How to publish breaking news as a community journalist

There are volumes already written on the broad scope of reporting and publishing breaking news, so there’s no need to repeat that. However, far too little has been discussed about the peculiarities of doing that work within a narrow community.

Crime, crashes and tragedies impact greatly victims but for many reporters, the messaging of this news is going to a far broader audience. For community journalists working a beat, breaking news has slightly different dynamics — despite the overall smaller audience, often more people will be far more emotionally invested in the outcome. So you better learn how to do it right.

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You’re adopting a puppy

For every project you take on, any commitment you make, you’re agreeing to a longterm relationship. Other people will depend on you, habits will form and roles will shape.

It’s like adopting a pet, as a colleague and I say to each other sometimes. Are you willing to walk the dog? To feed it and give it water and be willing to spend the energy, time and money if it gets sick?

I say that to myself when I want to start something new, and I find it helps influence my thinking. If I think of the longterm requirements and still want to move forward, then I will. If not, well, there’s no use to start at all. (One way I’m working to say no more often).

This is why you’re not going to create the next SXSW

[I originally published this on Medium here.]

For years I’ve joined in the pushback against the empty and cliche pledge that some city wants to become the next Silicon Valley. Over the last few years, I’ve watched a similar boast begin to pop up into unnervingly unexpected places:

We’re going to launch the next SXSW.

No. No you are not. Let me tell you why.

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Don’t mix up censorship with civility

A version of this essay was published as part of my twice-monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

Censorship is about content (you can’t say this or that). Civility is about tone (you can’t say this like that).

Attribution bias virtually guarantees that we are sure our tone is appropriate for all circumstances. If we use vulgar language or overly fatalistic language, it’s because we are on the right and just side of a cause. If someone with whom we disagree does this, they are proving just why they something short of civil.

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There’s familiar web slang to show complete agreement: +1.

It comes from Google+ (yes, a success from a Google social platform!), which was informed from other social sharing and commenting platforms and web forums that have literal up/down voting options to show endorsement.

In my work, I hear lots of people using the same literal phrase in meetings — and on emails and in group chat messages. It has a nice humility to it. It’s the opposite of stuffy and political corporate environments in which people feel the need to blabber just to show value. We all hate when we say something and then someone speaks up just to essentially say the same thing.

On a team that trusts each other, the goal is simply to gain consensus. So if a teammate offers an idea or makes a suggestion that I mostly agree with I’ll say just that: “plus one.” Other teammates do the same. You’ll be amazed by how quickly a meeting can move.

Give it a try.