Jerry Ceppos critiques the Spartan Daily

Jerry Ceppos, former news executive at Knight Ridder, is in the middle of a series of guest lectures and conversations in classes here at the SJSU School of Journalism & Mass Communications.

Today, Ceppos is in the Spartan Daily newsroom, taking over the usual critique.

  • Make sure the stories in your paper connect to local readers. Get those connections up high, and force your sources to connect to your readers.
  • No really, find a local angle on every story. If you’re covering a bicycle race, find the campus bike club and get their point of view.
  • User-submitted photos are a good idea.
  • More stories on the front page would be nice — it’s too easy for readers to scan three or four stories and toss the paper aside if they’re not into anything they see.

Okay, now we’re on to q & a… (all questions and answers are my paraphrasing, not the original unless you see quotes)

  • Will Knight Ridder survive? We’ll know within a month.
  • How will today’s j-school students be affected by the trend towards corporate ownership of newspapers? Conglomeration does help local papers stand up to local advertisers, and there’s capital to spend. But it’s still a problem — you want to work for newspeople, not businessmen.
  • Who gets hired? Folks who work anytime, anywhere. “If you’re half-hearted, don’t do it.” Be analytical, find the story, look for things that don’t make sense in your neighborhood. Know another language. Have an eye for news. Don’t ignore stories because you think everybody knows about them.
  • How can we show off our skills in an application? Use the clips that best show off your ability to analyze, think critically.
  • How much can we fight with our editors? “That’s how good things happen,” but good motives and politeness counts.
  • How should newspapers balance local and national coverage? Local content is better, but you can tie national/international stories into your local readers. Relevance counts more than location.
  • What should your internship application packet look like? Different in content, not in appearance. Are you an electronic engineer or accountant who can also write? Be sure to point that out.
  • Electronic portfolios? Stick with a hard copy, but printouts from online are fine.
  • Should we advertise ourselves as writers who can copy edit or copy editors who can write? You might be more useful/attractive as an editor. Don’t say you’d rather move into reporting after awhile — every copy editor wants to do that.
  • How to handle lawsuit stories? Use your Freedom of Information Act access and get everything you can.
  • How much to play up your specialty? Make it clear you’re also a reporter who can cover hard news, but point out the skills that most reporters don’t have. Break a hot story? Say so in the letter.

You’ve got at least three more chances to catch Ceppos, including a public lecture at King Library on March 13th. Check The JMC Journal for dates and times.