Daily Archives: 4 December 2007

If we can send man to the moon, why can’t we…

…make better computer keyboards?

Few journalists maintain as engaging (and entertaining) a blog as James Fallows, the national correspondent of The Atlantic Monthly magazine. In one recent entry, Fallows writes on the state of the keyboard of his seven-month-old laptop computer after just three months of use.

“Now entirely gone: the E, N, A keys, plus the < marking.
On their way: L, M, R, S, and >
Worried: D, O.
Should be worried: U, B

“I can probably find a supplier who sent them to the factory in the first place. When I find that guy, maybe I’ll ask him whether they would consider investing an extra 50 cents for more durable keytop decals.”

In a famous commencement speech he made to students of Northwestern University in the United States in 1996, Fallows recalled working on the college newspaper at Harvard and being alerted to a fire one night.

As the fire blazed through the building, Fallows says he could envision the next morning’s paper with a good story and nice byline, while the student standing next to him saw his PhD disseration being reduced to a rubble. That student was Dr Subramaniam Swamy, the maverick Indian politician.

Read the blog here: James Fallows


Canadian fellowship for Commonwealth journos

PRESS RELEASE: The Commonwealth Press Union is now inviting applications for the Gordon Fisher Fellowship which offers one Commonwealth journalist from a developing country the chance to spend an academic year at Massey College, Toronto University, Canada. The deadline for applications is 16 February 2008.

The target delegate is a senior journalist probably aged 35+ and he or she must in full-time employment of a newspaper in membership of the CPU. The Fellowship commences in October 2008 and ends in May 2009.

Visit http://www.cpu.org.uk/fellowsh_gf.html for full details and to read the stories of previous Fellows.


Commonwealth Press Union, 17 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1AA

Tel: +44 20 7583 7733, Fax: +44 20 7583 6868

Five ways to make magazine websites better

India Today has just redesigned its website. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know that unless they slapped each paragraph with that sentence for the next few weeks. Because after all the effort, it still just looks like old wine in an old bottle.

    But it isn’t a peculiarly Indian problem.

    Jon Friedman writes that while most magazines have past the prehistoric age of just slapping copy from the deadtree version, they still have a long way to go before they establish separate identities. He suggests five ways in which magazines can improve their websites:

    1. Take a page out of the playbook of what differentiated MSNBC.com from the pack. Have almost as many graphics and design experts as writers on staff.

    2. Provide a feature that you simply don’t have space for in your newsstand product: namely, the back story. Readers love to know the Inside Story on a big event. Let your reporters explain HOW they covered big news, and give them an opportunity to tell their stories. Yes, some blogs do this, too, but not often or well enough.

    3. Make the sites as interactive as possible. Time took a good step in this direction by having its readers pick the questions it asks celebrities in its regular feature.

    4. Use the Web to explain the news as comprehensively as possible. Don’t simply report the story on the Internet — give such information as a chronology. The Wall Street Journal‘s Web site routinely does this, and it pays off.

    5. Keep the staff nonbelievers as far away from the Web as possible. If editors or reporters are ambivalent about or hostile to the Web (like many have been at Time Inc., and you can’t fire them all), don’t let them corrupt your site with their lethargy or disapproval. Listen, the Web is the most exciting part of a modern journalism enterprise for ambitious writers and editors. If they haven’t figured it out by now, to hell with them.

    Read the full article: RIP, American magazines

      ‘A newspaper isn’t just about news, supplements’

      Peter Wright, editor, Mail on Sunday:

      “Any editor who believes he can sell his newspaper entirely on news and that magazines, supplements, promotions and yes, CDs and DVDs, are simply embarrassments imposed on them by commercial management is not going to succeed.

      “Any editor who wants his paper still to be here in 2020 needs to be constantly thinking about what he can add to his newspaper and what he can put into his polybag (plastic wrap) that will make his newspaper better value to the reader.

      “When the history of newspapers is written, it may well be that the greatest innovation of our generation is the humble polybag. Newspapers are no longer mere news services but “cultural packages … put together by a remarkable collection of people with fingers on the pulse.”

      Link via Editors’ Weblog