In Writing techniques on May 29, 2014 at 2:57 pm
Well, I’ll say this for Barbara Sharik of the Bastrop, La., Daily Enterprise: She is a woman of her word. When the headline promises a column about nothing, she delivers.
Wick Group Publisher Will Chapman passed this along. His family published the newspaper for many years up until the 1980s. I’ll bet you such a column wouldn’t have made it into print when the Chapmans were running the show.
Sharik writes, “Louis Mossbauer suggested I write about nothing and I said I could do that…” Well done, I guess.
Let’s stipulate that this is a waste of ink, her employer’s money and any reader’s time. Unfortunately, Sharik’s approach isn’t as novel as you might think. Too often columns — including those in our newspapers — tell us more about the writer’s approaching deadline than anything of import to readers. There is very little that I read in the course of my duties as editorial director for Wick that irks me as much as a self-indulgent column.
It’s important that we offer local opinion in our newspapers. It’s one of the things that differentiates us from the World Wide Web at large. There are hundreds of places to learn about an election in India. There may be almost as many places to learn about statewide elections in your neck of the woods. There even may be several places to read the police blotter from you town. But cogent, concise, crystallized thought about the events of the day from your neighborhood can be your unique value proposition. Don’t squander that opportunity and your readers’ time by writing about nothing. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Writing on May 11, 2012 at 8:25 am
Writing a local newspaper column requires guts, sensitivity, an understanding of your community and keen reporting skills. Especially keen reporting skills. It is an act of observation and enlightenment rendered in several hundred words.
It is perhaps the highest honor at any newspaper.
It is not license to ill. You are not called upon to write about your cute cat or your favorite vegetable. No one cares about you. Readers want to know more about themselves. Your columns may be personal, in fact the good ones almost always are, but only to the extent that they generalize from the specific that is you. Good columns reflect universal themes of humanity. They unite us. They lift us up.
Too often, our newspaper columns are dashed-off affairs. They read as if they were the last thing written that day, a collection of words stretching from here to there just to fill the white space separating the writer from day’s end. That is an ever-lasting shame. If you have been blessed with the chance to put your own thoughts into the newspaper, treat it as a sacred appointment, not just another assignment. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Writing on May 4, 2012 at 9:13 am
George Vescey started his, “This is a column about a column.” Gail Spector had this to say by way of explanation in hers: “I’m moving on now mostly because it’s the right time. I’m tired. I’ve given this everything I have.” Jason Gay took a few liberties by writing one for Larry King. “How do I want to go out?” Gay/King wrote. “Content, in the arms of my beloved. Or in Jeff Van Gundy’s.”
Farewell columns are like that. IMHO, some are darn good. Some are TMI. Some are so self-indulgent they make me LMAO. Still others are OMG bad. Using that math, about three-fourths of them should have been consigned to the dustbin before they were published.
For some reason, too many of us think our readers give a good gosh darn whether we ever write again. The truth is, if we are doing our job most effectively, we are all but invisible. Good newspaper writers are like baseball umpires that way. That byline is important only to our mothers.
So why do we feel compelled to say farewell in print every time we get a new job? … Read the rest of this entry »
In Opinion pages on November 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm
I found something cool in the Montrose Daily Press the other day. Editor Mike Easterling and Publisher Francis Wick have been running notice about a new feature they hope to run on the newspaper’s opinion page. You can see it above.
The newspaper has gotten with key decision-makers around town and asked if they would be willing to answer questions from readers. It’s a great idea, isn’t it?
Of course, any such initiative will have it’s management challenges. Mike and Francis will have to keep those questions coming. If emails, letters and calls don’t come, Mike may have to go looking for some. I don’t know why you couldn’t ask the guy eating lunch at the next table if he had a question for the local elected officials. I don’t think that violates the spirit of the enterprise. The folks at the Daily Press will have to make sure the city fathers answer the questions promptly too.
The Daily Press has a long history of really interesting, engaging opinion pages. Remember this one? A really good local opinion page doesn’t just happen. And it doesn’t happen nearly enough. You have to plan for them and sometimes you have to solicit columns and other stuff to fill up the page.
Some random thoughts about good and bad opinion pages follow … Read the rest of this entry »
In journalism on May 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm
Earliler this month, Bogalusa Daily News General Manager Richard Meek (that’s him on the right) won the Sam Hanna Award for column writing at the Louisiana Press Association convention. It was one of six first-place awards the newspaper’s editorial folks took home with them. (Hanna was a longtime Louisiana columnist and publisher.) I asked Richard to share some tips on good column-writing. His ideas follow. I think a good locally oriented column is really a must for a community newspaper. Plus they are fun to write. Here’s Richard. — Clay
Having thoughts of obliterating your sanity? How about tossing your ego off a cliff with no safety net waiting in case of meltdown?
If so, proceed to your nearest editor and express a desire to be a columnist. Then, retrieve the last bastion of logic that is conspicuous by its absence and retreat to the sanctity of exposing corrupt politicians, covering murders or analyzing your school system’s latest test scores. Your psyche will thank you in the morning. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Writing on November 11, 2010 at 5:28 pm
On the day after an estimated one million people turned out for a parade to celebrate the San Francisco Giants’ World Series championship (did I not mention the Giants are the World Series champs!?), this was the most read story on the San Francisco Chronicle’s Web site.
It’s not about the champs. It’s not about the parade that brought the city to a halt. It’s a column, a bit of a screed really, addressed to young Democrats who sat out the midterm elections. It begins:
Oh, now you’ve done it.
See? You see what happens when you young liberal voters get so disgruntled and disillusioned that you drop all your party’s newborn, hard-won ideas about Hope™ and Change™, without any patience, without really giving them sufficient time to mature, without understanding that hugely foreign, anti-American concept known as “the long view”?
Columnist Mark Morford captured a bit of the zeitgeist with his piece. It’s personal, it’s passionate and it’s really, really readable. It is not, of course, standard news fare, and I’m not suggesting you write your news stories this way… not exactly.
But I am suggesting you can add some spice to your writing in a bald-faced attempt to grab readers by the eyeballs… Read the rest of this entry »
In sports on February 5, 2010 at 9:28 am
This column (and this week’s “Their Best”) got me thinking about one of my favorite genres of sports story – the where-are-they-now variety.
There is something about sports that lends itself to this treatment that just doesn’t exist elsewhere in the paper. Folks might read about what’s happening in the life of the guy who was mayor in 1990, but they are more likely to remember fondly the quarterback of the local college football team. I think it has to do with the fact that we sometimes put athletes up on a pedestal. They are heroes in a way. What happens when these gods come down to live with the mortals?
Anyway, please at least take the time to skim John Canzano’s column in the Portland Oregonian. It’s fabulous. (That’s John, by the way, in the accompanying mug shot.)… Read the rest of this entry »