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The other day, I went on a road trip. Not too far, just a couple of hours across a stretch of the vast east-west expanse we call Pennsylvania, a journey from the burbs north of Philly to Hershey, where my students, journalism majors at Bucks County Community College, would attend a luncheon to receive the awards they’d won, in a statewide competition, for their work on the college newspaper. On the drive, I got a chance to catch up with a student I hadn’t seen in a few months, one who had transferred recently to Temple University. James, I’ll call him, has one of thoseRead More →


As a journalism professor at a community college where the student newspaper is still just that – a paper – people sometimes ask me why we haven’t followed the lead of some other colleges by eliminating our print edition and going all-digital. The answers to this question are key to understanding how the news business really works, as opposed to how some would like us to think it works. Needless to say, it has a lot to do with money. What do I mean? Well, a group of people whom I call the digital zealots have been telling everyone for the better part of twoRead More →

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In my journalism classes on the morning of the election, I was imparting some received wisdom to my students. “If you see North Carolina go for Hillary, then it’s all over for Trump. It should be an early night,” I told them, confidently. How wrong I was. Of course, I wasn’t alone (not that that’s any consolation). From the polling organizations to Nate Silver’s to the country’s major news outlets, many, it seems, missed not just the boat but the entire lake by a pretty wide margin. Jim Rutenberg put it this way in The New York Times: “The country’s major news organizations, asRead More →


It’s early in the semester and students at the college where I teach journalism have just turned in their first articles for the student newspaper. Most of them are really good, but as always there are a few common mistakes that students make early on. Here are some of the problems I see most frequently: Long leads and long paragraphs – Remember, news stories should use a one-sentence lead. And paragraphs in news stories should generally be just 1 to 2 sentences each. I can always tell when someone has written their first news story, because it’s invariably full of giant paragraphs that look likeRead More →


The article, on a journalism website, was on a topic I’ve seen a lot of lately: a college newspaper had ditched print in order to focus exclusively on digital news. Not only that, the staff of this student news operation was expanding its focus to cover not just the campus but even some local and national news. Not surprisingly, the article practically gushed about the idea of these students leaving behind so-called “legacy” journalism to fully embrace online news. This is of a piece with the groupthink that pervades sites that cover the news business. Print journalism is old and thus bad. Digital is shinyRead More →