Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Journalist’

The big unlearning

In journalism on April 20, 2017 at 11:39 am

I don’t know about you, but I have put decades of my life into newspaper reporting and editing, so I would like to feel that I have gotten better at it. That things like writing inverted pyramids, editing for AP style and proofing pages have become second nature and are meaningful.

It hurts a little to think that very expertise might be holding me back. However, I have a niggling feeling that may be the case.

Kristen Hare at Poynter has put together a fascinating series of interviews with local journalists about changes in the profession. This week, she asked a radio producer and a reporter for the interesting local journalism start-up Billy Penn an intriguing question: What sorts of things did they have to unlearn to be viable journalists in the second decade of the 21st century?

She framed it like this: “I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve seen newsrooms let go of, and it seems like they fall into three basic categories. One is stagnant culture. Two is a sense of confusion about our audiences and what they want, and three is just practices — how we do our jobs now.”

The journalists mentioned several things they had to stop doing. Perhaps the one that resonated the most for me had to do with deadlines and ownership of stories. Anna Orso of Billy Penn said that when she was a newspaper reporter, she filed a story by a particular time and was usually done with it. Someone else edited it and moved it into queues for print and web. Now, she loads it into WordPress, embeds video and engages readers of the work on Facebook and Twitter.

They also talk about giving up on the old inverted pyramid and “objective” writing. These are things that I want to hold on to, and I’ll tell you why. The point of the inverted pyramid is so busy people can give up on stories quickly and still get the gist. Why would we let that go? Are people any less busy or less distracted now than they were, say, 30 years ago? I don’t think so. … Read the rest of this entry »

‘Go somewhere interesting’

In Writing techniques on March 13, 2014 at 5:15 pm

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I confess that before today I did not know the work of Matthew Power. The 39-year-old journalist died this week while working on a story about a British explorer who was walking the length of the Nile. I heard on NPR that Power died of heat stroke.

Power made a living writing about things others didn’t cover. He joined a bunch of anarchists and floated down the Mississippi River in a homemade raft. He covered the story when a conservationist was murdered in Costa Rica. He sold these stories and others to big-name magazines because he wasn’t afraid to boldly go with no other reporter had gone before.

He explained his process in a podcast that originally appeared on LongForm and was excerpted on NPR.

“The advice that I’ve always given to young writers who are starting out and trying to figure out how to get to do this kind of stuff — and I think it still applies, even in the sort of atomized, fragmented, media landscape that we live in — is to go to somewhere interesting,” he said.

What? You say you can’t pack up and go to Uganda or Costa Rica? Well, me neither. But there are plenty of interesting places near me and I bet you can say the same.

Let’s start with the places that aren’t interesting and then talk about what’s left by process of elimination. City council chambers aren’t interesting. Police stations, elections offices, strip malls – not terribly interesting. In fact, most of the places that appear in your paper from day to day, from week to week, aren’t all that interesting precisely because they are in the paper all the time. … Read the rest of this entry »