Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Today's Tip: Be Transparent

In their latest post, Men With Pens makes some interesting connections between web copy and cars.  While bullet points and terse advice can be valuable and speedy, web copy requires an extra element -- transparency. Just as a car's exterior speaks volumes about it's driver, your web copy should communicate your brand to the client. So decide whether you are a Toyota Carolla or a Maserati Quattroporte, and stick with your wheels -- customers who know what they're getting are more likely to stick around.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Today's Tip: Stick with the Office

Ever dream about working from home? This past February, the entire staff of business magazine Inc. decided to give it a go, as the The New York Times reports that all 30 producers, editors, and reporters spent the 28 days communicating via Skype and instant messenger.  The consensus? Staffers missed the watercooler chatter and collaborative energy of the communal work space.   While productivity increased, happiness levels plummeted. We'd love to hear from our writers out there: do you prefer working from an office?

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Power of a Strong Vision Statement

Sometimes the easiest way to a hard goal lies in planting a vision.  Twenty years ago, speechwriter Glynn Young was asked to write a vision statement for a CEO.  After countless drafts and the inspired seven-time repetition of "It is our pledge," the rhetorical handiwork he delivered came to change the company and the industry.  While not quite a religious experience, the vision statement does reach for a higher standard -- and no annual report can compete with that.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March Madness, the Bookworm Way

Now in its sixth year, the Tournament of Books may not lure participants with prizes (a rooster, anyone?), but it definitely keeps things interesting with sports-inspired competition.  Salon's Laura Miller takes a look at the athletic lingo ("quintuple toe loop") and unlikely opponents -- graphic novel Logicomix faces off with historical fiction Wolf Hall -- that may give the ToB what it takes to steal the stage from basketball this month.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Today's Tip: Busting Job Hunt Myths

The job search process is painful enough as it is, but the constant stream of "helpful" advice of others can make it doubly difficult.  Copywriter and job-hunt extraordinaire Anya Weber sifts through the wide array of often contradictory tips to separate the "pearls" from the "poppycocks." We wholeheartedly agree with the idea of volunteering or doing pro-bono consulting while on the job hunt.  Keeping a hand in your chosen field allows you to make relevant contacts, gain useful experience, and keep your resume current.  What have you taken away from job search experiences?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Today's Tip: More Tricks for Beating Writer's Block

Every writer gets stuck at one time or another -- from over-research to poor eating or too-long lists, there are lots of reasons we get held up and/or bogged down.  Public relations pro and Journalistics founder Jeremy Porter today offers a few of his own tricks to help bypass the block and get the assignment done.  Our favorite? Keep a notepad on you at all times -- those scribbles can help re-inspire when you're low on ideas. What helps you beat the freeze?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weekend writing reading

Some excellent writing reading that caught our eye for this fine weekend:
  • Check out this terrific interview with Israeli speechwriter extraordinaire Yehuda Avner in the Jerusalem Post (h/t to VSOTD), in advance of his new book, The Prime Ministers, about the series of great leaders he served.  It showcases both the eloquence and circumspectness of a great ghost.
  • What's in a military campaign name?  According to this curtain-pulling-back article from the Washington Post, a lot more than you might think.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Wondrous World of Gerunds

It's a verb. It's a noun. No, wait -- it's a gerund!  You may remember gerunds as those "-ing" words from 8th grade grammar class, but what are they, really? The Grammar Monkeys over at The Wichita Eagle deconstruct what it means to be a gerund: from their frequent functioning as nouns to their subject/object versatility and the occasional participle fusion.  It's as complicated as Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today's Tips: Headlines Last, Connect the Dots

A couple tipsters caught our eye this morning...
  • Copyblogger raises some noteworthy points on the place of headlines in the writing process, ultimately suggesting a title be saved for last. While a sharp headline can potentially focus your writing, more often than not, a piece will stray from its original intention.  Beware of breaching your reader's trust -- if you promise "10 Secrets to Editing," make sure to deliver original insight, not generic tips culled from the blogosphere.
  • Writing and editing coach Daphne Gray-Grant helps writers clarify their message with today's tips on Ragan for connecting the dots.  We wholeheartedly agree with points #2 and #3: an added sentence can clarify and ground a metaphor, and sometimes a "catchy" teaser may be too vague to be, well, caught.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

1984 or 2010?

Everybody has their linguistic pet peeves, but Tribune CEO Randy Michaels seems to have jumped the shark into Orwell territory with the edict he issued this week banning 119 words and phrases from use on the company's television properties.  Staffers at WGN, Tribune's news/talk radio station, are not only forbidden to utter words such as "flee" or "laud" -- they are directed to tattle on any co-workers who break the "rules"  (on bingo cards, no less).  Like Ragan, we would like to know: when did CEOs become editorial policemen?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today's Tip: What To Do Post-Proposal

When our writers finish a proposal, they often breathe a heavy sigh of relief -- until they realize that their work has really just begun.  Often the proposal is the first step in a long journey, and the pivotal part is what comes after.  Public speaking guru Nick Morgan shares his post-proposal tips on how to make this process a little less daunting.  We've shared these tips with a few of our writers and asked them to let us in on their own, and here's what we got:

SAMANTHA MARSHALL:  It's solid advice. I would only add that if you are a brand new author, you might want to consider going with a smaller, boutique agency rather than some big firm where you are more likely to get lost among all the heavy hitters. There are plenty of good, small and mid-sized agents who can boast award winning books and best sellers in their mix, but still know a gem when they see one. You can find them on the website www.publishersmarketplace.com

Marshall, a Gotham team member, is a professional ghostwriter.  You can find her work at www.samanthamarshallghostwriter.com.

RUSTY FISCHER:  I would basically add that while it's ideal to go after Malcolm Gladwell's agent -- and why not start at the top? -- not to stop there if he or she blows you off. I have placed clients with the biggest of agents and the relatively small, one-agent shops and the experience always comes down to the relationship between the author and the agent, regardless of size.

For me, a good -- perhaps even small -- agent with connections at business publishers who treats you as a priority beats a huge agent with the same connections (or even better) who can barely remember your name. After all, if that big agent with all those connections doesn't push or fight or make you a priority, what good are his connections in the first place?

Talk to agents who are interested, have a list of questions that are important to you and get answers for them, either on the phone or through email (agents are busy; make it easy on them). The agent with whom you have the best connection and who "gets" you and your priorities for this book will likely be your best choice.

Lastly, I would add that if NO agent picks you up, it still doesn't mean you're dead in the water, creatively speaking. Many VERY decent business publishers do, in fact, have open submission policies where you don't need an agent to submit, up to and including industry heavyweights like McGraw-Hill and Kaplan Publishing (last time I checked). Even Harvard Business Press has an open submission policy, and very helpful guidelines for submitting a proposal on their website. Of course, it's always better to have a qualified agent hammer out the best deal possible for you, but it's much easier to find an agent with a book deal already in hand!

Fischer, a Gotham team member, is the co-author of Secrets of Retailing: Or, How to Beat Wal-Mart (Silverback Books).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fonts in the Age of Self-Publishing

It's easy to think of content as divorced from design -- but, as Mediabistro's GalleyCat notes, having a visual eye in the age of DIY publishing can go a long way.   From street signs to park entrances to gyro stand menus, Penguin's tour of New York shows us the power of typeface.  Not only does your choice of font determine readability, it can communicate a mood -- feeling fun? Let Sans Serif do the talking. Serious? Try Times New Roman.

Times Names New "On Language" Columnist

Congratulations to Ben Zimmer, the lucky lexicographer who gets to fill the late legend William Safire's shoes in writing the New York Times' "On Language" column in the Sunday magazine.

According to the Times' announcement of the appointment, Zimmer is the executive producer of VisualThesaurus.com and Vocabulary.com, online destinations for learners and lovers of language. He is the former editor of American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and is a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary.  He was a frequent guest contributor to the "On Language" column, and his work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, Slate and several language blogs. He is on the Executive Council of the American Dialect Society and a member of the Dictionary Society of North America.

Zimmer starts his new gig, which will now run twice a month, on March 21.  We wish him much fun in the pun.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Gotham Ghostwriters Featured on Fast Company

Our live Tweetchat during the Oscars received some high praise from Fast Company expert blogger and media trainer Ruth Sherman this week.  Ruth is a follower of GG on Twitter, and we were thrilled to have her join our running conversation during the show and contribute her unique perspective as a PR coach to celebrities.  Check out her full report from Fast Company about the online Oscar action here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Today's Tip: Lose the Dullness, Start a Website

We've all read dull corporate writing, full of vague statements and jargon-heavy quotations. In a "how-to" piece on avoiding those tiresome traps, Ragan offers us 10 fundamentals of good writing -- including everything from using new words (come on, there are a million out there, not twelve) to getting rid of the passive construction.

We especially agree with #8's suggestion of finding a natural, authentic voice -- there's nothing to liven up a dull piece like a human rhetorical touch.  And if we may, we'd like to add an 11th: give your statements context outside of the company -- make your point more resonant and relevant by tying it into current events.

Speaking of (and with) distinction, let's talk about the value and utility of personal websites -- especially for freelance writers. Today Men With Pens highlights three particular reasons websites are important to the success of your practice. Their #3 -- the credibility factor -- would be our #1. For many clients, having your own website is a threshold measure of legitimacy. If you don't take yourself seriously enough to hang your shingle out in the digital public square, why should they?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Today's Tip: Write Like Nobody's Reading

At the end of hours writing alone -- researching, typing, soul searching -- it's easy to feel, well, insecure.  Here to buck you up is leading confidence coach Steve Errey, who shares his tips today with Copyblogger on how to de-personalize the response, push through "the process," and forget the readers.  His closing piece of wisdom: "Confidence isn’t knowing how things will turn out, it’s trusting yourself to do what you’re best at."

We would add one small point to Errey's list: don't be afraid to walk away —from the computer, not the project.  Writing is a process, as Errey rightly reminds us, and a frequent part of it is hitting a wall (mostly figuratively, sometimes literally).  When we get blocked, or feel stuck in a rhetorical rut, we find that the best remedy usually is to take a long break.  Hit the refresh button on your internal browser, and come back later with cleaner and clearer perspective.  It's amazing how quickly you can sometimes spot and fix the line or graph that is giving you grief.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Grammar Can Be Fun

National Grammar Day doesn't have to be an ode to painstaking rules like "i before e, except after c" -- it can be an excuse to rhyme! Ragan's Grammar Day Limerick Contest yielded some delightfully clever results.  Who knew a misplaced comma could lead to cannibalism?! For those of you who are curious, here's the winning entry:

     My ex-boyfriend's, grammar, was minimal,
     His, intelligence sharp, but, subliminal.
     But, finally after, cracking,
     I sent, him packing,
     Because his, use of, commas, was criminal.
     Alexa Samuels

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Boy Scout Strategy for Oscar Speeches

By Wendy Shanker

My favorite award acceptance speech of all time came from Holland Taylor, the statuesque TV actress who has played a million grand dames and tight-ass WASP matrons, currently starring in “Two and a Half Men.” In 1999, when she won the Supporting Actress Emmy for “The Practice” at the age of 56, she strode up to the podium, tossed her hand in the air and pronounced, “Overnight!” Classic.

I met Holland once and asked her where that perfect opener came from, imaging her riffing with David Kelley. She revealed, “Actually, me and a friend came up with it on the limo ride to the show.” There you have it. No team of writers offered her the perfect wordplay. A great off the cuff idea said it all.

But that’s a rarity. Tonight, as Hollywood’s hoi polloi take the stage at the Kodak Theater, I’d offer the same two rules I give to anyone about to deliver a speech, whether it’s a Bar Mitzvah mom or a sobbing actress:

Be prepared.  I will never understand winners who get up there completely flustered, mumbling, “Um, I didn’t think of anything to say…Oh gosh, I didn’t think this would happen…” False modesty doesn’t cut it. You campaigned for the nomination. You went to all the luncheons. You’re wearing the rent-a-gown and the Lorraine Schwartz diamond drops. So know your lines. Practice. Prepare as you would when the camera rolls. Also, there’s no shame in needing a written cheat sheet of thank yous. But please, use a nice piece of paper or cardstock. Don’t scrawl them down on the back of a Koo Koo Roo receipt you found in the back of your Prius, and definitely no Sarah Palin palm notes.

Be genuine. You don’t have to say the most witty, memorable thing in the world. We know you’re a performer, and usually the reason you got nominated is because some schmo like me sat home in my underwear and wrote you great lines. Some actors and actresses have the gift of gab (George Clooney, Tom Hanks) but most don’t. So you simply can’t go wrong if you speak from the heart. Thank your family, your teachers, your cast and crew. When all else fails, hire someone like me to come up with something brilliant for you. The show hosts have teams of people writing material for them. Why shouldn’t you?

The weird thing about this year’s Oscars is that there are double the nominees but half the interest. It’s been a long time since I felt invested in a movie. The real action is on TV – if you’re not watching scripted shows like “Men of a Certain Age,” “Community,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” or “Being Erica” you’re missing out.

My guess is the big winner tonight will be “The Hurt Locker,” and they’ll give “Avatar” all the A/V junk. Mo’Nique deserves the shelf full of awards she’s scooped for “Precious,” and she’ll add one more tonight. I hope she’ll give props to big girls like herself and Gabourey Sidibe who give big performances. Yes to Jeff Bridges, yes to the Nazi guy, and I really hope Meryl takes it for Best Actress. She always gives good speech, nailing the fine line between humility about her job and pride in her accomplishments. And she’s generous with credit to writers. Meryl  Streep. Always prepared, always genuine. How did she develop this skill?


Wendy Shanker is the scriptwriter for major events like Glamour’s Woman of the Year Awards, The National Magazine Awards, and GLAAD’s Media Awards. Her new book, Are You My Guru?: How Medicine, Meditation & Madonna Saved My Life, will be published by NAL/Penguin in fall 2010. Go to www.wendyshanker.com for more info.

Mo'Nique's Unique Oscar Speech Strategy

Most Oscar nominees prepare at least a few choice words to use if they are lucky enough to win an award.  Many of them, particularly the favorites, spend hour after hour honing their acceptance speech.  Not Mo'Nique, the trendy pick for Best Supporting Actress for her work in "Precious." 

After taking home another honor at last night's Independent Spirit Awards, Mo'Nique told reporters that she would not be preparing any remarks for the Oscars because it would be presumptuous.  "I think the universe would say, 'You have a lot of nerve.'"

It may be an honorable choice, but also not the wisest, especially for a comedienne with a record of uttering controversial comments.  Do you really want to leave a potentially career-defining moment to chance — and risk saying something that will come back to haunt you?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Oscar Speech Impediment

For a unique critique of the political rantings we often hear from Oscar winners, check out this essay from Joe Lindsey, a right-leaning actor, screenwriter, and author of Life to the Right of Hollywood.  Lindsey's main beef: the lack of self-awareness that liberal celebs exhibit in their acceptance speeches.
I have yet to see a show business person give the acceptance speech they should at the Oscars. Instead, some turn the moment into a narcissistic stunt of protest, global outrage or badge of honor for whatever social injustice they have chosen that year. Rarely do they get it right.

Peachiness is nothing new to Oscar; it has been going on as far back as when those in Tinseltown hid in a Red closet while whispering “Government borscht for all.” The only thing that’s changed is the lack of awareness the winners have to the people who pay for their product, the product being they and their films, and the level of daftness that some accepting the award go to in an effort to feel more powerful than the money and fame they already have. Speaking out can be a good thing, especially when the speakers motive is to lift the awareness of all. Yet in Hollywood, a self-important attitude is hard for most to drop, as is the party line.
We thinks Lindsey doth protest a little too much, but there's more than a nugget of truth to what he says.  And his main point seems dead on: there's room for modest cause marketing at the Oscars, but it has to be done right (no political pun intended).  With all due respect to James Cameron, in this case, context is king.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Hurt Locker" Twitter Favorite for Top Oscar

Take this for what it's worth, Oscar speech followers: An analysis of Twitter traffic by communications firm Waggener Edstrom predicts that "The Hurt Locker" will take Best Picture.

"In a year where the best picture category has swelled, most of the dialogue has centered around two films. The buzz created the perfect opportunity for us to utilize our own tool, WE twendz pro service, to evaluate not only what the Twitter community is predicting, but who might be influencing that general sentiment," said Karla Wachter, senior vice president, product development, at Waggener Edstrom. "We identified a clear leader for best picture, and determined that Roger Ebert, one of the foremost respected film critics, is leading the discussion — proof that influence can and is crossing media channels and mediums."

What does it say that the top tech adapters are turning against the most technologically sophisticated film of all time?

Sorensen Speechwriting Award Winners

Our congratulations to Brenda Jones, winner of the second annual Sorensen Speechwriting Award, for her work on the keynote address delivered by Rep. John Lewis on the 60th anniversary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Kudos also to the two speechwriters who received Honorable Mention: Grant Neely for “Why Business Must Change to Earn Back Trust,” delivered by Jeff Kindler, chairman and CEO of Pfizer; and LeeAnne Petry for “Leading through a Fundamental Business Transformation,” delivered by Paul A. Laudicina, managing officer and chairman of A.T. Kearney.

Michael Long from the White House Writers Group penned an excellent tribute to the three honorees over at Ragan, which included some valuable insights from these writers about their craft.
“The speech is a tool… [and] a springboard that elevates the speaker beyond the words to the point where he can touch the audience,” says Jones, who writes speeches for Lewis, a civil rights icon. “People invite our bosses to speak because they want to hear from them, not from us. I embed myself deep within that speech, so I am visible only to [the speaker].

“If you can’t explain what you’re trying to say in a couple of clear sentences, it’s probably because you don’t know,” Neely adds. “That’s why people fall into the seductive embrace of passive [verbs] and words like leverage, maximize, utilize, strategize and synergize. They’re meant to obscure ideas, not express them.”
We were particularly impressed by Jones' deconstruction of what she described as her "impossible task" in connecting the civil rights movement to architectural preservation.
“My job was to craft an address set in Nashville, which is almost a second home to my boss,” she says. “His experiences there are the foundation for all that he accomplished as a participant and leader in the civil rights movement and as a member of Congress.”

 Lewis was returning to the campus where he was a student during the sit-in movement in the 1960s.

“Because my boss is trained as a minister, he likes to discuss philosophy… to prick an individual’s conscience and inspire them to do what is right. For a while, I was stumped about how to create the intimate connection … using the seemingly impersonal topic of architectural preservation!”
Her solution was to cast the physical characteristics of the historic location as a metaphor for the struggles of the era:

How do you tell the story of a nation? Is it only present in the splendor of well-designed walls or carved in elegant stone? Or can a simple, plain edifice act as a witness to the power of a people to overcome the trials of humanity? … The majesty of the building was not around us, it was in us, and those walls witnessed the spirit we had within. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Skinny on Oscar's New Skinniness

For you Oscar speech geeks, Vanity Fair provides a handy breakdown of the changes the show's producers have made this year to slim down the acceptance speeches and the rest of the program.  The most noticeable adjustment: a ban on the droning "thank yous" that have become a regrettable staple of the show.

Here's how VF explains it: "Instead of having weepy Oscar winners recite grocery lists of thanks to everyone from their personal trainer to their backup mailman while forgetting their husbands (don’t worry, Hilary Swank, I’m sure your now ex-husband Chad forgave you), Oscar’s heartless new producers have instructed winners to prepare two speeches: one expressing how much the Oscars mean to them, and another in which they can thank whoever they want backstage for a video that will be consigned to the black hole known as the Internet. Thou shalt worship no god but the Academy."

P.S.  Vanity Fair also has posted a mildly funny spoof of the acceptance speech "Avatar" director James Cameron is preparing —a faux "early draft" that mocks Cameron's infamous King of the World claim and dings George Clooney.  With all due respect, our Jokewriters could have done a heckuva lot better.  Seriously, is"True Lies" anywhere near as parody-rich as "Terminator"?

Gotham's Oscar Speech Poll

In the grand tradition of the Oscar pool, we thought it would be fun to poll our friends in the writing community about who they think will be in the big winners and losers in the acceptance speech derby Sunday night.

Before you submit your nominees, a quick programming note.  To shorten the Oscar broadcast this year, the show's producers have banished the usual tiresome "thank you" litanies to backstage.  So count on Sunday's speeches to be crisper and at least slightly meatier.

With that, here are the categories.  Feel free to submit your nominees below in the comments section. Or you can email them to us at: info@gothamghostwriters.com.

Best performance by a winner you have never heard of:
Which obscure statue-grabber will make a name for themselves with a memorable speech moment?

Worst performance by a winner everyone has heard of:
Which A-list star will go the furthest in making a fool of themselves?

Fastest Hook in the West Award:
Which speech rambler will be the first to get awkwardly cut off and shooed away by the time cops?

Best Original Wordplay:
Which quipster will come off with the most witty line of the night?

The Sean Penn Memorial Political Tirade Award:
Which crusading celeb will go on the most inappropriate jag for their pet cause?

Gotham Goes To The Oscars: Live Chat and More

We got such a great response to our State of the Union live commentary that we're planning a sequel for the country's next great speechfest — this Sunday's Oscar show.

Over the next couple days, our speechwriters will be online to make their predictions about which stars will shine and who will flop in their acceptance remarks, as well as a few speechy tips for the big award winners. Then during the show Sunday night, they will be offering running reviews and commentary in a live chat on Twitter.

We hope you will show that you really, really like us (h/t Sally Field) by joining in the conversation. Extra points if you can translate James Cameron's speech from Nav'i into English.

Here's how you can be part of the festivities:

BLOGG POLL: To kick things off, we will be posting a preview poll today asking who will be the big winners and losers in best Oscar speech category. Feel free to weigh in with your picks in the comments section.

FACEBOOK: The easiest way to join the conversation is to sign up for our Facebook event page, which you can find here.

TWEETCHAT: We have set up a dedicated chat room on Twitter for the show Sunday night. You can follow the hashtag #oscarspeeches. Or just jump into the conversation here.

Who will be this year's Oscar tearjerker? Who will be the obnoxious jerk? Tune in, find out, and tell us.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Latest Gerstein Forbes Column

In his weekly political column for Forbes.com out today, Gotham President Dan Gerstein offers a big-picture post-mortem on last Thursday's White House health care summit.  His take:

As I listened to the same tone-deaf talking points from the congressional Democrats at the White House health care summit last week, I was reminded of the classic excuse politicians use about their comments being taken out of context. In this case, and many others, the Democrats are suffering from the exact opposite problem--their arguments and actions are not taking in the context of the times. Indeed, over the past 14 months they have continually been trying to jam a square political peg into a round historical hole. The result has been a disastrous fit with the public mood and a deepening credibility gap.
You can read the full column here.

Sarah Palin's Comedy Debut Is No Joke

Last night Sarah Palin made her comedic debut on "The Tonight Show" with typically great fanfare, delivering a monologue that New York Magazine says "needs to be seen to be believed."  We asked one of our Gotham Jokewriters, author and stand-up comic Jeff Kreisler, to review Palin's appearance, both in terms of her material and her delivery.  Here is his report.
I've got to put a few things aside to analyze her comedy: 
1. My political opinion of her
2. My comedy opinion of Jay Leno
3. The fact that her first time performing... was on The (expletive deleted) Tonight Show.  I'm a stand-up comic.  I wouldn't say I'm "bitter" or "jealous."  More like, "re-evaluating" and "crying."

That done (be brave, Kreisler), strictly from a comedy perspective, I gotta admit, she did pretty well.  She's definitely comfortable in front of an audience, being the center of attention, and handling pressure.  Those are characteristics of a comedian (and politician) that are difficult to teach.  She's a natural.

Constructive criticism time!

On the material:
  • I think the material fit her very well.  It was safe, simple, and straightforward.  It wasn't edgy or super original or unexpected... but that's why it worked for her.  The material sounded like her.  It was in harmony with her voice, her opinion, her character... her (shudder) brand.  That's what you need to do when you write for someone else — make it sound like the person. 
  • Personally, I wasn't in love with the jokes — the only one with any spark was the Tina Fey line — but I'm not being asked to perform 'em or pay to see 'em. 
  • There were three joke topics:  Alaska, politics, and Sarah Palin, superstar.  I would've lumped the jokes about each topic together, rather than spreading them out haphazardly.  There didn't seem to be any real arch or reasoned order to the bits.
On her performance:
  • Biggest criticism: Wait for the laughs to start fading.  She began each new joke as the reaction was reaching its peak, raising her voice to speak over the noise, rather than letting the laughter and applause at least begin to fade before moving on.  She cut off her own energy, instead of letting the momentum build. 
  • She swallowed some punchlines.  Could've emphasized the endings of jokes more. 
  • While in general her presence was good, and she certainly wasn't monotone, her physicality on the one NRA joke was off.  The key part of that bit was her six-shooting "or else" moment, and she didn't deliver, it just got lost in the general adulation from the crowd. 
  • Again, she clearly likes talking in front of people, and she's good at it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Have No Fear, Magazine Writers

A new study on online magazines by the Columbia Journalism Review has the media world buzzing.  CJR Editor Victor Navasky proclaimed the findings — which showed that fact-checking and copy-editing are substantially less rigorous online — "depressing." New York Magazine, on the other hand, argued that Navasky's gloom-and-doom is an overreaction, stating that magazine websites are still in their infancy, and naturally need time to streamline their operations.

Our view?  Digital reporting and writing may suffer from lax standards today, but that's not a foregone conclusion tomorrow.  Typos and inaccuracies are not endemic to web journalism — they're just natural for a young, rapidly-changing medium.  As online magazines evolve and mature, and as more and more readers migrate to the Web, standards will inevitably rise —if for no other reasons consumers will demand it.

In the meantime, how would you improve online writing and editing?