Archive for the ‘Writing and Journalism’ Category
Back in the fall, Gannett made the decision to cut its copy editors from The Cincinnati Enquirer staff. Forward three months, and here is editor Carolyn Washburn complaining about “sloppy copy” from her staff. What a surprise.
Just a reminder that clean and accurate copy starts with each reporter and photographer sending clean and accurate copy along to their producer or coach… then that producer or coach reviewing to make sure it’s all good before sending it along to digital publication or the Studio.
I’ve been communicating one/one as I see things, especially things that can still be fixed.
I know we aren’t at full staff. I know our workflow is different.
But I need to share these examples with you now and ask each of you to take full ownership of your own clean copy.
I know none of you want this either. So the only way to fix it is for each one of us — me included — to pay special attention to our own work. (I even made myself spellcheck this email.)
She then listed many errors that any copy editor worth his or her weight in salt should have caught. With “newsroom leaders” having silly titles like storytelling coaches and strategists, it’s no wonder mistakes are falling through the cracks. How can they not? The simple fact is that not all reporters, and I would say only a limited few, are equipped to even begin to try to edit their own work, and even the most steely-eyed editors need a second person checking behind them. Pick your metaphor. Reporters editing their own content is like building contractors performing their own building inspections and then issuing the permits. In no scenario does the work come off looking polished, much less professional.
In the 2014 story, Tribune study: Chicago red light cameras provide few safety benefits, readers first hear about the Tribune’s “state-of-the-art” study — whatever that means — to examine the city’s red light system, and then the writers of the story insert “the Tribune” and the paper itself into the report so many times (“the Tribune” gets not less than 23 mentions) that one can easily forget what the story is actually supposed to be about. Not to mention it’s more than a little distracting.
This seems like a running theme with the Tribune. I’ve always thought that newspapers should not become part of the stories they cover. A newspaper’s job is to report information, and of course, tell readers about any interference public officials give about handing over public documents, but newspaper should not be so presumptuous as to think that the paper’s plight is more important than informing readers.
And now for a eulogy on journalism, from REM’s Mike Mills, Zach Sherwin from “Epic Rap Battles of History,” Colton Dunn from “Key and Peele” and actor Brandon Johnson:
Today, Jim Romenesko posted an update to his article about a female cardboard cutout, which appears to resemble the stereotypical, white, on-the-go soccer mom, that is apparently being posted around various TV news stations as an example target audience for writers and on-screen personalities. In the original post, Romenesko was curious to know whether WSPA in Spartanburg, S.C., rolled out its cutout “mom” named Michelle on the advice of a TV consultant.
A female TV journalist responded to the question with the following rather damning critique of the type of advice a male consultant has been giving to Raycom Media-owned TV stations, which carry similar firefighters-to-the-rescue-type local coverage as WSPA. Consequently, Raycom owns WTNZ here in Knoxville; WSPA is owned a company called Media General.
The journalist had this to say about the consultant’s sage advice:
To answer your question regarding whether media consultants nationwide are giving similar advice, WSPA’s “Michelle” is a copy of the “Female Switchable” that [a consultant] has been preaching to Raycom Media-owned stations around the country for more than two years.
[He] describes her as a mother short on logic but long on social media obsession, terrified of her neighbors, needing constant updates on the weather and consumer trends, with the attention span of a fourth-grader and much less understanding of the greater world around her. She wants “lists,” wants to know how things “affect her.” She’s self-centered, myopic and terrified.
She is nothing like the women I know, and I’m glad you finally called television news out on this caricature. I’d really like to see the data that’s used to build that caricature, because as far as I can see, she’s the sexist mythology of overpaid consultants.
This consultant’s fallacy of the “female switchable” isn’t good for anyone. And it isn’t good for the company.
According to Romenesko, the consultant declined to comment other than to dispute these claims. Needless to say, if this critique is even half true, Raycom is putting forth a rather dim view of its own target audience, casting its female viewers as fearful, short-sighted and selfish. And that’s just what this consultant, or people like him, allegedly think about the target audience for local news, which apparently is the white, female, working mom demographic. I wonder what glowing traits these same consultants would bestow on black and Hispanic families, single moms and blended parental units?
In any case, I previously questioned whether white working moms should even be the target audience for a station located in Spartanburg, S.C., which isn’t exactly a mecca of affluent white suburbia. More than half of the population of the city of Spartanburg is black, after all; only parts of the county outside city limits are a majority white.
Reality has never really stopped local TV news stations from catering to stereotypes and offering shallow and trite coverage of their communities in the past; why should Michelle be any different?
Longtime blogger Andrew Sullivan with The Dish, and previously with Time, The Atlantic and other publications, has decided to stop blogging for the immediate future after 15 years of commentary on the Interwebs. He did it with a heart-felt message to his readers, concluding:
I want to thank you, personally, for the honesty and wisdom of so many of your threads and conversations and intimacies, from late-term abortions and the cannabis closet to eggcorns and new poems, from the death of pets, and the meaning of bathroom walls to the views from your windows from all over the world. You became not just readers of the Dish, but active participants, writers, contributors. You trusted us with your own stories; you took no credit for them; and we slowly gathered and built a readership I wouldn’t trade for anyone’s.
You were there before I met my husband; you were there when I actually got married; and when I finally got my green card; and when Dusty – who still adorns the masthead – died. I can’t describe this relationship outside the rather crude term of “mass intimacy” but as I write this, believe me, my eyes are swimming with tears.
How do I say goodbye? How do I walk away from the best daily, hourly, readership a writer could ever have? It’s tough. In fact, it’s brutal. But I know you will understand. Because after all these years, I feel I have come to know you, even as you have come to see me, flaws and all. Some things are worth cherishing precisely because they are finite. Things cannot go on for ever. I learned this in my younger days: it isn’t how long you live that matters. What matters is what you do when you’re alive. And, man, is this place alive.
When I write again, it will be for you, I hope – just in a different form. I need to decompress and get healthy for a while; but I won’t disappear as a writer.
But this much I know: nothing will ever be like this again, which is why it has been so precious; and why it will always be a part of me, wherever I go; and why it is so hard to finish this sentence and publish this post.
As a person who has read his blogging intermittently the last five or so years, I will say that Sullivan was his strongest when he was actually commenting on the news of the day, and his essays for The Atlantic and The Daily Beast were some of his finest work. At times, his blog, which often included up 20 or 30 or more posts in a single day, often seemed more like a news aggregate than a bona fide web log of thought and opinion, so I am happy to see him returning to the land of long-form writing, which I think was his best medium in the first place, and I’m eager to see what he can offer by way of a book down the road. For sure,whatever his method of choice away from the blog, I’ll be reading.
WSPA, which is a local TV news station about an hour north of where I grew up in Spartanburg, S.C., is apparently intent on making its reporters pitch all of their news stories and write all of their stories for a cardboard cutout of what appears to be an on-the-go middle class soccer mom with kids.
Here is the internal memo News Director Karen Kelly apparently sent to her staff (as posted by ftvlive.com):
Subject: MEET Michelle
Michelle is who you want watching your newscasts, your stories.
She will be in every editorial meeting with us and in the newsroom during the day. She will likely make occasional trips to Greenville and Anderson.
When you pitch, pitch to her. When you write, write to her.
This is who we need watching in February.
Women 25-54 is her demo.
She has children and she cares about:
Recalls that have impact on her family
Even if you think a story doesn’t directly impact Michelle find a way to write it to her.
Give her additional information that is relevant to her.
Post stories and send alerts on stories she cares about.
The problem, as I see it, is that the demographics in Spartanburg aren’t exactly whitewashed with soccer moms, which belies the notion that the WSPA newsroom should be writing exclusively for Michelle here. According to the most recent census estimates, the city of Spartanburg is 50.7 percent black (!) and 44.3 percent white, while Spartanburg County is 74.7 percent white and 20.9 percent black.
Media blogger Jim Romenesko wonders if this was a recommendation from a TV consultant. If so, that person should be fired. Or, this could just be the handywork of a newsroom “leader” who feels the need to justify her job, so she whittles away at some silly ideas to try to keep the product relevant. First, she might want to work on not scaring off her staff. But then again, for an enterprising young reporter being mandated to write for Michelle, rather than for the real people walking the fair streets of Spartanburg city and county, might be a pretty disturbing experience in and of itself.
Worst host on the worst channel. That takes some effort.
I highly doubt a TV carrier provider would drop a cable news channel based solely on ideology, unless Rupert Murdoch got into the satellite business, but if Dish Network doesn’t come to terms with FOX News — this website contends the two sides are in some kind of dispute — the national IQ should certainly stand to improve a point or two. Of course, unmaking more than a decade of obscurantism and a shameless, daily misrepresentation of facts will take more than just removing one station, given our already low expectations in national “journalism.”
For all its tireless bluster, FOX News is, for all intent and purposes, wasting its time and energy trying to chastise the president or somehow influence policy. Why? Because President Barack Obama isn’t watching cable news, and that includes CNN and MSNBC. Any president worth his wait in salt wouldn’t be influenced by the media anyway, but for all of Obama’s inadequacies at this point, namely his hawkish drone program and his thus far failed promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, we can at least take heart in the fact that we have a president who still consumes publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post in written form, whether in newsprint or digital, which, I might add, is more preferable by several large degrees from a vice presidential nominee in 2008 — who would have been one heart beat away from assuming the highest office in the land — not being able to name a single publication that she reads on a daily basis.
Here is former press secretary Jay Carney talking about Obama’s media proclivities:
I wouldn’t care whatsoever if FOX News just came out and said to their audience that they were a biased news organization with a clear agenda of castigating President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party and all progressives at every opportunity. At least that would be honest. At least MSNBC uses the mantra “lean forward” to suggest that the network is basically a progressive mouthpiece.
But it’s FOX News’ constant and blatant deception and sophistry, even after being exposed, that I think puts FOX beyond the pale of anything that might resemble journalism. I have actually heard FOX News officials claim that the channel draws a clear line between commentary like Bill O’Reilly and supposed “straight-laced” anchors like Shepard Smith, but this demarcation line, and as far as I can tell, has never existed.
Here is an example of one of these “straight-laced” news segments omitting a portion of Obama’s speech to imply that Obama was “blaming the troops” for the ISIS threat, and here’s another in which another supposed “straight-laced” correspondent, Ed Henry, who is FOX’s chief White House reporter, no less, fabricated a story suggesting that Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey changed his position on ISIS.
Nonetheless, Robert Ailes from an interview in 2006 addressed criticism of FOX News when he was asked, “If you reject the conservative label, is there another way you would define yourself?:”
I think conservatives were underserved, that does not make us a conservative channel. I think a lot of conservatives watch our channel, that does not make us a conservative channel. If we’re conservative, what does that make the other channels? Liberal. Reporters are very interesting, they keep coming at me and saying aren’t you more conservative, and I say yes well, you mean they’re more liberal? The answer is you see both on our channel. In the last 25 years you CNN had Bob Novack and they thought that was balanced. One half hour they had Bob and the rest of the time they had liberals. We decided to balance all the arguments and treat the conservative view with the same respect as we have for the liberal view, and that is really irritating some people.
We’re not promoting the conservative point of view, we’re merely giving them equal time and access. Why would that offend journalists, to have another point of view? We don’t quite get that. Dragged kicking and screaming the rest of the media is now saying oh my god maybe we should be a little more balanced than the way we were doing things.
He is essentially arguing, without presenting any evidence and just on pure conjecture, of course, that before FOX came along, the national media was just a hive of liberalism, and journalists were not telling the other side of the story. First, it’s not the job of journalists to tell the other side of the story. It’s the journalist’s job to report what is happening, and more times than not, news stories do not have just two sides. They could have three or four or five sides. The suggestion that the goal of journalism is to represent all sides equally is to fail to understand journalism itself, which is, in turn, a particularly unfortunate failure for someone who claims to run a news channel.
And further, if it was true that the nation somehow had a shortage of conservative viewpoints in this period, wouldn’t we have seen nothing but Democrats in the White House and in Congress before FOX opened shop in 1996? I seem to recall some folks named Reagan, Bush Sr., Ford and Nixon. Also, in 1996 when Fox News took to the air, the Republicans had a majority in both houses of Congress.
However much top FOX News officials, reporters and anchors have failed at journalism, they have proven themselves to be professionals at clinical self-delusion.