Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Advice For Young Journalists From Decades Past

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

This week, Twitter has been flooded with #AdviceForYoungJournalists, a hashtag prompted by a Felix Salmon article, "To all the young journalists asking for advice..." Salmon's piece strikes a foreboding tone ("Things are not only bad; they’re going to get worse"), and the discussion online has oscillated between the optimistic and pessimistic, the ridiculous and practical.

While the news industry has undoubtedly gone through seismic changes over the past decade or so, one thing has remained the same: Old reporters always want to give young reporters advice, whether they want to hear it or not. Here are some bits of #AdviceForYoungJournalists from decades and centuries past.


"The young man who has mastered his business is a professional journalist in the only sense in which the word 'professional' is understood by working journalists. In the absence of a diploma from any teaching body a man secures his professional status through his experience...A man may learn all that can be taught, and yet not be worth his salt on a newspaper. If covered with diplomas, such as he would never rise above the duties of respectable office drudgery."

—Parliamentary Gallery Reporter J. Henry Harris, The Young Journalist: His Work and how to Learn it.


“Always go late to a crowded meeting, for you will then have the satisfaction of disturbing a lot of people in order to get to your prominent seat."

—R.T. Gunton, Advice to Young Reporters.


"There is no advice to be given to young journalists except the ordinary advice which is to be given to human beings. That is, not to get drunk, but to prefer even drunkenness to drinking. Not to be insolent, but to prefer insolence to servility. To write in a legible hand, and to make notes of everything which one cannot remember."

—G.K. Chesterton, from The Collected Works.


"Mr. Ratcliffe said he would give the young editors some practical tips regarding journalism as a profession. The trend in newspaper publishing, both here and in England, he said, was toward consolidations, which tend to drive out the independent journalist and publisher. The consolidations, he said, make for larger circulations and higher advertising rates, which should react favorably in the salaries paid reporters and editors."

—S.K. Ratcliffe, Associate Editor of The New Statesman, to a convention of young journalists in 1928, as reported by the New York Times.


“If you would train yourself well for journalism, I suggest you train yourself in ideas. The power of print is the power of ideas. A printing press has no conscience, morals or ethics. These you must supply.”

—Edward R. Murrow, to a luncheon for high school newspaper editors.


"[Efforts to infuse news columns and news broadcasts with a reporter’s own views will] ruin them. This is the way it was done in the days of the yellow press and the screamers of radio’s first, faltering years."

—Eric Sevareid, CBS national correspondent.


“Play it straight, keep it short and never use the word 'unprecedented.’ Advocate your own story to editors and head for New York because that's the big show. You'll need luck, but you've got to push your luck, too.”

—Former executive editor and vice president of The New York Times Turner Catledge.

Designer Reimagines the Spanish Alphabet With Only 19 Letters

According to designer José de la O, the Spanish alphabet is too crowded. Letters like B and V and S and Z are hard to tell apart when spoken out loud, which makes for a language that's "confusing, complicated, and unpractical," per his design agency's website. His solution is Nueva Qwerty. As Co.Design reports, the "speculative alphabet" combines redundant letters into single characters, leaving 19 letters total.

In place of the letters missing from the original 27-letter Spanish alphabet are five new symbols. The S slot, for example, is occupied by one letter that does the job of C, Z, and S. Q, K, and C have been merged into a single character, as have I and Y. The design of each glyph borrows elements from each of the letters it represents, making the new alphabet easy for Spanish-speakers to learn, its designer says.

Speculative Spanish alphabet.
José de la O

By streamlining the Spanish alphabet, de la O claims he's made it easier to read, write, and type. But the convenience factor may not be enough to win over some Spanish scholars: When the Royal Spanish Academy cut just two letters (CH and LL) from the Spanish alphabet in 2010, their decision was met with outrage.

José de la O has already envisioned how his alphabet might function in the real world, Photoshopping it onto storefronts and newspapers. He also showcased the letters in two new fonts. You can install New Times New Roman and Futurysma onto your computer after downloading it here.

[h/t Co.Design]

15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood

It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 


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