Journalists: what do you love first, the Reporting or the Writing

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

One of the first questions I ask younger reporters when I meet them is which is their first love: the reporting or the writing. Storytelling, as the form is euphemistically categorized, is very old. The ways we report and write, too, have old origins, but their forms adapt with the times. They change constantly. I bet your industry has a similar kind of split, subtly different pathways to the professional work.

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New Sincerity is the answer to snarky post-modern web culture

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.

I’ve been struggling a lot over the last couple years, and of course particularly in the last six months, with how mean the social web can be. How mean we are to each other. And how naive I sound to others when I think we can be something else.

This has gotten me into reading about the New Sincerity movement of the 1980s that then got a major boost of attention in the 1990s by beloved and troubled writer David Foster Wallace. It’s what I’ve been searching for.

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Here are some things I’ve learned about being a better writer

For its age and influence and subjectivity, writing is one of those crafts that require great study and practice, though they don’t guarantee success alone.

The ordering of words has always been a great love of mine. I’ve been writing at length for as long as I can remember in whatever medium I could find. I’ve spent the last 10 years developing my news writing form, a tradition I have great pride in. However I’ve tried to keep developing my creative storytelling instincts too — fiction being a complimentary but wholly distinct offering from the non-fiction I know best.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned.

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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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News roundups: own your niche, learn and link when starting any content creation

It's a roundup: Cowboys and pickup trucks push the herd of buffalo across Lame Johnny Road during Monday morning's Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park on Monday. (Kristina Barker/Journal staff)

This fall, I started doing something on the Back on My Feet blog that should probably be the first step of every community news site ever: a weekly aggregated roundup of existing news on homelessness.

It’s something I advocate to any content creator in which I am involved.

A primary rule of anyone with mission today is to share content related to that mission, as you probably can pretty easily beat bigger media on issues relevant to your work.

But the specific virtue of a simple roundup can be profound. It follows any number of rules of the web today.

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Lessons I’ve learned on writing better ledes

Beginnings say as much about who begins them as they do about what they begin.

Journalists and writers, of professional kind or independent and online, take very seriously the ledes they produce and how others see them.

It’s very likely that I have had harsher scrutiny for ledes I’ve written than for anything else, and it’s even more likely you’ve found the same. Thusly, I’ve gotten lots of lede lessons through the years, particularly those with a bite or two that are worth sharing.

Below, lessons I’ve learned about crafting a strong lede. Share your own, so I can add to this list.

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Travel writing and why no one wants to hear about your European backpacking

Travel is most often the privilege of the privileged. Two years ago last month, I was returning from a trip that was certainly a great privilege.

If you can’t go out to eat with friends without referencing something you learned or experienced from some travel experience you had, then I think you’re doing it wrong.

Great travel writers, I think, tend to have always done so for a personal love for travel — not primarily to be a travel writer or to tell someone else about what you did.

Of late, I was reminded.

There are nearly a dozen different, conflicting things I believe strongly about travel:

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