State of the craft

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State of the craft

As media outlets assert control over their employees' online activities, Denise-Marie Ordway writes about an academic report on journalists who struggle to control their personal brands while cashing a paycheck: "Often, reporters, editors and columnists maintain two or more accounts on each social media platform in an effort to keep their professional lives separate from their personal ones … Journalists face choosing between their jobs and personal online identities."

It's become a commonplace of print news — the thick envelope from Human Resources containing the latest buyout offer. Former USA Today reporter Bruce Horovitz writes about his buyout and life on the other side: "What happened to me and more than 80 USA Today colleagues could be sprung on you. So it’s your brain — not your gut — that needs to pay attention. Way before the 'voluntary retirement' message hits your inbox, there are steps you need to take to be ready."

Shan Wang discusses a new Tow Center report on the strengths and weaknesses of automated journalism — computer programs that write stories for outlets such as the Associated Press: "It won’t work in domains where no structured data is available or the data available is fuzzy, and it can’t provide the why of a story, only the what. But its potential in increasing speed, scale, and accuracy is great — algorithms 'do not get tired or distracted.'"

Author Barbara Ehrenreich argues that journalism does a poor job of covering poverty in part because it pays so little that would-be writers can't spend time on it: "This is the real face of journalism today: not million dollar-a-year anchorpersons, but low-wage workers and downwardly spiraling professionals who can’t muster up expenses to even start on the articles, photo-essays and videos they want to do, much less find an outlet to cover the costs of doing them."

Megan Scudellari discusses widely held — but false — beliefs about subjects like cancer screening, antioxidants, and overpopulation and considers why they are so hard to overcome: "These myths often blossom from a seed of a fact — early detection does save lives for some cancers — and thrive on human desires or anxieties, such as a fear of death. But they can do harm by, for instance, driving people to pursue unnecessary treatment or spend money on unproven products."

Ed Sherman thinks something was lost when email replaced phone calls in the newsgathering process: "The negative ramifications are felt many ways. With only email communication, stories don’t get flushed out properly. Basically, the chain of emails revolves around setting up an interview with the subject and then perhaps some follow-up exchanges between the reporter and PR person, usually in 75 words or less."

Melody Kramer writes about her informal survey of people who don't work for the news media and don't live in the three big U.S. media centers: "I was curious if they still relied on local news sources, or whether they preferred national publications. I wanted to know how many of them changed their habits as their local publications changed, and I wanted to know if my own media habits were skewed by working in journalism in Washington, D.C. (Spoiler alert: they were.)"

Jeff Bradley was a columnist and sportswriter covering major league baseball until he was laid off almost three years ago by his newspaper. Now, he writes about his new life as, most recently, a golf course clubhouse attendant: "Lots of people had ideas. The one I hear the most is, 'Write a book.' My response to that is usually, 'I will write a book one day. Probably when I retire. But right now, I need a job.'" More from Poynter's Ed Sherman.

ESPN pulled the plug last week on its ambitious Grantland site, and Ben Thompson suggests its death is bad news for sites focusing on quality over quantity: "It certainly seems that the lesson of Grantland is that there is no room in the middle: not enough scale for advertising, and costs that are far too high for a viable subscription business." Also, why Grantland mattered. And Malcolm Gladwell on ESPN's decision.

Kristen Hare's first job was reporting for an online news startup that was filled with a legacy paper's bought-out veterans. Here's what they taught her: "People assume veteran journalists are slow to change, but after working with many of them and covering the continual slog of layoffs and buyouts, I’m not sure that’s accurate. Young journalists are adaptive by nature. Anyone who has been in this profession for awhile is most likely resilient out of necessity."