The new tech tools are cool, but I still get more excited about great writing

I created a list on Tweetdeck for journalism industry news a couple of years ago. It is not complete, but there a lot of good sources there for what is happening in the industry. I rarely have the time I want to scroll through it and read everything I want. But I did this afternoon.

The first Tweet to get my attention was this one:

I read Clark’s blog post on Poynter.org with great interest. His book about writing short is on my short list of books to get. His “Writing Tools” book has been helpful.

I was telling students the other day that the goal isn’t to write something short as much as it is to write all the parts of it short. If the sum of the parts is long, maybe it deserves to be. But if each part is concise, then that 2,000-word story will read like a much shorter story. And the story that should be 300 words won’t be 500.

As I scrolled through my Twitter list I was struck that over a six-hour period and hundreds of tweets only two were specifically about writing. Others were about reporting, which is great, technology, the business side of journalism, etc. Those things are of interest, but if I am a geek about anything other than sports trivia it is about writing.

I have always cared about writing, but now that I teach writing it is on my brain almost too much. Still, I fear that the art of writing is a casualty of digital progress. Writing is a part of all journalism platforms, so I must be serious about teaching it as well as I am able. The new stuff like drones and VR matter. We have a drone coming soon for use to figure out journalism applications for and to have a little fun with. And VR applications like this tweet promises are exciting.

But writing in all its forms will always be what matters most. That’s why I love tweets like this one.

Sometimes three words are worth more than a picture.

Putting skills to work outside the box a good thing for Cedarville students

We have this saying in the Cedarville University Department of Communication: “What Can’t We Do?”

We put it on T-shirts, hashtag it, say it, etc.

The more students apply that to co- and extra-curricular activities while on campus, the better it prepares them to find work.

In addition to my journalism teaching responsibilities in the department, I also teach a writing class to communication majors. My sense is that what we discuss and learn in that class helps them think about writing in new ways. They are, after all, comm majors and want to know the best ways to communicate in whatever job they find.

There are obvious limits on what they can do. They can’t use their degree to be a nurse, an engineer, a school teacher or an astronaut. But they can work at hospitals, innovative companies, schools and even for NASA. All those places, and just about any other place open for business, needs people to do the work comm majors do. “Where Can’t We Work?” is another way to think about it.

I could say just about the same thing for journalism majors. We train them to be reporters and to do other aspects of journalism. But they are employable beyond those areas at businesses and non-profits. Same goes for broadcasting and digital media students. We just did a survey of recent journalism graduates, and most are working either as reporters, content marketers or public relations specialists.

Similarly, students choose to work for Cedars, our campus newspaper and website, and Resound, our campus raido station, from outside of the comm department. We are inclusive, not exclusive, in both directions.

I just saw this article about a graduate from a program outside of our department. He got a good job at a web design firm and was once a part of our design team for Cedars. Andrew Spencer did some great work for us and helped us win a design award in the annual Ohio Newspaper Association contest. He looked for ways to grow his skills outside of the classroom.

Students are wise for taking advantage of opportunities outside of their specific discipline. It grows their knowledge and understanding of the world.

When you see a great story, you just have to tell it

When I saw the email from Cox sports editor John Boyle, I knew this was a story I head to make time for.

The story was about a high school football player who suffered traumatic brain injuries in a car wreck and spent 34 days in a coma. No one knew what kind of life John Samples had in front of him. But he recovered beyond expectations and kicked the extra points for his Mechanicsburg High football team Friday night at Southeastern.

A story with so much and so full of angles and great stories within the story, I knew I needed some space. And I was given that space today for a longer-than-usual story on the local news page in the Springfield News-Sun. Good call by the editors. It’s a sports story but transcends the sports section.

Journalism is about telling all kinds of stories. These are my favorite kind. Getting to speak with John, his family, friends and his coach was a privilege. They were so helpful that I felt like the story wrote itself.

I’ll be at Springfield High tonight covering the Wildcats. Wish I could see John kick. I hope somebody records his first point and puts it on the Facebook page dedicated to his recovery.

Best wishes, John. Keep on kicking and keep on defying the odds.