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Town governments and school boards deal with a wide range of issues. Some are important and interesting, some are mundane and, frankly, dull. So the reporter covering these meetings must quickly learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let’s say you’re covering the Centerville City Council. At the start of the meeting the council agrees to purchase more paper clips for the town secretary. At the end of the meeting councilors vote to raise property taxes 5 percent. Which issue should come first in your story? Obviously the tax hike is bigger news. It affects far more of your readers, and in a fairlyRead More →

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What if everything you’d heard about the death of newspapers was wrong? What if the future of news wasn’t online? Granted, those are decidedly unpopular views. Just about everyone who prognosticates about the news business these days seems to echo the common wisdom that print journalism is on life support, to be replaced, eventually, by all things digital. But Dr. Iris Chyi, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is a (nearly) lone voice in the wilderness who believes that newspapers have some life in them yet. Which is good because, she adds ominously, there simply is no successful business model forRead More →

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A professor from another college recently sought my advice about how to rejuvenate his school’s journalism program. He asked me two questions, one easy, the other not so much. First, the easy one: What skills will be the most critical for a student who hopes to enter the journalism job market in the next five years? I’m old-school. I still believe the most important skills to teach journalism students are solid, dogged reporting and clear, lucid writing. That’s the primary focus of the classes I teach. So how do we make this exciting for students born in the 21st century? Well, we have this old-schoolRead More →

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For aspiring journalists, the news about the news business can be pretty depressing. Each week seems to bring fresh stories about print or online news outlets laying off reporters and editors in order to cut costs. This was brought home to me recently when the New York Daily News, the once-mighty Big Apple tabloid where I toiled as a reporter and editor years ago, cut its newsroom staff in half, leaving a skeleton crew to cover the nation’s largest city. Statistics tell the story. The Pew Research Center recently reported that at least 36 percent of the largest newspapers in the U.S. – as wellRead More →

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In the early days of the Internet, long before Facebook and Snapchat and cat videos, blogs were the hottest thing online. Everyone, it seemed, was starting a blog, lured by dreams of making big bucks (which hardly anyone did) or at least having the chance to publicly proclaim their opinions (which everyone did). Those days are long gone, but blogs can still be a way for aspiring writers and journalists to build their skills. And while few people ever make much money from blogging, bloggers can get satisfaction from doing good work and attracting loyal readers. So what are the keys to a successful blog?Read More →