Let’s say goodbye to the man on the street

The voice of the people is the voice of God, says the proverb — in Latin, vox populi vox Dei. Hence the term “vox pop” used by some in broadcasting for a reporting method also known as man-on-the-street (MOS) or man-in-the-street. Balderdash, says I. Vox populi vox ignorantiae: The voice of the people is the

5 questions about Rolling Stone’s gang-rape reporting (updated twice)

Last month, Rolling Stone published a frustrating story by Sabrina Rubin Erdely about a young woman who said she was gang-raped on the campus of the University of Virginia. The story was, at first, frustrating because it depicted a university stuck in the Stone Age, unwilling to deal properly with sexual assault, and a campus

Death to the inverted pyramid; life to alternative story forms

I have a hate/hate relationship with the inverted pyramid. I hate the fact that this artifice, created to deal with ancient mechanical issues, is still being justified to journalism students today based on ex post facto reasoning. And I hate the way alternative forms, often based on actual reader habits, are so often derided as

What’s a nice girl like you doing in a comment section like this?

I have much respect for every woman who dares to use her real name when posting online. As a comment moderator for several years, I saw just how dangerous that can be. What women can expect online was highlighted recently when women who work at Jezebel, a blog aimed at women, complained publicly that the

When bad structure happens to good stories

We experience life chronologically: This happened, then this happened, then that happened next. Organizing a story in the same way makes it easy to follow. This happened, then that happened isn’t the only way to structure a story, or always the best way. But whenever I was working with a writer who had trouble with

9 tips to make comment moderation easier

I’ve written often that comments are useful on news sites, anonymity serves a purpose, and making those things work requires adequate, local moderation. But there’s the hitch: Moderating comments on an active site can be a daunting task. Phillip Smith, whom I follow on Twitter, sent out this today: Volunteered to cover comment mod on

The Times-Picayune changes: Retreat or rebound?

This week, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans announced that its home-delivery subscribers, who were cut back to three days a week in the fall of 2012, would be getting two “bonus” home-delivered papers — Saturdays and Mondays — at least through the end of football season this year. Also, the paper would switch back to

100 books every journalist must read

A young journalism student once asked a newspaper editor what she should do to prepare for her hoped-for career as a political reporter. “Read,” the editor said. Absolutely, I thought, sitting between them, waiting for my own interview for a top job to resume. “Read Shakespeare,” he said. “And the Bible.” Forsooth, I thought, that

4 journalism books that aren’t must-reads

My list of the 100 books every journalist should read includes many works that show up over and over on lists like that. However, there were a few standard choices that I deliberately rejected for quality reasons. I’ll be listening to responses to my list and watching for others to come out; some books may

Books that almost made my list

When I started to assemble my list of books that journalists must read, I thought I’d end up with an interesting number like 78. Instead, I kept adding more and more, finally deciding to cut it off at a round 100. Some books from other lists didn’t make mine because I preferred another book by