Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Michael Moore's Tense Interview With CNN's Wolf Blitzer

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William Safire's Legacy

Safire not only had quick, sharp wit but an amazing way of putting words together. Two of his gems: "nattering nabobs of negativism" and "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history." LOL! Love those.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

William Safire's Political Dictionary

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William Safire: Political Langauge

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William Safire Dies at 79

William Safire, speechwriter, NY columnist, dies
The Associated Press

NEW YORK — William Safire, the conservative columnist and word warrior who feared no politician or corner of the English language, died Sunday at age 79.

The Pulitzer Prize winner died at a hospice in Rockville, Md. His assistant Rosemary Shields said he had been diagnosed with cancer, but she declined to say when he was diagnosed or what type of cancer he had.

Safire spent more than 30 years writing on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. In his "On Language" column in The New York Times Magazine and more than a dozen books, Safire traced the origins of words and everyday phrases such as "straw man," "under the bus" and "the proof is in the pudding."

New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement: "For decades, Bill's columns on The Times's Op-Ed Page and in our Sunday Magazine delighted our readers with his insightful political commentary, his thoughtful analysis of our national discourse and, of course, his wonderful sermons on the use and abuse of language. Bill will be greatly missed."

Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor of The Associated Press, who served as a correspondent and Washington bureau chief of the Times during Safire's years as a columnist, said the conservative writer was a mentor and friend to a generation of Washington journalists of all political persuasions.

"He believed in the values of journalism — of ferreting out the truth and holding leaders to account, Republicans and Democrats," Oreskes said. "Above all, he loved to encourage his colleagues to break a good story and raise hell."

Safire penned more than 3,000 columns, aggressively defending civil liberties and Israel while tangling with political figures. Bill Clinton famously wanted to punch the curmudgeonly columnist in the nose after Safire called his wife "a congenital liar."

Shields said: "Not only was he brilliant in language and assessing the nuances of politics, he was a kind and funny boss who gave lots of credit to others."

As a speechwriter in the Nixon White House, Safire penned Vice President Spiro Agnew's famous phrase, "nattering nabobs of negativism," a tongue-in-cheek alliteration that Safire claimed was directed not at the press but at Vietnam defeatists.

Safire also wrote several novels and served as chairman of the Dana Foundation, a philanthropy that supports brain science, immunology and arts education.

Along with George Will and William F. Buckley Jr., Safire's smooth prose helped make conservatism respectable in the 1970s, paving the way for the Reagan Revolution.

Safire was a pioneer of opinionated reporting. His columns were often filled with sources from Washington and the Middle East, making them must-reads for Beltway insiders.

Author Eric Alterman, in his 1999 book "Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy," called Safire an institution unto himself.

"Few insiders doubt that William Safire is the most influential and respected pundit alive," Alterman wrote.

Safire's scathing columns on the Carter White House budget director Bert Lance's financial affairs won him the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1978; in 1995 Safire was named to the Pulitzer board.

Critics said Safire made loose accusations trumpeting various "scandals" by the Clintons that were never borne out by the facts.

"Like a pioneering blogger, Safire years ago started grabbing bits of information and wrapping them in the tightest partisan, what-if spin possible," Eric Boehlert wrote in the Web site Salon in 2004. "When the accusation unraveled, he'd simply ignore the thud of his charges hitting the floor."

From 2001 to 2003, Safire also published several columns pressing the case that Saddam Hussein was linked to the Sept. 11 attacks, calling it an "undisputed fact" that hijacker Mohamed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Prague in April 2001. The 9/11 commission said that meeting never happened.

Safire's pun-filled "On Language" column exploring the foibles and abuses of the English language was far less controversial, winning him more admirers across the political spectrum.

Safire lived in the Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Md., with his wife, Helene, a British-born jewelry designer; they had a son and a daughter.

Safire, born Dec. 17, 1929, to a Jewish family in New York City, was the youngest of three boys. He attended Syracuse University but dropped out after two years to work as a legman for a Republican political strategist and publicist Tex McCrary, who had a column in the New York Herald Tribune.

Safire started writing speeches for Nixon in 1965 and followed him to the White House. He left shortly before the Watergate break-in erupted into a full-fledged scandal.

Associated Press writer Derek Rose contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Financial Times CEO Rona Fairhead: Digital Media vs the Newspaper

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Larry Gelbart's Last Interview: Writing Advice

From the last interview Larry Gelbart ever gave (to Vanity Fair's Mike Sacks):

When you're writing and come to a rough spot and the ideas just aren't flowing, put down dummy text and keep on moving—especially if it's at the end of the day and you're going to stop. Your brain will never stop for the day, even if you have stopped working, and there's a very good chance you'll come up with something better. Also, at the very least, you'll have something to come back to the next day, instead of a blank page. That's important.

But in general terms, just sit your ass down in a chair and hope your head gets the message. Isaac Bashevis Singer's advice for the struggling young writer was to stop struggling and write. As for me, I don't have any other advice. If I did, I would have had a far more trouble-free life and a much, much better career.

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Five Ways for Journalists to Use Facebook

Five Ways for Journalists to Use Facebook
Click here

Distribution dominates many discussions about the future of journalism on the web. Should newspapers charge for content? Should they link to each other? The list goes on. But at the same time, especially with the rise of social sites like Facebook, journalists now have a new range of free, easy-to-use tools to help them do their jobs better.

Today’s journalists must be everything they once were but also tech savvy. Students in college journalism programs are already being trained to navigate the social web. In the list below, we offer tips on using social features like Facebook fan Pages to help journalists find new stories, check facts and interact with readers.

Read the rest of this post here:

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Future of Journalism: Eric Alterman

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Shanelle Gabriel's "Why I Love You" on Def Poetry Jam

Love Shanelle! Seen her live and, trust me, it's a memorable experience.

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Poetry Quotes of the Day

"Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood."
Gabriel Garcia-Marquez

"Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls." Voltaire

"Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them."
Dennis Gabor

"Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech."

"Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn."
Thomas Gray

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

50 Years of Research on Writing: What Have We Learned?

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Future of Journalism: David Mathison

David Mathison Publisher at BE THE MEDIA
CEO at natural E creative group, LLC

I asked:

Is print journalism dead? Will newspapers shrivel up and die? Will magazines survive? Or will everything simply go online eventually and read for free? And what does that mean for those wanting decent-paying careers in journalism?

Mr. Mathison's response:

In most media fields the container maybe dead, but the industry is thriving. The CD is dead but music is thriving (see MySpace, iTunes); Books are dead but publishing is thriving (see web sites, blogs, wikis, eBooks, POD); VHS/DVDs are dead but video is thriving (YouTube, Blip, iTunes, iPods); Newspapers are dead but journalism is thriving (citizen journalism, blogs, web sites, etc). There's also the explosion of creative writing via social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, digg, reddit, blogs, etc. We are in the middle of a renaissance period unlike any other.

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Carol Cassella Interview

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Release: SPAWN Making Changes

Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network Helps Authors and Creative Professionals with New Benefits, New Web Site, and New Vision

The publishing world is changing rapidly and the leaders of Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN) have made changes to help their members keep up. For 13 years, the non-profit member organization has offered information, resources and other benefits for authors, freelance writers, artists, and other creative professionals.

To better serve its membership, SPAWN is moving forward with a new leadership team, a Facebook presence, new webmaster, and a brand new Web site ( brimming with useful articles and resources related to writing, publishing and marketing.

Visitors to the Web site who sign up for SPAWN's free monthly SPAWNews newsletter also receive a new ebook: Promote Yourself! 25 Ways to Promote Your Work Whether You’re an Artist, Author or Small Publisher.

SPAWN dues are $45/year. New and renewing members receive the ebook or print book of their choice; a listing in the SPAWN Member Directory; inclusion in the SPAWNDiscuss email Discussion Group; discounts on publishing-related services and products; an opportunity to be listed in the Catalog of Members’ Books and Services, opportunities to participate in various SPAWN activities at a discount; and access to the meaty, monthly SPAWN Market Update newsletter.

The Market Update is one of SPAWN’s most popular member benefits. This monthly report is bursting with a multitude of opportunities for authors, freelance writers, artists, photographers, screenplay writers, publishers and other creatives. Each issue of the SPAWN Market Update includes dozens (sometimes hundreds) of valuable resources. The searchable Market Update archives, which are available to members, contain literally thousands more opportunities.

Patricia Fry, author, publisher and charter member of SPAWN is the new Executive Director, and Susan Daffron is SPAWN's new President and Webmaster. Daffron was selected for the job because of her depth of experience in both Web design and book publishing.

The goal with the Web site redesign was to bring the site up to date to better reflect new best practices for small publishers in the age of Web 2.0 without sacrificing any of the educational material the site has offered for many years. The new board of directors has also revamped the list of benefits members receive. New benefits include discounts on editorial services, book cover design, interior layout services, consulting, printing, and writing software.

The Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1996. Visit SPAWN at


Patricia Fry, Executive Director at

Or Susan Daffron, President/Webmaster at

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Future of Journalism: Neal Boulton

Neal Boulton
Founder & Editor-in-Chief of
Chairman and CEO at Neal Boulton, Inc.
Former Editor-in-Chief of Genre Magazine
Former Corporate Development Editor, Men's Fitness, Shape, Natural Health and more at Weider Publications
Former Editor-in-Chief of Men's Fitness

I asked Mr. Boulton:

What do you tell young, aspiring journalists about the future of the business? Can you still be encouraging? What advice do you give them?

His response:

Reading is how we get that reminder that we are not alone, that we are a part of a human race with disparate feelings and incongruent behavior. And as long as we humans are kicking around, the journalist who can capture their STORIES will have a craft to hone. Neither fame, wealth, nor terms like "cutting edge" really apply to us journalists, but if a good story is what you live to uncover, to write and share with those hungry eyes and souls needing to remember they are not alone, then keep listening and keep writing—you're a journalist at your core, and you will succeed.

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Inspiration from Author Magazine

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Join Me on LinkedIn and Twitter

View Michael Geffner's profile on LinkedIn


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Future of Journalism: Jackie Leo

Jackie Leo
Director of Digital Operations at Peter G. Peterson Foundation
Senior Advisor, Business Development at iAmplify
Former Editor-in-Chief of Reader's Digest
Former Senior Producer/Editorial Director at ABC News

I asked Ms. Leo:

What do you tell young, aspiring journalists about the future of the business? Can you still be encouraging? What advice do you give them?

Her response:

Great reporting and editing is not going to go away. And why should we care about the delivery system, which is changing yearly? My advice to young people is not to wait for someone or some thing to "authorize" you. Got an idea for a great story? Start reporting it. Start blogging. Start taking photos, if that's your talent and passion. And find a mentor - some professional who will read your stuff and give you an honest appraisal.

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TIME Interviews Toni Morrison

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Writers at Work: Toni Morrison

Source: The Paris Review, 1993

Interviewer: You have said that you begin to write before dawn. Did this habit begin for practical reasons, or was the early morning an especially fruitful time for you?

Morrison: Writing before dawn began as a necessity—I had small children when I first began to write and I needed to use the time before they said, Mama—and that was always around five in the morning. Many years later, after I stopped working at Random House, I just stayed at home for a couple of years. I discovered things about myself I had never thought about before. At first I didn't know when I wanted to eat, because I had always eaten when it was lunchtime or dinnertime or breakfast time. Work and the children had driven all of my habits... I didn't know the weekday sounds of my own house; it all made me feel a little giddy.

I was involved in writing Beloved at that time—this was in 1983—and eventually I realized that I was clearer-headed, more confident and generally more intelligent in the morning. The habit of getting up early, which I had formed when the children were young, now became my choice. I am not very bright or very witty or very inventive after the sun goes down.

Recently I was talking to a writer who described something she did whenever she moved to her writing table. I don't remember exactly what the gesture was—there is something on her desk that she touches before she hits the computer keyboard—but we began to talk about little rituals that one goes through before beginning to write. I, at first, thought I didn't have a ritual, but then I remembered that I always get up and make a cup of coffee and watch the light come. And she said, “Well, that's a ritual.” And I realized that for me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space I can only call non-secular... Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transaction. It's not being in the light, it's being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.

I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are at their best, creatively. They need to ask themselves: What does the ideal room look like? Is there music? Is there silence? Is there chaos outside or is there serenity outside? What do I need in order to release my imagination?

Interviewer: What about your writing routine?

Morrison: I have an ideal writing routine that I've never experienced, which is to have, say, nine uninterrupted days when I wouldn't have to leave the house or take phone calls. And to have the space—a space where I have huge tables. I end up with this much space [she indicates a small square spot on her desk] everywhere I am, and I can't beat my way out of it. I am reminded of that tiny desk that Emily Dickinson wrote on and I chuckle when I think, Sweet thing, there she was. But that is all any of us have: just this small space and no matter what the filing system or how often you clear it out—life, documents, letters, requests, invitations, invoices just keep going back in. I am not able to write regularly. I have never been able to do that—mostly because I have always had a nine-to-five job. I had to write either in between those hours, hurriedly, or spend a lot of weekend and predawn time.

Interviewer: Could you write after work?

Morrison: That was difficult. I've tried to overcome not having orderly spaces by substituting compulsion for discipline, so that when something is urgently there, urgently seen or understood, or the metaphor was powerful enough, then I would move everything aside and write for sustained periods of time. I'm talking to you about getting the first draft.

Interviewer: You have to do it straight through?

Morrison: I do. I don't think it's a law.

Interviewer: Could you write on the bottom of a shoe while riding on a train like Robert Frost? Could you write on an airplane?

Morrison: Sometimes something that I was having some trouble with falls into place, a word sequence, say, so I've written on scraps on paper, in hotels on hotel stationary, in automobiles. If it arrives you know. If you know it really has come, then you have to put it down.

Interviewer: What is the physical act of writing like for you?

Morrison: I write with a pencil.

Interviewer: Would you ever work on a computer?

Morrison: Oh, I do that also, but that is so much later when everything is put together. I type that into a computer and then I begin to revise. But everything I write for the first time is written with a pencil, maybe a ballpoint if I don't have a pencil. I'm not picky, but my preference is for yellow legal pads and a nice No. 2 pencil.

Interviewer: Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 soft?

Morrison: Exactly. I remember once trying to use a tape recorder, but it doesn’t work.

Interviewer: Did you actually dictate a story into the machine?

Morrison: Not the whole thing, but just a bit. For instance, when two or three sentences seemed to fall into place, I thought I would carry a tape recorder in the car, particularly when I was working at Random House going back and forth every day. It occurred to me that I could just record it. It was a disaster. I don't trust my writing that is not written, although I work very hard in subsequent revisions to remove the writerly-ness from it, to give it a combination of lyrical, standard, and colloquial language. To pull all these things together into something that I think is much more alive and representative. But I don't trust something that occurs to me and then is spoken and transferred immediately to the page.

Interviewer: Do you ever read your work out loud while you are working on it?

Morrison: Not until it's published. I don't trust a performance. I could get a response that might make me think it was successful when it wasn't at all. The difficulty for me in writing—among the difficulties—is to write language that can work quietly on a page for a reader who doesn't hear anything. Now for that, one has to work very carefully with what is in between the words. What is not said. Which is measure, which is rhythm, and so on. So, it is what you don't write that frequently gives what you do write its power.

Interviewer: How many times would you say you have to write a paragraph over to reach this standard?

Morrison: Well, those that need reworking I do as long as I can. I mean, I've revised six times, seven times, thirteen times. But there's a line between revision and fretting, just working it to death. It is important to know when you are fretting it; when you are fretting it because it is not working, it needs to be scrapped.

Interviewer: Do you ever go back over what has been published and wish you had fretted more over something?

Morrison: A lot. Everything.

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Odd Video on Writing Popular Fiction

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Twitter: The Swiss Army Knife in the Writer's Toolkit

Twitter: The Swiss Army Knife in the Writer's Toolkit
By Christine Taylor

Remember MacGyver, the super-cool genius adventurer from 80's TV?

He could get out of any perilous situation, just by using the objects he had at hand. A stick of gum, a roll of duct tape, those hockey sticks in the corner...give him a few minutes, he'd come up with something.

Each episode gave MacGyver a combination of new and old objects to work with. Yet of all his tools, there was only one that he absolutely couldn't do without: his Swiss Army knife. It became his trademark. If Mac lost his knife, the conflict in the episode went up a notch.

Flash forward to the present.

There you sit, in front of your writing. With today's instant information age, you've got access to many unique resources. But there's one tool that can make them all work together.

Welcome to Twitter, the writer's Swiss Army knife.

Social networking site has become famous for an as-it-happens exchange of conversation, news, and information. How can a writer benefit from that miasma of tweets? Think like MacGyver—look at what's there, and see how you can use it differently.

Community and resources FTW.

*Twitterers are a phenomenal source of support and encouragement. Your friends will keep you going, keep you accountable to your goals.

*The time to promote your book is while you're writing it. Share your joys, sorrows, and progress. Build buzz. People really do care.

*When you need help, ask. Tweet a request for character names; see what you get.

*Writers are on Twitter, freely sharing thoughts and information. Join the chats listed in Mike's newsletter.

*@MikeGeffner ( Click here), @motsjustes ( Click here), @grammargirl ( Click here), @Iwhodareswins ( Click here) and @thecreativepenn ( Click here) are great to follow for helpful writing tips.

*Published writers tweet, too. Check out this article for over 100 of them:
Click here

Space to find your voice.

*Having trouble getting a handle on your main character's personality? Try setting up a Twitter account for them.

*Until I tweeted the daily life of Jeff Barrister ( from my mystery novel, he was a mystery to me. In finding his voice, I found his character.

*Live tweeting for a character while others watch is scary...and thrilling. It makes your creation seem real, and gets you valuable feedback.

*Watching others tweet is valuable, too. I'm neither a teen nor a man, but I can write them convincingly by reading their conversation.

Fiction free-for-all.

*Twitter fiction is gaining popularity, whether in role-playing events hosted by @MassTwitFic (, or spontaneous #twitfic stories by users.Click here

*Try participating with a character. It's a heck of a lot harder to reply to someone else's dialogue and plot twists than to your own.

*TFEs (Twitter Fiction Events: are a great way to introduce your characters to the world. They'll be old friends when readers buy your book.Click here

Brevity. 'Nuff said.

*Twitter's 140-character limit forces writers to edit down to the important words. You'll learn to identify your fillers pretty quickly.

*A recent #twitfic challenge had participants write a story in 20 stand-alone paragraphs of 140 characters or less. That's tight writing.

*Plus, you may have noticed—each of these Twitter tips has been less than 141 characters long. I'm doing it instinctively by now.

Like all social networking sites, Twitter may not be for everyone. If you can't make it work for you, try these ideas out in Facebook updates, e-mails with friends, even between you and a document or journal. Twitter pages and search results have RSS feeds available, so you can have the wisdom of others delivered to your feed reader every day.

But first, give Twitter a try.

There's no substitute for the community experience you'll find among others.

Who knows? You just may find it to be the best thing since duct tape.

Christine Taylor (aka mousewords) is a California writer, artist, and social media consultant who loves mystery and adventure, is convinced that dreams can come true, and considers it her mission in life to help others realize that fact. She and her sister Stacy survived carbon monoxide poisoning, and used the experience to inspire a mystery novel, The Rosewood House, coming in Fall 2009. She Twitters at Click here and blogs at
Click here

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Suheir Hammad - Def Poetry

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Tweet Your Way to a Writing Job on Twitter! (Revised)
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Writing Quotes of the Day

“Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.”—Kurt Vonnegut

“A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter.... A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down.”— E. B. White

Usually this means giving the reader an enjoyable surprise. Any number of methods will do the job: humor, anecdote, an unexpected quotation, a powerful fact, an outlandish detail, a circuitous approach, an elegant arrangement of words.”—William Zinsser

“Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.”—Orson Scott Card

“I don't believe for a moment that creativity is a neurotic symptom. On the contrary, the neurotic who succeeds as an artist has had to overcome a tremendous handicap. He creates in spite of his neurosis, not because of it.”—Jack Kerouac

“Thank your readers and the critics who praise you, and then ignore them. Write for the most intelligent, wittiest, wisest audience in the universe: Write to please yourself.”—Harlan Ellison
“In nearly all good fiction, the basic—all but inescapable-—plot form is: A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition, and so arrives at a win, lose or draw.”—John Gardner

“Never mistake motion for action.”—Ernest Hemingway

“In a longish life as a professional writer, I have heard a thousand masterpieces talked out over bars, restaurant tables and love seats. I have never seen one of them in print. Books must be written, not talked.”—Morris L. West

“Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.”—Rod Serling

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Tom Brokaw on "The Future of Journalism"

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Future of Journalism: Bill Minutaglio

Bill Minutaglio
Clinical Professor, University of Texas at Austin
Award-Winning Journalist and Author
Click here

I asked Mr. Minutaglio:

What do you tell young, aspiring journalists about the future of the business? Can you still be encouraging? What advice do you give them? And how can they best get a job in these tough economic times?

His response:

Mike, I'm in this unique vantage point situation for your questions, in that I am a full-time member of the journalism faculty at one of America's largest universities -- one that draws people from around the nation, the world. And I work with aspiring, young journalists every day. So I hear their concerns, ambitions. I have students that range in age from 18-30 -- graduate students, undergrads.

One thing is clear: There is no shortage of young people who want to report and write great stories. They know the technology has changed, is changing. They know it better than anyone else, because they are changing it themselves -- they are inventing the paradigms.

They also are fully aware that there are fewer and fewer guarantees of full-time jobs, 401ks, even year-long contracts with magazines. They know all of that: And yet they continue to commit to studying journalism. And they continue to have a huge thirst for knowledge, for growth, for studying the still basic, eternal, elements of journalism: They want to know how to interview people, talk with people, investigate stories, drill down on stories, change hearts and minds. The young people getting into journalism today are, in many ways, far more courageous than anyone who got into journalism in the 1970s and the 1980s.

People who are in their 50s today went into journalism back in the '70s and '80s, knowing full well that there were plenty of jobs, publications, opportunities. They entered the work force secure in the knowledge that there would always be another newspaper, another magazine, they could work for. Think about it now: Students are still lining up to study journalism, to commit to journalism, knowing full well that things are vastly different today.

If that doesn't give you hope in some way, then you are a dead soul indeed. Young people are moving into journalism with a wonderful idealism and level of commitment. Are they naive? No -- they are hopeful. Their primary concern remains protecting journalism's eternal ideals -- shining the light on the truth.

Are they worried about jobs? Yes, of course they are. But they seem to recognize that they can and will be far more nimble than the generations that came before them: They have to be and they know it.

What I hear repeatedly from journalism students -- mine range in age from 18-30, including graduate students -- is that they are going to master all the multimedia skills they can and then be prepared for any opportunity that fits their interest and circumstance.

As for advice, I tell young students that they can be served by acquiring more knowledge -- but not general platitudes. They need specific tools. To stand a better chance of getting employed, it's beyond obvious that you have to be able to master - or do well -- a variety of multimedia tasks. And not just social networking.

These days, almost every newspaper and magazine is asking that its staffers bring multimedia skills to the table - yes, the social networking, but also the visuals, the audio, the packaging, the web design, Flash, etc. That holistic, multimedia knowledge is now being offered by almost every good university journalism program. If you can afford it, if you have time, one very practical step is to find a year-to-two year graduate level journalism program and immerse yourself in all that it offers.

The technology is changing so fast that it is not a bad idea to take time out and spend a year or two, if you can, in a quality graduate program that will not only yield you a master's degree -- but will expose you to the latest, cutting edge knowledge surrounding multimedia. You will emerge with skills that are cross-platform, that put you in a position to really be a jack-of-all-trades, that will help you take control of your own career -- you can offer yourself to a journalism entity as someone who comfortably wears many different hats.

It turns out, by the way, that major universities also happen to be enormously fruitful networks for jobs - employers, editors, routinely contact universities hoping that there are some bright students who can help those "old school" editors make the transition to the newer technologies, and who can speak to the next generation of readers.

My sense is that so many editors are so afraid of the future that they look toward some large institutions of higher learning and assume that the researchers there, the educators there, are studying the trends - and that the students from those programs might be well-versed in the latest trends. We have, as an example, several young journalists who pulled out of their budding magazine or newspaper careers to go back to graduate school -- so they can steep themselves in "the new thing." Or be around full-time journalism researchers who are trying to perfect or predict "the new thing." Universities, good ones, also routinely hold conferences that bring together great journalism minds -- people who share that cutting-edge knowledge and who also provide wonderful networking opportunities for students, for young journalists. Again, not everyone has time or money to "go back" to school -- but, in a sense, everyone is "going back to school" these days, whether you are formally enrolled somewhere or not.

We are all learning something new each day -- the social networking, the multimedia, etc. My argument is that some young people should consider, if they have the time and money, enrolling somewhere where they can be exposed to a full buffet of new paradigms, new ways of doing journalism, new ways of making yourself an attractive candidate for editors, publishers, producers, etc.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Evening with Rick Reilly

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Future of Journalism: Amy Haimerl

Amy Haimerl
Morning producer for
Former Executive Editor of Gotham Magazine/Hamptons Magazine; Managing Editor for Silicon Alley Reporter; News Editor for Westword

I asked:

What do you tell young, aspiring journalists about the future of the business? Can you still be encouraging? What advice do you give them?

Ms. Haimerl's response:

People will always love stories. Find them and write them well and there will always be an outlet. We're culling the herd, so to speak, but those willing to work and be creative will always be prized.

And don't be meek. Be thoughtful but assertive. And be willing to go to a small market and earn your chops. You'll get more out of it than you will fetching coffee in New York. You need to set yourself apart.

Find a small daily or weekly somewhere. If you click with the editor, go and get experience. Do good work. Have interesting experiences so that you have something interesting to write about

Don't worry about your voice. Learn the craft of reporting and beat development. It will serve you well later when you're writing the big pieces.

To me, it really all depends on how you answer the question: Do you want to be a journalist or do you want to be in the New York "media"?

There is a vector of overlap, but it is small

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Foamy: Rejection Letter

Warning: Adult Language/Mature Viewers Only

This video cracks me up every time I see it.

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Spotlight Interview: Dave Herndon/Part 2

Dave Herndon, Editor/Writer

Whether he’s writing or editing, Dave Herndon is all about passion and exotic adventure—which makes him the perfect fit for his current position as Editor in Chief of Caribbean Travel & Life.

In an incredibly rich, varied career, he’s been a Features Editor/Writer/Critic for the New York daily newspaper Newsday; Managing Editor for The Village Voice; Senior Editor for Travel & Leisure; Features Editor for Sports Afield; Contributing Editor for Martha Stewart Living, as well as, I must add, one of the most important people in my writing life.

When he was the Sports Editor of the Voice in the mid 1980’s, he gave me the enormous break of my own column, Mike Geffner’s Rundown, which I wrote for the next 12 years. But, just as importantly, he taught me how to be a better writer. I will forever be indebted to him for that.

The following is second and last part of my exclusive newsletter interview with Dave:

Mike: What advice can you offer about query letters?

Herndon: The biggest mistake with query letters is being off-mark. Either the writer hasn't read the magazine, or is way under-qualified to do what he or she is proposing. Some, however, are too good to simply reject, but not good enough to simply accept. The good thing about that is, it makes you want to work with the person, even if that particular pitch is a no-go.

What editors are looking for most are voice, authority, flexibility, professionalism, originality, newsworthiness, and a demonstrable ability to accomplish the agenda. Read several issues of the publication, try to get a chance to talk to someone on staff about what they're looking for. Aim low on the masthead unless you're very well established. They'll usually have more time and take more of an interest.

As for which way to pitch, by email or snail mail, these days email is best. And don’t go crazy if you don’t hear back right away. Sometimes, especially with certain publications, you have to endure a tortuously long waiting period. Other times, the sad fact is, your query letter might never even get read, but sits there in a pile by the editor’s desk. What can I tell you? Deal with it. Go to the gym, meditate, play music, read—in other words, do all the things editors don't have time to do while they're ignoring you. The thing is, freelancing is a quality-of-life choice, so you better enjoy the independence and freedom, because it's a harsh way to make a living. Or just get on with your next query/project, whatever. And don't worry about multiple simultaneous pitching—that taboo is old school manners sadly passé. If you want to cut through, try using a personal appeal to someone on the staff, or contacts.

Mike: What should the relationship between writer and editor be at its best?

Herndon: Brothers/sisters in arms, risk-takers who support one another by pushing forward and pulling back as needed.

Mike: What are editors looking for from writers?

Herndon: Ideas, access, can-do professionalism, copy that doesn't suck, good leads on stories, good organization, attention to detail and the big picture—art, timing, trends, the competition, etc.

Magazine editors, in particular, have to think in terms of metastasizing content across multiple platforms and wholeheartedly embrace the concept of branding. They need to defend their brand's very existence every day, not just on the rhythm of their precious little magazine's production cycle.

Mike: How do print magazine editors view online clips and/or self-published book authors?

Herndon: If they're smart, they'll read that stuff to get a true idea of the person's talent. Published clips are misleading because they've often been heavily edited.

Mike: Ok, give me the lowdown: What does a magazine editor-in-chief really do?

Herndon: Decide what should be in their publication and try to get it done the best it can be done (under the circumstances, of course).

Mike: Any final piece of advice?

Herndon: Just stay hyperactive, brand yourself on social media, surf this changing tide—and good luck. Sorry to say, writers now need to offer value-added content (like web extras) that they might not get paid for.

I would also advise this: Get a Plan B (not that I do).

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Future of Journalism: What do YOU think?

I've been positing what top editors think. Now I'd love to hear what YOU have to say.

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My Advice Quoted on Another Blog

Check it out:
Click here

Thanks, Jim!

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