Start now to craft fresh, unorthodox election questions

Start now to craft fresh, unorthodox election questions Published April 4, 2024 By Jim Pumarlo, Newspaper Consultant Attention newsrooms: It’s time to get serious about 2024 elections coverage. I hear the collective groan. The reaction is likely shaded by the strident national contests and their seemingly never-ending campaign cycles.Community newspapers...

Fuzzy reporting confuses your readers

Fuzzy reporting confuses your readers By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Be specific, my first city editor drummed into my poor rookie brain.I've not forgotten it.Someone needed to remind this reporter. In an international newspaper, he wrote: Hamas released some hostages held in the Gaza Strip and Israel freed some Palestinian prisoners...

Put a stop to workplace silos

Put a stop to workplace silos By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Jim, who used to work with a local volunteer fire department, told me about the technique they used to keep everyone on the right roads to arrive at fire sites. “It was in the days before GPS,” he said....

Give readers what they’re interested in

Give readers what they’re interested in By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach NewYorker.com editor Michael Luo pays close attention to his readers’ habits. He measured the most popular New Yorker stories of 2023 by “engaged minutes” – the time readers spent reading them.He says he was surprised by what was missing. No...

Last call to help judge Nebraska’s contest

Last call to help judge Nebraska's contest By Richard Whiting I’ll not travel down the dark path of Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 album “Nebraska” and its title track, but I will remind you that our compatriots, cohorts, comrades — whatever word suits you best — in Nebraska need our help.If you...

Your active listening skills

Your active listening skills By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach The best acting advice I ever heard was to really listen to the actor talking to you instead of waiting to deliver your lines. Your attention will show in your eyes.Career coach Jennifer Herrity advises that active listening  helps you  focus.It...

Court Gag Orders Are Serious Business

Court Gag Orders Are Serious Business Published December 2023 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications There has been a lot of court action recently on “gag orders” that courts hearing some of the civil and criminal cases against ex-president Donald Trump have issued that limit...

Know when to stop talking

Know when to stop talking By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Jonathan told me about his friend Dave’s sports car. They rode around in it in high school, and although it was old even then, they loved the car and didn’t let its mechanical eccentricities bother them. Through the years, after...

Tune up your eyes & ears

Tune up your eyes & ears By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach I used to assign rookie reporters to interview mayors and police chiefs and others who might be newsworthy. Before they left, we discussed issues that might make a news story and their questions that needed answers.When they returned, I asked...

Does Using Personal Devices Foil FOIA?

Does Using Personal Devices Foil FOIA? Published November 2023 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications Most of us use our cellphones and other portable devices for a wide variety of purposes each day, such as accessing news and information, checking our e-mail and social media,...

Sustaining Rural Journalism

INTO THE ISSUES Sustaining Rural Journalism Published Nov. 8, 2023 By Al Cross Nonprofit newspaper journalism, until now largely a feature of urban areas, is going rural – especially if the National Trust for Local News keeps up what it’s doing and plans to do.“By December, we will be the...

Write your stories in your head

Write your stories in your head By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach I’ve spent much of my life writing about people caught up in perilous and life-threatening situations. Driving to the office from an accident, fire, court house or other location, I would write a provocative, short, five- or six-word headline...

Treasure hunt for ad ideas

Treasure hunt for ad ideas By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Some years ago, I attended an exhibit of treasure from the Atocha shipwreck which treasure hunter Mel Fisher had located off the coast of Florida. The Atocha was the most famous ship in the Spanish fleet that sank in 1622...

Oops, They Did it Again….

Oops, They Did it Again…. Published October 2023 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications Just over five weeks after all five justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court issued resounding statements on the importance of open court proceedings—even if they differed on the consequences of...

Advertising’s slippery slope

Advertising’s slippery slope By John Foust, Advertising Trainer I remember taking a day-long ski trip to Virginia. The charter bus was filled with skiers who had different levels of experience: a few were pretty good, most were average, and some were novices like me.After a morning on the beginners’ slope,...

South Carolina Supreme Court is unanimous in its support of open courts and open records. Are the trial courts paying attention?

South Carolina Supreme Court is unanimous in its support of open courts and open records.  Are the trial courts paying attention? Published Sept. 2023 By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender On September 6 the Supreme Court of South Carolina filed an opinion vacating an order which had reduced the prison sentence...

Interviewing

How to interview anybody By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Your guidelines for interviewing anybody are thankfully similar.Your subject may be the President of the United States or the woman who just won best arrangement at the local flower show.1. Do your research, even if it’s only talking with those who...

Take steps now to report on 2024 budgets

Take steps now to report on 2024 budgets Published August 18, 2023 By Jim Pumarlo, Newspaper Consultant We’re more than halfway into 2023, and many local governments are well involved in exploring 2024 budgets. Are your newsrooms aware of the process? Are you keeping readers abreast of the dynamics?It’s not...

Get more mileage out of testimonials

Get more mileage out of testimonials By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Back in my ad agency days, I worked with a real estate client on a series of customer testimonials. We started with one, then added another and another. The final count was more than a dozen, which kept the...

Touch your readers with sensory words

Touch your readers with sensory words By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach You may remember onomatopoeic words from the 10th grade.These words express sounds such as to squeal or whoosh.There’s a different, more subtle category of words, says writing coach Henneke Duistermaat. Visual words for sight allow you to paint vibrant (or...

Ad lessons from a wall poster

Ad lessons from a wall poster By John Foust, Advertising Trainer I remember going to the opthalmologist a few years ago for my regular eye checkup. In the exam room, there was a large poster on the wall which featured a number of photographs of the same view of New...

Free Press Doesn’t Mean Freedom to Break the Law, But Police Shouldn’t Arrest Journalists

Free Press Doesn’t Mean Freedom to Break the Law, But Police Shouldn’t Arrest Journalists Published July 2023 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications Last month two reporters for the left-leaning The Asheville Blade in North Carolina were convicted of misdemeanor trespassing for not leaving when...

Read like a writer

Read like a writer By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Sounds simple, doesn’t it. You are already a writer.But think about it. Whenever you read – and it should be daily – think like a writer.Pay attention to what the writers are doing, how they hold your attention and keep you reading....

Keep it simple in sports writing

Keep it simple in sports writing By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Writing about a sport for those who don’t understand the sport is a challenge. Most writers figure they are writing for fans as familiar with the game as they are.John McPhee, author of A Sense of Where You Are and...

Yes, we need white space

Yes, we need white space By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach In a black and white movie, you want shadow and light.In a color movie, you want vibrant colors.Without these, they would be unwatchable movies.The same is true of your own writing – and reading.You want short words, short sentences, short...

Stories within your stories

Stories within your stories By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach Anecdotes are a vital part of compelling storytelling. These are small stories that may open or close your larger story.They also can appear almost anywhere in the middle.John McPhee used an anecdote in a New Yorker article about environmentalist Edward Abbey.In his book, Abbey wrote...

Writing life stories

Writing life stories By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach To their families, obituaries are final chapters in the lives of those they love.For many, obituaries mark their loved ones’ release from pain.For others, it is the winding down of long and fruitful lives.For the unfortunate, they are wrenching, unwelcome nightmares, whether...

‘Running of the interns’ highlights why federal courts should be open to cameras​

'Running of the interns' highlights why federal courts should be open to cameras Published June 2023 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications “On your mark. Get set. Go!”These words were not actually called out in the federal courtroom where former president Donald Trump was arraigned...

Don’t sell your clients short

Don’t sell your clients short By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Gene told me about an experience he had when he was fundraising for the Boy Scouts. “I was young and completely sold on the value of scouting because some years earlier I had earned the designations of Eagle Scout and...

What makes an ad campaign?

What makes an ad campaign? By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Amanda told me about taking over the advertising account of a business which had been placing ads in her paper for a long time. “In our first meeting, the owner said he had been running what he called a ‘campaign’...

Carefully screen columns by public officials

Carefully screen columns by public officials Published May 2, 2023 By Jim Pumarlo, Newspaper Consultant How will the Legislature deal with a record budget surplus, and what will it mean for taxpayer pocketbooks? Are there implications for public safety with the proposal to legalize marijuana? Which communities are the winners...

S.C. media and First Amendment advocates must remain vigilant as new ‘hurricane’ brews in Florida

S.C. media and First Amendment advocates must remain vigilant as new 'hurricane' brews in Florida Published March 2023 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications In 2022, Hurricane Ian barreled across Florida, causing widespread damage and becoming the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida since 1935. Ian...

WHY WOULD AN INNOCENT MAN LIE?

WHY WOULD AN INNOCENT MAN LIE? Published March 2023Editor's Note: Member editors can pick this column up and run it in print and online as they see fit. By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender Why would an innocent man lie to police about the last time he saw his wife and...

If it’s 10:08, it must be a watch ad

If it’s 10:08, it must be a watch ad By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”That’s certainly true in advertising. Consider the nuances of photography. For example, the next time you...

Editor ‘can handle mean,’ but can’t stand ‘baseless cynicism and unwillingness to think’

INTO THE ISSUES Editor ‘can handle mean,’ but can’t stand ‘baseless cynicism and unwillingness to think’ Published Feb. 21, 2023 By Al Cross This month’s column is mainly from someone else, because it illustrates a serious problem facing rural newspapers: How do they manage increasingly contentious public discourse and still...

What are they selling?

What are they selling? By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Greensboro, NCMy wife and I once visited with Rick and Karen, a couple who had served as missionaries overseas. As part of their work to get involved in the community, Rick was assigned to teach a class at a local school....

Prime time to take inventory of your newsmakers

Prime time to take inventory of your newsmakers Published February 2, 2023 By Jim Pumarlo, Newspaper Consultant Here’s a periodic action item for every newspaper: The exercise can be quite revealing in evaluating how you are connecting with various audiences. It is even more important in today’s fractured media landscape...

The power of enthusiasm

The power of enthusiasm By John Foust, Advertising Trainer There’s a story about a professor of literature at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. As he approached retirement, someone from the newspaper interviewed him. During the course of their conversation, the reporter asked the wise old professor about...

Resolve to be accessible, stay relevant

Resolve to be accessible, stay relevant Published Jan. 2023 By Jim Pumarlo, Newspaper Consultant Surviving in today’s fractured media landscape depends on your ability to identify, collect and deliver the relevant community news. That job becomes more challenging if readers become frustrated in their attempts to connect with reporters. The...

Suing the Media for Revenge and Profit

Suing the Media for Revenge and Profit Published Jan. 2023 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications In his new bestselling book and slew of media interviews promoting it, Prince Harry rails against the British media and their alleged collaborators within the British Monarchy, blaming them...

We’ve got some explaining to do

We’ve got some explaining to do By John Foust, Advertising Trainer People usually say “no” to things they don’t understand. It’s a salesperson’s job to help prospects understand what he or she is selling. What makes media choice A better than choice B? What’s all this talk about target audiences...

Advertising’s Bill of Rights

Advertising’s Bill of Rights By John Foust, Advertising Trainer In the advertising business, there are things which must be done in order to create an effective campaign. Think of it as Advertising’s Bill of Rights: Send the right message…to the right audience…in the right medium…at the right time…about the right...

Oboes and leadership

Oboes and leadership By John Foust, Advertising Trainer If you’ve been to a symphony concert, you’ve witnessed the cacophony of sound before the concert begins. Every instrument seems to be in its own world, independently running through the musical scale.Actually, this is a traditional and deliberate process to tune all...

Libel without a name?

Libel without a name? Published October 2022 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications A parent’s apparently false allegation at a public November school board meeting that an administrator in Richland County School District Two had strip searched his daughter led to a defamation lawsuit against...

Say it and do it, or renegotiate

Say it and do it, or renegotiate By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Joanne is an ad manager with a common-sense approach to managing her team and their goals. She believes in communication – not micro-management – but real communication on how things are going.“For years,” she told me, “I often...

The Royals and the Press

The Royals and the Press Published September 2022 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications The death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II after a reign of more than 70 years has prompted a cascade of retrospectives and reminiscences of the major events and changes of the...

The power of being specific

The power of being specific By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar used to ask, “Are you a meaningful specific or a wandering generality?” He related his comment to a number of areas: long and short-term goal setting, day-to-day activities, and dealings with family members, coworkers...

Trial Gag Orders Are No Laughing Matter

Trial gag orders are no laughing matter Published August 2022 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications South Carolina Circuit Judge Clifton Newman was praised (here and here, for example) in early August when he rejected requests for gag orders from both the prosecution and the...

Plan now to recognize first responders

Plan now to recognize first responders Published August 9, 2022 By Jim Pumarlo, Newspaper Consultant Are you looking for a project that can energize your news staffs, generate new advertising revenue and underscore the value of a local newspaper to potential new subscribers?Mark Oct. 28: National First Responders Day.Full disclosure...

Tell them why – and sell more

Tell them why – and sell more By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Like some other kids, I learned how to drive before taking the drivers’ education class in high school. My father took me to the school’s football stadium on weekends when the expansive parking lot was empty. The car...

A key question: What’s next?

A key question: What’s next? By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Gregory talked to me about a lesson he learned in his early days of selling advertising. “In one of my first presentations, the prospect rejected my ideas for a new campaign. Back at the office, my ad manager must have...

South Carolina needs a good SLAPP law

South Carolina needs a good SLAPP law Published June 2022 By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications In late May, the Judiciary Committee of the North Carolina State Assembly approved a legislative bill, which would allow for early dismissal of lawsuits making libel or other claims...

Post and Courier advances digital subscriptions business with sports newsletters, in partnership with GNI

Post and Courier advances digital subscriptions business with sports newsletters, in partnership with GNI Published June 2022The Post and Courier and Google News Initiative (GNI) published a case study highlighting the impact of new paid newsletters to the paper’s digital subscription business. In partnership with the GNI, The Post and...

Two advertising goals: Attention and Retention

Two advertising goals: Attention and Retention By John Foust, Advertising Trainer As mentioned in previous articles, there are two types of advertising: image and response. Image advertising – sometimes known as institutional advertising – is designed to give people a good impression of the advertiser. (“We’re the dealership that cares.”)...

A good idea is worth the wait

A good idea is worth the wait By John Foust, Advertising Trainer When I was a kid and jumped to conclusions about something, my father often said, “Hold your horses, son.” That’s an old saying that means, “Whoa! Stop and think carefully before making a decision.” Dad had a lot...

The importance of proofreading

The importance of proofreading By John Foust, Advertising Trainer Proofreading is one of the most important skills in the advertising world. While anybody with a sense of humor can appreciate a harmless blooper (one of my favorites is the sign that read, “Ears pierced while you wait”), no advertiser wants...