All of a sudden I’m tired

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I had a conversation this evening that started me down memory lane a little bit … thinking of my days grinding away in the newsroom.

I remember when I sat down, put pen to paper and figured out that I had written 5,000 newspaper stories. … That was a few years ago. I’m probably somewhere between 7,500 and 8,000 now.

So then I went and checked my HCN Facebook posts. I have an IFTT.com recipe set up to dump all my posts into an Evernote notebook for me. … Since late February 2013 I have put up more than 8,100 posts on HCN.

I couldn’t stop there, so I did some more math and I conservatively estimate I have written somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 million words for publication in my journalism career.

Going to bed folks … all of a sudden I’m pretty tired.

Can’t wear green for the Eagles this year

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The NFL draft is approaching and that means I’m starting to get antsy.

Why? Because I’m an NFL guy and for 43 years the Philadelphia Eagles have been my team. When I talk about the Birds I use the word “us” regardless of what anyone else says, and if you cut me I swear I bleed green.

And this year there is another reason. I started something today that means I have to go a year without wearing any of my Eagles shirts … without my personalized jersey … without my beloved, worn, gray “division champs” t-shirts.

A year without green.

Because I am going to spend a whole year in blue.

Today — with an assist from the good folks at the District Attorney’s Office, the support of my wife, and help from my partner in crime Jeff Weinstein — I started the Go Blue 365 project. For the next year, I am going to wear a Go Blue t-shirt everyday to raise awareness of the child abuse problem in Henderson County.

And since the folks who deal with the aftermath of child abuse really need more than just our “awareness,” I’m going to ask at least 365 people in Henderson County to donate $100 for child abuse prevention. I am hoping to be able to present one of those big checks with a big number on it on Go Blue Day 2015.

By this time next week GoBlue365.com will be up and running and we should have something set up for the donations. I will be posting photos of me in blue on the site and I hope some of you will send me photos of you in your Go Blue shirts as well.

It’s going to be a long year during which a lot will happen. Unfortunately, among everything that happened in 2013 there were 252 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect in Henderson County.

I think we can do better than 252 and I’m willing to Go Blue to try.

4 Ways Minimalism Fits For A Journalist

I believe that journalists can become healthier and happier in our jobs by reducing and simplifying.

A lot of people call that minimalism.

There are as many definitions of minimalism as there are people trying to put it into practice.

The Princeton University website says, “The term ‘minimalist’ is often applied colloquially to designate anything which is spare or stripped to its essentials.” —

And while it isn’t technically a definition, I really like what they write over at The Minimalists blog: “Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression.”

So there you go, minimalism is getting down to basics and stripping away everything extraneous so you don’t have as much to worry about. Here are four ways I think minimalism can help the beat reporter and his cousins the PIO and social media manager.

Length Appropriate in a Social Media Age

My first paying journalism gig was at the Athens (Texas) Daily Review and my editor was Gene Lehmann. I would go to Gene with a story and ask him how much he wanted me to write and he would always say, “Length appropriate.”

He left it up to me to figure out exactly what that meant, which was a great skill for a young reporter to develop.

But things have changed since then and what was the appropriate length for a story 20 years ago is too long today. Reader habits and expectations have changed along with the rise of the Internet and social media. Scanning and info bites are in; dense text and process stories are out.

While many older journalists bemoan this trend, it is actually great news for the overwhelmed hyperlocal reporter. Put together the Who, What, Where, When, Why of your story and move on. Don’t get caught up in trying to stretch the story, if it is only 4 or 5 inches, so be it … that just means some folks might read all the way to the end. It will also make it easier to turn into a status update for Facebook or Twitter.

Cut Unnecessary Quotes

This goes along with the first tip, but I thought it bears repeating because it is a problem I see with a lot of community journalism.

Stop including the useless quotes. They do nothing for the story except make it longer and often they make it harder for a reader to understand whatever you are trying to explain. This also makes news gathering easier, because you don’t have to continue fishing for a quote from a source for simple stories. Just get the 5 W’s and move.

I am not saying to drop all quotes, but rather to use them to where they make a difference, usually in longer more complicated stories to describe mood. Don’t try to shoehorn one in just to have a quote.

Close the Extra Windows and Tabs

How many times have you had Facebook, Twitter and email open on your computer desktop all at the same time. Most of the time? Always?

We are afraid of missing something, of getting beat on a big story, so we try to stay connected as much as possible. The result is the constant stream of notifications interrupting our thoughts and giving even slow news days the feel constant, breaking news.

Give it up! With mobile phones today you have almost zero chance of being the first person to break a story. Stop driving yourself crazy over it. Your job is now to be the voice of reason and authority, the one who gets the information correct, the one your community looks to for answers when the rumors and confusion are running wild.

You don’t have to be first, but you have to be right.

So shut down the windows and tabs. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t check those sources regularly, but just not constantly. If you take 10 minutes every hour to run through those traps you will stay on top of what’s going on and still give yourself most of the day to work notifications free.

The One to Bind Them

One app to rule them all,
One app to write them,
One app to bring them all,
and in the cloud to bind them.

My apologies to Professor Tolkien.

One of the best things I have done in my own journalist’s walk is to learn Evernote.

Evernote is the most useful tool I have ever come across for the community journalist, bringing all your notes, photos, stories — whatever — under control and in one place.

One place is simple and less stressful

3 Things for Burned Out Reporters to Remember

“The most important thing in life is knowing the most important things in life. — David F. Jakielo

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Have you ever been so busy putting one foot in front of the other that you forget where you are going? You look up from your labors and wonder, “How’d I get here?”

It is easy to drift, to lose focus. It can happen in any part of your life and it can certainly happen to your work. Deadlines, undermanned newsrooms and the 24-hour news cycle can derail the most dedicated reporter.

So how do you refocus? There are three things I try and remember.

Remember the Joy of Learning New Things

The daily grind of producing content can wear down just about anyone. Reporters can start to focus on the four big questions under deadline stress: Who, What, When and Where.

While that will suffice for many hyperlocal or community news items, it rarely generates any excitement for reporters and if that is all you are doing you run the risk of becoming bored.

Bored reporters are dull writers. Readers pick up on that.

Get the excitement back and get out of the rut by asking the questions How and Why. Indulge your curiosity. The chance to learn new things is one of the greatest benefits of being a reporter.

Try it. Think about the beat you’ve been covering the longest and the stories you write every year and ask How and Why. I’ll bet you come up with a brand new angle on an old story.

Don’t let deadline stress or repetition steal your joy. Learn something new this week.

Remember That You Are A Teacher

I have had reporters who were good writers and I have had reporters who were good teachers.

Given my choice, I would take the teacher every time. Hey, I love writing, but the problem with putting the emphasis on the prose is that you eventually stop amazing yourself with your wit (hopefully!).

If your only goal is to channel Hemingway, you will quickly get bored of writing news stories. As I said earlier, bored reporters are dull writers … and miserable.

As reporters, our job is to inform and serve our community. Our readers have always looked to us to explain complicated issues and, in a social media world, they also need us to be a dependable source of information during emergencies.

Remember to put your job as a teacher first. It will change the way you approach stories and give you a fresh appreciation for your role in the community.

Remember it is About Helping People

When you are mired in a rut, remember this: It’s not about you. Harsh, but true.
I have always thought of reporters as public servants and I believe that is our most important function. Reporters are blessed to have an essential role in the community regardless of whether the platform is print, television or online.

It is easy to lose sight of that fact when your list of beats is too long and your paycheck is too small, but that fact remains that reporters are vital to the health of the community.

Every time you sit down at a keyboard you have the potential to change somebody’s life. That can’t be said about many jobs.

And that is worth remembering.