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Jon Talton

Getting the unemployment story right
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Getting the unemployment story right

By on Sep 08, 2014

Homey is back from vacation with the same mandate. As Yoda would say, “Butt, I will kick. Names, I will take.” As I write the unemployment report for August has come out. At all too many places, the emphasis will be placed on the unemployment rate, which fell 0.1 percentage point to 6.1 percent. The […]

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Cringe words
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Words that make me cringe

I’ve told you the story about the contest reporters held in San Diego: “I Can Alienate That Reader in X Words” and how the winner was “Otay Water District.” Who wouldn’t want to flee to the hockey scores? But hackneyed, cliched and corporate-speak words can be just as bad. You can alienate that reader in […]

FRED graph employment
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What a friend we have in FRED

Mark Twain noted that there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Fraud with numbers is something business journalists should always be alert to. But there are gold-standard statistics that no one outside the lunatic fringe questions. And the top place to find them is on the FRED site run by the Federal Reserve Bank of […]

newspaper with the headline Pigs Fly from PRSA in Phildelphia
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Hack to flacks: PR advice from a cranky journalist

Some of you will go directly into public relations or “public affairs” (I always wanted to be in public affairs, but that’s another story). Others are journalists who will leave mid-career for the “dark side” of PR. The latter used to be a sure shot — journalists had the best contacts, writing skills, etc. That’s […]

Starbucks cups with mortar board
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Getting punked; getting clarity

Years ago when I worked in San Diego, I covered a company whose chief executive was truth challenged. So when a fax came across (yes, it was that long ago) claiming that the company had triumphed in a dispute with federal regulators I was suspicious. I called the feds and discovered that the company had […]

Big Buck Mechanical Bull
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Midyear opportunities for business journalists

With June 30th, we’ve reached the important mid-year point where you can take stock of myriad yardsticks of performance (this is why your editors wanted you to get your expenses in early). It marks the midpoint in the metrics of many companies that follow the calendar year. It also gives you a chance to see […]

Truthiness Defined
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When sources say stupid things

Friends don’t let friends write drunk, unless one is at the Algonquin Round Table. But what happens when sources say something demonstrably stupid? Do you put in in the paper or online? Let me be clear. First, there is an eternal debate about cleaning up quotes to make them grammatical and keep the speaker from […]

Social Media tools for journalists
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What’s in your wallet … er, mobile device

At the shooting at Seattle Pacific University, Seattle Times reporters made heavy use of Twitter for news, updates and photos. But business writers need their mobile devices, too. Here are the apps I find useful if I have to work on the fly with my iPhone and iPad. Maybe commenters will offer some other suggestions. […]

Good News Bad News paper game
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About those ‘negative’ stories…

Business journalists especially face the accusation of being “negative.” Companies want to control their image. Many small outfits have no experience in dealing with the press. Also, more and more, we live in a culture of relentless sales and hype. Many Americans are irrationally optimistic, as Barbara Ehrenreich discussed in her book, Bright-Sided: How Positive […]