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Category Archives: Journalism

Halloween cat costume

Avoid Being Haunted by AP Stylebook Mistakes this Halloween

Somehow, summer has officially transitioned into fall and now Halloween is fast approaching this Saturday. Whether you’re still debating if you should dress up as Donald Trump or the classic ghost route, as PR people it is important to always have our writing skills buttoned up. As such, here are some quick AP style guidelines to keep in mind for any Halloween-oriented content this week:

  • Halloweenthe festive eve of All Saints’ Day (both Oct. 31)
  • Day of the Dead (Nov. 1)
  • jack-o’-lantern
  • Popular candy: M&M’s, Reese’s peanut butter cups, York peppermint patties
  • Popular costume accessories: chain saw, eye patch, handgun, shotgun, UFOs
  • Satan (devil is not capitalized)
  • spider web
  • trick-or-treating and trick-or-treater require hyphens; the phrase trick or treat does not
  • It’s fall! Seasons are never capitalized.
  • Daylight saving time ends on Sunday at 2 a.m. It’s saving, not savings.

And, avoid spooking off journalists by adhering to these three key and commonly abused AP rules:

  • Numbers under 10 should be spelled out, unless it is a percentage.
  • Titles should only be capitalized if it precedes an individual’s name. The title should be lower case if it falls after the name.
    • Account Director Christine Lewis
    • Christine Lewis, account director
  • Its/it’s. “It’s” is a contraction for it is. “Its” is possessive.
    • The company announced its quarterly earnings yesterday…
    • The company announced it’s relocating to Boston…

For more tips, check out our blog post on AP style tips for fall and follow @APStylebook on twitter.

 

Read more from Christine Comey Lewis
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Man with remote control

CNN’s Unveils New Video Platform Aimed at Millennials

Man with remote control

This week, CNN announced the launch of Great Big Story (GBS), or what Fast Company is calling CNN’s answer to sites like Vice and Buzzfeed. The new video network is backed by
CNN and Turner Broadcasting but is independently owned and not strictly a news organization. The mission, according to the network, is to produce content that goes deeper than cat videos and lists of other sites and to, instead, feature content about new frontiers, the human condition, planet earth and tastes and flavors.

The main distinction between CNN and GBS is how the site will work native advertising into the platform (in fact native advertising will be the only source of advertising for now – there are no display ads or pre-roll commercials on the site). On BGS, native advertising will be positioned the same way that editorial content is, although each video will be labeled somehow
as sponsored. The site will premier three to five new videos per day and will have a homepage, but the primary distribution channels will be via social networks, an app, and soon, streaming sites.

Both the branded content and the editorial content will be created by the same editorial team, so the look and feel of the stories will remain consistent. Some of the first videos on the new site include a look at the life of the world’s strongest man, the history of Chef Boyardee and the voice behind the Kool-Aid man. While the last two don’t appear to be sponsored, they show potentially how brands can create content that is relatable while telling their story. As the boundaries between paid and earned media continue to blur, the way GBS presents its content for advertisers and editorial alike will be one to watch. It will also be interesting to see how this content is delivered to the target audience and where they find it.

Read more from Alison Morra
3D white people. Latest news concept. Paperboy

Distributed Content: The Evolution of the Paper Route


As a PR person, it’s really important to keep up with the news of the day. In fact, being in the know is equally as important as all other facets of the role, almost on an as-it-happens basis. The truth is, with the frenetic pace of the day, keeping current with speed of breaking news while also being productive is a constant juggling act. As a news junkie, I was thrilled when news outlets took to Facebook and Twitter and began posting links to stories in the places I visit a few times a day anyhow.

This is the new era of news consumption. Gone are the days of the paper boy delivering the news to our door in the wee hours of the morning; instead, mobile has changed the way we consume news, a cycle that is 24/7 – no breaks. There is no such thing as the morning news or the evening news – news follows us via different mediums all day and all night. Twitter and Facebook have led the charge in recent years – according to recent Pew Research, news hounds are getting their fix on either Twitter or Facebook (63 percent respectively) up significantly from 2013 (52 percent/Twitter; 47 percent/Facebook).

Recently news consumption has evolved so it’s delivered to where readers already are, versus having readers come to get the news. It’s a huge shift known as “distributed content” that PR people need to understand.

How are social platforms adapting?

Everyone is getting in on the game, figuring out how best to entice publishers and content producers to get their news “into the stream” and in front of the huge mobile audiences. It all started with Facebook Instant Articles. Then came Apple News, an aggregation of the day’s top stories designed to bring news stories to you; eliminating the need to have to go to a blog or the New York Times or BuzzFeed to get your news. Twitter has taken it to a new level with its launch of Moments, a new feature that allows users to flip through trending news, all nicely edited and aggregated by humans who provide users with a simple way to engage with current events. It’s quick and dirty, not in-depth, and is great for steering readers toward the news they’d like to explore further. Similarly, Facebook’s “Trending” feature gives users a look at what’s happening now – serving up full-length news stories from major sources (think WSJ, NYT, etc.). The best part about Trending is that it’s smart – showing news relative to popularity, geography, and interest. Then came Google AMP, designed to dramatically improve the performance of the mobile Web to deliver rich content instantly regardless of device.

For Millennials who think Facebook and Twitter are for their parents (I beg to differ…), super popular Snapchat has been in on this action for some time now, too. Snapchat’s Discover offers Stories, just like our personal Snaps – but sponsored by major news outlets and delivered in brief editorial packages. Short and sweet. Just like our attention spans.

As the “on-demand” generation, this is about as on-demand as it gets.

Publishers get on board

The major shift taking place is that many major media outlets are no longer publishing exclusively to their own properties (which is crazy if you think about it). The Washington Post, Business Insider and The Huffington Post all publish to Facebook Instant Articles. CNN, Vox Media, TIME and Wired were among the first wave of publishers on Apple News, while U.S. News, New York Times and Buzzfeed got on board with Google AMP.

The proverbial paperboy is still delivering to your doorstep – only the doorstep is your computer or mobile device or tablet. And even then, the news is following you, not the other way around. Clearly this means media outlets have had to adapt the way they publish (and monetize) news if they want to remain competitive and relevant.

So what does this mean for PR? Smart PR people understand that securing media coverage with publications who are distributing their content into this new stream is the way to get vast amounts of more eyeballs on their stories. In parallel, there are also clever ways to feed our owned content into the stream via Apple News and LinkedIn Pulse.

Is this the end of conventional media output as we know it? Not quite. Publishers still have to maintain their sites both for readers and advertisers, but the pressure to dive into the evolved media stream is on, and publishers who stay on dry land will definitely be left behind.

And yes, you’ll be able to see this blog post in your LinkedIn feed.

Read more from Jill Rosenthal
Susan with her dogs Lily (R) and Angel (L) in San Francisco.

Connecting with InformationWeek’s Susan Nunziata on the Importance of Community Readership

Susan with her dogs Lily (R) and Angel (L) in San Francisco.
Susan with her dogs Lily (L) and Angel (R) in San Francisco.

 

At InkHouse we keep an open dialogue with reporters to better understand what drives their stories and to keep them informed of relevant news. And while reporters shape and deliver compelling news to their readers, there is also a lot happening behind the scenes that’s equally important for PR pros to be aware of. For this reason, I spoke with InformationWeek’s editorial director, Susan Nunziata. InformationWeek has long been a top source of technology news for business and IT audiences, and in the past year it’s developed a much stronger community dialogue with its readers by appealing to broader lifestyle topics beyond the IT desk. As editorial director, Susan is responsible for the publication’s strategy and planning for its future. This is a challenging role given how quickly the media changes, and one that Susan enjoys. We discussed where her career began and where she thinks InformationWeek is heading under her direction.

Q: Can you tell me about your background and how you came into your current role?

A: I’ve had an interesting path through the technology world. I started my career early on at a publication called Pro Sound News that covered technology for studio recordings and live concert sound. From there I went on to become a reporter for Billboard covering consumer electronics. I always had an interest in technology and in that job morphed into news editor and then became the managing editor at the publication. That’s where I became very interested in logistics and how everything comes together to create, at that time, the magazine, and later on the website. I was at Billboard for 10 years and I always had an interest in how technology in particular was affecting, and in fact, disrupting the entire music business. Then I went on to become executive editor of Entertaining Marketing Letter, which was subscription only publication for marketing executives at large corporations as well as at entertainment companies. I started to get really interested in mobile technology and was intrigued with the early efforts at promotions on mobile phones. I decided to move on to become the editor of Mobile Enterprise [which then] led me to pursue an opportunity at CIO Insight, and that’s when I began to focus more on a broader subject matter of IT from the CIO perspective and IT professional’s perspective. And I became the editorial director of their brand portfolio. Then the opportunity opened up to join InformationWeek. I’ve been with the company since 2012 and was promoted to editorial director in January of this year.

Q: What does your current role as editorial director entail?

A: It’s a little bit of strategy and hands on execution. My role involves setting the strategy for the publication, overseeing plans to migrate the website. I’m overseeing the general strategy for moving InformationWeek to a fully web-based property. Our CEO decided to discontinue print and also to eliminate the print-oriented digital editions that we had been producing, and so we became strictly a web property as of this year. So my role is partly shaping what the new InformationWeek is going to look like and what events we are going to be creating and working on. And on a day-to-day basis hoping to direct the coverage and working with subject matter experts on a variety of topic areas, and driving how we want to approach the market and how we want to approach our coverage. Also hands on editing and managing the freelance staff. That’s my role in a nutshell.

Q: Do you think the shift to online-only is a trend in tech media?

A: I think it’s reflective of a broader trend that has been shaping media over the last 10 years. The media business like any other has been disrupted – I know that word is overused, but there really is no better word – by digital and by the changing habits of people that are reading the content we are creating. All media is working to figure out how to serve our readers in places they want to be served. We are seeing a big change in how people are even consuming information. Many folks are looking at their social media feeds, particularly Twitter and Facebook, to provide them with their news. So what does that mean for any media company in terms of how we are providing information going forward? What kind of formats do we need? What does the page-level experience have to look like for those visitors if their first association with us is coming from a Twitter referral for example? I think media in general has to grapple with a lot of these changes. But there is also a counter trend where some organizations are looking back to print and creating print publications again. So I think it’s just symptomatic of an industry that is very much in transition and trying to figure out the best way to serve readers.

Q: How do you identify a great story and have you noticed any trends around content that is driving the most traffic?

A: The deciding factors for what we are going to cover are a couple of things. We look for a human component to a story. So we are very interested in speaking with the end users of the technology that we write about. Talk about how it has affected them in their roles and how it has created business results in their organization. We also look for topics that we know are of interest to our audience based upon not only page views, but what the level of engagement is, what the level of comments and participation in our discussion boards is, and so we tailor our content around what our readers are gravitating toward and asking for. We’re also working to create more of a way to serve our readers, so providing different ways for people to digest and access the information they need. We haven’t quite nailed it yet. We’re working on ways to get readers the crucial pieces of information they need to do their jobs. And how do we help the people that make IT happen in organizations on the business side or in technology roles. What I’ve seen from the tech media in general is there used to be a very heavy focus on what the hot new iterations of products X, Y and Z are and although that is still important, I think readers have gravitated more toward what the business implications of various technologies are because the role of the IT professional has changed to be much more of a supporter for the business. We try to deliver that level of insight through our in-house subject matter experts, freelance reporters and contributors.

Q: How do you select contributors, do contributors need to have a journalistic background or are they experts in their field?

A: We have two types of contributors. The traditional journalist freelance contributors and practitioner contributors. Those are the folks that working in the industry – their primary role is not to be a writer but to practice the art of IT. Whether they are a CIO or a programmer or a SysAdmin or whatever that might be. And so for those practitioner contributors, we look for less of the opinion pieces about trends and more on their own personal experience to get back to that human voice in the art of storytelling. What has their personal experience been with a technology problem or a leadership challenge? We are developing guidelines to help clarify what we are looking for from those practitioners. Those are the ones that resonate with our readers.

Q: Do freelancers accept pitches or do they do their own research to identify topics to write about?

A: It’s a little bit of a mix. We have some freelancers who are more news oriented and they are more likely to look at news pitches. Then we have some freelancers who are more business analysts and thought leaders and they are more likely to want to develop their own topic ideas and reach out to industry experts who can provide context around their ideas.

Q: Are there any trends that you think are really interesting right now that InformationWeek has been covering or any interesting emerging trends?

A: Hard to avoid anything related to Windows 10, and the challenges it creates for the IT organization. How Windows 10 will impact their strategy and road map going forward. There is also the continued interest in enterprise mobility, of course, and what the changing trends are right now. Security is obviously huge this year. We are seeing, going forward, a lot of interest in programming languages and seeing a lot of interest in what the Internet of Things will mean to technology organizations and digital businesses in general. Social does not seem to be a big area of interest for our audience, but we continue to cover important developments there. Cloud and virtualization continue to be major topic areas because although the industry has very much moved forward and made huge advances, I think a lot of enterprises are still working through exactly how cloud solutions apply to their businesses. We are seeing this whole application economy and the role of platform-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a service and all these various cloud based options coming into the enterprise so that is going to be a hot area for us going forward.

Q: What sets InformationWeek apart from competitors in tech media?

A: We have, first of all, our team of subject matter experts – folks like Charles Babcock and Curtis Franklin Jr. who have been writing about this industry for decades, frankly, and provide a certain point of view that is both analytical and very explanatory for a lot of folks in the industry. We also have a growing community around some of our sub-categories like IT Life, which has spawned a really active community and become one of the most read sections of our publication. That’s where we look at things that are meaningful for IT professionals that are not 100 percent technology related. So career, natural challenges and things like that. We have the opportunity to create live events and be involved in a number of events that we are already producing like the Elite 100 and we will be looking at other events that are designed to bring these communities that we are interacting with online together at face-to-face, live events.

Q: What has been driving the success of IT Life? Do you accept contributors for this section?

A: Actually there is another thing we are doing that is a differentiator. IT Life has a weekly online radio program and we also have weekly InformationWeek and Interop programs that are available as podcasts. For IT Life, for example, we often look for guests not only to contribute written content, but also to participate in the radio program.  And the podcasts are getting quite good traction so far in terms of getting audience off platform.

Read more from Rachael Tucker
no limits green square sticker on white background

Twitter Makes it Easier to Contact the Media…or Did They? The Pros and Cons of Unlimited-character Direct Messages

Last week, Twitter officially lifted its 140-character limit on direct messages. PR folks rejoiced. Journalists cringed.

Twitter has built its business on the 140-character limit, forcing all of us to cleverly get to the point before hitting the tweet button. This succinct and creative approach is also appreciated by journalists when it comes to nearly all forms of pitching, from email to social platforms to the phone. Twitter raising the direct message character limit to infinity may make the platform more user-friendly and enable us to communicate more effectively. It may even make it easier for Twitter to generate revenue with in-message ads someday, but how will it impact the public relations industry?

Pros

Let’s start with the pros. More words, after all, aren’t always a bad thing.

  • Storytelling—PR folks love to use words. Sure, we sometimes rely on jargon a little too much, but we pride ourselves on being storytellers and most of us truly want to help journalists get what they need when they need it. The ability to write longer direct messages on Twitter empowers PR pros with another channel to respond to the media, share information, answer questions and ultimately help tell stories that we all want to read.
  • Relationship building—Twitter has helped a number of PR pros not only learn about new article opportunities, but develop relationships with journalists through creative tweets, re-tweets and a steady stream of favorites. Personality, sarcasm and a sense of humor all come through in a 140-character tweets, so enabling PR folks and journalists to continue longer conversations will likely result in better relationships.

Cons

How many times during the past week did you wish someone used less words, either in email, text message, an in-person conversation or even in this blog post perhaps? Let’s consider the cons of unlimited direct-message characters on Twitter.

  • Attention Spans—A recent Microsoft study showed that the average human’s attention span has gone from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today. While there are multiple reasons for this smaller attention window, the increasing busyness of our daily lives is certainly a contributing factor. And the media is busier than ever. Inundated with emails and phone calls, the media could retreat to Twitter for a breather. That Twitter “safe zone” could now turn into the next email wasteland, littered with product pitches and corporate partnership releases. My journalist friends are shuddering.
  • Media Un-follow Campaigns—Poorly timed, unwelcome or off-target pitches sent via direct message on Twitter are a sure way to get unfollowed by a journalist at best and blocked at the worst. As great as Twitter can be for relationship building with the media, it’s also easier for the media to control who can contact them using the social platform. Choose your direct messages carefully.

There are both benefits and drawback to Twitter’s recent elimination of character limits for direct messages. However, if PR pros stick to today’s media relations rules (as outlined in InkHouse’s recent eBook), such as focusing on storytelling and adding value, Twitter direct messages can be another great channel for communicating with a journalist. As always, common sense, a little homework and pithy, germane pitches (see related post on Mastering the Art of the One-line Pitch) delivered in any communication method is your best bet for breaking through the noise and building long-lasting relationships within the journalist community.

Read more from Keith Giannini
power lunch

A Conversation with CNBC’s Kerima Greene

What does it take to get your brand, story or exec on TV? Is it magic, luck, or actual hard work and does it have to be tied to a big trend or news of the day? As a former television reporter and someone that has also been on the other side of the camera since 2000, I would answer by saying: if you want to be on broadcast, you have to be able to comment on a larger trend, provide expert commentary and add credibility and weight to a bigger story. But I decided to ask an actual producer and booker for CNBC and someone I have enjoyed working with for the past 15 years — Kerima Greene, Senior Talent & News Producer for CNBC “Power Lunch” – with whom I recently caught up and who kindly answered my questions below.

Before we dig in, here’s a quick primer on “Power Lunch”: It’s is a live, two-hour program (running M-F, 1PM-3PM ET) anchored by Tyler Mathisen, Mandy Drury and Brian Sullivan from CNBC’s Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, with Melissa Lee providing daily contributions from the NASDAQ MarketSite studio. The show focuses on the big, market-moving stories of the day with coverage from CNBC’s Post 9 position on the NYSE floor and from bureaus around the world. It showcases the best stories of the day from CNBC’s roster of top-notch digital and television journalists. Jason Gewirtz is the executive producer.

EY: What do you look for in a good pitch when deciding to do a story for “Power Lunch?”

KG: Breaking news has – and continues to be a hallmark of CNBC’s real-time coverage. Our stories should serve this purpose. Same for guests. We seek and deliver the leading authority and most credible voices for all our coverage. We strive to be timely, newsworthy and actionable. We hope to inform, enrich, occasionally entertain, and more than a few times made a difference for our viewing audience and investors who have skin in the game. Our goal is candid interviews, transparent, market-moving information, unparalleled all-star lineups generating must-see news-making, impactful content throughout the network.

EY: Are you interested in startups or just established companies?

KG: Public traded companies first and foremost. Startups or private companies if they are proven industry disruptors.

EY: Describe your day as a producer – maybe a day in the life of your job?

KG: We begin with two morning editorial meetings, one network wide where we find out what the reporters and shows are planning. A second show editorial meeting follows to focus our two-hour program among the “Power Lunch” team.

We mingle meticulous planning with fast-moving flexibility to deliver the news as it unfolds, from research, graphics, writing and lineup selection and pre-interviews. There are many phone calls to be made, correspondence sent and much collaboration between anchors and our Executive Producer so the message on-air is tight, efficient and cohesive. In addition to producing live television, we also write for the show’s website platform, cnbc.com and powerlunch.cnbc.com.

So we are truly a multi-media informational platform for an engaged audience. Then we wake up and do it again. Each day is new and exciting!

EY: How has the show and your job changed through the years?

KG: It’s been an amazing run. I have had the privilege of watching CNBC grow from a broadcast startup in the late 1990s to a global household name, yet all the while retaining the nimble qualities of a startup. The smartest people are always in the room, both in front of the camera and behind and on the Web. We have the honor – and it is an honor – to interact with the world’s most powerful and influential people and be an eye-witness to history. Case in point: the financial crisis and September 11th are two hallmarks for CNBC where my co-workers all rose to the occasion again and again, broadcasting in the throes of disaster and communicating the news as it unfolded, second by second, minute by minute, sometimes 24/7 without letting up, and providing valuable information for the viewers. During the war, I recall specifically a photo of the War Room of the Pentagon, and the TVs on the bank of walls were tuned to CNBC, and our President and Defense Secretary and leaders were all monitoring the price of oil and our coverage on the markets from their seats. It was humbling and insightful. The world relies on our coverage. That responsibility has never been forgotten. Throughout our growth and prominence, we are still family at CNBC and that is the most important quality of all.

Certain things are always the same; journalism has an immovable code of ethics, Comcast the same. And the added financial transparency for CNBC offers even a deeper layer of trust with our viewers.

One thing that has been especially exciting is the digital content and technology that we use on a daily basis, and that we’ve had to learn to keep current, fresh and ahead of the curve. It has been an honor, too, to watch Silicon Valley’s incredible growth, the products and services that literally blow your mind, never seem to let up and that’s been a thrill to watch unfold.

EY: What do you need out of PR? Do you actually look to PR for story ideas? What qualities does a good PR person have in your opinion?

KG: Newsworthy ideas and pitches, communicated efficiently and eloquently. If you can’t describe your pitch efficiently and eloquently in a finite period of time or space, go back to square one and polish it up before you pitch us.

Read more from Elizabeth Yekhtikian
Cognoscenti Logo

Kelly Horan of WBUR’s Cognoscenti Spills: What Makes a Strong Contributed Article

Kelly Horan is an award-winning public radio producer who first joined WBUR in 1999. She is currently an editor of WBUR’s ideas and opinion page, Cognoscenti. In that role she is really a jack of all trades – editing stories covering a myriad of topics, recruiting contributors, and all the while keeping SEO and potential radio tie-ins in the back of her mind.

Kelly was kind enough to chat with me about what she looks for in a story, and how we as PR professionals can make her job easier. Here is what she had to say.

Q. What is Cognoscenti all about?

A. Cognoscenti is an ideas and opinions page where we cull from Boston’s thought leaders to get original ideas about issues that are both in the news and on the horizon. We range from politics, business and the economy to pop culture, religion and psychology. We are always interested in original voices and people who have expertise in a particular field or subject.

Q. Who are your biggest news competitors?

A. Probably the Boston Globe’s Ideas section. There is a lot of synergy between what we do. Our Ideas pages are similar and they feature the same types of voices.

Q. What are you looking for when you receive story submissions?

A. When we receive submissions, we look at three things:

1) How well written is this piece, and how original is the thesis and strong the point of view?

2) What is the particular expertise of the author on this subject, and how high-profile is this contributor?

3) Is this a contributor we can cultivate a relationship with?

We are always looking to build relationships with new contributors, but if we think a piece is strong but may just be a one-off thing, we are less inclined to take it unless it is exceptionally well-written. We have close to 500 contributors, and the vast majority are contributing when they feel like it, which is something we are trying to move away from.

For any submission, however, I recommend tying it to a strong news peg. If it’s well-written and ready to go, we can turn it around quickly.

Q. Can you tell me about the commitment required from a regular contributor?

A. We have several types of regular contributors that really run the gamut: we have about a dozen contributing once a week, some contributing once a month and some every couple of months. There really is no average.

Q. How do you like to be pitched?

A. I prefer pitches that follow the steps on the Submission Guidelines page, which asks for all information to be pasted into an email (not sent as an attachment), along with one line explaining what the piece is about and why the author is uniquely qualified to write about this topic. I am always happy to give feedback on a pitch or a piece that we have turned down.

Q. What are your biggest PR pet peeves?

A. My #1 biggest pet peeve is when it is obvious that a piece is not written by the author. You can smell them a mile away and it drives us crazy. They are essentially a press release in the guise of an Ideas piece, including information on a particular organization and how great it is, and it lacks authenticity. Sometimes we also find that we never have contact with the person who actually wrote the piece and are only working with the PR representative, which is not ideal.

Q. How do you measure the impact of a story? Clicks? Social traction?

A. We actually look at both. We have noticed that social media is our big traffic driver – we get most referrals to stories through Facebook and Twitter. I was shocked by how few people seek out our homepage! We are actually in the process of redesigning our homepage, making a more flexible template that will support stories in different formats.

Q. What types of stories drive the most traffic?

A. Stories on religion and family do very well. Stories on Boston’s Olympic bid have also been doing very well. Also inequality, education (early and elementary) and anything to do with Boston. It helps when the author has huge social network.

Q. What is your favorite recent piece and why?

A. I tend to love very personal “slice-of-life” -type pieces, and pieces that have a very strong point of view and stay in your mind after you have finished reading.

Here are some of my recent favorites:

Shades of Grey: Network Television’s Credibility Problem (By Eileen McNamara)

The Spy Who Loved Me (By Judy Bolton-Fasman)

Driving While Black, While Not Actually Driving (By Jabari Asim) *This has continued to be the most popular piece on our web site

Q. Is there anything else you would like us to know?

A. I have heard some authors express disappointment in the headlines we use for their pieces, which I feel bad about. Please know that we write our headlines very deliberately for SEO purposes – we want to drive traffic to your story!

Read more from Kristen Raymaakers
Jessi writes about the business of technology at Wired.

Jessi Hempel of Wired on Covering the Business of Technology

Less than a year ago – after a seven-year stint at Fortune Magazine – Jessi Hempel joined Wired as a senior writer covering the business of technology. I first met Jessi when we were fellow journalists, she at BusinessWeek and I at the Boston Business Journal and I’ve known her for more than a decade at this point. She recently agreed to answer a few questions about covering technology and what it’s like to be a journalist today.

Q. You cover the business of technology – that’s a huge beat. What types of stories do you focus on?
A. The business beat sounds broad … but it’s actually more focused. I basically have two responsibilities – the first is that I write longer form business features. The second is that I write regularly for Wired.com once a week or so. Those stories are either analysis of breaking news or exclusives about companies our readers recognize. On Wired.com we cover consumer and enterprise facing companies but we always lean toward consumer-facing companies.

I like two types of stories for Wired.com: breaking news and I like analysis. Wired doesn’t cover funding round stories and we will rarely break news about an executive joining a company. Everyone from the New York Times to Re/code covers funding announcements and we don’t think it adds a lot. The types of exclusive stories we like to do are behind the scenes looks on a launch or product news. Not every company I write about is Facebook or Google. I’m very interested in startups, but the startups I’m interested in are ones that have something significant that makes them stand out. I spent a good deal of time – several hours of reporting – with a company called Hello in the spring. At the helm was a young man who was making a sleep monitor. The significance for me was the story behind the device … the young fellow was a great character. He was 22 years old and he had investors with very big names.

Q. What are the challenges of being a journalist today?
The biggest challenge is standing out – we have so much ‘me too’ journalism and most reporters have so little time for actual reporting that you get aggregated content. I think that’s that biggest challenge for journalists: finding a way to do original reporting.

Q. How many pitches do you get a day?
I get maybe 50 from people that I don’t know at all and then maybe five from people with whom I have a relationship. I probably write from three PR pitches in a year.

Q. How important are page views and does it affect which stories you cover?
The web is a volume business – it succeeds when we get traffic. Wired is extremely focused on the credibility of the story and discourages writers from looking at page views. We look at the value of the story. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a crack team of editors who are optimizing for traffic – we do. We would not be competitive if we didn’t. But, when I’m thinking about doing a story, I don’t think ‘will this get traffic?’ And I think that makes Wired different.

Q. How do you find stories? Do you ever use social media?
It’s a lot of having been in this business for 15 years and knowing a lot of people. And having people who I know and trust to say, “look at this, pay attention to this, and we want to give you the early look.” And for Wired we like to be on the news, so our team of business reporters in particular at our security desk, wake up every morning and see where we can break news and bring exclusives.

Q. How does print reporting differ from writing for Wired.com?
A. With the magazine, we do almost exclusively consumer-facing technology companies. Wired gives me the luxury of being able to take a long time to report and write stories. Wired is very committed to long form business stories and editors really like features that have strong narratives and strong characters. We have a pitch meeting every few weeks. At the meeting we as a team of mostly editors and staff writers will look at and consider about a dozen or so ideas. You have to find a writer or editor who falls in love with the story. Wired is the longest lead time magazine I’ve ever worked on. Right now we’re assigning stories for the November issue.

Q. What’s one of your favorite stories from the past year?
A. Here’s an example of a story I liked a lot that ran online: Instagram is Getting So Good at News, It Should Scare Twitter.

Read more from Lisa van der Pool
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3 New Podcasts You Need to Listen to Right Now

Okay, so you’ve heard of podcasting.

You have strong feelings about whether or not Adnan did it; were happy to hear about Ira Glass’s full ownership of This American Life; and regularly worship at the altar of Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.

Podcasts were once the ugly digital stepsister of that age-old medium, radio. NPR-affiliated shows dominated podcasting. But thanks to an explosion of interest at the hands of Serial, podcasting is diversifying. More media outlets increasingly recognize the opportunity to reach new audiences. Earlier this year, Slate launched its Panoply Network. It includes long-time podcasting standbys, like the Slate Culture Gabfest, in addition to new offerings from other publications, like the New York Times Magazine Ethicists  and New York Magazine’s The Vulture TV Podcast.

But culture-watching sites and publications aren’t the only ones getting into the podcasting business. Tech and business-focused outlets have developed some great new shows as well. Here are three we’re tuning into – and what you can expect

  • Re/Code Decode – Let’s be honest:  a podcast from Kara Swisher is overdue. As she says in the intro to the show, Swisher is the person who “makes Mark Zuckerberg sweat.” She probably has more insider access and insight than any other reporter in the Valley. As it turns out, Swisher also has a talent for radio. It’s an interview show; each week, Swisher digs into her deep rolodex to talk to tech’s thinkers and commentators (like Slack’s Stewart Butterfield). Why you should tune in:  Did you hear “insider access”? Her long history of the reporting in the Valley makes for compelling interviews that dig into the heart of the issues. Don’t expect table setting here. If you don’t already know who Elon Musk is, this isn’t the show for you.

  • Inc. Uncensored – Reporters are obligated to write about all kinds of news. Some of it they’re genuinely interested in and some… not so much. Inc. Uncensored takes a look at the entrepreneurship stories piquing the interest of its writers and editors. Inc. editor James Ledbetter and staffers Jon Fine, Christine Lagorio-Chafkin and Will Yakowicz take a weekly look at news both dominating the headlines and flying under the radar – everything from social media app Banjo to the popularity of Kombucha to the potential pitfalls of “too many angel investors.” Why you should tune in:  Ever wonder what that reporter you’re pitching really thinks about the day’s news? Inc. Uncensored gives you an inside look. It’s also great to hear what stories are truly compelling to Inc.’s finest, especially when they’re not necessarily the ones getting the most clicks. Plus:  it’s a talk show. And talk shows are fun! #Banter.

  • StartUp – Now in its second season, StartUp chronicles the highs and lows of founding and launching a startup. Season 1 followed former PlanetMoney reporter Alex Blumberg as he started Gimlet, the podcasting network that (unsurprisingly) hosts StartUp. Its second season, soon to wrap, follows Y Combinator grad, The Dating Ring. The show chronicles the nitty gritty of getting a successful company off the ground:  pitch meetings, setbacks, burnouts – it’s all there. Why you should tune in:  Starting a company is hard. Really, really hard. StartUp reveals how much genius, talent, sweat and luck is needed to make a company happen. It makes successful companies seem like a miracle.

 

For more InkHouse posts on podcasts – including some basics for getting yours set up and what their popularity portends for PR and marketing, click here.

Read more from Anne Baker
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Radio Boston’s Meghna Chakrabarti on Difficult Stories, Great Questions and the Art of Listening

The day I decided I wanted to meet Meghna Chakrabarti, co-host of WBUR’s Radio Boston, I was driving home while we awaited the Tsarnaev verdict. Meghna was interviewing Tina Packer, author of “Women of Will,” a new book about the women in Shakespeare. Near the end of the piece, Tina was describing how Shakespeare found a way to communicate the complex range of human experience through his female characters. She said of emotion, “…Unless you can get out of linear revenge thinking, unless you can actually shift this idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but you really can shift it and say I will not be the same as the person who perpetrated these horrors on me. And that means creative thinking and love.”

Tina paused a bit here (around 12:10 on the audio). I was sitting in my car at a red light in front of Whole Foods and all of the sudden I was paying close attention as Meghna asked, “Tina Packer, if I may say, you caught me off guard just now. You have some profound feelings about this…Why the tears?” To this Tina responded, “I was just thinking of the trial that’s going on in Boston right now and how it’s about revenge – what they did is about revenge and what we’re about to do is revenge – and how do we get out of it?”

As my own tears flowed and I moved through the light that had turned green without me noticing, I kept wondering why Meghna decided to ask Tina that all-important question that got to the heart – the complexity – of the issue on everyone’s minds even though it was disconnected from the story. I wanted to learn more about how Meghna brings out the complex emotions that transform news stories into human stories, so I asked her to meet up. And she graciously agreed. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

InkHouse: What made you ask Tina Packer about what choked her up?

Meghna: Tina was in the studio and I could see that she was feeling something deeply emotional. She took a deep breath and looked up as she was trying to speak. And I thought, I’m going to go for it because something is happening. So I asked why the tears.

~~

InkHouse: Yes, but not everyone is capable of leaning into something like that in the moment. How do you make yourself present enough to get to the good story?

Meghna: We try to get as many interviewees into the studio as possible.

Nothing replaces being in the same space as the person. Then it’s about focused listening. It’s about paying attention. An interview is only as good as the effort and energy that the interviewer puts into actually listening.

~~

InkHouse: During times like this, how do you make a judgment call about when to throw out all of the prepared questions and go with the moment?

Meghna: The studio is very busy. Every host has two screens and lots of papers. On one screen I have Twitter going and on another my internal scripting system. When we’re taking phone calls there is another screen with the incoming calls. In other words, there is a lot of visual distraction, along with the production staff talking in your ear. It’s the worst possible environment for paying attention.

Of the conversations that have really mattered, I stopped looking at the other stuff. The key for the true professionals and masters in the craft is to prepare, prepare, prepare. You must organize your questions and do the background research. Then you put it in your brain and you have to find the confidence that it will be in your soul and your mind so you can put all of the paper down.

~~

InkHouse: How do you center yourself enough to get into that place in the middle of so many distractions?

Meghna: I’m a big believer in mindfulness and walking. I get out of the office I take a coffee walk at 10 a.m. and around 2 p.m. for 10 minutes on most days. Just the physical engagement of my body moving and walking is clearing.

~~

InkHouse: How do you find the stories you want to air?

Meghna: We have a multi-pronged mission so if something’s in the news we have to cover it, but it’s also about people, ideas and conversation. On the people front, we look for those with the unique ideas. The person might have one tiny quote in a Boston Globe story and we’ll call them and see if they have other interesting things to say. Books are also a major driver. Also with more frequency, it’s that I was somewhere and met someone and asked them to come on. You need to be part of your community.

~~

InkHouse: How do you manage to dig through the chaos of social media?

Meghna: As technology becomes a force, it becomes the journalist’s job to think like a detective and researcher. It’s content curation: applying editorial standards to cut through the noise. The answer to these issues is still old-fashioned journalism. You get on the phone. Google does not have everything. Technology is just the tool.

~~

InkHouse: In this so-called “attention economy,” how do you navigate the needs for clicks with the needs for quality reporting?

Meghna: We’re seeing the merging of value between two different poles. There are two types of news for us. On one hand, there is breaking news like the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. On the other is timeless content: that’s the Tina Packer conversation.

You have to do both. We’re seeing consumers of the media being savvy enough to switch between these two poles. They take the now when they want it and they take the timeless when they want it. It’s the vast middle ground where it’s tough.

The grab for attention from the BuzzFeeds of the world does have an impact. We’re in competition for people’s attention. First, how do we grab it and then how do we hold it? BuzzFeed does a good job at grabbing it. The gold standard will be for those who can grab it and hold it. On the grabbing part, we’ve had to rethink headlines and lead-ins in a very beneficial way. Technology is really helping us now though. Radio has always had a metrics problem and for the first time we can measure when people leave a program.

However, there are story-telling tenets that hold. Once you grab people with a BuzzFeed-like list, a great story, powerful narrative, or tough, courageous, and insightful interview will hold people. That’s always been true, and it remains true today.

~~

InkHouse: What was the most difficult or interesting story you’ve told recently?

Meghna: I’ll give you two.

1. Before the Tsanaev jury chose the death penalty we talked to a juror from the Timothy McVey trial (he was on trial for the attack that killed 168 people, including 19 children). McVey’s was the last federal jury to give the death penalty until now. We looked back at the history of how the government’s approach to terrorism trials has changed. It was difficult because I wanted him to tell us what it was like sitting on that jury. I wanted to know what questions he asked himself and what went through his mind when he considered this ultimate punishment that he had to choose on behalf of the people. The closest he came was to say that it should stay behind closed doors. He said that he’d been in Vietnam and never thought he’d see anything worse, and he had in that courtroom.

2.  Every conversation with a politician is hard. No matter what you do, it’s difficult to have an honest and meaningful conversation. Even politicians who are generally open and honest can suddenly find themselves held back by institutional barriers to transparency.

~~

I could have spoken to Meghna for a few more hours, but the Supreme Court had just announced its ruling on marriage equality. We walked back toward the WBUR studio and as she turned to walk up to the business of reporting on a day that would turn into one of the most newsworthy of the year – marriage equality, Obama’s eulogy in Charleston and a manhunt for escaped convicts – one takeaway from our discussion stayed in my mind. At some point in our discussion, she stopped and said this, “Mindfulness is the answer to every question you could ask me.”

Listen to Meghna daily at 3 p.m. on Radio Boston and online anytime.

Read more from Beth Monaghan
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InkHouse Journalists Corner: Andrew Ryan of the Boston Globe on Whitey Bulger and the Best PR People

We had a welcome visitor to InkHouse recently – Boston Globe City Hall reporter Andrew Ryan. Ryan, who’s worked at the Globe since 2006, was one of the first online-only reporters at the Globe when it was transitioning from print-only to the digital-print hybrid that it is today. Before joining the Globe, Ryan wrote for the Associated Press in Boston, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, The Day in New London, Conn., and the Highbridge Horizon in the Bronx.

Ryan talked with InkHouse in our offices about the competitive news landscape in Boston, what makes a good PR person, and that time he tweeted from the courtroom about fugitive gangster Whitey Bulger. (The responses are edited for brevity)

Who are your biggest news competitors? In the past, the Globe’s competition was more cut-and-dried: we competed mainly against the Boston Herald. Nowadays, it’s a fractured news landscape and the Globe and BostonGlobe.com compete against many other outlets including the Herald, the New York Times, Statehouse News, public radio stations such as WBUR and WGBH, and even Twitter.

How useful is Twitter in your job? Twitter can very useful. When Whitey Bulger was arrested and brought back to federal court in Massachusetts, there were no cameras or microphones or phone calls allowed so my job was to report the court proceedings as they happened on Twitter. The downside is, Twitter can be an echo chamber. Just a few people can make a lot of noise and it can be hard to measure what the popular sentiment really is. So it can be misleading.

What impact is video having? It’s interesting. Some newsmakers now try and bypass the media completely by producing their own high-production-value videos and sharing them directly with their audiences. It’s an attempt to control their message and not let the media control it.

What makes a good PR person? Responsiveness. If a reporter calls, be available quickly. Tailor your pitch to the person you’re covering and the type of story that the outlet covers – even the section of the paper that you’re trying to get into. That’s much better than sending mass, generic pitches that look like you’re throwing ideas against a wall to see what sticks. And if you want to be included in the story, don’t send long, formal comments by email. They make for boring copy and are likely to be left out.

How do you like to be pitched? Email and by phone are the best way to send me story ideas. The mornings are best when I have more time to talk and to think about a story. The afternoon especially after 4 p.m. is a “pinch point” for us news reporters. That’s the worst time when we’re on deadline and finishing stories.

How are headlines written? On BostonGlobe.com, headlines are written to optimize stories for search results. In the print edition of the Globe, headlines are written to make you stop and think and draw you into the story. It’s a different perspective.

What do you love about reporting? I like my job because it’s different every day. I can explore and dig in and learn about things. I can witness things firsthand that few people get to see.

 

 

Read more from John McElhenny