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Writers and Editors (RSS feed)

Do agents prefer manuscripts that have been reviewed by a professional editor?

Maggie Lynch's helpful response to this question on an Authors Guild discussion forum (published here with her permission):


Do agents prefer manuscripts that have been reviewed by a professional editor?

      Before I start sending out query letters to agents, I'd like advice on whether it's worth the expense of hiring a development editor to evaluate my manuscript. I've received positive feedback from two beta readers, and I feel like the book is ready to go after 5 years work on it. 


Maggie's response:

Congratulations on finishing your book and getting ready to query. Your question generates as many "well, if...." possibilities for a response.


My first question would be who were your two beta readers? Were they friends? family? writers? Do they normally read the genre you are writing in? Did you pay them, or did they do it because they like you and want to help you? Though agents and publishers want a "clean" manuscript, what they want most is a great story. A story that will get readers to buy even from an unknown author. A story that is so well put together, organized and sequenced to make sense, and keeps the reader wanting to turn the page and stay with the book--even if it means missing sleep. They want story more than perfect grammar or lack of typos. Editors will tell you: "I can fix grammar, typos, a few sequencing problems. I cannot fix a book that has story problems. I cannot fix a book that doesn't hold together." They actually can fix it, but it takes too much time and it isn't worth it when they have hundreds of other people's manuscript waiting in the inbox.


I ask WHO read your book because the vast majority of other writers, friends, and family are not good at providing feedback. Many writers, even really good ones, often don't know why their books work and can't articulate if yours does or not. Family and friends, even if they do read in your genre, aren't likely to say anything bad. Also, they don't necessarily know what makes a good book. They can certainly say they like your story, or they didn't catch any typos or grammar issues, or they cried or laughed. But can they talk about how it compares to other books in your genre? Can they talk about the pacing, the characterization, the descriptions, the plot and subplots, the themes, and how it all hangs together? Can they tell you what the liked or didn't like about your characters and how they moved through life, solved problems, recovered from trauma or whatever they needed to do to get to the end? 


Let me share a recent story of readers for my current work and how not finding the right person--even in terms of professionals--makes a difference. I have 27 books behind me, a combination of fiction and nonfiction. So this isn't my first book. However, all of those books have been for the adult trade market. I do have one fantasy series of three books that has been marketed as YA, but the actual readership is 50/50 adults and YA.


My current book is a Middle Grade contemporary fiction book. I know I'm a decent writer. I know I can tell a story with emotion, and my pacing is usually good. I have a reputation for writing characters readers can identify with and remember. However, no matter how much research I've done for the MG market over the past year, or the number of books I've read in preparation (more than 40 books over the past year), I knew I might not hit it just right. In many ways it's like starting over with a new genre. I was concerned about pacing. I was concerned about language. I was concerned about chapter lengths, and overall structure. I had read a lot of MG books that could be comparable in terms of themes, age range, and resolution. But...no one wrote exactly what I wrote. No one book put all the things together I did. So...did I get it right?

First, I sent my finished manuscript to two professional editors I know and trust. They both had minor things to change in the story (e.g., more pathos, cut a scene that doesn't really advance the journey, better description, etc.) Both said they loved it and thought it was written at the right level for 11-14 year old children. BUT neither of these editors had ever edited nor written a children's book before. Yet, I was buoyed by their comments and made the changes I agreed with that each suggested. Before I started querying I sent it to a professional editor who has edited hundreds of MG books both for authors and publishers. She herself has written, or co-written over 100 MG books. BUT the vast majority of her work has been in nonfiction. She also told me that she loved the story. She concurred that it was written at the right level for language and understanding the themes. She liked my protagonist and the ending. There were some minor copy edits but she had no feedback on major story issues.


Then I started querying, nearly 100 agents over a six month period. I had a lot of form rejections, a few "I'm too busy and have stopped reading." and three requests for fulls. The three fulls didn't reject me, but they didn't contact me either.


I started to wonder what is wrong? Is it the subject? The themes? or is it something basic that three professional editors didn't catch? For two months I sat on it, unwilling to seek out yet another editor. Is it "good enough"? Probably. Could I get it published through a small press? Very likely given my track record. But...I wanted it to be right and to be picked up by a good press with a good reputation, and really good distribution. It doesn't have to be a Big 4 publisher--I doubt it's commercial enough for them. But I don't want just any press that will take it, I want it to be with someone who could do more than I could if I self-published. I needed to know what was standing in the way because I'd planned a series based off this first story.

A month ago, I decided I would seek out someone who writes Contemporary MG, has explored some of my themes, and is a well-respected editor or book coach. I found someone who was a National Book Award finalist with a YA book and is a bestselling author in both MG and YA. I paid for a beta read with feedback. That was a hard bill to pay. I didn't really need or want a copy edit or a developmental edit. I just needed to know if something was structurally wrong.


There WAS something wrong. Something none of the other three editors had noticed or commented on. This person also thought I was a good writer, she liked my themes and my protagonist, but... she could tell I was writing for adults. My language level was good (except in a couple of places). My overall plot and characterization was good. But there were three things I was missing.


1) I spent too much time in some scenes with other characters (e.g., friends at school) that were part of my protagonist's orbit but didn't need as much attention. Those scenes could be summarized in a paragraph or two. She explained that MG books need to stay with the protagonist's primary needs and story and not spend too much time on "walk-on" characters (my words not hers).


2) I needed a little more time spent up front in what is often called "the ordinary world" (Joseph Campbell's Hero's journey model) before everything changes. I thought I had done that in my first chapter, but she felt I needed a little more for the MG reader. I moved too quickly to the change (chapter 3). Again a difference between writing for adults and MG.


3) I also needed a couple more scenes at the end of the book to assure MG readers that things are working out. Most adult book editors often cut scenes after the "real" ending because adult readers know if you end with a promise of hope it is enough. (The one exception is the romance genre where often the HEA is assured with a marriage or an epilogue to show it's all wonderful). She explained that MG readers need that reassurance. Unlike adults, particularly in a book like mine where my protagonist has overcome a lot, hope is not enough. You have to show it is working--provide evidence things are going well and the protagonist is thirving.


This feedback is invaluable to me. I'm confident it will make a differences in the book finding the right audience, getting better reviews, and ultimately selling better than it would have. I also feel more confident as I begin approaching publishers in the new year.


Even though you are not writing a children's book, my point is that every genre has expectations. Every genre has things that readers look for--including literary and memoir. There are threads that need to be followed. The way you choose to approach a book and the themes need to be make sense and hold together. The language you use and the sequencing you use are all important. ALL of these things are rarely noticed by readers--even good readers, and even more rarely articulated. BUT they can be the reason a book isn't picked up after the "look inside" or gets tepid reviews from readers or the trades. Or doesn't get chosen for a review. The reader only knows they didn't like it, or it didn't hang together, but can't really say why. Perhaps an overriding metaphor didn't work. Perhaps the timeline was confusing. Perhaps the protagonist didn't make the reader care enough to finish the book. 


If the people who read your manuscript don't know what those expectations are, you may very-well be let down when you start getting rejections. This is especially critical if you are planning to be traditionally published--whether with an agent or without. Unfortunately, genre rules are not cut and dry. There are many ways to tell a story, many topics that can work, but only someone who has read extensively in the genre knows where you must adhere to the rules and where you can stray based on your topic, writing style, and the market. It's not that you have to write a cookie-cutter book. But, if you are going to stray from the expectations, it has to be that much better than most books on the market.


You may be the outlier who is an amazing writer, with an amazing vision, and naturally has pulled it all together. I've known a couple people like that, but it is rare. For myself, I don't count on being that outlier.


Having the right person read and give you feedback can make the difference between having a chance at an agent or trad publisher and not. Even if you do end up going the self-publishing route, you will know that your book is the best it could be in that moment. It's hard to put out that money for a professional. It's equally hard to take the feedback and make it right. But IMO, it's well worth it. This is the beginning of your career. Why not start it right?

Maggie Lynch

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Espionage, whistleblowing, and a free press

Espionage and whistleblowing are two very different things.

The Part of the Espionage Act That Matters (Jan Lodal, a longtime defense and intelligence official, in a guest post on James Fallows blog, Breaking the News) "Trump’s violation of this Subparagraph (d) of the Espionage Act could not be clearer. Unlike all other crimes being considered for prosecution, Subsection (d) requires no probing of intent or consequence. It defines as criminal a clear process violation -- “failing to return” classified documents when properly asked to do so."
18 U.S. Code Chapter 37 - ESPIONAGE AND CENSORSHIP (Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School)
What Does Julian Assange's Indictment Under the Espionage Act Mean for Journalism? (Ofer Raban, Pacific Standard, 5-28-19) Originally published in The Conversation (5-25-19) as Assange’s new indictment: Espionage and the First Amendment What goes for Assange may also go for any person who obtains or discloses classified information—even journalists.
Inchoate Liability and the Espionage Act: The Statutory Framework and the Freedom of the Press (Stephen Vladeck, Harvard Law and Policy Review, 2007, via Digital Commons) Parsing of the statutory text, and why it raises a First Amendment issue in cases like Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
Revealed: The Justice Dept's secret rules for targeting journalists with FISA court orders (Trevor Timm, Exec. Director, Freedom of the Press Foundation, 9-19-18). Read Targeting Journalists Under FISA: New Documents Reveal DOJ’s Secret Rules (Ramya Krishnan, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, 9-17-18) "For years, press advocates suspected that the government was relying on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor the communications of journalists and news organizations. New documents appear to confirm that suspicion." See also Secret Rules Make It Pretty Easy for the FBI to Spy on Journalists (Cora Currier, The Intercept, 6-30-18)
We Still Stand With Daniel Hale (Defending Rights and Dissent, 3-31-21) Defending Rights & Dissent stands with Daniel Hale, a courageous whistleblower. "Hale’s crime is exposing the human rights abuses of US drone strikes, including that during a given time period nearly 90% of those killed by drone strikes were not the intended target....Whistleblowers charged under the Espionage Act have an almost impossible chance of mounting a fair defense, which is why Defending Rights & Dissent has repeatedly urged Congress to amend this draconian and antiquated law....It is outrageous that a law ostensibly designed to target spies and saboteurs is used to jail journalists’ sources and even journalists who act in the public interest to reveal official abuses of power. Hale’s case spans three administrations, including presidents from both major parties. Espionage Act abuse to prosecute whistleblowers is a bi-partisan disgrace."
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and the value of truth in the shadow of empire (Cody Bloomfield, Defending Rights and Dissent, 10-16-22) If extradited, Julian Assange faces up to 175 years in prison under the Espionage Act – a draconian sentence intended to deter other journalists and truthtellers from revealing the long shadow of the American empire.
What is FISA? Here Are 4 Things to Know About the Controversial Spy Law (Martin Luenendonk, Cleverism, 9-25-19) Surveillance has become a big issue in America and the world over the last two decades. Since the September 11 attacks of 2001, the US government has done its best to gather as much intelligence as it can about clandestine, foreign operations that may be a threat to national security. Surveillance, by its very definition, is highly intrusive. US citizens have the right to privacy, and this is protected by legislation.One of the most famous and controversial laws in charge of protecting such privacy is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Set in 1978, it has over the years expanded its mandate as amendments were made to accommodate changing circumstances.
An Unbalanced Biography of the Espionage Act (Gabriel Schoenfeld, Lawfare blog, 9-29-22) Review of A Century of Repression: The Espionage Act and Freedom of the Press by Ralph Engelman and Carey Shenkman
Who are they: whistleblowers or spies? | The US Espionage Act (Sofiia Merzlikina, Ethicontrol, 2-12-20) "The Espionage Act is no longer applicable in its original form. Instead, a less controversial part of the Espionage Act is now present in the 18 US Code Chapter 37 under the title "Espionage and Censorship".
      "Crimes which fall within the scope of the Espionage Act are crimes of strict liability. For whistleblowers, it means that the court can only decide on guilty/not guilty. In the case of the former whistleblowers can't get a fair trial with an explanation of the motives behind their actions.
      "Currently, there is no comprehensive legal protection for whistleblowers in the US, meaning that their identity is always under fire. The only Act whistleblowers can rely on in this sense is the updated "Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012" which doesn't state explicitly that whistleblower's anonymous identity is protected. The Trump-Zelensky scandal exposed this problem to the fullest: even in case of the legitimate anonymous complaint which followed all of the rules of reporting higher officials may demand the identity revelation. Simply because there is no law which prohibits doing so."

       Must reading for whistleblowers.

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Inside the SCOTUS Case on School Library Censorship

Inside the SCOTUS Case on School Library Censorship

(podcast, Brooke Gladstone, On the Media, NYC Studios, 2-4-22)


I apologize for going beyond 'fair use' in providing a digest of this program. It's the only Supreme Court decision about removing "banned books" from school libraries, and it is a good discussion of issues in the case. I strongly recommend listening to the recording.


This year marks the 40th anniversary of Island Trees School District vs Pico, the first and only time the Supreme Court considered the question of book removal in school libraries.

(For a MUCH longer account of that case: LII U.S. Supreme Court BOARD OF EDUCATION, ISLAND TREES UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 26 et al., Petitioners, v. Steven A. PICO, by his next friend Frances Pico et al. (Legal Information Institute) Argued March 2, 1982. Decided June 25, 1982.)



In 1976, Steven Pico was a 17-year-old student at Island Trees High School in Long Island, New York. He discovered his life's calling the day he learned that a list of books had been removed from his school district's libraries and later became the plaintiff in a Supreme Court case on the matter. These were the books: 


The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris

Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver

Slaughterhouse-Five by Vonnegut

The Fixer by Bernard Malamud

Best Short Stories by Black Writers (ed. Langston Hughes)

Go Ask Alice (Anonymous )

Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge

Black Boy by Richard Wright

A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich by Alice Childress


The School Board sent out a press release saying  that while at a conference they had learned of a list of books found in schools around the country that were offensive because they were anti-American, anti-Christian, antisemitic, anti-black, and just plain filthy. "To date what we have found is that the books do in fact contain material that is offensive to Christians, Jews, Blacks, and Americans in general. In addition, these books contain obscenities, blasphemies, brutality, and perversion beyond description."


"They were targeted because they were minority ideas in a majority community." Nobody in the community had objected to the books. Pico had read a number of the books, and was particularly touched by Go Ask Alice. Pico suspected the board was cherry-picking.


Arthur Eisenberg (at the NY Civil Liberties Union) recommended that Pico ask four other youths to join the suit, because he would age out before the decision came through and younger students might still be in school. The school board argued that they were the democratically elected body to make judgments about curriculum and the contents of the library.  And that was accepted by the District Court. 


On appeal, Eisenberg said that was wrong. "We argued that school officials and school boards have some discretion about the curriculum and what is taught in the schools but they cannot exercise that authority in a way to impose a narrow orthodoxy of views and values, and they cannot exercise that authority consistent with the First Amendment in an effort to suppress ideas that they don't like." The Second Court of Appeals bought that argument, so the books had to be returned to the school. Then the school board appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. "What's at issue here is not the books. What's at issue here is local control."


Years later, when the Supreme Court decided to take the case, there was a chance the Court would make it constitutional. In 1982 Potter Stewart left the court and Sandra Day O'Connor came onto the court.  March 2, 1982, the court heard oral arguments for both sides, and by this time the board had dropped the whole anti-American anti-religious argument, holding that the books had been removed because of their so-called vulgarity. There were no political judgments, said one side. Pico said he thought there were some clear political judgments.


In the Pico case, there were several different opinions, none of which won a majority of the Court. But two stand out:  Justice Brennan  essentially said "that school board members cannot exercise their authority to suppress ideas that they do not  like. Students have a First Amendment right to receive information. This idea had never been applied to libraries.


Justice Rehnquist said "if school board members should not exercise their authority to suppress ideas they don't like, why is that principle applied only to the removal of books. Why wouldn't it apply to the purchase of books, to the maintenance of the collection?" But they made their decision based on the vulgarity of the books, and that's why Renquist was dissenting from Justice Brennan's opinion. And Brennan did not have a clear enough answer to that.


The vote was 4-4, Justice Bryon White couldn't make up his mind, and wanted the case sent to trial court for review. The school board did not want to go to trial and returned all the books to the shelves.


The Pico case was the only case in which the court considered the issue of book censorship in school libraries. Eisenberg thinks that if they had based their case an academic freedom theory or the democratic education theory they might have set a precedent that would stop the book removals we are seeing today. 


One reason the case is not discussed more is that it didn't set a clear precedent and Pico turned down opportunities to write a book or participate in making a movie about it (not wanting to make money from an issue he felt strongly about). 


"We didn't create the law we would have liked," said Eisenberg. Public education is not just about reading, writing and arithmetic. An element of a sound education involved being educated in democracy. Democracy rests on the power of reason in public discussion, and "the remedy for bad ideas is not coerced silence, is not censorship, but more speech to correct those errors."


The Supreme Court has invalidated education laws passed by state legislators, he said. In one case, Nebraska prohibited the teaching of foreign languages in schools, and in another case, in Arkansas, there was an effort by the legislature to prohibit teaching about Darwin in the schools. And the Supreme Court invalidated both of them.


Democracy rests on the ability for free discussion.



 See also

Censorship vs. Freedom of Expression

What you can do to fight book bans and challenges

Banned Books & Challenged Books

Lists of Banned & Challenged Books

Censorship by the Numbers
Timelines of censorship history


and very broadly:

Cancel culture

Prior restraint (government censorship)

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How to talk to a reporter (how to be a quotable 'source')


After this first excellent section for scientists are links to advice for other disciplines.


For scientists speaking to reporters:

These four sets of savvy tips from SciLine are excellent and, along with the realistic subtips, are easily transferable to non-science interviews. Click on the sources to get all the points and sub-points.
Five tips for scientists speaking to reporters (SciLine, American Association for the Advancement of Science)
    1. Write down 3 points you want to make.
    3. If you disagree with the premise of a question, say so. It’s not rude to say...
    5. Remember these DOs and DON’Ts.
Five tips for scientists handling media requests (SciLine, AAAS)
    1. Ask the right questions.
    2. Triage your interview opportunities.
    4. Keep in mind that this is a live video briefing.
Five tips for media briefing panelists (SciLine, AAAS)
    1. Develop your remarks around 2-3 key points you want to convey—then practice.
    2. Put your science into relevant context.
Five tips for boot camp speakers (SciLine, AAAS)
    2. Keep slides and visuals straightforward.
    3. Tailor your remarks for an audience of curious, attentive, non-specialty reporters.   

    4. Keep in mind that all presentations, Q&A, and informal discussions are on the record.


 As journalist Liz Scherer advises:

• Approach your interviews as if they are conversations. The best conversations are the ones where you, the source, provide little kernels of information that ultimately enhance the story, even if the reporter's questions don't specifically address that topic.

• Think about your answers as telling a story rather than simply providing context around data points or findings.


The Terms You Need to Know Before You Talk to Journalists (David Gerzof Richard, Zen Business) What is an exclusive? What is an embargo? The difference between 'on the record' and 'off the record'. Between 'on background' and 'deep background'. And remember, 'no comment' seems to imply 'guilty'.

Guidelines for Talking to the Media (Harvard Innovation Labs)
---Be concise (Get to the point quickly and stay there.)
---Respond quickly to reporters; they work on tight deadlines.
---Lead with your key points.
---Make your key points over and over.
---Make your key points almost regardless of the questions asked.
---'Juicy' or sensational comments WILL find their way into a story. Etc.

How to Meet the Press (Chester Burger, Harvard Business Review, 1975) Good introductory discussion (including how not to get your company into trouble with dumb statements) and then important points, including:
---1. Talk from the viewpoint of the public’s interest, not the company’s.
---3. If you do not want some statement quoted, do not make it. Corporate spokesmen should avoid “off-the-record” statements. There is no such thing as “off-the-record.”
---4. State the most important fact at the beginning.

How to Talk to a Journalist (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism)
13 Tips for Academics on How to Talk to Journalists ( Dwight Knell, The Media Manipulation Casebook)
How to Talk to Reporters (Scholars Strategy Network)
10 Tips on Speaking with the Media (BU Public Relations)

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How to Have Productive Conversations in a Polarized World

Discussing differences, conversing even when you disagree, listening to each other, bridging communities, saving local news

Let’s build a world where we can talk — and listen — to each other, Part 1 (Lisa Rossi, JSK Class of 2018, 6-5-18) "In an era when local news is declining, who is left to ask a public official a question about a confusing new policy? To get to the bottom of a school rumor about a teen in trouble? We are. Regular folks. Why building better conversations is an important building block to a healthy local news eco-system.

      "We need higher quality conversations. By re-learning how to talk to each after a decade of living our lives virtually, moment upon moment smeared by misinformation, posturing, trolls, vaguebooking, virality, online bullying, influencers and manipulators, we are reclaiming our very humanity, and along with that, our ability to discern fact from fiction, argue with a stranger (or family member) without yelling or hurling ugly insults, and learn from someone distinctly differently from ourselves. "
13 lessons for journalists to build high-quality conversations, Part 2 (Lisa Rossi, JSK Class of 2018, 6-5-18) Packed with resources, and (with Michael Bolden) the source of most links below.
Introducing Chatpool: Promoting Civilized, Constructive Conversation in a Politically Polarized Society(Inyoung Choi, Medium) A team of Stanford students built an app called Chatpool, designed to foster more civilized conversation between people at odds. They wanted an online tool that could address increasing political polarization and hostility, by creating a space where journalists and their readers could come together to share both sides of a topic, hoping to cultivate empathy across ideological spectrums.
The Hello Project. See How did we get here? (Yvonne Leow, Medium, 2-23-17) "The next morning I launched The Hello Project (THP). I wanted to know if two strangers would be willing to jump on a 20-minute video call to talk about political issues. I wanted to know if confronting our shared humanity would lead to a productive, maybe even insightful conversation."
How to Fight by Thich Nhat Hanh (Mindfulness Essentials series) Turn disagreements and conflicts into opportunities for growth, compassion, and reconciliation.
Where Should We Begin?, a podcast with the incomparable therapist Esther Perel, who asks people to practice “integrating the experience of the other” as they construct their own argument. This makes the conversation less polarizing. Listen to her counsel real couples as they reveal the most intimate, personal, and complicated details of the conflicts that have brought them to her door.
25 Trump voters from Alabama + 25 Clinton voters from San Francisco = 1 surprisingly good Facebook group (Ricardo Bilton, NiemanLab, 3-16-17) With dialogue journalism, Spaceship Media aims to cover and dispel conflict without adding to it.
Why ‘Dialogue Journalism’ Is Having a Moment (Tiffany Lew, MediaShift, 2-15-18) In a polarizing moment when trust in media and the government is low, a number of new projects, now sometimes called “dialogue journalism,” from organizations including Spaceship Media, Hello Project, and the Seattle Times are focusing on bridging communities and pushing diverse viewpoints.
Conversations with People Who Hate Me (Dylan Marron, podcast, with transcripts) In an internet era characterized by comment section wars, devastating clapbacks, and anonymous vitriol, Dylan Marron explores what happens when online feuders step out from behind the keyboard and get to know the human on the other side of the screen. Episode guide and transcripts
The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life
On the Table Small, informal mealtime conversations brought together Chicago area residents from different races and ethnicities to talk in a personal, often challenging way about race relations.
Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project by Dave Isay
Coffee-House Libraries in Mid-Eighteenth-Century London
Guys, We Have A Problem: How American Masculinity Creates Lonely Men (Rhaina Cohen, Shankar Vedantam, and Tara Boyle on Hidden Brain, NPR, 3-19-18) What happens when half the population gets the message that needing others is a sign of weakness and that being vulnerable is unmanly.
How this local Texas site used tacos to cover its community (Joseph Lichterman, Lenfest Institute, 1-4-18) The Texas-based Tyler Loop took its readers on a taco tour through the city to help illustrate — and try to bridge — divisions in Tyler.
Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson. Her underlying claim: if you are willing to be completely present, making full use of whatever happens, you will find goodness in any situation.
As conversation winds down, women from Alabama and California discuss race, other challenges (Jeremy Hay and Eve Pearlman, Spaceship Media and AL.com, Birmingham Real-Time News, 1-15-17) "I think that there has been a growing tendency to not consider communicating with someone you disagree with - and I don't understand that." <

Local news
“De Correspondent” and the blueprint for a successful membership model (Frederic Filloux, Monday Note, 10-16-17) The Dutch news website cover stories that tend to escape the mainstream media radar because they don’t fit neatly into the drama of the 24-hour news cycle, "shifting the focus from the sensational to the foundational and from the attention-grabbing headline to the constructive insight."
Journalism isn’t dying. But it is changing in ominous ways. (Christopher B. Daly, Washington Post, 7-31-18) Without coverage at local and state level, misconduct will thrive.
Saving Local News (full section on the topic, under Journalism)
As conversation winds down, women from Alabama and California discuss race, other challenges (Jeremy Hay and Eve Pearlman, Spaceship Media and AL.com, Birmingham Real-Time News, 1-15-17) "I think that there has been a growing tendency to not consider communicating with someone you disagree with - and I don't understand that." <
Do you know what your local government is up to? (Tam Harbert)
How to solve the local news crisis? (Don Day) An endowment system (instead of corporate control)
Fake news: A very (early) modern problem (the many-headed monster, 12-5-16) Dr Francis Young examines the parallels between contemporary digital fake news and English civil war newsbooks.
The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu
Masters of Scale: Surprising Truths from the World's Most Successful Entrepreneurs by Reid Hoffman. How to do good and do good business.

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Addictive and wonderful TV and cable

(Updated 11-22-22 from a shorter 2016 list)  I assembled this alphabetized list of "best TV and cable shows of all time") for friends but got so many requests for it that I posted it here and update it periodically. Not all of the shows are current. I've added stars to shows that in my view are "must try" and I've provided links for many shows, but venues change. You can always google the name of a show and scroll down past the Google ads to see if and where the shows are streaming now. If you haven't seen it, start with Friday Night Lights (2006-2011, watch streaming on Hulu and maybe one other channel now). If the links below don't work, do a search on Google--they may be running on another channel now.


The rest, in alphabetical order:
Absolutely Fabulous (Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video with BritBox) Fashion-obsessed, drug-addled best friends, total narcissists, and career women fumble their way through middle age.
Accused (BBC streaming, aired for two seasons, 2010-2012). This award-winning drama anthology follows people accused of crimes as they await the verdict of their trial. (Watch on Acorn or Amazon Prime.)
American Crime (ABC) Good actors take on different roles in compelling, sometimes depressing stories in anthology crime drama TV series.
American Odyssey (NBC, Netflix) An elite soldier, a corporate lawyer and a political activist uncover a deadly conspiracy linking terrorists to a powerful American corporation.
• • • • The Americans (FX). Read Joshua Rothman's New Yorker piece, The Cruel Irony of "The Americans. As the NY Times writes, the week of its finale, "It’s a fabulous spy thriller and an even better domestic drama — a strange, awful love story set amid tremendous violence but also staggering idealism. This finale manages the nearly impossible: a meaningful and satisfying but still surprising conclusion to a sprawling, difficult story." I have loved it all though it did bog down  Read More 

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 Read More 

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Are you a "creator" or an "influencer"? Or neither?

What the “Creator Economy” Promises—and What It Actually Does (Kyle Chayka, New Yorker, 7-17-21) A lattice of new platforms and tools purports to empower online creators. In reality, it’s turning digital content into gig work. "“Creator” is a term with a more wholesome air, conjuring an Internet in which we are all artisanal blacksmiths plying our digital craft. But what, exactly, the word implies beyond that is up for debate. According to Taylor Lorenz’s reporting for The Atlantic, the term was originally marketed by YouTube, as early as 2011, as an alternative to vocabulary like “YouTube star,” which seemed to imply that only a few famous figures could succeed on the platform. But it’s now used to describe practically anyone who is producing any form of content online.
The Game Is Rigged: Rethinking The Creator Economy (Tara McMullin, Explore What Works, 1-27-22) “Building an audience to monetize and building a customer base are two different activities that are often conflated. The confusion between the two strategies is a large part of what ends up making so many would-be social media marketers miserable.”

      "The first way the game is rigged is that we’re playing a game that wasn’t designed for us....The second way the game is rigged is how these platforms manipulate unpaid labor. The reason posting more, learning what people like to share, trying out every new tool the platforms create, and responding to every comment seems to be the answer is that the platforms depend on our labor. They rely on us to fill the feeds with things that keep people scrolling, clicking, and viewing ads. The platforms care about us at a group level–they need those super users to stay on the factory floor. But they don’t care at all about us at the individual level."
The Real Difference Between Creators and Influencers (Taylor Lorenz, The Atlantic, 5-31-19) From 2011 to 2016, YouTube worked hard to promote  "creators," a term it applied to independent YouTube stars who could grow their audience (go viral) and monetize. In 2014-2016 Instagram grabbed attention with its Instagram stars or Instagrammers, and the term "influencer" gained in popularity. An infuencer is "anyone who leverages social media to grow a following and exerts influence over that following in order to make money."
Why Women Are Called 'Influencers' and Men 'Creators' (Emma Gray Ellis, Wired, 5-29-19)
TikTok and the Vibes Revival (Kyle Chayka, New Yorker, 4-26-21) "Increasingly, what we’re after on social media is not narrative or personality but moments of audiovisual eloquence....Vibes are a medium for feeling, the kind of abstract understanding that comes before words put a name to experience. That pre-linguistic quality makes them well suited to a social-media landscape that is increasingly prioritizing audio, video, and images over text. Through our screens, vibes are being constantly emitted and received."

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Where journalists get their medical news and information

by Pat McNees (updated from 2017 post)


On the "Top of the Morning" page of the Center for Health Journalism, prominent health journalists and experts write what sites, newsletters, and social media feeds they turn to first every morning and why. Here below are links to those sites and others, in alphabetical  Read More 

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Adaptations: Movies and TV based on novels and short stories

Updated 11-5-22
A Primer on TV & Film Adaptation for Writers (Where the Rules Change Often) (Jeanne Veillette Bowerman on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-2-22) The elements of a great pitch package, logline, synopsis, treatments, the book, pitch deck. Do you need the screenplay written in advance?
How Does a Book Get Adapted for TV or Film? (Chaya Bhuvaneswar, LitHub, 5-20-21) A Roundtable Conversation with Laura Van Den Berg, Daniel Torday, Melissa Scholes Young, and Stephanie Beard
How Are Books Adapted for the Screen? Two Agents Demystify the Process (Sangeeta Mehta on Jane Friedman's blog, 8-10-22)
What Hollywood Wants (and How to Give It to Them): Intellectual Property Adaptations (Ken Miyamoto, Screencraft, 4-5-22) What types of screenplays are most desirable in the eyes of Hollywood insiders and decision-makers?
The best book-to-film adaptations ever, ranked (Marc Chacksfield, ShortList)
How to Adapt Jane Austen, and Why It's So Hard to Get It Right (CNN, 8-7-22)
The Best Movie Adaptations of TV Shows (IMDb)
31 Movies Based on Short Stories (Emily Temple, LitHub, 10-1-18) Or How to Turn a Nine-Page Story into a Feature Film
10 Best Movies You Didn't Know Were Originally Short Stories (Amber Nuyens, CBR, 5-14-22) Many great films have their origins in the short story medium.
10 Books You Should Still Read Even After Watching The Movie Adaptation Ajay Aravind, CBR aka Comic Book Review, 4-22-22) Though movie adaptations of books are exciting, they tend to leave out interesting information and moments.      

  The Color Purple by Alice Walker

  Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

  The Help by Kathryn Stockett

  One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

  The Call of the Wild by Jack London

  Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

  Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

  Dune by Frank Herbert

  To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
10 Things The Game of Thrones Series Changed from the Books (Ajay Aravind, CBR.com, 5-3-22)
40 of Our All-Time Favorite Book-to-Movie Adaptations (Jeff Somers, BookBub, 4-22-21)
15 Must-See Book-to-Screen Adaptations Coming Out in 2022 (Melissa Flandreau, BookBub, 1-6-22)
29 Best Movies Based on Books That Are Actually Worth Watching (Anna Moeslein, Glamour, 5-19-21)
100 best movies based on books (Jacob Osborn, Stacker, 8-29-20)
50 movies that address the history of racism in America (Elona Neal, Stacker, 1-23-21)
The 19 Best Movies Based on Books of All Time (R. Eric Thomas, Elle, 4-17-20)
Lists of works of fiction made into feature films (Wikipedia)
---List of short fiction made into feature films (Wikipedia)
---List of plays adapted into feature films (Wikipedia)
---List of non-fiction works made into feature films (Wikipedia)
25 Best Movies Based on Books: Read It Then See It (Yen Cabag, TCK Publishing)

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