The Curse of Advertorials: A Newspaper Will Say Nice Things About You If You Buy an Ad

By Jack Limpert

Yesterday’s Washington Post Magazine (“The Holiday Issue”) was 76 pages, edging out Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (“The Women of Hollywood Speak Out”), which had 70 pages. But it wasn’t a fair fight. Of the Post Magazine‘s 76 pages, 26 pages were special advertising sections (“Holiday Arts & Entertainment,” “Holiday Gift Guide,” and “Retire in North Carolina”) where what looked a lot like editorial content was advertorial copy paid for by those written about.

Being an Editor Hasn’t Changed All That Much in 25 Years

By Jack Limpert

A 1980s note sent to other editors at the Washingtonian magazine:

20 Ways to Editorial Excellence

1. Listen more than you talk.

2. Respect the reader.

3. Go out to lunch.

4. Hire people smarter than you.

5. Work harder than anyone else.

6. Keep your office door open.

7. Read a lot.

8. Send a lot of thank you notes.

9. Don’t get too important to do the work.

10. Some ideas work, some don’t, but there are no bad ideas.

What Does It Mean That Being Swathed in Luxury Brings in a Lot More Money Than Honest Journalism?

By Jack Limpert

15cover-blog480Sunday’s New York Times came with two magazines:

The New York Times Magazine, with a cover story on the future, was 90 pages. It had 36 ad pages, 53 edit pages, and a promotion page.

T, The New York Times Style Magazine, with a cover story “Welcome to the World,” was 192 pages. It had 110 ad pages and 82 edit pages.

The Contraction Wars: Winning Is Not or Isn’t Everything?

By Jack Limpert

An anecdote (from Connecting, a blog for current and former Associated Press journalists) about using or not using contractions when you write:

Bruce Lowitt once wrote a story that included the famous Vince Lombardi quote “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” The AP was on an anti-contraction campaign at the time and Bert, who was on the desk that day, changed the quote, eliminating the contractions. Lowitt went a little nuts but the mood was settled by Ed Schuyler, who piped up, “Calm down, Bruce. You can not win them all.’’

Bulletin Board Notes

“Change is a dragon. You can ignore it, which is futile. You can fight it, in which case you will lose. Or you can ride it.” —Old proverb, probably from China

“The more reporters at an event the less news.”

“In a world where there is endless amounts of information, there’s an even greater need for quality information, where you have analysis and access and great writing and great editing and great packaging.” —Will Dana when he was managing editor of Rolling Stone

“More good journalists have been ruined by self-importance than by alcohol.” —Frank Cobb, editor, New York World

How to Do Long-Form Journalism That Makes a Difference

By Jack Limpert

Tracy Kidder is one of those writers—Erik Larson, Hampton Sides, and David Maraniss are three others—who write books about subjects that no publisher will buy thinking that lots of people would like to read about that. But Kidder, Larson, Sides, and Maraniss are so good at reporting, thinking, and writing that their books get good reviews, win awards, and sell.

This week Kidder—on the day he turned 70— gave a talk at the University of Indianapolis as part of the Kellogg Writers Series. Dan Carpenter interviewed Kidder for Indiana’s Sky Blue Blog, and Kidder told him, “I’m always less interested in subjects than in people.” Carpenter wrote:

More Wirespeak Stories: “Nd more sharks”

Mike Feinsilber posted yesterday about “The Secret Language We Used to Use,” the shorthand method that Associated Press and United Press International journalists used to communicate with other bureaus.

Bill Mead, who worked for UPI in Richmond, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, remembers this exchange between the Richmond bureau and UPI’s New York headquarters:

Wirespeak msgs were often used to alert a UPI bureau that Rox–the AP–had an edge on an ongoing story. Working in RV–the Richmond, Virginia, bureau in 1958, under H.L. Stevenson–we were frantically following a shipwreck story out of Norfolk. Lots of sailors in life vests were bobbing in the ocean. Rescue boats carried sailors and the boats were in touch with the UPI and AP bureaus.

The Secret Language We Used to Use

By Mike Feinsilber

Assume it is the 1950s and two guys in white shirts, ties undone, cigarettes dangling from lips, are in United Press International bureaus, one in Tokyo, one in New York, communicating with each other. The teletype machine in Tokyo sounds three bells and these words clack out:


These were marching orders from headquarters to the fellow in Tokyo.

Tokyo sighs and replies with a word: “ONWORKING.”

Some Readers Might Ask What Really Was Shameful

By Jack Limpert

A sentence in yesterday’s Washington Post kept me—and maybe a few other older readers— awake last night. It was in an Arts & Style story  headlined “Outrage and old wounds” and it was about which museum should get some of the artifacts of Japanese-Americans who were interned on the West Coast during World War II. The sentence:

“They are artifacts of a shameful period of American history, one little discussed amid the stories of the Greatest Generation.”

Talking About What Happened to All Those Good Writing and Editing Jobs

By Jack Limpert

The Washingtonian celebrated its 50th anniversary last week and it was a chance to talk with many of the magazine’s editors and writers who have moved on to other jobs. We all agreed that the magazine’s earlier years were the good old days—lots of edit pages, lots of good writing and editing  jobs.

What happened?