Saturday, December 24, 2005

What a Difference a Year Makes

I would not write this entry, in this way, now. Having worked for the past eight months at a community newspaper -- in the best sense of those words -- I see matters differently. The holiday season gives us an opportunity to help out those in great need. In a state the size of New Hampshire, state assistance can be difficult to sort out.

With all that being said, I thought I'd quote my Christmas entry of last year. It still makes some pertinent points.

My holiday wish this year is to not hear anyone's holiday wishes. ...

I understand this season sees more charitable donations than any others. I understand that many charities depend on it to make their budgets meet. But is it really the role of a newspaper to perpetuate this ... ?

Look, big cities (and the smaller ones, too) bulge with the needy. They stand on the street corners with shopping carts full of possessions. They wait in lines for soup. They ask pedestrians for change. And they do this 365 days a year.

I see these folks every day. In December, yes, but in January and February too. They don't just magically appear for this single 31-day span. ... Yes, that little homeless boy would love toys this month. But he would also like to have a place to live, and food to eat, and other toys to play with, and a life worth living for the other 11 months of the year.

If those in the journalism profession want to spread the word about how their readers (and viewers) can help the less-fortunate, they should take a longer-term, more realistic approach. ...

My employer takes this more realistic approach, I'm pleased to say. Stories about poverty and need run in months other than December. Please, folks: In this season of giving, think about the other seasons.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Don't Know What to Make ...

... of this Slate article. I read the New York Times piece and it struck me as odd.

When a reporter becomes such a large part of a story, the dynamic of journalism fundamentally changes. The craft depends on a certain distance from the events covered -- not because we don't care, but because we want to produce a fair record.

One the other hand, does this distance require us to relinquish our humanity? Or does that formulation present reporters and editors with a false choice? How much does my concept of the craft depend on outdated notions of what journalism does?

How many rhetorical questions can I ask in a row? So far, four. But watch out for one more. As I said, I don't know what to make of this story, reporter or debate.

What would I do in a similar situation? I have no idea.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Top Keywords

I've shared a lot of information with Copy Massage readers about those who, like them, visit this site. I've posted several times about the top search phrases that lead people here. Recently, I posted about readers' countries of origin.

But let's break it down further. How about the individual words that draw browsers? My trusty tracking device has kept a list since this blog's beginning. Here are the top 10, along with the number of times they've been used in searches.

massage (1915 times)
copy (326)
quotes (252)
gay (217)
efforting (187)
icons (149)
stories (130)
the (107)
blog (102)
tampa (88)

I don't know what that says, really, other than a lot of people like massages. Perhaps if I limited the vocabulary in my posts to these words alone, a lot more people would visit.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Pause Button

Nothing like novel-writing to slow the progress of a blog.

I've spent the past couple of weeks resting, working and immersing myself in L. Frank Baum's Oz books.

I've also found that, for some reason, spending a lot of time actually doing journalism can make one less likely to write about it. In the last couple of months, I've spent a lot of time working on the newspaper's A1. After a hectic night, I don't necessarily rush to Copy Massage.

I go to sleep.

More will follow this month, however. The holiday season has arrived, and with it a bucketload of crankiness from yours truly.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Novel Thoughts

Nothing like churning out thousands of words to remind one of the risks and joys that writers face, and also the obstacles posed to newspaper reporters every day.

In writing my book, I was constantly aware of the difficulty of actually communicating. I can turn out a lot of words with relatively little effort. Can I make them serve a purpose? That's tough. Can I do it in a limited amount of space? Even tougher.

Editors should never take writers for granted. I've hammered on this point before, and I'll hammer on it again. Writers do a marvelous thing: They create. They create, on deadline and to length.

At the same time, what an exciting experience. As I watched the words pile up, I would sometimes find myself giddy, just imagining the next plot twist, the next character interaction. Lest we forget, writers and editors choose this field because it's fun.

It can be fun, at least. Let's not forget that.