Category Archives: On the Web

Saving trees, one screenwriter at a time

Networking sites for writers seem to be all the rage this year. First there was Pitchtopia, a site designed to bring writers, editors and agents together in a forum for shopping stories. Now there’s Greenwriter.org, a site bringing screenwriters, agents and producers together in the same fashion. This latest conduit for starving artists also incorporates an environmental angle into its mission:

“Screenwriters in America print 180 million sheets of paper a year. In six months, we hope to cut that in half.”

Sounds good to me. Saves on stamps, too. But writers should make sure to copyright their work before submitting it — Greenwriter can’t protect against story theft. Go to www.copyright.gov to register your work (note: basic claims cost from $35).

That’s your public service announcement for the day.

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These magic moments

Week in review, from Monday, Aug. 3 – Monday, Aug. 10:

Thumbs-up go to:

1. The Yankees’ four-game sweep of the Red Sox and David Ortiz holding a press conference on his alleged steroid use. Do I smell the beginning of a Yankee renaissance? Maybe if I can forget that they lost their first 8 games against the Sox this season…

…and that A-Roid had his own steroid scandal already and just generally sucks as a human being…

…and that the Yanks built and opened a new $1.5 billion stadium during a recession with nearly half the ticket prices hovering between $100-$2,500. PER TICKET. The Associated Press breaks it down nicely in this article from a while back.

But I do have a bad memory, so who knows how much I’ll be able to forget.

2. Former President Bill Clinton helps spring American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee laura-lingfrom captivity in Korea, where they had been held for 4 1/2 months. Best news I’ve heard in a while. The story also shines an interesting spotlight on the journalists’ employer, “interactive news source” Current TV.

This brainchild of Al Gore and Joel Hyatt has been around in some form since 2005; it focuses on enterprise (i.e. investigative and/or feature) reporting by young journalists, but also incorporates movie reviews, a “Talk Soup”-style show and user-generated content. Never heard of it? Me neither. Today’s top stories included an “in-depth podcast analysis” on whether or not The Hurt Locker is the greatest war movie ever made. (Is it? I haven’t seen this, or every war movie, yet.) Current TV was, however, where I found out about the new White House Reality Check, a website launched today by the Obama administration to debunk myths circulating about the latest health care bill. Very useful — I tend to prefer information to misinformation. Though admittedly, the White House videos weren’t as colorful as all that weekend coverage of protesters at “town hall meetings” carrying signs of Obama sporting a Hitler ‘stach. Oh, those protesters and their Photoshop. Nothing like a good old-fashioned American debate! (to send you running to Canada…)

Thumbs-down goes to:

1. “Skinny Jeans Workouts” in NYC, as reported here by CNN medical reporter Val Willingham. People take these classes to strengthen their core and fit into their jeans. Know what that’s usually called? EXERCISE. Go for a run and do some crunches, and you have a skinny jean workout! Or take this bit of advice: if skin-tight denim pants don’t fit, DON’T WEAR THEM.

They are made for teenagers, people with 5% body fat and no muscle, and Audrey Hepburn. 2006_10_audrey

Mediaite: “Corruption brings out best in New Jersey journalism”

Money-laundering rabbis. Corrupt New Jersey mayors taken away in handcuffs. Kidneys for sale at $160,000. If that doesn’t spark your interest in this story from the Jersey Shore, I don’t know what will.

And the people who told the story best, according to media blog Mediaite, were from two of my newspaper alma maters: The Star-Ledger and the Asbury Park Press. Click on those links to see their coverage.

There’s a nice Recession Renaissance morale to this story: Even though the Star-Ledger and APP have lost legions of staff members in the past year, the people who remain are still doing quality work. It’s stories like this that speak for why we still need local news bureaus (be it for print or online, or both) and the funds to support them. Mediaite sums it up nicely in its post “Corruption brings out the best in New Jersey journalism”:

“We are in an age where Twitter, blogs and social networks are the gateway by which breaking news gets distributed, but in this case, traditional news outlets won the day – not just for accurate reporting in real time of a complicated and quickly-moving story, but having the resources and institutional knowledge to put it all in context and connect those all-important dots. Yesterday, the New Jersey press lived up to the highest standard of journalism: they were reliable, and they were credible. In this age of insta-media, let’s not forget how much that matters.”

Tweet if you like pancakes

I don’t Twitter very well. I do it infrequently, regularly go over the 140 character limit, and my posts are typically dumbed-down versions of  my Facebook status. Seriously, what am I supposed to say? My news is not so newsworthy. I’m not a celebrity, so I know people don’t give a damn what I had for lunch. And when I “tweeted” about Michael Jackson, it felt like I had entered a competition — with no prize — to see who could come up with the wittiest way to say RIP.

What’s the point of me Twittering if I’m already emailing, Gchatting, Facebooking, and — no! — phone calling? Plus, I’ve never been comfortable with having “followers.” Does that mean if I started a cult, they’d have my back?

I understand Twitter’s place in the world, but I couldn’t figure out my place in the Twittosphere – until I read this article by Maisha Walker, a blogger for Inc. magazine. Turns out I’m better off just being one of “The Curious.” Read on…

Top Twitter Techniques (or 9 Good Excuses if you want to Ignore Twitter)

“Journalism Bust, J-school Boom”

This article has prompted a pretty lengthy discussion on one of my alumni email lists. Then that discussion migrated to the Huffington Post. Apparently, as print journalism suffers and reporters lose jobs by the truckload, journalism school applications have gone through the roof. Some argue that we should trim the number of spots in a journalism school to keep new graduates from flooding an already strapped market. I contend that stymieing opportunity will lead to less innovation. If there was every a time for someone with a computer science background to teach at J-school, this is it. We need people to create the new forum for news dissemination. Will that happen at J-schools, or at established publications? Or at Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft? Any thoughts?

Pitchtopia: where writers might actually have a shot

We’re in an age when publishing has been democratized — citizen journalists and iReporters ask celebrities questions for online news sources, and anyone can self-publish a book. Just go to Amazon.com and read about their manufacturing-on-demand models. If you have something to say, you can say it! But that doesn’t mean people necessarily want to hear it.

The best new site I’ve seen to balance quality assurance with the American Dream zeal is Pitchtopia.org. This forum plans to bring writers, agents and editors together to network. Meanwhile, a Pitchtopia team will cull the ideas received and pitch the best to the editors/agents. The site’s still in the works — it launched in beta form this month, with a full launch slated for September. They’re also currently hiring to fill that Pitchtopia team (check mediabistro.com for — gasp — job openings!).

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What I like about this site is its earnest hopefulness — Pitchtopia’s revenue is purely ad-based. They don’t get a cut if there’s an editor/writer connection, and they even use online tutorials that explain the basics of pitching book or magazine ideas. I like to imagine a group of retired professors, editors and Jewish mothers sitting around drinking tea, reading our stories and making literary love connections. Hell, I even want to try it. I already signed up!

For people who don’t know someone in the business but think they have a good story to tell, this is their site. I hope it continues to blossom this summer. For now, I give it a thumbs-up. thumbsup