Hello, world! You’re now looking at my new blogging home on the web.
Spiffy, ain’t it? The credit for building this blog all goes to my good pal Daniel Hunt of the Orange County Register. He’s the webmaster for ACES, the American Copy Editors Society.
Daniel and me, April 2009 in West Chester, Pa.
And yeah, he’s good. And fast. One recent evening, I was suggesting changes over the phone. As soon as I’d finish my sentence, Dan would say, “OK, refresh your page.” I’d hit refresh and the changes would instantly pop onto my screen.
However, I bring with me a lot of moving pieces, as you can see from the columns at left and right. The links to the right are all live; the ones to the left will fill in as the days and months go by. In the meantime, I hope you’ll let me know if there’s something not working correctly. I’ll tell Daniel, he’ll fix it and then I’ll take all the credit.
I imagine you have a few questions, though. Here’s where I’ll try to answer them…
Q. Why move your blog to a copy editing society web site? You’re not a copy editor!
A. Heh. You better believe I’m not a copy editor!
I respect and appreciate all the copy editors I’ve ever worked with, though. A number of you out there have saved me from making a hell of a fool of myself over the past 25 years.
I moved the blog here to ACES for a number of reasons. Most importantly: They asked.
Most copy editors don’t just process words, y’know. Thanks to universal desks and newsroom consolidations and a bunch of other factors, copy editors are very often asked to design pages as well. They always have, in fact. The idea of copy editors only editing copy and designers only laying out pages is a relatively recent one in the history of newspapers.
In fact, I’ve always written the blog with copy editors in mind. That’s one reason I prefer to use the term visual journalists. To me, that word includes copy editors, photographers, photo editors, designers, artistsâ€¦ plus, it often includes the reporters who work with them and the editors who supervise them.
We’re all visual journalists. And we’re all journalists.
So it makes perfect sense that ACES might host a visual journalism blog. Especially since ACES would like to increase awareness of its own organization among designer-types.
And perhaps they’d like a little day-traffic passing through their site. That helps, too. I suspect you’ll see ACES bringing in other bloggers to cover other topics over the next few months.
So, to recap: I’m moving the blog here because…
- I wanted a new home and ACES could provide it.
- A lot of ACES members design pages. So a lot of ACES members were already readers of my blog.
- ACES is interested in possibly getting into hosting blogs. So they could use a guinea pig like me.
- They’d love to reach out the visual design community. And now they have.
Q. Why are you leaving VizEds in the first place?
A. Well, I certainly didn’t have to.
Yes, we had server issues a couple weeks ago that pushed me into thinking of moving the blog. But those issues were dealt with very rapidly thanks to a suggestion from wonderfully helpful fellow blogger Ernie Smith and the nimble efforts of the founder of VisualEditors.com, globetrotting multimedia consultant Robb Montgomery himself.
I’ve known Robb for 14 years. We worked together briefly at the Chicago Tribune, back in the mid-1990s.
Robb and me at SND/Boston, October 2007.
When I started all my volunteer work for VizEds back in 2004, the idea was to keep folks coming back to the VizEds web site. I aimed to create things folks would want to read and discuss. Come read what I was posting and then hang around the bulletin boards or the chatroom for a while.
The past couple of years, however — as traffic to my blog has grown and, from time to time, caused server issues — I’ve wondered if I had become less of a plus for the VizEds site and more of a minus. An attractive nuisance, perhaps.
VisualEditors, as you might know, is a nonprofit. Robb has always paid for the upkeep of my blog out of his pocket. Over the past year or so, he’s begun selling Google ads to help defray his expenses, but I doubt that revenue has even come close to covering what I’ve cost him.
Despite Robb’s assurances, I felt like I’ve drained his resources enough for one lifetime. It seemed a good time to move on.
Q. What will become of VizEds now?
A. That’s up to Robb, of course.
VisualEditors can be used to do a lot of things. It started life as a bulletin board, morphed into a Ning-based social networking site and can transform itself again as the need merits.
As you know, I’m primarily a print guy, who writes mostly about print design. Without me putting my dead-tree face all over his web site, Robb might be able to redirect VizEds into a forward-thinking new media lab. There are so many issues out there regarding journalism for tablets and smart phones. Perhaps VizEds becomes a place for folks to explore ideas and practice using video and multimedia techniques that don’t require the soon-to-die Flash.
That’s what the industry needs right now. Not more talking about the future of journalism on iPhones and iPads. We need to see how to actually make it happen. What we need is a working, breathing Epcot Center of electronic journalism. Perhaps VizEds can become that.
Or, perhaps, not. Whatever happens, just remember: He is Robb Montgomery. He always seems to be a step or two ahead of everyone else — that’s Robb’s nature. And that’s why he’s in such demand around the world.
Although my blog is coming out from under Robb’s care, I’m still a fan of Robb and his work. And I’m still a card-carrying VizEds member (and still an administrator, even). As VizEds morphs into its next life, I’ll be there to read and to learn, to cheer it on and, perhaps, even to participate.
When Robb and VizEds makes news, you can bet you’ll read about it here in the blog. Because that’s what I do. I cover the news.
Q. What will become of all those posts you wrote for the VizEds blog?
A. Good question. Originally, I wanted to bring all 2,492 of them over here with me. But then Robb suggested we leave them where they are and keep them open where we can refer and link to them.
That seemed like a great solution. So I’ll be here at ACES blogging away, day in and day out and creating new archives here. And everything I posted before today will still reside over at VizEds, in searchable and linkable form.
You should find links to older and newer posts over on the left side of this column, under “Archives.”
Q. What will change about your blog or the way you write it?
A. Not a damn thing.
ACES has promised me complete editorial freedom — which was the same deal I had with Robb. We added a disclaimer — about how the blog is my own opinion and not that of ACES — and I thought that was just dandy.
At one point, we discussed whether or not I should try to post more items about copy editing. Until we started scrolling through the archives and realized how many articles I’ve always published are about copy editing. I have a lot of copy editors in my birthday data base, for example.
So no change was requested of me and no change was offered.
Q. What’s the deal with those birthday posts, anyway? I mean, who cares?
A. I felt the same way when I first started posting birthdays. At the time, I was writing only four or five interesting posts a week. I came up with the birthdays in order to “fill dead air” — to give me something to post on days where I had nuthin’.
At some point, they kind of took off. A number of times I played with the format and even stopped posting them entirely. And that’s when someone I respected would come along and tell me how much they enjoyed the birthday posts. So I’d go back to posting them.
I’ve always maintained a list of birthdays of my friends and colleagues. For a while, there, VizEds listed birthdays. So I added greatly to my list then.
Nowadays, I still maintain my own calendar but I’m constantly pulling in new names and birthdays from Facebook. I try to write my birthday posts in batches, keeping a good week or two ahead of schedule. Occasionally, I fall behind and I have to scramble for a couple of birthday posts. Also occasionally, someone will fall through the cracks and I’ll have to add them belatedly.
If you’re not on my list and would like to be on it, send me your info. If you’re an editor or manager or art director, send me birthday info for your entire staff. I need the date, enough biographical data for three or four sentences and a decent mug shot.
Q. Why do you blog in the first place? Who died and made you the spokesperson for visual journalism?
A. Heh. I ask myself that nearly every day.
Truth is, I never intended to be a blogger. I just kind of fell into it.
Waaaay back in 2003, the American Press Institute hired me to write a blog during the initial phase of the Iraqi War. Basically, to write about how a modern graphics department was covering the war: What we were thinking, how we were preparing, what resources we were using. Stuff like that.
I worked my butt off for a couple of months — on top of my job as graphics editor of the Des Moines Register — for that blog. So I learned just how much work writing a blog can be.
If you do it right, that is. And I think I did.
A year later, I was graphics director of the Virginian-Pilot when Robb created the first version of VisualEditors.com as a bulletin board. I got all excited and spammed my entire address book, urging folks to join up.
But then it occurred to me: To get folks coming back, day after day, there has to be content there. Discussion boards need discussion. So I started posting news items, just to get conversation started.
And it worked, I suppose — the VizEds boards were really hoppin’ there for a couple of years. But over that time, folks — most notably, my pal Robb — kept urging me to take the work I was doing and apply it to a blog format. Where it’d be easier to read and to follow various threads.
But I just wasn’t eager to put that kind of time into a new blog.
In February 2007, however, I served as a judge for the annual Society for News Design contest in Syracuse, N.Y. I wrote up my experiences as an eight-part diary but found I couldn’t cram it all into the bulletin boards. So Robb tried it in blog format and it worked pretty well. (Find the first part here.)
Well, once I got started, I kinda fell into a groove. When Mark Friesen stopped posting in his NewsDesigner blog and Alan Jacobson gradually stopped posting the Best Front of the Day pages, I was left as one of the few bloggers who covered print journalism.
Next thing you know, it’s three years and 2,495 posts later. And traffic to my blog is so heavy that I stopped looking at the numbers a long time ago. Because every time I see them, I get stage fright.
Robb sent me this over the weekend, for example:
Traffic at my VizEds blog over the past three weeks or so.
That big spike at the end? That’s my LeBron James post
starring the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s page one.
This doesn’t happen real often, thankfully. Still, I find myself amazed, some days, that I get any traffic at all.
Simply quitting was indeed an option. I put a lot of time into the blog. I’m not quite sure what I’d do with that much spare time on my hands. Perhaps I could chase down more free-lance work or find something actually profitable to do.
But whenever I consider calling it quits, someone comes along and tells me what a service the blog has been to the visual journalism community.
For example, Iowa University journalism student Adam Sullivan made me smile this past spring when he broadcast on Twitter:
@charlesapple always reminds me how much good stuff is still happening in print editions.
That’s what this blog is all about. Championing visual journalism. Yes, I touch on multimedia and mobile design and social media. But the majority of what you read here will be good, old-fashioned print journalism.
Good, old-fashioned knock your damn socks off print journalism. To inspire you. To teach you. And sometimes just to entertain you.
One day, the visual journalism community will no longer need this blog. When that day comes, I’ll happily find something else to do with my spare time.
For now, though, you’ve said that you want and need this blog. So here it is.
I hope you like its new home.Â And I hope that our work here fills your needs and your hearts and inspires you to create your own spectacular visual journalism.
So that’s my spiel today. I hope that explains everything.
My thanks go out toâ€¦
Robb, thanks much for creating Visual Editors and for dragging me back into blogging. Thanks for all the work, the technical support and the advice you’ve given me over the past six years.
I just hope my value to VizEds was greater than the headaches I caused you.
I kinda doubt it was. But I hope.
Dan, you worked like a dog to bring the blog here to ACES and then to build the framework, tweak the design and the coding and then hold my hand through the learning curve. Which ain’t over yet, of course.
I hope I can live up to your expectations.
The board of directors of ACES
Thanks for inviting me into your web site and for making me feel so welcome. I hope that, by hosting this blog, you’ll raise awareness of your organization in the visual journalism community and awareness of visual journalism within the copy editing community.
One day soon, perhaps, we’ll no longer think of designers and copy editors as being different constituencies in the first place. When that happens, perhaps my work here will be done.
Or, perhaps it’ll be done the first time I post something nutty and your servers crash faster than a German dirigible in Jersey.
Either way, I’m grateful for the opportunity to call ACES home.
My ‘board of advisors’
There was a small group of folks with whom I consulted over the past few weeks. They spent a lot of time making recommendations and pointing out option. I appreciate each and every one of those suggestions. Even though I wasn’t able to use them all.
You also offered me a ton of moral support. And I’m very grateful for that.
You know who you are. Thanks much.
You, the readers
This blog is here for you: To support to visual journalism community. To further the art of visual journalism. To champion good work. To frown upon practices that endanger our ethical or quality standards.
Let me know what you want to see. Let me know when you’ve created or published something cool or unusual. So we can post it where everyone else can see it, too.
Let us know what you think. This is your blog, more than mine. I’m just the guy who puts it together for you.
Thanks to you all.
So. What shall we write about today?…