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Feb 6 / King Kaufman

Journalists at Instagram? You never know where jobs might pop up

I think that even now, as deep as we are in the digital revolution, it’s important to keep reminding each other that the upside of all the disruption is that jobs might sprout up in the most unexpected places.

This piece at CJR.org asks “Is hiring journalists such a good idea for Instagram?” Author Damaris Colhoun is a little skeptical given the disappointing results of such efforts at both Twitter and Tumblr.

That debate aside, it’s probably news to you, as it was to me, that Instapaper is hiring journalists, and that Tumblr and Twitter have done so in the past. So has Facebook. As Colhoun points out, the jobs mostly involve helping the companies’ branding efforts. They’re much more public relations or marketing jobs than journalism jobs.

So not all journalists will want them, and those who do take them should do so with their eyes open, knowing they’re not being hired to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. But they’re jobs, and that’s a good thing to know about.

Here’s Digiday on Instagram expanding its “editorial” team.

Where have you seen journalism jobs, or at least jobs that leverage journalism skills, popping up where you hadn’t expected?

Feb 5 / King Kaufman

Introducing Bleacher Report’s 2015 World Football coverage team

Bleacher Report U.K. has been building up the World Football coverage team. Here’s a rundown of who’s covering what in the Beautiful Game.

NATIONAL LEAD WRITERS

Alex Dimond: Staff writer who pens Monday Morning Hangover and Friday’s Premier League Notepad plus features. Profile | Twitter

Jonathan Wilson: Revered writer and tactical brain. Author of six books, including the acclaimed “Inverting the Pyramid.” Profile | Twitter

Graham Ruthven: Scottish writer who has appeared in such outlets as the New York Times and ESPN, among others. Profile | Twitter

Andy Brassell: An authority on European football. Writer and broadcaster—now a Team Stream Now regular. Profile | Twitter

Sam Pilger: Experienced sportswriter who has written for over 70 magazines and newspapers in more than 20 countries. Profile | Twitter

FEATURED CONTRIBUTORS

Guillem Balague: Spanish Football insider who has written biographies on Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi. Profile | Twitter

Stan Collymore: Former Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Leicester and England striker offers the pro’s perspective. Profile | Twitter

Ross Edgley: Former coach at the English Institute of Sport who covers Sports Science-related topics. Profile | Twitter

LEAGUE LEAD WRITERS

Premier League: Sam Tighe
La Liga: Karl Matchett
Serie A: Colin O’Brien
MLS/USMNT: Joe Tansey
Liga MX/Mexico: Karla Villegas Gama
Gameday Correspondent: Jerrad Peters

TEAM FEATURED COLUMNISTS

Arsenal: James McNicholas
Chelsea: Garry Hayes
Liverpool: Matt Ladson and Max Munton
Manchester City: Rob Pollard
Manchester United: Rob Dawson and Paul Ansorge
Tottenham Hotspur: Thomas Cooper and Sam Rooke
Barcelona: Jason Pettigrove
Real Madrid: Rik Sharma and Nick Dorrington
Atletico Madrid: Tim Collins
Milan: Sam Lopresti and Anthony Lopopolo
Juventus: Adam Digby
Bayern Munich: Clark Whitney
Borussia Dortmund: Stefan Bienkowski
PSG: Jonathan Johnson and Andrew Gibney

NATIONAL FEATURED COLUMNISTS

Daniel Tiluk
Mark Jones
Tom Sunderland

TRANSFERS FEATURED COLUMNISTS

Allan Jiang
Laura Greene

Feb 4 / King Kaufman

Solo blogging or writing for big media, the job is the same: Be unique

If you follow people on Journalism Twitter, you may have seen some chatter recently about blogging being dead. I’ve ignored it, because “blogging is dead” is one of those things people have been saying since around 1973. Evidently this round of it happened in the wake of Andrew Sullivan’s announcement that he’s retiring from his paywalled blog.

Mathew Ingram of GigaOm has a piece arguing that blogging is alive and well. He cites a post by Ben Thompson, who runs the one man blog Stratechery, headlined Blogging’s bright future.

Ingram writes that online content success exists at two poles, one of which can be the classic one-person blog:

In a sense, the blogging world—or even the world of online publishing as a whole—has bifurcated to create what I call a barbell effect: sites or even publications like newspapers that are huge and broad and have powerful brands will likely succeed, because they can make advertising work. And those that are small and targeted (either by topic or by geography) will likely also be fine. Everything in the middle, however, is in for a world of pain.

You might not find this interesting if you’re not planning to start your own content company, but I think this analysis works on the individual level too.

Thompson writes that “an advertising business model demands huge amounts of inventory served to a large number of readers targeted with a massive amount of data.” And here’s Ingram with the flip side of that: “The core of Thompson’s argument is that the more niche and targeted your content is, the better off you are likely to be with a subscription model.”

That is, the way to get people to pay for your writing is to make it unique, specialized, targeted. If you’re running your own paywalled blog, the paying customers are readers. If you’re working in the larger media arena, the paying customers are editors. But editors are just people buying what you’re trying to sell. They’re asking the same question potential paying readers ask: Are you offering something that’s unique, that I can’t get anywhere else?

Feb 3 / King Kaufman

National Magazine Awards winners make a fine reading list for writers

The American Society of Magazine Editors and Columbia Journalism School handed out the National Magazine Awards Monday night in New York.

As with any awards, it’s hardly a slam dunk that the winners were the most deserving. But it’s a good bet that the winners make up a reading list of top-notch magazine writing. Handy to have when you remember one of the best pieces of advice any writer can get: Read, read read.

Here is a list of the winners, leaving out photography:

Multimedia: Texas Observer-Guardian partnership, Beyond the Border by Melissa del Bosque

Video: Vice News, The Islamic State by Medyan Dairieh

Public Interest: Pacific Standard, Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet by Amanda Hess

Personal Service: O, The Oprah Magazine, Ready or Not: The Caregiver’s Guide

Leisure Interests: Backpacker, The Complete Guide to Fire edited by Casey Lyons

Reporting: GQ, Inside the Iron Closet: What It’s Like to Be Gay in Putin’s Russia by Jeff Sharlet

Feature Writing: The Atavist, Love and Ruin by James Verini

Essays and Criticism: The New Yorker, This Old Man by Roger Angell

Columns and Commentary: New York for Zombies on the Walls: Why Does So Much New Abstraction Look the Same?, Taking in Jeff Koons, Creator and Destroyer of Worlds and Post-Macho God: Matisse’s Cut-Outs Are World-Historically Gorgeous by Jerry Saltz

Fiction: The New Yorker, The Emerald Light in the Air by Donald Antrim

For even more reading, check out the full list of nominees, which includes the best piece of magazine writing I read this year, The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic.

Feb 2 / King Kaufman

Nieman Storyboard’s Annotation Tuesday! looks under the hood of great writing

I don’t know how I’ve missed this, but Niemanstoryboard.org has a feature called Annotation Tuesday! in which one writer interviews another about some recent or famous piece, and the questions and answers are interspersed throughout the story itself.

It’s like the audio commentary track on the DVD of a movie. I’ll wait here while you go ask your grandparents what DVDs were.

I was pointed to Annotation Tuesday!—which, alas, is not a weekly feature—by a tweet pointing to the latest one, Justin Heckert and “Lost in the Waves” by Matt Tullis. “Lost in the Waves” was a story Heckert published in Men’s Journal in 2009.

The name Justin Heckert jumped out at me because his his profile of comedian Kyle Kinane for Grantland had just been cited in this week’s Sunday Long Reads by ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr.

I love the format of Annotation Tuesday! It usually starts with a short Q&A, and then we get into the piece. You can hide the annotations if you want to see the piece in its native form first. Otherwise they interrupt the text, the questioner’s queries highlighted in one color, the writer’s answers in another. The questions might be about the writing, the reporting, the editing, even the conception and pitching of the article. I’ve only read a few Annotation Tuesday! pieces, but I have yet to read one and not learn something.

Most of them aren’t about sports, of course, but here’s one in which Elon Green interviews Roger Angell about “Down the Drain,” his famous 1975 New Yorker piece about Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Steve Blass, who had suddenly lost the ability to throw strikes.

With all the talk last week about Marshawn Lynch not talking to the media and how sportswriters reacted to that, you might find another annotation by Green interesting: Gay Talese and “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.”

“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” was published in Esquire in 1966, and it is widely considered among the greatest magazine pieces ever written. It is, in the words of an editor’s note on the linked reprint, “a pioneering example of what came to be called New Journalism—a work of rigorously faithful fact enlivened with the kind of vivid storytelling that had previously been reserved for fiction.”

It’s relevant to the Marshawn Lynch story because it’s a shining example of what a writer can do with a reticent subject. Sinatra never spoke to Talese.

Jan 30 / King Kaufman

The BBC releases the first report from its Future of News project

This is pretty high-level, and because it’s about the BBC and the United Kingdom, it might seem a little foreign to American eyes, but I think it’s worth reading this Journalism.co.uk summary of the first report from the BBC Future of News project.

If you want to go deep on the report itself, it’s here in the form of “an immersive story told through text, images and video.”

This is good for our ongoing project of keeping up with the media biz.

Journalism.co.uk says the takeaways from the report, which according to the introduction aims to “consider the Future of News over the decade to come,” are:

  • News will be more accessible, everywhere
  • Increased automation in journalism
  • Better collaboration
  • Video is here to stay
  • … and so is data journalism

The introduction also includes a selection of quotes from people around the industry about the future of the news industry. Here’s my favorite, from Caitlin Moran of The Times: “If we invented the news tomorrow, it would not be a half hour report at 6 o’clock.”

If tomorrow, we invented whatever it is you’re doing, what would it look like?

Jan 29 / King Kaufman

Marshawn Lynch: Obligated to speak, or a challenge for sportswriters to accept?

I admit I’m a little obsessed with the Marshawn Lynch story. I want Marshall McLuhan to write a book about the semiotics of Marshawn Lynch’s performance-art pieces, in which the Seattle Seahawks running back gives the same answer to reporters no matter what questions they ask him.

This week at Super Bowl Media Day, of course, Lynch’s answer to all questions was “I’m here so I won’t get fined,” though sometimes he threw in a “just” before “here.”

The sports media has been entertainingly up in arms about this, writing stacks of columns slamming Lynch for not giving them anything to write columns about. There have been occasional outbreaks of both sanity and idiocy.

At Awful Announcing, Brad Gagnon and Andrew Bucholtz wrote a point-counterpoint piece headlined Marshawn Lynch vs. the media: Who ya got? They also talked to me about Lynch and the media on my SiriusXM Bleacher Report Radio show.

Gagnon, who writes for B/R among other places, argued that Lynch is setting a bad precedent by refusing to speak in any meaningful way to the media, which his contract requires him to do: “If we shrug our shoulders and let Lynch go MIA, the floodgates could open up for players to blow off their media obligations going forward.”

Bucholtz, who covers the CFL on Yahoo Sports Canada’s 55 Yard Line blog, wondered how we’d be any better off if Lynch spouted meaningless platitudes instead of pulling his repetitive act.

I’m with Bucholtz, especially when he argues that an athlete not wanting to talk is an invitation to the media to break out of our packs and use our skills. “There’s no need to try to drag clichés out of an unwilling Lynch when there are better stories out there,” he wrote. “Maybe this will cause some to get creative and look beyond pack journalism and its clichés.”

Which is better, all those stories that came out of Lynch’s Media Day presser or this Seattle Times profile of Lynch from last year’s Super Bowl by Jerry Brewer? Lynch didn’t cooperate.

Here’s a great piece about Lynch from this year’s Super Bowl, by Andrew Sharp of Grantland. It’s an analysis piece, but note how much research went into it. And no cooperation from Beast Mode.

Jan 28 / King Kaufman

What to do if you find yourself in a massive media scrum

Tom Brady at Super Bowl Media Day, Jan. 27, 2015

Imagine that’s you somewhere in that scrum surrounding Tom Brady at Super Bowl Media Day Tuesday.

What’s your story going to be? What angle, what insight will you present that the 99 people you’re jockeying for position won’t get?

Here’s another question: When’s the last time you read or saw something really interesting that came out of Media Day? Stories about how funny and weird Media Day is, or about the loopy characters who show up as reporters, don’t count. An event that exists only so people can create stories about how funny and weird it is that the event exists, every year for decades, isn’t something worthy of too much of your attention, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s a simple rule for finding good stories: If you’re one of a huge group of reporters in one place, go somewhere else.

See also:

Joe Posnanski on being a great writer: Stay humble

What’s your best advice for writers? Yeah, you

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AP Photo

Jan 27 / King Kaufman

Being a journalist means being a student: Should you learn to code?

In the first quarter of my freshman year at the University of California-Santa Cruz I had a wonderful history professor named William Hitchcock. I loved his lectures, which an earlier chancellor had called “a masterpiece, every one.” But what I really liked was how this professional historian would look at us 18-year-old dummies and call us “historians.”

“Since we’re all historians,” he’d say, and then talk about how we historians might want to reason together about whatever subject was at hand.

Now I’m a professional, though I’m not a historian but the short-attention-span version, a journalist, and I look at things the other way around: I think we professionals are all students.

We have to be, with how fast everything changes.

So when I read something like this piece in PBS MediaShift’s EducationShift section about how journalism students should all learn a little coding, I don’t just see it as advice for college kids. I see it as advice for all journalists, because every journalist is a student.

Aaron Chimbel, a journalism professor at TCU, writes:

If we value clear writing and the ability to communicate clearly with a wide variety of people, we should value teaching our students the basics of computer languages and digital communications. These skills will only be more important going forward, and more importantly code, a broad term encompassing several computing languages, is the future of digital and global communication. If we don’t expose our students to this—students we want to lead the next generation of journalism and communication—we are doing them a disservice …

What is important is to expose all students to the basics of coding and to give them a baseline of understanding this language, the language of the future … What is important is for students who don’t become programmers—and most won’t—to be able understand how information can be gathered and presented using code and how to use it for journalism, even if they aren’t the ones actually building the project.

Chimbel compares learning some code to studying a language. You might not become fluent, but “you learn a lot about thinking and culture from learning a new language.” He also points out that, fortunately for those of us not enrolled in school, there are several free online resources, such as Code Academy, Code{Actually} and Code.org.

I’ve made a false start or two at Code Academy. I keep meaning to get back to it. Any of my fellow students feel the same way?

Jan 26 / Chelsea Becker

Content Standards: Attributing stats and factual information

Knowing when to attribute information to a third-party source is an important skill for any writer. In most cases, it’s pretty straightforward. When it comes to the presentation of stats and other factual information, it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s fair game and what owes credit to someone else’s reporting.

It’s obviously fair game to use basic win-loss stats for Clayton Kershaw’s season without attribution, or to include a widely reported fact about his background in a biographical piece. But when it comes to factual information that isn’t as widely available—or when factual information is presented in a way that mirrors the work of somebody else—usage is only acceptable with proper attribution to its source.

This post focuses on best practices for proper attribution in such cases.

Stats

Let’s use this ESPN article from Mike Wells as an example.

Wells outlines easily obtainable stats from the 2014 AFC Championship Game here: “New England followed up rushing games of 234 and 246 yards by rushing for 177 yards, including 148 yards and three touchdowns from LeGarrette Blount.”

Now, if I’m a B/R writer reporting on this game, can I reference the same stats? Definitely. Can I phrase the same exact stats in an identical or near-identical way and present the passage as my own? Definitely not. I’d have to give credit where it’s due.

If I wanted to use Wells’ specific language, I’d follow B/R’s Attribution Guidelines for crediting direct quotes, which advises, “When you extract a word-for-word passage from the work of another author, you’re obligated to (a) introduce the quoted material with a hyperlinked reference to the original source …”

My attribution would look something like this:

As ESPN’s Mike Wells notes, the Patriots “followed up rushing games of 234 and 246 yards by rushing for 177 yards, including 148 yards and three touchdowns from LeGarrette Blount.”

Obviously Wells is not the only reporter using this data, and you are free to reference the Pats’ 177 rushing yards in your own work without sourcing the ESPN piece. However, his organization of the stats and information is unique to him and therefore requires attribution if we present the information in the same or similar way.

Originally reported factual information

If a piece of factual information comes from an identifiable source and is uncommon enough that it can’t be considered widely known, it needs attribution to the source that brought you to that information.

For example, mentioning that Mike Conley was a calming influence for his high school team comes from someone’s research and original reporting. In this case, Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams provided us with that piece of knowledge and deserves credit.

Conley playing high school basketball with Ohio State University teammate Greg Oden does not need a source because it’s a fact available at hundreds of media outlets and not the result of a reporter’s unique research.

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The art of proper sourcing gives fellow writers their due for helping you construct your piece. Look at it this way: If another journalist was using your ideas, words or research, you’d also want credit for your work.

If you are on the fence about whether something should be attributed, ask yourself whether you’d have that essential piece of knowledge without coming across the content in question. If your work has relied on another piece, your readers should know about it.

As we’ve written time and again, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to proper attribution. If you’re ever in doubt about whether something requires attribution, don’t take unnecessary chances—simply email contentstandards@bleacherreport.com for guidance.

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Chelsea Becker is a Content Moderator at Bleacher Report. Content Moderator Nick James contributed to this post.