Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Confining your remarks...

...gets a new twist this week with a Supreme Court decision that means jail confinement for reporters from TIME magazine and the New York Times, both of whom refuse to divulge to a special prosecutor the names of their confidential sources and what the sources said. Today, a federal appeals court ordered four more reporters -- including top science and environmental reporter H. Josef Hebert of the Associated Press -- to divulge confidential sources or face $500-a-day fines in another case. Click here to read today's William Safire op-ed reminding why it's important to preserve the rights of journalists to keep confidential sources. Denise Graveline's favorite tip for assessing a good op-ed: You should be able to read the first and last paragraphs and know the writer's point of view. (In the Safire op-ed, the numbered list at the article's conclusion makes his views entirely clear.) We urge you to support freedom of the press -- and to aim for stronger starts and finishes in your op-eds. For more on how to do that, email us at

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Catching poll data correctly... tough to do in the headline. Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, took to task this week a headline on a press release from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The release's misleading headline about a poll on the public's perceptions of journalists resulted in lots of coverage -- but was itself inaccurate. The also too-long headline claimed "About One American in Four Considers Rush Limbaugh a Journalist, Roughly the Same Share as Identify Bob Woodward That Way, According to Annenberg Public Policy Center Survey." It used the data point that 30% of the respondents identified the Washington Post's Woodward as a journalist, compared with the 27% who said conservative talk show host Limbaugh is a journalist. Newport notes, however, that the poll also found that only 17% of the respondents say Woodward is not a journalist, while "a very significant" 55% say Limbaugh is not a journalist. Using only the positive ratings skews the headline to mislead. Newport's solution for a more accurate (though no less short) headline: "Among Those Who Have an Opinion, Bob Woodward Much More Likely to be Viewed as a Journalist Than Rush Limbaugh." (We'd try "Poll: Woodward Seen More as Journalist than Limbaugh," but we like our headlines crisp.) Don't get caught by using numbers in your news. For more information on our headline-writing workshops, contact Denise Graveline at

Monday, June 20, 2005

Plan for science writing in October...

...when two back-to-back conferences converge on Pittsburgh. The National Association of Science Writers launches its own annual conference Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22 and 23. Immediately following, its sister organization, the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, meets in the same city, with free registration for NASW members and credentialed journalists. NASW's "Science in Society" meeting will feature professional development workshops for journalists, freelancers, and public information officers; CASW briefings feature scientists who describe what's next and newsworthy in science, medicine and technology. Registration opens in mid-July. To proffer ideas for science or scientists you want to see featured at the CASW meeting, contact Paul Raeburn at

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wrist rest?

When overtaxed writers ask us which wrist brace or rest we use, we recommend strength training instead. The trainers at City Fitness taught us how to do wrist weight lifting using dumbbells of 2-3 pounds. Try these 3 exercises, 3 times a week, 12-15 reps each:

- hold one dumbell in each hand, arms extended in front of you, palm facing down and wrist level with arm; drop the weight down, then back to level, for a wrist lift.
- the reverse, a wrist curl: hold dumbbell in front, palm up and wrist level with arm, start with weight below arm level and curl up to arm level.
- for wrist rotation: hold each dumbbell at one end with your arms in front of you, rotate them away from each other in an arc so that your wrist moves from palm facing down to palm facing up.

You also can strengthen the upward motion of your hand muscles (the opposite of what typing does) with a heavy rubber band -- use the kind that come around asparagus bunches. Hold all the fingers of one hand together in a little bundle, as if you're pinching something; wrap the band around your fingers once or twice, then splay the fingers out as far as you can and retract back together. Do 15 repetitions, then repeat on the other hand. Keeping these tools of the trade in shape is the best investment a writer can make.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

All Greek to me...

Got caught and taught in the same day! A good writer and close reader saw our post about Reuters Recommends, caught us making a common error, and taught us a useful writing lesson: the Greek word "kudos" is not a plural, and singular is the only form it takes (we used "kudo" incorrectly). Click here to see what another favorite site,, has to they point out, the clever writer will craft the sentence so no one can tell whether she intended singular or plural. The take-home lesson: Admit your mistakes early, and use the dictionary function on Bartleby to check ancient and venerable words...or just ones you don't use frequently!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

getting free PR help

We're proud to have played a role in helping N Street Village gain pro bono public relations help for 2005 and 2006 from the Washington chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. N Street Village serves homeless and low-income women with a day center, night shelter, transitional housing for women in recovery, permanent housing for women with mental illness, and low- and moderate-income housing. But it's also a place where homeless women can get their mail and meals, learn job skills, and receive health and mental health services and wellness care. Mary Funke is NSV's excellent executive director, and she was quick to apply when we passed on IABC's call for new pro bono clients. Check with your area communications, PR, journalism, marketing or related professional societies to see if they take on pro bono clients, or can help you identify communications pros as volunteers. And contact NSV if you can help them, too!