Thank you, sir

Today, via Romenesko, I found this blog post by Greg Linch (a very young, very smart dude who now works at the Washington Post): the Top Ten List of Tips for Journalism Students.

It’s a good list, and you should read it, though I would move #8 (meet people) to #1. And I would probably say that if you haven’t done #6 (work for campus media), you might want to try to do that before you graduate — though the Missourian and Vox will continue to provide you with many hands-on opportunities after this semester, if you want more.

I love what he (and others in the post) have to say about technology — that we need to be aware of know how to use some of the tools so we tell stories the way they’re crying out to be told. I was just talking to Abbey Sussell about a story she’s doing for the 10-year anniversary of 9-11, and we decided it really ought be told through the voices of the people she interviews. Photos + audio! Of course! Then people can just mouse over the pictures and hear people talk about that day, 10 years ago.

If you really give yourself time to think about it — before you begin to report — you are likely to conclude that the story isn’t text and a headline. The story is just out there — a living thing, waiting to be captured, and whether you do that with a still camera or an audio recording or a graphic or some combination thereof — it’s still a story. It’s telling the reader something.

It might just be something that helps us understand the world a little bit better. For example:



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17 Responses to Thank you, sir

  1. This post is such a good reminder for us to think outside the box in regards to how we tell a story, as well as that we should be considering what the best medium would be. I’m working on one right now that I realized (after reading this post) might best be told through photo or video for the web, in addition to writing a print story.

    I also had no idea just how large the continent of Africa is (even though I lived there for a while)!! The graphic you included not only told the story more effectively, but also provided context for what was being communicated. It was kind of like tasting something for yourself instead of having someone describe to you what that thing tastes like.

    As for Greg Linch’s post, I found his top ten to be really helpful and I’m trying not to be overwhelmed by the number of outlets for pertinent information and guidance that are out there.

  2. keliza13 says:

    This graphic reminds me of a West Wing episode (my favorite show of ALL time). There’s a rather comical partof an episode where CJ and Josh have to listen to a presentation by a group interested in getting all maps changed over to better represent the size of the continents. What starts out as the lighter side of an episode called “Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail,” it turns into something much more poignant.

    What’s interesting is that it shows how our ignorance to the true size of Africa starts at a young age because of the tools we use. This can be translated to how grown audiences use journalism; if the pieces we write aren’t well-rounded and diverse, a single idea is all that permeates. Just like the fact we only use one kind of map in schools, only one aspect of a story colors the views of readers.

    Kate Everson
    Neighborhood Beat

  3. nilesmedia says:

    The map of Africa with all the countries inside it is such a great example of creatively using info graphics to accurately tell a story. And the visual has stayed in my mind the way that simply hearing the same premise or reading it would not have resonated.

    It also reminds me of these maps that I saw last year, which illustrate racial and ethnic divisions or integrations in major U.S. cities ( Wish I knew how to embed one of the images…? They’re kind of like a highly sophisticated version of paint by number!

    Add the fact that this person has posted all these many, many images on flickr, and my mind is blown — first by the content, then the medium he selected for getting it out there, and finally by the generosity implicit in his step-by-step description (under the U.S. map) of his methodology.

    As we know, there is SO much information out there these days, it takes very skilled and thoughtful people to help decipher and contextualize it in meaningful ways. Thank goodness for J-schools, eh?

    P.S. When I read the map-maker’s description of pseudocylindrical vs. Peter’s projections, I had no idea what he was talking about. It made the West Wing clip even funnier — thanks, Kate!

  4. C. David Navarro says:

    Definitely, a very thorough list of the musts we aspiring journalists need to bear in mind from the very beginning of our careers. I found items 4 and 5 particularly useful. Rethinking the way in which we can combine different resources when we tell a story is something that, not long ago, seemed a rather obscure topic for me. I think this is partly because I come from Venezuela, a country in which these tools are not as readily available as they are here in the United Sates. And even if they are available, not many people in the world of journalism (and even less people outside it) have explored what they can achieve by implementing different tools to carry out their journalistic tasks. I mean, as it is now, most reporters in my country are only starting to get familiarized with the use of social networks (specifically Facebook and Twitter) to report the news. After reading item 4, I must confess I felt a bit overwhelmed by the many tools I don’t currently use or have no knowledge of. But at the same time, I feel excited about the many possibilities available to journalists in this era. A discovery which, hopefully, will only become more and more exciting and useful as I learn my way around all the tools.

    I also consider item 8 to be of the utmost importance for all of us. I understand it can be challenging for many students (especially those of us who are not from this community or even this country) to actually go out there and establish personal connections, but I also think it’s a matter of decision-making, a bit of luck, and some courage. Professor Greg Bowers says it is a jump-in-the-pool kind of experience, and I totally agree with him on that one. Of course there are risks, and of course we are prone to making mistakes during these initial attempts, but they only way to learn how to report is by going out there and doing some actual reporting. I think it’s what we see, hear and gather on the street what’s going to make for great stories, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t make good stories by interviewing people on the phone. It’s just that personal, face-to-face interaction adds so much to the reporting experience and, in my opinion, helps establish that special rapport we should aim to create with our sources.

    As to the Africa example, I think is a great way to illustrate how we can add some life and color to a story by combining different resources. Fantastic bit.

    Well, that’s about it. Thank you and all the best.

  5. Emilie Stigliani says:

    I just read Greg Linch’s list. I agree with his suggestions, but I am finding myself overwhelmed by the thought enacting all of them. (In practice, I am currently about seven out of ten.)There are so many things that a reporter “should” be tuned into. I guess that I want practical advice on how to stay up-to-date on everything and not lose my ability to focus on strong storytelling. Any ideas?

    • reedkath says:

      This is such a good question. The answer is: Don’t try to be on top of everything. Seven out of 10 is pretty good. Tune in when you can. Also, tune out, sometimes, for your mental health and happiness. I try to be aware of many of the new tools and how people are using them. It’s a little exhausting. So when I can, I take breaks to read novels (okay, so I’m reading many of them on my Kindle) and listen to music that is not the ding-ding of an incoming text message. It’s that time away from technology that helps me daydream and think up stories. That’s important time for my brain, especially my imagination.

      • schacht99 says:

        I like this response.

      • Emilie Stigliani says:

        Thanks for responding. My instincts are telling me to seek some balance in my pursuit of journalism–make time to write poetry, cook dinner, walk the dog–but it’s easy to get caught up in a frantic attempt to do it all. Your approach is reassuring.

  6. Christina Trester says:

    Linch’s list was very helpful. I feel like I have a good grip on most of the tips he gave (about 7 or 8 of the 10). I would agree with Emilie, though, that it can be very over whelming. The one that overwhelms me the most is when he talked about trying to keep up with all the blogs. Especially being a student, I have so much reading for all my classes that I hardly have time to finish it and now I should be following 5 blogs at the same time? I just don’t have enough hours in the day. I do, however feel like this class and working for the Missourian is going to help us with at least half the things on the list (networking, working for campus media, getting a blog, becoming more web savvy, telling stories in different ways, etc.). I’m glad I came here for my journalism degree, I feel that even just after this semester I’m going to feel so prepared and have a full resume and lots of clips.

  7. khill87 says:

    I loved Linch’s tips. I’m particularly fond of his suggestion for young reporters to become web savvy. I know there will always be tech geeks around to place stories and multimedia for the reporter, but if you can do that yourself that can only increase your marketability as a reporter and employee of a new media outlet.

    I’m just wondering if there’s a tipping point where the desire to provide context becomes too great on the part of the reporter. The Daily Show (rightly) lampooned the coverage of this year’s massive nationwide heatwave in a particularly inspired segment (you can watch it here:—egg-salad-sandwich). Clearly, framing is an important tool and context is expected from the modern reporter, but can we take it too far? And can it be more insidious than simply trying to nuke a Tombstone pizza on your dashboard?

    • reedkath says:

      Niiiiiiice. I love that Daily Show piece. It reminds me of a conversation we have in our newsroom every summer when it gets really really hot. One of the editors in the newsroom adores a piece that was done by some other Midwestern publication where this guy — I think he’s the intern — bakes a sheet of cookies on the dashboard of his car. It’s that hot! I personally do not like this kind of “journalism,” but I realize that there are people who like it a lot. I’m not sure that the Wyatt Cenac piece has anything to do with framing or context; it has more to do with the kind of stunts some journalists are drawn to when they run out of ways to report “perennial” stories. How many ways can you tell readers/viewers how hot it is? People are very interested in the weather. This weekend, for example, people are glued to CNN because of Hurricane Irene, which won’t affect us at all here in CoMo. I really don’t think we have to try hard to draw people in when we talk about the weather. And I am just not a “fry an egg on the sidewalk” kind of editor.

  8. jessedbishop says:

    I certainly have a lot to work on. I wish I could honestly say I was at 7/10. Realistically, I’m probably closer to 3. But I’m getting there.

    It hasn’t taken me long to realize networking is huge. As a teacher, I was typically surrounded by educators in various stages of pessimism and complacency. But here… wow. I’m impressed more and more every day with the passion, creativity and ability of everyone here, both on the faculty and among my graduate peers. I feel smarter just walking through the halls. If I gain nothing else from my graduate experience, I hope to leave here knowing as many people as possible.

  9. Greg Linch says:

    I’m very glad you found the “Top 10 list of tips” post helpful — even 3.5+ years after I wrote it! Thanks for sharing it with your class.

  10. Julia Boudreau says:

    I found this list very informative and entertaining, two important things for journalists to have in their writing. I especially appreciate his tip of starting a blog. Although it has only been one week, I have thoroughly enjoyed creating and adding to our class blog. Being a magazine sequence person I have always been interested in the combination of text and photos. If in fact the future will consist of all news being online I hope it will be in a creative and informational format similar to blogging.
    The other recommendation that caught my attention was his suggestion to join LinkedIn. When I first heard of LinkedIn it was because my mother was using it. I am now realizing that LinkedIn is an important website for anyone interested in breaking into the workforce. After reading this article, I plan on setting up my own profile this weekend.

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