What (little bit) I’ve learned in journalism

52a0db08632d7.imageI had the opportunity to give a pair of lectures at the College Media Association’s annual NYC convention on Thursday, and I’m happy and very, very relieved to say it was a success.

It’s infectious to see so much enthusiasm (as well as, you know, the perennial frustrations of how to get page views, how to navigate relationships with administrators and publishers, and how to make people care).

But mostly, the enthusiasm. There’s progress being made. Most of these conventioneers are much further ahead of where I was when I was in their shoes, being shuttled to and from five lectures a day for three days.

Here are my two Prezi lectures. They’re light on text and heavy on visuals, so you probably won’t understand everything or get to hear some of my side-splitting one-liners. But you’ll get the idea. The recurring theme through both of these is that I’m very, very lucky.

Think like a web producer

How I got the most out of student media

(Prezi is sometimes slow on WordPress, so if either of them are having trouble loading, use the links in the title.)

What ARE the greatest hits in Mystery Jets’ ‘Greatest Hits’?

It’s been a busy two weeks. I’ve been working, going to concerts, drinking more than I should, visiting the graves of famous people and learning how to code.

But right now I’d rather talk about Mystery Jets.

They’re a four- (and sometimes five-)piece indie band from London that peaked on the charts in 2008 but of course found their way to my ears much later.

With the kind of clever, catchy nod to the past that I always think is cool, the lyrics are full of references to some of the greatest albums in pop music history, as a couple’s massive record collection is cleaved in two during a breakup.

Here are the lyrics. I’ve linked every album to Spotify for your enjoyment and edification.

You can take The Lexicon of Love away
But I’m keeping Remain in Light
You can take away It’s A Shame About Ray
But I’m holding on to Country Life
Well you can keep No Need To Argue and I’ll keep The Aeroplane Over The Sea
But hold on to The Boy With The Arab Strap
‘Cause I’m holding on to Village Green

I don’t know if the knot just needs untangling
Cassette tapes get stuck all the time
But either way I’m keeping Double Nickels On The Dime

These were our greatest hits
The best of me and you

I still remember buying you Band On The Run
On the first day that we kissed
But you always did prefer McCartney One
‘Cause it reminded you of being a kid
No way you’re having This Nation’s Saving Grace
You only listen to it when you’re pissed
But when you sober up, it’s always why the fuck
Are you still listening to Mark E. Smith?

I don’t know if the knot just needs untangling
Or if we forgot which way’s up and which way is down
But still the tape keeps going round and round…

These were our greatest hits
The desert island discs
The best of me and you

Make the first time the last time

This morning, Nieman Lab posted a Q&A with Henry Abbott, basketball analytics savant and the new NBA deputy editor at ESPN.com.

The story drew me in because I’ve been spending all of my free time trying to ride the wave of advanced analytics and sabermetrics. I think there’s an untapped market thirsting for an attractive, well-designed marriage of the bland, black-and-white world of stats to powerful storytelling. Grantland is leading the charge here, obviously, but others are creeping up.

But the line that rang the truest didn’t just apply to the sports. Here’s Abbott’s answer when he’s asked what the speed of digital has done to his industry:

The rosy answer to that is that it’s harder to lie. There’s so many different people chiming in to call you on it if you do.

I wrote for magazines — including the NBA’s official magazine — and I don’t know that we ever heard from anybody about anything. You just wrote what you wrote, did your best. Nowadays everything is reacted to and cross-checked and triple-checked within seconds. You have to think really hard about exactly how you’re gonna break that.

Those are two extremely valid points that, I think, get lost among everything else people are saying.

With the crush of digital journalism came the cynical notion that it was the end of veracity in journalism as we knew it. Really, it’s separating the wheat from the chaff. It’s impossible to undamage reputations online. Prudent, thoughtful journalists (not the kind that botch Supreme Court decisions or life-or-death situations) are more careful than ever to get the story right the first time because, as Abbott says, the opposition has just as loud and powerful a mouthpiece as you do.

You want your work to speak for itself. If you do it right, you’re able to say, ‘Well, you may not agree with what I do, but you can’t argue with how I did it.’

And that’s when real conversation happens.

Because the DJ was asleep

This is how it works:
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t

You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

I’m not religious, so when I’m faced with questions of faith and doubt, love and fear, I turn to my brand of scripture, pop culture.

The movies, music, books, and TV shows I love are endlessly applicable to the human condition, if you can get past the superficiality and ridiculousness of it all. (And, oh, can I.)

This morning, I laid in bed thinking about the last six months. I moved completely across the country with an empty rolodex and a dog, and I’ve made it work better than I ever thought I could. But you always have doubts, you know? About whether what you’ve done or what you’re doing is the right thing.

So I put Regina on and listened to lyrics I’d understood in different ways at various times in my life going all the way back to high school. It’s comforting to hear songs like that — words and beats you’ll always know when nothing else seems familiar.

There’s strength and confidence and reassurance in that. In a TV show; in a 100-year old novel; and yes, especially in a pop song.

Verba nova, Vol. I

Your vocab for the week. Pre-test is on Wednesday, test is on Friday. Study up.

venal (VEE-null) Capable of being bribed or bought. Courtesy Stephen Colbert

risible (RISE-a-bull) Silly; deserving to laughed at. Courtesy Norm MacDonald

distingué (DEE-stang-GAY) Distinguished in manner or bearing. Courtesy Ernest Hemingway

décolletage (DAY-co-la-taj) A woman’s low-cut, cleavage-bearing neckline. Courtesy David Mandel

traduce (tra-DEUCE) To tell or spread lies about someone. Courtesy Franz Kafka

supplicate (SUP-lick-ate) To earnestly ask, almost beg for. Courtesy Speechwriters LLC

Beaujolais (bo-zha-LAY) A light fruity red burgundy wine. Courtesy Jerry Seinfeld

bougainvillea (BOO-gan-VILL-ya) A red and purple tropical plant. Courtesy Daniel Alarcón

The Topsy-Turvy World of the Night

In DFM’s (successful) effort to deliver 24/7 Olympics coverage to our properties, Ross and I have been taking turns working graveyard shifts, midnight to 8 a.m. Here’s what I’ve learned since I started beginning my day when others end theirs.

  • Seeing the sun rise in Manhattan more than makes up for the inconvenience. I know I’m blowing my cover when I say this, but at 20 to 7 this morning, I snuck off into the stairwell, up past the 26th floor, onto the roof. I cracked an orange juice. I listened really, really hard. Even though the surrounding skyscrapers block direct views of the sun — especially at the street level, where bleary-eyed ants scurry to and from Starbucks in near-total darkness —the view from the roof offers a remarkable perspective of the day’s nascence. The sound, though, is even better. No cars, no horns — just the noise of a few air vents and the expectant calm before another full day of ingenuity and culture and human achievement.
  • Everyone’s on their grind. I got on the subway at 11:30 p.m., myself a little bleary-eyed as I trekked into work. As soon as the A left Kingston-Throop, I heard: “Alright, alright here we go. I’m your candyman today, tonight, tomorrow, forever.” A guy who I’ll call Fat Ving Rhames unzipped a loaded suitcase. This was my first experience with nutcrackers. His pitch was just a recitation of Kendrick Lamar. “I know your Wednesdays, people. Sit down, drank. Stand up, drank. Pass out, drank. Wake up, drank.” He also sold Newports and pirated pornos. Entrepreneurialism.
  • Having a beer after work reminds me of college. Yesterday I pounded a McGriddle, shotgunned a Coors Light and walked Chief before I went to bed. I call it the Bed-Stuyathlon. I think this should be a ghettolympic event. Hey, it’s not every day I wake up before they take breakfast off the menu. Carpe McGriddle.

On the negative side, Taylor and I might as well be on different continents, and Chief is, in general, royally confused. He sleeps through the night, then naps with me during the day. He’s getting 16 hours of sleep a day. He barely has time to eat expired Parmesan cheese.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Now, listen.

I want to try something right now. See, they don’t do this anymore:

Dear Taylor,

Well, of course I miss you, baby. I’ve been thinking lately you’re a million miles away. And everywhere I go, you’re always right there with me. But I can’t live without you, and it’s hard to breathe when you’re not near.

But I know one thing: I love you, I love you, I love you. I never had nobody like you. Oh, baby, you — you got what I need because your love gets sweeter everyday.

There are places I remember. Do you remember in Seattle? Wisconsin? Drove to Chicago, New York City, Eugene — remember that night in Montana when we said everything will be alright? I’ll go anywhere with you.

I want to be with you everywhere.

I want to be your thing, your anything, your everything.

I want to be the one that means the most to you.

I want to love you madly, I want to love you, love you.

Girl, LEMME LOVE YOU. (It doesn’t make sense to anybody else.) Baby, I’m yours. And I don’t see how you could ever be anything but mine. So come a little closer baby. Let me live that fantasy.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Me

Champ Bailey’s a little too late

Here is a story I contributed for the Denver Post’s print Super Bowl coverage. It has been expanded for the web.

Following a five-touchdown blowout loss in the biggest game of his career, Champ Bailey was nowhere to be found.

The 15-year veteran was the first Bronco to be announced for an interview, but 10, 15, 20 minutes ticked by, and his podium remained empty. The flock of journalists waiting for him began to dwindle, then disappeared altogether as Peyton Manning began to take questions nearby.

When Bailey finally appeared, he looked exhausted. It was hard to blame him; he had a full day. His roller-coaster began in the morning, when head coach John Fox asked him to speak to the team before Super Bowl XLVIII. It was a big honor and a nod to Bailey finally getting a chance to play on the game’s biggest stage.

“It was emotional,” Decker said of meeting. “(For him) to finally get that opportunity, he said he was playing for his teammates, and that’s what a great teammate and a leader: You play for one another.”

But after 216 starts in the NFL, after five years on a mediocre Washington team that decided it didn’t want him, after seasons where it seemed an embarrassing oversight he wasn’t named NFL defensive player of the year, Bailey came up short yet again: Seattle 43, Denver 8.

Two weeks after vintage Champ shut down the Patriots, Bailey looked every year of the 35-year corner who spent the eleven games this year on the bench with injuries. The damage started early, when Bailey was badly burned by Seattle wideout Doug Baldwin for a key third-down conversion in the first quarter.

“They definitely disguised it a little better this game than the tape,” Bailey said of the 37-yard catch, the Seahawks’ third-straight completion against him. The drive ended in a field goal, extending a lead Seattle would never relinquish.

In the second and third quarters, Bailey alternated between the bench and zone nickel coverage. He didn’t record a tackle or even a target. The former lockdown corner, a constant threat anytime he was on the field, had been reduced to a spectator.

A perfect microcosm for his game occurred the next time Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson challenged him. It was the fourth quarter, with 13 minutes left and the Seahawks facing another short third down. On a routine crossing route, Bailey was again outraced by Baldwin, beaten again for a short conversion. It was a play Bailey has made hundreds of times in his career. This time, his steps were a little too slow, his hands a little too late swatting at the ball.

“I’m not done playing football,” Bailey said after the game. “So I feel like I’m going to give myself another shot next year.”

But where? Earlier this week, Bailey was asked if he would consider moving to safety, a position traditionally a retirement home for cornerbacks.

“I’m not going to move anywhere any time soon,” he said. He said it with confidence, not bravado.

Tonight, the always-modest Bailey had a different answer when asked the same question.

“If it makes sense,” Bailey said. “It’s something I’d definitely look into.”

Bailey is owed $10 million next year by the Broncos and will likely have to restructure his contract to stay in Denver. Will they take a risk on him at cornerback? Not if he’s slow, and not if he can’t show up.

Run, run, run

When my girlfriend told me she signed up for an early morning running class, I laughed at her.

“There’s no way,” I said. “You’re gonna hate it.”

She assured me that not only would it not be a problem, she was actually looking forward to it. Even though it’s, you know, winter, she said it would give her an excuse to get up and going in the mornings.

To be fair, she is a diligent runner. She’s working her way up to 5Ks and half-marathons. She pounds the pavement.

Yet sure enough, she skipped one chilly, early session before dropping out of the course entirely. I could hardly wait to tell her I told her so.

You who know me know I’m competitive — that I like to be right, I need it sometimes, in fact. So of course, when I asked her about her morning runs and she told me dropped out of the course, I gave her a big ol’ TOLD YOU — and braced myself for her retaliatory excuses.

tay

She’s funny too.

Instead, she laughed. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Wait, what? No defensiveness? No anger?

And there was my lesson.

See, if the roles were swapped, I probably would have lied to her, told her I was loving the class, rubbed it in as a little joke. And maybe even my desire to prove her wrong would have actually driven me to get out of bed each morning to attend the class. That motivation comes from a deep stubbornness ingrained in me from my family. It’s gotten me where I am, but also sometimes pops up as a childish little manifestation.

But the grace she showed in that one little moment, when she let me have my little win and took the high road (and therefore took the much bigger moral victory), made me fall just a little bit harder for her.