Tag Archives: compelling content

Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for July 29, 2010

Photo credit: Everett Guerny, via SXC.

My Reading Notebook
Kitty Bucholtz, writing on Routines for Writers, discusses the paper notebook she uses to write one-page summaries of the novels has read, and how it relates to her fiction writing.

How Media Consumption Has Changed Since 2000
A SlideShare presentation from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Interesting statistics and information on trends in our consumption of all sorts of media.

How to Write About a Boring Topic – 5 Good Writing Tips
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen discusses ways to dig deeper into a story assignment that you’re not crazy about.

Writers: 8 Alternatives to Magazine Markets
Susan Johnston, writing on the blog Urban Muse, discusses opportunities beyond print magazines for enterprising freelancers. Covers everything from newsletters and catalogs to mobile apps and e-books.

More tips for writing fast | WordCount
Michelle Rafter discusses a couple of ways to cut corners (safely) and get drafts put together quickly without sacrificing quality.

Hire a Journalist | Duct Tape Marketing
The “Duct Tape” folks make the case that journalists, not marketers, should be the content producers in today’s business environment. Good news for unemployed reporters and editors!

Bonus links!

J-Lab | 2010 Knight-Batten Award Winners
The Knight-Batten Awards reward news and information efforts that create opportunities to involve citizens in public issues and supply opportunities for participation. Here are thumbnail sketches of the award-winning projects.

Associated Press: How to Pitch a News Story
This YouTube video, featuring editors from the AP, contains good advice for reporters or PR folks looking to interest editors in a news-oriented story.

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Write This Way: Writing and Editing Links for April 27, 2009


Photo courtesy of SXC.

Getting Journalism Education Out of the Way

I have to thank Amy Gahran of Contentious for this link: It’s a provocative essay from 2002 on the potential obsolescence of journalism education by Betty Medsger.

Writing in Zoned for Debate, NYU’s faculty’s webforum on current issues in journalism, Medsger, the former head of the Department of Journalism at San Francisco State University and founder of its Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, found in 1996, as she analyzed surveys taken for a national study of journalism education, that 27 percent of “new journalists,” people who had worked for one to 11 years said they had never studied journalism.

Further research by Medsger revealed that a majority of winners of major journalism awards, including Pulitzer Prizes, Alfred I. DuPont Awards for broadcasters, Nieman Fellowship and Knight Fellowships at Stanford University never studied journalism in school. Many of the winners majored in literature or history, with the rest majoring in a wide sampling of liberal arts and science disciplines.

What to make of these facts? Why have post-Watergate journalism graduates (of which I am one) not made the same sorts of impact as those who never set foot inside a j-school?

Medsger writes:

“The greater achievement of journalists who did not dedicate their academic years to learning how to fill the vessels of journalism, (in contrast to what goes in them), suggests a profound challenge to what journalism educators have assumed was their raison d’etre: training people in how to fill the vessels. The finding suggests that radical changes, or at least intelligent experiments with new approaches, are needed at both the undergraduate and graduate level. The way things are done now seems to get in the way.”

The rest of the essay suggests a more interdisciplinary approach to teaching journalism that seems positively prescient in light of the challenges that print journalists and other media professionals are facing in 2009. I believe Medsger put her finger on a long-term trend in journalism that has caused the industry to lose its way and struggle as its business model eroded out from under it—a focus on the how-to-fill-vessels technique end of things to such an extent that thinking about reader (or audience) needs has become, at best, an afterthought.

KCNN: A guide to crowdsourcing

The Knight Citizen News Network is an information-rich site for community-focused new media start-ups, run by American University’s School of Communication and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It has a number of helpful guides for citizen reporters and traditional journalists on how to use Web 2.0 tools to create high-quality local news sites.

“Crowdsourcing” is a term that’s gained much interest of late—Jeff Howe, author of a book by the same name, defines it as “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”

In journalism circles, crowdsourcing means letting ordinary people help you with your writing research. It’s a complicated business to balance the power of “open source” reporting with the journalistic tenets to vet information thoroughly and the tendency to rely on statements from public figures as credible. This helpful guide explains the best way to do it without compromising accuracy.

The guide is part of a more comprehensive toolkit for citizen journalists on KCNN, which includes how to generate or uncover story ideas, credible story research, mining data banks for relevant corroborative material and finding and training good reporters. The site is full of useful tips for anyone wanting to do in-the-trenches public interest writing, whatever their level of professional training in journalism.

49 Creative Ways You Can Profit From Content Marketing

Writers, particularly those who have a defined specialty niche, often wonder about how to best showcase their expertise without sounding cheesy. Sonia Simone, senior editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication, has developed a comprehensive list of products that any author with a specialty (whether it’s a beat or something the author is considered a bona fide expert in) can use to create new information products or guide their content planning for their website, blog, webinar schedule, e-newsletter, etc.

Yes, a few of the suggestions are a little off-beat (example: write a column from your pet’s point of view on your specialty topic), but most of them represent solid new ways to connect with present and potential readers/audience members and keep them interested in reading (and buying) what you have to offer.

Bonus Link!

The #1 Untapped Income Source That Freelancers Forget

Skellie, writing on her newly revived (?) Anywired blog, has developed a nice post on how to take your freelance skills (and income) to the next level by offering consulting services to your clients.

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Twitter as writing coach, part 2: The art of the retweet


Last time I posted, we looked at Twitter’s power to shape our writing by studying Twitter poetry. Today, let’s consider what we can learn by studying what makes for compelling content on Twitter—in other words, what sort of posts get “retweeted” and spread from network to network.

Writing compelling content is something with which every writer—nonfiction or fiction—should be concerned. Even in story forms governed by the rules of journalism, where objectivity and even-handedness are highly valued, being able to package a story and make sure it finds the widest possible audience is an essential survival skill.

One of the most important guidelines in writing compellingly and getting retweeted on Twitter is to consider one’s network of followers. What do they need or want to know?

The good folks over at Cyberjournalist.net recently blogged about super-entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki’s rules for getting retweeted, and had this to say about Guy’s first rule, which is “ask the right question.”

There are pockets of Twitter users who want to bond with small group of people and learn the answer to the original Twitter question: ‘What are you doing?’ These are the folks that enjoy tweets that say, ‘My cat just rolled over’ and ‘The line at Starbucks is long.’

“The question you should answer if you want retweets is ‘What’s interesting?’ for your group of followers. For example, the story that Taiwanese scientists bred glow-in-the-dark pigs is a lot more interesting than what your cat is doing and therefore a lot more likely to get retweeted.”

Another Twitter lesson for writers from the retweet arena is that sharing begets sharing. Social media researcher Dan Zarrella, guest posting on Copyblogger, notes that 70 percent of retweets contain a hyperlink (often shaved down to size using http://tiny.cc or other services). If you’re linking to your own content, it’s a good idea to think about what sorts of writing get passed around online—Zarrella lists how-tos/instructional content, breaking news, warnings (about scams, etc.) and freebies or contests as links highly likely to get a retweet.

The lesson here, I think, is that people want to share useful stuff with those they care about and keep their friends out of trouble. When drafting our stories, no matter the venue, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that this is a huge piece of what drives information passed through online social networking.

The final rule we can draw from what gets retweeted on Twitter is that calls to action produce action. Zarrella, writing recently on his own blog about the 20 words and phrases that generate the most retweets, notes that the phrase “please retweet” appeared very frequently in posts that got retweeted. Other action verbs that appeared in highly retweeted posts included “help,” “follow,” and “check out.”

Obviously, a lot of journalistic non-fiction writing cannot directly order the reader to take action, although it can quote sources about the need for action, the urgency of a situation, etc. However, thinking what frame of mind you want to leave a reader with after digesting your story is still helpful. And for many “service” stories in trade or self-help oriented publications, issuing a clear call to action is part of the package—readers are looking to you to explain how something works, and then recommend ways to use the newfound knowledge.

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