Creating Moments: The Peanuts Way of Attracting Readers

By Jack Limpert

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 10.35.22 AMOne of my favorite books read this year was Schulz and Peanuts, by David Michaelis; it’s the life story of Charles Schulz, a shy kid from Minneapolis who created the nation’s most popular comic strip.

Here’s Schulz talking about how to attract readers:  “You must give the audience moments. You must give them laughter, you must give them a little poignancy…”

How does a writer create moments?

Getting laughter is hard. But any writer who does great reporting can create moments of poignancy, moments that get the reader to say wow.

What Will 2015 Bring? Your Predictions, Please.

By Mike Feinsilber

Here’s our sort-of annual predictions quiz. Answer the 10 questions, store them in your desk drawer, and next year we’ll give you the answers.

1. Will Congress raise the minimum wage in 2015?

2. Will there be another Sony-type cyber attack?

3. For $38, you could have bought a share of Facebook when it went public in 2013. By the end of 2013, a share would have cost you $26. Today the price was $80. What will one share cost you by this time next year (BTTNY)?

How Editors Can Help Find Tomorrow’s Great Journalists

By Jack Limpert

Maximillian Potter (writer-editor-media adviser-author of Shadows in the Vineyard, one of the year’s best books) tweeted a few months ago about the value of an editorial internship:

1) Couldn’t have been less “connected” when I got my first magazine internship @phillymag. It was unpaid. How unpaid was it?

2) So unpaid that when my dad lost his job, I requested to be reimbursed for public transit tokens, I was told no can do. not policy.

3) That internship was amazingly beneficial experience. Because of the incredible editorial minds/talents I was able to learn from/be near.

Writers at Work: The Things They’ll Do To Help Find the Right Words

By Jack Limpert

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 8.33.12 AM

“I’ve got to be puffing and sipping,” Truman Capote said.

A cartoon in this week’s New Yorker, titled “A Visit from the Procrastination Muse,” shows a young woman sitting at a computer. Behind her the muse is saying:

“You look tired.Why don’t you take a nap?”

“You’ll think so much clearer after a run.”

“Don’t forget to call your mother.”

“You need to do the dishes right now.”

I emailed it to daughter Ann, a writer, with the subject line, “Is this you?” She responded, “You know me so well.”

The Wisdom of Yogi Berra

By Jack Limpert

Five longtime journalists were sitting around a Washington lunch table yesterday when Wes asked if any of us had gone to the memorial service for a DC-area journalist and teacher. Mike said he knew the man but hadn’t gone to the service.

I said, “Remember the old saying from Chicago politics: ‘If you don’t go to other people’s funerals, they won’t come to yours.'”

To which Paul said, “That was Yogi Berra.”

Paul was right. Berra, among  his other great lines, said, “You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”

A Janitor’s Remembrance of Dick Kleeman and the Great Days of Minneapolis Journalism

By Norman Sherman

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 10.35.49 AMBefore I went into politics, I was a Minnesota journalist—a janitor, night side, at the Minneapolis Star Tribune for two stints in the 1950s. I borrowed money from the newspaper credit union to go to my first Democratic national convention in 1956. Ten years after the second tour as janitor, I was Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary. I got to know journalists in both places.

As a janitor, I got my first by-line. Humor columnist Will Jones ended most columns with a paragraph labeled Day Spoiler or Day Brightener. I would leave pithy notes in his typewriter and they often appeared in his column as “The Night Janitor Says.” I put it in my resume.

Editors from Hell: How They Make It Hard to Do Good Journalism


By Jack Limpert

They’re friendly with staff writers but let them know they don’t have time to talk about story ideas. They make writers first clear all story ideas with assistant editors.

They let a junior editor handle all contact with freelancers. If the query or submission is from an established writer, they let an assistant editor handle it until they have to look at it.

They avoid feedback from readers—it’s too negative and confusing.

They lunch mostly with other journalists, figuring if they can impress other journalists they’re more likely to be seen as a success.

Rolling Stone and the New Republic: Do the Numbers Tell You Anything?

By Jack Limpert

Editing a magazine you get a lot of feedback: “I hate that cover.” “The stories are too long.” “You never write about….”  I listened to all the comments but then looked at the numbers for something more definitive.

“How did the issue do on the newsstand?”

“What’s happening with the renewal rate?”

Do such numbers shed any light on what’s happening at Rolling Stone and the New Republic?

Is the Rolling Stone Gang Rape Story “the Worst Screwup” of Them All? Maybe Not.

By Jack Limpert

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 9.47.41 AMGene Weingarten, winner of two Pulitzers for the Washington Post, yesterday said:

“By now you are probably tired of hearing about the UVA Rape story and Rolling Stone. So I am going to make this short.

“I contend that this is the worst screwup in the history of modern American journalism. I don’t mean that it is the most damaging, though it is plenty damaging (Arguably, the media’s failure to warn the public about the bankruptcy of Bush’s case for war in Iraq was more grave). And it’s not the ‘worst’ in terms of the outright audacity of the sin. (Janet Cooke and Jayson Blair set out to deceive.) By ‘worst,’ I mean that it represents, more than anything I can think of, a profound, systemic example of journalistic incompetence in an organization with enough resources to have known better.”

Bulletin Board Notes About Sports That Sometimes Apply to Journalism

If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them. – Yogi Berra

You don’t learn from your wins. You learn from your losses.

You never have to apologize for showing people a fun time. – Bill Veeck

Larry Ringer on shooting 68 and 80 in the first two rounds of a golf tournament: “Some days you’re the dog and other days you’re the fire hydrant.”

Half of the players disliked Rick Barry. The other half hated him. – Billy Paultz

For Dennis Rodman, every night is a full moon.