Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Washington Post’

Gilding The Lily

In Mobile on January 18, 2017 at 6:39 pm

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The Washington Post today announces The Lily, an experimental, visually-driven (sic) product designed for millennial women that will boldly reimagine The Post’s award-winning journalism for distributed platforms.

The Post’s post goes on to say this is a platform-specific deal ginned up by the organization’s Emerging News Products Team and will start on Facebook, Instagram and Medium to begin with.

My first reaction? It seems awfully calculating and paternal, to me.  … Read the rest of this entry »

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The candidate and the press

In Writing on June 16, 2016 at 12:59 pm

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You might have heard that presumptive Republican presidential nominee and all-around feisty guy Donald Trump has revoked the Washington Post’s credentials to cover his campaign. Perhaps, like me, you didn’t even know you needed credentials to cover a presidential campaign. Learn something every day.

Turns out, the WashPo has to get in line in this one. Trump has already revoked credentials for Politico, Huffington Post and other news outlets.

It’s a curious move, and one that does not bode well should he eventually occupy the Oval Office.

Generally, candidates clamor for the free publicity they receive in our news pages. My guess is that Trump falls in the camp that believes there really is no such thing as bad publicity. Nevertheless, he seems to equate “things he doesn’t like” with “dishonesty.” There has, of course, been a lot of reporting on the Trump campaign that is hard to gussy up. There has been negative reporting on Trump University and the candidate’s lifelong relationship with women, to name just two examples.

Which is really neither here nor there. Washington Post Editor Marty Baron – the same guy who ran the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, by the way – has said that the unofficial newspaper of the federal government will continue with rigorous coverage of Trump’s campaign even if access to the candidate is restricted. I don’t doubt him a bit. It’s really no different than a mayor in New Iberia becoming miffed at the Daily Iberian and refusing to comment in future stories. It doesn’t mean the Daily Iberian will quit asking tough questions. … Read the rest of this entry »

Structure your work

In journalism on August 6, 2015 at 3:28 pm

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If you want to watch one trend in our business, it might be something that has come to be known as “structured journalism.” And a Wick Communications alumni is right in the thick of it.

I confess that it has taken me a minute to get my head around the concept, but it is essentially this: Most pieces of journalism can be broken into component parts. In a common newspaper story those parts are stitched together, perhaps in an inverted pyramid format or some other narrative. But they are still unique parts that the writer weaves into a whole.

Consider a story about a new road project in your town. You might write about it in an incremental way over time. There is the city council discussion over the need for the project, the vote on the bond to pay for it, the wrangling at the state level over priorities, the gadfly who claims it will harm the environment, etc. Each time you write about it you have to provide context from scratch, essentially, which is time-consuming for you and tiresome for anyone who already knows all that stuff.

The Columbia Journalism Review recently imagined a world in which all that journalism would be converted into data that could be a sort of internal or even industry-wide wiki that could add depth for readers who want it. In other words, when you went to do that road story, you could call upon your archive to populate your online story with all those pieces of journalism. (The screen grab above is from what the Washington Post calls a “knowledge map” that weaves together various links and pieces into a very full narrative that readers can swallow whole or in parts.) … Read the rest of this entry »

Bringing meaning to the crowd

In Online media on June 28, 2013 at 7:22 am

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This is fascinating. I guess you could call it structured reader response.

Faced with the polarizing Supreme Court decisions this week, the Washington Post wanted to steer reader comments beyond the predictable (and sometimes offensive) blather. What you see is the result.

You can read all about it here, in Joshua Benton’s post for The Nieman Lab.

Now, some won’t like it. They want to be able to frame their own argument. They don’t want to admit their biases. They just don’t like being led by leading questions of newspaper people.

I think there is some cause for concern. It would be easy to skew your questions to get the responses you desire. Ask any pollster. But, to me, this is merely an extension of our old work as gatekeepers. Newspaper editors have long framed news stories and suggested outcomes and even painted sources into one box or another.

Used judiciously, I think this could be an important augment to the way we currently handle comments. And let’s face it, many of our comment boards are not particularly illuminating. Wouldn’t it be nice if those who read comments were able to glean something about the current of opinion on one topic or another?

I think efforts like this are really interesting because they use data to help us gain a better footing in the world in which we live. By the way, this technology is becoming easier and easier to use. It won’t be long before every blogger will be able to create “interactives” like this.

Clay

‘The nun went first’

In Writing techniques on May 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm

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Washington Post Lifestyles writer Dan Zak crafted an absolute masterpiece narrative following the intrusion of three peace activists into a top-secret place where the United States stockpiles the weapons-grade uranium that is the most potent thing man has ever known.

It is simply an amazing story and, though it’s long, it’s well worth your time.

Three things I want to point out:

  • Web layout: I don’t know how the story was presented in print, whether all at once or in parts. But it has a gorgeous Web interface. Notice the space between lines (leading, were we talking about print). It gives the eye room to breathe. Blocks of small, dense type would have turned me off this story.

Notice, too, the way it is illustrated. I like the re-enacted illustrations and how they work with the real photos of the main players.

  • The outline: It is clear Zak spent some time organizing his thoughts on this one and didn’t just dive in writing. In fact, the outline is actually included on the left of the layout – from Mission to Fission. That outline is key to why this story works. So many long feature narratives just miss the mark because they meander or include details that aren’t telling and get in the way of the story.
  • It’s timely. This comes in advance of the trial next week. Frankly, I had missed this whole episode and this story tells me something I need to know now. I don’t know how long it took Zak, photographers and illustrators to put this together, but it wasn’t a rush job.

If you have time for nothing else, please read the opening paragraph and the first short section. See if you aren’t hooked. This is that place where terrific reporting and breathtaking writing collide.

— Clay

Turning ordinary into something special

In Writing techniques on August 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm

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Here’s how great things sometimes start: Washington Post intern Greg Thomas was minding his own business, probably trying to look busy, when local editor Vernon Loeb sauntered over with what everyone thought was a stinker. “Hey kid,” says Loeb in my imagination, “I need you to do a story about a 72-year-old scientist who is up for a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal. They call ’em ‘the government Oscars.’ Have fun with it.”

Then I hear sniggers from the surrounding cubicles. It was not the kind of assignment that normally makes a Post reporter’s pulse quicken.

But Greg, a former Half Moon Bay Review reporter, saw something there. And the result is worth talking about.

The Post is doing features on many or all of the 33 people up for the Heyman Service medals. Greg drew Art Friedlander, who is the government’s point man when it comes to anthrax and bubonic plague. He’s been at it since dinosaurs wandered the earth and does his work from a windowless office deep within a Homeland Security installation at Fort Detrick. One imagines Friedlander works in relative obscurity until something really, really bad happens and his research is suddenly of national concern.

Greg found the core of his story in the post-Sept. 11 interest in Friedland’s work and the security attendant to it. He begins this way:

Art Friedlander agrees to a morning rendezvous at a McDonald’s parking lot in Frederick. Taking guests to a military post where scientists test vaccines for anthrax is “a pain in the neck,” he says. … Read the rest of this entry »

Lies, damn lies and statistics

In Ethics on March 1, 2012 at 11:39 am

Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is pictured at left in this photo by Carol Guzy of the Washington Post.

You may have seen that the Washington Post added a lengthy editor’s note onto a story about the way the D.C. police force tracks crime. The newspaper’s attempt to clarify came after sharp criticism from the city’s police chief.

I think all of it – the story, the chief’s outrage, the newspaper’s clarification and especially the resulting thoughtful analysis of crime in the city – serves readers well. What do you think?

The original story points out that the D.C. police use a statistical formula for determining homicide case closures  in any given year that includes cases closed from previous years. As a result, the department can claim to have closed 94 percent of its cases in 2011. But, as the Post pointed out, that includes 40 cases that lagged from past years. Factor those out, and the city has only closed 57 percent of the cases that opened in 2011.

I think the newspaper is absolutely right to point that out. In fact, I may have used words like “trick” and “fudge” as the newspaper did the first time around.

However, the newspaper failed to note that the D.C. cops were merely using the statistical “trick” that is standard in the industry. Meaning, perhaps, that a lot of us newspaper editors should crunch these numbers in our own communities. … Read the rest of this entry »