Monthly Archives: November 2009

Obituaries with flair

The New York Times is known for its obituary writing — spotlighting both the famous and not-so-famous who have departed.

This weekend, the Times had a wonderful feature obit on a relatively unknown actor who made his living impersonating historical figures. It’s worth a read.

Obituaries are never something to look forward to as a journalist, but they can make for wonderful stories of fascinating lives and personal accounts of history.


Did you know!?

A cool video about how media is changing…

Spring EIC and Ad Manager Apps Due!’s that time of year, Newsies! Time to choose our next leaders for Spring semester.  The applications for Editor-in-Chief and Student Ad Manager are available in the main office or through Lori or Marcy or Stacey. (After multiple failed attempts to upload them to the blog as pdfs, I gave up …)

The deadline is Nov. 16 — that’s next Monday!

No time to delay…

Good luck to all the applicants!

SCOTUS justice impedes HS journos

UPDATE: Apparently, Justice Kennedy regrets the request by a “new staff member” who he blames for the prior review request…


It seems Justice Anthony Kennedy — normally a staunch defender of the First Amendment — is of the “do as I say, not as I do” school of student press freedom.

According to a piece in today’s New York Times, Kennedy (or “his people”) insisted that a high school newspaper in Manhattan not publish any story on his visit and talk at the school until his office had a chance to ‘tidy up’ his quotes.

The Times reports that the newspaper ran the following cryptic statement:

“We are not able to cover the recent visit by a Supreme Court justice due to numerous publication constraints,” the note said. It promised “an explanation of the regrettable delay” in the next issue.

This  is reprehensible for all the reasons you might expect. Public officials — especially those entrusted with interpreting First Amendment laws — should lead by example. Shame on Justice Kennedy.

What would you all do in that situation?

H/T: Nick Hedrick

Colbert and quoting e-mail

Colbert Olympics

I love “The Colbert Report,” but that’s not why I’m posting this piece. Check out the quote from an Olympics speedskater who e-mailed the AP.  The reporter leaves in all the emoticons and symbols from the e-mail, which adds so much to the quote, in my opinion:

In Vancouver, Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick and short track star Apolo Anton Ohno will all be vying for medals.

“I personally love Comedy Central + The Colbert Report,” Ohno said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “Any attention the sport can get is going to be beneficial. I’d like to see how creative they can get! I’m game to do a skit about it :-)”

Think about how e-mail jargon and symbols can, instead of being a problem, actually add life to our stories when appropriate.

About opinions

OpEdWhether you’re writing opinion on the Opinions page or in an entertainment review or on the Sports page — making people care what you think is no easy task.  They say opinions are like … um, let’s say bellybuttons … because everybody has one.

So, how to get your opinion read and taken seriously by readers? A few dos and don’ts:


  • RESEARCH! The best opinion columns start with data, facts and background. Readers need to know that your opinion is based on solid information, not just stream-of-consciousness meandering. Importantly, make sure your data and facts come from reliable primary sources — not from your favorite pundit.
  • Choose your topic thoughtfully. What kinds of topics are people going to find relevant, interesting and credible coming from you? Probably no one cares much about what a college newspaper columnist thinks about global economic policy or the NASA space program. However, you are all as knowledgeable as anyone on economic trends, science curriculum, fashion, music — news of all kinds from ISU and Terre Haute. Take advantage of the things about which you are an expert — your community, your job, your roles as students, family members, workers, etc.
  • Write to educate. Good columns are every bit as informative and compelling as good news and feature stories. A good column should teach people about some aspect of the world.
  • Keep it newsy. If you have a thought that you think may make a good column subject, find a newsy way to anchor it. Fed up with traffic? Update progress on a road construction project. Irritated at booming car stereos? Find stats on hearing damage and environmental noise pollution to back up your position.
  • Consider counter-arguments. If you are stating your position on an issue, ask yourself: What are the arguments on the other side? How do I explain why those counter-arguments are insufficient or incorrect? Does my argument take into consideration all the factors complicating this issue?


  • “Introduce” your column. Too many columnists want to explain how they came to decide on a topic. As in, “Even though I don’t usually write about XXXX, I decided that I would focus on blah, blah, blah…”  Good columns need compelling ledes just as news stories do. Get right to the point.
  • Rant! If your column consists of bitching and complaining about something that drives you crazy — or that makes you super-happy, for that matter — you haven’t done your job. The paper isn’t your diary; it requires your analytical brain to do research and express a point of view that considers counter-arguments and the needs of the community.
  • Start your column 30 minutes before deadline. If you are able to just crank out a column off the top of your head, it probably isn’t very good. Again, columns/ reviews need to be well-researched and thoughtfully argued.
  • Write like a stoner. This is my crude way of saying that columns shouldn’t be excessively abstract and “philosophical.” As in, “Dude, have you ever wondered, like, what reality is?!” In other words, don’t use Yoda, Confuscious, the Buddha or Nietzsche as your writing inspiration. Save your philosophical wanderings for late nights at the dorm.

“Brave News World”