Category Archives: reporting

Look, no lines!

Word Lily thoughts

When did I become a person who can’t stand ruled paper?

Most of my life I couldn’t stand to use paper *without* lines. I was afraid, in part, that my writing would slope toward the end of the line, that my lines wouldn’t be parallel to each other or to the top of the page. That I’d look silly. Or stupid. That I’d make a fool of myself.

The lines kept me in order, told me where to start.

Photo credit: gruntzooki on flickr

When I worked as a newspaper reporter, I took most of my interview notes in a reporter’s notebook. Now, a reporter’s notebook is different than other notebooks in a few notable ways. For one, the dimensions of the page are different — the paper’s narrow enough to fit in one’s palm (or back pocket). And second (and most relevant to the topic at hand), the lines are really widely spaced. I was used to the narrow rules of college-ruled paper, and the reporter’s notebook is nearly twice that wide in its rules.

As I abhor waste, I could barely stand to leave multiple notebooks half empty, which is what happened when I wrote only on each line of my reporter’s notebook. Plus, doing so would require me to flip the page more frequently than I’d otherwise need to, which inevitably slowed down my note-taking. So, with only rare exceptions, I began writing two lines of notes above each rule of the notebook. This, naturally, required that the first one float, not anchored by a blue line.

I recently purchased a couple small blank notebooks, unruled. I’d run out of others that size, ruled or unruled, and I needed a place to take my book-reading notes, make lists, etc. And I’ve been using these, but I still felt hemmed in. I think the small dimensions of the pages were too stringent, too small for me. See, I had a larger-format blank book for a year or two, and apparently I became accustomed to being able to spread out, at least figuratively. A single page might have several lists, oriented in different directions. And I’d started sketching design ideas, or simply sketching to attempt to illustrate a point in conversation. I can’t draw, but some ideas are most quickly jotted down in lines, not words.

Today, I await for the arrival of my first-ever purchase of a moleskine. Large, with unruled paper. I’m looking forward to getting back some more of that freedom.


Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (review and giveaway)

Word Lily review

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (Dutton, April 14, 2011), 336 pages

Lincoln, thought by some to be a perpetual student, finally quit school (after several degrees) and moved back home. Now, he’s working at the newspaper, overseeing internet security and fixing printers when they need it. It’s not a great job; Lincoln’s working second shift, in a windowless office all alone. He can’t meet people, because he works when they’re awake. And he really doesn’t like snooping through private emails, but that’s what he’s paid to do.

Much of the book consists of email exchanges between two women, friends. Lincoln can’t bring himself to send them a warning, and he kind of feels like he’s become friends with them — even while feeling like a creep for reading their email.

In some ways, this is a coming of age novel. Although Lincoln’s not a teenager, when the book opens he doesn’t have a clear picture of who he is, and he’s lacking direction and motivation.

The Y2K scare and preparation aspect of the book (it’s set in 1999) is fun. I love the Omaha, Nebraska setting. I also loved being back in a newspaper office, talking about inky fingers, second shift, and copy-editing.

Overall, I found this book charming, and not entirely shallow. The book touches on themes of self-concept, esteem, ethics, fertility, and marriage.

Rating: 4 stars

About the author
Rainbow Rowell (Facebook @rainbowrowell), is a columnist for the Omaha World-Herald. She lives in Omaha with her family. She has a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Other reviews
Teresa’s Reading Corner
Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books
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Thanks to the publisher, one of you can win a copy of Attachments! (U.S. or Canada only.) To enter, leave a comment on this post. (One entry per person.) I’ll accept entries through Monday, May 2, 2011.

ETA: This giveaway is now closed. See who won.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

TV news is dead

This Just In: Local Television News Gives Up the Ghost

By Hannah Nielsen
Staff Writer

Local television news is dead.

Several sources sounded the death knell Wednesday, with abundant supporting documentation, for the local evening news, as we know it.

“It’s no secret that there’s a tendency toward bad blood between newspapers and television news,” said Stephen Jackson, Times-Herald editor. “But that doesn’t diminish the facts. People have been saying ‘Print is dead,’ ‘Newspapers are dead,’ but here we still are, hanging on.”

Sources agree, the hurdles that have risen up against local television news include:

  • The rise of cable news networks
  • The quest to find news online
  • Other credible, inexpensive news sources are drying up.

“It’s simple. As budgets grow ever tighter, the competition has grown

stronger, viewers aren’t viewing, and each broadcast has begun to cost more money,” said Ms. X, a TV news insider who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Consumers want the news they really want immediately — online, or via text message to their phone,” said one pundit with a finger on his iPhone. “They’re selective about what they want delivered directly, but waiting until 5 or 10 p.m. and giving each story maybe 30 seconds is simply too little too late.”

But really, it comes down to this single point.

As newspapers die — and those that don’t die shrink to near oblivion — TV news’ cheapest source of news stories disappears.

“If they can’t quote the newspaper — always without citing it specifically, of course — well. Feet on the ground reporting takes a lot more time and effort,” said Suzy Smythe, Times-Herald reporter.

Film at 11.

* This article is a spoof. All quotes, names, and characters are fictional.

Listen by Rene Gutteridge

It’s Thursday of Rene Gutteridge Week! What’s been your favorite part so far? We’re not done yet, though; there’s more to come.

Rene Gutteridge Week 2011,

Word Lily review

Listen by Rene Gutteridge (Tyndale, January 2010), 432 pages

Marlo’s known as being a town where nothing bad (or newsworthy) ever happens. No one knows what to think or where to turn when a mysterious website starts publishing the private conversations of townspeople. People’s initial reactions are varied, but as hours turn into days, it becomes clear that the site could have serious consequences.

I really loved the different perspectives in this book — a couple teens, a newspaper reporter, a newspaper editor, a cop, a mom.

In some ways, this felt like an issue book — a book written to illuminate, explore, condemn, etc., a certain problem — rather than just a book. I tend to dislike stories written for the purpose of conveying a moral or message. But as time has passed since I read it, that impression, along with my irritation based on it, has faded. Instead, I’m left with the thought that this story is a somewhat new exploration of the power of words, both to hurt and to heal. What I remember in this case are the aspects I enjoyed: the characters, the emotions.

Gutteridge’s Occupational Hazard series is still my favorite of her work, but this isn’t at the bottom of the stack, either.


About the author
Rene Gutteridge (Facebook) is the author of 17 novels. On her blog she posted chapter-by-chapter discussions about Listen, as well as other content about the power of words.

Other reviews
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I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson, Faith ‘n’ Fiction Round Table

Word Lily review

Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson, August 3, 2010), 336 pages

May Seymour’s graduated from college, but she’s still adrift. So when she has a chance to go to Rwanda on a mission trip, she takes it. She’s there as the genocide begins.

I participated in a Faith ‘n’ Fiction round table discussion of this book.

The writing is mesmerizing. The characters are beautifully drawn, so very human.

I quite enjoyed the journalism and photography aspects of the story. I found the rural Kentucky setting endearing.

It was an angle on the Rwandan genocide that I hadn’t experienced before, and I quite appreciated it (as I have other representations). It doesn’t, by any means, replace the need for Hotel Rwanda and the like, but it does provide a different aspect of the story. I think this story is a bit more accessible than some others, because it doesn’t begin and end in the genocide.

The healing, forgiveness, growth and resurrection themes were profound, gorgeous.

Really a great book. Awesome. All the praise I’ve heard for Lisa Samson is warranted, based on this book. I’m glad I finally read one of her books; this will definitely not be my last Samson read.

About the author
Lisa Samson lives in Kentucky.

Other reviews
Books, Movies and Chinese Food

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Holy Roller by Julie Lyons

Holy RollerHoly Roller: Finding Redemption and the Holy Ghost in a Forgotten Texas Church by Julie Lyons (WaterBrook Press, June 2, 2009), 256 pages

Julie Lyons heads into the South Dallas ghetto one night in search (this time) not of the latest murder or drug bust blared over the police scanner, but of a church, where addicts are freed and miracles performed.

What she finds is much more than the page-one story she pitched to her editor without a lead; she finds a new church home, a family.

This book is equal parts:
1. journalistic accounting of a church no stranger to miracles and healing;
2. memoir of a church;
3. autobiography of a woman who grew up in the (conservative, white, evangelical Protestant) church but didn’t find her church home until she committed herself to a charismatic black congregation; and
4. sermon/condemnation of the evangelical church in the United States.

The book feels very lacking in gray — it’s very black and white and seems to indicate, at least at points, that her church, Body of Christ Assembly, is the only church, that all other denominations are wrong and at least possibly dead, that even other Pentecostal churches are likely messed up.

I’m curious who Lyons’s intended audience is for this book. She explains some pieces from her childhood church experience that I found very obvious and not in need of explanation — sword drills, “The B-I-B-L-E” — and left some pieces from her current holy roller church experience unexplained — why is the pastor’s wife called the First Lady?

I was disappointed by how little the book dealt with Lyons’s journalism profession; I would like to have seen more conversation about it.

Regardless of the questions I raise and the opinions-stated-as-near-facts that I doubt, I am glad to have this snapshot of church life as successful, but also as difficult.

I am glad she found a church where she fits, where she sees God working. I am sad that she’s convinced he’s not working in any church remotely like those she grew up in.

Julie Lyons is an award-winning writer, editor and investigative reporter who for 11 years was editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer, an alternative weekly newspaper owned by Village Voice Media. She has a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s in English from Seattle Pacific. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son. Read an interview of Lyons.

Other reviews:
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

scoop-waughScoop by Evelyn Waugh (1938), 336 pages

Scoop follows William Boot, minor nature column writer, as he’s sent by the Daily Beast in London to cover an impending war in a fictionalized East African country (now Ethiopia).

It’s written in short mini-chapters, sometimes less than a page long.

At the beginning, the pacing (and the content, at least to a certain degree) reminded me of Gilmore Girls. At about the 100-page mark, I was reminded of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (in writing style and content); this was the more enduring comparison. Obviously, I’ve got this wrong; Waugh wrote before either of these things I’m comparing this to was created. Either way, this is definitely satire, of journalism. Written in a deadpan style.

I laughed and laughed. I smiled often while reading this book.

I posted a quote from this book last week.

This is my first Waugh. It won’t be my last. (Brideshead Revisited is on deck, although I’ve heard Brideshead is very different than Scoop.)

Waugh grew up as the son of an editor and publisher. He worked as a journalist for some time.

More about Waugh and his writing:
The Evelyn Waugh Society.
A guided tour of Waugh’s works.

Other reviews:
Reading Matters

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

Don’t forget about my giveaway!

Defining news

Veteran journalist speaking to young journalist:

“You know, you’ve got a lot to learn about journalism. Look at it this way. News is what a chap who doesn’t care much about anything wants to read. And it’s only news until he’s read it. After that it’s dead. We’re paid to supply news. If someone else has sent a story before us, our story isn’t news. Of course there’s colour. Colour is just a lot of bulls-eyes about nothing. It’s easy to write and easy to read but it costs too much in cabling so we have to go slow on that. See?”

— from Page 91 of Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, a 1938 novel.

I finished this reading this book today, hopefully I’ll have a review posted soon.

Other quotes about journalism:
‘Vendors of words’
Artist (writer) as prophet
More from Muggeridge on the news business