Journalists prefer in-person interviews. Emailing questions to strangers and expecting them to write out their answers is not journalism.

An interview means a real-time give-and take, not a list of questions you email. Most people worth interviewing are too busy to write out their answers to help you meet your deadline. If you can’t meet in person, ask if your source will do a videoconference, or even (if they’re the right generation) an old-fashioned phone call. (Gasp!)

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Homeward (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 7, Episode 13) Worf’s foster brother interferes with a primitive, dying culture

Rewatching ST:TNG The Enterprise-D answers a distress call from Worf’s foster brother, a civilian observing a primitive civilization on a planet with an atmosphere that’s spontaneously dissipating because reasons. The dissipation is also creating a plot contrivance field that periodically jams key systems so that we can watch characters react to dramatic in-person discoveries of details we would otherwise learn through a scanner readout on the bridge. When the planet surface became uninhabitable, brother Nikolai moved a village of Boraalans into a cave (again with the caves!), and set up a technobabble field to protect them from the bad Space…

The overlooked masterpieces of 1922

In literature the response to the challenges and opportunities of the early 20th Century was Modernism – the rejection of traditional linear storytelling and the use of more challenging styles to reflect the new world – and its annus mirabilis is usually seen as 1922. It was an apt time for breakthroughs: the same year saw, among other world-defining events, the appointment of Joseph Stalin as General Secretary of the Communist Party in Russia, the first treatment of diabetes using insulin, and the creation of the BBC. In literary terms, this was the year stamped at one end by James Joyce’s novel Ulysses…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo
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Pitching a Magazine Article: Resources for Beginning Freelance Writers

Jerz > Writing > Journalism A “pitch” is the publishing industry’s term for “proposal.” Your goal is to find out whether an editor is interested in a story you’ve written (or that you’re about to write). An editor with deadlines to meet and a flood of pitches from established authors will need a very good reason to take a chance on a new writer.  How to Pitch a Journal or Magazine Article (Harvard.edu) How to Pitch an Article to a Magazine (MasterClass.com) Pitching Articles: 5 Tips for a Successful Freelance Writing Pitch  (WritersDigest.com) How to Write a Pitch to Editors That WINS (15m video from Megan Grant)…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In January, 2002 I was blogging about…

A 20-something former CEO takes a fast food job The death of Astrid Lindgren (creator of Pippi Longstocking) at 94 Isadore, patron saint of web surfing (who remembers when “surfing the web” was the dominant metaphor?) Teenager created a glove to translate ASL finger positions to speech On the implausibility of the Death Star’s trash compactor The death of Hemingway’s “Old Man” at 104 Bernard Shifman, the moron spammer 11 September 2001, the Response of Poetry A former student’s 9/11 poetry project (created for a technical writing assignment) Arts & Letters Daily (long-running blog that’s still going) More reasons not…

Grappling with Genocide: Fostering Empathy and Engagement through Text and Image (NEH funded education summit, Seton Hill University, July 11-22 2022)

Some of my amazing colleagues have collaborated on an amazing NEH-funded summer institute that provides teachers in grades 6-12 with resources for teaching about genocide. The event, scheduled for summer 2022, includes units on the erasure of Native Americans, an empathy-building Narrative 4 storytelling workshop, and more. There’s a stipend for participating in this event, and on-campus housing is available at a very modest cost — about 10% of the stipend. See the details on the Grappling with Genocide website. Here is how John Spurlock describes the event on his blog: During the two weeks of the institute, students will…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In December 2001 I was blogging about

In December 2001, I was blogging about Changes in Online Culture The End of Free (chronicles services that used to be free but that now cost money) Is the [Technology] Revolution Over? Imagine Silicon Valley Buried Like Pompeii Wil Wheaton While the character of teen wonder Wesley Crusher was annoying because weak scripts had him saving the ship too many times, I wrote this blog page that traced early references to Wesley on rec.arts.startrek, a Usenet fan site that predated the World Wide Web. The young actor who portrayed Wesley was sadly the target of some online abuse, but over…

Florida Woman Bites Camel

Identifying her as a “Florida woman,” as I interpret it, suggests that we’re dealing here with what Newfoundlanders would call a come-from-away and New Yorkers would call an out-of-towner. The tantalizing implication is that a local woman would have known that you could give a truck-stop camel an infection requiring antibiotics by biting its genitalia.

While the veterinarian was caring for the camel, was anyone attending to that Florida woman? She had, after all, been sat on by a six-hundred-pound camel, an experience that has to be at least uncomfortable and probably injurious. A reader has to wonder if she had some broken bones or some cracked ribs or at least a nasty taste in her mouth.

And we still have the deaf dog to deal with. –Calvin Trillin, New Yorker

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In November 2001 I was blogging about

In November 2001, I was blogging about Florida recounts would have favored Bush (contentions election famous for a Florida ballot that many voters found confusing) Is this a burger which I see before me, / The soft bun in my hand? Come, et me clutch thee. / I eat thee not, and yet I want thee still. (McDonald’s Soliloquy)’ The Tyranny of Nicespeak Treating users with disabilities as people What if David Mamet rewrote 2001: A Space Odyssey?  

Letter to the editor: Why our English department deserves more respect

I came very close to accepting an offer to Purdue’s Ph.D. program, so it’s heartbreaking to read about the recently announced cuts to the famous and influential writing program. (What English teacher or writing student hasn’t relied on resources from the Purdue OWL?) [A] university that is only good at STEM education is nothing more than a trade school. I came to Purdue to work in a university, and not in a trade school. The horror stories coming out of our English department — how else would you describe the stories when the department head feels compelled to use phrases…

The world’s oldest story? Astronomers say global myths about ‘seven sisters’ stars may reach back 100,000 years

In cultures around the world, myths about “seven sisters” describe a cluster of stars, but today the naked eye can only discern six stars. What’s up with that? Cultures around the world call the Pleiades constellation ‘seven sisters’, even though we can only see six stars today. But things looked quite different 100,000 years ago. […] How come the Australian Aboriginal stories are so similar to the Greek ones? Anthropologists used to think Europeans might have brought the Greek story to Australia, where it was adapted by Aboriginal people for their own purposes. But the Aboriginal stories seem to be…

Lies about history in Texas can be traced to the Lone Star State’s own Big Lie: The Alamo

Yet many Texans feel they need the Alamo story. As one of the authors of Forget the Alamo stated, the myth speaks to what many Texans desperately want to believe about their state: that it arose from heroic circumstances, and that there’s a reason Texas is special. This includes the current crop of Republican Texas legislators. Instead of allowing critical thinking and a serious examination of the historical record, Abbott and his allies decided to go the despotic route and unilaterally declare the false mythology is now fact. In a move that critics decry as a pure expression of fascism, the Texas governor requires his “patriotic…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In October 2001, I was blogging about nothing, apostrophes, the anthrax scare, and Boilerplate

In October 2001, I was blogging about Nothing Matters. (A teaching metaphor that had a big impact on my pedagogy… I’m glad I had the occasion to revisit it. Even when I blogged it 20 years ago there were a lot of broken links on the site, but the main idea is still completely valid) The Apostrophe Protection Society Job Hunting Tips (satire from The Onion) Walking Sports Database Scorns Walking Sci-Fi Database The need for editors on the Web Boilerplate: Mechanical Marvel of the 19th Century (a steampunk robot photoshopped into historical photos creates an alternate history timeline that…

I’m really enjoying seeing how my students are responding to Hamlet.

As part of a class assignment, one student took some friends to see the Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Park all-female production of Hamlet. One of her friends is from Vietnam, and my student was very proud that she could answer his questions about what was going on. Many students, even the English majors, confess that in high school they never tried to read Shakespeare’s language, but instead depended totally on modern-language paraphrases. That means that from year to year, they never got any better at understanding Shakespeare’s original language. Early in the term, I usually walk students through the first…