I made the newspaper! Now what?

Tracy Mallette gives good content.

Category: On writing

Get your mind into the gutter: A must for content creators

By Tracy Mallette

When creating content, it’s not just spelling, grammar, facts and compelling, quality writing that you need to worry about. There’s a danger lurking on the page that keeps writers and editors up at night with visions of their careers flashing before them.

My cat Daisy is disgusted by obscene content.Namely, the word “public”.

If you’re in the writing, particularly newspaper, business, you know why this is a scary word.

If you’re not, this word is easily misspelled as “pubic”. Imagine the horror of parents reading about their “pubic schools”! What makes this word especially terrifying is that “pubic” is a word, so spell check won’t pick it up.

And it’s not just that word that worries editors, but the similar potential for other words and phrases to come together in a similarly obscene way. On top of spell checking, grammar fixing and fact checking, it’s also the copy editor’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen. (This is made more difficult by sneaky reporters who try to slip innuendo into their copy hoping editors will miss it. You know who you are!)

As a content creator, you need to prevent unintentionally obscene language, too.

Think dirty

There’s a saying in the news business: A dirty mind is a copy editor’s best friend.

If you don’t know what I mean, you probably haven’t seen this headline that I saw via Grammarly’s facebook page: A-Rod goes deep, Wang hurt.


If the person who wrote that only thought LONG and HARD … OK, moving on.

As hilarious as that headline is, you don’t want it to happen to you – or your company or client. You need to cultivate a dirty mind to create content that won’t offend, embarrass and/or get you fired.

Don’t worry, if you have trouble thinking filthy thoughts, there’s help for you. Play the game Dirty Minds, where participants are given obscene-sounding clues to guess an ordinary object. Heck those of us with a healthy dirty mind, should play it anyway because it’s a blast – and it’ll be harder for you to get past the dirty clues to guess a good, clean object!

If thought perversions are just beyond you, at least we all have a dirty-minded friend or co-worker to turn to. Ask this person to read your content before publishing to catch accidentally hilarious and/or offensive material.

Bottom line: Examine content long and hard before printing something that will have readers thinking about long, hard things.

Please share your own obscene-content mistakes and advice for preventing them. Thanks!

This post was inspired by my friend Kristyn Harvey LeBlanc, who shared Grammarly’s A-Rod headline with me, asking “Hey Ex-Journalist – Do these things really happen in the news world? Inquiring minds want to know.” They definitely do, Kristyn! And hopefully, with this post, it’ll happen less. Thanks for the inspiration!

These are excellent ideas for creative inspiration.

Steve Farnsworth's Old Blog

Not all of these are really content creation ideas. Some are just smart activities to kick yourself in the seat of the pants, and open you to fresh ideas. They are all good and worth reading.

Content Marketing Case Study

However, the reason I wanted to share this is because it is actually a case study of great content marketing. Brian Clark at Copyblogger, one of the blogs I read and tweet regularly, and you should to, served up a big pile of his own dog food and lapped it up with a spoon. Yum. (Not really sure what that means, but just go with it, okay?)

Click to Tweet This Post ★ 22 Ways to Create Compelling Content and Case Study ★

Reimagining Old Content In New Ways

Almost a year before the infographic was created Brian had Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing as a guest blogger. Danny wrote

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10 reasons every company should hire a former journalist

By Tracy Mallette

What’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to non-news-media companies, you ask? Newspaper layoffs, that’s what.

A bunch of awesomely talented people are looking for jobs, and they’re people every business needs. (My journo-honesty conscience is nagging me to throw a bias alert in here now – so, btw, I’m biased, but that’s the point of having a blog anyway.) Which brings me to the beginning of the list!

1. Ethical

Newspaper people are an ethical bunch. We know not to accept gifts – unless it’s leftover food from the day shift. Also under the ethical umbrella is honesty. Our career is based on the truth, and that’s why we chose journalism to begin with. And we all know that the truth is the best defense.

2. Writing skills

I didn’t realize how valuable my writing and editing skills are until I was out of the news business. That’s the main reason I was hired in marketing; my company needed someone with writing and editing abilities. In order to be seen by customers, every business needs a writer because right now it’s all about great content. People don’t need to sit through ads anymore – they seek out the content they want to read. Companies have to adjust by hiring writers to create content their customers will seek out.

3. Communication skills

Companies have trouble with communication. Reporters especially know how to communicate tactfully, and can get people to open up. Interview skills are invaluable, especially when dealing with clients or hosting increasingly popular (and also invaluable) website usability tests.

4. Hard workers

Editors and reporters do what it takes to get the paper out. They cover late-night fires, early morning meetings, late-night meetings, ten local football games in one Friday night, let’s not forget elections – and everything else that happens in the coverage area. It’s crazy.

5. Connections

If your company is fortunate enough to snag a locally laid-off reporter, you get the benefit of an employee with pre-intstalled, impressive connections; police chiefs, media influencers, government officials and more. Tread lightly in asking favors though – revisit number 1 if that confuses you.

6. Deadline-driven

You see this in every job ad out there. Every employer wants a deadline-driven employee. Well, it doesn’t get more deadline-driven than a daily newspaper professional. We’re serious about deadlines. The paper has to print – and you do not want to be the person who costs the company thousands of dollars because it went late. There are rare exceptions though (see number 4).

7. Fast learners

Reporters and editors have to learn a subject pretty fast if they’re going to write and edit a story about it. Also, the changing job scene requires reporters to learn social media marketing, editors to learn page design, etc. They learn these things on the job – with a daily deadline to meet.

8. Humor

A newsroom is the funniest place in the world. Often, it has to be funny or we wouldn’t be able to handle the daily tragedies that cross the desk. You don’t have to worry about offending someone who used to work in a newsroom.

9. Detail-oriented

I got so sick of seeing this requirement in job descriptions. This must’ve been the most popular item to list as a job requirement: detail-oriented. Editors are the most obnoxiously detail-oriented people you will ever meet. They know when you’ve misplaced a comma, and won’t hesitate to fix it. It’s not just the grammar and spelling of things, either. They are fact-checkers. Editors have to make sure the newspaper won’t be sued because the word “allegedly” or the phrase “on charges of” was left out. Not to mention the inevitable “pubic” instead of “public” or when a reporter just tries to slip something obscene through just for the fun of it. We’re detail-obsessed – it’s a borderline disorder.

10. Grateful

I probably shouldn’t say this for job-bargaining purposes, but former journalists are the most grateful employees you can have. We’re used to the worst conditions – low pay, understaffed, overworked, furloughs. We feel like we’ve hit the jackpot when we work a straight eight-hour day (during the day!), we get more money, a fair amount of work, and even a bonus! I’ve been a working professional for eight years and didn’t get a bonus until I snagged a marketing gig. I was just relieved at not having to take weeks off without pay! And, I can take vacations whenever I want! I don’t have to schedule them around when other people will be in the office. And I’ve witnessed a Christmas miracle – in that I don’t have to work on Christmas! I get ALL HOLIDAYS OFF!

So, that’s why every company should hire a former journalist. There are a lot more reasons, actually, but I had to keep it at a neat number like 10.

I’d love to see other reasons though, so list ’em below!

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