Wednesday, April 23, 2014

AP Style - spell out those state names

I'm not sure why there's all this kerfuffle over AP's directive today that as of May 1 the style is to spell out all state names in text.

It is after all the World Wide Web. We've known it was coming. AP's style keepers first broached this, what, four years ago at the American Copy Editors Society meeting in Philadelphia (to gasps, of course that made them quickly rethink)?

Yeah, it's going to mean reprogramming all those autopilot things we do. But that shouldn't be hard. I mean, really, you think it's easier to remember all those abbreviations -- and then remember not to use the postal codes that surround us -- instead of just spelling out? (OK, you'll have to remember what your elementary school teacher taught you about Mis-sis-sippi, or that it's ConneCticut. But really?)

My students are probably cheering right now.

We live in a digital world -- emphasis on world -- where someone in India can just as easily read our stuff as they can down the street. Just this week, one of my student's stories was published not only in local papers but was picked up on a martial arts publication based (I think) in Hong Kong.

OK, you can stamp your feet, if you want over underway for under way and over allowed for more than. Reasonable people can disagree over the usage/spelling evolution continuum. But whether to abbreviate state names? That's a pure style construct, nothing else. There is no inherent goodness in abbreviating 42 states and D.C. (So why, again, were Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah the favored children -- or odd man out, depending on your view? There were well-stated reasons, but there was no unalterable truth. It's just a reasoned decision, folks, nothing more, just as this new style change is.)

Yeah, it's still a little convoluted; the AP still says to use the abbreviations in datelines. And I think the guidance to avoid using state abbreviations in headlines just goes against reality in a printed product (the problem with these kinds of changes is that they tend to be broad-brush). But whatever. We can deal with it.

In some ways, I see all the hooha as the result of two things:
  • OMG, AP is chipping away again at the sacred texts that allow us journalists, and especially copy editors, to be high priests. Man the bulwarks. Shibboleths alert!
  • There is a bit of teaching envy in the halls of academe (why do I have to change this stuff every year for journalism class when the math teacher will always be able to teach 2+2=4?)

Welcome to 2014. If you wanted to be able to teach the same thing year after year, you should have gotten a physics degree (wait, that changes too, but at a relatively glacial pace compared with what the Internet has done to language).

Here's the next thing: We might go to putting the year with all dates. Same reasoning - it can be read around the world (maybe the universe before long) and stories have a long tail.

Now, if the AP will just address its gawdaful cornucopia of number styles, we can all go back to drinking. My suggestion continues to be spell out everything one to nine unless it is preceded by a dollar sign or some other symbol.

Or use all numbers, for all I care. For compactness, that might be the better solution.

I can count the howls now.


Here is the AP's style note:
SPELL OUT: The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. No state name is necessary if it is the same as the dateline. This also applies to newspapers cited in a story. For example, a story datelined Providence, R.I., would reference the Providence Journal, not the Providence (R.I.) Journal. See datelines.



   EIGHT NOT ABBREVIATED: The names of eight states are never abbreviated in datelines or text: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.



   Memory Aid: Spell out the names of the two states that are not part of the contiguous United States and of the continental states that are five letters or fewer.



   IN THE BODY OF STORIES: Except for cities that stand alone in datelines, use the state name in textual material when the city or town is not in the same state as the dateline, or where necessary to avoid confusion: Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, Illinois. Provide a state identification for the city if the story has no dateline, or if the city is not in the same state as the dateline. However, cities that stand alone in datelines may be used alone in stories that have no dateline if no confusion would result.



   ABBREVIATIONS REQUIRED: Use the state abbreviations listed at the end of this section:



   â?"In conjunction with the name of a city, town, village or military base in most datelines. See datelines for examples and exceptions for large cities.



   â?"In lists, agate, tabular material, nonpublishable editor's notes and credit lines.



   â?"In short-form listings of party affiliation: D-Ala., R-Mont. See party affiliation entry for details.



   Following are the state abbreviations, which also appear in the entries for each state (postal code abbreviations in parentheses):



Ala. (AL)    Md. (MD)      N.D. (ND)



Ariz. (AZ)   Mass. (MA)    Okla. (OK)



Ark. (AR)    Mich. (MI)    Ore. (OR)



Calif. (CA)  Minn. (MN)    Pa. (PA)



Colo. (CO)   Miss. (MS)    R.I. (RI)



Conn. (CT)   Mo. (MO)      S.C. (SC)



Del. (DE)    Mont. (MT)    S.D. (SD)



Fla. (FL)    Neb. (NE)     Tenn. (TN)



Ga. (GA)     Nev. (NV)     Vt. (VT)



Ill. (IL)    N.H. (NH)     Va. (VA)



Ind. (IN)    N.J. (NJ)     Wash. (WA)



Kan. (KS)    N.M. (NM)     W.Va. (WV)



Ky. (KY)     N.Y. (NY)     Wis. (WI)



La. (LA)     N.C. (NC)     Wyo. (WY)



   These are the postal code abbreviations for the eight states that are not abbreviated in datelines or text: AK (Alaska), HI (Hawaii), ID (Idaho), IA (Iowa), ME (Maine), OH (Ohio), TX (Texas), UT (Utah). Also: District of Columbia (DC).



   Use the two-letter Postal Service abbreviations only with full addresses, including ZIP code.



   PUNCTUATION: Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline: He was traveling from Nashville, Tennessee, to Austin, Texas, en route to his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She said Cook County, Illinois, was Mayor Daley's stronghold.



   HEADLINES: Avoid using state abbreviations in headlines whenever possible.



   MISCELLANEOUS: Use New York state when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City.



   Use state of Washington or Washington state when necessary to distinguish the state from the District of Columbia. (Washington State is the name of a university in the state of Washington.)




Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Yahoo change can break mail lists

Oops.

If you have a mail list set up so that any replies go only to the person sending and not to the list -- and if you have any Yahoo addresses -- a Yahoo policy change could cause you some problems.

See http://yahoomail.tumblr.com/post/82426900353/yahoo-dmarc-policy-change-what-should-senders-do

For a more technical explainer: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9247512/Yahoo_email_anti_spoofing_policy_breaks_mailing_lists?pageNumber=1

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Poynter study: Gap still exists between educators, professonals on j-skills

I've just started a Poynter webinar on the latest round of its study that journalists will need in the future.

The study (PDF) reveals the same kind of gap between educators and professionals that we've seen elsewhere (See Journalism and Mass Communication Educator for several similar academic studies.) But what's interesting is that educators seem to value multimedia skills like photo, audio and video than professionals.

The report quotes Tom Huang, Sunday and enterprise editor of the Dallas Morning News: "[I]f I had to choose, I'd first choose journalists with 'traditional' skills and then train them on digital skills."

Fair enough. The bugger is how to do both in the limited time we have with students who come unprepared (I'll let others debate whether that should be "increasingly") with basic skills in language and a basic lack of curiosity and drive (the absolute basic necessity for a reporter). By the time we get over that hump, the time to teach the wide range of other skills.

And while I appreciate Huang's suggestion that he or his organization would train them, too often that is not happening -- most of the editors I talk to want the complete package.

Karen Magnuson, editor and VP-news at the Democrat and Chronicle, embodied that view:
Educators may think all of those things are important but the results
coming out of colleges are very mixed,” she said in an email. “My
personal experience with journalism grads is that they fall into one of
two categories: solid writers/reporters with limited digital skill sets or
multimedia journalists who are great with video but don’t understand how
to work a beat or dig much deeper than what’s given in a press release or
press conference. Both types are problematic in today’s newsrooms. We
need it all!”
 I find it interesting that throughout the report, independent journalists align more closely with educators. I'm tempted to suggest that perhaps the freelancers have a better understanding of the wider media ecosystem because they have to swim in all of it. Your thoughts?

Labels: ,

Monday, March 24, 2014

Recommended reading: Steve Outing - is 'journalism' losing higher ed clout

Steve Outing has written an interesting column at his Media Disruptus site looking at the waning of "journalism" in the name of higher ed programs professing to do at least a little of it. (He also reflects on the efficacy of keeping "mass communications" in the mix in an age when "mass" increasingly is becoming "targeted."

I think he's right about the direction this is going. And I think it is for two reasons:
- The waning influence of journalism in society.
- The "penury" of the industry when it was in good shape when it came to actually funding the schools and paying some attention to the research they've produced.

This industry never has seemed to get the message: You pay to play. It's that simple.

As for the "mass communications" thing, there are many reasons for that. Among them:
- Schools that could only get that as the name because there was a dominant "journalism" program.
- The difficulty -- in the extreme in some cases -- of changing names in academic programs. Sisyphean doesn't begin to describe it in some cases.

Labels:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

AP: Over? More than? No distinction anymore ...



Finally!

And for all those having heart attacks on Twitter about it, get over it. It hasn't been an issue on most news desks or for most publications for several years. Feel free to make the distinction if you want -- I do -- just don't mindlessly impose it on others.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Copy editors at BuzzFeed

Well, isn't this interesting:

But as BuzzFeed continues to grow—four new employees checked in at the front desk in the 10 minutes I spent waiting there one morning—they’re not just adding brilliant headline writers and producers who get the gestalt of cat lovers. BuzzFeed has decided it’s no longer good enough to fix errors after publication, at least not on its most popular posts. They’ve decided it makes good journalism and business sense to assure readers that their posts are true, so BuzzFeed is embracing the ultimate symbol of the overstuffed print newsrooms of the pre-digital past. BuzzFeed is hiring copy editors


http://www.cjr.org/cover_story/who_cares_if_its_true.php
But as BuzzFeed continues to grow—four new employees checked in at the front desk in the 10 minutes I spent waiting there one morning—they’re not just adding brilliant headline writers and producers who get the gestalt of cat lovers. BuzzFeed has decided it’s no longer good enough to fix errors after publication, at least not on its most popular posts. They’ve decided it makes good journalism and business sense to assure readers that their posts are true, so BuzzFeed is embracing the ultimate symbol of the overstuffed print newsrooms of the pre-digital past. BuzzFeed is hiring copy editors. - See more at: http://www.cjr.org/cover_story/who_cares_if_its_true.php#sthash.x0Occ98l.dpuf
But as BuzzFeed continues to grow—four new employees checked in at the front desk in the 10 minutes I spent waiting there one morning—they’re not just adding brilliant headline writers and producers who get the gestalt of cat lovers. BuzzFeed has decided it’s no longer good enough to fix errors after publication, at least not on its most popular posts. They’ve decided it makes good journalism and business sense to assure readers that their posts are true, so BuzzFeed is embracing the ultimate symbol of the overstuffed print newsrooms of the pre-digital past. BuzzFeed is hiring copy editors. - See more at: http://www.cjr.org/cover_story/who_cares_if_its_true.php#sthash.x0Occ98l.dpuf
But as BuzzFeed continues to grow—four new employees checked in at the front desk in the 10 minutes I spent waiting there one morning—they’re not just adding brilliant headline writers and producers who get the gestalt of cat lovers. BuzzFeed has decided it’s no longer good enough to fix errors after publication, at least not on its most popular posts. They’ve decided it makes good journalism and business sense to assure readers that their posts are true, so BuzzFeed is embracing the ultimate symbol of the overstuffed print newsrooms of the pre-digital past. BuzzFeed is hiring copy editors. - See more at: http://www.cjr.org/cover_story/who_cares_if_its_true.php#sthash.x0Occ98l.dpuf

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 28, 2014

The need for solid and intelligent metrics in J-education: On this I agree with Newton

I've had my differences with the Knight Foundation's Eric Newton over the years about what I felt were too-glib prescriptions about how to "reform" journalism education without taking into account the realities of the systems we work in.

(Yeah, I'd love to blow up the system -- but anarchy seldom has been a useful strategy to make real accomplishments and more often than not the opposite but equal reaction of political and organizational physics leaves the blow-up-ees in an even worse position.)

But count me as a big supporter of Newton's latest call for a thorough and deep examination of how we measure our journalism schools. Much too much is done anecdotally, not analytically -- and that contributes to the already painful pace of change.

However, my fear also is that this will come down to an emphasis on job placements, etc. -- in other words, made in the vision of the current infatuation with STEM (and remember, I'm a hard-sciences major to begin with, so I have some understanding of that side of things too). Oh, maybe it would not be among earnest folk like Newton, but if you pay close attention to the political winds, you can pick up more than a whiff of "why can't you be like them" and a strictly job-placement-oriented culture.

(A backlash from the humanities folks is slowly building, as I pointed out yesterday (for instance in this piece from The Philosophers' Mail), but by and large I've judged that many in the halls of academe have trouble grasping that they are being set up politically and that the light at the end of the tunnel is an onrushing political train.)

So yes, let's define the data, get it -- and use it.* But let's use it intelligently too.

---
*I say "use it" with the observation that those who profess to deal with research and data daily -- when presented with data about their own operations -- have a p<.05 tendency to go into denial or ignore mode.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Worth a listen: Jian Ghomeshi's interview with Alain de Botton on The Philosopher's Mail

I've become a big fan of the CBC's "Q with Jian Ghomeshi."

But I especially recommend his interview with Alain de Botton about Botton's new site, The Philosopher's Mail.

To me, it was a fascinating and very thought-provoking conversation getting to the core of what is news and how journalists define it versus how the rest of the world views it. It would be perfect for about any journalism class, but especially for an intro to media or a principles of journalism course.

If you want to get your students' attention:
http://philosophersmail.com/270214-utopia-graduate.php

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tying journalists' pay to revenue: 'This is a blood sport now'

In case you've missed the last five years or so and are still trying to figure out the shifting dynamics of the journalism business, this article on DigiDay, "Is it time to tie journalists' pay to revenue," should clue you in.

It includes this observation from Troy Young, president of digital at Hearst:

At the spirit is the need to align editorial teams with the company’s traffic and engagement goals and have them share in the success. The new generation of editors are analytically inclined anyway. Traffic is a reward in many ways because it gives them credibility. This is a blood sport now.

(In fairness, he does go on to warn about the dangers of solely chasing reader traffic.)

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 14, 2014

Winter in S.C.: Snow, earthquake - cue the locusts.

Two winter storms and now an earthquake remind me of 1986 in Dayton, Ohio, when I was AP correspondent there.

For several days a chemical-filled train that had derailed burned in nearby Miamisburg, throwing a cloud of smoke filled with who-knew-what (authorities certainly weren't sure) over the area and leading to one of the largest U.S. evacuations related to a train accident.

I had the job of covering it - more than 72 hours straight. I'd managed to get inside the police lines and to the warehouse about a quarter mile away that they had set up as a command post. The surrounding area had turned into a ghost town.

That same week, in golf, the Women's Open was being played at the NCR Country Club. It was touch and go as they kept a wary eye on the cloud. It was also brutally hot.

And then came monsoons. All in all, a fine week.

So there I was (having finally gotten a few hours' sleep) in the AP cubicle in the old Dayton Daily News building pounding out the requisite Sunday recap/thumbsucker, having just read a lede about the golf tourney in (I think it was) the Boston Globe that went something (as best as I can remember it): "We've had the fire. We've had the flood. Now all we need is the earthquake."

Sure enough, as I'm sitting there, a mag 3 or so temblor hits.

I swore, if I ever met that writer, I would throttle him.

Labels: , , , ,