Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘news’

‘Liddle’ Bob Corker

In Ethics on October 13, 2017 at 7:32 am

What you see above was a middle paragraph in Peter Baker’s New York Times story about the ongoing acrimony between the president of the most powerful nation in the world and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Or, as Donald Trump calls him, “liddle Corker.”

Friends, these are strange days. When the news isn’t dominated by calamity on a global scale, it is littered with things like this. Small-minded inside attacks that are unworthy of public debate much less public office. In fact, you may ask yourself, is it news at all?

I think it is, when you are dealing with national offices and people who can create wars with a touch of a button. The state of mind of Bob Corker (who started it, I guess, by saying the White House was an “adult day care”) and Trump is of vital national interest. That is true for a range of what might to some seem private affairs. If you are a high-ranking senator or the president of the United States, there is no such thing as private.

But what if the above exchange occurred between, say, the mayor of your town and the city’s development director? Is that news? I think that is a much more difficult question for reasons I have a hard time articulating. Let me try.

For one thing, I think local officials are allowed to have private lives and private animosities. Sometimes. Otherwise, we’ll have a very hard time finding anyone (let alone someone qualified) to run for local public office. … Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Tom Petty dead?

In journalism on October 5, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Tom Petty died this week. Then he came back to life, for a while.

CBS News, among others, reported that he was dead about mid-day on Monday. Shortly thereafter, one of the most respected names in news reported that he hadn’t, in fact, died. There are a lot of misdemeanors committed in journalism, but to be wrong about a death is pure felony. It’s extraordinarily hurtful to family and friends. It puts a cannonball-sized hole in your credibility. And it will make you the butt of jokes for years to come. (“The report of my death is an exaggeration,” Mark Twain told a newspaperman after another periodical actually printed his obit. That was 1897. The fact that you’ve heard that story before is all the proof you need that these stories stick around…)

The initial erroneous reporting on Petty’s death came from something someone at the Los Angeles Police Department said, apparently in an off-the-cuff discussion with a reporter. My guess is LAPD was on the scene when the famed musician was taken to the hospital, but did not file an official report as it wasn’t really the department’s case. Cops are people too and sometimes they gossip.

So, here’s the challenge: If you can’t believe the police, who can you believe?

Good question. Ordinarily, I would say if you get a news tip from a man or woman in blue, you are golden. For one thing, they tend to be tight-lipped. If they are telling you something, it’s probably true. Most likely. Almost always. … But not always. … Read the rest of this entry »

Too much tweet?

In Social media on September 28, 2017 at 2:04 pm

The journalism world is atwitter this week with news that Twitter is doubling — doubling! — the number of characters allowed in a tweet.

What you read there is 136 characters. It’s essentially an old-school tweet. Do I need more space?

Adding characters to the tweet just so characters can ramble on is, of course, a blaspheme. As journalists, we are the most loyal users of the phone-friendly platform. And, as journalists, we know that shorter is better — even if we don’t always practice what we preach. For, I believe it was Shakespeare who held is iPhone X in the air in order to get a better signal in the stuffy Globe Theater to tweet, “Brevity is the soul of wit!” #PlaysTheThing #WhereForOutThou @juliet.

In all seriousness, I think we journalists like Twitter so much, in part, because it forces concise expression and we’re trained to be good at that. Fast and succinct are two words we appreciate perhaps more than the average bear.

Nonetheless, this week Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey caved to the long-winded and announced that his maligned platform was testing 280 characters. Why? Well, whatever he says, the reason is because the social media giant has sort of stalled. He’s trying to see if he can interest more people by allowing, well, more.

Great. There goes one of the last bastions of the edited word.

By the way, do you use Twitter? I like it a lot. It’s easy to follow local schools, first responders, area legislators in order to get a first head’s up. And as a news consumer, once you get the hang of what can feel like an archaic system of @ symbols and #s, you can follow breaking news like never before.

Most Wick papers use it to broadcast breaking stuff and local sports scores. Wick editors @hr_epetermann1 and @brandonbowers are two of my favorite follows because they have mastered the right voice for the platform and they post interesting stuff.

I’d be interested in knowing what else you do with it.

Clay

Report for America

In Innovation on September 21, 2017 at 3:07 pm

There is a new idea afoot that seeks to make explicit something we all know intuitively: Journalism is as important to the republic as military might and the ready availability of quality, low-cost donuts. Kidding aside, it is heart-warming to see the unveiling of a program that will be known as Report for America.

The concept is simple, though execution might not be. A partnership between Google News Lab and a non-profit called GroundTruth seeks to put local civics journalism on par with organizations like the Peace Corps and Teach for America. It would work like this: New reporters who need the experience and mentoring would apply for positions that are funded 50 percent by Report for America, 25 percent by the local newspaper and 25 percent by local donors the newspaper would help find. These reporters would agree to stay for a year in exchange for inclusion. Sorta like a paid internship making real money.

I was particularly heartened by what one of the program’s founders had to say about the importance of mentorship and the fact that many good, young journalists are now lucky enough to skip the ladder through the ranks of the profession and that that sometimes leads them astray.

“What I think a lot of emerging journalists are missing these days is the experience of being lied to on a local level,” he told Poynter. “You need to go into storytelling and you need to know what it’s like to be misled.” … Read the rest of this entry »

What defines a good editor?

In Editing on September 21, 2017 at 3:01 pm

The legendary Ben Bradlee embodied many of the qualities needed to be a good newspaper editor.

Earlier this month, Wick COO Nick Monico asked my help in coming up with some measureable landmarks that would define improvement in an editor. I sort of bailed on the assignment, but not without giving it a lot of thought. Today, I thought I might share the email I sent him owning up to my failure to meet the assignment he’d given me. Here it is, in slightly altered form, and I believe every word to my core:

Thanks for asking me for my ideas for some quantifiable bullet points to use in measuring the progress as editors strive to be even more excellent editors.

After a fair amount of thought, I’ve failed you.

Here’s the truth: The qualities, determination and work ethic that coalesce in the form of a terrific news editor defy quantification. A good editor is a leader. She doesn’t dole out the boring or hard stuff, but rather shows others how to shoulder that burden in the course of the day. She is courageous and unwavering in pursuit of the truth. She is resolute in her commitment to give voice to the voiceless, no matter who threatens to cancel his subscription. She is likely the smartest one in the room though she doesn’t need to prove it. She is well-read. Her writing is persuasive; she seeks to set the agenda for the community rather than being handed one by powerful people. She is efficient and uses all the tools at her disposal — long-form journalism, social media, photography, video, blogs, etc. She is well connected in the community, without being so well connected it conflicts with her duty to readers. She isn’t beholden to her friends at church, in the civic club, at city hall. Her integrity is beyond reproach. She is open to new ideas. She is professional at all times. She is not quick to anger. … Read the rest of this entry »

New survey of local journalists

In journalism on August 31, 2017 at 2:52 pm

The last 10 years have not been kind to journalists and the newspaper profession.

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism offers that simple statement to explain the the backdrop for a very interesting survey of local journalists like those working for Wick Communications. You can read all about it here, and you really should. You will see yourself in the results. (And shout out to Dan Shearer at the Green Valley News, who brought this to my attention.)

The survey itself was pretty straight forward. Several hundred mostly editors and reporters at newspapers with circulations smaller than 50,000 participated. By and large, they see themselves as hard-working and optimistic even though they are concerned about their job security and ability to recruit and retain good colleagues. Your peers use an array of digital tools in their jobs, but may be somewhat slow to adopt new digital tools at least in part because they lack the resources to do so.

The report chronicles a shrinking business. Twenty-thousand journalists have lost their jobs in the last 10 years. The profession is said to have shrunk 10 percent in 2014 alone. Last year one online entity called “newspaper reporter” the worst job in among 200 listed. Why? Low pay and long hours, to name two reasons. Many or most surveyed said they work more than 50 hours a week. One poor soul said he or she works 116 hours a week. Another, when asked how many hours he works, replied, “all of them.” … Read the rest of this entry »

Once upon a time…

In Writing techniques on July 20, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Have you ever wondered at the enduring quality of, “Once upon a time?” Has there ever been a better way to begin a story?

I got to thinking about the way we begin a story after reading Eric Petermann’s superb yarn about the “kissing bug” in the Sierra Vista Herald. Eric learned there was this woman in Bisbee, Ariz., Lee McElroy, who was driving the effort to learn more about an infestation of these particular bugs in the canyon where she lives. The bugs bite in the night and can cause Chagas’ disease and you don’t even want to think about that!

Anyway, Eric knew the story of the bug as vector for disease was important… but the story of Lee McElroy was better. Much better. So he told it that way, leading with McElroy and her layman’s search for scientific information about these bug bites she was getting.

The first words Eric employed were these:

The story starts just over 10 years ago when Lee McElroy was living in the area of Zacatecas Canyon in the Old Bisbee district of this eclectic mountain community.

Hooked yet? I was. I am a sucker for stories that begin with an everyday Jane whose everyday world is about to be turned upside down. Perhaps that is why I love fiction so much. (“Our story begins” is so good as a literary device that the great Tobias Wolffe even named a short-story collection just that.) … Read the rest of this entry »

New Google News

In Online media on July 20, 2017 at 2:42 pm

We all have go-to spots on the web for news and one of mine is Google News.

I appreciate what to me seems like an honest curation of the top stories of the day and the fact that I can sample many sources in one place. There are channels for top stories and sports and whatever else interests you and you can even set it to find your particular interests.

Recently, the crew at Google redesigned the interface. I guess the sweet spot with such things is to tweak them for better usability without completely upsetting the virtual apple cart, and by that standard I would have to say it’s a success. (Though, truth be told, I don’t think it’s much better than the original, which worked for me just fine. Do you think the “card format” is easier to read than the old blue headers? Perhaps you do.)

There are a couple of things I do like. Google is now tagging stories as “Local Source” when that is the case. Seems like that would be good to know as we all know that local media sometimes has a different and more grounded perspective on some stories. And it’s pretty breathtaking in some instances to click “full coverage.” Doing so can bring you dozens of stories on a topic, related video and tags that can bring you deeper into a story. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to Google.

One last thing: If you aren’t already setting Google alerts to send you emails of stories that mention your town or beat… you should. If you can’t figure it out, lemme know.

— Clay Lambert

News from home

In Media on June 15, 2017 at 12:47 pm

This week I returned from vacation. My girlfriend and I took a cruise. It was fantastic.

I mention it here only because of what I learned along the way about news and its consumption.

Wi-Fi on the ship is expensive. Most people either do as I did and eschew online activities for the duration or seek some Internet café at each port. That doesn’t mean people have given up on news entirely.

The Times Digest was must-read material every day on the ship. The digest is created by a company called KVH Media Group. It distills the top stories from the New York Times every day — including weather, sports and crossword — and presents them in a letter-page booklet format. I think each one might have been 12 pages.

Virtually everyone talked about getting these news summaries. In fact, some days there was a bit of a line at the kiosk where they were distributed at 10 a.m. each day.

Here’s what I made of it. Travel can be an untethering experience. We are positioned in this universe in relation to the things we recognize. People who don’t normally read the Times were drawn to it in the same way I think of soldiers craving “news from home.” It’s a reaction to missing home, but also simply a matter of finding something solid upon which to hang amid the unreal experience of being on a cruise ship. … Read the rest of this entry »

To be ‘Fair and Balanced’

In journalism on June 15, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Now comes word that Fox News plans to drop its storied “Fair and Balanced” motto. The television network rode the tagline through the Clinton/Bush/Obama years to the top of the ratings. The intimation was that others, well, weren’t. That Fox was staking out true north while other national news organizations were lost in the woods of partisanship.

Well, obviously, it was never that simple. I think most folks would agree that Fox News has long been a right-of-center news organization. So what did it mean to be “Fair and Balanced?”

In his story in New York magazine, Gabriel Sherman suggests that former Fox Chairman Roger Ailes used the slogan for unfair and unbalanced purposes:

Ailes invented the slogan when he launched the network in 1996, and over the years it became a quasi-religious doctrine among Fox’s anchors and viewers. The effectiveness of Fox News as a vehicle for conservative ideology depended on it. “If you come out and you try to do right-wing news, you’re gonna die. You can’t get away with it,” Ailes once told a reporter.

Inside Fox, Ailes held “Fair & Balanced” seminars with staff members. “He would call a group of senior producers and make you watch the channel and he’d point out stuff, like a banner that’s slightly liberal,” a senior producer told me. “He would say, ‘The news is like a ship. If you take hands off the wheel, it pulls hard to the left.’” Ailes also used “Fair & Balanced” when making hiring decisions, such as saying a job candidate “wasn’t ‘fair & balanced,’” because the person went to a college he didn’t like…

Is that fair and balanced? I don’t know. Ailes is no longer here to defend himself. For all I know, he thought his televised child lived up to the sloganeering. … Read the rest of this entry »