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Issue for November 2021

Journalists Leaving Twitter

Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at 3:00 PM

In the news: Some journalists are finding that the rewards of using Twitter no longer outweigh the risks.

This week, Twitter announced that CEO Jack Dorsey would be stepping down. And Dorsey isn't the only one leaving. In a recent Poynter.org piece, Mark Lieberman discusses the growing number of reporters who have pushed pause, some permanently, on the social media platform. "Many journalists use Twitter to connect with sources they might not otherwise reach; to drive traffic and attention to their published work; to rally support for union drives; and yes, often for fun and frivolity," Lieberman says. But there are numerous risks involved as well: "engaging in petty squabbles over esoteric issues; fielding bigotry and bad-faith attacks from anonymous users and bots; enduring relentless brain stimulation that can distort perception and distract from more pressing responsibilities."

The issue of bots and trolls is hardly a new one in the social media landscape, but in a year so laden with hot-button topics, some reporters are burned out. But, as Lieberman notes, Twitter has also made important contributions to the journalistic profession: "[Former Ringer reporter K. Austin] Collins said he's part of a generation of women and people of color who used Twitter to get attention from editors who might otherwise never be exposed to their perspectives." Read more here.

Also Notable

Mixed News for Print Magazines

Some print magazines temporarily shuttered by the 2020 lockdowns are slowly making comebacks, but others have yet to return. Kathryn Hopkins of Women's Wear Daily examines some of the challenges publishers have faced and some of the iconic magazines still absent from newsstands. In addition to "a slide in advertising, producing certain magazines became almost impossible in some months during lockdowns," Hopkins writes, "with only limited numbers of people allowed in studios and fashion items hard to come by as factories produced hand sanitizer instead of apparel and handbags." She highlights four titles that shuttered during the pandemic and have yet to return: Paper, Love, Time Out New York, and Nylon. Read more here.

City Guide Returns to NYC

Earlier this month, New York's City Guide went back into print since the pandemic began. Davler Media CEO David Miller writes on the guide's website: "Today [November 9] marks a milestone -- we are excited to be shipping our first City Guide magazine to the printer in over a year and a half. The hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting our great city this holiday season (international guests start arriving today!) will be able pick up their Guide at hotels or information kiosks and use it to decide where to eat, what shows to see, stores to visit and which attractions will wow them." The announcement is good news for print travel titles hard hit by lockdowns and travel restrictions, but Miller also emphasizes the guide's expanded online presence: "In addition to delivering millions of magazines, we now educate tourists via CityGuideNY.com, announce weekly events in This Week in the City e-newsletter, stimulate discussions through our Everything to Do NYC Facebook Group, inform industry professionals through Tourism Happenings and implement geotargeted tourism digital advertising campaigns." Read the full announcement here.

Combating Misinformation and Disinformation

The public is hungry for sharp, illuminating journalism. But news outlets hoping to cash in on the subject matter risk doing serious harm in their rush to get the scoop. This week, Mathew Ingram of the Columbia Journalism Review discusses the ongoing issue of mis- and disinformation in political news coverage. He examines the infamous October 2020 New York Post story about Hunter Biden riddled with problematic factual errors and questionable sourcing. But the problem is hardly unique to the Post, Ingram says. He also highlights disinformation from Myanmar, Brazil, and elsewhere that has proliferated on social media. Read more here.

Architectural Digest Goes Global

Condé Nast title Architectural Digest is publishing its first global print edition in December, as part of its company-wide global content initiative. Sara Guaglione of Digiday.com reports: "Editors from AD's U.S. and nine international editions came together to work on the brand's biggest issue of the year, as parent company Condé Nast continues to shift to a consolidated global content strategy that has editorial teams around the world working more closely together." The publisher sees myriad benefits of a global publishing program, particularly in terms of increased editorial collaboration and integration, cost savings. Read more here.

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Financial Support for Editorial Offices

Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at 2:59 PM

Government funding may be on the way for hard-hit local news outlets. Would this make for an uneven playing field?

By William Dunkerley

How much federal Covid bailout money has your publication received? Much has been reported in the news about support given to help a variety of industries get through.

But many editorial offices have had to rely upon their own resources alone.

In past issues we've carried reports of the energy and ingenuity editors have put forth. They've shown a lot of steadfast dedication to continued service to their readers. Work-from-home solved a lot of problems. Yet we also saw many unfortunate layoffs, furloughs, and early retirements.

Local News Funding in the Original Spending Bill

More recently there has been talk of finally offering financial assistance to certain editorial offices. In October, Rick Edmonds at Poynter Institute reported with positive expectancy that help was on its way.

Edmonds wrote, "As the $3.5 trillion federal spending bill slowly makes its way through the House and Senate budget reconciliation process, tucked inside is as much as $1 billion to help local journalism." He explained that the assistance would be in the form of "a payroll tax credit for journalists employed by local newspapers, digital-only sites or broadcast outlets. The government would subsidize half of salaries up to $50,000 the first year and 30 percent for four subsequent years."

That could be a big help for some. But it wouldn't be for a lot of us. We're not all in the local news business.

The Latest Bill Draft: Bad News or Blessing in Disguise?

Then on November 2 Edmonds pointed out that the above assistance was part of a House draft $3.5 trillion spending initiative. Now, he reports, the Biden administration had cut its ask in half to $1.75 trillion. The House then dropped the assistance component from its proposed legislation. Thereby went away help for selected editorial offices. Says Edmonds, "It fell in the category of a lesser priority when crunch time came for budget drafting."

Not everyone shares Edmonds' sense of potential loss. Commenting on his November 2 article, West Branch Times editor Gregory Norfleet wrote, "This legislation is a bad idea. The article strongly suggests that the news industry cannot survive without government help. Not true. Like any business, we need to work hard, know our target audience, innovate, build trust and earn that support. If we need the government to survive, we then become dependent on it, which is a terrible business model. We need a good product to survive, or we deserve to go out of business because we’re bad business owners."

Much-Needed Assistance or Unfair Advantage?

Actually the stated support idea is questionable in another way, too. By singling out publications employing local journalists, the proposed legislation would tilt the playing field. Many of those publications compete in some way, often indirectly, for advertising revenue with different types of publications. Many publications not qualifying for the financial support will be left to continue on tight editorial budgets.

Those publications that are cash-infused through an assistance program will have an advantage. They will be able to take new editorial initiatives and add vibrancy to their publications. That can easily be translated into pitches for increasing their shares of advertising dollars. They would be given a competitive edge.

Weighing the Importance of Local Journalism and Market Fairness

As we close this EO issue in late November, it is uncertain whether and to what extent any assistance to editorial offices might come through. But it is worth pondering why the legislative focus is so squarely on local journalism.

Certainly local journalism can play a vital role in local communities, both socially and economically. Other areas of journalism are, however, quite important too.

For instance, a B2B magazine can play an essential role in the industry it serves. It plays a social and educational role in keeping readers up to date. That's especially important in this pandemic era and all its attendant changes.

B2B publications also play an essential economic role. They bring together buyers and sellers. They promote commerce. In this time when commerce in many economic fields has been extremely challenged, that role is especially vital.

So why the focus on local journalism? Here's one theory: We have a high-stakes election next year for control of congress. Local publications play an obvious role in communicating with voters and in getting out the vote. That makes supporting local journalism acutely interesting to legislators.

They recognize how local publications can help them. The interest in supporting local journalism is self-serving for them.

Good local journalism is important for the rest of us as well. Having well-informed voters is good for all.

But when it comes to doling out federal assistance, if indeed it ever happens, and if indeed it deserves to happen, it might be worth finding a more egalitarian approach, one that will not tilt the playing field.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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Ten Words for Writers to Heed

Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at 2:58 PM

Choose your words wisely.

By Peter P. Jacobi

Writing means words, the way we use them to enchant and excite and amaze. And to soften. And to calm.

Here are words, specific ones, those important for a writer to heed.

One

Continuity is such a word. As an account of something or someone, the writer's story becomes history, a sense of going on. What is written becomes the thread that stitches time to time and person to person and place to place, the chain of knowledge.

And, of course, within that piece of writing, the writer -- please see to it, Editor -- must supply continuity, a sense of flow that eases the reader through from start to finish, that leaves no gaps to confuse.

Two

Attitude is a critical part of the process. More than almost anything, writing is a matter of attitude, a writer deciding that "this must be done because someone out there needs it and because I can fulfill that need."

As in Don Quixote's quest to reach the unreachable star. An attitude of over-striving; that's the writer's burden, a burden not so much happily as energetically, embracingly accepted.

Three

Perspective is a writer's gift to see subjects close from a distance, to telescope from a distance and thereby bring the reader close.

It can be a uniqueness of approach, too, the writer's or that of the person being written about. Singer-performer Henry Rollins was once asked whether he thought humans superior to animals. His response: " I was thinking about that today. I think people should look up to animals more. I was starting to think animals are god. Does a blue jay make bombs? Does a blue jay crash cars? Does a blue jay break hearts? No. A blue jay just does his thing. Flies, eat some berries, pecks at your window, then dies. That seems a lot more cool than some dude jackin' you up for your wallet."

Perspective is seeing anew.

Four

Observation is a writer's must: careful, scrutinizing observation.

The painter Georges Rouault, speaking of his work, noted: "I have painted by opening my eyes day and night on the perceptible world, and also by closing them from time to time that I might better see the vision blossom and submit itself to orderly arrangement."

Observation is a combination of the sensory taking-in and the thinking grope for understanding. Some writers can manage only the sensory. That's when an editor takes over the thinking, attempting to make sure there's a point to the story and that the point will be clearly, cleanly discernible to the reader.

Five

Detail. The importance of detail cannot be overstressed. Writing is only as good as the writer's available information.

At the time when Stacey King and Michael Jordan were fellow Chicago Bulls, after one particular game, King told reporters: "I'll always remember this as the night that Michael and I combined to score 70 points." That happened to be the night when Jordan scored 69. It is a detail that was worth using then. It is a detail that made that story.

Six

Meaning. A story must have meaning. Beyond the telling, beyond the showing, there's understanding. The writer must edge sharply -- with the editor's assistance -- what the subjects being dealt with mean to the writer. There will follow a meaning for the reader, not necessarily the same one suggested by the writer but a meaning nevertheless.

A writer's clarity of thought engenders clarity of thought on the part of a reader.

Seven

Simplicity helps. A sense of directness and of the unadorned, of the more easily grasped. Consider that an essential in writing today especially because of the hurried and harried reader.

Simplicity of language, of plan, of message. Out of such, profundity. Out of such most definitely will come reader loyalty. Urge your writers to say what they mean and to mean what they say.

As George Orwell put it: "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink."

Avoid. Avoid.

Quentin Reynolds avoided as he reported from Paris in 1941: "There was no dawn. This was puzzling at first because it had been a clear night. Now the air was heavy with a smoky fog so thick that you could reach out and grab a piece of it in your hand. When you let it go, your hand was full of soot. Then you realized that this was a manmade fog, a smoke screen thrown over Paris to hide the railroad stations from the bombers. But for the first time in history Paris had no dawn."

No insincerity here but simplicity, directness.

Eight

Control makes my list. The control to know the very words that will say the best that needs to be said. And how useful an editor becomes as partner to the always struggling writer.

Nine

Passion. It is passion that brings conviction to paper, may be quiet and yet urgent, like the melody of Mozart or Duke Ellington.

Ten

Honesty. Always. The writer must be honest to his own drives and motivations, to her urges and feelings. The writer must be honest toward subject.

Editors can keep writers honest. A rare commodity on this team is in the more general world. It is a must for those who write and those who edit what is written.

A classic article from a past issue in tribute to the late Peter J. Jacobi, longtime EO writer and author of The Magazine Article: How to Think It, Plan It, Write It.

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Free Assistance

Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at 2:57 PM

During this time of crisis recovery, we stand ready to answer privately any specific questions our readers may have, time permitting. You can contact us at: crisis-help@editorsonly.com.

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