my username and password 12 years from now (I registered at The New York Times Web site in 1995). Some folks feel strongly that you should require real names. But if you’re asking for more than six pieces of information, in my opinion, you’re asking for TOO MUCH.

Make sure to scroll down and read about Daily Kos’s solution to trolls. :)

For journos and webheads: Growing Your News Website

February 20, 2008

Last week I learned that the Watertown (NY) Daily Times, despite putting all its content online for free, is losing out to a competitor, NewZJunky.com. Howard Owens, awesome blogger and journalist, wrote “Never before have I seen a newspaper.com get trounced in its own market by any competitor — not even a TV station. NewsJunky.com has twice the traffic, and is growing faster, than the local daily’s news site.” [Source] And this is despite the fact that all NewZJunky has is a terrible (really) layout, and links to obits, public records, the police blotter, etc. So, if this is the future of journalism on the Internet, count me out. Ugh.

Enter Growing Your News Website, a blog launched last week by Steve Outing (media pioneer and E&P columnist). The idea is that every day, Steve or a guest blogger will post one tip–not news, but tips that can be implemented–for making money or increasing traffic on a news web site.

I’ve already added it to my blogroll. Wouldn’t it be great if this site took off?

Photojournalists barred from selling reprints in Illinois

February 14, 2008

…in certain circumstances, that is.

This entire article rubs me the wrong way. Summary:

  1. News photographers, especially high school sports photographers, have been barred from access to sports games if their paper sells a lot of reprints online or if they won’t sign a form promising not to sell reprints.
  2. Some of these photographers directly make money from reprint sales; one from the Daily Southtown called a picture of a softball team cheering “the money shot.”
  3. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA), says this is necessary to protect the contract they have with VIP, a PR company hired to specifically take shots to sell to students and parents; revenue is shared with the school district. “We don’t have a problem with you giving them away or doing photo galleries online,” Anthony Holman, assistant executive director of the IHSA, told Bloomington’s Pantagraph last November.
  4. State Representative Joe Lyons has introduced House Bill 4582, which states that no school or school organization “may infringe upon or attempt to regulate in any manner the dissemination of news or the use of visual images by the news media…” which isn’t really what’s at stake here, is it? What’s at stake is the COMMERCIAL use of visual images by the news media.

There are so many things wrong with this. First, the IHSA is stepping way over its bounds. It doesn’t have the right to tell a newspaper what they can and can’t do with their photos. (The Illinois Press Association sued the IHSA to get access to the state football finals and lost the case. Has everyone in Illinois lost their minds?)

But on the other hand, a newspaper isn’t in–or shouldn’t be in–the business of selling reprints. Yet some are: “[V]isit the Web site of what’s now the SouthtownStar and you’ll see the paper means business. ‘Welcome to Southland Photo­Shoppe,’ it says. ‘Your shopping choices range from traditional prints to T-shirts, mugs, computer mouse pads and other items on which our photos are imprinted.’ A simple eight-by-ten is $25.” A newspaper is a public benefit, I believe the term is. It’s like a subway system or a museum in that it provides a value far greater than its monetary worth to shareholders. (Unlike subway systems and museums, newspapers aren’t kept afloat with government money. Probably a good thing, but the Beeb hasn’t often let me down…)

Alas, the sad fact of the news industry is that papers have to pursue outside interests and investments to remain viable. The Washington Post company owns Kaplan. The New York Times has About.com. Gannett owns a job site for nurses? (What? That one came as a surprise for me, too.) So if a small paper in Peoria (or whatever) needs an extra $2000 a year to keep afloat, it’s sad, crass, but necessary. I just somehow feel that the value of the”money shot” picture is more than the photograph itself. Does seeing yourself (or your kid) on the front page of your hometown newspaper not count as a value-add anymore? Isn’t that worth more than a framed photograph? Isn’t there a way for papers to capitalize on this without becoming commercial?

In the end, nobody wins here. As Lyons says, if VIP ever decides it’s not making enough money and pulls out and there’s nobody to take pictures, “Badda bing, badda boom, you’re taking your own photos.” News organizations that have been made to feel unwelcome for years are not going to flock back to take pictures of the high school chess club.

Ugh.

A glossary of journalism terms

February 7, 2008


Flickr: Thomas Hawk
Found while trawling the web: a five page (!) glossary of newspaper terms.
Many of these are amusingly archaic (does anyone need to know “cablese” anymore?) but there will be times when you, a reporter, will be asked to write a “hed” and “deck” for your 10-“inch” story–or to go to the “morgue,” or to rewrite your “lede,” or to stay until the day’s paper is “put to bed.” And I don’t know what they teach you in big-name J-schools, but where I went to school, we weren’t taught this in a class. (Actual quote from a teacher, reading from a handout: “Lede…? What’s that?”)

Many of these terms are artifacts from the green-eyeshade era. In fact, maybe nobody really needs to know what a lede is (it’s the beginning of your story, also written using the more traditional spelling lead, but spelled differently to prevent confusion with lead, the metal that made up the letters that were rearranged on a plate and put into the printing press to print the newspaper–no lead, no need for lede.) I’ve worked places that asked for 500 words, rather than 15 inches. I’ve also worked places that assumed I knew what all these terms meant (you can imagine my terror when, as a complete newbie, I was told to “keep [my] budget up to date.” What? I’m not an accountant!)

But it can’t hurt to be prepared.

Extra credit: Here’s a Palo Alto Times piece that describes the words used by the printers themselves–which didn’t exactly overlap with what reporters and editors used at the time. Wonderful words that just roll off the tongue: quoin, hellbox, chase, turtle.