Student guest post: A different kind of news judgment

Students in J457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the 12th of those posts. Katie Reeder is a senior journalism major and the managing editor of Southern Neighbor. She has a deep appreciation for coffee, witty humor and Carolina basketball.

I avoided social media after the Tar Heels lost the national championship on a Monday night in what was the most heartbreaking game I have ever watched. I did not want to see the comments — good or bad — or stories that I knew were coming. My friends had already agreed not to talk about basketball for the next few days.

By Wednesday, I decided I could handle the stories. March Madness was over, and I knew I would miss the college basketball coverage. I started with The News & Observer and ended with Adam Lucas’ column on GoHeels.com.

When I logged onto Facebook, the Lucas column was at the top of my news feed, and I could see that more than 20 of my friends had shared it. But what caught my attention was that my news feed also had a good number of blog posts friends had shared (mostly written by people other than themselves) about the season and what this team had meant to them.

I will admit that I read just about everything relating to Carolina basketball that I saw on my news feed. But as a journalist, I was struck by the seemingly illogical reasoning behind this. I was reading essentially the same story retold with a different personal angle. Most of those stories could be boiled down to this: We are heartbroken but proud, and we are still Tar Heels. There was no new information, but so many people read it and shared it anyway.

So what does this mean for journalists and editors? It’s tempting to say, “You’re talking about social media and blogs. There are different rules.” But when more than 50 percent of Americans consider Facebook a news source, the rules of Facebook are something to pay attention to.

Add in the fact that Facebook has an algorithm for what shows up in news feeds, and it begins to sound like the curation side of an editor’s job. The front page of The New York Times may still have the box boasting that it’s “all the news that’s fit to print,” but social media has taken away much of that authoritative voice and changed how people consume news.

I do not think all blogs are journalism, and I do not think the rules of social media are always transferable to traditional media. But the common denominator between the two is information intake. Both forms of media ask the question, “What do people care about?”

If my news feed the week after the national championship game is any indicator, people do not always care about fresh information or how timely a story is. The news values of proximity and magnitude came into play here, but do they fully explain why people continued to read and share similar stories? I don’t think so.

Sometimes people like to see the same story retold because they love a basketball team that lost a heartbreaking game, and reading those stories reminds them why they loved the team in the first place. Sometimes stories are about connecting with others and feeling like you can say, “Me too.”

We’re not always taught that in our newswriting classes, and this is not meant to discount the importance of objectivity and accuracy. But I think as journalists learn to navigate the increasingly social digital world, it’s important to remember that people don’t always share what we think they should share. Sometimes stories are more about fostering a sense of community than taking in new information. 

Q&A with freelance editor Laura Poole

Laura Poole is a freelance editor who lives in Durham, North Carolina. As senior editor at Archer Editorial Services, she specializes in editing scholarly nonfiction and academic journals. She has also edited travel guides and textbooks. In this interview, conducted by email, Poole discusses her freelance work, training opportunities for editors, and her viewpoint on some language issues.

Q. Describe your job at Archer Editorial Services. What is your typical day like?

A. I’m often up by 6 a.m. to do an hour of work before my daughter gets up at 7. I’m very productive in the early morning.

I usually have multiple projects going at once, so I make progress on each of them in chunks: one journal article, 30-40 pages of a book, some email responding, and so on. I try to keep my morning interruption-free, because that’s my most productive time.

I eat a quick lunch, then back to work, but early afternoon is my slow-brain time. That’s good for submitting paperwork, setting up files, proofreading, coffee appointments and phone calls, even a short nap if I have time!

I’m finished with work by 3 or 5, depending on the day. I don’t get full billable hours in a day, but I usually get my tasks done in a timely way.

Q. What types of writing do you particularly enjoy editing? Is there anything you avoid?

A. I avoid philosophy and hard sciences with a lot of very technical terms. I edit exclusively scholarly nonfiction, and I particularly enjoy gender studies, cultural ethnographies, and science studies (slightly different from hard sciences).

I have a specialty in editing math and economics, but it’s not my favorite thing to work on!

Q. People often ask how much freelance editors are paid. What do you tell them?

A. There’s a range, of course, and the pay rate depends on many things — experience, skill, client budget, and so on. Skilled, experienced editors can command higher rates.

I like to say I make a comfortable living, and now I have broadened my income base by earning money from training, referral fees, and royalties. Plus, I’m developing a new business (see next question). The more streams of income I have, the more stable my income. But the majority of my income comes from the editing I provide directly for my clients.

Q. In 2015, you and Erin Brenner formed the Pilcrow Group to help train and coach editors. What services do you provide, and how is that effort going?

A. Pilcrow Group was founded to purchase Copyediting (http://www.copyediting.com), and we did that in September 2015. Our mission is to offer development and support for editors across the career spectrum — from just starting out to advanced!

We are very proud of our premium newsletter (Copyediting), which has been around for 25 years and is the heart and soul of what we provide. We added a free weekly newsletter, and we have an active blog and job board.

We offer training in the form of monthly Master Classes on various editing topics (and archived recordings available for purchase) and now In-Depth Courses, which are three to five webinar sessions. We are creating an imprint to have our own books and ebooks, with our first title, a grammar workbook, coming out in late summer.

Very soon we are pilot-testing mentoring groups and mastermind groups for editors. We are sponsoring conferences and planning to roll out our own live training and development events in the future.

The efforts are going well so far! We were pleased to announce that Copyediting was back in the hands of editors, and the response among our colleagues and in the editorial community was heartwarming! We are very excited about all our plans, and the interest level has been high.

Q. What advice do you have for college students looking to go into freelance editing?

A. Start NOW! Edit for your classmates, edit for other students, post a flier or classified ad. You can get experience at any time, and the more you DO, the more you will learn.

Q. Let’s wrap up with two hot-button topics: How do you feel about the Oxford comma? The singular they?

Singular they: Used to hate it. Now I see its utility and have grudgingly accepted and am warming to it.

Serial comma: I’m a big fan. I’m a CMoS girl, so I like to use it. In fact, I even invented my own serial comma hand signal! Here it is:

laurapoole

Student guest post: Four takeaways for journalists from a reporter in elementary school

Students in J457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the 11th of those posts. Tatiana Quiroga is a first-year master’s student at UNC-Chapel Hill specializing in reporting. She hails from the Sunshine State and cheers on the Gators and the Tar Heels.

Last week, a 9-year-old girl and her journalistic endeavors went viral.

Hilde Kate Lysiak is the one-person team behind Orange Street News, a monthly newspaper delivering all the noteworthy happenings in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, to its residents. The newspaper has a print and online version, and though her older sister films and edits the site’s videos, Hilde is the lone reporter.

She doesn’t just cover entertainment (“Exclusive: Taylor Swift Coming to Grove in June!”) and community events (“Library mini golf a hit!”), but also crime and public health. The reporter published a series of posts on a vandalism case and even investigated local water quality.

So on April 2, when she learned of an alleged homicide on Ninth Street, Hilde chased the story and published the facts she gathered.

That’s when the criticism and insults from Selinsgrove residents rolled in. In a video posted on her site, spunky Hilde reads the personal messages and fires back. One person suggested she should be having tea parties instead of reporting on a major crime.

At the age of 9, Hilde has already learned some important lessons about journalism – lessons even veteran reporters could be reminded of.

1. Negative feedback can be a driving force.

In her response to critics, Hilde spoke in a direct, gutsy way, and with a bit of humor. We have heard it time and time again: Journalists need to develop thick skin. It’s not uncommon for a reporter to take angry calls from viewers or readers, listen to them rant, thank them for their feedback and move on.

It’s crucial for journalists to learn how focus on the next task at hand. Negative feedback can even motivate us in our work. Since Hilde posted her response to critics, she’s reported on an exchange student from Brussels and the Selinsgrove Borough Council voting to limit public comment at meetings. She’s clearly not stopping anytime soon.

2. Community publications matter.

Hilde is covering news that matters to the people who live in Selinsgrove, which has a population of 5,790. Orange Street News is a hyperlocal news site that uniquely serves the community by covering issues that are highly relevant.

Journalism acts as a watchdog for society and holds powerful people accountable. And it’s a reporter’s job to get out all the facts. “I just like letting people know all the information,” Hilde told The Washington Post.

3. Have a healthy skepticism and be curious.

As my college reporting professor often reminded us, “If your grandma says she loves you, check it out.” Journalists need to develop a nose for news. What is unusual and out of place? That’s what we need to cover.

And if we aren’t curious about the world around us, we won’t ask the hard questions, and we won’t dig deeper. Curiosity seems to come naturally to Hilde, who also investigated drug rumors at a middle school and local park.

4. Perseverance is key.

When Hilde heard from a credible source about the homicide on Ninth Street, she said she confirmed it and then began to knock on doors in the neighborhood to get more information. That relentless search for the truth is what makes a good journalist.

The young reporter told The Washington Post that her passion for journalism isn’t a childhood phase. “It’s just what I really want to do,” she told the Post. “And crime is definitely my favorite.”

Maybe Hilde’s tenacity and spirit can inspire us all to continue on in our pursuit of truth.

Q&A with Shana McNally, proofreader at Costco

Shana McNally is corporate proofreader at Costco Wholesale, a job she has held since 2008. Her duties include proofing marketing communications, packaging and the employee magazine. She also develops and maintains style guides. She previously worked at The Associated Press and at SportsZone, the precursor to ESPN.com. In this interview, conducted by email, McNally talks about her job at Costco and editing in the corporate world.

Q. Describe your job at Costco. What is your typical day like?

A. It’s hard to describe a typical day other than to say we always start with a morning production meeting. Most days, I see more than 15 proofs for marketing (coupon books, opening pieces, Costco Travel catalogs, etc.), a couple of packaging proofs and a few FOPs (items ready to go out the door that need one more look). I tend to do the faster stuff in the morning and save the bigger projects for the afternoon.

One of my favorite parts of this profession is that you can always learn more. If I have any free time, I try to spend it on education, whether it be taking quizzes or reading grammar books or copyediting books.

Q. What are some of the common glitches that come up in Costco copy?

A. The most common glitches that come up in copy are the day and date not matching, spelling errors, missing words, legal edits and repeated words.

Q. You are a member of the American Copy Editors Society and have attended its conferences the past several years. What do you like about ACES?

A. There’s so much to be gained from ACES. I love the fact that I always have someone to reach out to if I have a question.

I’ve also gained so many tips and tricks, as well as resources like books to read and quizzes to take. In addition, I’ve been able to participate in several job shadows with fellow ACES members.

Finally, when I attend conferences, I really appreciate the reassurance that the way I do things is just fine.

Q. What advice do you have for editors looking for work at a company like Costco?

A. My strongest advice for editors looking to work at a company like Costco is to check it out in advance, whether it’s with an informational interview, a job shadow or an internship. Coming from a newspaper background, I’d say that it’s very different, and it’s not for everyone. The variety is a huge advantage, but to many, working at a corporation is a disadvantage.

Student guest post: 5 reasons why listicles are good for modern journalism

Students in J457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the 10th of those posts. Carly Peterson is a senior journalism major with a reporting specialization who enjoys music and the arts. She writes for the UNC-Chapel Hill branch of Her Campus, an online publication that targets college-age woman.

Just admit it, we all read listicles. They are everywhere you look — as you scroll through your Facebook feed, as you check today’s email newsletter, and as you spend endless hours mindlessly reading BuzzFeed. Listicles are the hot topic in today’s journalism.

Listicles have driven journalists to choose a side — either pro-listicles or anti-listicles. Journalists who are typically pro-listicles acknowledge that they are useful as an alternative story form for reporting and are not completely mindless, while journalists who are anti-listicles criticize them as uniformed and representative of bad writing.

As a descriptive writer, I have to admit I had to get use to writing listicles for Her Campus, but now I really enjoy putting a well-written and informed list together that will interest the website’s audience. I do not believe that listicles are the death of quality journalism, but they should be looked to as a viable option for an alternative story form.

1. Listicles are time-saving tactics for writers.

The journalism industry is a fast-paced business. A journalist’s goal is to get the story first and to send the story out to the public before another publication can. A journalist could probably write a couple of listicles in the time it takes to write and report one story. Even though the writing is short, listicles do not give journalists room to be lazy in their writing and grammar skills. A listicle should be informative but concise, which can be harder for descriptive writers like me.

2. Listicles are helpful for a busy audience.

In today’s world, everyone is on the go. The public has less time to sit down and read a newspaper front to back except for maybe on the weekends. Listicles are a great way to get a news or human-interest story to the public. The listicles’ best feature is that they are easy to scroll through. Since the story is essentially a list, they are easy to format for cellphones or tablets. The public spends a great deal of time on these devices.

3. Listicles already come with a headline.

The typical format for listicles is a number plus what the list is conveying to the reader. The nature of listicles incorporates attention-drawing headlines that capture the reader and encourage them to click to read more, which is termed “clickbait.” The reader automatically knows what this story will be about just from the headline for example this headline from BuzzFeed:

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4. Listicles draw attention and keep readers.

Listicles contain numbers that stand out automatically from all the other text-heavy articles. The list format helps to make the article easy and fast to read. Most use some sort of picture or GIF to go with each number listed. From my experience with listicles, I am drawn to the article because I am curious as to what the numbers are and then find myself reading the entire article when I just meant to skim it. I am sucked into the article anticipating what the next number will hold.

5. Listicles are great for social media.

The best part about listicles for a publisher is that they are easily shared on social media feeds such as Facebook and Twitter. I believe the listicles that draw the most traffic on social media are the ones that tap into human emotion and life experiences, or incorporate informative tips as seen here at BuzzFeed:

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Listicles do not have to be for everyone, but do not turn them down before you try them. As a writer, I was skeptical at first, but now I find listicles as a fun and easy way to engage with the audience. They can be timsaving tactics that come with eye-catching headlines. Readers will want to read the listicle because they can scroll through the article quickly while on the go. The list can be effortlessly shared on social media, which means more traffic to the publication’s website.

Q&A with Aaron Dodson, assistant editor at The Undefeated

Aaron Dodson is an assistant editor at The Undefeated, a website that will examine the relationship between race and sports. Dodson is a 2015 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where he worked at The Daily Tar Heel as a reporter and copy editor. While in college, Dodson had internships at the sports departments at The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post. In this interview, conducted by email, Dodson discusses the objectives of The Undefeated and his job there.

Q. What is The Undefeated? What should we expect to see on the site?

A. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question — “What is The Undefeated?” — since I got hired, and the beautiful thing is my answer is constantly evolving. At its core, The Undefeated will be a site that ESPN has envisioned to explore the intersection of race, sports and culture, particularly through the lens of the African-American experience. But as we get closer to our launch date, which we are still in the process of finalizing, and once the site gets up and running, I believe our identity as a multi-faceted, storytelling platform will continue to shape itself.

One thing I can say is people should expect a high quality of bold, passionate and honest stories. My favorite part of journalism is longform, which The Undefeated will certainly have a great deal of. We want to tell the stories that deserve to be told but in many cases get overlooked. For example, we will make an effort to highlight historically black colleges and universities — a sector, especially in the sports realm, that often goes uncovered.

The site, however, will not be limited to the longform style of storytelling. Expect to see a unique mix of longform, shortform, commentary, audio and visual journalism and even your everyday lifestyle blogging.

Since its inception, The Undefeated has been referred to as “The Black Grantland,” though that’s not a label we want to embrace going forward. This is by no means a knock on anything Grantland produced — content we all grew to know and love in the four years of the site’s existence. It’s just that we want the opportunity to create our own identity — to be simply The Undefeated.

And I think under the leadership of our editor-in-chief Kevin Merida, former managing editor of The Washington Post, we have a very bright future ahead of us. I’m just happy to be a part of the team.

Q. Describe your role at The Undefeated. What is your typical workday like?

A. I’ve been with The Undefeated for about a month and, to be honest, there hasn’t really been a typical workday yet, which has been very exciting.

My normal role with the site will be working as a copy editor, but since we’re still assembling our team and preparing for the launch, there hasn’t been normal copy flow. This period has allowed me to contribute in many different ways, and the best way to describe my current role is to employ a sports term. So far, I’ve been a “utility player.”

I’ve been able to pitch a few stories that I will have the chance to write myself and am working on. I’ve also been collaborating very closely with one of our senior writers in a research capacity for a few pieces she’s envisioning. Even more exciting, I received an opportunity to make my first-ever television appearance on a local station, during which one of The Undefeated writers and I got a chance to talk about the NCAA Tournament and what the future holds for The Undefeated.

It’s definitely been an adjustment going from a college newsroom last year to a professional newsroom last summer during my internship with The Washington Post to now being involved with a completely new site. Regardless, I’m enjoying every minute of this experience, which is why I’ve been so open to helping in any way I can.

Q. You are a 2015 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. What skills and concepts that you learned there are you using in your job? What have you learned on the job?

A. The most important thing I learned during my time in UNC’s journalism school was to be open-minded while chasing the goals you set for yourself in the journalism field. I always knew I wanted to work in sports media, and for the longest time I solely wanted to work in a print journalism capacity as a sportswriter for a daily newspaper.

Then I took Andy Bechtel’s News Editing course, which exposed me to a different side of the process of producing content — the editing process. Now, my first full-time job out of college is as a copy editor, though I’ll still have an opportunity to contribute as a writer! That semester in News Editing eventually turned into another semester in Advanced Editing, and finally I found that the skills I learned in these courses translated into improvements in my writing, reporting and even my personal brand through social media.

The journalism school taught me that it’s nice at times to take a step back from what you’re doing — how you’re striving toward a certain career path — and look at it in a different way. It took me a while to figure things out, but in order to find a place within the field of sports media, I had to embrace the realization that having a diverse skill set is better than being a one-trick pony.

I might’ve looked too deeply into this question, but I do think a lot about your courses and some of the things my other journalism school professors, like John Robinson, taught me while I was at UNC. You guys tested me, kicked my butt at times, but I wouldn’t have been able to get to ESPN without you.

Q. Sportswriting is a popular pursuit among journalism students. What advice do you have for them?

A. The best advice I could give is to never pass up on an opportunity. The more opportunities you tackle — freelancing, blogging, covering games (especially the ones no one wants to cover) — the better you will get.

In a sense, becoming a good sports journalist is a matter of trial and error. Eventually, you’ll begin to look at sports news, games, players and stories in different and exciting way. This brings me to my next (and probably cliché) piece of advice: dare to be different! When I interviewed with The Undefeated, I was asked to pitch a story idea even though I applied to be a copy editor, not a writer. I pitched a story that was weird and something the editors had never heard of or even thought about. The idea came to me as a product of how much time I’ve spent in the last few years writing, editing and reading as many stories as I can.

After I got hired, I was told that my story pitch was what got me the job. I hope to eventually get a chance to write that story for The Undefeated, but in the meantime I’ll keep looking at sports journalism in unique ways. I think this open approach is beneficial to anyone pursuing a career in sportswriting.

Student guest post: Photoshop fails — celebrity edition

Students in J457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the ninth of those posts. Paola Perdomo is a senior majoring in graphic design and information science. She does marketing and design work for UNC Campus Recreation, where she loves to bridge the gap between fitness and awesome visuals.

Knowing how to use Photoshop has become an extremely desirable skill in our selfie and social media-driven society. As a designer, I see Photoshop as a platform where I can always learn new tricks. I can replicate and hide and blend and alter colors to my heart’s desire, with the key always being in subtlety.

It is at this point that some of the most popular celebrities are failing, throwing subtlety to the wayside and making their photo edits obvious. Not on purpose, I hope, but obvious, nonetheless.

I can imagine that posting photos becomes an art form for popular personas like Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian. A photo on Instagram is more than a snapshot of an individual’s life. It influences millions of people that follow these accounts and potentially creates a profit for the poster. It makes sense that posting the “perfect” photo becomes the ideal, but doing so creates unrealistic standards for girls and boys of any age.

Both Beyoncé and Kardashian, who have 64.5 and 64.7 million Instagram followers, respectively, have been repeat offenders of the dreaded “Photoshop fail.” Beyoncé has been caught making her legs appear thinner on multiple occasions, and Kim Kardashian has thoroughly changed her body features: thinner arms, smaller waist, straighter nose and flawless skin. How can we tell, you ask? Every one of these photo fails have included similar telltale signs like unnatural curved spaces and unbelievable features.

Take a look at some examples below:

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Why two seemingly fit and extremely successful women want to enhance (or reduce) their bodies only to release it to millions of people who will then scrutinize every inch of the image seems counterproductive. Photoshop, when used incorrectly or too much, is fairly easy to spot, which makes me believe that both Beyoncé and Kardashian edit their photos believing they will get away with it. Although no longer active, an Instagram account was created solely to expose celebrities editing their photos. When these two women have been called out on their botched edits, neither has commented.

I’ve focused on these two particular celebrities, but they are not, by far, the only ones. I would venture to predict that others will join them, including men. Just like women are plagued by images of desirable figures, men are saturated with masculinity and “ripped bods.” It seems that there is a fascination with taking things to the extreme in this increasingly exposed culture. Strong people need to become stronger, thin people need to be thinner, people who have lost weight need to lose more, and so on.

New photo-editing apps are consistently released to the public, touting their new and easy-to-use features. Filters within social media platforms are widely used and constantly updated. It all means one thing: altering and enhancing is more popular than ever and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. So the question remains: How can we use photo editing for good?

It’s important to be aware of this development, not only to set a better example of self-confidence and self-acceptance to the general public but also to reverse the trend’s popularity. Let’s not make Photoshop the enemy here.