A unique job post: reflects the culture of the work environment, written by a colleague rather than HR

We want to add some talent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative team. Every serious candidate should have a proven track record of conceiving, reporting and writing stellar investigative pieces that provoke change. However, our ideal candidate has also cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once because some fool wanted to screw around with their perfect lede.

We do a mix of quick hit investigative work when events call for it and mini-projects that might run for a few days. But every year we like to put together a project way too ambitious for a paper our size because we dream that one day Walt Bogdanich will have to say: “I can’t believe the Sarasota Whatever-Tribune cost me my 20th Pulitzer.” As many of you already know, those kinds of projects can be hellish, soul-sucking, doubt-inducing affairs. But if you’re the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand-entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you’re our kind of sicko.

For those unaware of Florida’s reputation, it’s arguably the best news state in the country and not just because of the great public records laws. We have all kinds of corruption, violence and scumbaggery. The 9/11 terrorists trained here. Bush read My Pet Goat here. Our elections are colossal clusterfucks. Our new governor once ran a health care company that got hit with a record fine because of rampant Medicare fraud. We have hurricanes, wildfires, tar balls, bedbugs, diseased citrus trees and an entire town overrun by giant roaches (only one of those things is made up). And we have Disney World and beaches, so bring the whole family.

Send questions, or a resume/cover letter/links to clips to my email address below. If you already have your dream job, please pass this along to someone whose skills you covet. Thanks.

via a few tasteful snaps.

Finding a corporate voice

Companies lavish great sums on ads, branding and websites. But they give less thought to the everyday writing they create. I’m not talking about copywriting in adverts. That’s poetry. I’m talking about prose. The humdrum stuff of daily business life: press releases, contracts, marketing collateral, website content and the rest.

I believe that writing is a fundamental part of a brand. Finding a corporate voice and using it consistently adds weight and distinctiveness to a brand. Companies that neglect their writing risk short-changing their brand.

via Writing as branding.

The Economist keeps its head while all about them are losing theirs

The Atlantic on one of my favorite print magazines:

the thing that has propelled The Economist’s rise: its status as a humble digest, with a consistent authorial voice, that covers absolutely everything that you need to be informed about.

The secret to The Economist’s success is not its brilliance, or its hauteur, or its typeface. The writing in Time and Newsweek may be every bit as smart, as assured, as the writing in The Economist. But neither one feels like the only magazine you need to read. You may like the new Time and Newsweek. But you must—or at least, brilliant marketing has convinced you that you must—subscribe to The Economist.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 1918-2008

It was his steadfast belief in good and evil, and his conviction that he was destined to play a part in the struggle between them, that made Solzhenitsyn‘s one of the emblematic lives of the 20th century. With his passing, we have lost one of our last links to the era of Soviet tyranny and the struggle to defeat it. Solzhenitsyn did not play the same kind of political role in that struggle as some of the other giants of the 20th century with whom his name should be remembered (…). But as a writer and witness, his contribution was no less crucial. (NY Sun)

A reminder that the pen is often mightier than the sword.

How to write: jot down, accumulate, spread out and dispose

Witwer had an original method of composition. He carried small scratch pads and short pencils in his pockets. If a comic idea occurred to him on the sidewalk, at a party, in conference, in a taxicab, in a speakeasy, or anywhere else, he would thrust his hand in his side coat pocket, make a note on the pad, tear off the sheet, and leave the pad in readiness for the next idea. Whenever he heard a very bright remark or a very dumb remark, Witwer’s right hand would dart into his coat pocket.

From long practice he could scribble legibly and inconspicuously.

After accumulating a hundred of two hundred of these notes, he would seat himself at his desk, cover the floor around him with the slips of paper, and start writing. When his invention lagged, he would lean over and pick up a slip of paper. If the paper failed to suggest anything useful at the moment, he would toss it back on the floor and pick up another. Sooner or later he would find a note which would inspire him. Once used, the slip would be crumpled and thrown into a wastebasket. (quoted in the excellent blog.pmarca.com)

Do your words make people see?

A blind man sitting on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet and a sign that read: “I am blind, please help.”

A creative publicist was walking by and stopped to observe. He saw that the blind man had only a few coins in his hat. He dropped in more coins and, without asking for permission, took the sign and rewrote it.

He returned the sign to the blind man and left. That afternoon the publicist returned to the blind man and noticed that his hat was full of bills and coins.

The blind man recognized his footsteps and asked if it was he who had rewritten his sign and wanted to know what he had written on it. The publicist responded: “Nothing that was not true. I just wrote the message a little differently.”

The new sign read: “Today is Spring and I cannot see it.” (source unknown)