Subscribe to Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous

A health reporter enlists academic help

 Newborn in hospital

A Florida newspaper teamed with Georgetown University researchers and a community foundation to survey pediatricians about the state's Medicaid program. Maggie Clark explains how the collaboration worked, and what went wrong on the way to publication: "These eventual partners were all groups working towards similar goals — improving children’s health — but who didn’t know each other yet. My role was to bring them together and the share the results with our community."

What reporters hate about PR agents

Lucia Moses collects some pet peeves from reporters about the practices of public relations professionals, from robotic pitching to false intimacy: "Communicating has never been this frictionless, so PR pros feel the need to get aggressive in order to be heard over the din. This often, well, rankles the reporters they’re trying to lure. So, in the spirit of a public service to PR folk, we asked a bunch of journalists for their most hated PR tactics."

What's wrong with The Elements of Style

Grammar dictionary definition

Geoffrey K. Pullum takes on the paragons of grammar advice, Strunk and White, and their guide The Elements of Style: "Almost every single generalization it makes about the form of sentences is false, and not just because of ignorance or mendacity: the authors simply didn't care whether their drivel was false or not … It is tragic that America's perverted and abusive love affair with it has caused it to be pressed into the hands of so many millions of undergraduates."

The public speaking frame of mind

Silhouetted audience

Alex Honeysett shares a few non-traditional tips for public speaking, including how to calm your fears via distraction: "Get to know that fear of yours — especially how it manifests in your body — and then plan to include those comforting activities into your prep. For example, I always build in an extra 20 minutes to track down a bottle of seltzer. This may sound like the most ridiculous soothing mechanism out there, but, for me, it works."

Best practices for fact checking

Checklist

Jane Elizabeth and Alexios Mantzarlis review the state of the fact-checking art and list nine characteristics of the best fact checkers: "The best fact checks clearly display each and every research source used — by uploading documents, video, audio, spreadsheets, notes, photos, even book pages. Any hyperlinks go directly to the data chart, or the precise page of the PDF. And if needed, the writer includes an explanation or directions on how to use the data."

A writer's summer reading diet

Stack of papers

Melody Kramer offers an alternative take on the standard reading list, adding web sites and syllabi to the usual books. An example: "If you want to brush up on your technical skills: Start with Chrys Wu’s master list of software, presentations, tutorials and tools from NICAR, the computer-assisted reporting conference. Starting with GitHub? I rounded up tutorials and tips for journalists. Source maintains a comprehensive database of reusable code for journalists."

Why a speaker has to earn the audience

Empty theater seats

Maria Popova excerpts TED Curator Chris Anderson’s advice for giving a great speech, including how good speakers inspire audiences with authenticity rather than manipulation: "Here’s the thing about inspiration: It has to be earned. Someone is inspiring not because they look at you with big eyes and ask you to find it in your heart to believe in their dream. It’s because they actually have a dream that’s worth getting excited about. And those dreams don’t come lightly."

In defense of the humble adverb

Grammar book page

Colin Dickey takes on usage mavens from Strunk to Zinsser on behalf of a maligned part of speech: "Haranguing against the adverb is a cheap, easy piece of advice, one that offers a mechanical solution to the abstract question of good writing. Adverb hatred attacks a symptom, rather than a cause. Creative writing teachers tell beginning writers to avoid adverbs because, on some level, bad imitations of Hemingway are easier to slog through than bad imitations of Proust."

The peril of phony news sites

Social media icons

Jack Murtha examines journalism's newest plague, a proliferation of fake news sites that prey on overworked writers who publish too quickly: "In striving for traffic, prolific output, and social media hype, some newsrooms have prioritized the quick and provocative, while undervaluing reporting. This system has allowed fake news sites to essentially develop best practices to fool journalists." Also, Steve Buttry on Einstein's rejection letter.

How EurekAlert changed science writing

Internet tree concept drawing

On the 20th anniversary of the research news hub, Nick Stockton writes about what it was like before EurekAlert brought science news online: "Journalists weren’t just acquiring mountains of paper spam. They had to hustle for access to studies. Reporters at regional outlets, with less of a travel budget, were at a disadvantage to large national papers and magazines that could send staff to meetings to develop relationships with individual scientists or university PIOs."