Print is still in fashion

This weekend, I visited the Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, N.C., to see an exhibit of works by Alexander Calder as well as some inspired by him. It’s a wondrous show that I highly recommend.

In a stop at the museum’s gift shop, I ran across some newspaper-themed bow ties. They’re clip-on ties made of pages from The New York Times, covered in a lacquer of some sort.

As a former newspaper copy editor, I couldn’t resist the mix of media and fashion, and I bought two of them. I think that it’s a good look on me.

I’ll keep one tie and donate the other to the 2013 silent auction of the American Copy Editors Society. You’ll have to be at the conference in St. Louis to bid on it — or you could stop by the Nasher now and pick up one of the few left.

Student guest post: For internships, think small

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the 13th of those posts. Ashley Russell is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill who is majoring in editing and graphic design. She hopes to become a book editor when she graduates in the spring of 2013.

Are you on the hunt for the perfect summer internship to complement your major? Or are you bummed because you didn’t get an interview for the big editing or publishing companies in New York? Well, as it turns out, your alternative plans could be better for you than your dream summer internship with HarperCollins (not that getting your dream internship is necessarily a bad thing).

As a junior, I know all about searching for that senior summer internship that will help your resume when you start applying for jobs. However, sometimes finding a smaller company can be just the right thing for you.

That’s what happened to me. I had searched the University Career Services website for hours every week to no avail. Every internship that I could possibly apply for was in some big city and unpaid. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to go to New York City and live without a steady income. Factor in 40 hours of an internship a week, and that leaves little time to work elsewhere to pay for it all.

Fortunately for me, my combing of the UCS website paid off with an internship at Technical Information Publishing Solutions, or TIPS. TIPS is a publishing company in Carrboro. It is less than a mile away from my house, and I had never heard of it. TIPS works with companies to create and edit books. One of the main companies that TIPS works with is W.W. Norton, better known to college students as the creator of Norton anthologies.

Most people come back from internships at big companies and talk about how they didn’t do much more than make a bunch of photocopies and run errands. I am almost at the end of my internship, and I have learned so much. I have learned all about the process of book publishing and what it entails. With such a small office of only three full-time workers, TIPS offers an environment that is conducive to learning, which is what an internship is all about.

Although an internship with a big company may look great on a resume, it is not necessarily the best way to get the best experience possible. Working in a small organization allowed me to learn about every aspect of book publishing and allowed me to hone my skills even more.

Plus, as a UNC-Chapel Hill student, you have so many options. There are many small publishing companies and presses within a 25-mile radius (including Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina PressDuke University Press and Oxford University Press) that can offer students the opportunity to gain and polish their skills with publishing. Sometimes a smaller company can be the best place for you to grow.

Student guest post: Editing and design can be a harmonious pair

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the 12th of those posts. Chelsea Pro is a senior majoring in journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill. She works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer at the Carolina Union Design Department.

It’s an age-old question, one that haunts every undergraduate across the globe: What do I major in?

How do I take my interests and passions and turn them into a career? How do I make my talents marketable and profitable? For me, the question was how to take a habit of doodling aimlessly on papers and turn it into a roof over my head and a pantry that, at the very least, contained some Ramen.

Graphic design had always interested me. It was something creative and artistic, but also provided more stable and predictable job opportunities than studio art. When I first researched the graphic design program at UNC, I was disappointed and confused. Why was it part of the journalism school? And why was it combined with editing, of all things?

But I went on with the program, hoping that my penchant for (politely) correcting other people’s grammar would be enough to keep me interested in the editing part of my studies. It took me awhile to realize that the two subjects were paired together for more than just convenience.

With the recent budget cuts and layoffs in the field of journalism, many media outlets have decided to combine editing and design into one position. UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is preparing its students for the possibility that a job may require both skill sets.

But it’s about more than the logistics of the job market. There’s a reason editing and graphic design work so well together.

It’s all in the details. Both editors and designers must have a keen eye for specifics. Picking up on the small things that count is an ability treasured in both fields, and one that can dictate either failure or success.

A misplaced apostrophe can be the end of your credibility as a reliable editor. Uneven kerning between the letters of a logo could make your design look sloppy and unprofessional. It’s this detail-oriented aspect of both fields that makes them great partners.

Editing and design also make a logical pairing because they rely heavily on one another. If you can think about design tricks while you’re editing, such as the use of alternative story forms, the result will be more cohesive and effective. Similarly, if you’re aware of grammar, punctuation and syntax, designing will be much easier. Instead of designing a logo and then realizing the emphasis should be on a different word, by having a background in editing, you’ll be able to see these important cues from the start.

So if you’re a designer, brush up on your knowledge of language and grammar. If you’re an editor, think about learning some basic design principles.

Like me, you might be surprised at how often you’ll be able to use both skills together.

Q&A with Joe Ovies, radio host and blogger

Joe Ovies is co-host of a sports talk show on 99.9 The Fan, a radio station in Raleigh, N.C. He also writes a blog about sports for WRALSportsFan. In this interview, conducted by email, Ovies talks about his job, social media and the way sports talk has changed.

Q. You’re on the radio and you blog for the WRALSportsFan website. What is your typical workday like?

A. Outside of what happens between 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 99.9FM The Fan, the typical day fluctuates. The morning consists of sifting through Google Reader, catching up on Twitter and putting together notes for possible show topics later in the day. I’ll text or email with Adam Gold (co-host) throughout the day to get an idea of where he stands on an issue or take on a game.

The nebulous part of the day arrives around lunch time. There could be an interview taping or meeting to attend in the middle of the day before the show starts.

Most show prep actually takes place at home, where I do a ton of reading and listening to sports talk throughout the day. We have show meetings at the station twice a week with our program director for long-term planning and discussions of show format tweaks since listener habits are constantly evolving.

The day doesn’t end when the show ends at 7 p.m. During the high-traffic months of college football and basketball, I’ll spend most of my evenings watching or going to games. Obviously, I have to watch all this stuff if I’m going to talk about it the next day. It’s a rough life, watching sporting events for a living.

Q. How do you decide what to blog about, and what role do editors play in that, if any?

A. Local topics get priority. That’s what WRALSportsFan can provide better than any national outlet.

Want the full coach’s press conference from NC State? We have that. Missed the interview with Coach K on The Fan? It’s there. Opinion on North Carolina getting bounced by Kansas? I’ll write something on it. Local content is our bread and butter.

Oddly enough, I’ve never really had an editor. When I started the 850 The Buzz blog in 2005, it was your typical blog. No editor, snarky views on local sports and a comment section that would devolve into flame wars. I wrote what I wanted to write about with no input from upper management.

After the merger with Capitol Broadcasting in 2009, I was introduced to an environment with actual structure: operations manager, sports director, online editors, etc. However, not much has changed in terms of what I decide to write about. The only difference now is that there’s someone around to change the headline and correct my grammar. I write like I talk, which won’t please the grammarians.

Q. How do you use Twitter and Facebook as part of your job?

A. Twitter is versatile, so here is how I use it.

News gathering and distribution: The real-time nature of Twitter gives it a certain advantage over RSS, so it’s great for getting the most up-to-date news throughout the day. Who you follow matters, so I’ve curated a list of ACC media members and national folks that provide the best information. Twitter is used to distribute our own news, podcasts or anything I might find interesting.

Interaction: Talk radio has always used alternative ways to interact with the show. At one point in time, faxing your opinion to a show was cutting edge. Then it was email. Then it was texting. Now social media is the new thing. But if you want to get the most out of Twitter, actually engage with followers who pop up in your mentions feed. Spend enough time on there and you’ll discover that many of your followers can tip you off to stories or sources. Twitter is also fantastic for commentary during games.

Branding: While I hate the term, it matters, and I’ve seen the results of using Twitter as an extension of the show. Radio is a faceless business, but the power of the avatar helps put a face with the voice (for better or worse). The Final Four in New Orleans was good example, where media members recognized who I was based on my Twitter avatar. Flash back five years ago, you’d have to catch a glimpse of a press badge to have an idea of who that person was.

I keep Facebook personal and do my best to maintain a tight friends list. The rule of thumb is, “have I met this person in real life?”

Google+ is still figuring itself out, but it is useful. I’ll typically post my columns from WRALSportsFan and we’re toying around with the Hangouts feature.

Q. Many students probably like the idea of writing and talking about sports for a living. What advice do you have for them to get a job like yours?

A. Do everything. Write, blog, tweet, podcast, edit video or whatever.

Companies are looking for a wide range of skills and employees capable of providing content on multiple platforms. There’s no such thing as “just a reporter” or “just a radio host” these days.

Follow Joe Ovies on Twitter and check out his blog.

Student guest post: Is wordplay “Linning” or losing?

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the 11th of those posts. Kevin Minogue is a senior journalism and political science major from Reston, Va. He is a staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel, as well as a former intern at The Fayetteville Observer.

Earlier this year, the success of New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin brewed up a perfect storm for epic headline writers across the country. For those tasked with writing a paper’s front-page headline – better known in big cities as those snarky puns that persuade pedestrians to pony up two bucks for a copy of the day’s issue on their walk to work – Lin was the ideal subject of a clever play on words.

After all, how often does a Harvard-educated, couch-surfing, Asian point guard lead the New York Knicks to their most successful spell in recent memory? And how often does that hero’s name contain elements of a common preposition, prefix and suffix?

Not often, most New York headline writers concluded. The headlines during Lin’s roughly month-long reign ranged from the witty and original to the corny, the forced, the poorly contrived, the questionable and the … woops. After that last headline cost the ESPN employee who wrote it his job, the headline hubbub settled briefly.

But on Easter weekend, when a country bumpkin named Bubba used a pink driver to throttle golf balls more than 350 yards on his way to winning the world’s most storied golf tournament, the scribes of over-the-top headlines feasted once more.  Most of the former Lin-obsessed headline writers in New York focused on Sunday’s big Knicks win, but plenty of smaller papers and online editions posted Masters headlines with ill-fitting wordplay.

I suppose this British paper felt obliged to use the obvious Sherlock Holmes reference, but it doesn’t work when nothing about Watson’s one-stroke, playoff victory was elementary. In fact, if not for a hooking moonshot from the trees that defied the laws of basic physics, Watson would have gone home wearing only his buttoned-up polo.

Many other papers, including this Texas publication and this Utah paper, made obvious references to Watson’s bubblegum-colored attire. While I get the attempt at wordplay, the story is about his victory, not solely his clothes. It’s also poor form to poke fun at the man’s outfit when he wore it as a way to raise money for charity.

These headline hiccups didn’t flop quite as badly as the Lin headlines, but they would be better served sticking to the main premise of the story. Headline writers can still use clever wordplay, and I, for one, hope that they do. But here are a few of my rules for ensuring that your witticisms are appropriate:

1. Make sure the headline is not offensive to any particular group. Wordplay is funny, but not if it makes fun of you. Your readership is generally composed of a mix of ethnicities, religions and sexes, so try to avoid wordplay that hinges any of these items. Otherwise, you may offend and alienate a significant portion of your readership.

2. Be original. The point of wordplay is to be creative, and clichés are short on imagination. You won’t get your desired result from a “clever” headline if five other papers wrote the same thing that day.

3. Make it subject-appropriate. There’s no sense in thinking up clever headline wordplay if it has nothing to do with a story. The reader might initially be drawn to your front page, but he or she will quickly lose both interest and respect in your publication upon finding that the title is merely for show. The purpose of a headline is to give readers a sense of what they are about to read. Don’t lose sight of this.

4. Don’t force wordplay. If it’s not there, it’s not there. The headline should instantly jump out at you as you’re writing. If not, don’t try to convince yourself that it works and end up with a headline that isn’t apt. As is the case with a bad comedian, once you have lost your audience, you’ve lost them for good.

Those are just a few of my thoughts on the subject. Feel free to post your own or offer examples of other bad headline wordplay in the comments below.

Letting the good times roll in New Orleans

Creative Commons image

This blog will be quiet for the next week as I head to New Orleans for the annual conference of the American Copy Editors Society.

I’m looking forward to informative sessions and the silent auction. I’m also looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. These are my people, after all.

I hope to see you there. If you can’t make it this year, you can follow the fun on Twitter.

Thanks to the conference sponsors for their support. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Student guest post: Are hubs the next wave or the death knell of copy editors?

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the 10th of those posts. Miranda Murray is a junior majoring in editing and graphic design at UNC-Chapel Hill. She will work for Media General in Richmond, Va., this summer.

When I first got the phone call to hear that I had been offered an internship position this summer copy editing, I was so excited that it didn’t occur to me that there was no Tribune or Daily or Journal at the end of the company’s title — I just said yes. But after the initial rush, I looked up the company online to realize that I had been placed at an editing hub, a relatively new concept now being turned to as a solution as newspapers downsize and technology expands.

Like many other changes in the newspaper world, the advent of hubs has been greeted by both bitterness and hope. The entire point is to consolidate editing and design to be more cost-effective, with more emphasis placed on reporters’ abilities to turn in relatively clean copy that doesn’t require much reworking. This consolidation equals taking copy and design desks out of newsrooms, a move that several large media companies including Gannett, Media General and Tribune have been steadily pushing.

Here in the Triangle, the newspaper community felt these changes in 2011 when The News & Observer, one of the area’s largest newspapers, decided to move its design and editing desks from Raleigh to Charlotte. In fact, this blog was one of the loudest voices against this decision.

Succinctly, some of the criticism I could find of what seems to be the future of copy editing at the moment includes the loss of local knowledge, more miscommunication between the newsroom and the editing desks, and creating more responsibilities for an already thinly stretched staff.

But in the interest of fairness, several bloggers also fired back at the criticism, including Brian Throckmorton, who commented on a blog post by John McIntyre about his experience working at a hub. He wrote that taking a copy desk out of the newsroom won’t necessarily translate to a loss of local knowledge thanks to the ease of electronic communication. He also brought up the point that newspapers are dwindling in size and that there is not enough work to justify so many copy positions. Other bloggers simply took the mindset that people needed to cut their losses and adapt to this newer form of copy editing.

I personally find this tremendous discussion on the good and evil of copy-editing hubs intriguing, considering that I will spend my summer experiencing firsthand how the process works. Since I have no real experience working day-in and day-out on a copy desk housed within a newspaper, I have no prior expectations of what this internship will bring – but in the end, if this is the path I need to take to one day become a copy editor, I plan to take it.

Student guest post: Can I get the news, to go?

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the ninth of those posts. Tyson Leonhardt is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he studies journalism and political science. Leonhardt is president of the UNC chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a digital producer for reesenews.org.

Three minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, CNN interrupted its commercial programming to break the news to an unsuspecting nation.

Across the country, Americans turned on their televisions to learn more — many in time to watch the second plane slam into the South Tower.

Back then, the Internet was comparatively undeveloped — journalists and media consumers alike had not even begun to realize its full potential. Social media was non-existent — only birds could tweet and friend requests were made in person.

When news broke, Americans had little choice but to turn to broadcast news.

Fast forward to May 1, 2011, when Keith Urbahn — chief of staff for former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — scooped the major news networks and broke the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death with a 15-word tweet.

The news spread like wildfire on social media. Many learned of the terrorist leader’s death on digital devices before they heard it on TV.

This illustrates an important point — the way Americans consume news has changed, drastically so, in the last decade. And, according to Pew Research Center 2012 State of the News Media report, it’s still changing — even faster than before.

The annual report, produced by the center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, argues we have entered a new phase of the digital revolution — “the age of mobile,” an era of unprecedented connectedness.

The statistics are astounding. According to the report, more than four in ten American adults now own smartphones, with one in five owning a tablet device, such as an iPad.

More importantly, the report finds, these mobile devices have increased Americans’ news consumption — more than a quarter of the U.S. population are now using their mobile devices to get news. What’s more, 23 percent of U.S. adults now consume news on multiple digital devices.

It’s not surprising that this growing trend in mobile news consumption is accompanied by a surge in social media usage. 133 million Americans are active on Facebook, while the number of Americans tweeting now tops 24 million — a growth of 32 percent in 2011 alone, according to the report.

Fortunately for news organizations, mobile news consumption does not seem to be eating away at traditional news consumption habits — it’s an additive experience. In other words, news consumption, as a whole, is expanding.

Further, the report suggests the proliferation of mobile devices is strengthening new outlets’ brand names and allowing them to reach greater audiences.

Such findings are encouraging for news organizations, especially those still searching for ways to shore up revenue in a world where most people are accustomed to consuming online news for free.

However, media companies cannot afford to react to this mobile device surge as slowly as they did to the Internet boom. Journalists must make an effort to learn news consumption habits of mobile device users and develop technology and revenue models that incorporates their needs.

That brings me to editing.

As more and more Americans turn to their iPhones, iPads, Androids, Kindles and the like for news, it’s imperative that editors get the memo, too.

They must recognize that the pages they design, the headlines they write and the copy they edit, no matter what platform it is intended for, will likely end up being viewed on a mobile device.

As journalists, we must remember it’s our job to be a resource. We must ensure readers are able to consume news on any platform, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

And although news applications tailored for specific mobile operating systems and mobile-friendly versions of websites have proliferated in recent years, it is an imperfect solution.

Multiple content systems are often disorienting for readers when switching between devices to consume news. For example, a story or photo gallery available on a news outlet’s desktop website may, for a number of reasons, never make it to the iPad application. This can anger readers.

There’s got to be an easier, more uniform way to get the news to today’s multiplatform consumers, right?

The Boston Globe thinks it’s found an answer to the problem in the form of responsive design technology, which automatically detects the platform being used and seamlessly resizes all content to fit the size and shape of the screen.

Such technology ensures readers always see the same content and layout across all platforms, whether it’s a tablet, smartphone or computer. The Globe switched over to the design system in September 2011.

Not many have followed in the Globe’s footsteps, yet. But with more and more Americans using multiple digital devices to get their news, that’s sure to change.