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

The column is dead; long live the column!

Growing up in Chicago in the ’60s and ’70s spoiled me in regard to newspaper columnists. Mike Royko, of course, with whom no one else can be mentioned, but also Jack Mabley, Roger Simon, Bob Greene before he became Bob Greene™. Critics who were really writing columns: Roger Ebert the unmatchable, Ron Powers, even Gary

Every mistaken idea about comments, neatly packaged

Rarely have I seen as many wrongheaded statements about news sites and comments rolled into one package as in a recent post by Una Mullally on the Agility. Let’s start here: If we didn’t have editors, news stories would land scatter dash on the page regardless of their importance. In many ways, prurience already drives this.