A note of thanks to all the editors of the world

For much of the 20th century, the newspaper industry had this curious role filled by “rewrite men” — though, of course, women, too, served these positions. For breaking on-the-scene news, when telegraphs and then faxes couldn’t do the trick, a reporter would get on the phone with a rewrite man and assemble a story live, using notes and standard formatting.

The reporter would speak his story — an impressive feat, actually, having heard a few veterans do this and often trying it to keep up the old tradition — and the rewrite man would record it, transcribe it, clean it up and run it. If you talk to a newspaper reporter of a certain age, she might have stories about the good rewrite men and bad rewrite men. The good ones would take your rough story and turn it into a gem (with the help of other editors too). A rewrite man might go years without ever seeing his byline in a newspaper, never getting any official acknowledgement of his work to put out a finished piece of copy.

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“Being a reporter is only lately a respectable occupation:” Calvin Trillin

Former Time and New Yorker journalist Calvin Trillin on why there is less drinking in journalism. He references this New York Times story on the changing face of big name journalists.

“Being a reporter is only lately a respectable occupation.”

Former New York Times reporter Gay Talese telling a story about drinking in his old newspaper days

Five criteria for the flourishing of news entities of the future

Late at a bar in my neighborhood, a friend asked me: how are you innovative?

His general assessment was that Technically Media, a consultancy, and Technically Philly, a news site, weren’t particularly innovative or interesting for 2011. We’re an online-based startup of 20-somethings creating journalism-fueled content. That might barley bass for envelope-pushing in the late 1990s.

Sure, we think editorial strategy — in which all organizations create content to build audience to have impact — is interesting, and that’s a big part of what we’re doing, but I wasn’t satisfied.

So I’m going to share what I came to: the five criteria of news entities of the future.

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25 things I learned from the best newspapermen (and women) around

Dallas News reporter John Rosenfield sitting at desk, behind typewriter in Houston, TX in November 1948. Photo by Michael Rougier for Life magazine.

Tradition matters to me.

It gives us culture. It is a way to pay remembrance for those who came before. Yes, it’s a little bit fun.

In the world of news, there is a lot of tradition that needs to be lost. Unquestioned impartiality, balance without real context, an ignorance and distance of what funds it, a rigid belief in a strictly reactionary audience.

But, I’ve always felt, there is lot to be taken in from the past. I’ve been blessed to work alongside some talented and hungry older journalists who have imparted great wisdom on me. I thought some of that tradition was worth sharing as, in my own way, I try to preserve the best of it.

Below, find 25 pieces of advice about being a newsman that I take great value in.

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Why print will last so much longer than you think it will (hint: we can feel it)

Print is going to last longer than we might think because we can prove print in a way we cannot prove with digital.

Someone recently mentioned to me that in 10 years, we’ll still be predicting the death of newspapers. I think sitting here, in my office, looking at a copy of the Wall Street Journal that I stuffed into my pocket after finding it on a bench at the 2nd Street station in Old City Philadelphia, I believe that to be true.

Let me say something controversial: newspapers mean something more than news sites. Just like printed photographs mean something more than Facebook pictures.

Digital media still should amaze in their flexibility, utility and reach. But their printed counterparts are also still remarkable for all the reasons their future seem limited: they are inflexible, expensive and in-viral.

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Whiskey Chats: Technically Media talks with Jim Brady

Over at TechnicallyMedia.com, we’re feeling out the editorial strategy of our editorial strategy company’s website.

For now, it’ll have about a post a week, usually focusing on lessons in growing audience and sharing content online, in addition to specific case studies from our work and now, whenever we have the chance to grab someone smart who pops into our new office to talk about journalism, the future of news and the like, we’ll share a new episode in our Whiskey Chats podcast.

We launched the first episode this week when former TBD.com General Manager and WashingtonPost.com executive editor Jim Brady stopped by.

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Thanks to Sean Blanda for editing and naming the product.

Technically Media office space, or why I have a flask on my desk

I have a flask (and a typewriter) on my desk . That desk is in new office space, as announced today.

In conjunction with the Technically Philly open data grant project, our Technically Media Inc. parent company has moved into a working office space at Temple University Center City at 1515 Market Street in Philadelphia.

It’s important to note that this office space is specifically for the six-month Technically Philly grant project, and so the office is used for those purposes and is only leased for that time.

It’s also important to note that we at TP take great interest in respecting, honoring and, in some ways, continuing the traditions of the past.

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Booze, grudges and paranoia: what makes a journalist a journalist

Jobs are meant to include “occupational mythology,” expectations that are perhaps more commonly taken on than commonly found in a given position. Many with those positions relish in embodying these traits: rock stars use drugs, athletes use women, lawyers love the gray and green in their lifestyles. It’s why politicians kiss babies and go door-to-door.

These are ways we characterize someone, which makes it a hell of a short cut to being regarded as a rock star, an athlete, a lawyer or a baby-kissing politician.

Men and women become journalists, I have experienced, because they think their task is important, they are bearing light on what needs light most: from Washington D.C. to school board meetings. Journalists are self-righteous, unfailing in their belief what they are doing is good and just and unappreciated.

Of course, by journalists, I am speaking quite generally and referring almost exclusively to the breed of journalist that came from the urban print daily mold. I made the distinction in an earlier post.

They are independent, competitive and insular because sources won’t help, other media don’t stop, and no one understands.

Back in January, Slate magazine had a great article on this phenomenon, particularly in the newspaper field:

The journalist likes to think of himself as living close to the edge, whether he’s covering real estate or Iraq. He (and she) shouts and curses and cracks wise at most every opportunity, considers divorce an occupational hazard, and loves telling ripping yarns about his greatest stories. If he likes sex, he has too much of it. Ditto for food. If he drinks, he considers booze his muse. If he smokes, he smokes to excess, and if he attempts to quit, he uses Nicorette and the patch.

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