Come to Kansas City in 2017


You’re heard of Kansas City barbecue — and perhaps the 2016 World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals. But did you know KC is also home to the world-class Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art? That the Kansas City Zoo spans 200 acres in Swope Park, one of the nation’s largest urban parks? That we have James Beard Award-winning chefs, a gaggle of food trucks and a fusion cuisine to satisfy all your cravings?

Plus — the beer! Our region is home to dozens of craft breweries and, of course, Boulevard Brewing Co., which was founded in 1989 and now has full or partial distribution in 31 states and Washington, D.C. We also have our fair share of distilleries.

A downtown renaissance includes the Sprint Center, a performing arts center designed by Moshe Sadie; a burgeoning arts community; and the latest fascination: a new streetcar line.

From Sept. 27-30, I invite you to bring your family to the annual SFJ conference so you can experience all this KC pride for yourself.

Our hotel will be just minutes from downtown and within walking distance to many attractions, including Union Station and Crown Center, which is home to Halls department store, Legoland, and fun shops and eateries.

You also can hop on our streetcar to check out the River Market, which hosts a large farmers market and unique food vendors.

If shopping is your thing, the most popular retailers mingle with local boutiques at the Country Club Plaza — a 10-minute Uber ride away. The outdoor shopping plaza is modeled after Seville, Spain, and is considered the country’s first suburban shopping center.

Here’s another bonus: fall is the most beautiful time of year in Kansas City. So please join us for a fun weekend in the heart of our great country.

Kathy Lu, President of SFJ

Assistant managing editor for features, Kansas City Star



JUNE 7, 2016



Lisa Glowinski, SFJ president, 217.816.3343
Andrew Nynka, SFJ executive director, 347.260.3874

The Society for Features Journalism has honored three Pulitzer Prize winners and a host of other journalists as part of its 2016 Excellence-in-Features Awards contest.

Three newspapers also were recognized with the inaugural Finest in Features Sweepstakes Awards, which goes to those publications that received the most honors in the annual contest. The first-ever Best College Features Journalist in the Country also was named. Winners in the 19 categories were announced today.

More than 700 entries were judged in the contest, which honors the craft of feature storytelling and the people who do it for a living at news organizations in the United States and Canada. Winners will be recognized at SFJ’s national conference Aug. 10-13 in Austin, Texas.

SFJ President Lisa Glowinski said, “I am beyond impressed with the variety of winners this year. Excellent features journalism is truly alive and well – in print, online, on social media and in our readers’ lives.”

Pulitzer Prize winners who received SFJ awards included:

  • Lane DeGregory of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, who placed third in General Feature of the large-newspaper division for “Dear Birth Mother.” She won a Pulitzer for Feature Writing in 2009.
  • Tom Hallman Jr. of The (Portland) Oregonian, who received an honorable mention in Short Feature in the large-newspaper division for “Trying to Make a Hood River Girl’s Last Birthday Party Special.” He won the Pulitzer in Feature Writing in 2001.
  • Alison Sherwood of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who placed first in Best Features Website, Digital Channel or App in the large-newspaper division for the newspaper’s Fresh channel. The Pulitzer board honored her in 2011 for Explanatory Reporting.

Several journalists won multiple awards in SFJ’s contest, including:

  • Michael Cavna of the Washington Post, who received a first place and honorable mention in Digital Innovation and a second place in Feature Writing Specialty Portfolio.
  • Carlos Frias, who was recognized in three categories – Best Features Website, Digital Channel or App; General Feature and Video Storytelling – for his work at the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. Frias now is the food writer at The Miami Herald.

Winning the first-ever Finest in Features Sweepstakes Awards in the small-newspaper category (circulation of 90,000 or less) was The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. The Post won seven honors, including three-first place awards. The (Nashville) Tennessean was second, and the (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union was third.

In the medium-size category (circulation of 90,001 to 199,999), the Finest in Features Sweepstakes winner was The Virginian-Pilot, based in Norfolk, which garnered 11 awards. Tied for second were the Baltimore Sun and The Kansas City Star.

The Finest in Features Sweepstakes honor in the large-newspaper category (circulation of 200,000 and above) went to The Washington Post, which won 16 awards, including six first-place honors. Second was the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, and third was the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Cody Stavenhagen of Oklahoma State University was named the Best College Features Journalist in the Country. The judges lauded him for a strong voice and said, “His stories were compelling and drew us from the lede to the end.” Other honored college journalists were Corey Williams of Auburn University, second; Matthew Lieberson of Vanderbilt University, third; and Baxter Barrowcliff of Columbia College in Chicago, honorable mention.


For a complete list of this year’s winners, visit this link:


Jim Haag, contest co-chair, 757-639-2675
Suzy Fleming Leonard, contest co-chair, 321-242-3614

Meet 2016 SFJ diversity fellows from Bradenton Herald, Washington Post, UT-Austin

We are excited to introduce our 2016 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows! They each will receive an expense-paid trip to attend our annual conference, happening in Aug. 10-13 in Austin, Texas.

Get to know them a little here.

Jenny Abella, The Washington Post

AAJA VOICES 2014 mugs

Jenny Abella

Jennifer Abella has been a copy editor at The Washington Post since 2000, when she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Currently the copy chief for Washington Post Magazine, she has held several positions at the paper, including features copy chief and deputy

copy chief of the universal news desk. In her spare time she is a pop culture junkie and Anglophile who blogs and manages social media for UNC’s annual Jane Austen Summer Program.


Q: Tell us about your current job.

I oversee copy editing and production for The Washington Post Magazine: I slot copy, oversee proofing, manage production deadlines, publish stories to the Web and compile our entertainment calendar.

Q: What are some of the favorites stories you covered?

We’ve done some great stories recently, including a mascot boot camp and an infographic about black superheroes going mainstream.

Q: How do you use social media?

I am on social media every day mostly for personal use, but also to support my volunteer work for the Jane Austen Summer Program in North Carolina. My work with JASP allows me to experiment —  on a small scale —  with concepts I’ve gleaned from working at The Post.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

I love learning about the personal angles of stories — not just policies or politics, but also the way they affect people’s lives.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” – Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice”

It applies to anything you love, really — you don’t even feel it happening; it just happens.

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

I am thoroughly addicted to Twitter, particularly news accounts that have a geeky/entertainment bent: The Mary Sue, Hitfix, IGN, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter.

For fun, I read young adult literature as well as pop culture-centric nonfiction.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I’d like to get back in touch with the roots of editing and working with writers to craft a strong narrative without losing the writer’s voice. I’m also really interested in the impact of social media on features stories. I’d love to learn more about crafting compelling social headlines for our content and how other publications enhance their long reads for the web in an age when readers have such short attention spans.

 Amaris Castillo, Bradenton Herald

Amaris Castillo Photo

Amaris Castillo

Amaris Castillo is a law enforcement/island reporter for the Bradenton Herald, where she has worked since 2014.

Castillo has a multimedia series called Bodega Stories, where she publishes stories and portraits of people who frequent her parents’ Latin market in Saint Petersburg, Fla. The project is her small way of preserving language and culture, which means a lot to her as a first-generation American.

Castillo was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Dominican parents and has a master’s from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from the University of South Florida.


Q: Tell us about your current job.

As the law enforcement/island reporter for the Bradenton Herald, I am regularly sent out to cover breaking news situations such as shootings, fires and crashes. I also report on Anna Maria Island, a 7-mile barrier island that’s filled with challenges related to tourism and all that it brings to residents and business owners. There are three cities on the island, so my job is to keep track of what’s going on in each city. As the night reporter at my newspaper, I’m also called on to cover general assignment stories that range from graduation ceremonies to animal rights protests.

Though law enforcement and the island are my primary beats, I am always searching for interesting feature stories, as well as stories on the immigrant experience — one of my interests.

Q: What are some of the favorite stories you covered?

One is a series on a Honduran boy who crossed the border to reunite with his parents in Bradenton and the challenges he now faces as he seeks asylum. Another story I enjoyed working on was the historic and absolutely bizarre election tie-breaker in Bradenton Beach between an ousted mayor and current-mayor/former- vice mayor — it was one of those “only in Florida” stories where I witnessed an election tie broken through a deck of cards.

Though interviewing people who are grieving after losing a loved one is extremely difficult, I feel it is an honor to tell their stories. Some of my favorite stories have been about grieving and loss; I wrote a story about a grieving mother who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose just days prior to our interview, and I also recently sat down with a local family who lost four relatives in the Ecuador earthquake. It means a lot to have people willing to speak to me despite their overwhelming grief — I do not take this lightly and always do my best to treat what they tell me with great care.

Q: How do you use social media?

I use social media to share my work, as well as the work of my colleagues and other journalists I admire.

I also use social media as a reporting tool; there have been times where these networks have helped me reach a new source. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I am able to dig and dig and dig until I am able to reach someone I need to speak to for a story.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

Features journalism is important to me because it stretches beyond the formulaic and cut-and-dried story. It allows journalists to expand and try to incorporate feeling and the essence of a source in the story — the exhausted eyes of a grieving mother, the nervous face of a graduate about to step onto the stage and receive his diploma. I am drawn to feature stories because they bring me in and make me feel as if I am a witness to what’s being done and what’s being said.

Features journalism not only informs the public, but it engages the public.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“Nothing happens unless first we dream” by the late poet/writer Carl Sandburg.

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

For news, I read the Bradenton Herald, Tampa Bay Times, The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, to name a few. I also listen to NPR and different podcasts on my commute to and from work.

For fun, I enjoy watching Buzzfeed videos and I enjoy reading cultural sites such as Remezcla. I also really enjoy reading independent media like The Mash-Up Americans and La Galeria Magazine.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I hope to leave the SFJ conference inspired, rejuvenated and with tools on how to become a better storyteller. My newspaper is smaller compared to other area newspapers, and so I hope to learn and soak in as much as I can to bring this knowledge back to my colleagues.

I look forward to meeting features editors from all over the U.S. and asking them what makes a great feature story to them personally — what are some do’s and, most importantly, what are some don’ts? I am so excited to be in the same space as others who are passionate about features journalism and look forward to productive discussions and workshops that will be both challenging and stimulating.

Emily Gibson, The University of Texas at Austin


Emily Gibson

I was born in Baltimore, Md., and grew up reading preteen tabloids such as Tiger Beat and J-14. Thankfully, my taste in magazines and journalism evolved, but my appetite for it didn’t.

I measure my lifetime in what blog or project I was writing at the time (my first “novel” was written when I was in grade school and was called Lobster Face, my first middle school blog was about music and was called CantBeatIt, I currently co-run a magazine, etc.)

When I got to high school, I took a newspaper course and that small taste of newsroom experience confirmed what I already knew: that I was going to give this journalism thing a shot.


Q: Tell us about your current job.

I currently intern for The Austin Chronicle, I am the communications assistant for the UT School of Biomedical Engineering and I run my own magazine, SMEAR Magazine, which published online and in print (we are currently working on our second print issue.)

Q: What are some of the favorites stories you covered?

I wrote a story about Texas’ first theatrical wrestling league run completely by female-identified people, which was a really awesome experience. I also worked on a story about the Austin Music Census citing a lack of gender diversity in the Austin scene, and how women musicians in Austin responded to that.

Most recently, I did a story about front man John Pelant from a band called Night Moves, which was a good experience because I had wanted to do a long form music feature for some time.

Q: How do you use social media?

I use social media to start conversations. Whether it is a joke status I post on Facebook or a questioning tweet about a policy or a news event, my main goal is always to get people talking and comfortable talking to each other. I think that, at its core, that is the purpose of social media: to be able to talk to people and bring people from different backgrounds and perspectives together.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

Features journalism is what attracted me to the field. Being able to meet people from different backgrounds and tell their stories seems like such an ideal job that I often have to remind myself that it is something I am really working toward. I think it’s important to use these platforms to tell stories that make people think – to represent the unrepresented voices and to provide a different perspective on issues. The fact that I am pursuing a job where I can tell people’s stories that could possibly incite some sort of change is exciting to me, and it is important to me to become the best features journalist I can be so I can better represent these people and their stories.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” – Chuck Palahniuk

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

For news, I read The Austin Chronicle, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and Texas Monthly. For fun, I typically like to read memoirs – the most memorable one I have read in the past year was “Slave: My True Story” by Mende Nazer, and I am currently reading “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise” by Ruth Reichl. I also like to read music magazines, specifically Impose and Pitchfork. And fiction-wise, I typically enjoy books that are a little strange or dystopian – Chuck Palahniuk and Margaret Atwood, for example.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I am extremely excited to attend the SFJ conference. I hope to learn about the industry from people working in the field and hear the stories of how they decided to pursue features journalism and their favorite stories they’ve worked on.

Register now for SFJ 2016 in Austin, Texas, Aug. 10-13


The Society for Features Journalism heads to Austin, Texas next year! You won’t want to miss three days of sessions filled with practical advice, great ideas for coverage and ways to keep adapting in the digital world.

The conference runs Aug. 10-13 and will draw on the faculty and facilities of the University of Texas at Austin’s renowned journalism school. Plan on meeting the top features editors and reporters from around the country!

And, why wait? You can make your hotel reservations now, with a reduced room rate of $179 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas at Austin. To reserve now, call 877-744-8822 and request “Society for Features Journalism Annual Meeting.”

Austin is one of the country’s hippest, most creative cities and reduced room rates are available Aug. 9-14 in case you want to plan a family vacation or travel story around your trip.

Conference registration is $250 for SFJ members who make the early bird deadline of July 8.

Non-members pay $350, as do members who register right before the conference. Follow this link to register.

Questions? Contact SFJ today!

Digital Tool Tuesday: Resistance is futile — you must learn Excel

1110 the borg

Journalists attending an APME Newstrain workshop last month were getting a crash course in using spreadsheets to tell stories and reveal information from public records.

The workshop, led by Michael Berens at the Chicago Tribune, reminded me that all journalists should be able to grasp the basics of Excel and similar spreadsheets.

But why should features journalists do the same?

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Digital Tool Tuesday — The List App

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 12.46.10 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 12.49.03 PM

The tool: The List app

What is it? An iPhone app for creating lists. It’s designed as a marketing tool for celebrities and brands (“The Office” writer B.J. Novak is one of the developers). But it could be a great tool for repurposing copy for the social media audience. It’s also great for extending the life of evergreen packages or finding a new audience for your recipes. You can share your lists on Twitter and Facebook.

How does it work? Download the free app (only available through iPhone) and sign in. Much like Facebook and Twitter, you can follow and be followed by folks. It’s pretty easy to create a list using the handy dashboard.

Make your list. Each item can have a photo, a comment (which can include a link). Your headline and read-in also can include a link.

Examples: PBS created a list to complement “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” episode on Barcelona. the Washington Post posted a list of “Creepy Internet Rabbit Holes.”

Digital Tool Tuesday — Tableau Public

Data visualization using Tableau.

Data visualization using Tableau.

The tool: Tableau Public

What is it? Some elegant interactive tools are being made using the Tableau Public tool, which is available at no charge. It’s free data visualization software that — with a little tutorial — you can build interactive maps, tools and other cool stuff.

How does it work? Using a data set you get (or building your own on Excel), building a graphic that tells your story well.

There’s almost too much here to digest (for quickie graphic tools, try but if you have an enthusiastic journalist who wants to dabble in data, let them play around with this.

It’s pitched to investigative reporters for serious projects, but think of the way you can use it to round up restaurant inspection reports, compare school data, or even create.

There is a resource page to view videos that show you how to use the data or how to navigate the dashboard.

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Digital Tool Tuesday — Disaster tips

Lead image from "The Flood: What We Saw" published at

Lead image from “The Flood: What We Saw” published at

Last week, my state gurgled under 20 inches of rain, roads buckles, dams split open, and at least several neighborhoods in my city were under water.

I’m no longer with The State, so I wasn’t able to discern the thinking behind its disaster coverage. But from my point to view it was stellar, with constant live updates paired with great individual storytelling opportunities with words, video and photos.

I thought about what digital tools might be helpful for getting through a disaster, and am sharing some good practices that you might employ if you have a similar situation.

Find more tips and links in this Dart Center guide.

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Digital Tool Tuesday — Newsletters

The lead page of Lenny, a new newsletter by actress Lena Dunham.

The lead page of Lenny, a new newsletter by actress Lena Dunham.

Newsletters are the new black and white and read all over.

While social media networks continue to dominate news readers, newsletters are quietly grabbing fans, niche by niche.

Take Lena Dunham, of “Girls” fame. This week, she launched Lenny, a weekly newsletter that promises to be “a snark-free place for feminists.”

Newsletters bring customized content to readers. They arrive in an inbox, but they aren’t intrusive. You can sell them through sponsorships. They are easy to measure. They get traffic for your stories.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: New Facebook features for journalists

Stream live video through Facebook Mentions

Stream live video through Facebook Mentions

While Facebook tries to dominate the universe even more with its implementation of Instant Articles, it is throwing journalists a small piece of the social network with two new initiative, Mentions and Signal.

Facebook Mentions allows verified journalists (along with celebrities and other public figures) to broadcast live to his or her Facebook followers. It’s a good branding tool to show your readers how you’re covering the news or event.

First, create a professional Facebook page, much like you do with your personal account. The difference is that a Page allows you to get followers, who can see your activity and posts.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: New Snapchat feature

0915 snapchat2

Have you tried Snapchat yet? Still don’t understand it?

Here’s a new reason to check it out? Incredible selfies.

One of Snapchat’s quirky features is the ability to write on top of the photo or video, or add emoticons or scribbles.

Now you can add special effects to selfies you take within the app. The feature, called Lenses, activates while the camera is open. Play along to create rainbows pouring out of your mouth, hearts on your eyes, and other whatnots.

Now why would you even consider such a selfie? To help promote a weird story or a columnist who is ready to cover something live.

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Sofiya Ballin: Creativity, courage and diversity line the path to journalism’s future


Sofiya Ballin was one of the two 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs diversity fellows.

I started the SFJ fellowship with my mind on two of the largest reporting weekends on the horizon: Made In America and the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia.

I was feeling very journo’d out and I left full of fresh ideas for how I would contribute to the coverage. Meeting and sharing stories and ideas with reporters and editors across the country was exhilarating.

Though I’ve been at the Philadelphia Inquirer for almost a year, during the conference I was able to better understand what goes into producing the paper. More importantly, I understand better the challenges in our industry that go far beyond reporting stories.

Touring the Washington Post, listening to Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, and observing Michael Cavna and others share showed me how there’s no one way to tell a story and engage audiences. And that when it comes to the future of journalism, the pathway has to be filled with creativity, courage and many entry points.

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Ada Tseng: I’m scared and thrilled about being a journalist in the digital age; so follow me on Facebook


Ada Tseng, one of two 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs diversity fellows.

It was such an honor to attend the 2015 Society of Features Conference as a Diversity Fellow. I’ve never walked out of a conference feeling so full of energy and new ideas.

From the very first panel — featuring The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey, who talked about the value of creating personal newsletters; Atlantic Media’s Tim Ebner, who proposed creative ways of working with sponsors in order to fund journalism, and The Arizona Republic’s Megan Finnerty, who discussed using live events to build diverse communities — it was clear that this conference was going to be about change.

With change comes the anxiety of the unknown, but it also gives us an opportunity for self-analysis. As journalists, what are our core values that we can’t afford to compromise? What are some traditions that would be better left behind?

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Digital Tool Tuesday: SFJ conference wrap-up, with links and great story ideas


The Society for Features Journalism conference at the University of Maryland was a great success.

In case you didn’t make it, here’s a list of the digital tools we discussed during a Friday morning session with Betsey Guzior, engagement editor at Bizwomen, and Corey Takahashi, a multimedia instructor at Syracuse University, and at other sessions.

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Campus Connection: How to write resumes that impress

School is starting again — and it’s never too early to think about your application for the next internship or your first job.

That’s the focus of our current issue of Campus Connection.

We talk to Dennis Anderson, executive editor of the Peoria Journal Star, about what types of resumes catch his eye and what impresses him.

Here’s something to remember: “But what really helps to make a resume great is a concise sentence at the top, just
under the contact information and before the candidate’s experience. This is your shot to tell the hiring manager who you are and what you can do for the organization.”

Think of it as your Twitter bio, but serious.

sfj campconn4

SFJ launches Crowdrise campaign to support fellowship, mentorship programs

In 2012, the SFJ convention at the University of Maryland included a trip to the Newseum.

In 2012, the SFJ convention at the University of Maryland included a trip to the Newseum.

We are on Crowdrise! Check us out at

Crowdrise is a great way to build support for the work SFJ does. Own main goal is to underwrite the costs of our diversity fellowship program and to launch a mentorship program for student journalists.
Thanks to about a dozen donors so far, we’ve raised $765 — almost enough to underwrite the total cost for one diversity fellow to attend our annual convention! We love having the fellows there because we get to learn from each other. It’s all about sharing.
So let’s keep it going.
Here’s what your donation will do for SFJ Diversity Fellows:

$35: Shuttle from the airport to the University of Maryland

$50: Underwrite the costs for a fellow to attend an SFJ panel discussion on how to help your newsroom make the transition to digital; or a session on ‘show-and-steal’ content ideas to drive traffic and engage readers; or training on how to sharpen your quick video skills.

$75: Shuttle to Washington for Q/A session with columnist Gene Weingarten and followed by a reception with editor Marty Baron.

$150: Foot the bill for one night at the conference hotel.

$1,000: Underwrite the total cost for one fellow.

$5,000-$10,000: Help SFJ launch a mentorship program that pairs professionals with college journalism students, including a weekend writing bootcamp in Washington D.C., distance learning and ongoing personal mentorship.

The SFJ Foundation is a 501c3, and your donations are tax deductible. 

SFJ Conference Schedule

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

SFJ Conference Schedule

Aug. 26-29, 2015

College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, University of Maryland

NOTE: A free continental breakfast will be served in the Knight Hall Atrium Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning from 8:30 to 9 a.m.

All sessions are in Knight Hall on the University of Maryland campus, except the Thursday afternoon/evening trip to the Washington Post, where we’ll hear four speakers, including Editor Marty Baron and two-time Pulitzer winner Gene Weingarten. We’ll have time between speakers (before dinner) for some small group tours of the Post.


4-5:45 p.m. SFJ Board Meeting: Board and committee chairs

5-6 p.m. Registration, Knight Hall Atrium (a fairly short walk from the College Park Marriott, our conference hotel on the edge of campus).

6-8 p.m.: Opening Reception, Knight Hall Atrium.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: Twitter’s greased ‘Lightning’

twitterTwitter and Apple are hiring journalists to create their own brand of news. And now, Twitter’s Project Lightning includes a plan for followers to keep track of live events, through curated tweets. Buzzfeed sat down with Twitter developers about the project.

 “On Twitter’s mobile app, there will be a new button in the center of the home row. Press it and you’ll be taken to a screen that will show various events taking place that people are tweeting about.”

What does that mean for you?

If you are live tweeting the Oscars red carpet or the Emmys, will your tweets be included for larger consumption, or lost in the curation to larger outlets? The new curation will instantly load videos and have rich image content; and it will be easier to embed tweets across all Web platforms. That could be a great advantage for breaking news events.

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SFJ Honors the Best in Features Journalism

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JUNE 23, 2015

Terry Scott Bertling, SFJ president, 210.250.3112
Andrew Nynka, SFJ executive director, 301.314.2631

The Society for Features Journalism has honored seven Pulitzer Prize winners and a host of other journalists as part of its 2015 Excellence-in-Features Awards contest.

Also receiving recognition were 10 newspapers for outstanding features sections and journalists in 15 other categories. Winners were announced today.

More than 800 entries were judged in the contest, which honors the craft of feature storytelling and the people who do it for a living at news organizations in the United States and Canada. Winners will be recognized at SFJ’s national conference Aug. 26-29 in College Park, Md.

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Who’s the Best in Features Journalism?

Find out on Tuesday by following the Society for Features Journalism using the hashtag: #SFJ15

The Society for Features Journalism Excellence-in-Features Awards honor the craft of feature storytelling, and the people who do it for a living at news organizations and wire services around the country. Follow along as the Society for Features Journalism announces the winners on Twitter and Facebook, starting at 10 a.m. EST on Tuesday, June 23. The honorees include Pulitzer prize-winning journalists, national news organizations, and state and local reporters.

Are you still not an SFJ member? Join today!

Becoming a SFJ member is easy, and our members take advantage of year-long value. Join hundreds of features editors, journalists, and writers, who are making use of editorial resources and professional networks. An annual membership starts as low as $75 a year. Consider joining SFJ today!

Sofiya Ballin, Ada Tseng named 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows

Congratulations to the 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows!

They were chosen on the basis of experience, multimedia and writing skills and what they could learn and give back to SFJ.


Sofiya Ballin

Sofiya Ballin is a features reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She began her writing career at 17, crafting personal stories about growing up natural for natural hair website, The Coil Review, which ended after 7 years.

An award-winning journalist at Temple University, she also reported and edited for JUMP Philly music magazine, contributed pieces to, became a blogger for Huffington Post, interned at the Philadelphia Daily News, and freelanced for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Ballin joined the Inquirer’s features staff in 2014 after graduation. During her short tenure, she has interviewed mainstream artists and introduced readers to up-and-coming talents, written about trends such as cuffing season and the emergence of Black Twitter, covered major news events such as local Ferguson and Baltimore protests, photographed and produced digital fashion features, and contributed opinion pieces that speak to the millennial soul. Ballin aims to humanize all walks of life through mentorship and her work.


Ada Tseng

Ada Tseng is a writer and editor based in Southern California, and for the last decade, she’s covered pan-Asian arts and entertainment for Asia Pacific Arts, Audrey Magazine, XFINITY Asia, KoreAm Journal, LA Weekly and more. She hosts a podcast called Bullet Train where she turns silly episodes (about Japanese romance simulation games and “American Ninja Warrior,” for example) into serious explorations (of love and remakes, respectively). She has a series called “Haikus with Hotties.” She studied at UCLA and received her MFA in Writing and Literature at the Bennington Writings Seminars. And she loves writing long feature stories on topics that aren’t being covered in the mainstream media.

Make your plans for the 2015 Society for Features Journalism Conference Aug. 26-29th

Register Online | Download Registration Form | Book Hotel Stay

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

Join us for SFJ’s annual conference Aug. 26-29 at the University of Maryland for an array of sessions that will be filled with practical, usable information you can bring back to your newsroom.

The conference kicks off with an opening reception on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 26. SFJ members get a discounted rate for the conference.

Conference sessions include:

– A Q&A with Washington Post Editor Marty Baron, whose newspaper was named the best in the business for digital innovation.

– Success stories on moneymakers in today’s newsrooms, ranging from newsletters to special events.

– Inspiration from a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner in feature writing, Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, and his editor Tom Schroder who has a reputation for bring out the best in his writers.

– A panel discussion on the new ways publications have transitioned to “digital first” and how journalists who grew up on the print side are thriving and leading the revolution.

– A simple hands-on video how-to that will give you skills to use immediately after the conference.

– Tips on digital tools that are fun and easy to use for cool projects.

– The ever-popular Show and Steal sessions, which feature great ideas from newsrooms around the country.

– An awards ceremony to honor the winners of the Excellence in Features Journalism contest

Hotel accommodations:

Hotel stays can be arranged at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference center on the University of Maryland campus. Conference sessions will be in the Knight Hall in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism in College Park, just a short walk from the Marriott. We’ve arranged for a block of rooms at the Marriott with a rate of $149/night for a king or $159/night for two queens (an affordable option for attendees who want to share a room and share the cost).

Digital Tool Tuesday: Info.gram (with apologies to Jody Mitori)

(AP Photo/Scott Kane)

(AP Photo/Scott Kane)

What is it? Info.gram

What does it do? Creates easy to read infographics, charts and maps

How does it work? Sign up, and a step-by-step process will take you through creating a graphic.


It would help to be familiar with how to use a spreadsheet. One is available to fill in, but you can also import various spreadsheets.

You can choose among different types of charts, including treemaps (which show proportion clearly), bubble charts (which plot like charts but also show relativity in a cool way) or population charts.

You can add media, including photos and video, have multiple people collaborate on a graphic, and keep track of analytics.

There is a limited amount you can do with a chart in the free portion of this website. But, for feature purposes, this might be enough.

You can embed the chart into your web page, or share it through social media.

Click here for an example.

Have fun with it.

Digital Tool Tuesday: Memes and sticky social stuff


A couple of tools today to help your stories get more attention on social media.

Vox meme generator

Allows you to add text, watermarks, quotes to a photo for greater impact when sharing on social media.

Notes: It’s an open source code thingee, so it probably requires someone with coding experience to load it for your organization’s use. But the result is very professional.

Making GIFs

Easy way to break down a video or upload photos to create a gif.

Notes: Doesn’t include an embed code; stores the GIF on its website, which might not do you much good.

Bridget wishes me a happy birthday on Make A Gif.

Apply now for the 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship


2015 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship

When: Aug. 26-29, 2015, at the University of Maryland

Sponsor: Society for Features Journalism

Who is this for: Journalists of color who produce arts and features content for news organizations or those interested in pursuing careers in arts and features journalism.

What it covers: Travel and lodging costs to our annual conference, plus a $300 stipend for conference-related expenses.

Application deadline: May 22, 2015

The Society for Features Journalism is committed to developing news-gathering staffs representative of the multicultural communities its members serve. Toward this goal, SFJ is sponsoring the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship Program for journalists of color in conjunction with its annual conference at the University of Maryland. Programming will have heavy emphasis on multimedia, leadership and writing.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: Meerkat vs. Periscope


Welcome to the weekly feature highlighting a digital tool to leverage for lifestyle and arts and entertainment coverage.

The tools: Meerkat vs. Periscope

Where to find them: Apps for iPhone and Androids

What are they: Easy to-use live streaming to social media. Periscope is a tool fully integrated with Twitter, Meerkat is a standalone app that uses Twitter. Because Periscope is a Twitter-sanctioned tool, it’s easier to stream through it.

How they work: Both give you the ability to live stream from your smartphone to Twitter followers. Both also offer real-time live streams for you to view. Both apps allow viewers to respond with “love” buttons and share the live stream with others.

The difference is in the look of the screen. Periscope’s screen can be highly animated, with little “hearts” indicating viewers’ likes floating during the broadcast. On Meerkat, comments and likes are overlaid on the screen.

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Save the date: SFJ’s annual conference at the University of Maryland

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

Plans for the 2015 Society for Features Journalism Conference at the University of Maryland Aug. 26-29:

We’ll start with an opening reception on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 26, and offer a packed agenda of speakers and conversations that continues through noon Saturday, Aug. 29. Topics that are likely to be on our agenda: money making ideas to take home, new tricks for those moving into more digital content (everyone, right?), new storytelling techniques that resonate with digital readers. And much more.

We’ll stay at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference center on the University of Maryland campus. Conference sessions will be in the impressive Knight Hall in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism in College Park – just a short walk from the Marriott. We’ve arranged for a block of rooms at the Marriott with a rate of $149/night for a king or $159/night for two queens (an affordable option for attendees who want to share a room and share the cost).

We’re planning an outing one evening for kicks, but this is a roll-up-your-sleeves conference that promises lots of ideas and content for SFJ members to take home and put to use right away, whether your biggest challenge is boosting revenue, creating better content, or learning new tricks to connect with online readers.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: Yik Yak

The Tool: Yik Yak


What is it? A social media app that allows users to post anonymously; others “endorse” the posts to make them “hot.” Yik Yak communities primarily are around college campuses; the users are primarily students.

How does it work? People post observations; you can find “nearby” Yik Yaks. There are two options to view; one lets you see the newest posts; the other is to see the “hot” posts — those posted endorsed (liked) by others.

The search button lets you see featured topics, and “peeks,” which are other communities (again, mostly colleges).

You may include a username to Yik Yaks. That might be a good idea if you’re trolling for info as a reporter.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: Useful web sites


Digital Tool Tuesday: Useful (and offbeat) websites for features reporting

In this edition, some resourceful websites to use in lifestyle reporting, courtesy of The Journalist’s Toolbox, itself a great compilation of what journalists need to navigate reporting in the digital age.

Food Timeline

Simply done, this is a timeline of the history of food. Want to know when “The Virginia Housewife” was first published? This timeline has that. Want to find out when the first dedicated baby food was produced; it’s got that, too. Click on the hyperlink and get a lot of well sourced material to mine for any food history story. Bonus: a page that outlines food prices in the past.


A USDA site, this includes great consumer information and personal tools for weight loss and increasing activity. Editors will find the Food-A-Pedia a useful tool to discover nutritional information on any food.

Math for journalists

Math tutorials from the L.A. Times Robert Niles. We like the simple explanation of percent change.

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Join us on Monday for #SFJStoryClub

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 9.57.32 AM

The newsroom gets a phone call — two sisters who had not seen each other in decades are having a reunion. The first instinct is to go cover the event, write it up and move on.

But, the folks at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale did a little digging, and came up with this tale of loss, grief and hope.

Now, we’re going to dissect this story apart and learn how it unfolded. Join us on Monday, February 23rd from 1-2 pm EST for SFJ’s first Story Club Twitter chat about “The Lost Sister,” a great piece by Nicole Brochu and photographer Joe Cavaretta, who tracked down this story and turned it around in record time.

To participate in the Story Club Twitter chat you can send questions to the SFJ listserv by 3 p.m. Friday, February 20th. Or, send them on Monday using Twitter and the hashtag #SFJStoryClub. Be sure to follow along next week!

Digital Tool Tuesday

Digital Tool Tuesday

Digital Tool Tuesday Welcome to a new weekly feature of SFJ, in which we share tips about a digital tool to leverage for lifestyle and arts and entertainment coverage. The tool: Storymap

Storymap screenshot from the Burning of Columbia

Storymap screenshot from the Burning of Columbia

What does it do? Creates clickable map that allows you to tell a story at each point.

What’s cool about it? Embed video and photos at each point, bringing a map to life.

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ABC News, USA Today interns talk to Campus Connection

ABC News, USA Today interns talk to Campus Connection

This fall, we hear from two summer interns and their experiences at ABC News and USA Today. Also, Washington & Lee University (in Lexington, Va.) professors give tips to students.

Our quarterly Campus Connection newsletter aims to connect college journalism students and professors with the features journalism society at large. If you have ideas for future newsletters, please like us on Facebook and leave a comment there. Thanks!

SFJ campconn2

Diversity fellows: What we learned at SFJ14

Mariecar Mendoza WatsonDenisePhoto (1)

The Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship winners, Mariecar Mendoza and Denise Watson, reflect on their time at the 2014 SFJ annual conference:

During a time in the media industry where metrics and analytics rule many newsrooms, it’s refreshing to know that there is a still a smart, creative group of enthusiastic people who champion the art of storytelling.

What’s more, they’re focused on storytelling about music that moves, food that strengthens bonds with loved ones – or helps folks with their gastrointestinal tract.

That’s the biggest takeaway I got from my first Society of Features Journalism conference, hosted in Nashville this summer.

When I was a teen, I always dreamed of being in the same room with arts and entertainment writers and editors who understood the importance of what most newsrooms scornfully dub “fun journalism.” This year, not only got nearly a week with them, but I got real time with them to bounce around ideas – steal a few ideas, too – and find out how they’re dealing with this digital world that has everyone working on so many platforms at such a fast pace.

Tommy Tomlinson, a writer for Forbes, probably summed up what features writing means to me when he told the attentive crowd of SFJers: “I like to write big stories out of little moments.”

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Take our Survey and Help Features Journalism!

bubbleThere’s never a bad time to take stock, which is why we seek your input on the current status of the Society for Features Journalism.

We have a long-standing commitment to recognize and celebrate excellence in feature storytelling and this remains at the heart of the group’s mission.  But times change, and our workplaces are in transition.  Your daily routine may barely resemble what it was just a few years ago.

Please take a few minutes to share your feedback. Let us know how we can help you in this challenging new environment.

We believe that SFJ is an important resource for you and your colleagues — your smart and savvy ideas will help us keep it that way!

Thanks, in advance. And, take the survey now:

And, the winners are…

Photo courtesy Flickr


Betsey Guzior, SFJ President, 803-771-8441
Merrilee Cox, SFJ Executive Director, 301-314-2631

The Society for Features Journalism has honored four Pulitzer Prize winners and three Pulitzer finalists as part of its 2014 Excellence-in-Features Awards contest.

Also receiving awards were nine newspapers for outstanding features sections and journalists in 14 other categories. Contest winners were announced today.

More than 600 entries were judged in the contest, which honors the craft of feature storytelling and the people who do it for a living at news organizations and wire services in the United States and Canada.

Pulitzer Prize winners who won SFJ awards included:

–Liz Balmaseda of the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, who place first in arts-and-entertainment commentary in the small newspaper division. She won a Pulitzer for commentary in 1993.

–Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post, who placed first in SFJ’S Arts and Entertainment Commentary Portfolio category in the large-newspaper division. He received a Pulitzer for criticism in 2013.

–Eli Saslow of the Washington Post, who placed first in Narrative Writing in the large-newspaper division for “Into the Lonely Quiet,” a poignant look at a family who lost a child in the Newton, Conn., school shooting. He won a Pulitzer this year for Explanatory Reporting.

–Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, who placed second for his General Commentary Portfolio in the large-newspaper division. He has won two Pulitzers for Feature Writing.

Others honored by SFJ included this year’s three Pulitzer Feature Writing finalists, a category in which no award was given. They are:

–Scott Farwell of the Dallas Morning News, who won SFJ’s Series or Project award in the large-newspaper division for “The Girl in the Closet,” a series about a woman’s efforts to lead a normal life after years of severe abuse. He was a Pulitzer Feature Writing finalist for that series.

–Christopher Goffard of the Los Angeles Times, who placed first and second in SFJ’s General Feature category. He was a Feature Writing finalist for “The Manhunt for Christopher Dormer,” which was not entered in SFJ’s contest.

–Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who was the writer of the series “The Course of Their Lives,” which earned two SFJ awards. He was a Pulitzer Feature Writing finalist for that series.

Also winning awards was Carlos Frias, who was an SFJ Diversity Fellow last year. Frias, of the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, received honors in General Feature, Short Feature and for his body of work in General Commentary and Feature Specialty Writing.

Winning best-section honors in the small-newspaper category (circulation of 90,000 or less) were the Colorado Springs Gazette, Edmonton (Canada) Journal and Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

In the medium-size category (circulation of 90,001 to 199,999), the winners were the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, St. Louis Post Dispatch and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.

Winners in the large-newspaper category (circulation of 200,000 and above) were the Los Angeles Times, Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Washington Post.

Among smaller newspapers, those receiving the most awards were the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, with nine, and the Edmonton (Canada) Journal and (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, with seven apiece. In the middle-sized newspaper category, the big winners were The Virginian-Pilot with 10 awards, with five and the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman with four. In the large-newspaper category, the Washington Post received 13 honors, the Los Angeles Times won 11 and the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times had nine.

SFJ will recognize the winners at its national conference Aug. 20-23 in Nashville. SFJ is an organization that promotes and celebrates features journalism.

For a complete list of this year’s winners, please see this link:

Suzy Fleming Leonard, contest co-chair, 321-543-4261
Jim Haag, contest co-chair, 757-446-2977

SFJ debuts new quarterly newsletter for journalism students

We are happy to introduce a new venture: SFJ Campus Connection, a quarterly newsletter with a focus on helping journalists of the future.

Our membership of features writers and editors have dozens of years of industry experience among them. So we are taking advantage of their knowledge to produce the pieces that you’ll see in our newsletter. Best advice for interns, for instance, or links to internship postings.

We also take the name literally — we hope this newsletter will better link SFJ and colleges, and become a useful resource for students who want to be features journalists.

So we are providing the first few issues for free, but after that, they will be available exclusively to SFJ members. Remember, we offer a student discount of just $25 per year.

If you have ideas for this newsletter, please share on our Facebook page.



Video x 2 = SFJ14 in Nashville


Photo courtesy Grant Wickes

“We need more video!” That’s the battle cry from editors in newsrooms. But where you do you go from there?

At SFJ14 in Nashville, you’ll get instruction and inspiration from two seasoned pros, in two sessions on the opening day of the Society for Features Journalism conference. Val Hoeppner travels around the country teaching journalists how to shoot video. She’ll bring her enthusiasm and the newest tools for you to use. Later, learn how to take those skills to the next level with Josh Meltzer of Western Kentucky University.

Sign up for the conference, Aug. 20-23, at the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University in beautiful Nashville. Click here for registration and hotel details.

A Missing Pulitzer Prize: An Open Letter to Features Journalists


The Pulitzer board did not award a prize for feature writing this year.


The Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark, a former Pulitzer juror and a friend of features folks, speculated this week that part of the reason for the snub is that features journalism is a bit hard to define.

What is features writing anyway?

Members of our organization, the Society for Features Journalism, produce some of the finest narrative storytelling in journalism. Some of us drive cultural and artistic discussions in our communities. Many of us still tell stories no one else would spend to time to do.

And, yes, some of us are writing celebrity blogs, compiling Top 10 lists, making how-to videos, posting reality show recaps and cooking up crazy reader contests.

It’s all features.

Features writers, editors and producers have been rattled by the recession and the changes in the news industry. Arts critics are rare these days, and features sections have been decimated or eliminated.

But know this: Many of the survivors — lifestyle and arts and entertainment journalists — are leading newsrooms into a digital age and finding new ways to reach out to readers and tell stories. Innovative work in newsrooms is being driven by the features staffs, who, through powerful and resourceful storytelling, learned the hard way to create something exciting, often from nothing.

Quality features journalism is spreading beyond traditional print newsrooms. Some of the recent winners in our SFJ national writing awards were from CNN and

Did features journalism take a hit Monday when the Pulitzer board decided to withhold a prize in features writing?

No way.

Betsey Guzior
President, SFJ
Features Editor, The State, Columbia, SC

P.S. SFJ guarantees prizes in its annual writing and best section contest. Enter by clicking here

Announcing the 26th Annual Excellence in Features Journalism


The 2014 SFJ Excellence-in-Features Awards is now taking entries. We’re using an online system this year, which we hope will make the experience less cumbersome. Here’s how to get started:

Get detailed instructions on the categories here, and learn how to apply here.

For details on the categories, check out the BNC site or find them under the “Contest” heading here labeled “26th annual Excellence in Features Journalism.”

The deadline for entries is April 18.

Also, this year we have three new categories:

Narrative Storytelling: A single story told in a narrative style, using techniques such as character development, use of dialogue, sense of place, scene building, narrative arc and adherence to theme. Sidebars accepted. Each entry consists of one story. All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.
Blog Portfolio: Three blog posts by the same writer on any feature topic, including commentary and reviews. Each entry consists of three blog posts. All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.
Digital Innovation: New or improved online ventures, which can include new or upgraded websites, apps, social-media experiments or other ways to share information in the digital world. Entries will be judged on creativity and impact. Must include a description of no more than 250 words on how the innovation came about, its goals and its success. Submit explanation as a Word document attachment. One entry consists of one innovation, such as an app or a website. All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.

@WeAreSfj Among “151 Twitters Worth a Follow” in #journalism


Do you recognize some of these Twitter handles: @nytimes, @poynter, @stkonrath and @wikileaks?

According to, they are among the “151 Twitters Worth A Follow” in its recently released “Best in #Journalism” list.

So the Society for Feature Journalism — @WeAreSFJ — is in good company at spot #106!

Here’s JournalismDegree’s description of our Twitter account: “The Society of Features Journalism helps journalists refine their craft through some of the most innovative posts across the internet. They’re incredibly active in retweeting other notable journalism publications, which only makes their feed stronger.” describes itself as “a site dedicated to providing timely and relevant information about journalism degrees and programs.”

It decided to put out this list because of Twitter’s effect on journalism.

“These are some of the journalists, bloggers, and news organizations that are pushing the limits of what can be accomplished with Twitter,” the site explains. “Budding journalists and seasoned pros should be following every one of these accounts.”

Thank you! We are honored to have been included on this list and we’ll keep tweeting away.

2014 Golden Globes: The Day After

The 2014 Golden Globes are over, and the general consensus seems to be: We love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as hosts; we love it when celebrities get drunk and unpredictable; and we have plenty of comments to offer on the dresses that hit the red carpet Jan. 12.

But if you’re looking for second-day story on the entertaining evening, here are three things that are generating talk (click on image for links).

1. How E! considered Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s diagnosis a “fun fact.”


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Renew or Join SFJ in 2014

imagesGet full access to membership perks, including quarterly newsletters and our email listserv. Become a Society for Features Journalism member in 2014!

Joining is easy. Just download and complete this registration form:

You can also make your membership payment online with PayPal.

And, don’t forget! There is a multiple-member discount, so you can add new colleagues and save big.

Questions?  Email Merrilee Cox.

Happy holidays, and see you next year!

Digital Tools — making headline magic


Marketing and advertising types are just as obsessed with getting people to absorb their message.

So, here’s some digital tools that marketers use to test headlines.

Coschedule headline analyzer


Click here for link

Type in a headline, and it will rate it based on its ability to connect emotionally, tell your story simply, and what “power words” you can use. It breaks down a headline on its neutrality, and gives you a preview as a Google SEO.

It’s not free, but you can sign up for a trial period.

Advanced Marketing Institute headline analyzer


Click here for link

This is a less sexy version of a headline analyzer. It lets you get your headline parsed by subject.

Mailchimp’s subject line analyzer


Click here for link

You have to be a Mailchimp subscriber to use this, but this can help you hone your subject lines, which could make the difference between a read clicking and not clicking.




Digital tool of the day: Soundbite

The tool: Soundcite, created by KnightLabs.

What is it? A way to smoothly embed sound bites into a narrative

What can it do? Take sound clips, 9-1-1 call excerpts and other recorded material and use it as part of your story. Bring your stories to life with sound.

Use it to illustrate parts of songs; to bring quotes to life in a narrative. To insert audio history.

Find it:

Here’s how the New York Times used music bites in a great story you the lost history of American female musicians.