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Move Over Clark: The Basics of Journalism
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 by Michael Ray Smith

 

Move Over, Clark: The Basics of Journalism as a Stepping-Stone to Publication

by, Michael Ray Smith
 

Successful writers have mastered two realms, the side of promotion, and the tricky business of writing well.

I’m still learning both.

I’ll leave the roaring insights on excelling in the business side to Lighthouse Publishing wonk Eddie Jones while I roam through the velvety reasons every writer must master the craft of good writing, in short, the brown shoes of writing—journalism.

Journalism is as exotic as the spoon in a place setting, but where would we be without it? It answers the reader’s primary questions before the innocent audience rebels and considers the writing to be a mugger on parole and bent on harm.

Newsman-turned-author Rudyard Kipling gave us this pithy poem:

“I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.”

Kipling is just one in the great crowd of journalists who learned the cadence of speech, mastered the rhythm of sentences, and learned to select the right word or words for the thought.

Newsman-turned-author Mark Twain penned a letter in 1888 where he said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Writers who once trod the trenches of journalism include writers we admire today, such as Winston Churchill—who created his own personal myth by sending dispatches to London about his own military exploits—and Stephen Crane (The Red Badge of Courage) wrote such a moving portrait of the Civil War in 1895, readers thought he had witnessed the bloody carnage. But Crane wasn’t born until 1871, six years after the conflict concluded. He wrote a non-fiction article on his personal experience about the sinking S.S. Commodore for the New York Press in 1897, but recast the narrative as a short story for Scribner’s Magazine in 1898. Both are remarkably similar but the creative version uses imagery and metaphor to propel the plot forward.

To most, the list of journalist-turned-writers is an untrodden dirt road, but it’s a list worth considering. It includes poet Robert Frost, Dickens, Hemingway, Pete Hamill, Tom Wolfe and one of my favorites, Terry Pratchett, journalist-turned-author of 36 books in the Discworld series.

The list isn’t just about men. Journalist Julie Stroebel Barichello composed this series for her blog, “Every Journalist Fiction.”

            * “Edna Annie Proulx is an American author and journalist.
            * Masha Hamilton began her career as a full-time journalist.
            * Melanie Benjamin began writing for local magazines and newspapers before venturing    into fiction.
            * Janet Fitch has worked as a typesetter, proofreader, graphic artist, freelance journalist, managing editor of                   American Film magazine, and editor of The Mancos Times Tribune.
            * Anita Diamant began her career as a freelance journalist.”

To that list, I’d add my friend, Eva Marie Everson (one of the directors of Florida Christian Writers Conference), who wrote a dramatic series of non-fiction articles on the beauty and mystery of the Middle East. Five years later, she turned those articles into a highly-award winning Reflections of God’s Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel (Thomas Nelson, 2008).

At the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference, Feb. 24-28, Leesburg, Fla., participants will have access to many authors and a few journalists. To paraphrase Norm Rohrer, founder of the Christian Writer’s Institute, as you move your prose out of the valley of despair onto the highway of hope, don’t neglect the important work of the simple, declarative sentence.


It’s not makeweight; it’s learning the crucial elements of the news narrative. It’s the first order of storytelling. Fiction is a more elaborate form, but you can’t write it well unless you understand the simplicity of the ordinary (but elegant) news story.


Even if you are doing it naturally, it doesn’t hurt to think about the form as you compose the next best seller. And, always hit your deadline and make an editor pathetically grateful. Move over, Clark. 

 



Editor’s Note: Michael Ray Smith (FCWC Journalism Continuing Class mentor) teaches journalism by day and writes by night. His seventh book is “7 Days to a Byline That Pays” and he will send you a Kindle copy if you agree to write a review on either Amazon or Goodreads!

 

Michael Ray Smith teaches online ideas and communication to university audiences and professionals writers. He’s a professor of journalism at Palm Beach Atlantic University. “7 Days to a Byline that Pays,” his seventh book, was published in late August.

He has presented workshops on writing in the United States and overseas. He and his wife Barbara live in West Palm Beach, not far from the likes of celebrities such as Rod Stewart, Donald Trump and Ben Carson. The Smiths have two grown daughters who are involved in media in Tennessee and Paris. The Smiths attend historic Paramount Church on the island of Palm Beach.

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Crystal Bowman
9/29/2017

Two Secrets to Setting Goals
Andy Lee
9/22/2017

Cross-Training to Become a Better Writer
Andy Lee
9/15/2017

When Publishing Doesn't Go Your Way
Edie Melson
9/8/2017

It's That Time Again! Time to Register for FCWC 2018!
Eva Marie Everson
9/1/2017

The ABC's of Driving Traffic to Your Blog
Andy Lee
8/18/2017

Steady On!
Penny Hunt
8/11/2017

Compelled to Write
Andy Lee
8/4/2017

Letting Go of the Numbers
JoAnne Macco
7/28/2017

Freelancing Offers Freedom a "Real Job" Can't
James Watkins
7/14/2017

Six Tips from Literary Agents
Eva Marie Everson
7/7/2017

What Writers Are Really Worth
David Brannock
6/23/2017

Wisdom in Knowing When to be Quiet
Eva Marie Everson
6/16/2017

Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
Lori Hatcher
6/9/2017

The Winner of our Flash Fiction Contest
Andy Lee
6/2/2017

When You Want to Quit Writing
Meg Gemelli
5/26/2017

Blogging for the Bible Study Writer
Katy Kauffman
5/19/2017

Boomerang Stories
Belinda Grimbeek
5/12/2017

What's Holding You Back?
Tina Hunt
5/5/2017

Using Flash Fiction to Test Your Ideas
Tez Brooks
4/28/2017

How to Prepare for Your Book's Release
Ginger Monette
4/21/2017

When God Gives You Manna
Sherri Stewart
4/14/2017

Why You Won’t Submit that Piece I Asked For
Lori Hatcher
4/7/2017

How to Decide When to Self-Publish and Advice from One Who Has
Diane E. Tatum
3/31/2017

Faith In Process: Why Prayer is Essential to Our Writing
Terri Rhoden
3/24/2017

Writers Are a Strange Lot
Lori Hatcher
3/16/2017

When Balance and Writing Don't Co-exist
Heather Iseminger
3/9/2017

Six Blogging Trends for 2017
Andy Lee
3/1/2017

Six Things to Do When You Want to Give Up
Maresa DePuy
2/24/2017

Faculty Interview with Heather Iseminger
Bethany Jett
2/22/2017

Faculty Interview with Susan Reichert
Bethany Jett
2/21/2017

Faculty Interview with Linda Gilden
Bethany Jett
2/20/2017

Faculty Interview with Tina Yeager
Bethany Jett
2/19/2017

Faculty Interview with Beth Patch
Bethany Jett
2/18/2017

Faculty Interview with Karen Ball
Bethany Jett
2/18/2017

Faculty Interview with Erin Taylor Young
Bethany Jett
2/17/2017

Faculty Interview with Dawn Anderson
Bethany Jett
2/17/2017

Faculty Interview with Dan Walsh
Bethany Jett
2/15/2017

Faculty Interview with Nancy Lohr
Bethany Jett
2/14/2017

Faculty Interview with Natalie Gillespie
Bethany Jett
2/13/2017

Faculty Interview with Shana Asaro
Bethany Jett
2/13/2017

Faculty Interview with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley
Bethany Jett
2/12/2017

Faculty Interview with Bethany Jett
Eva Marie Everson
2/11/2017

Media and Promos with Punch
Kathy Bruins
2/11/2017

Faculty Interview with Lindsay Brackett
Bethany Jett
2/10/2017

Faculty Interview with Michelle Medlock Adams
Bethany Jett
2/9/2017

Faculty Interview with Eva Marie Everson and Mark Hancock
Bethany Jett
2/8/2017

Faculty Interview with Edie Melson
Bethany Jett
2/6/2017

Faculty Interview with Eddie Jones
Bethany Jett
2/3/2017

Faculty Interview with Hannah C. Hall
Bethany Jett
2/1/2017

Faculty Interview with Cyle Young
Bethany Jett
1/30/2017

Faculty Interview with Kristen Stieffel
Bethany Jett
1/28/2017

Faculty Interview with Bill Watkins
Bethany Jett
1/27/2017

Glimpses from the Writer’s Glossary
Linda Gilden
1/23/2017

Faculty Interview with Torry Martin
Bethany Jett
1/20/2017

Faculty Interview with Marti Pieper
Bethany Jett
1/18/2017

Faculty Interview with Shellie Arnold
Bethany Jett
1/16/2017

Writing a Standout First Page and Blurb
Shana Asaro
1/11/2017

How to Evaluate Your Options
Cheri Cowell
1/9/2017

Faculty Interview with Linda Glaz
Bethany Jett
1/6/2017

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Continuous Critique Track?
Shellie Arnold
1/4/2017

Faculty Interview with Lora Zill
Bethany Jett
1/2/2017

Faculty Interview with Laura Petherbridge
Bethany Jett
12/30/2016

Interview with Katy Kauffman
Bethany Jett
12/28/2016

Interview with Kristen Hogrefe
Bethany Jett
12/26/2016

Faculty Interview with Ben Wolf
Bethany Jett
12/23/2016

5 Reasons to be a Word Weaver
Kristen Hogrefe
12/21/2016

Finding Your Tribe
Katy Kauffman
12/19/2016

Faculty interview with Angela Hunt
Bethany Jett
12/16/2016

Faculty Interview with Alton Gansky
Bethany Jett
12/14/2016

Faculty Interview with Cheri Cowell
Bethany Jett
12/13/2016

A Silent Retreat
Laura Petherbridge
12/12/2016

How to Get More Readers Using Libraries and Magazines ( A Class Offered)
Susan Reichert
12/9/2016

Platform is Not a Four Letter Word
Andy Lee
12/7/2016

Writing for CBN.com
Beth Patch
12/5/2016

Nonfiction A-Z
Edie Melson
12/2/2016

Blogging for the Soul and Making a Difference
Andy Lee
11/30/2016

Will I Ever Be Published?
Linda S. Glaz
11/28/2016

Conquering Mountains
Erin Taylor Young
11/25/2016

I've Written a Children's Book . . . Now What?
Hannah C. Hall
11/16/2016

To Plot or Not
Nancy Lohr
11/14/2016

Writing to Satisfy Our Insatiable Longing to Feel God's Pleasure
Lora Zill
11/11/2016

The Problem with Procrastination
Andy Lee
11/9/2016

Tips for Mastering Dialogue
Dr. Dennis Hensley
11/7/2016

Self-Editing: The Key to Better Writing
Bill Watkins
11/4/2016

Poetry: Cross-Training for Prose Writers
Lora Zill
10/31/2016

Issues Writing That Matters
Bill Watkins
10/28/2016

7 Trends in Book Publishing
Eddie Jones
10/24/2016

Ethics for Christian Writers
Marti Pieper
10/21/2016

Ministry Multiplied
Alton Gansky
10/17/2016

Guidelines for Effective Networking
Deb Haggerty
10/14/2016

Stay Current: Keep Italics Out of Your Fiction
Dr. Angela Hunt
10/7/2016

To E-Book Or Not To E-Book: That is the question
Cheri Cowell
9/30/2016

Is My Writing Good Enough?
Tina Yeager
9/23/2016

Look Who Is Teaching the Fiction Continuing Class
Eva Marie Everson
9/16/2016

The Difference Between a Dream and a Call
Andy Lee
9/2/2016

Lose the Parts Readers Skip
Dan Walsh
8/26/2016

How to Let People Know Your Book Exists
Natalie Gillespie
8/19/2016

Advice from an Editor Regarding Your Manuscript
Fay Lamb
8/5/2016

Through the eyes of an acquisition editor
Ramona Richards
7/29/2016

Be a Book Influencer
Deborah Raney
7/15/2016

Finding Value Through Faith
Denae Haas
6/24/2016

Never Discredit Anyone (Especially God)
Eva Marie Everson
6/17/2016

The Quote for the Quarter Hour
Robert Benson
6/3/2016

Thank a Military Family
Andy Lee
5/27/2016

The Benefits of a Small Press
Eddie Jones
5/20/2016

12 Steps to Prevent Writer Burnout and Nurture Balance
DiAnn Mills
5/13/2016

Write Thoughtfully
Diana Flegal
5/6/2016

3 Keys to Writing Bible Studies that Sell
Andy Lee
4/29/2016

The Benefits of Writing Devotions
Ava Pennington
4/15/2016

A Different Perspective in Crafting Fiction
Steven James
4/8/2016

Some Miracles Take Time
Andy Lee
4/1/2016

A Tribute to Mary Sue Seymour
Andy Lee
3/25/2016

How to be an Influencer
Deborah Raney
3/18/2016

Why Platform is Important--Now I Know
Andy Lee
3/11/2016

4 Resources to Help Writers Write Well
Andy Lee
3/4/2016

What's in and What's Out in Publishing Workshop
Blythe Daniel
2/24/2016

How to Write for Children . . .
Michelle Medlock Adams
2/19/2016

Mistakes Made After Meeting with Agents & Editors
Blythe Daniel
2/17/2016

10 Secrets for a Great Writers Conference
Bethany Jett
2/15/2016

A More Than Enough Kind of God
Michelle Medlock Adams
2/12/2016

For Want of a Hook
Dan Walsh
2/10/2016

What Does a Writers Conference Chaplain Do?
Marti Pieper
2/8/2016

Author Marketing
Edie Melson
2/5/2016

Move Over Clark: The Basics of Journalism
Michael Ray Smith
2/3/2016

Tips to Get the Most Out of the Critique Track
Shellie Arnold
2/1/2016

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Critique Track?
Shellie Arnold
1/29/2016

An Introvert's Best Friend (Live Streaming)
Bethany Jett
1/27/2016

Who am I Writing For?
S. Kim Henson
1/25/2016

The Day I Decided to Keep Writing
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
1/22/2016

Invest in Your Writing
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
1/20/2016

Your Writers Conference Checklist
Andy Lee
1/18/2016

5 Reasons to Launch a Blog
Andy Lee
1/16/2016

Craft Fiction with Vivid Emotion
Tina Yeager
1/13/2016

Thoughts on being a Submissive Writer
Edie Melson
1/9/2016

How Fast Should Your Blog Grow?
Edie Melson
1/6/2016

The ART of Exceptional Editing
Deb Haggerty
1/4/2016

Happy New Year
Andy Lee
1/1/2016

Finding Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Mary Keeley
12/28/2015

Do Writers Need a Blog or Website?
Edie Melson
12/22/2015

"Second-Fiddle" Characters Play an Important Role
Tom Morrisey
12/16/2015

Let Them Eat Bread: An Editor's Thoughts on FCWC
Jesse Florea
12/14/2015

Preparing for Promotion
Michelle Medlock Adams
12/10/2015

Jesus Believed in the Power of Story
Dan Walsh
12/7/2015

How to Use Hashtags in Social Media
Edie Melson
12/4/2015

Where Writer Conference Connections Can Take You
Lindsey Brackett
12/2/2015

Why Should I Attend a Writers Conference?
Andy Lee
11/30/2015

How to Fight Discouragement... as a Writer
Andy Lee
11/23/2015

An Interview with Acclaimed Author, Robert Benson
Eva Marie Everson
11/18/2015

How to Write a Synopsis of Your Nonfiction Book
Kristin Stieffel
11/14/2015

How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel
Kristin Stieffel
11/9/2015

Let God Define You
Michelle Medlock Adams
11/4/2015

10 Clues that You Are a Fiction Writer
Taryn Souders
10/31/2015

The Basics of a Book Proposal
Kristin Stieffel
10/27/2015

What To Wear at FCWC
Eva Marie Everson
10/23/2015

The Skinny on Business Cards
Andy Lee
10/15/2015

Just Do Your Part
Michelle Medlock Adams
10/12/2015

A Sneak Peek into a New Class at FCWC 2016
Shellie Arnold
10/2/2015

50 Reasons Why You Should Never Write
Pro Krasta Nation Publishers
9/28/2015

The Best First Step on Your Journey to Published
Eva Marie Everson
9/21/2015

10 "Not-So-Secret" Secrets for a Great Writers Conference
Bethany Jett
2/10/2015

Go Where God Leads
Allison Bottke
2/1/2015

Moving From Passion to Process
Ava Pennington
1/27/2015

Your Last First Conference
Kristen Hogrefe
1/19/2015

What Is Compel Training?
Suzie Eller
1/9/2015

That Agent Meeting
Tamela Hancock Murray
1/3/2015

Three Problems with Point of View
Kristen Stieffel
12/21/2014

How to Evaluate Your Options
Cheri Cowell
12/5/2014

Writing Effective Book Proposals
Jim Watkins
11/29/2014

Do the Math
Marti Pieper
11/21/2014

Becoming More Media Savvy
Natalie Gillespie
11/15/2014

The Perfect Book Pitch
Dawn Anderson
11/8/2014

Moved With Compassion
Diana Flegal
10/20/2014

Splickety In A Flash
Ben Wolf
10/9/2014

Look into Their Eyes: Why Editors Go to Writers Conferences
Ramona Richards
9/29/2014

A Writer's Life
Dan Walsh
2/21/2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Gutless
DiAnn Mills
2/20/2014

I Want 2 Write 4 Teens
Marti Pieper
2/13/2014

6 Things Writers Should NOT Say to Editors or Agents
Jevon Bolden
2/12/2014

Don't Be Labeled "Dead On Arrival"
Eddie Jones
1/30/2014

Imagine. Create. For a More Confident Faith
Lora Zill
1/28/2014

Burnout or Balance
DiAnn Mills
1/21/2014

Money Workouts for Writers
Ellie Kay
1/18/2014

The Tale of Three Authors
Cheri Cowell
1/10/2014

Three Questions, Three Answers
B.J. Taylor
1/7/2014

The Introvert's Guide to the Writers Conference
Marti Pieper
1/2/2014

After Your Meeting with an Editor or Agent
Blythe Daniel
2/23/2013

It's Headed Right Towards Us
Amber Weigand-Buckley
2/16/2013

So, Tell Me About Your Platform
Cheri Cowell
2/11/2013

How Will Readers Find Your Book...
Eddie Jones
2/1/2013

Tips For Coming to the FCWC From a Floridian
Cheri Cowell
1/26/2013

How to Write For Kids When ...
Michelle Medlock Adams
1/23/2013

Why Take the Chance?
Fay Lamb
1/7/2013

Having a Positive Influence
Deborah Raney
1/4/2013

Managing Your Time
Rusty Wright
12/29/2012

Are You Ready for the Conference?
W. Terry Whalin
12/26/2012

Devoted to Devotions
Ava Pennington
12/21/2012

A Different View of Story
Steven James
12/18/2012