Archive for October, 2007|Monthly archive page

How did you get started in journalism?

In The news biz on October 27, 2007 at 9:15 am

In one of SmartNews’ Myspace groups (add us: myspace.com/smartnews), some college kid asked how to become a journalist. Evidently, he’s a poli sci major. Here’s what I said:

1. Be an entrepreneur. Big Media is bleeding, and not doing much to heal itself. So if you’re going to perpetrate journalism, you may have to find ways to support yourself or start new ventures.

2. Can’t hurt to take a few journalism courses.

3. Work for your school’s newspaper, radio station, TV station, what-have-you. You can’t learn to report, research, shoot, edit, write and/or design the news from a book. Your clips will get you your jobs, not your transcript. And you’ll be exposed to the many specialties within the news world, which may help you find your niche.

4. There are some ass-kicking internships out there. I had no idea about them when I was a college kid. I come from the print design side, and have seen some visual journalists’ careers get a real jump-start through interning.

So how did you get sucked in the journalism swamp? And, if you met someone foolish enough to want to jump on the journalism gravy train, what would you advise them to do?


Laugh riot in Boston

In Culture, SND Boston on October 16, 2007 at 2:18 am

In lieu of the annual banquet, me and a few other SNDers grabbed some excellent Thai at Montien in the Theater District. I know lots of people work really hard to put on a kickin’ banquet each year, but it’s not really my scene. I was also able to catch the finals of the Boston Comedy Festival contest. The winner was Tommy Savitt, who Ernie describes as a cerebral Andrew Dice Clay. He’s got a funny schtick, playing the role of a blue collar, New York lowlife.

I heard about the finals from comedienne/actress/et al. Emily Singer, who I met in the elevator at the Park Plaza. She was wondering what the heck a SmartNews was.

After the finalists were done, the festival gave out awards to Shelley Berman, Bill Dana and Lewis Black, who each made a little funny as they accepted their awards. Berman in particular hammed it up something sweet.

Charles gets forked

In SND Boston on October 13, 2007 at 6:13 pm

Charles Apple and I were struggling with trying to find somewhere close by for a lunch when a group of Mizzou students took pity on us (thanks, Beth Androuis) and invited us to join them at Legal Seafood. One of the students ordered a bowl of clam chowder, and Charles loudly instructed her to use an exaggerated Bahstin accent thus: “a bowl of chowdah, with great vigah.” Molly, our terrific waitress, took it in stride. Upon bringing around the first course (damn tasty lobster bisque, by the way), Molly “accidentally” dropped a recently iced fork on Charles’ back.

So when you see Charles next, ask him about his wet spot. He’ll know I sent ya.

Speaking of Eyetrack

In SND Boston, The news biz on October 13, 2007 at 3:50 pm

I’m so glad someone’s doing something empirical on how people actually read papers. I was all excited when I learned about the first Eyetrack years ago. And then — not much. For a long time. Editors are allergic to science, let’s face it.

The big surprise: Lots of readers read more than 6 inches of a story. Many will even follow jumps.

Well, maybe this isn’t a surprise to writers. But I’ve been hearing and preaching short short short for so long, now. I’ve lost my old copy of “Eyes on the News,” so I can’t say for sure whether the original Eyetrack indicated people wouldn’t read deeply into stories. If so, it’s especially interesting that fresh research gives different results.

The big winner: Chunky text. Readers recall facts more accurately when they’re displayed in “alternate story formats” than in standard story form.

What’s missing: Content tracking — do readers read different subject matter differently? For instance, a football gamer versus the police blotter. And what about folks who aren’t regular newspaper readers? Do they have different reading patterns, and does that matter?

Glad that’s out of the way …

In SND Boston, The news biz on October 12, 2007 at 8:32 pm

So after the seminar on the Eyetrack study, I saw Mike Rice and Bonita Burton chatting and thought I’d stop and say hi to Mike and Bo. So I did. Except, it wasn’t Bo. It was Cassie Armstrong. She was really, really nice about my faux pas — not the first time Cassie has been mistaken for Bo. I was mortified nonetheless and could do little more than skulk off to blog about my official Socially Awkward Moment.

Tiff n Lauren

In SND Boston, The news biz on October 12, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Among the cool people I’ve run into at SND are Tiff Schwarz, a student at U of Alabama, and Lauren Davidson, who’s at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In addition to making newspapers, these BFFs pitch screenplays. Check Robb Montgomery’s podcast. I was a bystander, and now I get to join in the blog party.

Forgot to say …

In SND Boston, The news biz on October 12, 2007 at 6:17 pm

Yesterday when I got in to Logan, the friendly airport folks tried to lose my luggage. And the luggage of almost everyone else on the plane. They even had us queued up to make a claim at the lost baggage office. I had left my baggage-claim sticker on my ticket envelope in the seat pouch on the plane, so I was thinking “Man, I’m standing in line for nothing.” … Finally, a voice on the overhead exhorted us to check the carousel one more time, as some more baggage was coming out.

I’m just glad my one suit didn’t end up in some mafia van.

Boston …

In SND Boston, The news biz on October 12, 2007 at 12:53 pm

My attempt at what my boss calls three-dot journalism from SND Boston. … My ears still haven’t fully unpopped from the flight. Something to do with the hangover from this cold. And a few drinks at Felt last night. Seriously, it was downright painful as we descended into Logan yesterday; wondered if my eardrums would burst. …

I’m sitting next to Charles Apple in the mezzanine of the hotel where the conference is. If you want to meet people in this biz, sit next to Chuck — he knows everyone. …

The taxi driver on the way in from the airport was playing some sort of Middle Eastern pop. “You like the music?” he asked. I really didn’t — it sounded like Celine Dion singing in Arabic — but, what the hell; I said, “Sure, crank it.” I asked who it was, he said “Some Lebanese singer.” …

Ran into Gina Dvorak last night at Felt. Gina and I worked together at The Desert Sun in Palm Springs. She’s doing famously at The Sun in San Bernardino, Calif., in charge of design for two publications. ….

They can build an A-bomb, but …

In Politics on October 9, 2007 at 8:58 pm

… they’re still killing people wholesale inside their own borders. Pakistan is a crazy place.

Pakistan jets pound ‘rebel bases’

The army faces well-armed, well-trained militants in Waziristan
Pakistani warplanes have attacked suspected pro-Taleban positions near the Afghan border for a fourth day.

Even the BBC feeds us that line about how Pakistan’s military dictator/elected president is “a vital ally in the US-led ‘war on terror.'”

Gotta feel squeamish about being allied with a guy who bombs an open market: “In the worst case, they say, a crowded bazaar was rocked by about a dozen explosions. Locals described scenes of carnage. Doctors in a nearby town said they were receiving injured people between the ages of two and 50.”

Take your pick: Taliban-style rebels or a Saddam-style boss. Ugh.

Sci fi author/futurist Bruce Sterling calls it the “New World Disorder.” Coming soon to a theater of war near you.

Bye, bye, Burma

In Politics, The news biz on October 8, 2007 at 6:42 pm

Looks like we’ve pretty much forgotten all about Burma, already. Our collective attention spans — news producers and consumers alike — are fickle and fleeting. I did find this darkly inappropriate headline from the NYT today: Myanmar Reaches Out to Dissident Yeah, they’re reaching out to her — with a stick through the bars of her house-arrest cage.

In an earlier concession to international demands, the junta’s leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, said last week that he would meet with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, but only if she renounced some of her democratic demands …. It remained unclear whether any real dialogue would begin between the junta and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years.

This whole “democracy” thing’s a bit of a sticky wicket; most governments (like most humans, I guess) want to have their cake and eat it, too. Toward the end of the article, this tidbit:

In Singapore, which has issued unusually harsh statements against the crackdown in Myanmar, a group of a half-dozen demonstrators was arrested outside the presidential palace when they tried to protest the nation’s extensive trade ties with Myanmar’s junta. Singapore does not permit gatherings of more than five people without a permit.