A tip for writing better captions

Captions are everywhere. And so many of them could do with more thought.

For example, I saw this on Twitter:

camel caption

A screenshot from Twitter, with author deliberately hidden.









The fundamental thing about a caption is that it goes together with a picture! So the caption only needs to contain details that the reader cannot see, or infer. No need then to say that so-and-so laughs as she meets her friends. If she is visibly laughing, the picture is doing its job. In the case of the camel, the offending word is “seen”. It’s just not needed. My suggestion for a better caption (and note – you don’t need to repeat Dubai):

A camel is readied for foot surgery at the Dubai Camel Hospital.

Journalism “legals”: when is something in the public interest?

keys on keyboard

Picture: Pixabay

A Mediaonline article published this week does an excellent job of laying out some of the legal considerations governing the publication of sensitive material in South Africa.
The article carries interviews with the people involved in looking at the legal ramifications of Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keeper, (one of whom is my sister Gill Moodie) and notes that while something may ordinarily be dangerous to publish, the factor of “public interest” can come into play and make publication justifiable:

The next step is to ensure that what the journalist/author intends to publish is of public interest. This is vital because it can be used as a defence in a number of instances. De Klerk explains, “The law protects privacy for example, but privacy can be overridden if there is an overriding public interest present”.

In other words, you could argue that you published something defamatory or illegal because you believed it was in the public interest.

But what is “public interest”?

Things I learned at Media Indaba Africa 2017

view from media indaba

Media Indaba organisers added their own twist to the view.

Earlier this year, I attended a South African Freelancers’ Association event addressed by Chris Roper from Code for Africa, where he mentioned the upcoming Media Indaba Africa conference (called Media Party Africa in 2016). I duly filled in the online form for the event and forgot about it.
When an email alerted me to the fact that the indaba was to be held in Cape Town in late November, and that it would be free, I leapt at the opportunity.
I spent the best part of two days at Media Indaba, chatting to people, attending interesting talks and taking in the beauty of Cape Town from the 28th floor of the Portside building.

Here are my impressions:

Twitter’s 280-characters just too many? Here’s a way to cope…

Twitter logo

Twitter logo: Picture: Pixabay

I am in two minds about Twitter’s decision to allow 280-character tweets.
One the one hand, when only 140 characters were allowed, I often felt that I could do with just an extra few characters to get in an extra hashtag, or a telling phrase.

And I think that the imposed brevity meant people often substituted a short hashtag for actual meaning, as seen here:

Looking for inspiration during #NaNoWriMo2017? These classic authors have you covered.

What is #NaNoWriMo2017 anyway? Turns out it is National Novel Writing Month. That tweet would be better like this:

Looking for inspiration during National Novel Writing Month? These classic authors have you covered. #NaNoWriMo2017

The extra characters which Twitter now allows mean that it is now possible to put in just a little extra background, where needed, without resorting to mysterious and irritating hashtags.

Curation: How to find shareable content for your readers

I have a Safe Hands Facebook page on which I share my own writing, as and when I do any writing. I also use it to share links about topics that interest me: editing, writing, journalism, business models for journalism, health and so on. I try to share one article a day on Facebook, and another on Twitter as part of promoting my business.

All this takes some time so I was gratified when a friend recently thanked me for the links, calling them: “Curation at its best.”

Which made me think that it might be useful to write a little about curation, and to share where I find my links.

Why some tragedies get a lot of coverage and others don’t

Globe superimposed over newsprint

Picture by Geralt

More than 350 people died in a truck bomb in Somalia on October 14. Earlier in October almost 60 people died in a mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Media coverage of the two events followed a long-established and regrettable pattern in journalism: wall-to-wall coverage of the Las Vegas shootings, patchy and incomplete reports from Mogadishu.
Al-Jazeera noticed what its headline called “double standards”:

Commentator and law professor Khaled Beydoun noted that a bomb attack in Manchester, a northern British city, was covered more widely. “The # of people killed in Somalia yesterday was 10x more than the # killed in Manchester in May (230 to 22). But it got 100x less coverage,” he tweeted.

In simple terms: Western city, big response. African city: small response.
I (and many other journalists) have pondered the reasons for these imbalances for many years.

Why people (even journalists) don’t pay for news – and what to do about it

A newsstand in London

A newsstand in London. Picture by Duncan Harris, Wikimedia Commons

It’s no secret that journalism is going through cataclysmic change.

It’s as if we are trying to sell horse-and-cart combos at the same time that Henry Ford is rolling the Model-T off the production line. As pointed out here by Eric Beecher, the “unconventional business model” which saw public interest, independent journalism being subsidised by the sale of cars, jobs and furniture (classifieds – remember them?) is deader than the dodo.

In the place of classifieds are a variety of “business models” where news organisations try to figure out how to make money when people won’t actually pay for the pure product (journalism) and have gone elsewhere for the cars, jobs and furniture.

I have sat around over many a glass of wine with journalist friends, bemoaning this state of affairs. But I don’t think any of us have ever spent much time on really thinking through WHY it is that people won’t pay for news (assuming they were ever willing to pay, of course – many saw the news as a wrapper to the real stuff: horse racing results, crosswords, horoscopes and classifieds). And here’s another question to ponder: Do journalists themselves pay for news? Do I pay for news?