[Was hard] news ever commercial?
Gerald J. Baldasty’s book, The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century, makes a case clear as spring water that hard news has almost never been a mass commercial enterprise.
The American newspapers of the 1820s and early 1830s were creatures of political parties, edited by zealots. Essentially propaganda sheets, these newspapers were “devoted to winning elections,” as Baldasty wrote… Without newspapers, top political organizer Martin Van Buren once said, “we might as well hang our harps on willows.”
Political parties supported the papers financially, and when editors strayed from the party line into independence, the parties would dump their newspapers.
Wausau crime map
This is a map of crimes that occurred in Wausau, Wis., between Feb. 1 and Feb. 8. The Wausau Daily Herald publishes a map like this in every Sunday edition, but provides nothing online. I want to improve my skills with data and open-source web tools, and I thought this would be a great place to start. I’d love feedback, if you want to give some!
This New York Times story is a pretty entertaining look at how subway riders starting at an inconveniently designed station communicate to one another which type of train is coming—and therefore whether they should ascend or descend the stairs between platforms.
This story is wonderfully written, and the reporter uses imagery rarely seen in news stories.
So, Michelle Obama was here
As a reporter for Wausau’s local newspaper, I had the opportunity to cover first lady Michelle Obama’s visit to the city yesterday. It probably goes without saying that it was a blast, even if I was originally supposed to have the day off.
Anyway, Gannett’s higher-ups keep telling us that we have to promote our content more (you know, in the annoying way television stations do), so here are some related links I would love for you to check out, if you can:
I worry about an over-reliance on abstract digital data points for measuring impact just as news organizations begin to take seriously what it means to engage with their communities in meaningful ways. In making their new mapping application Apple relied too much on data sets, without testing that data against the real world. Journalists shouldn’t make the same mistake.
- Care about things. Show it. Be funny, barbed, and pointed when needed. Slick is easy; don’t be slick.
- Confidence and arrogance will both protect you when people yell at you. One is vital and one is poisonous.
- Learn to be your own devil’s advocate. Interrogate your own arguments. Interrogate your point of view.
- Successful writers can play loud and soft and can make a variety of harsh and gentle sounds, just like great musicians.
- Look at the people whose careers you admire and think about their paths. Don’t assume you want the fast lane.
- If you are read widely, you will get blowback, no matter what. Don’t let it paralyze you, but don’t reflexively blow it off.
- If you try to make your fortune creating controversy, then even if it works, you’ll be expected to keep doing it.
- Being young doesn’t make you dumb or smart, important or irrelevant. But you’ll be a different writer in 20 years.
- “Win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press’ll think you’re colorful.” Obey deadlines and house style.
- You are entitled to be wrong, to feel embarrassed, to feel like a jerk, and to keep writing anyway.
[as told by NPR’s Linda Holmes]
Dovetails quite nicely with Ann Powers’ guide to writing about music.
Being a young writer at her first grown-up job, I’ve taken these to heart. I’ve already gone through a few of them, and I fully expect to meet the rest soon enough. Still, and always, learning.
A guy recently emailed me and told me he thought a story I wrote was well-written and fairly reported. And I was almost amazed at how good that felt.
I’m not sure why, really. Maybe because this job is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Or maybe (read: probably) because it’s nice to feel validated.
Even so, I don’t know if I really believe him, as he is very clearly for one of the major players in this story.
It also made me realize that people are actually reading what I write. And it matters. This subject is a big deal for a small town, and the people there truly care about what happens to their community.
After writing for years for my professors and a little-read student newspaper, this is a big change for me. It feels like real journalism.
And it feels pretty damn good.