Journalism: How do I love thee?

We’ve seen all the memes and the goofy little photo compilations illustrating what we actually do and how people perceive us. But, I was wondering if anyone has ever sang a love song about journalism. I was shocked to Google songs about journalism and see that (just like Hollywood these days), my idea was not original. The fine folks at Poynter beat me to the punch last year. And some three years ago, Paste ran a post about songs referencing print journalism.

My favorites:

  • A Day in the Life by the Beatles (I read the news today, oh boy.)
  • Paperback Writer by the Beatles (ok, so it’s more Stephen King style writing
  • Dirty Laundry by Don Henley (even if it is about TV so-called journalists)
  • Fred Jones Part II by Ben Folds (about a journalist being let go)

I had planned to write a humorous, amusing blog post. Then, I found the Ben Folds song  from the Poynter list and it really hits home. It literally brought tears to my eyes. You can see the video and hear the song below. As we’ve seen so many of our colleagues being let go, so many publications being shuttered;  this one really painted a picture that I can’t seem to get out of my head. How many times has this scene been played out in newspapers and magazines (B2B and mainstream) across the country for years now? You’ve seen it, too. We all have. Next time you grumble about your job, think about Mr F Jones and all the others we’ve seen get shown to the door. It makes me grateful that I’m still about to contribute to the B2B world with a mixture of news and attitude. What do you think?

— Tonie Auer, ASBPE National Competition Committee Czar

We need you to help improve the Azbees

Have you entered the Azbees http://www.asbpe.org/azbee-awards? We’re in the process of judging the 2012 entries and we’re already planning for the 2013 contest and we’d like to get your feedback.

Do you have suggestions for new categories? Outdated categories that should be removed? Criteria that we should be considering? We added two new categories this year to recognize the growth in smart phone apps and webcasts. And, what hinders your ability to enter the contest? Are the publishers standing the way? The time crunch in getting entries done? The SRDS aspect? What else? We would like your feedback. You’re in the trenches; you want recognition … how best can we do this? Please email me your input at tonieauer@gmail.com, so the National Competition Committee can review and create suggestions for the ASBPE Board.

— Tonie Auer, ASBPE National Competition Committee Czar

How can ASBPE help you improve your career in 2012?

We need your help! ASBPE will be holding regional boot camps across the United States in 2012. It’s our goal to make these in-depth training sessions as relevant and useful as possible. Please share your training needs with us so that we can better customize the boot camps to suit you. These regional boot camps will be held in lieu of a 2012 national conference.

This survey is 10 questions and will only take a few minutes to complete.

Click here to access the survey

Thank you very much for your input!

ASBPE asks for help in determining new association tagline

In its nearly 40 year existence, ASBPE has been well known for its Azbee award program and positions on editorial ethics and editorial quality. The association started out as the professional association for full-time and freelance editors and writers employed in the business, trade, and specialty press; however, as time as gone by it has become more evident to our members that we are more than magazine writers. Our membership is made up of freelance writers, online editors, community managers, art directors, designers and more.

The association is making a shift to embrace all of those who contribute to the B2B content landscape. At a Fall board meeting, the National Board of Directors made the decision to adopt ASBPE as our official association name. No longer thought of as solely editors or working on publications, the name change ushers in a breadth of new opportunities for our members.

Because we’ll be known as ASBPE going forward, we believe it’s important to have a tagline that best represents who our membership represents and what we do. Below you will find several options you can vote on. The winning tagline will be adopted as the official tagline of ASBPE. Be sure to vote early. The polls close on February 1, 2012.

14 Ways To Build Top Value Into Your Next Statistical Article

Howard Rauch

Submitted by Howard Rauch

One of the most important values a publication or Web site can deliver to its readers is articles based on high-quality editorial research.  High quality does not necessarily mean that you retain the most expensive research service to conduct a national study for you … although quality certainly is implied as being present if you do use an outside agency.  High quality does mean:

1.    You addressed a topic of considerable importance;
2.    You asked significant questions;
3.    You obtained a decent response;
4.    Your conclusions were highly instructive to readers;
5.    Whenever possible, the information reported clearly was ground-breaking.

Even the smallest magazine staff should plan on publishing a continuous flow of original statistics. So … how do you organize a research effort?  How do you exploit it? What are some do’s and don’ts along the way?  Here are 14 responses that fill in some of the blanks.

1. If you’re planning a major project, seek input on the questionnaire from your readers.  You may be pleasantly surprised to find how responsive people are when you’re not contacting them for the conventional reason of conducting an interview.

2. Follow the established principles of making a questionnaire easy to answer.  Have plenty of check-offs and multiple choice, but also include several open-end questions.  Also include historical questions; otherwise you lack a frame of reference, especially in terms of sales data.

3. Random sampling is for the birds.  Perhaps saying so is heresy to devout researchers.  But if you leave things strictly to Nth name response, you run the risk of winding up with lots of non-authoritative responses.

4. Watch questionnaire length. When a questionnaire is especially complex, offer an incentive to respond.

5. Establish a written timetable and stick to it.  Allow for second and third mailings. Provide adequate time for your art staff to develop graphics that are easily followed by your readers.

6. Plan on conducting some interviews personally so you can confirm whether the tabulations you are seeing actually make sense.  Try to do this early in the game, before the questionnaire is mass-mailed, so you can get the bugs out via some final revisions.

7. Beware of interpreting results based on straight averages.  This caveat applies particularly to salary studies.  “Median” is the magic word implying proper use.  An additional thought about salary studies is to present results by region as opposed to reporting a single national average.

8. You don’t need a high quantitative return if you draw a high quality response.  Just remember to say that results reflect only the experience of the sample and are not projectable to your industry’s universe.

9. When you write the article based on survey results, interpret rather than recite.  It is absolutely unpalatable for a reader to wade through a series of sentences of the “60% said this, 30% said that, 15% said the other” variety.

10. Proofread your charts and insist on seeing a final color key.  For example, the technique of using varying shades of a single color to reflect different response segments can backfire if all those shades appear identical.

11. Don’t be guilty of publishing research that has no foundation.  If the overall response is bad, or certain “cell” groups did not furnish adequate data, clearly you are in hot water.

12. Don’t rely totally on the mail. Plan to supplement the response with telephone and/or face-to-face interviews.

13. For best results, always cross-reference your data. There are many significant gems left languishing because hasty decisions were made that cross-tabulation would be too time-consuming.

14. Variety is the spice of editorial research.  Depending upon your field and your budget, you can mix trade and consumer projects.  One way to get mileage from reader studies is to gather enough information that can be reported in monthly doses without diluting the timeliness factor.

I would be remiss if I ignored the elusiveness of statistical math.  To illustrate the possibilities, here are two questions excerpted from a test I’ve used during editorial research workshops:

  • In 2010, there were 11.6% more hospital P.T. units than in 2009.  In 2011, there were 14.7% more hospital P.T. units than in 2010. Based on this data, is it true or false that the increase reported for 10-11 was 3.1% higher than the increase reported for 09-10?
  • The following facts were reported in a survey of lawncare firms:  (1) Of 1,000 firms surveyed, 18% responded; (2) 48% of respondents also provide pest control services; (3) 27% of those offering pest control services consider the business to be unsuccessful; (4) lack of success was attributed to high cost of service by 8% of respondents; dissatisfied customers – 4%; diminishing customer base – 4%. What common statistical problem does the data reflect?

Everybody ought to ace this two-question exam. However, be assured that variations of the above snafus do get published from time to time.

Adam Tinworth on The Rise of New and Social Media

Adam Tinworth

Adam Tinworth

For more than eight years, UK-based trade-press editor Adam Tinworth has chronicled on his blog the rise of new and social media and how they have shaped both his personal life and his career. Though change can be unsettling, Tinworth told John Bethune in a recent interview that the best strategy is not to resist it, but embrace it. Journalists, he said, must not only acknowledge, but learn to enjoy, “publishing into a more crowded, noisy, dynamic, and swashbuckling public sphere than ever before.”

As part of the interview, Tinworth offered some specific advice to business-to-business journalists, and suggested that they are well-positioned to take advantage of new media:

As you’ve noted, journalists today need to work with and produce not just text, but audio, video, and images. What can they do to develop and improve these kinds of skills?

Two things. The first: continue experimenting, including in their spare time. My video skills grew leaps and bounds by pulling together videos for my friends and family. I’m fond of the musician comparison (but I have a nasty feeling that I nicked it from Emily Bell): musicians don’t only play music when they’re on stage performing. And journalism, as a profession, shouldn’t only happen to deadline, for your main publication. Play, experiment. Enjoy the acts of reporting, creation and publication. If you don’t—or can’t—you’re in the wrong profession.

The other, of course, is to resist what Paul Bradshaw calls the Flying Zombie Laser Shark problem—editors or publishers pushing journalists to do everything. They should be aware of the potential of everything—but also be aware where their strengths lie. I’m mainly a words and images guy, with a little video, but no audio to speak of. That’s just my skill set. Every journalist needs to be aware of where their own balance is.

Compared with other types of journalists, do you think that trade journalists have any particular advantages in adapting to new media?

Yes—they do. The internet is a medium that is hard on generalists and kinder to niche specialists. B2B journalists aren’t trying to build communities—they’re serving communities that already exist. That gives us a head start over (say) national newspapers, whose audience is slowly being eroded by the million nibbling bites of more niche publications. We have a closer relationship, usually, with our audiences, because the people we’re reporting for are often the same ones that we’re reporting on. It’s therefore not so much of a stretch to take those offline networking skills and relationships, and bring them into the online space. It also gives us a faster and more personal feedback loop as to what is working and what isn’t.

However, we need to be prepared to get even more niche online than we were in print. Forget farmers, think livestock breeders. Forget the aviation industry, dive down to in-flight entertainment or defense.

You can read the rest of Tinworth’s interview on B2B Memes, where he describes how he developed his view of new media and both the opportunities and challenges it poses for journalism.