… unless you have thick skin, lots of time or want to see irrationality at its best.

That’s my motto.

I had to remember it the other day when this happened:

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Apparently leaving Kentucky didn’t mean I permanently escaped thinly veiled bigotry. Who knew?

Oh, by the way: If you don’t know why calling a black man boy is offensive, here you go.

The best part is I wasn’t even wrong with the “error” he was pointing out. The comment on the news brief has been removed, as has been my response and another reader saying something to the effect of I showed him by being right and not standing for the racist remark.

What’s funny is I count three grammar/syntax errors in his comment. Ha.

I do have my fair share of typos considering the amount of content I post and the absence of copy editors on the back end. I do proofread and obviously don’t want to make any mistakes, but it comes with the territory. I do the best I can and welcome any help or strategies to improve, but that commenter isn’t really helping.

In the interest of fairness — and to show there are generally decent human beings still on this planet — I had several readers who were understanding of an actual typo in a story recently as well. A 17-year-old girl and a 48-year-old man were killed, which was awful. There are far too many fatal crashes that cut life short, and it was nice to see readers concerned about the victims and the tragic loss of life.

Then there were the angry zealot commenters. I’ll let you read for yourself, but that was one of the days (or two) I had a lot of free time after a busy night of work, so I paid attention to the comments. It wasn’t a mistake, but I probably could have used the time better, especially considering it was an off day.

I don’t really have much of a life and I’m also driven by principle, so I have no problem reading the comments or replying. Not everyone can or should. Know that when you think about what modern journalism has evolved into in the digital age.

I just hope Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse understands when people come after him it isn’t (really) that personal — I work for PennLive and the trolls come after me too. The differences are: PennLive pays me, I generally don’t care what people think, and I can’t ban access or racists IRL the way he has banned our staff of reporters. Shouts out to Donald Trump.

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New Year’s resolutions and swearing to change just because the calendar flipped is for losers. Change should be constant and consistent if you’re trying to improve as a person.

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That said, every now and then I see a list like the one I’m about to share that is useful and is something you could pick up on Jan. 1 or Aug. 23 and apply to life. Here is the list in it’s entirety and below along with my favorite “resolution” of the five (via the poynter.org):

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Visit a neighborhood where English is not the predominant language.

The demographics of the United States are changing swiftly, and we are often unfamiliar with ethnic groups that are transforming our cities’ neighborhoods. We may be unfamiliar with them because, like most people, we become set in our routines; we visit the same stores, the same restaurants, the same parks, the same churches.

We pick up our story ideas from these familiar surroundings. Intentionally or not, we ignore the other communities. And so they are not reflected in our stories. And so we miss some of the most important trends that are affecting our cities. I’d like to encourage you to take one small step and visit a neighborhood where English is not the predominant language. Allow yourself to feel awkward and disoriented.

Allow your curiosity to take you into a restaurant or store. You may learn a new word or like a dish you haven’t tried before. You may even see some stories that you haven’t seen before — and then realize that this is what becoming a better journalist is all about.

That entry of the resolution list is a favorite of mine and something I enjoy doing regularly. Truth be told, I’m extremely introverted and I spend most of my time doing my own thing so in general being social is stepping out of my comfort zone. But I take it steps further all the time by going to events, venues, atmospheres and cultural settings different than my own. I learn quite a bit and all it takes is curiosity. And that curiosity provides is what makes a good writer and what provides the best details for excellent stories, FYI.

The best part is people are always willing to share if you show a genuine interest. So if you’re a student, don’t go to an event on campus just for extra credit, go because there is something to learn. If the streets in your town are blocked off for a festival, check it out rather than getting upset that you have to take a detour. Go see a movie outside of your favorite genre, spend a day at the library browsing new books.

It is so easy to branch out. Why not try it.

I like to be criticized.

No, I don’t want people constantly belittling me, but it is good to have people look at my work and analyze it honestly for its strengths and weaknesses. Part of that comes from an eagerness to write well at any cost and the other part is getting another opinion and set of eyes on what I write.
In the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to write for a variety of publications on a wide range of topics and what kept me going were the good publications that helped me correct my errors and push me forward.

Hey that guy looks like me!! Incidentally, this is the opposite of what criticism makes me feel like.

One of the first pieces I wrote for pay and publication was for a local Lexington, Ky. magazine called Tops in Lex (which I think has changed its name to simply be Tops). I don’t really remember why or how I got connected, but I was legitimately excited to have to opportunity to share my ideas with a readership of any kind. Read More

This semester my journalism training took a turn and I began copy editing at The Eastern Progress. In this new role I realized how valuable reading can be for writers.

Through copy editing, I read nearly every story before went to print and while the majority were good, several stood out for lacking a good writer’s touch.

Not that I’m the best writer, but I always try to develop new techniques and take in what I learn from reading other writers. For example I had never written a sports recap this semester, but I knew what I was doing going into my assignments because I read an absurd amount of sports copy for fun. My stories turned out pretty good to the point that there were suggestions my stories run rather than the articles that ended up being published.
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About when I started contemplated pursuing journalism as a potential career is when the sky started falling.

Journalism began to see a huge shift from traditional print media to online, television and interests in blogs and things got scary for traditional journalists. But it cannot, should not and will not disappear for lots.

As a kid I loved the newspaper, specifically the sports section, and I couldn’t fathom a world without print news. Next thing I know everything is web driven, which offers a boat load of options for jazzing up content, but somehow gave producers a license to make stories endless.

Yes, the web does provide an opportunity to add more depth to stories, but by no means does the ever expansive internet give writers the ability to omit the cutting room floor from writing process.

In the 8,766 word story Junior Seau: Bitter Endgame, Jill Lieber Steeg wrote a masterful piece interesting, riveting content for the North County Times of San Diego . Not one word was wasted and in writing and reporting so much, it was clear the scope and the impact of the article.

(I would provide an example of a bad article I’ve read that was too long, but I wouldn’t do that to you, or to me again for that matter.)
Michael Kinsley of the Atlantic spends 1,800+ words to rant about long-fingered writers and reader’s subsequent turn to the internet to find shorter, more direct articles.

This nifty little photo was ironically tagged to Kinsley’s piece in the Atlantic.

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I will probably meander in this post, but stick with me.

Objectivity is a hallmark of journalism, but so many journalists take that to the extreme.

One of my favorite writers Dan LeBatard columnist for the Miami Herald said “Best a journalist can do is try to be self-aware and aspire to objectivity.” LeBatard is 100 percent correct. Being aware of your biases helps you to

In the following video by Alex Jones of the New York Times, he talks about how it’s assumed journalists have opinions and how they work through those ideas:

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The best story I’ve written to date was ruined by a detail.

When I was an intern at the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. for the neighborhood section, I was assigned to write a story on Bob Rohleder. He is an old man who picked back up his childhood hobby of wood carving back up after retirement, so he has a relatable human interest story.

Rohleder is an extremely nice man, who happens to live in the same subdivision as my mom. After reading the story, he called my desk and left me a nice message to let me know he appreciated the story I wrote, but to kindly let me know that I misidentified the branch of service he was in when he was younger.

Here’s a link to the photo gallery from the story and my one of favorite pictures from the story:

Bob Rohleder demonstrating how he makes his masterpieces. (Photo by Pam Spaulding of the Courier-Journal.)

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