Category Archives: Journalesque stuff

A long overdue apology to my journalist family

Josie Jacobs reunites with Chloe, a Corgi thought to be lost during a structure fire on Buckhorn Road.

Josie Jacobs reunites with Chloe, a Corgi thought to be lost during a structure fire on Buckhorn Road.

As I sit here exhausted, tearful and overcome by the smell of smoke, I need to write this to my family.

The same thing happened again tonight that’s occurred so many times to keep track of over the past 27 years as a journalist.

I call home tonight, just like I’ve done many other nights.

Just leaving the office, I tell them. I will be home in time for dinner for sure. I promise.

As I stand up to walk out the door of the newsroom, I hear word of a major structure fire over the scanner. I can’t ignore it.

While I was there, I watched a husband and wife react as they watch their home go up in flames, a place they’ve lived in since 1966. She mourned the loss of her two dogs, presumed to be victims of the fire.

I was there when family members heard a rustle in the bushes. It was one of the scared dogs looking for its owners. It was an honor to document the joyful reunion.

So I apologize for missing yet another dinner and showing up hours later than I said I would. Thank you, family, for sacrificing so I could help document this story.

You’ve watched with me as my trade teeters precariously off the edge of the cliff. You’ve heard my worries and my complaints.

But thanks for understanding as people like your dad and husband tell these stories for as long as we can.

 

Newspaper has bigger worries besides me

Two printed columns in the last five months.

Both about little ol’ me.

The latest one is in today’s Standard Journal by Managing Editor Greg Little. He appears to be offended by my opinions expressed on Facebook about how they covered a news story. I am not mentioned by name, it’s very obvious who they are referring to.

Little excerpt

For a guy who’s leaving town with his family, heading for a new job and a new beginning, they sure seem fascinated by what I have to say. If I am so incompetent as they allege, why do my words matter?

It would be so easy to fire back, to bring up damning emails and documents that I have in my possession. It would be so easy to seek out a lawyer to demand a retraction, or to march out numerous concerned citizens who have approached me to discuss the current direction of the newspaper.

But I don’t have time for that. Instead I’ll let Rexburg Mayor Richard Woodland speak for me. This is an excerpt from a mailing that was sent out to all media organizations and will go out with utility bills to everyone:

We seem to face a time within the City of Rexburg and Madison County where nay saying has become a popular sport or tool of a radical fringe that seems to be encouraged by an out of state newspaper. The Rexburg Standard Journal was at one time a locally owned and valuable asset to this community, however the current out of state owners have assumed  that “ginned up” controversies might sell more newspapers. Instead of being a builder it has become an adversary to the good people of this community. There has been such a diatribe against local officials that make them wonder why they bother to serve. Yet they do so, because they are builders. The naysayers are not builders! Some of them have been defeated in their attempts at becoming elected. They will not endure! Their names will be forgotten! Only the names of builders are remembered.

Trust me, mayor. I know how you feel.

I will be fine. My family and I are excited for what the future brings and grateful for the many friends we have made here in Rexburg. I can’t help but worry about the future of the Standard Journal. When a community newspaper loses the support of much of the community, they have more to be concerned about than whatever I have to say.

 

local news

History in the making

 

Capturing those special moments is about to get much easier, thanks to Kinfolio.

I’m the world’s worst genealogist. There, I said it.

I can’t spell the word without Google. Searching records online? Combing cemeteries for gravestones? Sending away for census records? All of that makes my head explode.

What compounds the guilt is my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and having my mom as a veteran genealogist for at least 50 years.

It’s what we do. Mormons believe everything begins with the family unit, and we need to connect the dots back through history.

Despite my shameful example at times through my life, something still calls to me with family history, to find the stories of the people who paved the way for me and to learn from them.

Thankfully, capturing your family stories and personal memories is about to get much easier. The people who made Family Search are putting the finishing touches on a free new experience for capturing those special family moments.

I’ve seen a sneak preview. It’s called Kinfolio, and trust me when I say it looks fun and easy to preserve my family memories.

I think I’m coming down with the family history bug again. And this is one affliction I don’t mind getting at all.

Click here to get a sneak peek of the site and sign up to get news and updates.

 

 

 

15 tips I would tell brand new journalists

Drat! Looks like somebody found my speech notes to the latest class of journalists coming into the world. All 20 of them.

1. Don’t complain about work conditions. You knew what you were getting into.

2. Above all else, maintain your credibility. You’re not here to be liked, only to be read and respected.

3. Visualize your readers every day — where they work, what worries them, what they talk about. If you don’t connect with them, you’ve failed.

4. Story ideas don’t magically show up on your desk. Look around as you walk to work. Talk to everyone you meet. Question everything. Leave your contact info with everybody, including your Twitter and Facebook info.

5. If don’t know what to write, you haven’t asked the right questions or talked to the enough people.

6. Somebody told me once, “Editors are the pirates who board your story ship.”

7. Pay attention in class, learn from great writers and never stop writing yourself.

8. Most newspapers don’t care about you. You’re there to feed the thresher, tossing stories in as fast as possible to keep it from running over you. Bosses will expect you to work all night, during your pregnancy, upside down or after your house exploded.

9. Spell the name back to your source, even if it’s John Smith. You have no excuse not to get it right. See No. 2.

10. Learn everything about the business. Know how to post to the Internet, the power of SEO, how to take and edit videos, write obituaries, answer calls from coaches, fix the copy machine, paginate, colate and work the soda machine.

11. Your readers have no idea what you do or why you do it. If I were in charge, I would create a Google+ hangout, allowing multiple readers to see a live stream into your newsroom.

12. Facebook and Twitter are gifts from Internet heaven. Appreciate and use them.

13. Show your readers they’re important as your smart phone. Thank them every day. Drive a newspaper to their house if they miss it. Return every message as soon as possible. Smile when you see them in the office.

14. Keep your promises to your sources and don’t make promises you can’t keep.

15. Remember people will always read stories that teach them, inspire them or make them angry or happy. That’s the best hope of job security I can leave you with.

Thanks for coming out. You’ve been a great audience.

Mike Henneke is a former print journalist with more than 23 years of experience. On certain nights, he still dreams of dangling participles and mixing his metaphors.

 

 

Mr. Downer unleashes his inner Mary Poppins (sort of)

Found myself doing it again.

Somebody asked me tonight how my week went, and without thinking, i launched into Chicken Little.

Or maybe it sounded more like Eyeore on Nyquil.

It’s funny what you recognize when life forces you to peel back the onion and put yourself back together again.

For the longest time, I didn’t recognize it as a problem because I didn’t care. It’s been my default programming, booting into Woe-Is Me-Mode.

It’s easy to spot the Downers. For one thing, they all have AOL accounts, watch Gilmore Girls and drive Astro vans.

Other ways you can spot members of the Downer family:

  1. They would insist on tartar sauce to go with the fishes and the loaves miracle from the Bible.
  2. Their lives are ruined because McDonald’s has no more Monopoly game pieces.
  3. They just found out their starting quarterback on their fantasy football league has been injured for the season.

Sure life is tough. But I am alive, I have shelter and a wonderful wife and family. And that’s just the start of my many blessings.

So let’s try that conversation again.

“How’d this week go, MIke?”

“Well, it’s exciting to fight through learning a new skill. It’s going to make me stronger and a better person when I get it figured out.”

There, that sounds better. Mary Poppins would be proud.