Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, Newhouse School, Syracuse University. Editing for print and digital, new media journalism.

6 ways to impress at a new job

By · Thursday, October 15th, 2015 · Comments Off on 6 ways to impress at a new job

If you’re starting a new job or an internship at a news organization, take a moment to learn these six simple ways to stand out as a professional member of the team from Day One.

  1. Dress professionally. This doesn’t necessarily mean full-blown business attire. But it does mean dressing appropriately for the position. A reporter covering breaking news? Be sure your shoes will take you where you need to go. And don’t follow the veterans in the crowd. They might wear jeans and T-shirts, but that’s not for you. At least not yet.
  2. Know the policy for corrections. We all make mistakes. Before it happens to you, be proactive and ask about the proper procedure for bringing a published error to the attention of your news organization. Is there a particular person to tell? Who makes the correction? Is there a form to fill out? How do you inform your audience?
  3. Know local style. Even if your news organization follows Associated Press style, you can be sure there are local exceptions. Again, ask. And find out where the local style guide resides. How can you access it so you can learn it and use it?
  4. Know what to do if you’re ill. Before the day comes when you are too sick to go to work, ask about the proper procedure for alerting your supervisor or news organization. And, how? Some prefer email, others text message, others a phone call.
  5. Know the policy for sharing your work on social media. Is sharing required? Expected? Desired? And, how often and how much?
  6. Know the policy for engaging with readers who post comments on your stories. Should you end your story with a question to your audience, as some news organizations suggest, as a way to encourage civil engagement? Should you post answers to questions that are raised? Should you remain silent?

First days — anywhere — are memorable ones. Make yours memorable for the right reasons. And you’ll make a good impression.

Engage in the news today & every day

By · Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 · Comments Off on Engage in the news today & every day
Foofie is an honorary Newhouse News Hound

Foofie is an honorary Newhouse News Hound

Are you engaged in the news?

That’s the big question today, which is National News Engagement Day. Engagement is the theme of this annual day — set aside for journalists and news consumers to “read, watch, like, tweet, post, text, email, listen to, or comment on news.”

We can thank the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication for that directive and for creating NED, as we affectionately call it. And we do thank them.

In its second year, NED has given us at the Newhouse School a reason to embrace and promote what we do every day — as professors and as professionals. And we get to have fun doing it.

As AEJMC says:

“National News Engagement Day will not only contribute to an informed society,
it will encourage people of all ages to explore news and raise awareness
about the importance of being informed.”

That’s why roving reporters will engage the Syracuse University today by:

If you want to join in, it’s easy to do on social media wherever you happen to be today.

Check out all the day’s activities at

And then do what AEJMC has asked. Again, all you have to do is “read, watch, like, tweet, post, text, email, listen to, or comment on news.”

Use the hashtags #NHned and #NewsEngagementDay

Please share this today. We are eager to engage with you.

How would you use the dislike button?

By · Friday, September 18th, 2015 · Comments Off on How would you use the dislike button?

If you’ve been following Facebook news this week, you know the latest.

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and top executive, announced that the social networking site is close to testing a “dislike” button out there.

When it hits, watch out.

If people use it as intended, they will express empathy or sadness.

But Zuckerberg — in comments published in Vindu Goel’s blog about the news — was clear about what the button should not be:

“You don’t want to go through the process of sharing some moment
that was important to you during your day
and have someone down-vote it.”

If you check out the reader comments at the end of the blog, you’ll understand a statement that Goel shares:

The prospect of a new dislike button has been polarizing among Facebook users.

And even that might be an understatement.

How would you want others to use the button when reacting to your shared moments?

How would you use it?

What we learned from a trucker

By · Friday, September 4th, 2015 · Comments Off on What we learned from a trucker

We might be back at school, but we are still celebrating summer memories. One of them involves a road trip to visit family in Springfield, Mo., about an 18-hour ride.

The drive there was uneventful. The drive back not so much.

Passing through St. Louis on the way home

Passing through St. Louis on the way home

About halfway home, we encountered the dreaded brake lights up ahead, signalling to us that we soon would be coming to a stop. We did.

We thought — hoped — it would be a short delay. But then something happened.

A police vehicle sped past us, on the left shoulder, lights flashing and siren blaring.

Then another. And another.

Then a firetruck.

Then a rescue truck.

At a standstill after an accident up ahead

Then an ambulance.

Not good.

After about 20 minutes, the driver of the grain truck next to us got out of his cab and stood there, just looking up ahead.

Curious to know if he knew what was going on, we lowered the window and asked:

Do you know what happened? At least two vehicles were in an accident … there were injuries … about a quarter mile up the highway

Our pickup and the trucker reflected in his rig

Our pickup and the trucker reflected in his rig

How long of a delay? Could be awhile … no tow trucks yet … at least an hour

What are you hauling? Grits

Where are you headed? South Carolina

Where are you coming from? Wisconsin

How many hours a day do you drive? Eight

He knew what was going on up ahead because he could communicate with truckers who were close to the scene. He commented on how dangerous it was that people were backing up and crossing the median to get to the other side and away from the delay. We passed around hard candy, which he graciously accepted. He told us it felt good to stand for a while. This was his second accident delay this day.

And, then, he noticed something we had not seen. Movement.

Is it over? It was nice talking to you …

He pulled himself back into his truck, waved to us and rode alongside for a short while until we gained speed and passed him. When we reached the accident scene, it already had been cleared. All emergency vehicles were gone. It was as if it had not happened.

What we learned in that hour?

Minimum wage issue a lesson in inclusion

By · Monday, August 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Minimum wage issue a lesson in inclusion

Classes at the Newhouse School start a week from today, and it’s time to remind ourselves how many lessons surround us every day, with every story and post that we read.

Take, for example, the increased minimum wage issue that’s been in the news. Lots of information. Plenty of opinions.

If you’re following that news, here’s a New York Times story that will enlighten you on how restaurant owners are handling the increased cost of raising the minimum wage at their establishments: “As Minimum Wages Rise, Restaurants Say No to Tips, Yes to Higher Prices” by Patricia Cohen.

Importantly, a key theme is inclusion. Several restaurant owners explain how they are trying to include all workers in the benefits of higher wages. Not just the servers, but the cooks and dishwashers, too.

A telling line from the story:

Like many owners, Ms. (Amanda) Cohen has long wanted to close the yawning earnings gap
between those who prepare the food and those who serve it.

Amanda Cohen owns Dirt Candy, described in the story as “an upscale eatery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.” With a no-tip policy, she charges patrons a 20 percent “administrative fee” and pays servers $25 an hour.

Interestingly, writer Patricia Cohen includes an all-important cosmic element in her story: What’s happening elsewhere? What can we learn here from something happening there? Who else is doing this?

Before we tell you more, take a moment to read Patricia Cohen’s story in full.

And be sure to read through the last paragraph because she also includes another important story element: a strong kicker at the end.

Credit: Use this checklist to get it right

By · Thursday, July 30th, 2015 · Comments Off on Credit: Use this checklist to get it right

Three elements in a story — attribution, sources and substantiation — give credit in distinct ways. Credit is essential to give you and your work credibility.

  1. Attribution tells readers where information came from; it makes the story transparent.
  2. Sources indicate that others — not the reporter — provided information; they make the story credible.
  3. Substantiation gives support to information in the story; it makes the story strong.

Here are some key questions you can ask yourself about these three elements to ensure they are present in stories you write or edit and that they appear in the appropriate places.

Questions about attribution

Who is telling the news? Is it clear either in the lead paragraph or within the first few paragraphs?

Is there too little attribution? Does attribution appear in one paragraph but not in the next few paragraphs that follow? Paragraph by paragraph, is it clear where information is coming from and who said it?

Is there too much attribution? Is information attributed to the same person in each sentence of the same paragraph? Can that be streamlined by attributing the information once in the paragraph and making clear that the attribution applies to the entire paragraph?

Is attribution in the proper place? With a change in speaker after a quote, is there attribution at the start of the next sentence so a new speaker is properly introduced?

Questions about sources

Are the right sources in the story? Are they commenting on the right things?

Are the sources believable? Are they close enough to the story that they know what they’re talking about? Are they so close that they seem biased?

Are there enough sources? Are there various points of view? Is anyone missing?

Are sources fully and clearly identified? Are experts’ qualifications clear? Are there any anonymous sources in the story — and have the proper editors approved their use? Are the anonymous sources necessary? What other sources could take their place?

Questions about substantiation

Is any information in doubt? If so, why? What will remove that doubt?

Have assertions been verified? Has material from sources been supported with independent information? Or, has it been included unchallenged?

Is the content strong? Paragraph by paragraph, does the story stand up to scrutiny?

What’s missing? Should anything else be included that would make the story complete?

When you ask these questions again and again, story after story, you develop a natural and helpful habit. Your goal is to end up with a strong story that meets not only your expectations but those of your audience as well. If you don’t ask, readers will.