If you caught Tuesday’s episode of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, you might have noticed that beneath all the political ballyhoo, something pretty notable happened. In the first three minutes of the segment you’ll notice a prominent prop. That’s right – it’s the front sections of The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Leaving all politics where they belong – on the side – this segment is a remarkable demonstration of the influence that print newspapers still yield. The entire beginning of the segment is not only structured around the content of a newspaper, but the anchors also wave it around prominently for three whole minutes. There aren’t many things that say “Newspapers matter” more than that.
MSNBC could have shown the anchors on their tablets viewing the paper’s digital edition, or they could have brought up a graphic of the homepage on the screen, but they didn’t. Why?
Because the front page is still notable. Despite our digital era, what goes on the front page of a newspaper is way more noteworthy because there’s not infinite space, and what goes on there is permanent. You can’t change out the headline after a few hours – once it’s the headline, that’s it.
The digital front page doesn’t have the same gravitas that the paper front page does because it’s the opposite of all those things: it’s impermanent and it changes in real time. Of course, digital news is still important, as Americans are accessing news digitally on many devices throughout the day. But homepages don’t command as much influence or as many eyes as the digital content.
The segment also shows that people just read print versions differently. People may trust print more (ironic given the content of the Morning Joe segment) than online because of its permanence. So thank you, Morning Joe, for reminding us just how much print matters – and why it’s not going away.
It’s that time of year again: your AP Stylebook is out of date. That’s because yesterday the 2014 Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law made its spiral-bound way into the world. This year’s edition features about 200 new additions and/or revisions, and adds an entire chapter with “more than 200 religion terms.” [Per what may be this year’s most controversial revision, the AP wrote “over 200 terms,” as the title, but it looks like they decided to toe the old-school “more than” line in their press release.]
Over the past few months, they’ve alerted us to the newest revisions: there was the aforementioned “over/more than” debacle; state names should now be spelled out instead of abbreviated in the body of a story; and it is now “Wal-Mart” in all instances.
Following AP style makes you look like you care
When a reporter clicks on your press release, his or her attention is yours to lose, and typos or incorrectly capitalized words make that release easy to ignore. Here’s what Dan Friedman, a journalist and my dad, has to say about that: “I get so many press releases that they’re like sitting ducks; if you make your press release easy to ignore or delete, it makes my day go that much quicker. But the clean, nicely done press releases I get are so compelling that sometimes I can’t say no.”
Following AP style rules (like most journalists do) makes it clear that you care about the English language, which in turn makes you look smart and shows you care about your readers.
Journalists will be more likely to give you a chance
You want to be known in the newsroom, but not as the flack who send press releases that require heavy editing. Sending clean news releases that adhere to AP style makes journalists much more likely to read your release without feeling itchy inside. That will, in turn, make them more amenable to working with you. That doesn’t mean that one AP-style news release will get you a mention, but consistent good writing can only help your cause.
It will improve your writing
Following AP style will improve your writing both in and out of press releases. Referring to the AP Stylebook as you write means you’ll be paying more attention to your writing, which can only improve it. Familiarizing yourself with AP style and adhering to it means you’ll also be on the lookout in your colleagues’ writing, which will also make you a better editor.
It’s true that I have a soft spot for both grammar and AP Stylebook (they don’t call me @ellisredpen for nothing), but I’ve also been a journalist and am the offspring of two of them, so I know of what I speak. Remember: friends don’t let friends capitalize job titles when they appear after a person’s name.