Tag Archives: write this way

Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for July 24, 2013


Photo courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski via SXC.

How To Write A Second Draft
Scott Berkun, author of Confessions of a Public Speaker and Myths of Innovation, provides a concise battle plan for how he was going to revise his forthcoming book, A Year Without Pants. It’s a great glimpse into one way to integrate line and structural edits with feedback from others. So much ink is given to producing first and final drafts, it was a real treat to see a post about the work that must be done in the middle.

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox | Write Articles, Not Blog Postings

I ordinarily wouldn’t post a story from 2007, but much of what’s been written by Nielsen, whom some would call the godfather of web usability, is still highly relevant.
In an era when content marketing is the hot trend, his reasoned assertion that quality rules over quantity is more true than ever:

Blog postings will always be commodity content: there’s a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody else’s work. Such postings are good for generating controversy and short-term traffic, and they’re definitely easy to write. But they don’t build sustainable value. Think of how disappointing it feels when you’re searching for something and get directed to short postings in the middle of a debate that occurred years before, and is thus irrelevant.

He goes onto note that it’s not the fault of blogging platforms – it’s the focus on cheap, uninformed “me-too” content that degrades it to commodity status.

How Memoirists Mold The Truth

André Aciman, who teaches comparative literature at the CUNY Graduate Center, writes a dangerous and provocative essay about how memoirists create multiple versions of their past. I say “dangerous” because this piece will mess with you preconceived notions about memoir as a work of nonfiction. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about …

Writing the past is never a neutral act. Writing always asks the past to justify itself, to give its reasons… provided we can live with the reasons. What we want is a narrative, not a log; a tale, not a trial. This is why most people write memoirs using the conventions not of history, but of fiction. It’s their revenge against facts that won’t go away.

5 Tips For Transmedia Storytelling
Margaret Looney, writing on the PBS MediaShift blog, provides common sense advice for tackling a story that’s going to be deployed across multiple platforms. Each tip comes with several tantalizing examples.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for December 4, 2010

Photo courtesy SXC.

How to Write the First Draft – 6 Writing Tips From Writers
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, author of the Quips and Tips for Successful Writers blog, shares advice from other writers on how to get words on the page. From “avoid editing” to “write for yourself first,” they’re all great words of advice.

Top Ten Signs of a Writer | Fuel Your Writing
While I might re-title Susan Hart’s post “Top Ten Signs of an Editor,” I have to agree with almost all of her signs. I, too, mentally correct people’s grammar in social settings (#10), freak out over typos on menus, signs or marquees (#9) and get writing ideas approximately every 10 seconds (#5). Very funny and very true post!

The news ecosystem: Finding your niche | #wjchat
This Nov. 3 #wjchat on Twitter, hosted by Robert Hernandez of WebJournalist.org, discusses digital news outlets finding their niche on the Internet and how they handle attribution, criticizing the coverage of other news agencies, etc. Format is a little hard to get used to (since this is an archive of the chat), but worth it. Very interesting conversation and lots of participants worth following!

Keep your writing fresh | WordCount
Michelle Rafter, who’s worked both as a freelance writer and an editor, discusses SPECIFICS for freshening one’s writing. My two favorite tips: find real-life examples, and challenge your assumptions.

Telling Stories in Different Mediums (and answering other questions about journalism) | Knight Digital Media Center
Jeremy Rue, a multimedia journalism trainer and instructor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, shares answers to questions posed by a researcher at the University of West Scotland about the impact of multimedia reporting on journalists and journalism today.

8 Creative ways to use RSS feeds | 10,000 Words
Mark Luckie lists creative uses for journalists to make use of RSS technology — everything from creating a book from one’s blog posts (note to self: work on this!) to creating an interactive timeline to having an audio-reader read one’s favorite blogs to them.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for February 10, 2010

Photo courtesy SXC.

I’ve had just a few moments this week to search out links… but the blog-o-sphere is positively ablaze with non-fiction writing news!

TALK: The Future Journalist–Thoughts from Two Generations

Sree Sreenivasan and Vadim Lavrusik present a savvy, rich talk about what specifically journalists and editors need to do to adapt their profession–with all its ethics and standards–to today’s technological and social media environment.

News Site in a Box

A helpful toolkit from J-Learning.org that helps citizen journalists (or start-ups) create a credible news site using free or low-cost tools.

The Digital Book in Practice: Valentine’s 14 Languages, Multiple Formats, Wireless Delivery

Alex de Campi discusses the digital graphic novel she is collaborating on with artist Christine Larsen. Every month, readers pay 99 cents and get 70-75 screens of action, adventure and suspense. VERY COOL IDEA!

Better User Experience With Storytelling – Part One – Smashing Magazine

Deep, detailed post on traditional storytelling notions and how to employ them to improve user experiences on the Web. (And elsewhere.)

Welcome to the Virtual Antique Typewriter Museum

A cool online tribute to what the curators call the “ultimate writing machine.”

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for February 2, 2010

Photo courtesy SXC.

Bury Books, Inspire Reading : The World :: American Express OPEN Forum

Author Jonathan Littman declares that “the truth is that it’s time to bury books,” arguing they are reaching the end of their usefulness. The future belongs to the “immersion” experience of Kindle and other digital reading devices.

Goals for Writing: What and why?

First of a three-part series on goal setting for writers, by Marsha of Writing Companion blog.

Blogging and Podcasting for Writers

SlideShare presentation by Britt Bravo from the Feb. 2009 San Francisco Writers Conference. The title actually refers to writers “test marketing” their work using social media channels such as blogs and podcasts.

Climbing Mt. Story: How to Survive the Creative Journey

Larry Brooks of Storyfix guest posts on Write to Done and uses a mountain climbing parable to explain how different storytellers work.

The 8 Elements of Contagious Ideas

Social media marketing guru Dan Zarrella discusses what makes ideas sticky and repeatable. Includes novelty, intuitiveness, relevance, etc.

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Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for January 12, 2010

Photo courtesy SXC.

Bloggers, like other writers, can make yearly resolutions, and one of mine related to my Write This Way link posts is to trim them down so readers can spend more time digesting and acting on the information I’ve linked to and less time reading.

In 2010, I’ll pick my top 2 links and comment on them each time we run Write This Way, and provide one additional bonus link for fun and edification. Be on the lookout for a new feature—Write This Way, Condensed—which will be a quick post of my favorite links of the moment, all presented “bonus link” style.

Let me know if you enjoy this new slimmer format, or if you see any writing or editing-related links you think need more exposure!

News orgs’ goal for 2010: Imagine tomorrow’s media world today

Gina Chen has written an insightful post on what news organizations should be doing this year on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog.

As she puts it,

“The legacy press — or the traditional media, or whatever we’re calling newspapers these days — has one main challenge for 2010, and it’s not finding a new business model. It has to do with vision. It has to do with being able to imagine a world that does not yet exist.”

This quest is more difficult than it first appears, but Chen notes that this is not the first time in history that a business entity has faced such a challenge related to figuring out how to make products that customers will find useful. IBM face a similar challenge in popularizing the concept of a personal, desktop-based computer, and the inventors of the microwave had to wait nearly a quarter century from the time the device was first offered in the late 1940s until it caught on in America’s kitchens.

In both cases, the businesses had to make a guess as to how future customers would want to interact with their products, and overcome resistance related to attachment (both by customer and manufacturer) to the current state of technology. According to Chen, journalists need to focus their attention on these areas, as well.

“The challenge for the news biz is to look ahead and imagine how people may want their news and information. It’s about format (online, by phone, through social media) and content (aggregated, local, tailored to their needs.) For local news operations, this mean “organizing a community’s information so the community can organize itself,” as Jeff Jarvis puts it.

“ …This doesn’t mean news organizations should be inventing technology. I think that’s probably out of the pervue of most journalists. What I’m talking about is envisioning a new way to use technology, in this case the Internet and the cell phone and likely other tools that others will invent. The new business doesn’t need to invent the tools — just figure out how to use them to best serve their readers.”

Chen’s post hones in on the primary issue that’s strangling the news business right now, particularly in print newspapers: lack of forward-facing customer focus. I’ve seen post after post about stop-gap measures such as government grants for investigative reporting and setting up nonprofit foundations, but this post does something that those do not—it assumes that news media organizations can still survive as business entities, and it provides the million-dollar (or more) question that they must answer in order to thrive: what do our readers want from us?

Forget E-Books: The Future of the Book Is Far More Interesting

This post is Number 8 in Adam Penenberg’s very interesting “Viral Loop” series on FastCompany.com. The author of 3 books, including one on the Viral Loop theme, he posits a provocative vision of how the printed book, and the book-reading experience, will evolve.

He argues that e-books do NOT represent the long-term future of reading matter.

“It’s the end of the book as we know it … It won’t be replaced by the e-book, which is, at best, a stopgap measure. Sure, a bevy of companies are releasing e-book readers … but technology marches on through predictable patterns of development, with the initial form of a new technology mirroring what came before, until innovation and consumer demand drive it far beyond initial incremental improvements. We are on the verge of re-imagining the book and transforming it something far beyond mere words.”

Penenberg argues the reading experience of the future will be one that, like our online (and increasingly, our mobile) experience, is rich and multi-faceted.

“For the non-fiction author therein lie possibilities to create the proverbial last word on a subject, a one-stop shop for all the information surrounding a particular subject matter. Imagine a biography of Wiley Post, the one-eyed pilot from the 1930s who was the first to fly around the world. It would not only offer the entire text of a book but newsreel footage from his era, coverage of his most famous flights, radio interviews, schematics of his plane, interactive maps of his journeys, interviews with aviation historians and pilots of today, a virtual tour of his cockpit and description of every gauge and dial, short profiles of other flyers of his time, photos, hyperlinked endnotes and index, links to other resources on the subject.

“Social media could be woven into the fabric of the experience–discussion threads and wikis where readers share information, photos, video, and add their own content to Post’s story, which would tie them more closely to the book. There’s also the potential for additional revenue streams: You could buy MP3s of popular songs from the 1930s, clothes that were the hot thing back then, model airplanes, other printed books, DVDs, journals, and memorabilia.”

Novelists won’t be left out of the cyber-cornucopia, either, he says. Imagine video games where readers alter the storylines as they see fit, or digital “rainstorms” of words, images and audio to reinforce metaphors for the reader.

The specifics of his prophecy are “out there,” to be sure, but not by much. I’m in agreement with Penenberg that “all writers should be optimistic” because “where there’s chaos, there’s opportunity.” Much like the previous link, the author’s willingness to focus on a literary world that doesn’t exist yet, and play with product ideas that would meet reader/audience needs in a new way, is exciting and has set my mind to imagining rich-media extensions of the book proposal ideas I’m currently incubating.

Bonus Link!

8 Must-Have Traits of Tomorrow’s Journalist

Vadim Lavrusik defines 8 roles that 2010-era journalists need to be ready to fulfill–including entrepreneur, programmer, curator, blogger, community builder, multimedia storyteller and more.

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Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for December 6, 2009

Photo courtesy SXC.

Headline Writing Drives Traffic

Excellent blog post by Geoff Livingston, writing on his blog, The Buzz Bin, about the rules of headline writing that appear more relevant than ever in the social media age.

Geoff makes an assertion right off the bat that I couldn’t agree more with:

“It doesn’t matter what the property is. From Twitter and e-mail to document and blog post titles, your ability to write great headlines (or 140 character writing) matters more than ever. Great headlines drive traffic and interest.”

His advice is universal advice for good writing: use active verbs, get sassy or provocative (without being juvenile), provide a preview with your headline, be intentionally incomplete so that the reader wants to know more, and omit needless words.

Geoff reinforces something I hold to be true about writing in a Web 2.0 world—good writing, in the sense of work that is compelling and designed to draw readers into the story, still rules. My Twitter as Writing Coach series (Part I | Part II | Part III) focused on much the same thing—leveraging what good writers already know (and can always brush up on!) to stay relevant in today’s culture.

Are Women Better Writers Than Men?

Writing on FastCompany.com, Lydia Dishman reports on activism among women writers and fans to bring more respect to the work of female writers.

The firestorm over this topic was ignited in early November when Publisher’s Weekly (PW) announced their top 100 picks for 2009 – and not one of the top 10 was penned by a woman. Overall, even PW seemed concerned that no woman was listed in the top 10 and that women  were underrepresented on the whole in this list.

Lydia explains how things unfolded:

“The list unleashed a flurry of posts and comments across the blogosphere, most notably a press release entitled ‘Why Weren’t Any Women Invited To Publishers Weekly’s Weenie Roast‘ from the founders of WILLA (Women in Letters and Literary Arts), an organization dedicated to bringing attention to women’s literary accomplishments.

“She Writes, a Web community for women writers, declared Friday, November 13 a “Call to Action” day and encouraged members to protest by going out and buying books by women authors and voicing their concerns in response to Louisa Ermelino’s (PW’s Reviews Director) statement about the trade magazine’s ‘politically correct’ choices.”

This brief article on the controversy (as well the links provided) is worth reading in full. My personal take? I have compiled best-of lists for several different magazines, and I can tell you, it’s always a complicated process, no matter what criteria you use or how transparent your process is to the reader. My aim as an editor is to always have defensible reasons for any course of action I take on behalf of my publication.

That said, although I think the Fast Company headline for this article is a bit misleading (albeit sassy, like the previous link advised as good!), this dust-up is getting people talking about quality women authors—whether you define “best” as best selling, best writing or most compelling storylines. And that, perhaps more than PW’s list, may help women writers get the recognition that they of course deserve.

(P.S. Just for disclosure’s sake—I just joined She Writes at the invitation of a colleague. Looks like an interesting community!)

Essential Lines from 2009: Group Writing Project

Here’s a fun December project for bloggers to consider: Joanna from the Confident Writing blog is proposing an end-of-the-year group writing project/presentation. It’s very similar to a project she did at the end of 2008 entitled “Simply the Best.”

This post outlines the rules and the deadline, which is December 27, 2009. Bloggers are encouraged to submit their best work and talk about why the submitted post is representative of their blog. The key is to be able to a) pick a post that is “essential,” as the blogger defines it, to the spirit of their blog and b)write a brief summary of the post for inclusion in the post on the Confident Writer site.

Joanna does group writing projects throughout the year, so keep her in your RSS reader if you’d like to participate in other projects like this.

Bonus Links!

5 Ways to Be a Writer When You’re Not Writing

Alison Wells, writing on Studio Mothers blog, has great suggestions for keeping your writing alive while you work on other things.

Pen 2.0: Your scribblings go digital

Jacqueline Evans, writing on CNNMoney.com, reviews several new “smart pens,” pen/computer hybrids that can remember everything you write or sketch in a meeting, then upload it to your PC afterward. Some are able to record audio, as well.

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Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for November 1, 2009

Photo courtesy SXC.

The fall madness known as National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo to insiders, starts today. The goal for this annual exercise in fictional speed-writing is to finish a 50,000 word (175 page) novel by midnight on Nov. 30.

Although I’m not a fiction writer myself, I like the challenge aspect to the event for several reasons:
• It gives writer-participants a near-term goal for completing a major work.
• It forces them to write consistently—probably every day—for an extended period.
• The consistency and goal pressure may actually relieve some writers’ perfectionist tendencies. The goal is to finish the novel—not write a great one! Writing what Anne Lamott would call a “shitty first draft” is definitely encouraged.

In 2008, NaNoWriMo had over 120,000 participants, more than 20,000 of whom crossed the 50k finish line. One variation of this event that might be of interest to writers in a variety of genres is NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. The contest (and its website) is more of a social network for daily bloggers, or those looking to improve their blog through marathon posting, and the challenge can be started at the beginning of any calendar month.

The Reconstruction of American Journalism
This link takes you to a watershed report by two esteemed professors at the Columbia University School of Journalism discussing the monumental changes in print journalism these days and proposes action steps to support and maintain quality public affairs reporting.
I haven’t read the PDF version of the report yet, or a shorter synopsis article written by the report’s authors that is posted on Columbia’s popular journal on the state of media, the Columbia Journalism Review. However, I do plan to read these documents, as well as the robust section of responses to the report that’s also on CJR’s website, and post my own take here at Write Livelihood.

For now, here’s beginning of the CJR synopsis version of the report, which lays out the stakes of the questions being asked and offers a hint as to the direction that the authors’ answers will go…

“Newspapers and television news are not going to vanish in the foreseeable future, despite frequent predictions of their imminent extinction. But they will play diminished roles in an emerging and still rapidly changing world of digital journalism, in which the means of news reporting are being re-invented, the character of news is being reconstructed, and reporting is being distributed across a greater number and variety of news organizations, new and old.

The questions that this transformation raises are simple enough: What is going to take the place of what is being lost, and can the new array of news media report on our nation and our communities as well as—or better than—journalism has until now? More importantly—and the issue central to this report—what should be done to shape this new landscape, to help assure that the essential elements of independent, original, and credible news reporting are preserved? We believe that choices made now and in the near future will not only have far-reaching effects but, if the choices are sound, significantly beneficial ones.”

Which Type of Digital Journalist Are You?
After you’ve taken time to read the Columbia University report on the future of journalism, you’ll want to read this post from Michelle V. Rafter’s WordCount blog.
Rafter links to a survey conducted by Northwestern University that explores the current online and social media habits of 3,800 journalists working in 79 newsrooms. (You can download the PDF of the report’s findings.)

The report places journalists who participated in the survey into one of six categories, based upon their desire for digital change …

Digitals: Spend the majority of their time online, perhaps have never worked for a print-only operation, feel comfortable at events hosted by the Online News Association.
Major shifters: Spend a lot of time online outside of work, wonder why they’re not being asked to spend more time exploring online potential for their content when they are at work.
Status Quos: Comfortable with the modest amount of time (average: 30 percent) that they spend producing online content.
Turn Back the Clocks: Only 6 percent of survey respondents fit this category. These folks hope the Internet somehow implodes and print will once again rule.
Moderately Mores: Wouldn’t mind dividing their work time evenly between print and digital content production.
Leaders: According to Rafter, this group is comprised of high-level publishers and editors who typically spend more time focused on print but would like to shift more of their attention to online operations.
Obviously, between the Columbia report and this one, there’s a lot of introspection being done on what journalism means in a blogging, socially networked world, and what it will take for today’s journalists (especially the veterans) to function successfully in a transformed industry landscape. (And if you’re wondering where I fit in the six groups mentioned above, I’d say somewhere between a Moderately More and a Major Shifter, with my tilt being toward a Major Shifter mindset.)

Bonus Links!!

Keeping a project alive
David Hewson, author of the popular Nic Costa novel series, has provided a great set of tips for keeping your writing projects on track, even when you’re not at the keyboard working on them.

People Watching for Character Development
From Shelby Rachel, guest blogging on the If You Give A Girl A Pen blog. Great thoughts on how to use observation in your fiction development.

Viral Loop Chronicles Part 1: Forget Everything You’ve Heard About Book Publishing
From the The Penenberg Post on Fast Company.com. The first in a series about how to get a book published in the social media age.

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Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for October 6, 2009


Photo courtesy SXC.

International Association for Journal Writing

A tip of the blog to Eric Maisel’s Sunday newsletter for bringing this link my way. The IAJW is a coalition of journaling experts (therapists, writing teachers and others) and those who have been helped by the practice. The association says on its home page that it aims to help members “juice up (their) journaling” and it provides plenty of tips for doing just that. The site offers help for budding journalers, articles related to specific journal writing issues, and merchandise to help get the most out of journal writing, including e-books, classes and journaling software.

The association charges $49/year for membership, but also offers quite a bit of “sample” information for free. If you teach journal writing, or take the practice seriously as a writing-related discipline or a healing/self-discovery tool, this site may be worth checking out.

Top 10 Blogs for Writers – The 2009/2010 Winners

Michael Stelzner of Writing White Papers has once again tallied the best writing blogs and announces the winners. This year, there were 27 finalists. Winners included blogs that I regularly link to and admire, including Editor Unleashed, Write to Done, Urban Muse and Quips & Tips for Successful Writers, plus a few blogs new to me, such as Michelle Rafter’s WordCount and Fuel Your Writing.

The lists of winners and finalists form a great blueprint for setting up an RSS aggregator that provides a quick, enjoyable education in writing’s craft and business sides. For writing bloggers such as myself, it also provides a wonderful cadre of aspirational peers to admire and emulate.

Three Hot Books You Can’t Download

FastCompany.com reports on why three new books by the late authors Vladimir Nabokov, Frida Kahlo, and Ted Kennedy won’t be coming out on Kindle or another e-book format. It’s not (necessarily) because all 3 authors have gone to that great writing garret in the sky; and it’s not (necessarily) because of the subject matter, or printing requirements of the books, although those do factor into the decision to hold off on e-publishing in at least two of the three books. (Kahlo’s book is image-rich, of course, and Kindle doesn’t currently reproduce color imagery; and Nabokov’s unfinished work “The Original of Laura” was originally written on index cards and never organized by the author during his lifetime, so the printed version allows the reader to punch out the pages and rearrange them and he or she wishes.)

No, there’s no common theme that unites this paper-bound trio of books, but it does illustrate that despite the sharp rise in the popularity and profitability of e-books, and Jeff Bezos’ aggressive vision “to have every book ever printed, in any language, all available in under 60 seconds on Kindle,” not every book is appropriate for digital distribution, and that it’s still important to consider the individual title and its requirements before determining whether to go the e-book route.

What Makes a Story Work

A brief, powerful post from social media expert Chris Brogan’s blog. He quickly demonstrates why “the very best content is that which leaves us feeling like the hero.”

He elaborates on the hero-making theme, saying,

“Think about the movies you love. Think about the songs you replay over and over. Think about the books you read. When we participate in stories, the ones that move us the most are those where we see a bit of ourselves in the storyline, right?”

His tips for achieving this goal are as relevant for corporate deliverables as independent projects. They include:

  • Let them feel smart and included by letting them be introduced as “part of the group” or “in the know.”
  • Give them a solid map. The only time readers shouldn’t know where they’re going, Brogan says, is if they’re reading a mystery, or a Chuck Palahniuk novel.
  • Reward readers of longer pieces with checklists, summaries, etc., anything that validates that they’ve reached a certain level and are ready for your next step.
  • Respect their time by being as brief as possible.
  • Write about them, not you. Or, if you have to write about you (memoirs or biographies come to mind), give them something they can do to make meaning of what you’ve shared.

Overall, this is a great post, which can be consumed and digested in the time it takes to read it on your coffee break.

Bonus Links!!

She Writes

She Writes is a social networking community for female writers of all levels and genres. It also welcomes men to its community.

The Only 12 1/2 Writing Rules You’ll Ever Need

A great poster about writing from AllPosters.com.

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Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for July 21, 2009


Photo courtesy SXC.

Novelist Pens First Book on Smart Phone; Succeeds In Making Us Look Like Slackers

A fun and inspiring story from Laptop.com’s blog. Peter V. Brett, a fiction writer with a day job and a long commute used his travel time, spent mostly on the subway, to type in writing drafts on his “smart phone” (it had a tiny keyboard!). The manuscript became his first published novel, “The Warded Man.”

While I don’t agree with the sub-title of the article, the interview reveals an inventive way to keep up one’s creative output under challenging (time/space/equipment) circumstances! Brett has continued his phone-writing habit now that the day job is history—he’s working on a new book, and the presence of a new baby in the household has made it easier for him to sit at a nearby park and thumb-type away than to try to keep the keyboard-based racket down when he’s at home!

Information Literacy and Habits of Mind

From Michele Martin’s Bamboo Project Blog. Martin, a workplace learning and career consultant, provides interesting commentary on a study reporting that most people filter information to mostly confirm their pre-existing biases. Martin notes that even the habits we cultivate to be good info-processing creatures may set us up for biased thinking.

“In light of our tendencies toward homophily and pre-conceived ideas, it would seem there are deeper issues at work that we need to consider … when we are scanning, how do we combat our natural tendency to only “see” information that fits with our preconceived notions of the world? … In developing our filtering skills, how do we ensure that we are not filtering out information that doesn’t fit with our existing concepts and frames?

“I suspect that many, if not most of us, are likely to apply our filters in a way that shields us from data we may not want to consider. But this is not effective filtering behavior, particularly if we end up filtering out key data that would change our decisions or ideas about how things work.”

I think the study Martin is discussing has real impact when one considers the sharp rise in recent years in the number of people getting their news from Internet-based sources; depending on how the news is gathered and distributed (and by whom), reading updates from new citizen-journalism sites or politically oriented blogs may encourage even more bias-confirmation than ever.

Martin links to an earlier post she did on the challenge of Web-enabled homophily and while it is oriented primarily toward learning professionals and career-seeker clients, communications professionals (including journalists and bloggers) can gain a lot from reading both posts.

What to Do When You Don’t Have Deadlines
Linda Formichelli offers four solid tips for making self-imposed deadlines stick on her blog, The Renegade Writer.

I especially enjoyed the commentary on her suggestion to “tweet” one’s deadline goals on Twitter. One correspondent, Jacqueline Church, nixed that idea, asserting,

“I would strongly caution against tweeting deadline goals. It’s not something I want public to any and all editors and publishers. I have never missed a deadline but if they’re new to me, and see me procrastinating or struggling what kind of first impression is that?”

Church suggested instead broadcasting one’s self-imposed deadlines to a narrower audience, say in a forum at Inked In or another smaller online writing community.

The post by Formichelli is brief but good. Read it when you need a positive kick in the pants to get moving on your “enterprise” projects.

Bonus Links!

5 Evergreen Editing Tips
By Maria Schneider on her Editor Unleashed blog. Five classic blunders and the editing fix for each.

50 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Writing Skills
From the Developer’s Toolbox section of Smashing Magazine. Great compilation of writing-related resources.

50 Useful Google Apps for Writers
From the somewhat embarrassingly named Learn-gasm blog. A comprehensive roundup of Google apps that could smooth your online writing experience.

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Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for June 18, 2009


Photo courtesy of SXC.

For this month’s link roundup, good things seem to come in twos.

Conversations on a “sick” topic
We’ve all heard about the health-care reform legislation that is making its way through Congress on the news, but how good is the coverage of health issues in general. I saw a pair of articles recently had experts giving a guarded prognosis to the current state of health journalism.

In a Columbia Journalism Review “Talking Shop” column, Los Angeles Times health reporter Karen Ravn, who recently had her story about patient dishonesty, “Body of Lies,” published in her paper, discussed the future of her specialty with Sanhita Reddy.

Ravn had an interesting point to make about the role of health blogs in the public’s perception of medical information:

“I noticed … (on WSJ’s Health Blog!) that a new survey from the Pew Research Center found that 25 percent of all American adults have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, Web site, or blog. More generally, 61 percent look online for health information, and 42 percent say they or someone they know has been helped by info found on the Internet, while only 3 percent say they or someone they know has been harmed by info found on the Internet. These figures suggest that blogs and other Internet sources are playing a largely useful role in health awareness.

“Blogs have the benefit of letting readers interact with writers: ask questions, make contrary points, describe personal experiences (that other readers then get to share). On the other hand, not all blogs are as responsible as the NYT’s and the WSJ’s may be assumed to be. And quality control on reader postings ranges from limited to nil. … I regret (understatement) any extent to which health reporting is a zero-sum game—where the growth of health blogs on the Web means the shrinkage of health sections in the paper.”

Over at the University of Minnesota’s alumni magazine, there is a great interview with Gary Schwitzer, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota who is an expert on health journalism. Schwitzer publishes an award-winning Web site critiquing health care journalism, maintains a health-related news and resource site, and is helping to train the next generation of health care journalists.

In “Sick About Health Care,” Schwitzer is especially critical of the way journalists cover disease and treatment.

“It’s a troubling time and there isn’t time to waste space or air time or column inches on breakthroughs and cures and miracles and fluff. We’re not asking tough questions: What’s the quality of evidence? Who’s going to have access to it? What’s it going to cost? Who’s your source? What are his or her conflicts of interest? This is not only a lesson for journalists, but a lesson for consumers. These are things we should be asking of anyone who makes health care claims. Including your own caregiver…”

He also has tough words for the medical, drug and insurance industries:

“We are over-medicalized. We sell sickness. We fearmonger. We disease-monger. We are actually again being sold on the weapons of mass destruction in our lives, but these are weapons of mass destruction inside us. You’d better have a scan, although nothing is wrong with you. Under the banner of doing good we are doing harm.”

Both articles are excellent ways to inform yourself about the quality of reporting being done on this urgently important topic. Schwitzer also mentions the work of AP medical writer Carla Johnson, who has utilized her attendance at evidence-based journalism workshops to produce stories that take a close look at the results of a new treatment or approach before hailing it as a “breakthrough” or “miracle” (which are two words Schwitzer says health writers should never use).

Cyber-journalism and linking: making it click
BeatBlogging.com had a couple of nice links recently relating to the ethics of hyperlinking and tools that may enable reporters to be even more wired and mobile than ever.

In “Why We Link,” Ryan Sholin discusses why outside links are not just good in a news story, but vital. For those involved in online writing who are not trained in journalism, this may seem like a no-brainer, but there are significant questions of accuracy and quality of link-based information that traditional journalists have rightly raised.

Sholin lists five reasons why linking often and intelligently benefits journalists, and one of his best arguments is that it is one of the best ways to connect with the online community in one’s town:

“If you’re writing about human beings, businesses, organizations, government institutions or any other life form with a presence on the Internet, linking to them in the stories you publish about them is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to participating in your local online community.

“Skipping the link to the city council’s calendar when you mention the next meeting, leaving out the link to the Little League’s online scoreboard when you write a story about its resurgence or not bothering to link to the full database of restaurant inspections when you choose three to write about — these are all easy ways to miss an opportunity to connect with your community and your readers.”

Meanwhile, the same week that the above article came out, BeatBlogging also published a post by Patrick Thornton on tools that may help redefine reporting. He discusses MiFi networks (which are like small-scale Wi-Fi wireless networks), the newest iPhone (which can easily edit and share, as well as record, video and photos), and the increasing affordability of digital cameras and netbooks.

All this points to reporters being able to blend online research and good old-fashioned legwork out in the field, Thornton says. It also means the days of hearing “that’s not my job” in the newsroom (or over the phone!) are gone.

“The era of specialized journalists may be coming to an end. By specialized, I mean people who only write, edit, take photos, etc. Most content producers should be able to at least write and take competent photos and video. A news org may still want a few dedicated photographers and videographers around for big stories and high-end content. Journalists will probably be specializing more in beats and niches and less in a specific content production means.”

I agree with Thornton on this last point, and argue (as a writer and editor with video production experience) that once one gets to a certain point with tool knowledge, what counts in producing media content is the ability to frame a story and tell it well, not one’s expertise in a niche skillset.

Bonus Links!

Even our bonus links are a two-fer this time. Both are from Mashable.com.

Everything I Need to Know About Twitter I Learned in J-School
Great description of parallels between reporter training in journalism school and successful Twitter posts.

Nonfiction Tweets: 70+ Authors to Follow on Twitter
Lists Twitter feeds for numerous nonfiction writers from various genres.

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