In journalism on April 13, 2017 at 12:39 pm
That smiling woman up there is Petra Polakovicova. When I met her several years ago, she had just achieved the title advanced sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. It is a very rare distinction and makes her one of the world’s true wine experts. She is also an immigrant from Slovakia.
Which is why I mention her here. You see, immigrants like her might not come immediately to mind in the current debate over immigration.
Last week, during a pair of conference calls with editors, I heard again and again about Wick editors who were planning in various ways to highlight immigrants in their communities. That would probably be a worthwhile effort at any time, but these efforts come in a particular context. Immigrants and immigration generally are probably the enduring hot topic in the nation today.
Those discussions got me thinking. What if we did something epic?
Here is what I propose: An endless series of profiles, interviews, portraits, recordings and videos of immigrants in our communities. Frankly, we are going to do this at the Half Moon Bay Review whether anyone wants to play with us or not, but it will be so much more interesting if we work on this together. … Read the rest of this entry »
In journalism on April 6, 2017 at 11:23 am
Why didn’t you cover my (insert thing you didn’t cover here)?
Virtually every day for the 5,363,982 days I’ve been working for a newspaper, someone has come in wanting free publicity. What do you tell these people?
For my part, I always try to be respectful and offer some avenue for a win-win. Granted, sometimes folks just won’t take no for an answer and I have been known to be less than saintly in these conversations. But nine times out of 10, we can figure out some way to share the information in a way that makes sense, and sometimes that means advertising.
The first trick is determining whether this is newsworthy on some level. Has it been done before? Is it interesting to a wide audience? Does it merit staff time? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” all parties are about to be happy. This looks like a story for the print newspaper and your website.
That’s fine if the circus is coming to town, but what if it’s smaller than that. What if it’s a kid’s Cub Scout matriculation or word of a new insurance agent? What do you do with that stuff?
My rule of thumb is this: If it’s a non-profit or an important event in the lives of real local people, I try to find a place for it. It may be a brief on a community page or even simply a post and picture on Facebook. Social media is great for stuff like this and frees up your time for bigger things in the paper. If, however, it’s commercial — like the insurance agent — I’m likely to suggest an advertisement. After all, as my wise former publisher Debra Hershon would say, “Editorial is something you pray for, advertising is something you pay for.” If the reason you walked into the newspaper office was to drum up business, you want an advertisement. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Photography on March 3, 2017 at 9:07 am
As you know, immigration is a hot topic. The spectrum of public opinion ranges from throw the bums out to complete amnesty for those who crossed our border illegally.
Though many of our newsrooms are in communities with many undocumented immigrants, some of us struggle with covering that segment of our community. Sometimes it is a language barrier. Sometimes people who are here illegally don’t see the wisdom in advertising that in the local newspaper. Sometimes, I suspect, we merely have a cultural divide.
I’ve been thinking of ways we might bridge that gap and satisfy our call for a new editorial project in the second quarter of 2017. I have an idea: What if you gave a few immigrants disposable cameras for a week and then used the results as a basis for a feature story or a string of Instagram posts or a once-a-day Facebook post?
Doing so would solve a couple of problems. It would bring home a national story. It would put a face on people you might not be covering well. It would add photos to your newspaper. It would attract the participants (and their friends and relatives) to your paper. It might even give you ideas for more stories down the road. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Ideas on February 23, 2017 at 4:18 pm
Steve Gray is a former publisher of the Christian Science Monitor and a former director of the API’s Newspaper Next project, which some of you will remember. He began at newspapers much like our own. His first job in the business was as a darkroom tech at his family’s newspaper, the Monroe (Mich.) Evening News.
These days he keeps a blog called MediaReset. Last week, he offered an idea that would be an interesting one for us to try. Those of you looking for a new editorial project in the second quarter, might consider it.
Gray says in the early 1990s he was concerned about some small-town shenanigans in Monroe and he hit on an idea.
I started to think about who really pulled the strings in our community. Who operated behind the scenes? Who could apply pressure or persuasion and get things done — or stop them?
I didn’t really know, although I had some ideas. I’d heard that this or that individual was quietly powerful or influential, but the only people who were routinely visible as decision-makers were the elected officials. … We came up with the idea of doing it with a survey. We decided that the best way to conduct it was to send it to a list of people we were certain had power or influence, asking them to name others who did. …
Read the rest of this entry »
In journalism on January 18, 2017 at 6:48 pm
Library of Congress
This week, Josh Stearn’s writes on MediaShift about a concept that is absolutely radical: Cooperation.
In the wake of our recent presidential election, pundits have suggested the fundamental lesson is that media and people on the coast failed to understand the folks in the flyover states. Consequently, the smartest people in the room completely missed the temperature of the country.
That may be true. Here’s what many national news editors got wrong: They then parachuted national journalists into middle America in an attempt to extract the essence in one well-written 50-inch takeout from Bristol, Tenn., or Wahpeton, N.D. or other such places about which they knew nothing.
Stearns argues for a cooperative approach. He notes that journalists like ours in Wick newsrooms know our communities. Rather than sending Mr. Big Name from New York to report from a place like Sierra Vista, Ariz., that news organization would do well to partner with The Herald for a more rich and complete telling from the field. Stearns goes on to mention some such partnerships. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Associated Press on April 7, 2016 at 11:23 am
Dan Shearer at the Republican Club of Green Valley. Courtesy of the club.
This week, each of our newspapers received a memo asking that they send AP release letters in advance of what will be an eventual move away from the wire service. I’m quite sure this was met with angst in some places. Though I think it’s the right move for our community products for the reasons I explained in that memo, I understand there might be trepidation.
That’s why I was glad to receive this email from Dan Shearer, editor of our Green Valley News and Sahuarita Sun. He said I could reprint it here, so I’m giving you a slightly edited version. Take it away, Dan:
Wow, (ditching AP is a) big move. Overdue, too.
We did this about three or four years ago. … Within two months, we’d dropped nearly all AP from the news side and cut the wire editor’s hours from 40 to 20. And the paper got better (even with a couple of layoffs that year). Finally, we had a focus (local, local and local).
Here’s what I’d recommend people check in on right away: … Read the rest of this entry »
In journalism on October 8, 2015 at 3:32 pm
Today, I was feeling inspired by the reprint of this terrific list from the pen of Melvin Mencher. It’s the “Sayings of Mel,” and it’s timeless.
I came up with a few thoughts of my own suitable for the modern community journalist. Take them for what they are worth. I’m sure you have a list that is equally valid, whether or not you have bothered to write them down. Feel free to comment with yours.
If nothing else, please heed No. 10.
- Don’t foul your own nest. One of the great big mistakes that young journalists make is to draw lines in the sand, forgetting that the beach is vast. As journalists we were born holier than thou. We would do well to remember we don’t hold a patent on righteousness. Getting angry is short-term gratification.
- Be more understanding. Of your coworkers. Of your sources. Of your family. Of your readers, commenters and fellow citizens. They all piss us off from time to time. Try to remember you are human too.
- Make deadlines. There was a time not so long ago when deadlines were carved in stone. It was a print world and the presses rolled at a given time. Then Al Gore invented the Internet and every moment was a deadline, which devalued all of them. You can post online whenever you want. Don’t take that to mean there is no such thing anymore. When you are late, you are making a colleague’s job harder. That’s selfish.
- Always be publishing. The Web is famished and you are the chef, prepping for a buffet that never closes. It’s exhausting. Try scheduling a Facebook post in the morning and a series of tweets in the afternoon. You can do it automatically or just program yourself to do it. Take a photo for Instagram or Snapchat on the walk to lunch. Making it normal makes it less difficult.
- Speak up. Millions of people long for the soapbox we have been given in our communities. They sign up for blogging platforms and social networks in hopes that someone reads what they have to say. You have a captive audience. Don’t squander it. Use your opinion page to shape a better world.
- Help someone every day. A reader’s lost her dog. Someone emails hoping to promote a non-profit function. A class mom would like publicity for a third-grade project. Want to feel good about what you do? Help them be heard. Keep a log. Look at it at the end of the month. Feel good about the things you have done.
- Learn something every day. Twitter Moments, Periscope, Yik Yak, Medium, Snapchat, Tumblr, Blox, Apple News, Google Newstand, NYTNow, LinkedIn… Pick one you don’t use and spend 15 minutes searching online to learn why you should use it. If you stop learning about new platforms and possibilities, all is lost.
- Read good writing. You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read every day. Can’t be done. Spend at least 30 minutes a day reading other news sources. Find a book that interests you and read it until you need another. Read every day. Read. Every. Day.
- Get out of the office. This week, keep tabs on how much time you spend in the office. If you are a reporter and you spend more than half of your workday in in front of a computer screen, you are doing it wrong. Get out. Meet people. Breathe the air your readers breathe. See what you are writing about.
- Give yourself a break. Your job is impossible. You are asked to keep track of dozens of potential news stories 24 hours a day and publish them as they break, with context, art and flair. You will fail to live up to that standard. We all do. Despite that, you are appreciated by your peers and respected in your community. You are a journalist. Yours is a noble calling.
In Reading on March 19, 2015 at 1:25 pm
Do you read your own newspaper and website? I ask because I know some of you don’t. (Actually, those folks probably aren’t reading this either…)
It has been a pet peeve of every editor I’ve ever had and, now that I’m an editor, it’s become one of mine. All too often a staffer will saunter up to me and pitch this great news story that is so great it is already on the front page of today’s newspaper. That means said staffer wasn’t paying attention in the weekly news meeting when the story was discussed, didn’t hear any chatter about it in the newsroom in the days to come, didn’t see it online where it was probably published before the print deadline, didn’t see it in the editing queue on print publishing day and didn’t pick up the newspaper at all the day it came out.
See? I’m mad all over again.
While I’m talking about people on the news side, I saw this problem mentioned in relation to advertising reps this week. From the piece:
There’s a number of people on our team who, the day the magazine comes out, they sit down and read it. There’s absolutely a handful who don’t. If you don’t know your product, and you have to make the assumption the buyer doesn’t, then it gets very difficult to make the brand relevant and relatable.
Amen, brother. … Read the rest of this entry »
In journalism on April 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm
On Tuesday, you should have received an email announcing the re-establishment of the Wick Editorial Awards. If you didn’t get the email and don’t know what I’m talking about, please ask your editor. Editors: If you didn’t get the message, please contact me now at firstname.lastname@example.org
This year, we are focusing on five categories – Community Pride, Enterprise, Editorial Comment, Feature or Sports Story and Breaking News. Each comes with its own set of instructions. All newspapers are expected to enter once in each category and the deadline is May 17.
More explicit submission instructions can be found at a new blog set up to facilitate the process and showcase the winners. It is wickawards.wordpress.com.
This is not just another thing on the to-do list. It shouldn’t take more than a half-hour of brainstorming to come up with your best efforts for the last two calendar years and I don’t want you to stress over submission guidelines. I want this to be an entirely positive thing, a chance to be recognized by your peers for a job well done.
In the news game, it can be very difficult to see the forest for the trees. In fact, we are inundated with trees. Every day it seems like some fool plants a half-dozen brand new trees that obscure our view. It’s terribly important to step back from time to time to admire the good work you have accomplished, to understand the important role you play in your community, to accept the pat on the back that you richly deserve.
I plan to print the winning entries – first, second and third places – in a special publication in the fall, and to publish them on the Wick Awards blog. Please take time to consider your award entries and honor the deadline.