Blake Snow

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Tagged journalism

The problem with academic writing: “The teacher must seize the student’s attention”

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

I don’t like academic writing. It’s mostly nonsense.

A few years ago, I said as much to my father who works in academia. Despite my insensitivity and lack of tact, I stand by my belief. Not because I’m incapable of admitting when I’m wrong. But because academic writing’s verbose language, impersonal tone, and dispassionate delivery ultimately fail to engage readers.

In other words, “Academics are really good at writing books that only academics will read, but they’re not very good at making anyone outside of academia care,” says Jared Bauer, co-creator of Thug Notes, in an interview with Huffington Post. ”Teaching isn’t easy, so I’m not trying to shame teachers for not trying more radical approaches to literature education,” he adds. “But at the very least, I hope (our) show makes teachers realize that a student won’t volunteer their attention. The teacher must seize it.”

As I debated with my father that day, for writing to succeed, it must capture the reader’s attention. If it doesn’t, the writing won’t get shared, influence can’t happen, and the opportunity to learn is squandered, even among scholars. There’s no point to that kind of writing other than to serve as a reminder of how not to write.  Continue reading…

Kids don’t stand a chance: My dog gets all the attention

Blake Snow

Blake Snow

There’s a funny saying in journalism. You could publish the biggest exclusive story in the world — a major political scandal, military coup, celebrity scoop, scientific breakthrough, or life-changing event. But it still won’t reach as many people as a cute story about a dog (See also: The AP Guide to News & Feature Writing).

I was reminded of this recently while walking my dog. Although I’ve walked the block many times with my adorable toddlers, one neighbor in particular never took much notice when crossing paths. No biggie. I just thought she was a private but pleasant lady. She’d smile; sometimes wave. We waved back. That was the extent of it for nearly four years.

Until she met Harley. Continue reading…

5 questions I wish a bold journalist would ask the president

Now before any dreamy eyed Obama voters get offended by the timing of this, I’m in no way calling our nascent President a failure. I’m still hopeful. But as an American, I want answers, which is what good reporting should be seeking anyway. So why haven’t these questions been asked (or maybe I missed them)? Continue reading…

How to save newspapers

Time Magazine is wrong.

As newspapers — and by extension 80% of all original reporting — face extinction, along with print, the magazine says websites should charge $.10/day or $2/month to access the news. Author Walter Isaacson says this will offset the loss of subscription and classified revenue so creative journalists can still “get paid” in addition to advertising, which isn’t performing well online.

As a freelance journalist, nothing would please me more than getting better pay for the work I do. But I think Isaacson is off the mark — people will never pay for commodity information online (remember the failed “paid” content idea?). If network TV news can survive (while some even thrive) on advertising alone, why can’t websites? Isn’t the idea to stay lean and mean and choose your reporting battles, which can be expensive (say… stationing a full-time journalist in Iraq like the LA Times does on its constituents’ dime)?

Anyone got any ideas? Otherwise, our ability to watch guard government, corporations, and the public through journalism could be compromised.

Some of America’s most venerable newspapers face extinction

Economist.com — “Pick almost any American newspaper company and you can tell a similar story. The ABC reported that for the 530 biggest dailies, average circulation in the past six months was 3.6% lower than in the same period a year earlier; for Sunday papers, it was 4.6% lower. Ad revenues are plunging across the board…”

Fact: many technologists were quick to predict the death of pen and paper with the rise of typewriters and personal computers. Similarly, many technologists predicted book sales would decrease with the rise of e-book readers.

That being said, older technology can often persist in light of new technology through adaptation (i.e. new technology does not always obviate older technology). I believe the same is true for newspapers and magazines, provided they accentuate their remaining value (portable text, reputation, local community, and/or more non-ephemeral reporting like features).

[via Digg]

The ability to distinguish formal and informal writing is a good thing

“Not all :) as informal writing creeps into teen assignments,” reads a clever AP headline. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s nothing to LOL about: Despite best efforts to keep school writing assignments formal, two-thirds of teens admit in a survey that emoticons and other informal styles have crept in… “It’s a teachable moment,” said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew. “If you find that in a child’s or student’s writing, that’s an opportunity to address the differences between formal and informal writing. They learn to make the distinction … just as they learn not to use slang terms in formal writing.”

First of all, I love how avant guard the Associated Press was in using that playful headline in a formal news report. Secondly, I whole heartily agree that there’s a time and a place for informality. That goes for speech as well.

Crispy Gamer: On the Bright Side, an introduction

Blake Snow examines gaming benevolence and creative development twice monthly. The color of next-gen is bright.

In 2007, a fictional food critic by the name of Antone Ego aptly described mass media and its audience when he wrote: “We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.”

Ego’s definition couldn’t have been wiser. Indeed, positive news has long since taken a backseat to negative reporting, with the former often compressed to a 20-second closing spot in a 30-minute telecast.

The same is true of videogames, if not by more, which have long been vilified and blamed for idleness, poor grades, insensitivity and random acts of violence by the mainstream media. Interestingly, even the gaming press has become more grumpy in recent years, adding drama where there is none to be found, discouraging industry growth and change, and forgetting the playful nature of videogames altogether.

Continue reading at Crispy Gamer…

How I interview people for information

I’ve had several discussions this past week on the best way to interview someone in the name of journalism. Here are my thoughts, methodologies, and best practices when trying to extract pertinent information from key individuals.

  1. Realize you’re interviewing a human being with feelings. It’s imperative that you are courteous and respectful even if you completely disagree with the person or they have a tendency to spin everything (spin frustrates accurate information, so that can be discouraging, I know).
  2. Ask straightforward questions without context when possible, e.g. “Why did X happen?” as oppossed to “Given blah, blah, blah, and yada, yada, yada, why did X happen?” When you must use context, be sure to be as objective as possible when prepping the question.
  3. Be fair. I know an individual that walked straight up to a Sony executive and asked him outright if the executive thought his employer was arrogant. The executive scoffed at the question and immediately walked away leaving the reporter with nothing more than an eye roll to report on. Bad idea. Bad approach. And definitely not fair. Even if someone shows heavy signs of what you’d like to reveal, you have to come at those questions sideways like, “What do you think about X?” in which the interviewee will most likely make known your hypothesis to be true.
  4. No hints! When reporting, please don’t drop sparky hints. You’re readers aren’t retarded, and collectively they are much smarter than you. When it comes to straight news, just report what happened piecing together the story in chronological order while distilling information in inverted pyramid form so readers can ditch a story when they like.
  5. View the interviewee as an asset. Remember that the interviewee has information you want access to. Use tact in getting said information so your audience can make an informed decision.

Anyone else have thoughts on interviewing for information? Comment if you got ‘em.

GamePro: Video Game Journalism Demystified

Game journalism sometimes gets a bad rap, but many of the worst accusations aren’t based in reality. Here are eight of the most popular myths about game reporting…and what really happens behind the scenes.

8. Video game journalists aren’t as responsible as traditional media.

Conventional wisdom suggests that most gaming journalists are uninspired, inconsistent, overly sensationalistic, or even fail to fact check before running a story. While some outlets are more irresponsible than others, this isn’t the case across the board. Game journalism didn’t get where it is today by being inaccurate and irresponsible. Additionally, widespread video game coverage has existed no longer than 20 years since the late 80s. While the media is anything but nascent, it still has its growing pains. Was the mainstream media as reliable as they are today? Not likely. This same is true of video game journalists.

The Verdict: It depends on the publication and the reporter, but more often than not, game journalists are right up there with most media in terms of credibility.

Continue reading at GamePro…

10 things about the future of newspapers you need to understand

Ryan from Invisible Inkling has such a good take on the waning popularity of newspapers and how new media has changed the game for the better. Without stealing his thunder, here are his major points:

  1. It’s not Google’s fault
  2. It’s not Craigslist’s fault
  3. Write local
  4. Get new training
  5. Stop charging for news (only advertising)
  6. Reporters need to be multimedia enabled, not just writers
  7. Use bloggers as network sources and voices, don’t fear them
  8. Let your readers consum your content in a variety of ways
  9. Embrace new media
  10. Revamp your online vision

Be sure to click on through to read his excellent commentary.

TIME calls bloggers “random lunatics”

In an article entitled “Do Newspapers Have a Future,” author Michael Kinsley at TIME magazine had this to say: “Meanwhile, there is the blog terror: people are getting their understanding of the world from random lunatics riffing in their underwear, rather than professional journalists with standards and passports.”

He’s got a point. However, he also exposes the overall threatened view of traditional media towards bloggers, and rightfully so. Continue reading…

Bloggers = Jounalists?

 

Okay, this might be somewhat of a dated topic, but should biased, opinionated web loggers enjoy the same protection as so called “non-biased, but they really are biased” journalists? Apple Computer seems to think not in wake of their recent litigation against bloggers who got the computer company ruffled when they took the steam out of their new ipods and imacs.

Let me know your thoughts on this one… Do bloggers deserved to be treated as new amateur journalists of the new era? As for me, it is yet to be determined. (Sara, this goes for you too!)

“PFG – pretty freakin good”