Archive for February, 2014

Getting a start in journalism

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

At the recent UCC Journalism conference (where RTÉ told us with great pride how they’re gatekeepers and won’t allow us to see silly celeb stories on the news), a student asked for advice on starting out in journalism. This was the advice I gave.

1. Start.
Don’t wait for anything in particular. Just start writing now.

2. Pick something you think the media isn’t covering.
Something the media isn’t covering that you think they should? As per this post, you write it. Media has finite resources and the work journalists are doing is increasing while their pay is not. There are going to be gaps. Fill that gap.

3. Your writing is going to be shit to start with. So what, you’ve started.
10,000 hours is what makes a lot of people go from average to talented. It doesn’t occur naturally for most. Work work and work. Read and write then read and write some more. And stop with the excuses. The worst thing for your writing is to stop writing. Runners don’t wait for the “right” race to train.

All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it? – Philip Pullman

4. Become obsessed about a topic you have a genuine interest in.
Read everything about it. Oh God, you’re one of those people at a party. Did I know the Ecuadorian yellow parrot has …? Remember bands we idolised and how we knew everything about them? Even the stuff that would never appear in a pub quiz? Become that person for a topic. When you write about the topic your passion and knowledge should stand out because of that obsession. Read every angle about the topic. Pro, con, neutral, rumour. You are now the knowledge base for this topic. You should now be able to create timelines and linkages and more for that topic. Observe from outside, how you write and structure content about the topic. Maybe use this as a model for other topics then? Obsessions teach us a lot about how to research and get a feel for things.

5. Pick a fight.
In terms of getting attention, it works well. But be justified. If someone is misinformed then call them out with proof. Rebuttals, corrections and more can work well. Be level headed the whole time. No personal insults. See the next topic too.

6. Know your defamation laws.
Irish defamation law is a motherfucker. Designed to make rich people keep the masses down while making lawyers nice and rich. Know the limitations the law says your writing has to have. Do remember though that you will get bogus threats too that you should stand up to.

7. Look at available information sources.
FOI is great for this. The eTenders website is too. Data journalism is a nice new area of journalism. It’s a new name for what has always been there: Proper research and seeing a story where others don’t. Kildare Street. Even are good places to get information. Learn how to sift through data and tell a story

8. Write for people you know
Write for your mother, father, granparent, friend. Anyone can copy and paste from a press release or rob from the Irish Times and the Indo for their churnalism site. The value is not in who is fastest to repost a press release, it’s in crafting something that has a start, middle and end and that has added value to the life of someone by the time they’ve finished reading your piece. Having someone pictured in your mind as you write focuses you on how to communicate the information to them, how to write it in language they understand.

9. Know how to write killer headlines.
Use Twitter as a platform. Look at stuff in the Irish Times, Independent and give them better, catchier headlines and see what ones you create get the clicks on Twitter and Facebook. This headline guide from Upworthy is great.

10. Pitch and Collaborate
It’s never too early to pitch ideas to features editors. Start with local publications and see will they take your content for free. Again, look at topical issues and look at gaps and pitch for that gap. Yeah you work for free but now you’re published. The more places you are published, the more people will take you seriously.

Done your FOIs? Gotten juicy stuff? Pitch the story to a journalist and see will they write it with you. Get your name in the by-line in a paper then. This actually happens, not a lot but it does.

11. Read stuff on content and how to write
This list from me might also help in terms of new forms of content. Media changes, be there for the changes instead of catching up. Fail fast but fail cheap instead of failing slowly.

Fluffy Links – Monday February 24th 2014

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Alan references a post I did years back, now his take years later. All things change, all things repeat. IBTS are still dicks about the gays.

Not evenly distributed. Newspaper club will not only print your newspaper on demand, they’ll be the paperboy too.

Maybe analysts could watch for takedowns to predict who is getting acquired. Handy signal from WhatsApp about their purchase by being shitty on Github.

Same thing with Testflight. Remove all support for Android and new users and oh yeah, they got acquired by Apple.

Clever prediction markets people could use this to place bets/buys on certain stocks.

On WhatsApp. Great talk on ideas that people thought were daft at the time and turned out to be highly lucrative

New user experiences, good and bad, from a variety of products

Roads do perfume, books and film. Interesting mix, would love to be a publisher if I had a tonne of money and not worried about making money from this area.

The 10 Stages of the Creative Process.

I love this website designed to sell a course on creativity.

Such an odd word. Pulchritudinous.

Best cover in a long long LONG time

Fluffy Links – Monday February 17th 2014

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Ivan has a nice site on data visualisation. Do check it out.

20 minute read. Gold in that read: Very very detailed piece on the revenue, sales numbers and dynamics of the e-book industryHugh Howey. Self publish seems to be the main takeaway.

David Hieatt on how to raise money for your idea.

I’m putting the band back together, no, I mean I’m putting together a list of Digital Marketing Trainers. Want to be on it?

Buzzfeed Style Guidelines. Handy doc, useful for writing on the web.

And in the same area, the Yelp Style Guide.

Great great detail on how the Crazy Egg website was optimised for conversions. Getting traffic to your site is one thing, getting commitments from that traffic is another.

Winged Victory for the Sullen have new music.

Make lollipops turn into superheroes with printed capes.

Fan generated Star Trek original series episodes. High production values. Above we see the self publishing revolution data, will self produced TV be on the way too and be profitable? Also what’s interesting is pirate websites are giving this content a push. If Netflix can do it…

Dear Fellow Employees of Paypal. Use our app or leave. Why aren’t Paypal staff using the Paypal app is a good question.

Whiteboards. Great for displaying your passwords to TV crews.

Fluffy Links – Monday February 10th 2013

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Make others successful. Love this very short slide deck from Ideo on their values. Print off every slide!

Writing was always that torturous, we all just think we’re so fucking special.

Interview with Choire Sicha, founder of The Awl and the author of “A Very Recent History”.

Some actual context for how big Facebook as a social network is. Compare it to Twitter and the others.

Allen curve. The more you see someone face to face, the more you’ll communicate with them via other channels like post, phone, email.

The rider for a professional public speaker.

Hidden data in everyday things. Decoding GPS coordinates from a youTube video.

The Gap by Ira Glass, done to a video.

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” –W.B. Yeats

via Richard Hearne. Great piece on landing page optimisation with links to a whole lot of resources.

It was good til the very end and it went all “Twitter, Facebook wah wah wah pay”. Two teens, an ocean apart and how their History in Pics Twitter account is a juggernaut.

Julia Kent is playing Cork on March 1st. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh is support. Yes and yes.

Fluffy Links – Monday February 3rd 2014

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

We can’t come off looking like we think technology is the answer to every question. Technology is part of the answer but people are obviously part of the answer, as well.

Steve Case (Remember him from AOL) on tech companies and responsibilities. The tech world he alludes to is also the one where people feel good that they teach homeless people to code. And insist if everyone learned to code the world would be so much better. I’m sure some kid in Asia can unstarve themselves by learning python in their slum that doesn’t have electricity. Is there an Uber for getting a clue?

Brian Eno on a strategy to being creative again.

Launching a startup is easy. The launch bit. The hard work has yet to start though.

via Glenn There’s a guy in West Cork making very professional drones and exporting them.

Mac user? Trouble sleeping? This will help. Flux.

Fake U2 single uploaded to YouTube, it’s actually some other band. Got played by Dave Fanning. If this was guerrilla marketing by that band, I’d be slightly praising it.

Dodgy “guest” blog posts are going to get a hammering by Google. If Matt Cutts blogs about it, that’s a confirmation.

Praise kids for their effort, praise them for being smart, the ones praised for effort work harder and do better.

I forgot I uploaded this, the Art of the Handshake, taken from Primary Colours. Oh Bill er John.

Be the artist, not the canvas