Why spelling matters

See: J.D. Hayworth Campaign Misspells McCain’s Name In Response To Attack Ad, thus reinforcing McCain’s message that his opponent is kind of dumb. Also see the phrase: “Hoist by his own petard.”


Help is just a click away

If you haven’t explored the Resources page of this blog lately, you could be missing a bet.

For example, did you know you can download the pdf version of my PowerPoint presentation on broadcast writing? Could be a big help with this week’s broadcast writing assignments. For example, it will remind you that you’re supposed to use ALL CAPS when writing for broadcast.

You’ll find this link, along with a link to style rules for broadcast and a sample broadcast story, listed under “Broadcast” on the Resources page.

If you’re thinking of writing a review for your final magazine/multimedia project for this class, have you noticed that the Resources page includes a section on writing reviews?

You also might want to listen to one of America’s best storytellers, NPR’s Ira Glass, give his take on storytelling. You’ll find a link to that YouTube video listed under “Other Resources” … it’s just below the link to an excellent discussion of interviewing skills.

At the bottom of the Resources page you’ll find links to some interesting blogs. For example, if you check out Daniel Sato’s Photojournalism Blog (BTW, Sato is a JMC photojournalism grad), you’ll see that he’s just written a blog post that explains (and shows!) how to make your first map, using Mapnik or Google Maps.

Wouldn’t that make a fabulous “graphic extra” to accompany your final project for this class?

Finding feature leads

This week I’ve asked you to find and identify two different types of feature leads. Please review “Leads that succeed” on pages 46-47 in our text before completing this assignment.

To help you get started, here are a few examples of news stories that open with feature-style leads:

Now let’s see what you can find.

Wordcamp SF

Those of you who are using WordPress blogs might want to consider attending WordCamp San Francisco, which will be held Saturday, May 1, at Mission Bay Conference Center (UCSF) in San Francisco.

It’s just $50 for a full day’s worth of program sessions on blogging, WordPress blogs, social media and such … plus a great BBQ lunch and plenty of swag, including a swell T-shirt. (BTW, I’ll be there.)

Here’s where to find out more.

Tips on Writing Profiles

If you haven’t listened to my 12-minute podcast on writing profiles (see the PDFs & Podcasts page of this blog), here are a few quick tips on writing profiles:

  • Pick a focus: You can’t tell a person’s whole life story in a 350-500-word profile — so don’t even try. Instead, review your notes and look for what’s most interesting, what stands out to you. Look for the things the person you interviewed is passionate about. Look for what motivates that person. That should be your focus.
  • Where to start: Look over your notes — what’s the most interesting thing the person told you (or that you observed about the person)? It could be an meaningful event the person described to you, an anecdote the person told you, or something interesting the person did that relates to the focus (see above) of your profile. Consider turning that into your lead.
  • Write an engaging lead: This is a good opportunity for you to practice writing a feature-style lead.Take the most interesting thing you’ve got and see if you can turn it into a feature lead.
  • Include some description: Be sure to include some description of the person you’re profiling to help the reader visualize that person. What does this person look like? Sound like? Does the person gesture when he or she talks? Pick a few details that characterize this person and weave them into your profile.
  • Include some quotes: Let the person you’ve interviewed “speak” in his or her own words by including some direct quotes in your profile.
  • Keep yourself out of the story: Do not write your profile in the first person. That’s puts the focus on you, the interviewer, instead of where it belongs — on the person being profiled. (If your profile includes phrases like “when I asked Fred about …” or “I noticed that she …” or “Lisa Smith told me that …” — you are writing it in the first person. Go back and remove all references to yourself.)
  • Proofread: Double-check your spelling, grammar and AP style, and be sure you’ve used proper quote format.

If you follow these guidelines, you should end up with an interesting profile that you — and your subject — can be proud of.

Copy Editing the World

I’ve been getting some questions about the Copy Edit the World assignment, the first installment of which (10 points worth) is due this Sunday. Here’s a link to the details of this assignment.

For this assignment, your task is find AP style errors, typos, misused words, and grammatical and punctuation errors in published materials or signage … and post them on your blog, along with your corrections. Note: You have to correct the error to get credit for this assignment.

This exercise will help you sharpen your editing eyes so you can catch errors in your own assignments … before you submit them, and lose points when I find them.

To help you get started, here are some errors I’ve run across lately. If you can spot and correct one of these errors, you can earn 2 points of extra credit. Just post your correction as a comment on this blog post. (One error and correction per person, please, so we can spread the extra credit around.)

I particularly like the first example shown above because it’s a correction that needs correcting — it contains another error. I spotted the one on the right in today’s SF Chronicle. I used to watch The Three Stooges on TV when I was a kid, so it was a fun read … except for that misused word (hint).

I found this error in an email from PoynterOnline, a journalism organization. Oops … setting a bad example!

Yes, I find errors on Facebook too. So can you.  (Solved by Jeff C. — good job!)

I figure Robert Redford must have been red-faced when he realized that his Sundance catalog holiday letter to customers contained an embarrassing error. Can you find it? It’s a funny one.