Z – Zines

ZRather than end the A to Z Challenge with a bang, I think I’m going to end it with a half-joke.

What the heck happened to Zines?

I mean, they seemed like a fad, I suppose, anyway, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised they’re gone. What were they, you ask? To merriam-webster.com!

Zine:

a small magazine that is written by people who are not professional writers and that usually has stories about a particular subject”

e-Zine:

an electronic magazine : a magazine that is on the Internet”

Oh… wait a minute… do they mean a blog?

Blog:

“a Web site on which someone writes about personal opinions, activities, and experiences”

So… kind of. Mostly. Maybe? There are probably a number of Blogs which might be more accurately Zines or e-Zines, maybe especially ones that have a specific subject, and which have multiple writers.

I didn’t end up going with my original plan for the letter M which was going to be Magazines… I felt like I was beating on them enough between Journalism and Newspapers. And because I knew eventually I would be writing about Zines… was it supposed to be the cool, hip, trendy, online word for a magazine? Was it supposed to catch on? Can you choose and control those sorts of things? Or do they just naturally happen – like the adoption of the word Blog instead.

I don’t know. But it seemed like a fun word to close out the A to Z Challenge with! Do you read any Zines? Or did you ever? Let me know in the comments below!

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N – Newspapers

NI think it’s safe to say it’s been a tough few decades for newspapers. I talked about how Journalism jobs seem to be becoming more specialized and in some ways this makes sense, as the news in general gets smaller and tighter as an industry. But what has led to the steady decline in newspaper business? The obvious answer is our old friend the Internet. But I see a few specific elements that are causing more trouble for newspapers because of the Internet than other industries are seeing – say, books versus e-books.

The obvious one is that the Internet provided a new means of accessing the news, forcing them to react and start to try and provide the news in multiple channels. And, to provide it at an Internet-appropriate speed: so, basically instantly. Not the easiest thing, and for getting your facts straight, for doing good editing, a deadline and publication schedule and time is kind of a useful thing. That changes significantly with the Internet.

And then there’s the fact that search engines arose – increasingly giving people the feeling that they can find things on their own, and don’t need anyone else to do that sort of work for them. All of a sudden, is there as much value in the person doing that work, digging up the stories, reporting on them? When all of a sudden, everyone feels like they can do this.

And then you get people creating the content, too! Bloggers and the like, doing the work for free, on their own time. Saying whatever they want, with no editorial standard. Eroding our expectation of there BEING an editorial standard.

But no, the number one problem facing newspapers, in my opinion, is the fact that people expect things online to be free. Oh, and we don’t really like ads. Why buy a newspaper when the same paper gives the news online for free? So then some of them add pay-walls, and we’re up in arms. Paying for something that costs money to create, and which we used to pay for anyway… I will also say that regularly, the most ad-filled, cluttered websites I have seen are news sites. This has gotten better with time, or else I stopped going to their sites: I’m not sure which it is.

I’ve given a few of my thoughts, and I think these things are hitting newspapers harder than a lot of other types of writing. There’s free fiction online, after all, but I still see the value in paying for a good book. However, the news? If I can’t get it one place for free, I’ll just look elsewhere until I can get it for free. Right? That’s what they’re up against. At least in my opinion – what do you think is their greatest challenge?

J – Journalism

JI was planning from a pretty young age on pursuing writing as I grew up. Every year through elementary school, I went to what our district called the Writer’s Conference, where you basically just went as a kid and presented something you wrote. In third and fourth grade, I was running a lending library of my books during recess. No one was really checking them out that I remember, but my goal was in creating them more than anything. Around that same time, I also was one of the founding members of my school’s Newspaper, eventually ending up as one of the last two original founders by sixth grade, and doing a news report on the local public broadcasting.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, and I think also reading about and learning about the lives of famous authors, I really thought that Journalism was going to be that thing I did to make money while working on novels. Because it’s what other writers had done. It made sense. You could write. You were a writer. A natural fit. Right?

Right?

Flash forward and I didn’t do much with Journalism in high school, so maybe that’s its own bad sign for it. Who knows. Then by college, I wasn’t really in with the folks doing the paper and all either, actually eventually writing a letter to the editor about their poor editing skills and fact-checking. However, none of this stopped me from looking at writing jobs when I graduated, and finding them all smiling back at me saying, “English Majors or Journalism Majors only.”

So wait. My 40+ page, heavily edited and pared down (it was originally 60+ pages), highly researched History Honors Thesis and associated degree didn’t make me a writer? I had to have those specific degrees?

I guess, like my Fine Arts post the other day, it all comes back to a question of what makes you a writer? Your specific degree? Being trained as a writer? Being a published author? And yes, I need to stop planning so much and do more writing to really call myself a writer. But I do blog quite a bit.

And that’s the closing thought on Journalism I want to go with: increasingly, I feel, the Journalism that we are turning to in our Internet-heavy world is blogging. The Journalists are turning to the blogging format and style. blog news sites are huge – just think of The Huffington Post. While its star is rising, where are the newspapers and other news sources going? Restricting, restructuring, playing with pay-walls and commenting.

So I guess, maybe I’m doing something right.

H – Hook

HFor many of the letters of the A to Z challenge, I had ideas pouring out for what to write about, and I started organizing things to not overlap too much, discuss different topics, to be short, personal and opinionated, and of course writing-related. For a few letters, I was left hunting a bit for words. Just so with H, where I found the essential writing term “Hook.” I had forgotten this term, but it is of course one I know and employ, or even over-employ, in my writing. I know when I first did NaNoWriMo, every chapter started with a hook sentence, In Media Res, and the action caught up with it.

However, that got me thinking of the other sorts of ways the idea of the Hook comes up in our world today. What began its life as a writing technique has become something of a way of life in our information-heavy world.

For instance, in blogging, or other sorts of writing online. They say that for search engines, you really want to have your keywords in the earliest parts of your post. That effectively, the search engines are optimized to consider your hook. Also, in RSS feeds, you generally only see the first bit of the post, and this is the Hook that gets people to click-through and read more of your post. Thus, in blogging, the Hook is an essential tool to get read – without a good Hook, the post is likely dead in the water.

By this standard, I’m pretty sure this post fails!

Thinking about the Hook in terms of blogging got me thinking about it in terms of the rest of the Internet in general. And in particular, some of the ways in which the Internet approaches these things like a Journalist. That is to say, we think about webpages in terms of what is “above the fold” (like with a newspaper) – the content that you can generally see without scrolling down, as this is the most-seen content. And really, the first paragraph being the Hook is a heavily used Journalism approach to writing.

And what about Social Media? Twitter in many ways functions as a giant Hook machine – at least, any tweet with a link or picture or anything else you need to click. It has to be interesting enough that someone clicks! It has to Hook them, and it has to do it in under 140 characters. Less, really, with a link in there too!

So be thinking about what you write and put online. Yes, the first paragraph might be the first that you write. But it also has a pivotal role in whether you get read. So go back and look it over before you publish!

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