Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quit sensationalizing news. Especially tragedies.

Of course we're all saddened and sick with grief and confusion over Monday's horrible tragedy in Chardon. Parents and teens probably feel it a little differently, but we all feel it. It's a human tragedy and a horrible thing. And I suppose, if I had a really magnanimous personality, I could excuse as "human nature" the news media's coverage of the event and its aftermath.

But I'm not that big-hearted or understanding. Even as I reeled from the shock of the initial reports, I was disgusted by my fellow journalists (?!) and their complete lack of respect for the victims' families, for the accused shooter(s), and for the privacy of witnesses who were certainly in a fragile state.

It's not how I was taught that professional journalists behave, and I wouldn't feel like one myself if I didn't state my objections publicly, somehow. There. This is it.

Shaking off my righteous indignation at the sorry state of my local news media (I have plenty left over for the national media) I have to say in this case, the platforms of Facebook and Twitter have been less sensational, and more humane and helpful, in their "coverage."

What can we do? I don't know. I'm sad and confused, like everyone else. I'm not giving up on the news media, and on journalists in general. I still believe it is a profession, and many will stand up to prove it, even now. More importantly, I have faith in our collective humanity, and believe that each of us will offer to others - friends, strangers, and even, especially, people we don't like or understand - an extra measure of kindness going forward. If that's through Facebook, OK. If it's a photo of a flower on a textbook on Pinterest, so be it. I won't be looking at local "reporting" vehicles for perspective on this tragedy, however.

Live and let live

Monday, February 27, 2012

Matriculate Monday: on Health

How robust is your vocabulary? Find out as the sixth Vocabula Quiz takes on health.  Just taking on The Vocabula Quiz Matriculate Monday challenge? I explain my (unscientific) reasoning here.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fellowship for Mid-Career Editorial Writer

SPJ does it again - here's an outstanding opportunity for professional editorial writers:

What the fellowship provides, straight from SPJ's description, is $75,000 "to an outstanding editorial writer or columnist to help broaden his or her journalistic horizons and knowledge of the world...(it can) cover the cost of study, research, and/or travel in any field."

The application deadline is June 22, 2012. More information at

Also note: SPJ's High School Essay Contest deadline is March 8.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Matriculate Monday: on Science

The fifth Vocabula Quiz takes on science.  Just taking on The Vocabula Quiz Matriculate Monday challenge? I explain my (unscientific) reasoning here.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thanks to The Quill - in its 100th year - for highlighting this 60-second spot as something of a Valentine to journalists. The brief video shares a few gems the world might have missed (or learned of far too late) if not for journalists.

I'm proud to say I love journalists, on Valentine's Day and every day.

Thanks, Quill, SPJ, and journalists everywhere.

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Watch it here:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Matriculate Monday Topic: Mental Health

Mental health is the topic of the quiz, folks. I don't mean the quiz will make you question yours. If you find it does - or even it doesn't - share your thoughts on today's test in the comments. Thanks for playing along!

Quiz number four (of The Vocabula Review's 45) can be found here:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Customer newsletters: Ignore at your peril

Read the latest studies on customer retention and loyalty, and you might need some cheering up. We're a fickle lot, and apparently, even more so when the economy is this bleak.

You've got to give new customers reasons to come back, old customers new reasons to return, and remind all of your customers that they love you so much they simply must recommend you to all of their friends.

In other words, you need a customer newsletter.

Form and content matter (consider the print v e-newsletter debate that still lives and will for years, here) but any newsletter is better than none. There are no hard-and-fast rules about discounts,  frequency, color schemes, or even distribution methods. There is one fact that can't be ignored, however: you need customers. Don't you?

If you don't need customers, you don't need a newsletter. There. Debate settled.

What should your newsletter look like, what should it say or do? When and how should you send it? These are questions only you can answer for your business. You'll have a better shot at finding the best answers for your business if you noodle over the questions with someone who has experience working with newsletters. (Thanks for asking. Yes, I do.)

The advice that seems to apply to almost every type of business - and non-profit organization, for that matter - is not surprising. Make it worth reading, and keep it short. If you leave 'em wanting more, and they know where to get it, your customers will find you. And isn't that the point?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Matriculate Monday

Matriculate with me as we move up to a "moderate" level quiz, the third of The Vocabula Review's series of 45 quizzes. Ready?

Here goes: