Fifty Ways to Serve Your Readers
By Carl Sessions Stepp, AJR.org
I want to tell you a story.
In fact, I've always wanted to tell you stories.
And for 50 years people have actually paid me good money to do that.
This particular story is about those five decades and some lessons I've learned. The peg, the reason to tell the story now, is that my first news article appeared in the summer of 1963, exactly 50 years ago. I was a rising high school sophomore and volunteered to cover a baseball game in my hometown of Bennettsville, South Carolina. The story appeared in my local paper, the twice-a-week Marlboro Herald-Advocate.
It carried my byline and changed my life.
From that point forward, I had to write. I've stayed connected ever since to storytelling in its broadest sense: reporting, writing and editing news, features and opinion.
In this series of five posts, I'd like to share some insights: 50 lessons from 50 years. They deal with nitty-gritty reporting up to Big J Journalism. I have written and spoken about most of them before, but this seems a good time to bring them together.
After all, it's been a half century, and journalists are addicted to anniversary stories.
The lessons come in no special order, except that I start with the most important one.
1. Reliable information is a primal human need, and providing it is a noble service. News isn't quite as vital as air, food and water, but it isn't far behind. We need good information to thrive. From the time early peoples needed to know which berries were poisonous and where the bears hid, humans have required dependable information about their world.
The quality of our information is a key variable, maybe the key, in how we fare socially, politically, economically and professionally.
Democracy itself requires reliable information. As the 19th century journalist Ida Wells put it: "The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press."
Whether revealing facts through news articles or helping us understand them through features and opinion, storytellers are irreplaceable. Their work is noble. We can debate how that work will be conducted and, especially, paid for in the future. But we should never doubt the enduring viability of good journalism itself. We could not live without it.
Reporters have the worst job in America? Really?
by Gordon Weeks, The Washington Newspaper
Except for two weeks serving collection notices to people who hadn’t paid for funerals, and two Christmas season stints at Toys ‘R’Us in Tukwila — both gigs between college quarters — I’ve only worked as a newspaper reporter and editor.
So I’m slightly taken aback by the last week’s announcement that CareerCast.com ranked newspaper reporter as this year’s “worst” job, below lumberjack, janitor, garbage collector and bus driver.
Really? Researching, interviewing and writing newspaper stories is worse than peddling beds at the Mattress Ranch, or cleaning trashed motel rooms? Drearier than serving drunks at the Pizza Barn? More soul destroying than toiling on the telephone all day for a collection agency, making people curse and cry?
Come on, the excitement of my profession has been glorified on the silver screen by the likes of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday,” Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in “All the President’s Men,” Orson Welles in what is considered by many to be the greatest film of all time, “Citizen Kane.”
Even Superman was a newspaper reporter in his off-hours.
Alright, let’s see what CareerCast finds so unappealing about my job.
Relatively low pay? Yeah, so sometimes I won’t have cheese on that. (page 2)
How to Photograph a Fire: A Journalist's Guide
Not sure what to do when your editor sends you to a fire scene and tells you to take a camera? From ONA, here is what you need to know the next time you're sent to tell the story of a fire through photographs.
By Zack Anderson, Ohio Newspapers Association Intern
Shooting the Flames
Arrive during the fire: Getting to a fire scene without missing the actual fire is one of the challenges of fire photography, says Brent Lewis, photographer for the Chillicothe Gazette. “A lot of up-and-coming photojournalism students and interns and people who are trying to get experience are always usually late,” Lewis says, saying the photo then ends up being just a building with smoke.
Find the location of the flames: One of the first things Lewis does when he gets to a fire scene is to locate where the flames are coming from so that he can get himself to where he can get the shots he wants.
Change lenses depending on your location and purpose: Lewis says he uses a longer lens if he is not able to get as close to the fire as he would like. For the house fire photo below, Lewis says he couldn't see anything from the front of the building, so he went down a back alley. “I was sitting back there with one of my long lenses and just kind of waiting for everything to come together,” Lewis says.
But when Jane Ernsberger, news editor at the Willard Times-Junction, is shooting a fire, she keeps her regular zoom lens on all the time. She says you can capture great close-up shots with a lens such as this and that with longer lenses you lose a sense of the overall scene. “I’m kind of strange,” said Ernsberger, who won a 2013 Osman C. Hooper Award for a photo from a fire scene. “I spent 10 years as a deputy sheriff, so I do things a little differently, I have to admit.”
|Content Manager – Morning News, Florence
What do you like best about your job?
What's best about working in a newsroom is the coverage is never lacking in variety or interests.
What is your proudest moment from your career in the newspaper industry?
I've really appreciated being recognized by peers with an SCPA award. But I think for the most part, it's having editors that believed in me, my ideas and work. And it's having a hand in creating a newsroom in Florence that enjoys the task of being a reliable source of information for the community.
How do you view the future of the newspaper industry?
As an opportunity. It's viable with a sensible strategy.
What's your favorite SCPA member service?
I look forward to reading the member exchanges each week. I like seeing the news features other papers have uncovered in their communities.
Any big plans coming up? (personal and/or professional)
I'm looking forward to a few personal trips this year. I'm heading to my native city, St. Louis, next month for a fun gala at the zoo with family; my cousin getting married in Chicago; and spending a week at Sunset Beach this fall.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career and why?
A couple editors I've worked for have had a big influence on me. I've appreciated their mentoring, advice and management style so much. My biggest influence, though, would be my parents. They are at the core of my support system. Both have helped me during my struggles and celebrated my triumphs. Dad's keen business sense has helped me think a bit more rationally and see challenges as opportunities. Mom's taught me how to appreciate the little things.
What are some area attractions/restaurants in your community visitors shouldn't miss?
For local dining, I recommend trying Star Fire, Red Bone Alley and Victor's. And if you haven't been by it, check out the War Between the States Museum. The Florence Museum definitely will be a must-see once it opens next year.
What is something most people don't know about you?
My cross-country move to Bend, Ore., to work at The Bulletin included a stop at The Grand Canyon. It was about as fast as The Griswold's visit. Ours did include a sunset.
If you could change one thing about the newspaper industry, what would it be?
Change the slogan from "Save a journalist, buy a newspaper" to "Save society, buy a newspaper."
What do you like to do outside of work? (hobbies, talents, etc.)
I love being with my 2-year-old daughter, Mia. Her happiness is contagious, and living life with her raw emotion makes me appreciate everything so much more. A day at the beach is more than the sun and the sound anymore but running through the ocean's edge giggling and pouring water from one container to another; a day at the park is smiles with wind in your hair going down the slide and swinging high; and jogging is now with a jogging stroller and her asking to go faster than I can go! She's motivation to be the best version of me possible. Aside from that I enjoy jogging, playing tennis, playing at the beach and spending time with my family.
Know someone interesting that you'd like to see featured here? Let us know!
Jackson joins Greenville Journal's news team
Sherry Jackson has joined the Greenville Joumal's editorial team as a staff writer.
She will be covering city government in Greenville and Greer, real estate and economic development as well as general interest reporting.
Jackson has more than 15 years' experience as a technical writer and general interest freelance writer. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, blogs and websites including USA Today, Deep South Magazine, Blue Ridge Country, TravelWorld International Magazine, Entrepreneur.com, Yahoo and Beckett Media.
An update on Valassis/USPS NSA:
By Jim Hart, NetNewsCheck
After months of close to total silence, the weekend mail package from Valassis, known as Spree, has made its debut. Said to be 60,000 households in Phoenix and 110,000 in Atlanta, to be delivered every Friday. The company also announced every other week for Washington, D.C., quantity not yet known. Phoenix carried an insert from Kohl’s, Atlanta was said to have carried a Sports Authority piece. By most standards, this qualifies as ‘a toe in the water.’ If it wasn’t for the fact that the ‘toe’ represents essentially a proprietary partnership between the U.S. Postal Service, a government-granted monopoly, and Valassis, a public company, designed expressly to attack the newspaper industry, this effort would not garner much attention. Some raised and furrowed eyebrows, but more curiosity than concern.
To refresh your memory, this negotiated services agreement calls for rebates of 20% to 37% versus published saturation postal rates should certain conditions be met. This on top of several years of postal rate increases that significantly favor saturation vs. high density, the rate level historically paid by newspapers mailing to non-subscribing households. Should the rebates be earned, the gap between the two could reach as high as 72%. Some of the rhetoric during the approval process referred to ‘fair competition.’ If the post-rebate rates represent a fair level of competition, one must assume the published rates paid by everyone else are usurious. This could be the subject of many pages of text, but it’s not what I’ve been asked to address here.
The Post and Courier, in transition
Charleston’s paper is getting a makeover. Will State House coverage be central to its future?
By Corey Hutchins, Columbia Journalism Review
COLUMBIA, SC — The Charleston Post and Courier, South Carolina’s oldest and largest daily, is a newspaper in transition. A new editor. A new(ish) paywall. A new “aggressive online approach.” A new print design, with a new emphasis on local, state, and regional coverage. And a new vacancy on the State House beat—after the third departure from the paper of a talented young reporter in about a year.
Both the digital emphasis and the reworked print edition are being implemented by the new editor, Mitch Pugh, who came over from Iowa’s Sioux City Journal in March. The alt-weekly Charleston City Paper wrote up Pugh’s digital vision—quick-response updates, more social, more mobile—earlier this year. The P&C itself announced the reorientation of the dead-tree edition earlier this month: while the A section had featured local news on the front page and national and international stories inside, the entire section is now local and state news and opinion. National and world news is now relegated to the back of the B section; the B front is now “The South”—a mix of staff and freelance stories, wire copy, and columns from across the region.
The bottom line: The Post and Courier is going to focus more on Charleston and the surrounding region.
“If you were to look at the paper a year ago, there’d been little sense of the way in which Charleston and the South are intertwined and the way they influence each other,” Pugh said in a recent phone interview. “The goal is to give Charleston readers insights into what’s happening in the South, how that might influence or be influenced by here, and how it all comes together.” (Disclosure: About a year and a half ago I had discussions with P&C editors, at their invitation, about a position at the paper. It wasn’t a good fit.)
Metro papers have been told for years now to devote more resources to covering their local community, but one risk of such an approach is boosterish or parochial coverage. Pugh acknowledges the pitfall but insists that won’t be the case for the P&C. He pointed to a recent story by reporter Lauren Sausser about how the federal Affordable Care Act healthcare law will impact local restaurants, their employees, and food prices.
“That’s taking a story with a national perspective and bringing it home to how it’s going to impact here,” Pugh says. “I think we’re going to continue to look for those kinds of stories moving forward so we don’t become too provincial. That’s something that we want to guard against.” To that end, the paper is hiring a broad base of freelancers throughout the South, including in Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida, and other states.
Bob Harris, 88, past owner and editor of The People-Sentinel,
Robert "Bob" Chatham Harris, The People-Sentinel's former owner and editor, died Sunday at age 88 in Barnwell, S.C.
Born on June 26, 1925 in Elkin, N.C., he was a long time member of the Barnwell United Methodist Church. He served in the Army Air Corp. and was a veteran of WWII. He was a graduate of the University of North Carolina.
Former Post and Courier personnel director John McDonald dies at 88
John Lewis McDonald, a long-time director of personnel for The Post and Courier, died Friday. He was 88.
Born on Oct. 26, 1924, in Charleston, he was a Navy veteran, serving as a lieutenant aboard the escort aircraft carrier Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
McDonald attended the College of Charleston and Harvard Business School before and during the war, and after graduating from The Citadel in 1948, he briefly worked for Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Southern Bell.
He started with The Evening Post Publishing Co. in 1952 and retired from the newspaper as the director of personnel in 1990.
McDonald had been a member of the St. Andrew's Society of Charleston, as well as the Sertoma Club of Charleston and the Hibernian Society.
July 4: Office closed. Happy 4th of July!
July 18: Basic and Advanced PhotoShop Workshop, SCPA Offices, Columbia
August 2: Weekly Editors Roundtable, SCPA Offices, Columbia
August 15: Essentials of Adobe Illustrator Workshop, SCPA Offices, Columbia
September 12: Ad Design Workshop, SCPA Offices, Columbia
September 13: Daily Publishers Roundtable, SCPA Offices, Columbia
Sept. 19: Advanced InDesign and PDF Workshop, SCPA Offices, Columbia