June 14, 2013
by Dan Ward
Great post by Butch Ward (no relation, at least of which I’m aware) at Poynter, advising that newsroom managers would benefit from asking more questions.
Butch’s recommendations are spot on, not just for the newsroom but for virtually any work environment.
We sometimes forget to ask simple questions – “How are you doing?” “How am I doing?” “What do you think we should do?” – that are essential to decision-making. Ask more, dictate less. It’s a good lesson for any manager.
May 31, 2013
by Heather Keroes
In the age of citizen journalism, shrinking news rooms have placed one-stop shop hats on their reporters – who don’t just report, but now blog, tweet and everything in between. The story “Chicago Sun-Times Lays Off Full Photo Staff” caught my eye on Mashable today for the obvious reasons, but there’s more to this story.
Not surprisingly, the newspaper is planning to hire freelance photographers in lieu of full-time staffers. But after the announcement, a Chicago-based freelance writer tweeted that the Sun-Times reporters will be using their own cellphones to capture photos for their stories. Whether this statement is truth or humor, it didn’t seem like a far stretch to me. Media already use photos from the public, encouraging readers or viewers to share their photos and videos. Why not reporters?
I definitely believe there’s value in “off-the-cuff” photography from the public. They are capable of capturing moments that a professional photographer cannot. But when I open the paper or a magazine, and see a truly great shot taken by a photographer, I know I’d miss it if it went away.
May 30, 2013
by Kim Taylor
Hopefully you read that headline in the voice of the legendary Soup Nazi from “Seinfeld,” because standing at the counter last night at Chipotle reminded me of the famous episode. Only, instead of yelling about soup, Chipotle was preempting orders for its delicious guacamole with this in-your-face sign.
I love everything about this approach to customer service. It’s blunt and to the point, but then you read below the boldface print and you get a warm fuzzy feeling about their rationale for not serving lousy guacamole. Frankly, it’s possible their GM just forgot to order avocados, but I don’t care. The message is consistent with Chipotle’s brand and image of serving only the freshest ingredients (remember this Super Bowl commercial?), and even though their guac is my No. 1 reason for going in the first place, I decided to stay in line and order my salad sans avocado.
Customer service that’s authentic is sometimes as effortless as taping a sign to the glass.
May 21, 2013
by Dan Ward
I hope the IRS will forgive me for piling on, but the First Amendment (at least for now) affords me the right to publicly voice my concerns about what appears to be another intrusion on the freedom of the press.
As readers of this blog know, I spare no criticism of the press. I believe today’s media too often cover entertainment as news, too often worry about click counts rather than content, and too often value primacy over accuracy.
That said, I wholly defend the right of the press to do its job. And one aspect of that job is to monitor our government and at times share with us information our government would prefer to keep secret. That freedom applies as much MSNBC as it does to Fox News.
The fact that the Justice Department obtained the private emails of a Fox News reporter in a leak investigation should concern anyone who communicates for a living. Fox’s James Rosen was named a potential “co-conspirator” in a search warrant under the Espionage Act, granting the FBI access to his personal email account. His supposed crime? Encouraging a government informant to share information. That used to be something we’d call “reporting.”
As The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson (normally one of the most strident Administration supporters) points out, the Watergate reporters, the reporter who disclosed the CIA’s network of secret prisons, and the journalists who revealed the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program could today be in jail if prior administrations had taken this view of the First Amendment.
The First Amendment does not shield the press from breaking the law, but covering the inner workings of government is not illegal. It is the role of the press that the Founders themselves meant to protect.
As I wrote here more than three years ago in “The Power of Free – Part II,” the First Amendment is not meant to be convenient. It is meant to identify essential freedoms that define who we are. I hope that definition has not changed.
May 20, 2013
by Dan Ward
“Dan, I did not take precious time out of my day to send you a personalized email only for you to never even read it. It’s unprofessional and personally unbecoming. Please remedy – thanks!”
In full disclosure, the author of this email (who I am not naming but whose email address touts their “way with words”) was absolutely correct. I never read the email. I don’t even recall seeing it. I get hundreds of emails every day and admit that I don’t read every email I receive. Some that should be caught by spam filters, aren’t. Others that shouldn’t be trapped by spam filters, are. And when I purge my files to clear room on the server, inevitably some messages get lost.
But this email definitely got my attention. You see, it came from a person who had originally sent an employment inquiry and résumé.
Anyone applying for a job in public relations should know that persistence is important. As my peers who occasionally pitch media will attest, journalists often delete our messages without even looking at them. Our job is to be persistent, to find other communication channels to reach them, to develop creative new ways to get their attention … without ticking them off by calling them unprofessional.
This job seeker could well have written, “Dan, I see that you deleted my email before having the chance to read it. I assume it must have been an oversight related to your busy schedule. I make that assumption in the knowledge that if you HAD read my email and résumé, the quality of my prose and the depth of my relevant experience would have led you to call right away. I’ve attached another copy of my résumé for your review, and encourage you to take a couple of minutes to read it. Looking forward to your reply.”
That’s a message that might have built a bridge rather than burning one.
May 17, 2013
by Roger Pynn
Headlines aren’t anymore just what you see in print or on a web page. A tweet can be a headline, too … and the one below from The Huffington Post deserves to get someone to the woodshed for a few whacks on the backside.
Follow the link and you’ll see that the story is about a university president who resigned after several contentious issues got in the way of her leadership … but she did not, as the tweet says, sell her school’s football stadium to a prison company. As you’ll read, the school entered in a naming rights deal with a company that operates prisons on a commercial basis under government contracts.
Argue the concept of privately managed prisons on the editorial page … but for the sake of whatever credibility is left in journalism, be sure your headline writers and tweeters get it right – regardless of how they feel about the issue.
May 17, 2013
by Dan Ward
The Mainstream Media is ignoring a scandalous story of government overreach, a tyrannical example of bureaucracy run amok, not to mention a grammatical affront to the English language.
As the Wall Street Journal points out in its A-Hed column today, the Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (yes, that actually exists) has a thing against apostrophes.
The brave patriots in the town of Thurman, NY, are discovering that the black-hatted Committee’s (er, Committees) members have declared war on the apostrophe, coldly deciding that a soon to be renamed mountain will never carry the name Jimmy’s Peak (or Jimmie’s Peak or James’ Peak, for that matter).
You might think the culprits are merely low-level functionaries, but the Journal report uncovers an uncomfortable and scandalous truth. According to the Board on Geographic Names, some 250,000 apostrophes have been “scrubbed” from federal maps since 1890.
I find it shocking that no publication aside from the Journal has dared to cover this breaking story. Surely, the Today’s News Herald of Lake Havasu, the Investor’s Business Daily or the Coeur d’Alene Press should jump on this story.
Our nation’s founders, who saw fit to use an apostrophe in the very first sentence of our Declaration of Independence, would be appalled to learn that our government has claimed possession of the possessive.