Notes on Memoirs; Profile details

Memoirs were not bad, but there were some common problems. See below. And remember, rewrites can always benefit from: new lede; reorganization; follow-up or new interviews.

1. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!! That goes for formatting, word count, contact sheets, etc.
2. Fully ID people! First and last name, age, occupation, major, year in school, hometown, etc. 3 identifiers
3. More specific details!! Avoid cheap adjectives and adverbs in favor of detailed observations.
4. AP style
5. Short, simple sentences and paragraphs. Most paragraphs should be no more than 3 sentences. Better if they’re one or two.
6. AP style
7. Proofread and edit ruthlessly!



1. Must interview main subject in person for at least 15 minutes. Must also interview at least 3 other people about main subject via phone or in-person.

2. 600-700 words. All sources must appear in story. All must be quoted or paraphrased at least once. All normal rules about formatting, headers, contact sheet apply.

3. AP style counts.

4. No opinion. No interviewing your friends, family members, co-workers, etc. No email interviews.

5. Interview prep will be key. Have fun with it.

6. Profile, not a biography.


Writing in first person

One of my favorite stories. Only time I wrote in first person for the AP as a full-time reporter.

This is one of the better personal experience/memoir pieces I’ve read in a while. The author ran the AP’s political team in DC when I was on the business staff.

One of my favorites from a Lantern writer. Powerful stuff.


Errors are everywhere….

And you all are already finding them. The truth is this: the faster you start identifying mistakes or just edits in other people’s work, the faster you will start seeing them, avoiding the bad stuff, in your own. Self-editing is often the hardest thing for any writer. It’s even more difficult for young writers learning the ways of journalism and/or strategic communication.

This tweet  from my former employer has an obvious mistake.

Word spelled wrong in last sentence in this blog post.

General is spelled wrong here, which is really bad as it is also a title.

This line from your syllabus, while I could say was intentional for effect, was not. I’ll never lie to you all:  The importance of deadlines cannot be stressed enough. If the deadline for an assignment is 3 p.m., that means the copy must be in my hand by 1 p.m.

This one was ID’d by a media critic, but you all should know who Snowden is now:  MSNBC graphic just spelled it Booze Allen Hamilton. Company officials may need to get sloshed given PR nightmare of having employed Snowden

6 words to tell a story? Yup.

The Hemingway legend is that his friends bet him, or he bet his friends, about the ability to tell a complete a story in 6 words. Here is what he came up with:

For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.

A bit of a downer, right?

Here are two I came up with. I tried to summarize how some of you might be feeling.
1. Summer class. Friday session. This sucks.
2. Friday summer class. Happy hour after.

3. Summer class. Rain. No Oval Beach.

Another example: “Fresh fish here for sale” is the sign outside your little shack on the water. Eliminate all unnecessary words.

Welcome to Comm 2321, Summer 2013

When submitting content this semester, printed or online, here is the proper header unless I specify otherwise:

Need 1 printed copy, double-spaced, due at beginning of class following instructions on syllabus. Header should be:

Your name

My name

Word Count (don’t include the header, just the body)

2-4 word slug —describes story

Short headline of 50 characters or less, including spaces

Long headline of 94 characters or less, including spaces

Tweet of 140 characters or less, including spaces