State of the craft

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ProPublica won praise in 2013 when it posted a database on doctors' prescribing habits, pinpointing likely cases of abuse. But now, Stephen Engelberg writes, the independent journalism organization has discovered that some people are using the database for purposes that aren't praiseworthy: "We picked up clear signs that some readers are using the data for another purpose: To search for doctors likely to prescribe them some widely abused drugs, many of them opioids."

Benjamin Mullin talks to Mark Stencel, an author of a new Tow-Knight Center report that asked 39 news leaders what they are looking for when hiring: "Having more than one specialized skill can make a potential recruit more marketable. But being excellent at a combination of two things, or even a few things that logically go together, seems more realistic than trying to be excellent at everything." More from Steve Buttry.

Mike Rosenberg noticed something that disturbed him during his most recent journalism job hunt: "For every one job result for a reporter, photojournalist or TV producer, you’ll get 10 results for jobs available to people with journalism backgrounds or degrees to switch careers toward marketing, advertising and — most of all — public relations." He researched further and learned that there are now 4.8 PR people per journalist, more than twice the ratio of 15 years ago.

One side effect of the newspaper business's decline is an editor shortage, Alison MacAdam writes. Whereas daily journalism once served as a training ground for young editors, today's fast-paced digital version devalues editing, and that's a shame: "Editing may not be sexy. It may not nourish the ego. But (do I need to say it?) great editing makes every story more distinctive and memorable. Editors give stories structure, they elevate characters and they hone focus."

Wisconsin reporter Bill Lueders was talking to high school students about the joys of journalism. Afterward, one student came to him with a question: "She was considering going into journalism and wondered if I had any advice. I told her something about getting real-world experience by writing for student papers, but perhaps I should have given a different answer: 'Don’t.'" Also, Benjamin Mullin profiles some journalists who decided to go solo.

Recent longform failures — from sources like Rolling Stone and SBNation — show what can happen when writers and editors see only what they want to see, Michael Fitzgerald writes: "Sometimes we want to believe our own stories badly enough that we make them true, regardless of the evidence in front of us. That’s what seems to have happened at SBNation when it published, then pulled, a story about Daniel Holtzclaw, the failed football player turned serial rapist."

Waves of layoffs and buyouts have swept through journalism generally and newspapers in particular over the past decade. Dale Maharidge tells some of the victims' stories and mourns the loss: "Like the story of Willy Loman, cast aside in his creeping middle age, the tale of today’s discarded journalists is, at its core, a parable of the way our economy, our whole American way of being, sucks people dry and throws them away as their cultural and economic currency wanes."

Wade Roush interviews Jenna Pirog, producer of the New York Times virtual reality film "The Displaced,” about the mechanics of doing VR and how to know when you have the right story to use it: "I think there are certain stories that lend themselves better to VR," Pirog says. "Any place that you wish you could transport your reader to, any situation that you wish they could understand on a visceral level, those are the ones that are grabbing me the most for VR."

Sam Roe writes about a recent Chicago Tribune investigation that brought data scientists, pharmacologists, and cellular researchers together with journalists to identify four drug combinations associated with a potentially fatal heart condition: "The Tribune didn’t just report on what scientists were doing," Roe writes. "We came to them with an ambitious idea, connected them to other top researchers and then became an important part of the scientific effort."

Journalism projects drew more than $1.74 million on Kickstarter in the first nine months of 2015, and about $6.3 million between 2009 and 2015, for a total of 658 fully funded projects, a new Pew report says. Laura Hazard Owen writes that "the bulk of the funded projects (71 percent) are still coming from 'individuals not tied to any journalistic organization,' either alone or in small groups, Pew found." More from Benjamin Mullin.