Especially No. 14

This comes from the “The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same” file. The following newspaper submission guidelines appeared in the Portland, Maine, Daily Eastern Argus on May 10, 1864:

Hints to Correspondents: The following simple rule for the guidance of those who write for the press, if observed, would save editors and printers a world of trouble. Correspondents should adhere to them:

  1. Write with black ink on white paper with ruled lines.
  2. Make the pages smaller than that of a foolscap sheet.
  3. Leave one side of each sheet blank.
  4. Give the written pages an ample margin all round.
  5. Number the pages in the order of their succession.
  6. Write in a plain, bold hand, with less respect to beauty.
  7. Use no observations that are not to appear in print.
  8. Punctuate the manuscript as it should be printed.
  9. For italics, underscore one line; for small capitals, two; capitals, three.
  10. Take special pains with every letter in proper names.
  11. Review every word to be sure that none is unintelligible.
  12. Put directions to the printer at the head of the first page.
  13. Never write a private letter to the Editor on the printer’s copy, but always on a separate sheet.
  14. Don’t depend on the editor to correct your manuscript.
  15. Don’s ask him to return the “copy.”
  16. Don’t press him to tell you why he refused to publish your article.  

(Emerging Civil War)


This and that

Making laws, making sausage, making transparency. The list grows ever longer.

Thanks to digital tools and social media, newsrooms have many ways to pull back the curtain on the reporting process. At the beginning of every important story or project, ask your team how they will incorporate transparency in their plan. This isn’t just a public relations stunt to say, “Look at all the cool stuff we do.” It’s way to let the public learn, question and contribute. It can define the work of real journalism at a time others want to delegitimize it.

(Columbia Journalism Review)


This and that

When people say odd things, report what they say. Unless you’re Fox News. Then report what they say and spin it funny, because Obama is still in office till Jan. 20. (No pushback. No Watergate-level revelation from the Washington Post, but an embassy handout.)

The owner of the Istanbul nightclub targeted early Sunday by a Santa Claus-clad killer reportedly said his establishment had increased security in the past week after warnings from “American intelligence.”

Mehmet Kocarslan told Turkish newspaper Hurriyet that his Reina nightclub had received some type of warning prior to the attack, which killed at least 39 and wounded nearly 70 others. Police are still hunting the assailant, who has not been publicly identified. No group had claimed responsibility for the attack as of Sunday morning.

But the U.S. Embassy on Sunday pushed back on Kocarslan, saying there was no “specific” alert.

“The U.S. Government did not warn Americans to stay away from specific venues or neighborhoods,” said a statement, which was obtained by The Washington Post.

(Fox News)


Stylebook latest

If your stylebook doesn’t look like this then you’re a book collector, not a copy editor.


(New York Times)


Writing tips

Memo to self: Stop ending postings with “In this most blessed of seasons, our warmest regards to you and your loved ones for the coming year.” Change it to “Carthage must be destroyed.”

The start of your story hooks a reader, but the ending is what leaves an impression. It deserves as much attention as your opening.

Here are three strategies from columnist Leonard Pitts for writing powerful kickers.

End with a twist. Give readers a surprise, and take them in a direction they didn’t expect.

End with a quote. A great closing quote is rare. But every once in a while, the person you’re writing about gives you the words that button up the story. It’s almost rude to refuse that gift.

End with the beginning. Plant your kicker high in the story, then circle back to it at the end. This gives your readers a sense of closure or finality.



Today’s teaser lede

Little did readers of real-estate brochures know, etc.

Todd Christopher Kohlhepp was a polished Realtor who ran his own successful South Carolina real estate firm upstate. In a company brochure, Kohlhepp portrayed himself as a tech-savvy professional committed to helping people buy and sell homes in Greenville and Spartanburg counties.

“At Todd Kohlhepp & Associates we feel that it’s important for our clients to know a little more about who’s working for them besides a name and number,” read the first part of his bio.

Beneath it was a picture of Kohlhepp dressed in a pinstripe suit, smiling broadly, next to a list of his business qualifications. He boasted that he was a licensed pilot and that his company had “One Focus … Results!”

But all of that omitted disturbing details about the 45-year-old’s past criminal history and why he was a registered sex offender.

(Washington Post)



In Gannett layoff announcements, as in brain surgery, always numb the patient before shoving in the knife.

New president to lead Times Media,

St. Cloud Times

Times Media announced leadership and staffing changes Tuesday, in conjunction with similar moves occurring at many of parent company Gannett’s 109 local sites.

Kathy Jack-Romero, president of the USA TODAY Network’s West Plains region, has added the role of president of the St. Cloud Times and Times Media. She succeeds Melinda Vonderahe, who was the president of the Times since 2013.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with the team at the St. Cloud Times for the last seven months,” said Jack-Romero. “We have a passionate team of folks who are committed to making a difference here in the St. Cloud community.  That commitment and passion will not change.”

In addition to the St. Cloud market, the West Plains region includes the Fort Collins Coloradoan; Sioux Falls Argus Leader; Springfield News-Leader; Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home, Arkansas; and the Great Falls Tribune.

”I am thrilled that Kathy will take the lead as president of the St. Cloud Times,” said Karen Ferguson Fuson, president of the West Group of Gannett. “She has a long history of delivering results through developing great teams and is a recognized innovator and digital leader. Kathy is passionate about serving her community, and I am confident she will continue to enhance the way we serve our readers and advertisers,”

As part of a companywide downsizing announced Monday by Gannett President and CEO Robert Dickey, Times Media eliminated 12 staff positions, including journalists and advertising staffers.

“I appreciate the hard work and contributions made by each of the folks that were impacted this week. I wish them the very best,” Jack-Romero said.

(St. Cloud Times)



The New York Times goes with A.G. Sulzberger, the boss’s son, as next publisher, because it will save money in scratching out letters on nameplates. Our best wishes go out to Carolyn Ryan and Jason Stallman, who must still ride the elevator with Sam Dolnick, a Sulzberger cousin who works there but didn’t get the job.

As part of the process, the company also took pains to ensure that each candidate got a breadth of experience, and it tracked their progress closely.

Carolyn Ryan, who now supervises the paper’s politics coverage, recalls that as metro editor she prepared detailed reports on both Mr. Dolnick and A. G. Sulzberger when they worked for her, focusing on qualities like leadership potential.

Jason Stallman, the Times sports editor, also prepared detailed reports on Mr. Dolnick when he served as the deputy department head.

(New York Times)


If no news send kittens

What we’re talking about

This election has been hard. It has tested the conventions of political discourse and decency. It has highlighted and deepened the divisions in our country.

The good news is that it’s almost over, and there is only one debate left between the two major candidates.

As we did for the first showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, BDN Portland is hosting a debate-watching party at Think Tank Coworking on Congress Street on Wednesday, Oct. 19. We’ll stream it live on the projector and offer some free food.

This time, we’ve also decided to add a little extra support to those who need it.

We’re teaming up with Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, which will bring nine therapy kittens to the party for anyone who needs to take a break from the political slugfest. (Kittens tend to make most things better.) If you fall in love with one, the group will have adoption surveys you can fill out.

The party starts at 8 and wraps up at 11. If you’re interested in coming, please reserve a free ticket here.

Oh, and please leave your dog at home, just to be safe.

(Bangor Daily News)


Character study

So AP could have headlined the Creation, but was beaten by the One Great Wire Editor.

Q. Is there an AP standard for the approximate length of a headline? – from Warrensburg, Mo. on Mon, Oct 03, 2016

A. AP stories carry two headlines for clients’ varying needs %u2013 a short one with no more than 60 characters and a longer, or extended, one with a maximum of 94 characters.

(AP’s Ask the Editor)

Parallel Verses
New International Version
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


New Living Translation
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


English Standard Version
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.


New American Standard Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


King James Bible
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


Holman Christian Standard Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


International Standard Version
In the beginning, God created the universe.


NET Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


New Heart English Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


GOD’S WORD® Translation
In the beginning God created heaven and earth.


JPS Tanakh 1917
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


New American Standard 1977
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


Jubilee Bible 2000
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


King James 2000 Bible
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


American King James Version
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


American Standard Version
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


Douay-Rheims Bible
In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.


Darby Bible Translation
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


English Revised Version
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


Webster’s Bible Translation
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


World English Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


Young’s Literal Translation
In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth —


How to write a lede

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday turned down without comment a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision.

(As it started out after the decision was announced. Doesn’t tell the reader much.)


WASHINGTON — TheA short-handed Supreme Court on Monday turned down without comment a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision.

(Deleting an unimportant detail, and adding a slightly less unimportant detail.)


WASHINGTON — A short-handed Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision, dooming for now President Obama’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

(Aha. Now we see why it’s important, in 14 more words.)


The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request to reconsider a challenge to President Obama’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the United States.

(As it’s confusingly blurbed on Google; that can be read as, “Challenge rejected again, plan goes through.”)


WASHINGTON — A short-handed Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision, dooming for now President Obama’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

(As it now appears on the Times site.)

(New York Times, Google and NewsDiffs)


This and that

Is there anything that alcohol can’t do?


In August, Washington Post Managing Editor Cameron Barr and his fellow senior editors decided to do something about a problem that had been niggling at them for some time:

Articles were becoming too long, often for no good reason.

“We were seeing too many pieces that were in the mid-range of their ambition and their success — coming in at 60, 70 inches of copy,” Barr said. “We were seeing the same thing in a number of blogs, where pieces were just too long, and we felt as though editors were not applying the necessary discipline and rigor in how these pieces were being handled on the desk.”

The solution? A newsroom-wide initiative to cut down on editorial flab, Barr said. Since the middle of August, he’s asked Post’s department heads to take responsibility for articles longer than 1,500 words online or 50 inches in print. Bylines, captions, headlines and subheadings don’t count.

The idea, Barr says, is to “promote a sense and awareness of responsibility” among reporters and editors that stories shouldn’t be long for length’s sake.

Barr hasn’t crunched the numbers on cumulative story length since the initiative went into place, but he’s noticed more pieces coming in at just under the 1,500-word benchmark.

The senior editor who runs the copy desk produces a list of stories that go over the line, which Barr keeps an eye on. But there are no consequences for going over — just the occasional revision for a piece that is deemed “unnecessarily long.”

“What we want to do is make the writing better,” Barr said. “We’re not interested in punishing people. It’s not a data-driven enterprise. It’s a quality-driven enterprise.”

There are, however, rewards for coming up short. Editor-reporter duos who turn in a front-page enterprise story under 1,000 words are awarded the “Brevity Cup,” a distinction that comes with drinks out with a managing editor. The first winners, reporter Ann Marimow and editor Mary Pat Flaherty, won for a front-page story about a court battle over a D.C. gun ban and will soon be treated at The Jefferson, an old Post haunt.



Thirteenth Amendment latest

Journalists at Honolulu’s Civil Beat have probably gotten used to the platinum-haired man who comes in twice a week, parks himself and his laptop in an open common area of the newsroom, speaks up with questions and offers context now and then.

That’s Ron Hochuli.

He’s the intern.

He’s also 72.

That’s nice. How much are you paying him?

Both he and the newsroom are figuring out how a retired community member with stints in banking, education, philosophy (he was a Catholic monk for a bit) and even a stab at local politics can bring that experience to an internship that benefits all of them.

If it works out, they’ll launch a new program called Kupuna Fellows.

“Kupuna in Hawaii means revered elders,” said Patti Epler, Civil Beat’s editor and general manager. “It’s a very common word here.”

But a retiree scoring an internship in an unfamiliar field is a very uncommon arrangement (unless you’re in Hollywood).

That’s nice. How much are you paying him?

Hochuli, who spent 25 years managing money at Merrill Lynch, has a tremendous work ethic, Simmons said, has taken notes at two city council meetings and has learned to shoot video. He’s digging into affordable housing issues and brings insights into the newsroom that aren’t already there.

“It’s that layer of expertise and senior experience built on a lifetime in the private sector that he’s bringing to bear on our coverage,” Simmons said.

And benefits for the newsroom are benefits for the community, too, Epler said.

“We’ll have a richer, deep understanding of the issues, and we’ll be able to pass that on to readers.”

That’s nice. How much are you paying him?

Simmons thinks places such as Florida or Arizona where many retire to might benefit from this kind of newsroom/retiree collaboration.

Hochuli thinks other retired professionals might have something to offer, too.

“It doesn’t cost Civil Beat money, yet you’re going to have different life experiences looking at things,” he said.





This and that

The last optimist in the print racket was Gutenberg, and he died broke.



(Columbia Journalism Review)


And then I stopped reading

Dear Readers,

My name is Yasna Haghdoost, and I am the Thresher Editor in Chief for the 2016-17 academic year. I began my career at the Thresher as a lowly arts and entertainment writer my freshman year, where I recall my very fi rst theater review being brutally eviscerated by our copy editor before it went to print.

(The Rice Thresher, Houston)


From the archives

Style sheet, Michigan State News, first Nixon administration.


Style sheet page one 001Style sheet page two 001Style sheet page three 001


And then I stopped reading

Welcome to The Lid, your afternoon dose of the 2016 ethos…

(NBC News)


This and that

No more copy desks, so no more place of internal exile for screw-ups, alas.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Mercury News of San Jose, California, apologized Friday for an insensitive headline about U.S. swimmer Simone Manuel.

The 20-year-old Stanford University student became the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event when she tied for first with Penny Oleksiak of Canada in the 100-meter freestyle Thursday night.

After the race, the San Francisco Bay Area newspaper omitted Manuel’s name in a headline reading “Olympics: Michael Phelps shares historic night with African-American.”

The Mercury News, which covered Manuel’s collegiate career at nearby Stanford, tweeted an apology, saying the headline was insensitive.

It was posted on the newspaper’s website about 9:45 p.m. and quickly removed and replaced with one carrying Manuel’s name with Phelps. The headline was not printed in the newspaper.

Readers took to social media sites almost as soon as the offensive headline was posted to complain about the gaffe.

“This is a terrible headline,” Mercury News sports columnist Tim Kawakwami posted on Twitter while the headline was still live. “It’s my paper. I might get in trouble for saying it, but it’s a terrible headline.”

Executive Editor Neil Chase said no one will be disciplined because it appears there were no bad intentions in writing the headline.

Instead, Chase said there will be a “tough conversation” to determine exactly how the headline came to be written and published without any staffer raising concern. He said a “couple different people saw it” before it was posted.

Chase said The Mercury News, like many media companies, is working with smaller staffs than in the past in an era of increased demand during a 24-hour news cycle.

“That’s no excuse,” he said. “We made a mistake.”



Click, meet bait




I’d like to think we haven’t started any domestic spats. I’d like to think there’s never been an occasion when two partners were sitting across from each other, looking at their laptops, with one saying, “Hey, did you see this Times headline about Trump getting $2 billion worth of free publicity?” and the other replying, “You’re crazy. It doesn’t say anything at all about $2 billion.”

I’d like to think that, but I could well be wrong — because they could both be right.

In one effort to increase readership, The Times is using a tool that allows us to simultaneously present two different headlines for the same article on its home page. Half of readers on the page see one headline; half see the other. The test measures the difference in readers clicking on the article and lets us know if the numbers are statistically significant. If so, the winning headline goes on the home page for all readers.

And so, for a short while on March 15, one reader might have seen this:

$2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Trump

While another saw this:

Measuring Trump’s Media Dominance

Any guesses on which won the test, and by how much?

The top one got nearly three times as many readers, which underlines the crucial role of headlines in the digital age.

A story might be 1,000 words long, but tweaking the tiny handful of words that promoted this one on our home page gave us 297 percent more readers.

In other cases, headline tests have increased readership by an order of magnitude.

(New York Times)



UCLA gunman Mainak Sarkar left a note at scene, asking someone to “check on my cat,” LAPD police chief says.

When detectives arrived at William Klug’s office at the UCLA campus Wednesday, they found a note from Sarkar, 38, listing his home address in Minnesota and a request to check on his cat’s welfare, Police Chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Times.

“Immediately, we were highly suspicious,” Beck said. “That made me uneasy about what we would find when we got to Minnesota.”

Sarkar took his own life Wednesday morning after killing William Klug, 39, in a small office in UCLA Engineering Building 4, according to authorities.

Klug, who was shot multiple times, was an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Klug, another UCLA professor and a woman who lived in a nearby Minnesota town were named in a “kill list” found in Sakar’s home.

The LAPD worked with the FBI and Minnesota authorities and served a search warrant at Sarkar’s home. Inside, Beck said, they found the list, extra ammunition and a box for one of the two pistols found at the UCLA scene.

Authorities went to the woman’s home, Beck said, and found her body inside. It appeared she had been dead from a gunshot wound for “maybe a couple of days,” the chief said.

Beck declined to name the woman, but said Sarkar was the suspect in her slaying.

“We would physically arrest him were he still alive,” the chief said.

(Los Angeles Times)