Meet Nellie Bly

Nellie BlyLong before the 1970s, the golden era of investigative journalism, when all those cool male undercover reporters made long-form reporting fashionable — there was Nellie Bly. She was the pioneer in investigative reporting. She was a woman. And the year was 1880.

Nellie was born in Pittsburgh on May 5, 1864, as Elizabeth Jane Cochran. Known as the “most rebellious child” in the family — maybe because of her curious mind and her wit — she dared to dream of becoming a writer at the Pittsburgh Dispatch, whose star columnist Erasmus Wilson (and most probably all of the readers agreed with the man) believed that a working woman was “a monstrosity.”

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Writing Should Open a Vein

As an editor, I come across way too many poorly written articles by young communication students and journalism graduates who should know better. They rely on lazy fact checking and shallow research, an unquestioned reliance on spell checkers. Their writing covers mostly generic and predictable topics. But most unnerving: many writers have no unique voice. The articles are complacent and timid, a boring, conform rehashing of predigested, safe thoughts that live in a vacuum. No history, no presence, no looking ahead. Too many stones left unturned. An easy read, no commitment asked.

Like. Share. Done.  

writing
The New Yorker, October 2014

This made me wonder whether young writers are afraid to speak out and give it their all. They want to be liked, thumbs up and a happy emoji attached. And even though they text and tweet with fervor about every conceivable aspect of their personal lives — in their writing, most won’t bare themselves. They lack the grit to tackle substantial, sometimes controversial and uncomfortable content.

And yet, they quickly find decent jobs and employment after they graduate. Professional journalists, on the other hand, editors and writers with years of editorial experience and pedigree, who have to clean up their copy, are shed aside. What does that say about our profession?

I never spoke at a graduation ceremony, but this is what I would say to this young, eager crowd.  

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The Future of Communications

NYWICI panel
(left to right) Sarah DaVanzo, Dana Points, Lisa Stone, Liz Kaplow. Photo by Jan Goldstoff.

On June 11, 2014, a panel hosted by New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) debated the shift in communications. A shift that is leading away from personal interactions toward a future obsessed with blazing-fast, always-on technology in our pockets. Is the ability to stay connected wherever we go a service or a disservice? To find out, NYWICI surveyed its members in partnership with BlogHer and discovered that 79% feel ignored when another person is using a phone during a conversation; 67% feel that multi-tasking is both a blessing and a curse; most would give up an e-reader before a phone (20% couldn’t decide). But overall, all seem to agree that technology is empowering — and disempowering them — at the same time.

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Newsweek: The Fallout

I blamed Tina Brown’s editorial decisions for Newsweek’s fall. “Star-power,” whatever that means, is not enough, not when it comes to good journalism. 

I canceled my subscription last year because of the content and the cheesy tabloid feel of the magazine after The Daily Beast takeover. I am sure that many other subscribers did the same.

We didn’t cancel our subscription because we didn’t like print but because we didn’t like that kind of print.

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Newsweek Ceasing Print Edition After 80 Years

Newsweek will stop its print edition after 80 years.

I stopped subscribing when Tina Brown took over and turned the venerable magazine into a pseudo British tabloid. I had never been exposed to so many royal pictures and superficial articles, until Tina Brown took over. She killed Newsweek with her news judgement and her priorities. She is responsible for this disaster. This was not primarily a New Media/Old Media clash as Brown was quick to point out.

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Infotainment: A Disney World of Democracy

If you have not yet seen Bill Moyers’ June 8 interview with Marty Kaplan on Big Media and the impact of money on communications, and especially broadcast news, this is a most see.

Kaplan founded and heads The Norman Lear Center, which studies politics, entertainment and commerce and their impact on us, and he discusses how broadcast media have dumbed down — and taken us for the ride.   

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