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

3 things to do when you make a mistake

By · Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019 · No Comments »

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Mistakes happen. But then what? To err might be human. But to err and then not take responsibility is unacceptable.

Here are some tips for handling the delicate process of correcting a mistake.

  1. Be disciplined. Know the process at your news organization for handling an error — whether you made the error or you are being told about an error.
  2. Be tactful. When explaining your own error, stick to the facts. Don’t make excuses. If someone is informing you of an error, let the person explain the error without interruption. Even if you disagree, do not say so. Repeat what you believe you heard. Take notes.
  3. Share the information. Know which person at your organization should be informed about the error. When in doubt, always tell your immediate supervisor about the error.

Take care if you are responsible for writing a correction. Policies vary, but corrections usually include the following details.

Finally, keep in mind these key points.

Trust can be broken when mistakes happen. But trust can survive when we take responsibility.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

May you trust your gut — and act on it

By · Wednesday, May 15th, 2019 · No Comments »

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Our top-of-mind advice today — that you always trust your gut — is something you will need to personalize.

First you must know yourself. Know your comfort level. Know what makes you uncomfortable.

Your gut tells you when something is off, isn’t right, could be wrong. It’s that inner instinct that lets you know you need to pay attention. Right now.

When your gut is speaking, listen to it. Act on it. Ask. Research. Check. Check again. And again. Confirm. Verify. Don’t accept “coincidence” as a plausible explanation. It usually isn’t.

As you get to know yourself, you are learning to trust your instincts. Once you are one with your inner self, you cannot shake it. And, really, that’s exactly what you don’t want to do.

This encore post is a modified version of a post originally published in May 2015 about an issue that is still important and relevant today.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

3 not-so-easy ways to maintain credibility

By · Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 · No Comments »

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Summer internships are approaching, and journalism interns must take special care with their credibility. Not a journalist? Or an intern? These tips on how to stay above reproach still might apply.

Honesty is always the best approach to staying above reproach. If people question the veracity of even one piece of journalism because of personal integrity, then they will question everything. And your credibility is everything.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

How your photos can make an impression

By · Wednesday, May 1st, 2019 · Comments Off on How your photos can make an impression
Foofie, an honorary Newhouse News Hound, holds a copy of the second edition of “Think Like an Editor: 50 Strategies for the Print and Digital World.” (Photo by Steve Davis)

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Photos are a big draw on social media, and here are some tips to consider before you publish them. These tips are not only for journalists, but also for anyone who posts images.

  1. Check identifications. Be sure spellings accompanying images are correct and that they match spellings elsewhere in your post. Be sure people are identified — and in the proper order.
  2. Give credit. Be sure every photo includes the name of the photographer or the name of the wire service or agency that owns it.
  3. Trust your instincts. Be sure the photo reflects reality. When sharing the work of others, look carefully for any signs of electronic alterations.

Consider this analogy about photos. If you think of the digital universe as one big photo album, then ask yourself: Is this an album with a collection of all the best photos, carefully selected and presented? Or, are some pages of this album stuffed with every frame that was ever shot? You will see it all because professional sites mingle with personal ones. Professional photographers with amateurs. News with entertainment. The best with everything else.

Maybe what you should ask is: Does my portion of this giant album draw people to it because it is well-organized and contains carefully selected photos? Or, did I put everything out there? Make good choices and take viewers’ time into consideration.

Every decision you make is a judgment, and decisions about photos are personal. Strive to make a connection between the photo and the viewer. As you look around, you’ll come across all manner of photos and galleries. Some are so good you’ll think there’s no way you can compete.

But don’t think about it as a competition.

Think about how you can make an impression.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

Top tip: Give your audience a break(out)

By · Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 · Comments Off on Top tip: Give your audience a break(out)

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Stuck on a story idea? It happens.

But when news breaks or even when covering routine events, here is a good way to generate ideas, provide important information and involve your audience at the same time.

It’s called a breakout. And it works because it provides a point of entry for the audience.

A breakout tells people: Here is something else to know; here is another place to tap or swipe; here is a new direction. Breakouts can be interactive. They can be smart icons that take people where they want to go.

Here are our top choices of things to break out — all 30 of them:

  1. Lists of all kinds
  2. Background information
  3. Next steps
  4. Causes
  5. Effects
  6. Biographical information
  7. Names
  8. Phone numbers
  9. Addresses
  10. URLs
  11. Dates
  12. Facts at a glance
  13. History
  14. Questions and answers
  15. Sequence of events
  16. Reactions
  17. Reasons
  18. Symptoms
  19. Treatments
  20. Chronologies/Timelines
  21. Costs
  22. Examples
  24. Directions
  25. Event information — place, time, date, cost, parking
  26. How-tos
  27. Laws, rules, regulations
  28. Where to donate
  29. Where to volunteer
  30. Where to find more information

Breakouts are also a way to keep a story alive and move it forward. Take the recent fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. It’s a tragic event whose story is still being told. And a good number of breakouts on this list have been — and could be — employed to tell it.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

6 ways to impress at a new job

By · Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 · Comments Off on 6 ways to impress at a new job

not teaching,
still THINKING …

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.

This post is an encore about an issue that is as important and relevant today as in October 2015, when it was originally published.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)