On journalism…

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So, if you recall, about a week ago I attended a two day Associated Press Managing Editors NewsTrain workshop in Albuquerque. I haven’t delved too deeply into my experience there, because I wanted time to digest what I learned. I think I can do so very easily:

Journalism is a kick-ass field to be in (good grammar not required – that’s what copy editors are for).

While I met a slew of talented reporters at the conference, from New Mexico, Colorado and Texas, the headliner was Jacqui Banaszynski, of the Seattle Times and the Missouri School of Journalism (trust me, she brings the cred). Jacqui took a couple of days and spoke to us about story form, generating story ideas and focusing and organizing our writing.

I’m not an excellent reporter, and I’ve never had any formal journalism training. I’m the first to admit I’ve made a mistake, or will at least fess up if I’ve done so. But I’m pretty good, and I’m getting better. What’s more, Jacqui gave some excellent instruction on how to prevent mistakes, along with Rosalie Stemer.

However, Jacqui’s greatest tips for me were those regarding storytelling and reporting/writing. Her thoughts on writing were excellent, with a focus on taking time to think about the actual story, rather than setting pen to paper and rushing through the process.

So, I’m taking more time with stories and articles to suss out what I think needs to be said, to exclude that which is unimportant, and to better articulate the main points. In addition, I’m planning more – from which questions I need to ask, to whether there’s another angle to explore, to how the structure will make the story more interesting for the reader.

Anyhoo, there was a lot of great info, and too many good people to mention, at the NewsTrain conference. I had fun, and I learned.

I hope this is evident to you when you’re reading the Daily Press.

OK, two more things.

One: While in the ABQ, I had breakfast with the Journal’s science writer John Fleck. I’ve linked to his stuff and his blog in the past, but this was our first face-to-face meeting. John told me his start in the biz was similar to mine: news director at a radio station, work at a small-town daily, etc. His insight helped me soak in the NewsTrain material on day two, and I appreciated that. You should be reading his stuff anyway, but if not, start.

Two: while away last week, the brouhaha regarding the NY Times/LA Times/Wall Street Journal and reporting secret desecrations of the Bill of Rights classified information unfolded. I have not much to add, mostly because I had no internet for the last four days and I’m catching up. However, Greg Sargent over at the American Prospect breaks it down nicely on his blog, the Horse’s Mouth:

OK, so White House press secretary Tony Snow has now told Editor and Publisher that the New York Times won’t have its press credentials taken away, as National Review has demanded. Nor is Alberto Gonzalez likely to “prosecute” the Times, because it would be a political circus.

This is kind of strange. Both Snow and Dick Cheney have explicitly said that the Times is putting the nation’s security at risk. Yet by all indications the administration is unlikely to take any real action against the paper, mainly because it could be politically disastrous for Bush.

That leaves only two possibilities. Either:

1) Officials won’t act aggressively against an institution they’re claiming puts American lives at risk, because it’s politically untenable. That would mean the administration is putting politics ahead of aggressively prosecuting behavior it says endangers American lives.

Or:

2) The administration doesn’t genuinely believe The Times has put our national security at risk at all, and hence won’t act. If this is the case, both Snow and Cheney blatantly and repeatedly lied.

That’s about it in a nutshell. Check Sargent out for more info.

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