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

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.)

4 ways to inspire ourselves and others

By · Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 · Comments Off on 4 ways to inspire ourselves and others

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Inspiration makes our jobs worthwhile. So does feedback.

It’s true of journalism, but we think everyone can relate.

With that general idea in mind, here are some key questions we can ask ourselves on a regular basis.

What purpose is my work serving in my community and for my audience?

How can readers and consumers act on my work?

How have I inspired others, whether they are peers and colleagues or readers and consumers?

What do people need to know and how can I deliver it to them?

Today’s news is fleeting. Everyone is in a hurry. People need to know how today’s news will affect them beyond the moment. We must inspire people to understand. And when we succeed, the hope is that their feedback will continue to inspire us.

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

It’s our choice — excitement or fear

By · Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 · Comments Off on It’s our choice — excitement or fear

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Creativity is one of those traits that can excite or agitate. Why is that?

It’s OK and it’s human to feel this way. Just don’t let fear get in the way. Move ahead.

The highest compliment you can be paid is to have someone say to you: “That’s a great idea.”

The worst thing you can say about yourself: “I can’t think of anything.”

The power of good ideas remains the key to your success. In today’s world, this is increasingly important.

Here are some tips about generating ideas that might help, especially for journalists. But these tips can apply to anyone.

Every day, we should ask ourselves: How have I been creative?

Every day, we should make an effort to generate at least one idea, however small. And let’s agree that our one idea will be a source of excitement for us, not fear.

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

Let cool heads prevail under pressure

By · Wednesday, February 27th, 2019 · Comments Off on Let cool heads prevail under pressure

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Overheard conversations can offer real lessons in getting along with others. Or not.

Here’s something you can try. When you are standing in line at a retail service desk, pay attention to conversations you can hear around you. Listen to a customer expressing a complaint or asking to return an item.

Now put yourself in each person’s place. Think about how you would handle the situation if you were the customer. And then if you were the service representative. Identify any problems in communication. What would you change?

Here are some tips that might help in tough situations, especially when people you’re dealing with — or working with — might lose their tempers.

  1. Don’t react immediately. Allow a cooling-off period.
  2. Don’t say anything you will regret later. Think before you speak.
  3. Don’t get into a shouting match. Keep an even tone.
  4. Don’t make it personal. Stick to the facts.
  5. Don’t stoop to another’s level. Be gracious in the face of adversity.
  6. Don’t talk behind anyone’s back. Rise above it.

It’s not always easy to get along with others, especially in high-pressure situations — such as on deadline. But a positive outcome has everything to do with how people interact with one another. And, too, you never know who might be listening in on your conversation.

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