Posts Tagged ‘culture’


What Jacques Pepin can teach journalists

The work of chef, author and broadcaster Jacques Pepin provides lessons for journalists. (Photo: Edsel Little/Wikimedia Commons)

The work of chef, author and broadcaster Jacques Pepin provides worthwhile lessons for journalists. (Photo: Edsel Little/Wikimedia Commons)

Jacques Pepin and I, through our professions, are different. Pepin is the successful chef, author and broadcaster, known to millions as the host of multiple cooking programs airing on public television. I am a journalist who writes primarily about journalism and digital culture.

Despite our pursuits of different lines of work, there are two things that we have in common — our commitment to quality and our ability to tell stories.

For Pepin, he tells these stories through his recipes, curating the experience of enjoying food with family and friends. For me, it is through the stories and essays I write, not just for SPJ, but for the British publication Kettle Magazine, for whom I have served as an editor and contributor for over 4 years.

Yet, Pepin’s work and philosophy can provide lessons for journalists. In a recent broadcast of the PBS Newshour, Pepin did a segment reflecting on the culture of the recipe, and that at the core of a recipe is the idea that comes from it.

“A recipe is a teaching tool, a guide, a point of departure,” Pepin said. “You have to follow it exactly the first time you make the dish. But after you make it again and again, you will change it, you will massage it to fit your own taste, your own sense of aesthetic.”

The same rule applies, albeit indirectly, to journalism. The ethics and background rules apply and must be abided by the first time you sit down and write a story. You have the information that comes from 6 basic elements — who, what, when, where, why and how. But as the mediums evolve in the digital age, there are more ways for stories to be told, whether through conventional platforms like a newspaper, TV or radio, or through the web and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

What I have come to appreciate about Pepin’s work is the stories that he tells with the experience of food. Every dish, whether he cooks it himself or with the help of his daughter Claudine, granddaughter Shorey or best friend Jean-Claude, tells a story, and though the basic recipe elements either remain the same or differentiate depending upon taste, there is a different story that can be told.

Good journalism and good storytelling has the power to make a difference in the world. It not only informs and engages, but also has the ability to inspire. It is the type of storytelling that I hope to do as I continue my career.

Pepin is curating a unique experience with every dish he makes, which makes his programs on public television (and indeed other public media programs) so worthwhile. Pepin also gives a reminder to all of us about the importance of a good story, and how much benefit it can have.

Happy cooking, and happy storytelling.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Reflecting on Twitter

As Twitter prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism is significant. As part of a series leading up to its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, Dawn Walton of CTV Television in Canada considers the role Twitter has had in the culture of journalism and the broader culture of storytelling.

A late adopter of Twitter, I only started tweeting in 2010 when the newspaper I worked for suggested it might be a good idea for those of us covering the Winter Olympics. I didn’t really understand how it worked – or the point – but now, 15,500 tweets later, it’s the first website I read in the morning.

I’ve also come to learn a thing or two about what Twitter has done to journalism for the better – and worse.

It has, in some cases, made the jobs of journalists, easier, but at the same time, some journalists, lazier.  Confirmation of deaths, and condolences, appear in real time. Why call anyone or knock on doors when you can comb through, and then Storify, tweet reaction? You can instantly see trends in your region, country and the world. But just because something happens on Twitter, it doesn’t mean it’s a story. Nobody, however, has quite figured out the formula to tell the difference.

But 10 years in, Twitter has firmly planted itself in the media – and public – consciousness.

Want to gauge the impact of David Bowie’s death? Skip the publicist. Go straight to Twitter, where every social media conscious celebrity tweets – along with their fans. Never before would we have known how Barbra Streisand felt about Celine Dion’s husband’s death without waiting for Entertainment Tonight’s coverage, assuming any of those reporters reached out to Streisand for comment.

But then again, why do we care what Streisand thinks? But hey, instant, and high-profile, content, so it’s news.

Twitter has also helped reporters quickly find leads on the stuff that fills local daily news, monitor our competitors and post breaking news. Traffic tie-ups. House fires. The name of the latest murder victim as a friend posts an RIP message.

CTV's Dawn Walton says Twitter has had equal influence in journalism and public culture. (Photo via LinkedIn)

CTV Television’s Dawn Walton says Twitter has had equal influence in journalism and public culture. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Beyond local events, Twitter has also become a forum for massive international events. Journalists watch as active shooters or terrorist attacks unfold minute-by-minute, tweet-by-tweet by eye-witnesses (or those who claim to be).

Police, also noticing this trend, are quick to ask the media – and the public – to resist tweeting (or, engaging on any social media platform) in dangerous situations or risk identifying the whereabouts of tactical teams.

Twitter has also profoundly shaped world reaction to major news events making “trending” a common term and, at times, a measure of newsworthiness.

There’s the lighter trending news. Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie, actually taken by Bradley Cooper, was retweeted more than 3.3 million times, and racked up 225,000 tweets per minute, a Twitter record in 2014. Besides the celebrity eye candy, that made news. What also made news: Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar win this year, which trumped Ellen at 440,000 tweets per minute.

More often than not, I’m left figuring out what all One Direction and 5SOS fuss is about, only to realize it’s just another thing happening on Twitter that isn’t really a story, at least not to anyone who isn’t a die-hard boy-band fan.

But there’s also the serious stuff.

The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie became a global rallying cry after gunmen stormed the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. And, #porteouverte became the ubiquitous signal for where Parisians could find safe haven during last November’s terrorist attacks on that city.

The Canadian election was one of the most tweeted about events, and was part of the strategy for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: Alex Guibord/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

The Canadian election was one of the most tweeted about events, and was part of the strategy for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: Alex Guibord/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Tweet gaffes have also caught fire and sunk many politicians and celebrities.

Canadian political hopefuls were bounced from their respective parties during last fall’s federal election over inappropriate – and often old – tweets. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s recent ill-advised “America.” missive featuring his monogrammed handgun backfired, helping put an end to his Republican presidential bid. Kanye West’s stream of conscious tweet plea for money made the rapper a public mockery.

Those types of Twitter trends are quick to become stories or memes and sometimes the meme is the story.

But when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn’t tweet anything on Super Tuesday, yet stood behind Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, his seemingly silent screaming took on a life of its own. Twitter exploded with reaction, and news stories inevitably followed.  But as the Poynter Institute rightly questioned, was it a story? Probably not.

Not long ago, I received an email about a “cat fight on Twitter” involving two rather well known Canadian female politicians – one federal, the other provincial – both believed to be testing the waters for leadership bids of their respective parties. I got lost in threads debates and never did find the ball of yarn that originally started rolling. It never really did become a story, and rightly so.

Some marketing experts prefer Instagram and Facebook to reach their audiences, saying Twitter is on the wane, and its sliding stock prices may suggest the same.

Lately, it feels like only journalists are on Twitter in Canada with trending topics of interest to only die-hard news junkies. It’s become a hub for reporters trying to out-funny one another. Heck, I’ve even found myself trending, which is clearly, not a story.

Still, even those with the rarefied verified, blue check mark still to get a kick out of follows, retweets and replies from those similarly stationed in the Twitterverse. No other venue would allow me to engage in an intellectual public debate over gun control with children’s entertainer Raffi Cavoukian, whose records I sang along to as a kid, or a claim as a follower Sloan, a band I thought was just the coolest in university.

Maybe that’s what a decade of Twitter has done for journalism. It’s a 140-character tool, outlet and equalizer. Now, if only it had an edit function.

Dawn Walton is an award winning journalist based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Walton currently serves as the Managing Editor of CTV News’ local coverage in Calgary and previously served as a correspondent for The Globe and Mail newspaper. You can interact with Walton on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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