GAME TIME: A Halloween-theme AP style quiz!

zombie.jpg(Be careful with AP style! It can really take a bite out of your grade!)

How well do you know AP style? Some rules seem eternal while others get added or dropped each year. If you think you have game, give this quiz a shot. Speed counts, but accuracy matters most.

Here’s a Halloween-themed=, 10-question AP style quiz for you. You don’t have to create an account to play, but if you want to, it will rank you.

Post a screenshot of your score here and brag to your friends. Challenge a professor so you can have bragging rights all year.


Click here to begin the quiz and have a happy Halloween!

First hand job, head jobs and penile swords: The many risks of writing

I got home from the College Media 2017 convention way too early on Sunday morning to find this waiting for me from a former student:

I feel like you need to teach this cautionary tale to your students:


As far as an awkward headline goes, it’s not the first to take what should be a pretty benign news story and turn it into a horrifying sex joke. Here’s one I’ve been using for years:

ACP DC Heads 2016
(Doesn’t she look excited? Or like she literally witnessed it?)

The unfortunate nature of writing (particularly when other people can read or misinterpret it) leads to some of the more difficult gaffes of our time. In some cases, even something as simple as a space can turn a line from an austere 1800s play into a really disturbing dick joke:

(His poor wife…)

The takeaway from this shouldn’t just be that it’s fun to bathe in the misery of other people. It should be that you need to be careful in some very specific ways to avoid becoming a cautionary tale:

  1. Always check your dictionary and style guide: In a lot of cases, words mean the opposite of what you intend them to mean. A column a student wrote about the death of his grandfather noted that the man is “now apart of us all.” I’m pretty sure he meant “a part” which means a portion as opposed to “apart” which means separated from. “Firsthand evidence” is collected from specific sources directly involved in an event while “first hand evidence” is probably what the bloody glove was in the original O.J. Simpson trial.
    I know I have problem with “affect/effect” and “less than/fewer than” so I look those up. Learn what you don’t know and always look the stuff up.
  2. Ask for help: If you don’t know something, ask. This is where the benefit of working as part of a collective comes into play. In many cases, you can save your keester if you ask someone else in the office. (Of course, it helps if that person cares about giving you the best possible answer.) “Hey, I’m writing this story and I think I’m using the wrong word! HELP ME!” isn’t an admission of weakness. In most cases, it’ll make you stronger in the long run.
  3. Think like a 12-year-old boy: In every office in which I have worked, there is at least one person (OK, probably 20) that thinks like a 12-year-old boy and can turn almost anything into a dirty joke. (Truth be told, I’ve developed my own inner 12-year-old along the way as well.) Someone is serving cake and you yell, “Hey, Tom, can I get a piece of that.” The 12-year-old boy laughs. “He’s asking time for a piece… heh…” Someone can’t put something away on the top shelf, so you say, “Bill, you having trouble getting it up there?” The 12-year-old boy laughs. “Hey, everybody, Jim knows that Bill’s having trouble getting it up!”
    As annoying as this person is, you need this guy (or gal) to read over your stuff for inadvertent sex jokes. Words like pull, yank, pound, rim, push, bang, head, hand, foot and so forth are just begging for this guy to start snickering, so let him figure it out before your readership does. Roaring laughter in the newsroom is much, much better than a public beating.

    (Heh… he said “beating.”)

13 random observations from #CollegeMedia17

I’m spending the end of this week at the annual national college media convention in Dallas, Texas, where I’m finding a few immutable truths about travel, student media and how we all function as journalists. In hopes of having a happy weekend, consider a few random thoughts and observations about this wonderful experience:

  1. No matter where you are going, the cheapest flights are always at the most ungodly hours. Our flight out forced us to leave Oshkosh at 3:15 a.m. and our flight back will force us to be picked up by a shuttle at 3:15 a.m. This means we constantly face the conundrum of “Should I try to get some sleep or should I just stay awake?” Ask my managing editor, who manged to oversleep through three alarms he “swore” he set on the day we were slated to leave.
  2. Your best friend in a convention town: 7-11. I paid $4.89 for a 12 pack of Diet Coke as opposed to the $3 per can the hotel was charging.
  3. Barbacoa is awesome. Just don’t ask what it is.
  4. The greatest joy in my life is critiquing newspapers (OK, and websites, magazines and any other student press product). It is absolutely fantastic to sit down with students and find out ways you can help them to improve what they’re doing or to reassure them that they are doing awesome work.
  5. If you want to win something in a silent auction, you need to be there at the end and snipe. I’d apologize to the people I did this to at the SPLC book auction, but the money goes to a good cause, so the more the merrier.
  6. A necessary plug for SAGE: The publisher of my book is cooler than I had any right to expect. They overnighted a bound, proof copy of the Reporting text as well as an additional copy of the Media Writing book for free so that they could be given to the SPLC book auction. That took work and they never thought twice. (Congrats to Steve Listopad of Henderson State University who now owns my book before I do. Tell me if it’s worth it…)
  7. Bring an extra $25 for overweight fees on your luggage, especially if you’re taking home copies of the tons of student newspapers available at the paper exchange or if you’re really good at that whole “book sniping” thing.
  8. Don’t text your adviser and ask, “If I bought a beer, would you put it in your checked luggage?”
  9. As much as I tell my students, “It’s great if you win an award, but it’s not a bad thing if you don’t,” I’m as anxious as they are before awards are given out. A small part of me wants to get a convention coordinator drunk on a mix of tequila and sodium pentathol tonight…
  10. One of the hardest things to do is figure out what sessions to attend. There are so many going on at the same time that are all good. You almost have to have several people there to do a “divide and conquer” approach.
  11. We are all dealing with the same stuff, even if we don’t know it. (Part I) One of the things that I am always grateful for when it comes to these kinds of conventions is that it allows students from all over the place to realize that we’re all dealing with the same general levels of excitement, apathy, dysfunction and amazement. Every staff has one a-hole, one person who is “doing everything,” one person who SAYS they’re “doing everything” but isn’t doing anything, one person who is “too good for this place,” one person who is scared and one person who is wondering what they got themselves into. Bonus points are also available for people who have at least two random relationships going on or breaking up in the newsroom that leads to more drama than an episode of “Real Housewives” on meth.
  12. Hats. People in Texas are reeeeeeally into their hats.
  13. We are all dealing with the same stuff, even if we don’t know it. (Part II) The sense that we can do something great, want to do something fun, that we have found our family and that we can’t imagine what we’d be doing if we weren’t doing this is pretty much universal. And maybe that’s the best thing.

Onward to Day 3. Hope to see you there.

An open love letter to the SPLC (or why you can own my new book before I do)

(It took me more than two years to build this thing and you can own the only print copy in existence before I do.)

I’m heading to the ACP/CMA National College Media Convention in Dallas, Texas tomorrow and waiting for me is a UPS package that contains the only physical copy of my book, “Dynamics of News Writing and Reporting.

And you can own it before I do because I’m giving it away for a great cause: The Student Press Law Center’s fundraising effort.

If you have never heard of SPLC, it means a) you have never been in any kind of legal trouble as a student journalist/student media member or b) you really should get to know the people at this organization. SPLC started in 1974 and has been providing free legal advice to students at all levels who are trying to keep government open, prevent censorship and basically operate freely under the First Amendment. They also find lawyers to work with students who are in a jam or trying to unjam an unlawful withholding of information or records.

My first experience with them came two days after I started as an adviser at Ball State University. A letter from them seeking donations was laying open in my mailbox, and came with a scrawled message on a Post-It Note:

“Hope you work closely with this agency. – L.E. Ingelhart.”

Louis Ingelhart was the founding chair of the department, a legend of student press and the namesake or winner of every meaningful free expression award in the country. He had long retired, but he knew I was “the new guy” and he wanted to make absolutely sure I knew about the importance of SPLC.

The folks at SPLC became the first call or email for us whenever we weren’t sure if we were on solid legal ground. If something went wrong with a story, we called SPLC. If someone was threatening us, we called SPLC. If someone stole our papers, we called SPLC. Over the years, I got to know the executive directors who ran the show: first was Mark Goodman, then Frank LoMonte. I can’t wait to meet Hadar Harris, who was recently named to the post. The folks there have always been gracious and helpful.

One of my favorite SPLC stories involved Ball State’s efforts to hire a provost. Students, faculty and staff were allowed to see the candidates in open sessions and then fill out evaluation forms that told the committee what they thought of each one. These are traditionally not for public consumption, but the chair of the search committee said in an open meeting that anyone who wanted to see them could go to the administration building and look at them. That was a mistake on his part, as it made them open records.

When we tried to get them, we were first denied. SPLC pushed. Our reporters were then handed some quickly created form that they had to sign before seeing the documents, agreeing that they could never disclose what they saw. SPLC told the reporters to write on the note that this was in no way enforceable and they were signing under protest. About five minutes after receiving the documents, the secretary came in (completely flustered) and began grabbing them all back from the students.

SPLC advised the reporters on how to file an open records request for these documents. The request was denied under some part of Indiana law that we didn’t understand. When we turned the letter over to SPLC, I remember the staffer laughing loudly upon figuring out the statute: The university was claiming that these documents were “internal memos” that were only meant to be shared with the 19,000 students and several thousand workers on campus, not with the whole world. SPLC filed documents for us and gave us legal help all the way through the process of presenting our position to the state arbiter. The state sided with us and we got the records. We never would have gotten close without SPLC.

On a personal note, SPLC saved me from a fate worse than death: the potential loss of my advising job.

Two years ago, the student government here at UW-Oshkosh decided I needed to go. The reasons are vast, but they decided to use a simple cudgel: We were in debt. That did not make us unique as a paper or as something at this university. It also wasn’t a surprise to the student government folks, as we had been petitioning them for more than six years to help us fix a broken financial model. Each time, we were told, “Don’t worry about the debt. We’ll figure it out.” (In fact, one of the people leading my ouster used even more colorful language in describing his position on our finances to a room full of staffers. It didn’t matter at all, he noted in the parlance of the movie “Scarface.”)

Now, however, they saw an opportunity. They drafted non-binding resolutions requesting that I quit and if I didn’t, that the chancellor fire me. They pushed for debt payments that could in no way be made. It looked like a downhill run to the end. The newspaper staff called SPLC and asked what could be done. SPLC doesn’t provide legal services to advisers, but they sure as hell don’t sit around watching as student media get kicked around, either.

They covered the event for their own website and put out news flashes on our plight. Frank availed himself of every opportunity to speak with local media and administrators to help outline the law and explain how this shouldn’t be happening. I remember being in a meeting once where one of the students coming after me had this perplexed/annoyed/fearful look on his face as he made note of this “national special interest group from Virginia” that was somehow gumming up their plans.

In the end, I had a lot of support from a lot of people, including an amazing chancellor and an anonymous donor who helped us launch a fundraising drive. (Frank personally even chipped in to aid in our efforts.) The paper is on solid financial ground again and producing great work. Still, I honestly believe it all started with the help of SPLC, who told us, essentially, “This isn’t happening. We got your back.”

That “formal resolution” petitioning people to fire me hangs on my wall in the office as does that letter from Lou Ingelhart, the writing fading from years of exposure. They remind me how lucky I am to have SPLC around and how much those folks do every day to keep the free press free.

Each year, SPLC receives money from a silent book auction at the national college media convention. People donate books of all kinds, as well as various other media memorabilia. The group uses this money to support its efforts to support student media. So this is why when my publisher told me I was getting a single advanced copy of a bound uncorrected proof of the book, I knew exactly where it should go. Without SPLC, I don’t have a paper, a book or a life that keeps me laughing all day at work.

If you are in Dallas, please stop by the auction any time after noon and bid generously on any of the books you see there. I often come home with a suitcase full of stuff. I hope one of you will go home with a few as well.

Including mine.

What you can learn from an “ecom Dude” who violated copyright and bitched about it

(I watched this whole video to fully understand what this guy’s issue was. All I know for sure is that if I took “malicious” in the eCom Dudes drinking game I’d be dead by now and I just gave up 13:29 of my life that I will never get back.)

I often tell my students that I learned more by screwing up than I ever did by doing things right and that no mistake is worthless if you learn something from it. It turns out that not everyone has that same experience with errors, often learning the wrong lesson from making a dumb decision.

Dan Dasilva is a “YouTube celebrity” and an “internet entrepreneur,” two terms that are pretty vague and meaningless. He also has a website called “eCom Dudes” where he operates “a collective group of individuals and coaches as well, that we come on and we share what’s working now.”  (Truth be told, I watched his intro video about four times and I still have no idea what he does or how it works. We’re bordering on the “Underpants Gnomes” model of commerce at this point.)

Dasilva took to YouTube recently to complain about a lawsuit that a photographer filed against him for copyright infringement. In most cases, people who violate copyright and are sued learn a valuable lesson: Don’t steal people’s stuff. Dasilva, however, seems to have learned something else entirely:

To put it into context, the reason I was sued was because I used a picture that I found on Google Images. Now, I should have known better, yes, in my position I should know better. But, again, I never really thought that there are malicious people out there that all they do and this is what I want to tell you is that there are people out there maliciously put pictures on the Internet.

They copyright pictures that they take and what they do is they’ll get like a copyright on it, and they’ll put it out on the Internet, and it’s freely available on the Internet if you run a Google search their image will appear… And they have a team they’ll have like three or four people who are searching the Internet for their image to find all the sites [that use the images without permission]…

His business model is taking photos and suing people for a settlement.

In other words, photographers create photographs. Other people then take those photographs and use them without permission, in violation of copyright law. The photographers then sue to protect their work and receive settlements based on those copyright violations. In Dasilva’s world, this is somehow a “malicious” racket that is meant to entrap people like him and bilk him of his hard earned cash. And what he apparently learned from all of this is that you have to be careful to avoid these “malicious” individuals and instead use “lesser quality” images from Creative Commons.

Dasilva didn’t name the “malicious” photographer with whom he settled the case, but other sites posting on this issue have done so. Nick Young, whose actual “business model” appears to be taking stock photos for a variety of uses, runs his photography business through (I emailed Young and asked him for a short interview about all this. If he gets back to me, I’ll update and post it on the blog.)

Young’s website is upfront about his usage rules:

I allow some of my series of images to be used on a free basis in return for an attribution link back to my web site, I do this as it provides useful advertising for my business:

These images are offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license and if you want to use the images for free it is very important you follow the terms of the licence. Underneath each image are the details needed to fulfill the conditions of the license and also a link to the license so you can read for yourself the terms of the license.

Should you not wish to follow the terms of the license then please purchase a rights managed license through this site which does not require any attributions.

Many of the complaints surrounding Young’s quest to control his own work fall into two basic categories:

  1. He only charges small amounts of money for some of his photos (one poster noted a $9.95 rate), so suing over the use of these images for upwards of six figures is clearly a scam.
  2. He is shooting “generic” images of food, computers and other “stock” items, so it’s unfair that he can copyright these shots and make money off of people who just want to use them on their websites.

Let’s unpack the first premise in some other legal venues and see if this makes sense in any other way:

  1. It’s unfair that I had to pay a $1,000 ticket for stealing a $1 candy bar from the store. I mean, it was only a $1, so that fine shouldn’t be so high.
  2. It’s so mean that this guy who parks his 2004 Honda Civic in outside my office locks his car and takes his keys with him. I mean, there are TONS of cars around here, there’s nothing special about this and I just want to use it to get home in time to watch the Packer game.

First, the rate (the cost of the image or the candy bar) is based on you doing the right thing and paying for something you want up front. The fine (the lawsuit or the ticket) are in place to penalize you in a way that prevents you from doing the wrong thing again. That’s why tickets for speeding or illegal parking or other similar things are really high. If we dropped all speeding tickets to the price of a gallon of gas, the roads out near my house would look like “Death Race.” The penalty is supposed to teach you a lesson, something Dasilva clearly did not learn

Second, the guy OWNS the material. He paid for gear, studio time, the subject matter (fruit, eggs whatever) and other overhead to shoot that image. He also paid for an education that helped him become good at this. The whole reason people are taking his images is because they are GOOD PHOTOS. If you think the images aren’t worth paying for, you go try to shoot a bowl of fruit or a dozen eggs or whatever and make it look as good as Young can. It’s not that easy and therefore, you are paying for his TALENT not just the PHOTO. Just because you’re used to people letting you ignore the law, it shouldn’t become a stunner when someone catches you and penalizes you. It’s no more of a defense than telling the cop who pulled you over, “Officer, I know it’s only 25 mph out here, but nobody ever ticketed me for going 50 on this road before, so this is really unfair!”

One other thing that you should consider about copyright: It’s not always about money. The goal of copyright is to provide you with a legal right to control your work. Let’s say I take a photo of my kid (she’s really cute) and I register the copyright  (which you don’t have to do for it to be copyrighted, but it is essential if you want to ever sue over that right), I control how it’s used.

So, if a guy from a white supremacists website comes to me and wants to buy that photo for use on his blog, I have the right to say, “No.” Without copyright laws, and a means to enforce them, that photo could be used to promote child trafficking, white supremacy, gluten-free breakfast cereal and McDonald’s burgers (the last of which would really be horrifying to me). I don’t think that Young is worried about his photo of carrots will be used nefariously to promote a “master race,” but if he is, that’s his business.



A few tips on how to fight the good fight for open records

Open records and open meetings laws are among some of the most powerful tools available in trying to figure out what is really going on with many public institutions. Many big stories come out of open record requests and document digging. SMy favorites include the Journal-Sentinel’s “Cashing in on Kids” series, which looked at the way some people were gaming the state’s childcare system, and a series the Sun-Sentinel did years ago on deaths associated with plastic surgery.

Student journalists are often doing some great work in this regard as well. The Kentucky Kernel at the University of Kentucky has been locked in a protracted legal battle regarding the release of information pertaining to sexual assault allegations against a professor. Students at Duquesne clashed with student government officials about the publication of budget information lawfully obtained in the course of a public meeting. (In the spirit of full disclosure, the paper I advise, the Advance-Titan, is currently engaged in a legal fight over the release of documents pertaining to a professor who was removed from his teaching duties in the middle of last semester. The rub here is that the university believes it SHOULD release the documents, but the professor has filed suit to prevent this from happening. A court ruled in the paper’s favor, but the professor has appealed.)

Open records requests are great tools because while people can deny things or decline to comment on issues, documents are pretty much the unvarnished reality in black and white (if you’ll pardon the pun). Here are a few recommendations for you if you are taking your first steps into this area or you are a pro at this and want some validation:

  • File frequently: Much like any other mechanism or muscle, open records efforts don’t work well if the system has atrophied. The more of these requests people see, the more likely they are to know how to address them properly. This doesn’t mean turn your record keepers’ office into a paper dump every day, but consider doing a couple requests a month to see what you can find and to get the offices you want to use used to how this works.
  • Follow up: States have various rules pertaining to how long they have to get back to you or to fulfill your requests. In some cases, they spell this out while in other cases it’s “as soon as reasonably possible,” which is akin to when your parents used to say “We’ll see” when you were 6 years old asked if you could get a pony or a rocket ship. As the deadline draws near, check back via phone or email with the record keeper to see where your request is.
  • Don’t back off: When people tell you “no,” that doesn’t mean you are done. In some cases, people will say no for no good reason. Again, the answer has to be rooted in law and completely explained. This can’t be like when you were in high school and you asked for something and your parents just said “NO!” and when you asked “Why?” they answered “Because I’M A PARENT! That’s WHY!” Maybe mom and dad could get away with that but public officials can’t. Make sure the law is clearly stated and that they aren’t trying to snow you. (One open records case we dug into found the university’s lawyer telling us that they didn’t have to produce the documents under some obscure Indiana state law. It turns out they basically were trying to assert that information they wanted to share with the entire campus, but not the newspaper, was an “internal memo” not meant for public consumption. The state arbiter eventually ruled in our favor, but it was because we pushed the issue and didn’t take the first “no” for an answer.)
  • Ask for help: Students often feel they get the shaft on this kind of stuff because the state, the university or whatever public institution has resources beyond their reach, including access to legal advice. If you can’t afford Ramen and Diet Coke at the same time, how the heck are you supposed to afford a lawyer? The answer is that the Student Press Law Center can offer you some assistance. They have experts on duty to give you free advice on how to proceed. They can also arrange to get you a lawyer in some cases to help you pursue your quest. (Again, disclosure, they’re helping our paper out in this case and I’ve chipped in to them on more than one occasion.) You can find the group’s website here. It’s full of all sorts of great information, including how to file a request, what states are doing what  in regard to the law and stories about students fighting the good fight for open access to stuff. It’s worth a read.

A recap of #EditorTherapy session with @profKRG and me

In case you missed it, here is a rough transcript of the Q and A I did with Kenna Griffin on her “Editor Therapy” live session. It’s all just the basics, not including the additional comments from posters in reaction to us. (It’s hard to capture the core of what is going on during a tweet up after the fact.) In any case, I hope you enjoy it!


I apologize for the excess tweets during the next hour as I host #EditorTherapy chat. Please join us!


Welcome to #EditorTherapy. I’m so happy you’re here!


It’s no secret that the tools we use to report the news are changing, as are audience expectations.


However, we also know that many of the fundamentals of journalism remain constant.


Tonight’s guest literally wrote the books on the changing nature of journalism.


Vince Filak (@DoctorOfPaper) is a professor and adviser to The Advance Titan (@atitan) at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (@uwoshkosh).


In addition, @DoctorOfPaper is the author of five journalism textbooks, including the Dynamics of Media Writing. Vince’s sixth book, Dynamics of Media Editing is due out in 2019.


We are fortunate to have @DoctorOfPaper with us to share his expertise on what’s changing and what’s remaining constant in journalism.


Before we dig in, please introduce yourself, including your title and student media outlet. #EditorTherapy


I am Kenna, a journalism professor and collegiate media adviser for @MediaOCU. #EditorTherapy


You can follow along with the chat with the #EditorTherapy hashtag and by following @profkrg.


We will use the Q&A format for the chat. Please include “A” and the question number before your responses. #EditorTherapy


Also, don’t forget the #EditorTherapy hashtag on all of your responses.


Q1 is on the way! Please introduce yourself now if you haven’t already.


Q1: Through your research and writing, what have you found to be the constants in journalism… things we all should foucs on? #EditorTherapy


A1: You need to communicate clearly and effectively via the best possible platform. #EditorTherapy


A1: Also, you need to focus on audience-centricity: What do your readers want to know, not what do you want to say. #EditorTherapy


A1: Finally, accuracy matters above all else. If you are clear and concise but wrong, you’re not helping anyone. #EditorTherapy


Q2: Overall, how are student journalists doing with these constants? What are some things they should focus on?


A2: Well in some cases, poorly in others. The understanding what a “fact” is needs work. #EditorTherapy


A2: The issue of how to tell people what matters most first could be stronger. #EditorTherapy


A2: However, they understand their peers and they work well in communicating with them. #EditorTherapy




Q3: What have you found to be the greatest changes in journalism… things we must adapt to? #EditorTherapy


A3: The days of “general interest” content are over. We need to come to grips with that. #EditorTherapy


A3: We need to look at what niche we fill w/our student publications and then defend that niche. #EditorTherapy


A3: I don’t need the @atitan to tell me about @RealDonaldTrump’s latest decree. I can get that anywhere. #EditorTherapy


A3: I need stuff I can’t get elsewhere, stuff about UWO. Be the expert at this niche and you’re good. #EditorTherapy



Q4: How are student journalists doing, overall, with these changes? #EditorTherapy


A4: It varies. Above all, students need to focus on “right tool, right job.” This matters a lot. #EditorTherapy


A4: Example: Some students who wouldn’t pick up a print paper insist on a print-first mentality. #EditorTherapy


A4: Some folks use Twitter for a specific purpose as a “receiver” of info, but don’t use it that way to “send” content. #EditorTherapy


A4: In other cases, students get it. They use the tools they would use to get info to communicate with readers. #EditorTherapy



Q5: What are some tools that today’s student journalists must have in their toolboxes? #EditorTherapy


A5: I believe you can NEVER have too many tools in your toolbox. It’s all about using them properly. #EditorTherapy


A5: Skills: Clarity, precision, accuracy, ability to connect w/an audience all matter. #EditorTherapy


A5: The biggest thing is being able to explain: “This matters to you, the reader, because…” #EditorTherapy


A5: In terms of platforms, they change so quickly, it’s tough to say what to use. That’s why skills matter more. #EditorTherapy


A5: I had to redo my “web” chapters in my reporting book TWICE before publication d/t tech shifts. #EditorTherapy


A5: Still, skills transfer: e.g. If you can write in a simple N-V-O structure, you can do headlines and tweets well. #EditorTherapy



Q6: What do you see as the most important trait that student journalists need, heading into the profession? #EditorTherapy


A6: Wonder and grit. If you don’t say “I wonder why” at least once a day, you won’t find great story ideas. #EditorTherapy


A6: Grit matters because without it, you’ll never get the answers you want when you are working a story. #EditorTherapy



Q7: Address the elephant in the chat. Is news dying? Is journalism still a viable career option? #EditorTherapy


A7: News will never die. Our definition of it and our consumption habits change but the “need to know” is eternal. #EditorTherapy

A7: We need to better understand what people need and how they want to receive it. #EditorTherapy


A7: Years ago, we wrote what we wanted and people had no real choice but to consume it how we sent it. #EditorTherapy


A7: Now, those standard news values alone don’t drive consumptions and we must cater to our readers better. #EditorTherapy


A7: I don’t mean pander to their wants, but rather focus on preferences of delivery for things they need. #EditorTherapy



Q8: Your next book is about editing. What did you find remained constant in editing process? #EditorTherapy


A8: 1) If you spell something wrong, someone will notice and think you are an idiot. #EditorTherapy


A8: 2) Editing is a multifaceted approach to content improvement. If you focus on that, you help the readers. #EditorTherapy


A8: 3) Everyone needs and editor (or two or three of them…) #EditorTherapy



Q9: What were some of the changes you found in your research of editing? #EditorTherapy


A9: Just like other J-areas, editing is about effectively reaching an audience. #EditorTherapy


A9: The editing aspect is shifting somewhat away from painstakingly adhering to grammar. #EditorTherapy


A9: Old-school: Like classical music, notes-on-page approach. New-school: Jazz, a structure with variations as needed. #EditorTherapy



Q10: What types of leadership skills do student journalists need to hone to carry with them into the profession? #EditorTherapy


A10: Leadership in general is key. We don’t train people how to be managers in school.  #EditorTherapy


A10: I once saw a line that “Editors are reporters whose feet have grown weary.” That’s been our approach.  #EditorTherapy


A10: Reporting and editing are two different skills. We need to help them with certain skills of management.  #EditorTherapy


A10: Skills: Collaboration, calmness, organization, finding common ground, learning to help others.  #EditorTherapy


Q11: In all of the research you’ve done on editing, writing and convergent journalism, what are some findings that surprised you? #EditorTherapy


A11: Most of the problems we face aren’t about the technology or news, but about the culture.  #EditorTherapy


A11: Convergence essentially failed because people held biases toward their old media identities.  #EditorTherapy


A11: Technology doesn’t matter as much as the core skills (writing/editing) and storytelling do.  #EditorTherapy


A11: One book I read said “The tone is in your fingers,” which meant technology won’t save lousy work.  #EditorTherapy



Q12: Blog ? from @GrammarPurist: “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” #EditorTherapy


A12: A “chuck-load” of it.  #EditorTherapy


Q13: Important! Where can we buy your books? #EditorTherapy


A13: Amazon stocks them. My new one “Dynamics of News Reporting” comes out in 2018.  #EditorTherapy


A13: You can bid on an advance proof copy via @SPLC book auction at the ACP/CMA Dallas convention.  #EditorTherapy


A13: The blog,, adds to both writing texts. Swing by and give it a look.  #EditorTherapy





Thank you so much for attending! #EditorTherapy


Did you know there is an #EditorTherapy Facebook page? I’d love to connect with you there.


We will not have #EditorTherapy next week because many students and advisers will be at #collegemedia17. Who will we see there?


Until next time, please visit me at for more practical resources for student journalists. #EditorTherapy



Catch a session of #EditorTherapy with @profKRG and me tonight!

One of the best things I get to do in this field is to collaborate with other great journalism minds and get messages out through other channels as well. Tonight, I get a chance to do a live chat with professor Kenna Griffin via her Editor Therapy sessions. Her website contains a TON of useful information on how journalism, student media and classroom life works (or how to fix it when it doesn’t work).

Tonight’s session is on “adaptive media,” which is kind of a broad term we came up with that means as much as stuff changes in media, some things remain the same. Kenna will have some questions for me, but I’m happy to answer ANYTHING you want to ask on this (or any other vaguely tangential topic).

To submit a question, you can post it below, tweet it to me at DoctorOfPaper or hit up Kenna on Twitter at ProfKRG. I’ll do my best to make it happen.

You can follow along tonight at #EditorTherapy and it starts at 9 p.m. Central and should go for an hour (or so… We’re journo-nerds so we might get chatty…)

Tell me what makes for a good professor (other than “easy tests”)

It’s chaos out here these days, due to deadlines and other various work requirements. One thing adding to the wonderful world of insanity is that we are looking to hire a new faculty member in the journalism department.

This got me to thinking about what it is that makes for a good professor. When it comes to what you want out of your classroom experience as a student, what makes for a good professor?

Tell me what you would want out of a professor by posting below or tweeting to me at DoctorOfPaper. I’ll build something out of this at some point in the near(ish) future with the hopes of getting you an overall better educational experience. It might also help out professors who read this to find out what you really want and if they’re making the mark.

The SCAM method to better personality profiles

Personality profiles are often heavy on the “profile” but lack “personality.” The ability to go beyond “So and so is not your typical college student…” takes effort, research and most of all observation.

The goal of a good profile piece is to have your readers able to see the subject in their mind’s eye. The ability to visualize the person both physically and beyond is crucial to understanding the individual and the value this person has as as profile subject.

One of my first professors taught me to work on observing a profile subject through the acronym “SCAM.” I have no idea where he got this or if it was original to him, so if you find the original source, I’d love to know it so I can give credit where credit is due.

Here’s what it means:

SETTING: Good writing appeals to the senses. To make that happen, you need to make sure you can explain what’s going on around you. What do the person’s surroundings look like?

  • If it’s a desk worker, how clean is that desk?
  • What type of information is on the bulletin board?
  • If you’re at a person’s home, what kind of décor are we looking at? Is it high-end quality furniture of antique vintage of is it three beanbags with duct tape on them and a giant wooden spool for a table?
  • Does the person have pets running around or is it very cold and empty? If they’ve got pets, what kind of pets are they?
  • What does it sound like? (What kind of music does the person listen to? Imagine going to meet the head of your university and all of a sudden that person turns on the radio, and out pours death metal or gangsta rap.) What sounds surround the person? (A drill in a dentist’s office, the clang of a construction crane)
  • What does it smell like around this person? (Cigarette smoke? Heavy perfume? Hog farm?)

CHARACTER: Who is this person you’re describing? In society we usually start with the physical.

  • What does your source wear? Shirt and tie? High fashion? T-shirt and jeans?
  • What is the height, weight, build of the person? Hair neat and simple or wild and stylish or is it utilitarian?
  • What do their eyes look like? Bright and engaging or do they look dead?
  • What do they drive? What do they own? What do they wear that tells you something important? (An important piece of jewelry?)

The internal stuff is a little harder to get at but is possible. How do they react to people who are important vs. people they view as subordinates? How do they act in public? How do they act in private? What type of language do they use? (prim and proper or cussing that would cause a sailor to blush?) Look for ways to help me understand this person’s inner-self.

ACTION: What does your source do? This can be as simple as tapping a pencil while he or she is talking on the phone or as complicated as explaining the painstaking precision of the bakers on Ace of Cakes.

  • How does your source move? Is it frantic or slow or smooth or ragged?
  • How does your source physically respond to certain things? (Do they always take things in stride or do they freak out?)
  • What kinds of things does your source do when speaking to you? (Do they sit still or are they doing other things? Do they attend solely to you or are you an afterthought?)
  • What actions do they take related to who they are? (Athletes who stretch or limp due to injury or action? People who are hunched from years of specific activities?)

MEANING: You need to make sure that these things matter. You mesh the character, action and scene along with quotes and reporting bits and suddenly you’ve got enough to reveal your source’s personality to the reader. Remember, as Freud once said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, so don’t overreach for this. Look at what you’ve collected and make an intelligent statement about your source based on what you’ve seen and learned.