Writing that Works Online
Using SEO and selective wording to pull in readers
Thanks to national trainer Jeff Culter, who came to Cleveland Feb. 23 to teach us a range ot techniques to make our online writing draw people to our websites, and the very latest "listening skills" using social media to hear what the public is saying.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this event a great success. We heard from lots of people that they really liked the program. We'll be doing more of this!
One of the great things about SPJ is it's part of a national organization that subsidizes programs like this, sending its national trainers to cities all over the country to help SPJ members and others keep up to date with their skills. We have training opportunities at least once a year in Cleveland. If you have a topic you'd like to suggest, contact our chapter president Cheryl D'Mello. We would love to hear from you! Check out the list of national trainings available at this link on the national website
Here are some examples of other recent programs....
Women in sports journalism tell all
SPJ Cleveland kicked off the new year with two women who cover and edit sports for local newspapers. Robin Palmer, the first local woman sportswriter, discussed her 19 years in sports during a 32+-year career that's still in progress at The News-Herald. And Stephanie Storm, who writes sports for the Akron Beacon-Journal, talked about her experiences at several newspapers across the country and why she returned to Ohio, where she grew up.
For a complete writeup on this event, see Writer's Week from Feb. 3, which is archived here, and be sure to scroll down -- it's the story below the president's message. Remember that all our Writer's Week newsletters are available in the archive accessible to the right of this column. And if you aren't receiving Writer's Week, sign up on this website, just above the Archive link -- it's free and you don't have to be an SPJ member to get it. It's chock full of news about not only our programs, but also those of other writing groups in the area, as well as jobs and internships in various types of communications.
Discussion of Cleveland's news future stirs passionate interest
A panel including (l-r) Tom Moore of WTAM Radio, Harlan Spector of The Plain Dealer and Jean Dubail of Patch.com discussed the future of news in Cleveland Nov. 15
For more on this event and the campaign to Save the Plain Dealer, check out our weekly e-newsletter, Writer's Week, at the link above.
Below: A partial shot of the audience at the Nov. 15 event, which was held at Trinity Commons downtown. Photos by Cheryl D'Mello.
Below is a reprint of a recent column in our newsletter.
Keep the presses rolling!
A message from our chapter president
Change is certain — in life and in print journalism.
The Sept. 6 announcement by Plain Dealer publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger, that he would retire from the newspaper early next year, has turned the spotlight once again on Ohio's largest newspaper. And it has created a buzz in the community — especially the writing community. On the same day, the PD carried a report that the Journal Register Co., owner of The News-Herald, based in Willoughby, and The Morning Journal, based in Lorain, had filed for Chapter 11 protection from its creditors. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Jewish News has begun a national search for a new publisher.
If there is one thing certain in life, it is change. And change is coming. Print editions are being reshaped, resized and reduced as newspapers go online. In 2009, the daily Ann Arbor News in Michigan became AnnArbor.com, with a print edition twice a week. In May this year, Advance Publications Inc. (which also publishes the PD) announced the reduction of its print edition of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans to three times a week.
With all the upheavals in the newspaper industry, readers are wondering what's in store not just for Cleveland, but for all journalists and the future of journalism. One suggestion is that newspapers should look beyond the U.S. borders to see what business models newspapers across the globe are following and why newspapers in some countries are flourishing while those in others are dying.
Professional journalists are concerned that staff cutbacks could compromise the quality of reporting and the role of watchdog journalism. So while newspaper owners search for the most viable solution to reduced circulation and advertising revenue, and increased expenses, we at SPJ hope that the presses keeps rolling!
Oct. 4, 2012
Are we short on spirituality?
By Carrie Buchanan
A University of Akron study that highlighted a disconnect between religion writers and their audiences was the subject of a spirited discussion Oct. 4 at the Cuyahoga County Library’s Brooklyn Branch.
About a dozen people turned up to hear a panel of journalists and religious leaders organized by SPJ Cleveland speak about religion coverage in the media. The evening turned into a wide-ranging discussion, with questions flowing from the audience to keep our panelists talking till the library threw us out.
So what is the problem with religion coverage today? “Coverage is generally thin, shallow, surface (oriented) and responding to incidents, like the study says,” said Mark Rollenhagen (at right in photo above), pastor at Faith Lutheran Church and a former Plain Dealer reporter.
Nancy Erikson (at left above), editor of the Catholic Universe Bulletin and a former daily newspaper reporter, cited a Sept. 16 poll by the Pew Research Center that found a majority of Christian voters are Obama supporters, contrary to the prevailing wisdom that religious Christians vote Republican.
“You wouldn’t see that in the papers,” Erikson said. “Now, I would write about it” in the Universe Bulletin, she added. But there was a time when newspapers did look deeper for religion stories. Today, she said, publications are so short staffed, reporters simply don’t have the time to dig deeper.
Too often, when a reporter goes out to cover a news event and spots religious protesters, she doesn’t look for the underlying issue, Erikson said. “You see the people with the signs, it makes a great photo, you pound out your 500-word story” and go home.
“Get it done” is the attitude today, she said.
The study that prompted the discussion, by professor John Green of the University of Akron, said readers complained that news stories were too fact-based and didn’t cover spirituality. Unfortunately, though Green was invited, he was unable to join us on Oct. 4.
“Doesn’t it depend on whether you’re writing about an event, as opposed to a feature?” said Shih Ying-Fa (in center of photo above), abbot of the Nien-Fo Ch’an Order of Buddhist Monks and founder of CloudWater Zendo, the Zen Center of Cleveland. A former broadcaster, Ying-Fa spent 20 years in radio before converting to Buddhism and adopting the religious life.
A few years ago, Ying-Fa said, there were regular stories about "minority religions" (while Buddhism is in the minority here, he noted, it is a major religion, dominant in many countries) and their spiritual beliefs. At that time, there were two religion reporters at the Plain Dealer, and he was contacted regularly, “asking me to clarify some point on religion.”
That type of coverage has dried up, he said. “I think the reason people don’t get enough details about religion is that people (journalists) are not putting it out like they used to … unless there’s an event.”
But event coverage, he noted, is fact-based and usually quite brief. It doesn’t look at wider or deeper issues, just the event.
Rollenhagen agreed, saying, the portrayal of “evangelicals” in the media is associated with news and television events. That has led to a stereotype of evangelicals as people who constantly pressure others to convert to their way of thinking. But Rollenhagen, who is an evangelical Lutheran, said that’s quite far from the truth.
Erikson remembered that a decade ago, there were stories about different religious groups, such as people practicing Wicca, a modern pagan religion derived from ancient beliefs and rituals. These stories focused on spirituality — the type of thing the study found readers still want.
Lack of staff at news organizations is a key factor in the lessening of this coverage, the panelists agreed.
“The store has been shrunk. There’s less on the shelves now. How to restock it, I think, is the question,” said Ying-Fa.
But there was some optimism in the room, expressed first by Erikson, who pointed to the many new, small publications that are providing the kind of detailed features that once appeared in newspapers. Often, they publish for free on the Internet. The result is that one can punch in the words “Zen Buddhism” and get a huge range of information, some of it quite well written and accurate.
Perhaps the shelves have been restocked. They’re just in a different place.
Nostalgia Night & Annual Meeting
On June 28 we met at the Cleveland Press Collection of Cleveland State University's library, to remember the women who pioneered as journalists in Cleveland. Speakers Mary Beadle, head of John Carroll University's Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts, curator Bill Barrow of the CSU library's special collections, and Janet Beigle French, former food editor of The Plain Dealer and one of the women who made it possible for others to follow in journalism, wowed the audience. We shared food, fun and memories, as has become our tradition at the time of our chapter's annual meeting. For a detailed writeup, see Maria Shine Stewart's June 30 blog entry at Wordsanctuary Revisited (click on the underlined title to go there). Thanks so much to Gray & Company, Publishers for supplying book prizes, as well as our excellent speakers, for making it a memorable event.
A brief business meeting took place after the nostalgia night, to elect our new board of directors. Congratulations to incoming president Cheryl D'Mello, first VP Rodney Bengston, second VP Maria Shine Stewart and secretary-treasurer Tom Moore, as well as returning members-at-large Stan Bullard, Anup Kumar, Rich Exner and Betty Clapp. See the Chapter Officers tab at right for biographies of individual board members, including several others who remain on the board from past years. We are grateful to every one of them. We also extend our gratitude for their service to those who have left the board in recent months: past presidents Claudia Taller and Jay Miller, as well as Peter Jedick, Peter Chakerian and Kathy Shaw.
Awards for distinguished service
This year, our chapter honored two local people with Distinguished Service Awards, the highest honor this chapter bestows. Brian Tucker, publisher of Crain's Cleveland Business, and Anthony Kozlowski, communications consultant and longtime board member for our chapter and the Ohio SPJ Awards, both were honoredfor their contributions to excellence in journalism. Congratulations!
Also honored at the June 13th luncheon was Carolyn Crowcroft of Solon High School, winner of the Phillip W. Porter Scholarship. Every year this chapter selects a graduating high-school senior who intends to pursue journalism, for this $1,000-a-year, four-year scholarship. Past winners are listed in the Porter Scholarship section of this website, while winners of the DSA from other years are listed under Other Awards.
The photo shows Kozlowski, Crowcroft and Tucker with their awards.
The SPJ Cleveland Google Calendar helps you keep track of our events. Bookmark it! For details on each event, click the title to open its information box.
On Thursday, April 12, we had an all-out contest to find out who's more on top of their organization's ethics code. A team of journalists faced off against a team of business communicators at the City Club, and the journalists lost, but only on the final question, after leading almost the entire time. We at SPJ Cleveland were proud to be represented by Leo Jeffres, recently retired journalism professor from Cleveland State University. Three others on the journalists' team were Becky Gaylord, an independent communicator formerly with the Plain Dealer; Randy Roguski, business editor of the Plain Dealer; and Scott Suttell of Crain's Cleveland Business.
Congratulations to the four business communicators who beat us in a "Family Feud"-style, professional game-show with a professional emcee from Rock the House Entertainment. They were Kelly Blazek, Barb Payner, Mark Crowley and David Meeker. They deserve applause for their ethics as well as their game-show skill.
Tips for independent journalists
Developing "entrepreneurial" journalism skills
Our program on Feb. 22 featured four longtime local journalists who make a living from freelance writing and editing, teaching, consulting and other contract work. They described how they have successfully navigated the sometimes choppy waters out there. Their stories of triumph and trial, their advice and their tips for success were gratefully received by a roomful of aspiring and practicing freelancers.
Do check out the websites, books and blogs of our speakers:
Eileen Beal: Medical writer and author, specializing geriatric and caregiver issues, general health/wellness and medical training. Her frequent articles for AllHealthcareJobs.com are conveniently collected and updated here.
Mary Mihaly: Author, editor, magazine writer and speaker. Her latest book, The 250 Questions Every Self-Employed Person Should Ask, is right on topic – and right on her website, linked to above.
There are more ways than ever to learn what your chapter is doing
Chapter past president Carrie Buchanan has, for the past few years, spearheaded the Writers Week that came to your e-mail in-box so faithfully. She is assisted by editing and design student Elaine Wilson.
Not subcribed yet? You can subscribe for free - there's a link in every edition of Writer's Week plus one on this page, in the column at right. Past issues are also available in our online archives -- see the button at lower right for access.
Secretary-Treasurer Tom Moore manages our Facebook Fan Page, and we have a Facebook Group you can join as a member, too. Our name on Facebook, if you're searching from your own site, is Society of Professional Journalists Cleveland Pro Chapter.
But that's not all. We are on Twitter as ClevelandSPJ. Check us out at https://twitter.com/ClevelandSPJ and sign up to follow our Tweets for the latest news!
Jan. 23: Women in Sports Journalism with Robin Palmer of the News-Herald and Stephanie Storm of the Akron Beacon-Journal.
Feb. 23: Writing that Works Online and Follow the Noise. Two training workshops with SPJ national trainer Jeff Cutler, morning and afternoon, Feb. 23.
And there are more programs in the works!
If there's something you'd like us to consider doing in future that would help you and other Northern Ohio journalists, send chapter president Cheryl D'Mello a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll talk it over at our next monthly meeting. Members and friends are always welcome to attend the monthly meetings, even if you're not on the board. These meetings, like all our programs, are open to all, and the dates, times and locations are published in Writer's Week and on the Google calendar.
Latest site update April 15, 2013.