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

Covering coronavirus is for all writers

By · Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 · Comments Off on Covering coronavirus is for all writers

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Specialty writing is holding a special place these days in our consumption of news as a major news story — the coronavirus — touches every aspect of our lives.

The idea that hard news is for only “news” reporters to cover has, once more, been debunked.

We have always taught and encouraged a solid foundation in reporting that includes the all-important who, what, when, where, how and why of any story. With the virus, “the story” is any or all of the following on any given day.

These topics — and more — are intermingling in daily coverage of the virus.

For young journalists, the requirement in college to cover news that often was considered “boring” or “irrelevant” is paying off for them now in their specialty fields.

For news consumers, the writers’ experience is providing relevant coverage that is vital for navigating this global crisis every day in their everyday lives.

For those of us on the journalism sidelines, it is reassuring to know that so many specialty writers have it covered.

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

3 common feelings you must understand

By · Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 · Comments Off on 3 common feelings you must understand

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Worried? Stressed? Anxious? All of the above?

Deadlines will do that to you. So will your imagination.

A recent piece in The New York Times by Emma Pattee explains the differences. The reason we share this with you is not only because you might find the information valuable as you navigate each day in a high-energy profession, but also because the story structure is so well done.

Not a journalist? You still will find Emma’s explanations worth reading.

In a nod to your busy day, we turn the rest over to the writer. We invite you to read her piece in full and decide for yourself whether you are worried, stressed or anxious at any given time.

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

Polls Part 2: This error is a good one

By · Wednesday, February 26th, 2020 · Comments Off on Polls Part 2: This error is a good one

not teaching,
still THINKING …

The margin of error is an important term that brings context to every poll and should be included in the reporting of every poll.

First, thank you to George Edmonson and Larry Dietrich, two fellow journalists. They both mentioned the all-important margin of error when they commented on our previous post about the difference between percent and percentage point in coverage of polls.

Now, a brief primer as explained in this piece by the Pew Research Center.

Keep in mind, too, the following details that also should be included in poll coverage to fully understand the results:

The Associated Press Stylebook offers an easy way for journalists to learn about and to brush up on the nuances of covering polls. And when journalists provide the many pertinent elements in their poll coverage, consumers also gain a better understanding of what it all means to them.

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

Polls: How the math is figured matters

By · Wednesday, February 19th, 2020 · Comments Off on Polls: How the math is figured matters

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Political polling is in full force, and it brings to mind the importance of knowing the difference between percent and percentage point. These terms do not mean the same thing. Using one instead of the other will alter the accuracy of the information.

Here is an example and an explanation:

Consider a $90,000 home assessed at a tax rate of 2 percent of the full value of the home.

When following coverage of poll numbers as they rise and fall, read and listen carefully when percent and percentage points are mentioned. You know the difference. And, should someone misuse one for the other, you will know that, too.

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

Heard news? Ask: How do you know?

By · Wednesday, February 12th, 2020 · Comments Off on Heard news? Ask: How do you know?

not teaching,
still THINKING …

When Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, along with seven others, died in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, a lot of “details” were shared — some overheard in casual conversations.

For example:

All of these details raised the question: How do they know?

Some 13 days after the crash, The New York Times put that question to rest by putting those details in perspective.

Its piece was published Feb. 8 under the headline, ‘Helicopter Went Down, Flames Seen’: Kobe Bryant’s Last Flight. It describes Our Lady Queen of Angels, “the Catholic church that the Bryants attended.”

The church is a beige, modern building, with a large patio and fountain in front. Inside, two thin speakers hang from the ceiling to project the priest’s words to the back part of the church, where Bryant sometimes sat, trying to blend in.

The piece shares a glimpse of Bryant’s visit to the church the morning of the crash.

Sunday’s first Mass was at 7 a.m., but Bryant had come and gone by then. As other parishioners began to arrive, a priest bumped into Bryant on his way out. The men chatted briefly, shook hands, and the priest noted the drop of holy water on Bryant’s forehead. He had been praying, he thought.

The question, “How do you know?” is a staple for journalists. When asked, it can lead to a simple answer or to more questions. But, ultimately, the hope is that the question leads to verified information that anyone would feel comfortable sharing.

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

Make the most of your competitive spirit

By · Wednesday, February 5th, 2020 · Comments Off on Make the most of your competitive spirit

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Competition can be a good thing when it leads to a person looking inward and assessing personal philosophies.

That’s one reason we encourage having a credo — a practical way to consider what guides you when you make decisions. A credo is a way to check in with yourself during times of crisis, doubt or worry.

Competition can trigger such feelings. But instead of comparing yourself to others in a harmful way, make it a practice to learn from others. Here are some simple tips:

The result? The more you know about others, the better you can adapt that knowledge to your own thinking. Compare and contrast. This practice can be positive reinforcement for what you already do and how you already think; it also can be a cue for change.

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