Rick’s Rules: Ten basic reporting errors

With this post, I am introducing a regular feature to RickDunhamBlog: Rick’s Rules.

Rick’s Rules will highlight best and worst practices in modern multimedia journalism and offer tips to improve your skills — whether you are one of my graduate journalism students at Tsinghua University, a veteran journalist in Washington, D.C., or a normal everyday “civilian.”

I also will try to experiment with innovative storytelling techniques. Today’s “Rick’s Rules” uses infogr.am.

TEN BASIC REPORTING ERRORS

| Create infographics

UPDATE: Due to technical difficulties on the WordPress site, I am forced to link to the graphic on infogr.am. Please follow this link to the graphic.


The big announcement: How the Twittersphere reacted to my new job in China

tsinghua

Tsinghua, here I come! (University web site)

People who know me well know that I don’t possess one of the larger egos in American journalism. So I’m a tad apologetic for the blatant boosterism that follows. But I wanted to do it to thank all of my friends and the public officials who took to social media to respond to this announcement.

The overwhelming — and rapid — response reminded me of the power of social media. Twitter and Facebook have transformed our means of communication in just a few years. (Six years ago, when I left Business Week for the Houston Chronicle, I had to send emails to all of my friends just to let them know what had happened.)

Just like we do on Texas on the Potomac, I’ll start with Capitol Hill reaction:

Even former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who’s had to deal with my questions since my days as a young pup at the Dallas Times Herald, weighed in:

In the polarized American political world, there was bipartisan agreement — for once.

Reaction poured in from around the world, Helsinki to Beirut to Shanghai:

In Austin and Manhattan journalism circles, disbelief:

It was nice to hear from my colleagues:

Yes, Melissa. Definitely.

I’m especially grateful for the kind words from my former interns who have made me proud over the past six years.

And I’ll leave you with the words of that ancient Chinese philosopher Wayne Slater:


Top Ten: My proudest accomplishments at the Houston Chronicle

The superstar intern crew of spring semester 2012. (Photo by Pam Tobey)

The superstar intern crew of spring semester 2012. (Photo by Pam Tobey)

I have been fortunate to be able to experiment and innovate over the past six years at the Houston Chronicle. As I look back on my tenure at Texas’ largest newspaper, I am particularly proud of these accomplishments:

TxPotomac 2361. Creating Texas on the Potomac

Launched in December 2007, Texas on the Potomac developed into a valued “brand” in Texas journalism — THE place to go for news about Texans in Washington or national news of interest to a Texas audience. We proved that high quality journalism and “clicks” are not mutually exclusive. We built a large and loyal audience not only in our home base of Houston, but in Austin, Washington, Dallas-Fort Worth and in more than 20 countries around the world including Finland, Norway and Korea.

2. Reinventing Washington bureau coverage for a regional newspaper

Chronicle editor-in-chief Jeff Cohen hired me to reinvent the Chron Washington bureau, and I took the challenge to the next level. I reimagined how a regional newspaper should cover the nation’s capital. Rather than duplicate the wires or the national newspapers, we tailored our national stories to our local audience. We offered analytical coverage explaining the importance of the events that were unfolding in Washington. And we covered the Texas delegation and Texans on the Potomac like they had never been covered before. We broke news story after news story on the web and then offered value-added coverage for print. We had a robust social media presence, too, offering comprehensive coverage to readers interested in Houston and Texas politics on whatever platform they preferred. All while seeing our staff shrink. And shrink.

With MacKenzie Warren before she became a famous TV anchor. (Photo by Marco Van Stralen)

With MacKenzie Warren before she became a famous TV anchor. (Photo by Marco Van Stralen)

3. Helping to launch the careers of so many talented young journalists

It’s been a pleasure and an honor to work with so many talented interns from across the globe. Our former interns have gone on to journalism greatness (already) at the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Politico, The Hill, Roll Call and many other news outlets, large and small, print and broadcast … and digital. I hope my interns learned as much from me as I learned from them. The interns’ talents and enthusiasm prove to me that there is a future in journalism. To all my interns: You have inspired me.

4. Teaching cutting-edge training programs for journalism students and midcareer professionals

Through my role as president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute — the educational and charitable arm of the National Press Club — I was able to teach thousands of aspiring journalists, midcareer journalists, journalism educators and professional communicators the skills they needed to survive and thrive in today’s rapidly changing multimedia world. Whether the subject was writing for the web or building a community and brand via Twitter, I embraced the turbulent times and tried to help others navigate through rocky seas. That training has trained me for the next chapter in my life.

McCain La Voz5. Offering robust coverage of issues of importance to our Latino audience

Before Texas on the Potomac came along, there was a void in “mainstream media” coverage of Latino politics and national policy issues of interest to Texas Latinos. With the help of my TxPotomac compatriots and superb La Voz de Houston editors Aurora Losada and Silvia Struthers, we provided comprehensive coverage of important issues such as immigration, health care, border policy, U.S.-Mexico issues, Voter ID, voting rights, redistricting, education and other matters of particular interest to our Latino audience. We gave special attention to Latino elected officials and representatives of heavily Latino districts across Texas. I often wrote stories that appeared in print only in Spanish in La Voz.

Covering Rick Perry in New York (Photo by Andrea Vasquez)

Covering Rick Perry in New York (Photo by Andrea Vasquez)

6. Award-winning coverage of Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign

Texas Associated Press Managing Editors gave only one journalism award for coverage of the 2012 elections. It was to our Houston Chronicle team for coverage of Rick Perry’s disastrous White House run. I was proud to have created “Rick Perry Watch” on Texas on the Potomac, the forerunner of our robust “Perry Presidential” web site. Our coverage combined breaking news, ahead-of-the-curve analysis, multimedia storytelling and interesting items culled from other outlets. The result was the most comprehensive daily report on an ill-fated campaign, one that became a must-read for political reporters covering the 2012 campaign.

“First, readers were lucky to have a newspaper willing to dedicate the staff to cover Perry’s bid as an intensely local story,” the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors wrote in their citation. “Just as important, the overall level of work was superb.”

7. Starting a monthly lunch with the Texas delegation

When I arrived as Chronicle Washington bureau chief, there was widespread grumbling in the Houston-area congressional delegation about the Chronicle. To improve lines of communication, I created a monthly, bipartisan lunch with our local lawmakers and the Chronicle reporters and editors. It gave Houston-area House members a chance to tell us what they were working on and what their constituents were talking about, and gave us a chance to ask questions and develop in-depth stories. It also provided opportunities for some bipartisan legislative efforts on issues such as energy, transportation . All in all, it allowed all of us to better serve our joint constituency — the news consumers of Texas and the voters of the Houston area.

I owe bipartisan thanks to Rep. Kevin Brady of The Woodlands and Gene Green of Houston for rounding up lawmakers from Houston — and more recently South Texas — each month.

8. Reaching one million monthly page views on Texas on the Potomac

When I created Texas on the Potomac, I asked how we would judge success. I was told 100,000 page views per month.

Well, we twice hit one million page views — once during the Republican National Convention in August 2012 and again in November, the month of the election. The doubters have been vanquished. Even with very little publicity, we built a franchise. It also helped that I taught our tremendous team of interns the science of search engine optimization.

"Mister Houston," a.k.a., Jesse Jones -- publisher of the Houston Chronicle and Commerce Secretary to President Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Mister Houston,” a.k.a., Jesse Jones — publisher of the Houston Chronicle and Commerce Secretary to President Franklin D. Roosevelt

9. Winning all those “Jesse” Award nominations — if not the award itself

I’ve been the Susan Lucci of the Houston Chronicle. Year after year, I’ve been nominated for the “Jesse” Award for outstanding Houston journalism but I never took home the statuette. Reporter of the Year. Editor of the Year. Innovation of the Year. Blog of the Year. Multimedia Journalist of the Year. And some more that I can’t remember right now. Congrats to all the winners! As they say, it’s an honor just to be nominated.

10. An emphasis on teamwork

The Chronicle is one of the ten largest newspapers in America and has drawn, over the years, some of the most talented journalists in America. I hope I contributed to that sense of teamwork — the “we” rather than the “me” — that leads to great journalism. My DC colleague Stewart Powell has been the consummate professional and a willing teammate on Houston stories. Energy expert Jennifer Dlouhy has “taken one for the team” numerous times — I’ll remember those emails at 10:30 on Sunday night as she gets a head start on the week ahead.

Special kudos to super-editor George Haj, who has the best news judgment of any editor I’ve ever worked with, Jacquee Petchel, the best investigative and projects editor in the USA, now teaching the next generation at Arizona State, Ernie Williamson, the best election night editor there ever was, Alan Bernstein, who has a deeper knowledge of Houston politics (and Chron politics) than anybody else in town, Peggy Fikac, the hardest working reporter in Texas, Dwight Silverman, the tech wizard and my favorite web consultant, and Patti Kilday Hart, my partner in journalistic crime in Dallas, Austin and Houston.


Welcome to RickDunhamBlog.com!

Nearly six years after creating Texas on the Potomac — the popular political blog of the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, I am launching my own personal blog.

I will periodically offer insight, news and analysis on topics I find interesting. I’ll also post multimedia tips for aspiring journalists and mid-career professionals alike. And I’ll experiment with innovative story-telling techniques.

Feel free to interact and send ideas for posts.

Discussing 2012 election results on a Capitol Hill panel.

Discussing 2012 election results on a Capitol Hill panel.

I’ll start with the basic biography:

I’m a veteran political journalist and one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the use of social media for journalism and community-building. I’ve been Washington bureau chief of the Houston Chronicle since 2007 and also served as Hearst Newspapers Washington bureau chief from 2009 to 2012.

I am the creator and chief author of the popular political blog “Texas on the Potomac” on chron.com and mysanantonio.com. I was the leading content provider for Perry Presidential, an award-winning web site dedicated to comprehensive coverage and analysis of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign.

“First, readers were lucky to have a newspaper willing to dedicate the staff to cover Perry’s bid as an intensely local story,” the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors wrote in the 2013 award explanation. “Just as important, the overall level of work was superb.”

(Twitter: @RickDunham)

From 1992 to July 2007, I was the national political correspondent for Business Week magazine, covering the White House, Congress, economic issues, and political and policy trends.

I earlier spent seven years in the Washington bureau of the Dallas Times Herald as a national political reporter, congressional correspondent and Supreme Court correspondent. During my 13 years at the Dallas Times Herald, I also was a city desk reporter in Dallas and a correspondent in the Austin bureau, where I covered state government, the Texas Legislature, the state budget, education and Texas politics.

I have offered political analysis on ABC, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, the PBS News Hour and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. I also have appeared on C-SPAN, the BBC, National Public Radio, ABC Radio, Fox News Channel and numerous radio stations and networks.

From 2005 to 2009, I wrote a “Letter from America” column for the Finnish newspaper Aamulehti explaining U.S. politics and culture to an international audience.

A former president of both the National Press Club and the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the educational and charitable arm of the world’s leading professional organization for journalists, I try to remain on the cutting edge of journalism technology and training. I have taught classes and hosted panel discussions on journalism skills, web content, social media and journalism ethics.

From 1999 to 2005, I was a mentor with the UNITY Mentor Program for young journalists of color, where I worked one-on-one with young journalists and taught workshops on journalism skills. I have lectured to classes at institutions including Texas A&M University, American University, Boston University, the University of Alabama, Towson State University, Carleton College and Flagler College.

I also have written for the Philadelphia Inquirer (as University of Pennsylvania stringer) and the Cleveland Plain Dealer (as a summer intern), and have contributed to three books (“The Founding City,” Chilton Books, 1976, “The Handbook of Campaign Spending,” Congressional Quarterly Press, 1992, and “The Almanac of the Unelected,” Bernan Press, 2006). I wrote a new foreword to the 60th anniversary edition of my grandfather Barrows Dunham’s classic philosophy book, “Man against Myth,” which was republished in 2007.

I have served on the steering committee of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press since 1999 and am a former chairman of the steering committee.

From 1992 to 1999, I served on the Executive Committee of Periodical Correspondents, which oversees the press galleries on Capitol Hill for more than 2,000 news magazine and newsletter correspondents. As Executive Committee chairman from 1995 to 1997, I helped to coordinate press logistics for the national conventions and presidential inauguration.I am a graduate of Central High School in Philadelphia (233rd class) and hold B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from the University of Pennsylvania. My wife, Pam Tobey, is a graphic artist at the Washington Post.