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Hate-share this, suckas!

In Online media on November 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm

hate sharing pic

It is now possible to troll your own audience. What’s more, some editors are apparently doing it purposefully and the Columbia Journalism Review doesn’t like it. I guess I don’t either, even though I didn’t know it was happening.

This is going to require a bit of explanation.

If you are a denizen of Twitter or Facebook, you have no doubt noticed that certain stories get shared a lot. Sometimes it’s not that they are important or even something the sharer much cares about. It has to do with the headline.

At first, savvy online outfits sought to create what even more savvy observers called “the curiosity gap.” This is a headline that doesn’t tell you all you need to know. In fact, it is designed to make you curious about what follows rather than tell you what follows. Here’s an example from the geniuses at Upworthy. By ending with “I think we know where this is going,” editors are baiting you. … You mean you don’t know where they are going? Don’t you want to look?

Now comes “hate-sharing.” This is a type of Internet headline designed to make you mad – and thus more likely to share it on your social media feeds precisely to say how mad it makes you.

Genius, no?

Examples in the CJR story include, “Should single women be allowed to vote?” and “Brunch is for jerks.” …

On Writing Well

In Books on November 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

zinsser pic

A Facebook friend reminded me of a gem of a book from the past. Actually, I glance at it every day. It’s on the shelf, right at eye level above my computer, as I type these words. It’s called “On Writing Well,” and it is William Zinsser’s ode to the practice of writing. My copy was assigned reading when I was in J school in the Reagan years.

It’s a lot like the Strunk and White classic, The Elements of Style. It’s pretty sleek and terrifically readable. It’s preachy in the same way the Declaration of Independence is preachy: We hold these truths about writing to be self-evident.

Zinsser offers advice like this, in a chapter on punctuation:

There is not much to be said about the period except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough. … There is no minimum length for a sentence that is acceptable in the eyes of man and God. …

Taking the #bwchallenge

In Photography on November 13, 2014 at 3:33 pm
Noger Beshar, 6, at her family’s home in Abdullah's Village outside Al-Kut in south-central Iraq.  The village has no electricity or running water. Photograph by Michael Madrid, USA TODAY.

Noger Beshar, 6, at her family’s home in Abdullah’s Village outside Al-Kut in south-central Iraq. The village has no electricity or running water. Photograph by Michael Madrid, USA TODAY.

Several days ago, a friend of mine posted a black and white photograph on Facebook along with the hashtag #bwchallenge. Unbeknownst to me, this is a thing. It’s sort of like the ice bucket challenge, only drier. Some of the world’s best photographers have taken the challenge and are posting black and white photography across social media platforms.

My Facebook friend is Michael Madrid. He and I worked on the college newspaper together back when newspaper photographers were denizens of the darkroom. He is now senior photo editor for USA Today. The photos he is contributing to the challenge are from a project he did in Iraq and they are absolutely arresting. I asked him when he prefers black and white photography and this is what he wrote back. — Clay

The photograph on the left illustrates a prime element of the black and white aesthetic, focusing the viewers’ eye on the heart of the photograph. The second photograph illustrates the color distraction quite well. …

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