In Writing on March 6, 2014 at 5:22 pm
I Googled “nondescript office building” and came up with Google’s Berlin office.
Yes, Virginia, there are journalism clichés. There is a growing body of evidence that there is a dizzying array of phrases that raised questions and sparked debate in nondescript office buildings around the country and brought stinging rebuke to the proverbial journalist. Here’s a modest proposal. Going forward – wait for it – let’s not use these phrases so much.
Eleven! I managed to use 11 of the cringe-worthy journalistic clichés found in Carlos Lozada’s list created for the Washington Post. I’d like to say that is the only time I’ve used these phrases, but that would be a lie. These suckers are pernicious. Some of these phrases burrow into your prose like chiggers in the night. (If you don’t get the reference, ask someone at one of our southern newspapers.)
If we all agree that these pompous phrases are worthless and overused, then why do we overuse them? I have a theory.
As journalists we read a lot. Which means we read these phrases again and again in the best journalism in the country. So it’s monkey see, monkey do. It’s like that hit song on the radio; you hear it enough, next thing you know, you are singing it in the shower.
We (and by we, I mean “I”) can make the mistake of thinking that words like “zeitgeist” and phrases like “upon further reflection” sound uptown. We want to write as well as David Brooks, so we emulate him. …
In Business on March 6, 2014 at 5:08 pm
Last week was a rough one for college journalism programs. First, because it seems ever more of them are deciding the very word “journalism” is anathema to their survival. I see you, West Virginia University! And secondly, because of the reconsideration of journalistic “teaching hospitals.”
In their struggle to remain relevant, J schools are doing what we newspaper types are doing: Namely, changing a lot and sometimes in ways that make no sense. More than five years ago, smart J school administrators at places like the University of California, Berkeley, started websites to give their students real-world opportunities to learn the craft by doing. These were equated to teaching hospitals and medical schools. It makes perfect sense. Kid smart young students the keys to a new website, social media tools, video, audio and print and let them learn as they go. Well, the cost of running those operations is giving administrators heartburn.
Cal Dean Edward Wasserman said last week that the arrangement no longer works for the nation’s premier public university, at least not at Mission Local, which the school has run for years. He notes that the university pays for the site year round even though its students only really benefit for a fraction of that time. He points out that the site is based in San Francisco while the university is across the bridge in Berkeley. And so forth. But as Lance Knobel points out on the Nieman Lab site, Wasserman misspoke when he suggested that marketing and audience building and branding are ancillary to what a journalism school does. In fact, these are the new skills our best journalism schools must teach. I won’t simply repeat Knobel’s excellent post, but I think he is absolutely correct. …