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Oct 24 / King Kaufman

Lennay’s Law in action in CBC’s level-headed coverage of Ottawa shootings

It’s easy to forget that when you write about sports, you’re potentially writing about almost anything. Politics, economics, race, violence, substance abuse. There’s almost nothing that gets covered on news sites that couldn’t, somehow, end up on a sports site.

So while a rampaging shooter like the one who terrorized Ottawa this week doesn’t figure to be a part of sports coverage, it could happen, depending on where or at whom that shooter shoots, or threatens to shoot.

That’s why I think sportswriters, not just hard news folks, can get a lot out of this Mother Jones report by James West, headlined “Canada’s Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put American Cable News to Shame.”

West notes that while the situation unfolded live with lots of sketchy details and unconfirmed rumors, the CBC’s coverage, anchored by “the unflappable Peter Mansbridge,” was very different than what we’re used to in the U.S.:

This live bit of level-headed reporting by Mansbridge, from around 11:10 a.m. Wednesday, should be given to journalism students around the country. It basically contains everything you need to know about why CBC did its audience proud:

MANSBRIDGE: And so, the situation is, as we say, tense and unclear. And it’s on days like this—we keep reminding you of this and it’s important—it’s on days like this, where a story takes a number of different pathways, a number of changes occur, and often rumors start in a situation like this. We try to keep them out of our coverage, but when they come, sometimes from official sources, like members of Parliament, you tend to give them some credence. But you carefully weigh it with what we’re also witnessing. It’s clear that the situation is not over. It is clear the police are in an intense standby situation and continue to be on the lookout, and until somebody blows the all-clear on this we will continue to stay on top of it and watch as the events unfold.

West continues: “Exacting and painstaking, but never slow or boring, Mansbridge weighed the credibility of every detail, constantly framing and reframing what we knew and, most crucially, how we knew it.” (Emphasis in the original.)

That’s a great example of Lennay’s Law in action. Here’s video of the quoted coverage.

Oct 23 / King Kaufman

Remembering the Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee, a giant of American journalism

Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post from 1965 to 1991, died this week at the age of 93. Whenever journalism giants die, there are lots of stories around about their lives and careers.

I usually find it fruitful to read as many of them as I can find.

Bradlee, familiar to non-Beltway insiders as the character played by Jason Robards in the movie version of Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men,” was not a sportswriter or a sports editor. But he liked sports and, evidently, understood well the role of sports journalism. His obituary, linked in the lede above, notes that when he took over as managing editor of the Post in 1965, its most famous writer was a sportswriter, Shirley Povich.

Here’s NBA.com and TNT reporter David Aldridge, who got his start at the Washington Post, writing on Facebook:

Working at The Washington Post was the anchor for my professional life. All the lessons I learned about journalism came from my nine years there, and all those came with Ben Bradlee at the helm. He didn’t run the Sports section, but he was the undeniable boss of the paper. He loved Sports and was quite fond of our immediate boss, George Solomon (the feeling was mutual). So, while he wasn’t there every day, Ben would come back to the section quite often to see what was going on. He was not that interested in the score of the game last night. He wanted to know if anything big was cooking. (Per David Maraniss’s outstanding biography of Vince Lombardi, It was Bradlee who first found out Lombardi was coming to D.C. in 1969 to coach the Redskins, having been given the scoop by his close friend, the late owner of the team, Edward Bennett Williams. Bradlee told Sports, which printed the story. THAT was Ben Bradlee’s idea of a big story.)

New Yorker editor David Remnick was a Washington Post reporter from 1982 to ’92. In a thoroughly entertaining remembrance, he writes of Bradlee, “Among his many bequests to the Republic was a catalogue of swaggering anecdotes rich enough to float a week of testimonial dinners.” The piece ends with one of them.

Here’s a great letter Bradlee once sent to a PR flack from a circus who had complained that the Post’s Style section hadn’t published a story about someone’s retirement. The kicker is a nice statement of purpose when it comes to dealing with press agents: “I would like to be sure that you understand that we trust our editors’ news judgment and that we distrust yours.”

More reading:

Ben Bradlee Wrestled With Racial Issues by Richard Prince, Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Ben Bradlee: His sense of Style brought a new sensibility to features by Martha Sherrill, Washington Post. The headline refers to the influential Style section, which Bradlee introduced.

Post bigshots on Bradlee: Donald Graham. Leonard Downie.

A Story About Ben Bradlee That’s Not Fucking Charming by Peter Maass, The Intercept.

Journalists reflect on Ben Bradlee’s life and career by Benjamin Mullin, Poynter.org.

Oct 22 / King Kaufman

Lessons from a single-subject news site: Find opportunities in coverage “gaps”

Stick with me for a second as I talk about this ivoh.org blog post about the new site Ebola Deeply.

After all, the headline on Mallory Jean Tanore’s piece is “What media outlets can learn from the Ebola Deeply news site,” and we’re all media outlets, right?

The site, launched last week by Lara Setrakian, a former ABC reporter who also founded Syria Deeply, is dedicated to nothing but coverage of the Ebola outbreak. A note of disclosure: I’ve met Setrakian a few times and think the world of her and her work.

Here’s Tenore:

Increasingly, nontraditional news sites like Ebola Deeply and Syria Deeply are filling gaps by publishing stories that legacy news outlets may not have the capacity or resources to cover in depth.

Journalists can learn something from these sites, which break down complex information in a way that’s easy to understand. Ebola Deeply does this partly by offering readers a variety of ways to consume information.

In addition to written stories, the site features Google Hangouts, a Twitter feed, videos, a timeline of events related to the epidemic, and a case map [showing] the number of deaths and infections around the world.

Thanks for sticking with me, because here’s my point: Where are “the gaps” in what you cover, or might cover? That’s where the opportunities are to do great things. That’s something I’ve learned from, among other places, sites like Ebola Deeply.

Oct 21 / King Kaufman

Application season: Poynter’s helpful list of educational programs, plus B/R’s

Looking for an internship, fellowship or other educational program to kick your journalism career up a notch or two? Check out this Poynter.org post, which lists, at this writing, 34 of the best of them.

Note that the URL says there will be 27 of them, so you might want to keep checking back. The list is growing.

As Poynter’s Benjamin Mullin notes, “October through January is internship application season.” Some of the application deadlines are already coming up. It would have been helpful if the list were in order of deadline dates, but here are the ones with October cutoffs:

The Virginian-Pilot—Oct. 24

The New York Times James Reston Reporting Fellowship—Oct. 31

The Dallas Morning News—Oct. 31

The Miami Herald—Oct. 31

All of the programs Mullen lists, he says, are paid, even if the pay amount is sometimes missing.

They’re not listed in the Poynter post, but Bleacher Report has two paid educational programs that we think are among the best as well, the Advanced Program in Sports Media, which focuses on sportswriting, and the Advanced Program in Editing and Content Management, the focus of which should be clear from the name.

Both are paid, 12-week programs for advanced journalism students or early-career professionals. Two things set them apart from most other programs: One is that they’re part time, usually taking about 10 to 15 hours a week, and the other is that students telecommute. There are no travel or living requirements.

Visit the links above for more information and the applications.

Oct 20 / King Kaufman

Twitter best practices: Advice from the journalist who oversees the BBC’s feeds

The BBC Academy asked Mark Frankel, who oversees the network’s Twitter accounts, a series of rapid-fire questions about best practices for journalists.

Because of the 140 character-friendly nature of his answers, the interview has a certain “Rain Man” quality, but there’s a lot of good advice for journalists. A sample.

2. What should you think about before you write?

Truth or rumour? Share with colleagues first. Can I explain it clearly in <140 characters? Do I need to credit someone? #bestpractice

3. Who are your tweets aimed at?

Not just existing followers. Think trending words & hashtags & cc others with Twitter influence to help your tweets travel #bestpractice

4. What ingredients make for an effective tweet?

Brevity, clear language, humour/light touch, judicious hashtag, a good pic and link (when relevant) #bestpractice

Definitely good advice. Definitely. And there’s more where that came from about double-checking sources, attribution, being careful with breaking news and more.

That #bestpractice hashtag isn’t all that useful because it’s used so widely about all sorts of things other than Twitter best practices. But Frankel does link to other sources of best practices for using the social network.

Oct 17 / King Kaufman

Celebrating Lionel Messi’s debut anniversary in various editorial ways

Thursday was the 10th anniversary of Lionel Messi’s debut with Barcelona. Bleacher Report covered that milestone in four ways, and I think they’re a nice cross-section of some of the different types of content available as you think about how to cover any event or topic.

There were two fairly traditional pieces, one looking back and one looking forward:

Lionel Messi Travels 10 Years from Shy Uncertainty to Stellar Name at Barcelona by Guillem Balague.

Predicting Where Barcelona Star Lionel Messi Will Be in 10 Years’ Time by Rik Sharma.

There was a slideshow that rounded up quotes about Messi:

Lionel Messi: Quotes on Barcelona Star from His Coaches, Team-Mates and Rivals by Mark Patterson.

A video featured the moment of Messi’s debut for Barca:

We Remember: Video Shows Leo Messi’s Barcelona Debut, October 16, 2004

And a pair of graphics, each accompanying a brief story by Patterson:

Lionel Messi: Exploring Barcelona Forward’s Trophy Cabinet 10 Years After Debut

Lionel Messi in Numbers: Graphic Shows Barcelona and Argentina Stats Since 2004

Finally, to encourage engagement, there was a Twitter contest in which fans could win a shirt and an exclusive print by artist Stan Chow:

Win a Lionel Messi Shirt, Exclusive Print to Celebrate 10th Anniversary of Debut

I wonder what we’ll be able to do for his 20th anniversary.

Oct 16 / King Kaufman

Missouri RJI’s Future’s Lab videos help you keep up with media innovation

It’s hard to keep pace with the changes in media: New tools and platforms are coming online every day, and users’ habits are changing with the technology.

But if you don’t want the business to leave you in the dust, you have to do your best. One good resource is the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Futures Lab, a weekly video series produced by the University of Missouri School of Journalism that provides an update on innovation in journalism.

This week’s Futures Lab video looks at how Mashable makes use of the microvideo app Vine and how various media outlets are using the photo messaging app Snapchat.

An update two weeks ago shared insights and takeaways from the 14th annual Online News Association conference in Chicago. The description of the video says a lot about the very things we should be staying current on:

We bring you a recap that identifies several major themes: The growing complexity of devices and platforms; a drive for more sophisticated analytics; the central role of social media in news today; and the integration of new technology and innovation.

The videos are generally about six to eight minutes long, and while they’re professionally produced, they’re not very slick. Futures Lab is an easy, slightly nerdy way to keep track of some of what’s going on in the biz.

Oct 15 / King Kaufman

How young journalists can get that next job: Advice from an SPJ chat

Kenna Griffin, an assistant professor of Mass Communications at Oklahoma City University, offered a ton of great career advice recently in a Twitter chat and a follow-up interview with the Society of Professional Journalists.

I found the chat, which used the hashtag #youngjournojobs, a little hard to read and digest, for signal-to-noise reasons, but you might find some useful nuggets. The interview, by SPJ communications coordinator Taylor Carlier, had some real wisdom. A sampling:

What are the top three qualities news orgs are looking for in the young generation of journos?

News organizations are looking for professionalism, strong foundational skills in writing and reporting and an understanding of multimedia tools with a willingness to adapt to change …

If young journos only have time to market one skill to potential employers, what should they focus on?

Adaptability. Our industry is changing in ways many of us never imagined. Students have to show that they have the basic skills they need now and a willingness to learn whatever storytelling tools the future presents.

Griffin also advises having two versions of both your résumé and clips, paper and digital; networking by joining as many professional organizations and attending as many local events as you can; and promoting your work with a consistent online presence.

Oct 14 / King Kaufman

New MarketWatch editor: “Bring me bagels!” And it’s good writing advice

In an interview with Talking Biz News, Jeremy Olshan, the new editor in chief of MarketWatch.com, makes a few points I found interesting.

As the headline points out, Olshan wants most MarketWatch stories to stick to 400 words, “without all the empty calories and filler journalists love to stuff in the sausage. We will also do longer, deep dives on important stories that warrant such treatment. This is the way the digital news is going: tall and venti, no more grande.”

That’s not a new idea, but we just heard last week that the traditional newspaper length, around 750 words, was optimal from the perspective of users’ attention, which advertisers crave. I wonder if Olshan will run into some resistance to his 400-words edict from the business side.

Olshan also makes a point that’s a favorite around here, about having to stand out from the crowd: “It’s important to routinely ask the Passover question: Why is this site different from all other sites?”

And most amusingly, when asked what he looks for when hiring someone to work at MarketWatch, Olshan says, “Someone to fetch me bagels.” That sounds like a joke, a little self-deprecating humor about what a lousy boss he is. But it turns out to be a tasty bit of writing advice:

My years at the New York Post taught me how to tell stories with a sledgehammer, how to find that one detail that ends up a kind of shorthand for anyone talking about the whole affair. When New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook was busted in 2010 on the usual corruption charges, for instance, we focused on one of the seemingly minor offenses: He fudged his expenses to charge taxpayers $177 for a single bagel. Whenever Seabrook is mentioned now the sentence almost always contains the word bagel.

I am looking for reporters who can find the bagel in every story. Tweets are now the atomic unit of journalism. When quizzing reporters on their stories, editors used to say, “So what’s the headline here?” Now we ask, “what’s the tweet?”

Oct 13 / King Kaufman

3 questions to consider about sports media and sports journalism

A little food for thought: Three interesting reads about journalism and sports media from the last few days.

First, on CJR.org, Ann Friedman asks, “Should all journalists be on Twitter?” Launching from a BuzzFeed piece giving the New York Times grief for some of its stars ignoring Twitter, Friedman puts it another way:

“Can you still be an effective journalist if you ignore Twitter?”

She concludes, “You should consider getting comfortable with 140-character communication if”: You write about media, TV, pop music or digital culture, because of the prevalence of Twitter use among people in, and covering, those industries. I’d add sports. Also, if you want to give your audience a way to interact with you, if you think you might be looking for a job someday—because it’s a great place to network—or you love words.

We’ve talked before around here about how Twitter is a great way to learn about concision and economy of language.

Conversely, keep that egg avatar and ignore Twitter if:

You have a completely secure job at one of the world’s largest print publications and don’t see a need to network with other journalists. And don’t care if they see your work.

You are content to let readers contact you via your personal email or an email to your publication’s general inbox, and don’t feel a need to respond immediately.

You don’t enjoy playing around with words.

Second, Mathew Ingram’s piece at GigaOm.com, “Journalism’s biggest competitors are things that don’t even look like journalism.”

It’s a nuanced piece I want you to go read, but the main point is that any journalism outlet’s—or any journalist’s—competition isn’t necessarily journalism done better, it’s anything that gives the audience the information or experience it’s looking for, whether it’s journalism or not. As an example, people used to read reviews of new music before buying. Now, they listen to the music themselves on services like Spotify.

Taking off from this blog post on fungibility by journalist/programmer Stijn Debrouwere, Ingram offers these possible responses:

Focus on storytelling and personality, because those things are irreplaceable, and concentrate on appealing to readers who are passionate about specific topics.

Finally, Scandal, sports journalism and the NCAA, by sportswriter-turned-journalism professor Brian Moritz. It’s an examination of SB Nation’s decision not to pursue the Todd Gurley autograph story when a tipster approached them, “because the purpose of this website is not to enforce the NCAA’s insane bylaws. On the contrary, we’re all for players making money, and are thus editorially supportive of those bylaws’ erosion.”

Moritz asks, “Is good journalism that tacitly endorses a corrupt status quo good?” That is, if we can all agree that the NCAA rule that Gurley broke is stupid, and part of the foundation of a corrupt system, is it good to help the NCAA enforce that rule, even if good journalism is committed in the process?

Moritz leaves it as a question and so will I. Two things to consider, though: In most cases, and certainly in the Gurley case, not reporting it won’t prevent the story from being reported. As SB Nation surely knew, the tipster would keep moving on to other outlets until he found one that would run the story.

On the other hand:

Exposing wrongdoing is a core mission of journalism. But when that becomes your focus—sniffing out scandal without contextualizing it—it can get dangerous. You start to seek out the scandal without seeing the whole board. You start to get so caught up in asking about the salacious details of the scandal that you forget to consider the larger questions.