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November 02, 2007


bob cole [My daughter Rosie Cole of Theatre of Fools] lives in Minneapolis]

On teaching journalism:

Many years ago,before joining The New York Times, I worked as foreign editor of the Ridder-owned New York Journal of Commerce, where I prepared Chamber-of-Commerce-style business pages in English on various Latin American countries. [The pages were created only after advertising was purchased in each of those countries.]
Because it was not always easy to find English-language reporters in those countries, I used a few who mailed in their reports in Spanish and I rewrote them into usable, English-language articles.

I quickly realized that although they knew that The Journal of Commerce wanted positive business stories, they often buried the lead somewhere near the bottom. So, to help them zero-in on the news I looked for, I instructed them, in Spanish, to first write a headline -- not for publication -- but to get them to concentrate on the main point of the article:

Coca-Cola to Expand in Caracas; Montecatini to Build Power Plant; Caterpillar Imports Roadbuilding Gear, etc.

Then, I told them, start from there and tell me about it...

That, I feel, is the way I might possibly do it with laymen in classes like yours...
The only other thing I might tell them is that they should keep in mind, say, for example, if they were saying that a meeting was scheduled to be held in the First Presbyterian Church, that they also give the address of the church, the phone number, the day and date of the meeting and the time...

People who are not reporters don't understand that readers are often not familiar with the subject and that the writer has to "say it in English" and avoid jargon...

As one who is not familiar with sports, I often am confused in watching a football game on TV when the announcer says, for example, that Jones of the Buglers just did something or other in the Red Zone...He assumes that I know who the Buglers are and what the Red Zone is -- but I don't..

I have a lucite cube given to me by the former head of Citibank, Sandy Weil. It says: Never Assume...and I don't...

Tom Grubisich

Doug Mcgill's courageous journey across the deep divide that separates newsrooms from communities is both inspirational and instructional. Brudging that divide will produce more and better community journalism. Newsroom journalists, as their numbers shrink, can leverage their value by becoming mentors to volunteer contributors, many of whom are plugged into important and otherwise interesting sectors of their community, but sometimes need to develop their information-gathering and communication skills. I do think, though, that regular contributors from the community should receive compensation. It should start nominally, but then be adjusted to PVs or some combination of usership/ad revenue metrics. Otherwise, there's still a divide.

Siena Anstis

Dear Doug,

I'm going to be teaching citizen journalism in East Africa this summer. I'm developing a rough training manual and I was wondering if you had any suggestions for material to cover?

Best Regards,


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