The problem with the people you know

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A couple of days ago Tim Wallace, a cartographer and graphics editor at The New York Times, posted a portion of his academic dissertation on Medium. There’s tons of interesting stuff in there, but unfortunately it’s no longer posted because the part that got the most attention is the little highlighted part way down toward… Read more »

Reporter’s block

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A gem from this great Washington Post interview with Susan Orlean: “I also think if you’ve got writer’s block, you don’t have writer’s block. You have reporter’s block. You only are having trouble writing because you don’t actually yet know what you’re trying to say, and that usually means you don’t have enough information. That’s… Read more »

Five history stories that stuck with me in 2014

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Of all the journalism I’ve come across this year, some of stories that stuck with me most involve events that happened many years before 2014. I’m a sucker for history stories, especially ones that delve into the haze of memory in search of facts. Here are five I loved in 2014. By coincidence, or maybe… Read more »

Inland Northwest history stories, now in book form

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For more than six decades, Charles Libby documented the growing city of Spokane as a tireless commercial photographer. An astonishing amount of the city’s history is preserved in his images. An Inlander cover story I wrote about Libby is among those selected for “Inlander Histories,” a new book published conveniently in time for the holidays…. Read more »

‘The other half of the work’

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When we think of journalism it’s typically as a conduit: Carry news from the source over here to the audience over there. Take something from the source, give something to the viewer. Some of the more interesting projects happening these days turn that conduit into a loop or a mirror, often with the goal of… Read more »

A century ago, the man who refused to be executioner

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A century ago, at the beginning of December 1914, a small Associated Press news item made its way from Little Rock to small newspapers across the nation. The Arkansas state penitentiary electrician, Luther Castling, had resigned rather than carry out the electrocution of 10 men on Death Row. Castling admitted he was leaving without other… Read more »

Check your copy: Exhibit A

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This is from an email newsletter I received from a small women’s clothing company. Minor things, sure, but “specticals” and “heals” hurt credibility. A person who can write clean copy is an asset in any industry. Incidentally, I like the way clothing companies combine real objects with annotations. That’s something the news industry could do… Read more »

Using Google Forms to get class discussion going

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Back in 2010, I was helping teach a graphics class to graduate students at Columbia Journalism School. Each week I would sent out a few links to selected examples to discuss in class, and invariably no one would look at them. A few easily guilted students would offer up generic comments in class, and we’d… Read more »

A misspelling in a news writing classic

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One of the unexpected pleasures of teaching this fall has been the excuse to reread (or sometimes just read) classic journalism style and reporting books. It’s affirming to see the daily struggles of writing so clearly explained and overcome, and my favorite little book is this one by Rene “Jack” Cappon, who worked for the… Read more »