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

Top tip: Give your audience a break(out)

By · Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 · No Comments »

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
  23. Quotes
  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 · No Comments »

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.)

Let’s mix things up a little each day

By · Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 · No Comments »

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Change. It can be just as strongly embraced as it can be deeply rejected.

People tend to be fond of change when it affects someone else, but resistant to change when it affects themselves. That’s human nature.

Change, however, can be a good thing for a lot of reasons. It can prevent drudgery from setting in or people from settling in — at work, on the job, in personal relationships. It’s good to mix things up every so often.

Change is a positive force that keeps people in motion. Some might argue: Why change for the sake of change? I would counter: Why not?

Proponents of change should not have to defend their reasons for it, presuming that the change causes no harm. And getting people out of their comfort zones should not be categorized as harmful.

Protectors of the status quo should not require reasons for change because that position presumes that change is in response to a problem that needs to be solved or an issue that needs to be addressed. As we know, change can be inspired by the simple desire for newness of some kind.

Every day, each of us could aspire to effecting some kind of change in some aspect of our lives. And if that makes others around us uncomfortable, then I guess our next challenge should be to change those people’s minds.

This post is an encore about an issue that is as important and relevant today as in September 2010, when it was originally published.

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

In memory of Dean Lorraine Branham

By · Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 · 1 Comment »
Emilie Davis, Lorraine Branham and Steve Davis at the Newhouse School in spring 2018

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Today, we are thinking about Lorraine Branham, dean of the Newhouse School, who passed away yesterday, April 2, after a battle with cancer.

Our thoughts are with her family, her Newhouse family, her friends and all the students whose lives she affected, influenced and transformed.

We share her legacy as reported by:

A most fond memory is the time we spent together at our retirement party at the Newhouse School in spring 2018. Thank you, Dean Branham, for everything.

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

What we publish — in poor taste or not?

By · Wednesday, March 27th, 2019 · Comments Off on What we publish — in poor taste or not?

not teaching,
still THINKING …

“In poor taste.” Those three words can be a major factor in whether material is published or kept from public view. How to decide?

Many times, it is up to individuals and colleagues to figure out where to draw the lines on appropriate subject matter for published content, including all the words and visuals that go along. Not easy.

Our digital world, where social media is a major player, means that anyone can participate, can take control of content and can publish it.

Things are further complicated by the nature of most audiences. They range dramatically in age, gender, ethnicity, religion and political philosophy, in what offends them and what does not.

Just as courts struggle to identify community standards in decency cases, so must we take the measure of our readership’s tolerance regarding taste.

And, we must do so without adopting dangerous presumptions, such as this:

“I’m writing for a college audience, so they won’t be offended.”

Any time we generalize about the audience, we’ll be wrong. A group of 20-year-olds is diverse.

We must find the sweet spot about what is ‘in poor taste.” We must be sensitive to acceptable standards, but without being a censor and without imposing personal values, likes and dislikes on everyone else.

And that is pretty much a matter of taste itself.

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

3 questions to stay positive at work

By · Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 · Comments Off on 3 questions to stay positive at work

not teaching,
still THINKING …

If you find yourself dragging yourself to work, ask yourself these three short questions and see if they help to give you a sense of eagerness instead.

Was it fun? We tend to ask that question when we’re curious about some kind of event. But how about our work experience? Work can be serious and difficult. But it should not be drudgery.

Make time to make fun. If you’re bored, your audience is bored.

What’s the lesson learned? We make and mourn mistakes every day, and we learn from them. But we should not dwell on them.

Celebrate successes. Learn from them, too, and vow to repeat and build upon them every day.

How is working with colleagues? It’s all about collaboration with co-workers.

The rewards of collaboration are immense. Talk to one another. Brainstorm often.

Many factors affect our outlook, and each day is different. But each day does not have to be a drag.


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