Friday, May 25, 2007

Workshop Recap: Details add energy to your stories

Recognize where your story has energy, John Lofflin said. Then think about moving that part of the story closer to the top, he added.

A journalism professor at Park University in Parkville, Mo., Lofflin also serves as special assignment editor for Veterinary Economics, an Advanstar Veterinary Healthcare Communications publication based in n Lenexa, Kan. He gave the presentation “The Art of Storytelling: How to Make a Boring Story Interesting” at the Spring Writing and Editing Workshop on May 15 in Overland Park, Kan. The Kansas City chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors organized the event held at the Brookridge Country Club.

Lofflin said he finds it difficult to explain his energy theory to students. The energy happens when a writer, at one point in the story, recognizes he or she has nailed it and becomes inspired. The writing happens at a quicker pace.

Sometimes a direct quote sparks the energy. Details give a story energy, too.

“Detail is a thing you have to learn to see,” he said.

Details can give a reader a sense of being at the event, or peering over the reporter’s shoulder during an interview. Details can cause a reader to interact with the story on a sensual level.

Even if reporters are unable to attend an event in person, they can use other tactics to obtain detail. Lofflin said he uses Google Earth on his computer to learn about places. Using this strategy once, he said he felt confident calling a Colorado town a two-story town.

He gave another example of calling back a veterinarian while writing a story about animal abuse. He wanted to know the weight of a cat that had died. It led to this sentence: “Excuse Dr. Brett Levitsky if his blood still runs hot when he’s asked to remember that April day in 2004 when 9-pound Darwin was laid on his exam table DOA.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Workshop Recap: Keep clutter out of your stories

This lead just won’t do: Ron Johnson talked about copy editing Tuesday afternoon.

Ron Johnson even said it won’t do, and he has taught editing and design classes at Kansas State University since 1989. Johnson gave the presentation “Big Picture Editing Techniques: The Nuts and Bolts of Weaving a Story Together” at the Spring Writing and Editing Workshop on May 15 in Overland Park, Kan. The Kansas City chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors organized the event held at the Brookridge Country Club.

Besides weak leads, Johnson gave suggestions on making transitions brief, providing just enough background information and avoiding paragraphs that say the same thing as the quotes that follow.

“Don’t make people hack through your verbiage to get to your cool stuff,” he said.

Johnson said writers may decide on a news lead and use the “who, what, when, where and how” of a story. However, he added, you do not need all five of those elements in the lead. You can select the most important ones for the first paragraph and add the other ones later.

Narrative leads, he said, can allow a writer to use one person’s perspective to illustrate the story’s big picture. Narrative leads tend to work better in longer stories, he said.

Stories in trade publications generally need adequate background information early on in the story, he said. Writers should try to summarize the information in a sentence or two.

Diversify sentence lengths and paragraph lengths throughout the story, he said. While reporting, writers should shop for a lead quote and a concluding quote. The lead quote can go high up in the story, like in the second or third paragraph.

And to finish? Johnson said, “The direct quote is about always the best way to end a story.”

Monday, May 21, 2007

Workshop Recap: Place content in various media platforms

The day of relying solely on print publications for revenue and readers is gone. Surveys show nearly half of the people who read newspapers online do not read the print editions, said Tom Eblen, a newspaper consultant and retired University of Kansas professor. Like the rest of the journalism industry, business-to-business publishing companies need to utilize various forms of media, not just print.

Eblen gave the presentation “The Straight Scoop: Radical Changes in Communications and How to Adapt to Continue to Serve our Readers” at the Spring Writing and Editing Workshop organized by the Kansas City chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors. The May 15 event was held at the Brookridge Country Club, Overland Park, Kan.

Eblen gave two examples outside of business-to-business publishing as ways to use media platforms successfully.

ESPN’s content lives on all media platforms, Eblen said. The company’s product can be found anywhere, from video games to mobile phones to websites. Walt Disney, ESPN’s parent company, now wants all of its companies to follow ESPN’s example, he said.

Closer to Kansas City, Eblen pointed to the success of The World Company in Lawrence, Kan. The company places stories in its print publications (the most well-known being the Lawrence Journal-World), online and on TV (the company owns Channel 6, a Lawrence TV station). The media outlets often cross promote each other.

Business-to-business publications may have an advantage over other media outlets, such as daily newspapers, Eblen said. A B-to-B publication wants to reach a segmented, specialized audience. Across all media platforms, a B-to-B publication may have a defined marketplace, as opposed to an undifferentiated marketplace.

When deciding how much to invest in online content, publications should know the average age of their readers. People under 30 tend to turn to online content exclusively for news, he said. People in their 50s are more likely to read newspapers.

Websites should be simple to use. No task should require 10 clicks of a computer mouse. Magazine content from at least 10 years back should be on website archives. Every publication should have its own website and lead in its category.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wanted: Bilingual associate editor

At Vance Publishing, we need a Bilingual Associate Editor for the The Packer within Vance’s food360° Division. You will play a key role in integrating our products and expanding our presence into the Hispanic market.

As the Associate Editor you will:
  • Receive assignments and evaluate news leads to develop stories for both print and online media
  • Gather and verify factual information regarding the story by interview, observation and research
  • Translate existing articles into both languages
  • Coordinate and edit copy from freelancers
  • Travel to industry events and conventions
  • Travel to growing regions in the U.S. and Latin America for enterprise reporting
  • Take photography and video during your travels
Qualified candidates will possess the following:
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism or equivalent experience
  • Bilingual language skills (Spanish/English)
  • Two years of reporting experience preferred
  • Superior writing and editing skills
  • Proficiency with HTML
  • Valid passport is required.
Vance provides a competitive salary, Profit Sharing/401(k), paid time off, and a comprehensive benefits package that includes medical, dental, life and AD&D insurance. Vance also offers tuition-assistance programs.

Please send your resume, salary requirements and relevant clips/URLs to: Vance Publishing Corporation ATTN: Human Resources 400 Knightsbridge Parkway Lincolnshire, IL 60069; Fax (847) 634-4336;

ASBPE on hypertext ads

For an update on the debate about sponsored links in editorial content on the web, check out this article on the national ASBPE website: "What ASBPE, B2B bloggers said about paid links in articles."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Only two days left to register!

Our Spring Writing and Editing Workshop is just around the corner, have you called Bill King to reserve your spot?

With three power-house journalism professors, this is an afternoon you won't want to miss.

After a delicious lunch at the Brookridge Country Club, Retired KU professor Tom Eblen will help you to step back and take a fresh look at your publication.

And by popular demand, Professor Ron Johnson is returning to help us brush up on those tricky, advanced editing techniques.

We will end our afternoon with Professor John Lofflin, who will discuss the art of storytelling, and how to make it work for your publication--no matter the subject matter.

To reserve your spot, call or e-mail Bill King (913-338-1503 or by noon on Friday.

Date: Tuesday, May 15, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (includes lunch)

Location: Brookridge Golf & Country Club, 8223 W 103rd St, Overland Park (103rd St. & Antioch)

Cost: $55 for ASBPE members, $70 for non-members, $30 for students

Monday, May 07, 2007

Ethics controversy continues at Ziff Davis; ASBPE clarifies ethics guidelines

Note: This post comes from the ASBPE Boston Blog and was made by Martha Spizziri. Link:
ASBPE Boston Blog: Ziff Davis, eWeek, Again Subject of Ethics Controversy.

The same day I posted about a recent Folio: profile of Ziff Davis Media, B2B publishing consultant Paul Conley published a blog post titled "Ziff Davis crosses the ethics line again."

Conley's post centers around Ziff Davis' decision to once again use Vibrant Media's IntelliTXT in-context ads on some of its sites, after pulling them from eWeek earlier this year. (See earlier post on this blog, "eWeek/IntelliTXT Flap," and two earlier posts on Paul Conley's blog, "eWeek crosses an ethical line" and " eWeek retreats in ads-within-edit scandal" for background.) The ads are back in eWeek and also appear on the company's CIO Insights web site.

Folio: published a story about the controversy on May 3. The article quotes Ziff Davis editorial director and senior VP Michael Vizard as saying "The IntelliTXT ads are clearly labeled as advertisements in compliance with existing ASME and ASBPE guidelines as we understand them. Should these officially recognized bodies adopt specific policies related to IntelliTXT ads, we would welcome that clarification and would also be inclined to comply with those guidelines."

ASBPE's ethics guidelines do, in fact, state that links within editorial content should be under editorial control. But in response to Vizard's statement, the ASBPE ethics committee has attempted to clarify the issue. The last sentence of the relevant portion of our Code of Preferred Editorial Practices, Section VII, Paragraph D, previously read:
Contextual links within editorial content should not be sold, and generally should not link to a vendor’s Web site, unless it is pertinent to the editorial content or helpful to the reader.
It now reads:
Contextual links within editorial content should not be sold. If an editor allows a link, it generally should not link to a vendor’s Web site, unless it is pertinent to the editorial content or helpful to the reader.
ASBPE national president Roy Harris relayed this change to Folio: and it was posted as an addendum to the May 3 article. As Roy says in an accompanying statement to Folio:, "We feel the code offers a clear guideline: Editors, not publishers or ad-sales folks, should make the final decisions on ALL uses of links within edit copy. Also, ad links within editorial text should NOT be sold under any condition."

A short news item about the whole matter will soon be issued by ASBPE national and posted on the ASBPE web site. I'll post an update when it appears. In the meantime, here are other posts on the topic:

From ASBPE ethics committee member Jeff Seglin:
From Paul Conley's blog:
From custom publisher Rex Hammock's blog:
For a contrarian view, see this post on Eric Shanfelt's personal blog:
(Shanfelt is a former senior VP of emedia at Penton Media Inc.)