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Mar 5 / King Kaufman

ESPN Audio boss says something that explains everything: The listener is in charge

Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated interviewed Traug Keller, who leads ESPN Audio, for, as the headline puts it, “An in-depth look at ESPN Audio and the future of sports talk radio.”

It’s a good interview, with Keller talking about ESPN’s top radio personalities, what the four-letter considers “the line” that its radio talent shouldn’t cross—”Whatever you do, don’t make anything personal”—and what ESPN could do better in the audio world.

Deep in the article, on Page 3 if you land there without being sent to a single-page version by someone nice like me, is Keller talking about the changing nature of the radio landscape:

There had been 10,000 program directors at 10,000 radio stations telling you what to listen to. But what is happening now is the fan or the listener is really becoming in charge. What we need to keep thinking about it is having as wide a net as possible but putting out as much diverse and different programming, even simultaneously. You may want Colin Cowherd or [ESPN Chicago's] Waddle and Silvy and it’s now your choice. On the ESPN Radio app you can listen to the network stream or a local show in Chicago or Cleveland, or a podcast of Matthew Berry or the audio version of PTI. Now the listener is in charge and that is a fundamental dynamic change that is going on.

That’s a very succinct and very useful description of a massive change in media that’s happened in the last two decades. I think it can’t be overstated. It’s the fundamental fact on which the whole business is built: The listener—reader, user, viewer—is in charge.

Mar 4 / King Kaufman

What journalists can learn from that gold and white, er, blue and black dress

Remember that insane episode last weekend with the dress that was either white and gold or blue and black? At Craig Silverman writes that that debate offered a lesson every journalist needs to learn.

That lesson is that “We are all at the mercy of our brains and its cognitive processes,” Silverman writes. “The simple truth is our brains process information in ways that can lead us astray. This is something every journalist needs to be aware of and account for in the work we do.”

Silverman continues:

The dress is a reminder that we sometimes see things that aren’t there, misperceive what’s right in front of us, and otherwise fall victim to our own brains.

This is particularly true when it comes to the way we process information. Once we have made up our minds—or decided on an angle for our story—we assimilate information in accordance with that view.

“[W]e humans quickly develop an irrational loyalty to our beliefs, and work hard to find evidence that supports those opinions and to discredit, discount or avoid information that does not,” wrote Cordelia Fine, the author of “A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives,” in The New York Times.

Journalists are told to be aware of the biases of sources. But we must also be constantly aware of, and seeking to mitigate, our own cognitive biases.

Quoting from his Tow Centre research report about online rumors and how news organizations debunk misinformation, Silverman lists and explains five phenomena and biases that can trip up journalists. Here they are, with a brief description of each, but you should read Silverman’s piece for a more thorough explanation of each.

The Backfire Effect: “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”

Confirmation Bias: “For journalists, it often manifests itself as an unwillingness to pay attention to facts and information that go against our predetermined angle for a story.”

Motivated Reasoning: “Whereas confirmation bias is an automatic tendency to notice data that fit with our beliefs, motivated reasoning is the complementary tendency to scrutinize ideas more carefully if we don’t like them than if we do.”

Biased Assimilation: “We interpret and understand new information in a way that fits with what we already know or believe.”

Group Polarization: “If we’re speaking with people who share our view, the tendency is for all of us to become even more vehement about it.”

Mar 3 / King Kaufman

50 writing tools: Poynter’s Clark reminds writers how to get it done

If I were the kind of person who felt guilty about things it would be a guilty pleasure of mine to read things like Roy Peter Clark’s Fifty Writing Tools: Quick List at

I always picture Ernest Hemingway scoffing at me and then punching me in the nose as I perused Clark’s list of tips and tricks, which he advises readers to keep handy near their desk or keyboard. A few of the numbered tools:

1. Begin sentences with subjects and verbs.
Make meaning early, then let weaker elements branch to the right

11. Prefer the simple over the technical.
Use shorter words, sentences and paragraphs at points of complexity.

23. Tune your voice.
Read drafts aloud.

When it comes down to it, I’m not scared of Hemingway. For one thing, he’s been dead for more than half a century, so I like my chances in a fair fight. For another, in his own way, he had his own tips and tools for writers.

I don’t know if there’s anything in Clark’s list that’s a big revelation to me. I just find it helpful to me as a writer to read things like it once in a while. It’s a battery charger. Oh yeah: That’s how you do it.

Mar 2 / Advanced Programs Team

Advice for a successful application to the Advanced Program in Editing and Content Management

Strong applicants to the Advanced Program in Editing and Content Management come to us from a variety of backgrounds, having experience in everything from school paper production and peer editing to research projects and book publishing.

A solid sports background is certainly key, as is some proofreading prowess. But while we’ll need to see that eye for detail and grammar know-how, we’re also interested in the wide range of tools you’ve picked up in college and sharpened in the real world. So we’re happy to see well-rounded résumés that show hard work, ingenuity and comfort with online media. More specifically, we’re looking for:

  • An editing track record—in or out of school
  • The ability to identify and correct typos; factual grammatical and punctuation errors; and deviations from style
  • A feel for what is required to constitute a well-supported argument
  • An understanding of the importance of sourcing and attribution
  • The willingness to learn, reference stylebooks, apply feedback and collaborate
  • A sense for visually appealing formatting and layout
  • Facility with the technical aspects of digital publishing
  • A keen attention to the nitty-gritty—balanced with excellent time management
  • Knowledge about specific sports and teams

Any candidate who progresses through our admissions process will be asked to provide us with a few different supporting materials—and by that we mean to say there will be things like résumé requests and editing tests, but we emphasize the word different to underscore our hunt for individuality, special skill sets and untapped potential.

Meanwhile, these tips should apply to all stages of application across the board:

Take your time: Quick turnarounds are part of a digital editor’s daily life, but you should take the time necessary to produce a polished application. Read carefully, follow our directions and double-check everything you send our way. Proofread everything. You’re applying to an editing program, so we need to see tidy, top-notch emails. Make sure you’re addressing your message to the right people, clean up stray marks and catch any misspellings before you hit “send.”

Reference resources: This goes hand in hand with the first hint. Look things up! Consult a dictionary, thumb through your AP Stylebook, confirm grammar rules, check spellings and dates. Do all this before you hit “send,” and you’ll not only be getting a clean application in front of our admissions team but also showcasing your knack for fact-finding.

Provide a fully representative résumé: Have you done prior copy editing work in some capacity? Do you have experience with a CMS, SEO, AP style, photo/video production? Let us know. Make sure to list these tidbits so we’re getting the full picture of your skill set. In journalism’s changing landscape, roles are in flux and editorial positions are always expanding, so don’t sell yourself short because you think some of your editorial experience doesn’t fit.

Include a writing sample: A writing sample is optional, but if you have something appropriate to share, don’t be shy! A well-produced clip or undergrad essay can be a nice complement to your other supporting materials.

Ask if you’re unsure: We try to make the application process as straightforward as possible, but if you find you’re unclear about something, we welcome any questions.

Be professional and persistent: A professional attitude is required, and we’ll look favorably upon more formal rather than more casual communications. The program itself maintains a relaxed training dialogue, but do what you can to show you’re serious about your application. We also encourage you to try, try again. The APECM is very competitive, so you may not receive an offer of admission your first time out, but we’ll urge you to shore up your weaker points and take another crack at the process after a few months of practice and reflection.

We know it can be tough to stand out as a top candidate when it comes to a discipline like editing, which calls for some standardized proficiencies. But if you do your best to accomplish and demonstrate as many of the above as possible, you should have a leg up on the competition. Best of luck!

Feb 27 / Advanced Programs Team

Advice from successful APSM candidates on how to pass B/R’s educational program’s application

Bleacher Report’s paid Advanced Program in Sports Media offers participants an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of digital sportswriting, boost their 21st-century sports reporting skills and test their knowledge while covering stories they care about.

But admissions standards are very high. A vast majority of those who apply don’t get in. So we decided to ask graduates of the program for their advice about the best approach to the application process.

From personal blogs to nationwide columns and everything in between, ideal APSM candidates already have publishing experience and have done their due diligence by shoring up the most objective parts of their writing. They bring more to the table than a garden-variety interest in sports and a talent for writing. Good storytelling requires conflict, so the ability to identify tension and translate it into an interesting narrative is crucial. Additionally, applicants must have a strong grasp on the fundamentals of journalism, such as attention-capturing ledes, accurate attribution and thorough proofreading.

But all of that is merely the foundation from which successful APSM candidates build their content.

To that foundation, strong candidates add a mix of analytical prowess, voice, visual storytelling and novel perspective. Since writing is such a subjective medium, the right mix varies from writer to writer. The common thread is a polished finished product that stands apart from the crowd, but there is no perfect recipe that will guarantee success.

Here are some of the most common responses we got when we asked graduates for their advice:

  • Check your ego at the door and treat the application as your only chance to make a good impression
  • Be professional
  • Study the B/R Stylebook, Writer Tutorial, Content Standards and Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher Report prior to submitting your writing sample
  • Read some B/R content to get an idea of what is considered feature-worthy
  • Leverage social media to make sure your information is up-to-date and double check it to ensure accuracy
  • Don’t be afraid to show some personality in your writing or to make bold statements
  • Emphasize your strengths, but be enthusiastic and willing to learn

Ultimately, the right approach will depend on the individual. What works for some won’t work for others, but by using this advice as a rough blueprint, applicants will be able to make their best case. If you’re interested in the program and decide to apply, we hope this helps. Good luck!

Feb 26 / King Kaufman

Survey: Young readers get news from online-only outlets, feel better about traditional ones

What to make of this survey by Elite Daily in partnership with the University of Florida journalism school?

It found that while a large plurality of young adults get their news primarily from online-only news sites, those who prefer traditional websites of traditional news outlets rate themselves as better informed:

More than half of young adults who prefer traditional news sites said they were “very informed,” a rating chosen by only four out of every 10 who prefer online-only news sites. Yet online-only news is the primary source of news for nearly 35 percent, compared to 22 percent for traditional news sites.

The survey was of 18- to 24-year-old readers and followers of Elite Daily. According to the Florida J-school site, “The results are not generalizable to all young adults, but do provide insights on news preferences of a segment of that generation.”

“Even though the overwhelming majority of young adults are turning to digital sources for news, there is still a perception by some that they are better informed through traditional media,” said Diane McFarlin, dean of the UF College of Journalism and Communications.

Why is that? Is it just perception, or is there something to it? I often think people credit pre-Internet journalism with more gravitas and better quality than it actually had, whether they’re old enough to have lived through it or, like the people in this survey, too young to remember. Does that cause people to give traditional news organizations more credit than they deserve today?

Or is there something online-only outlets are doing or not doing that’s causing users to feel less than “very informed”?

Feb 25 / King Kaufman

4 candidates for top Guardian editor job spell out their vision of a journalism future

I was intrigued by this tweet by NYU journalism professor, media critic and prolific tweeter Jay Rosen:

That link led to a page with links to four “Candidate’s Statements” and the heading:

Editor in Chief of The Guardian
Organised by the Guardian and Observer Chapel Branch of the NUJ

OK, what?

It turns out the NUJ is the National Union of Journalists, a trade union in the United Kingdom and Ireland. What’s happening is that Guardian and Observer journalists are voting on a candidate to replace Alan Rusbridger as editor-in-chief of Guardian Newspapers. The four candidates were to present their cases to the journalists at a hustings Wednesday night.

According to the Guardian, the winner of the vote won’t necessarily be appointed editor, but will be guaranteed a spot on the short list of candidates the Scott Trust, which owns Guardian Media Group, will choose from.

Before that meeting, each of the candidates posted a statement of their vision for the Guardian at the above link. That’s what Rosen wants students of digital media to read. The candidates, as described by the Guardian, are “Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and a non-executive director of Guardian owner the Scott Trust; Wolfgang Blau, GNM’s director of digital strategy; Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of; and Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of Guardian US.”

I agree with Rosen that the candidates’ statements, which are about 1,000 words each, are worth reading to see what some of the most prominent journalists in the business are thinking about how to lead a major media outlet.

Janine Gibson:

Everyone—moderators to developers—should feel able to contribute to what we make, how we think, how we run ourselves, and more. We’ve always been a journalists’ paper. Expanding what makes a journalist is part of our future.

Emily Bell:

I see a necessary reallocation of resources and costs, but not a reduction in our number of journalists. In the next phase of its existence, the Guardian will have to accelerate the skills needed at the heart of a modern news organisation. We need more data and computationally literate reporters, editors and designers, we need thorough digital security training and practices, and we need journalists who understand how to use the vast amount of information on the social web using search and verification techniques.

Katharine Viner

Journalism and technology have merged. To produce and deliver journalism that is relevant today, we need a close relationship between editorial, product and engineers, developing stories together, working out what to do about mobile, loyalty, data; plus a super-charged approach to helping readers find our journalism.

Wolfgang Blau

In regards to our journalistic portfolio, I would like to propose that we substantially increase the diversity of voices—politically, as well as ethnically—and that we also identify those areas of our coverage that are neither able to sharpen the Guardian’s journalistic profile nor to attract our readers to come visit us more frequently. The result of this exercise might be that we produce fewer stories than today, but with greater impact.

When reading such things, I always try to find ideas, advice and ways of thinking for my own career.

Feb 24 / King Kaufman

Sports Illustrated panel: Female sports reporters under 30 talk about their careers

I find the “media panels” that Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch hosts fascinating and illuminating.

Deitsch occasionally convenes roundtable discussions, via email, among working pros on topics in sports media. This week, in response to the news that 28-year-old Katie Nolan will be hosting a nightly show on Fox Sports 1 starting in March, Deitsch gathered seven women who are 30 and under and working in sports media to talk about their experience in the business.

The discussion is long and well worth reading. It’s certainly not all negativity, but Sports Illustrated NFL writer Jenny Vrentas did concisely sum up what one of the biggest problems young women in sports media have to deal with:

Young women seem to have to do a lot more to “prove” themselves than young men, to be considered for senior jobs on sports staffs. Early in my career, an editor told me I wasn’t ready for a beat yet, even though there were other reporters of a similar age and experience level covering sports beats at the newspaper. I’d covered Penn State football in college, and I had a master’s degree in journalism, so I had a hard time understanding what else I needed to do. I focused on working hard at the assignments that were given to me and worked my way up. But at times in my career, I’ve felt as though there was an assumption that I couldn’t do something, and I had to prove otherwise. I feel that, more often, men get the benefit of the doubt. You certainly see a trend across the business, where women are less often given the more prestigious roles like the biggest beat at a newspaper, senior writer, analyst or editor.

The others on the panel are Kalyee Hartung of ESPN, Laura Keeley of The Raleigh News & Observer and Charlotte Observer, Laken Litman of USA Today, Monica McNutt of NewsChannel8 in Washington, Gina Mizell of The Oregonian and Francesca Weems of WLBT/FOX 40 in Jackson, Miss.

Feb 23 / King Kaufman

Guardian U.S. features editor’s pitching advice is food for thought for any writer

I only know three things about Jessica Reed: She’s the U.S. features editor for The Guardian. She’s French, which she evidently has a habit of apologizing for. And she gives great advice to freelance writers.

The latest example of that is her Medium piece Freelance writers: writing is great. But writing isn’t enough. It’s a followup to a very useful piece she posted on taking the job in November, How to pitch to this editor (plus, what I would give my right arm to read more of).

In the new piece, Reed writes:

In two months, it became clear to me that certain skills are maybe not essential, but very nice to have when pitching to the features desk. I didn’t think much of this while editing op-eds for close to seven years, but it’s the first thing that jumped at me when I took this job.

How will your story be illustrated?

Sure, this is something for picture editors to worry about. But not all organisations have them (sadly). And some editors like to have an input regarding the visual feel of your piece (I am one of them). A big, fat, giant plus when writers send me an idea is to hear “I can take photographs”; “I already have someone prepared to go with me to shoot this story”; “I can recommend someone to do photography in [this small town you want to go to]”; “I have sourced photographs from archives”; “I have personal pictures to share for my essay.”

In other words: your story will be read because it’s good, but it can get 10x more readers if it looks good. Make sure your editor is given the tools to make it look good.

She goes on to show some work from the illustrated pieces she’s liked best in her three months at The Guardian, and offers tips on thinking about how you can make your story look great. These are smart ideas whether you’re a freelancer looking to pitch or you’re working for a publication and thinking about your next feature.

And don’t miss the earlier advice about how to pitch. It’s how to pitch Jessica Reed, but the advice will serve you with any editor:

I want to know what you already know about the story you have in mind, what you don’t know yet, and who you want to talk to to find out. I want to know, most of all, why you’re interested in the topic at hand. I want your first email to be concise (four paragraphs or so), and I want it to give me an idea of who you are.

There are some other tips there, including things like “I do not want to open attachments” and “I do not want to open a Word document,” which I think are common sentiments among editors. The tl;dr version would be: Make it easy to read your pitch, and convince me quickly that this story is compelling and hasn’t been told yet, and that you’re the one to tell it.

Feb 20 / King Kaufman

Career lessons from Steve Buttry, five years after leaving the Cedar Rapids Gazette

Here’s a long blog post by Steve Buttry, often referenced in this space, about the lessons he learned from his time as the editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, which ended five years ago.

There are lessons about disaster response—there was a major flood in the city just as Buttry took the job—newsroom leadership and managing innovation and upheaval, but it’s the first section that I found most interesting, and I think you will too. That section is headlined “Career Lessons.”

The lessons, which all come with explanatory text, are:

  • Take the risk.
  • Be as transparent as you can.
  • Move on.
  • Don’t give in to bitterness.
  • Breaks sometimes even out.

Take risks, move on from disappointments and don’t give in to bitterness. Those are some good lessons.

Note: The original headline on this post incorrectly said “the flood” was five years ago.