Wish you were here

This blog will likely be quiet the rest of the week as I will be in St. Petersburg, Fla., on business.


An ethical donation

Are you a journalist tempted to give money to your favorite candidate? Why not avoid the hassle of being called on it by MSNBC and make that donation to the ACES Education Fund instead?

Your gift helps pay for scholarships for promising students who want to go into copy editing. For my money, that’s a more worthy cause than most political campaigns.

Find out more here.


TMZ, the site that regularly uses adjectives such as “Fergalicious” and “asstastic” in its coverage of celebrities, is also having fun with headlines. Here’s an example:

Hannah Still a Fannah of Lohan-nah

The New York Times has the inside story on TMZ, which calls itself The Associated Press of the world of celebrity gossip. It’s a fascinating and troubling look at what draws readers and how that affects news judgment of other media.


  • Salon asks why there seem to be more al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq than there used to be. At least that’s how they are described by the White House and news stories.
  • An assistant managing editor at the paper in Birmingham, Ala., has turned an old newsrack into something new. It just takes a some imagination and a Mac mini.

Alternative profiles in courage

Can a personality profile be done in alternative story form? Of course.

This example from The News & Observer features section shows how. Here’s the recipe:

  • Remix liberally.
  • Add bold lede-ins.
  • Sprinkle with carefully selected information from the Web.
  • Enjoy!

Should every profile be done this way? Of course not. But this packs a lot of information into a small space, and it’s easy to scan. It comes in bite sizes but is still nutritious. Stories about speeches can be done the same way. (Thanks to N&O copy editor Chuck Small for the “before and after” insight on this regular feature.)

For all the talk here lately about alternative story forms, I’d like to point to two well-done stories written as old-fashioned narratives, both from the N&O:

  • Assistant managing editor Dan Barkin on getting a tattoo with his son, George.

No recipe needed. Just enjoy!

The handling and packaging of news stories

An alternative story form at the bottom of the front page of The News & Observer fulfills its mission. It’s sort of an executive summary of a report on how climate change will affect the state economically. A full story — necessary in this case to elaborate on the findings — appears elsewhere in the paper.

It’s where that story appears that makes little sense. It’s on 10A, sandwiched between a page with two short wire stories about Iraq and Afghanistan and the editorial page. But the news about the climate report is a state story, and the N&O has a City & State section. Why not put the full story in City & State, where it belongs, rather than in the back of the A section?

Just because the ASF is on the front page doesn’t mean the story it refers to should be in the same section.