Archives for September 2011

Friday Musings: Expertise & Building Confidence (Or Not!)

Each Friday, I carefully compile a series of random thoughts I’ve had throughout the week. Some weeks I do more thinking than others! It was a bit of a slow one, this week… In fact, all I have is quotes from others!

Last Saturday, I attended a really amazing jiu-jitsu seminar taught by world champion, BJJ black belt and all-around cool guy Chris Haueter. He had so many great pearls of wisdom to share, but one stuck out to me: “If you want a martial art that’ll help you build confidence, try to find one where there isn’t any sparring.” Truer words were never spoken!

I’ve been reading books on sports journalism, and really liked this quote from Bruce Selcraig of Sports Illustrated: Experts appreciate that you’ve done your homework and can ask intelligent questions, but they don’t want to hear you talk. Don’t try to impress them. Let them impress you.” The book points out that reporters are experts in journalism, not the topic being discussed–otherwise, they would be getting interviewed! It is easy, I think, to forget or lose sight of this and begin pretending to be or trying to act like an expert.

Well, that’s it for this week. My other thoughts have consisted of me lamenting the upcoming 6 months of winter and cheering the $5 purple and black striped knee-high socks on sale at Target. And nobody wants to read about that.

Honest Headlines: Not That Hard

Any disagreements?In a continuation of this week’s discussion on media ethics, I found this guideline particularly poignant: “Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.”

This is a pretty easy one, provided that you are writing your own headlines rather than having a higher-up do it for you. And no matter how pressed for time you are, asking a follow-up question such as, “Are you trying to say _______” can really nip most potential problems in the bud.

You may lose a few page views, but will gain more trust and credibility in the long run, and this doesn’t really take much out of you in my opinion.

Anyone disagree?

Yael’s Variety Hour: Casual Dress, Personalized Medicine & Spying

Food For Thought


  • The World According to Americans. This is a funny map of the world as seen through the stereotypical eyes of the average American. Or below-average, I’d hope.

Shameless Self-Promotion

  • On Spying is a piece I wrote for MMA HQ in the wake of spying accusations leveled by Rampage Jackson.

Tune In!

Robb Wolf is gonna be on Curiousity: iCaveman this Sunday. Check out the preview.

Getting Both Sides (When Possible)

Yesterday I spoke about seeking the truth with limited resources; highlighting the fact that attempting to verify accuracy of information when crunched for time or lacking in support (fact checkers, editors, etc). Today I wanted to cover another guideline which is also difficult to follow when lacking in resources, also from the SPJ Code of Ethics: “Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.”

It seems like common sense. If one person says something about someone else, you want to get both sides of the story. But this is assuming that the other person is accessible. How do you do this when you don’t even have contact information, or the information you have isn’t likely to reach the person you’re trying to get ahold of? And what do you do when you are pressed for time? How much time is enough time? I was once awoken in the wee morning hours by a very angry PR person who said I should not have written in my story that her client did not respond to request for comment, since it had not been 24 hours. Hardly anybody gives 24 hours, even for print newspapers, but it was a valid point. (I now write “did not immediately respond to request for comment” since it could very well be a timing issue.) Perhaps merely making an attempt to reach a source for comment is enough to give the illusion of diligently seeking out subjects for response to allegations, but is it? When do you hold a story? Again, this is part of the balancing act writers (especially in the blogosphere world of breaking news) face. Finding a balance between high standards of integrity and being on the cutting edge, breaking news… is not easy. Where do you draw the line?

Seeking the Truth (With Limited Resources)

I’ve mentioned ethics in journalism in previous posts, and wanted to touch on some of the grey areas in the ethics code presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. This isn’t intended to discount the code, by any means, but because I thought it’d be useful to have a dialogue about some of these issues in the changing world of media–and give my own thoughts on why some media outlets have a more stringent policy than others. I’d also like to open the dialogue up and hear opinions from others.

One of the facets of SPJ’s ethics code is seeking the truth and reporting it. “Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information,” it reads. And one of the guidelines that stuck out for me was the very first one: “Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.”

Obviously, deliberate distortion can increase web traffic or create a more interesting story than the one which is real. And this is a clear violation, in my mind, of the trust readers put into a media outlet. However, there are so many reasons why inadvertent errors are common. One is resources and the second is time.

When certain media outlets pay writers a mere pittance (if that), writing for a living becomes a matter of pumping out articles as quickly as possible. If the same outlets also do not have fact-checkers or editors on staff (and, ideally, you’d want at least 2 eyes to scan a piece before it goes live), it’s next to impossible to test the accuracy of information from all sources. This is one reason why I prefer writing for magazines than for the internet. Painstaking fact-checking and expert revision may not eliminate inadvertent errors, but they certainly reduce them.

Aside from limited resources (fact-checkers, editors, writers getting paid a living wage who therefore have a higher skillset, etc.) a big issue is time. New media involves breaking news as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, verifying the accuracy of information (or whether it’s okay to release it) means you are often giving up being the first to post a headline. This is a concession I personally am willing to make, but I can see how it might be more difficult if one were, for example, being pressured by an editor. It really is a matter of juggling accuracy and speed for a demanding public that wants both.

What other gray areas exist in testing the accuracy of information?

Friday Musings: Thoughts and Quotes

I’ve been a bit more introspective than usual, lately, but dealing with some of the same issues I’ve mulled over for a while. Here’s a few of them.

  • Sometimes the truth is better left unsaid. This can apply to so many situations…
  • Whenever I need to set boundaries, I always hope things go over well…but I guess that’s not the point. I guess you can’t always have things both ways!
  • Overthinking things you can’t change is probably not the best use of energy. Not that it’s ever stopped me before. *smile*
  • It may be best to drop the past and make good decisions going forward, instead of trying to go back in time, attempt to correct mistakes from the past, or lamenting the lost hours of our misspent youth.

And some quotes sitting on my desk.

  • “Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting a bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.” -Dennis Wholey
  • “Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge.” -Don Henley
  • And on the other end of that, here’s a quote passed on to me by Jen Sinkler: “Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” Dr. Laurence J. Peter
  • I forget the name of the speaker, but there was an interesting question posed at a conference I attended which I think may apply to all entrepreneurs or small biz owners: “Who’s your Napster?” Who will initially expose your weakness? “Who’s your Google?” Who will provide what you sell for free? “Who’s your Apple?” Who will eat your lunch?

Have a great weekend!

Yael’s Variety Hour: Sex With Cavemen, Competition, Microbiology & College Sports

I bet that headline caught your attention! Without further ado, here’s some of what I’ve been reading and writing this week.

Health and Nutrition

  • Framework Matters. “Here is a funny thing: as a non-religious, non-spiritual guy, I feel a MORAL IMPERATIVE to help as many people as I can because I’m pretty sure I have information rattling between my ears that can save lives. I by no means have all the answers, but a firefighter does not need to know the ins and outs of thermodynamics to save a family in a burning house. I (and most all of you) know enough about this paleo shtick to literally transform the world as we know it,” Robb Wolf writes Preach on, brother!


Requisite BJJ Section


Shameless Self-Promotion

My posts for the week are divided into two categories: MMA interviews and health industry posts.

  • Interview: Pat Barry. What a character. Barry talks Streetfighter, ninjas and more. He faces Stefan Struve on October 1st.

Friday Musings: Character, Ideas, Autumn & Work

I could’ve sworn I used to have more random thoughts in previous weeks than I do now. Perhaps it is part of settling back home after traveling. Or maybe it is the recent plethora of deadlines coming at me from every which way. However, I did have some random thoughts this week, as well as quotes I’ve picked up from others. Without further ado…

  • Having an editor who is easy and fun to work with makes me WANT to meet impossible deadlines for him. This applies to just about everything else in both my professional and personal worlds. Have you ever noticed that? It is amazing how much time and effort people will put in for you if you treat them with care and respect.
  • J.C. Watts said, “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.” I wholeheartedly agree with this. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when doing the right thing makes you look like you’re doing the wrong thing, and you can’t explain the situation for whatever reason, but sometimes it has to be done.
  • I was lucky enough to stop by some amazing gyms when I was traveling, including Twisted Fitness in Madison, where I noticed that instructor Mark Plavcan would insist that I understand moves instead of letting me be lazy and try to memorize them. I brought this up to him later and he said,”…BJJ is not moves, but ideas. If you have the right ideas, it makes it easy to put a game together. And remembering an idea is better than memorizing a move. An idea will create several moves……a move is just a move.” Brilliant, eh?
  • And lastly, I was trying to refuse to accept the coming of fall, but I guess I have no choice. I still totally want one of those sleeping bag coats this year, though!

How Do Some Discussions on Media Ethics Sound?

So I was thinking of doing some blogging on Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics in the world of changing media; maybe get some discussion going on some of the challenges writers face, brainstorm solutions, look at non-examples, and so on.

I’d be interested in hearing from non-writers as well. How do you see media coverage and what examples of unethical behavior do you see? What are some of the reasons for it? What is due to legitimate time constraints or other reasons, and what is due to laziness or perhaps ignorance?

Before I get started with this task, I wanted to make sure there’s people on this blog (and on facebook) who are interested in participating in discussion. I’m not going to make you commit to responding to every post (as there will be many), but just want to make sure that I’m not standing on a soapbox in the shower, listening to my own echoes.

Let me know.

Yael’s Variety Hour: Abbreviated, Self-Righteous Edition

I’ve been traveling, so spending less time digging up good links for the Variety Hour. (Is it Wednesday already?) Just three (and two of my own articles) this time around, but I think they are really good ones.

  • On Half-Assed Efforts Jennifer Lawler describes a very poorly-designed handicapped-accessible hotel room. Great food for thought. (Do it right or not at all.)
  • Question Authority. Why you need to take responsibility for your own healthy, instead of relying on blind faith. “When it comes to health and fitness information, authoritative organizations may not be your best source of advice.” Great post by the editor-in-chief of Experience Life.

Shameless Self-Promotion

  • Did I mention that I’m the newest proud member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)? The ASJA is a professional association for independent nonfiction writers, and I’m really pleased to be a part of it.

As always, feel free to post comments, questions or your favorite links from the week. ‘Til next time!