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March 1, 2016 | Issue 16
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the morning shakeout by mario fraioli
Crushing climbs with my San Francisco Running Company crew on Saturday. instagram.com/mariofraioli

Good morning! I’ve got a lot for you to digest this week, so let’s get started:

Journalism takes the Spotlight

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have much interest in watching the Oscars on Sunday night, but my wife and I did rent “Spotlight” off Amazon Prime on Saturday and we couldn’t stop talking about it afterward. So, upon learning via Twitter late on Sunday that the movie won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, I felt an odd rush of pride and excitement. Why? Like many other journalists who saw the film, I felt it was a victory for a profession that is widely misunderstood and doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. In a column for The Washington Post, the real-life Martin Baron—the editor of The Boston Globe who had the Spotlight team investigate the covering up of years of sexual abuse by Boston-area priests—wrote, “I feel indebted to everyone who made a film that captures, with uncanny authenticity, how journalism is practiced and, with understated force, why it’s needed.” 

As a member of the media, I couldn’t agree more with Baron, despite the fact that almost none of my work is of a true “investigative” nature. But, as Baron alluded to in his column, the film portrayed how hard the work really is and what goes into reporting a story, from observing to fact gathering to interviewing to fact checking to following up with sources to the actual writing of the story, and the list goes on. I think it’s important for the general public to see that process, along with understanding the important role the media plays in informing and protecting the public on any number of issues. Now, not every journalist is a good journalist and not all media operates in the interest of the public good, but there are many credible outlets like the Globe that work tirelessly in pursuit of the truth and we’re all better off due to their efforts. 

Applying all of this to the ongoing investigations of doping in track and field, cycling and other sports, it’s journalists that often get blamed (and in some cases, attacked) for sticking their noses where some—mostly those who are being investigated—feel it doesn’t belong. In my experience, this sort of reaction is almost always indicative that someone is hiding something they don’t want the public to know—and usually with good reason. In an era that’s been tainted by some greedy athletes, questionable coaches and agents, and corrupt governing bodies, we should tip our cap to investigative journalists like Hajo Seppelt, David Epstein, Mark Daly and others who are working tirelessly to bring out the truth in track and field. These guys are very good at what they do, credible to a fault and won’t stop until they find out what athletes, fans and anyone else with an interest in the sport deserves to know. 

Let’s talk about eating disorders. 

Last week on competitor.com, we republished this poignant piece from 2:32 marathoner Sarah Crouch discussing the issue of disordered eating amongst female runners. Please read it if you haven’t already. It’s a taboo topic in the world of distance running, and not just among women. Eating disorders impact a lot of males too. I know because I’ve been there. At a different point of my life I was the “Runner X” in Sarah’s story, and I know of many other dudes who can identify with the struggles she describes in her post. In fact, if you replace the female references in Sarah’s story with their male equivalents, the main message would still hold true. But perhaps the most important point Sarah makes about disordered eating is this: NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT! Well, that needs to change and it needs to change now. Male or female, let’s start talking—and listening. Let’s help each other out. As Phoebe Wright wrote separately in her own blog post for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, “compared to other addictions, an eating disorder might be the trickiest to navigate. It’s like it has a super stealthy arsenal to attack a person from the inside out.” Take it from someone who’s been there: This is a battle that cannot be fought alone. If you’re struggling with disordered eating, seek out the support you need; if you know someone who is fighting, kindly offer some assistance. Either way, say something and get the conversation started. If you’re not comfortable talking to someone you know, there are anonymous resources at your disposal. Heck, reply to this email and I’ll do what I can from where I sit. The worst thing you can do it stay quiet. Let’s start making some more noise about this issue. 

Engage me for a bit. 

In last week’s newsletter, I included a link to a profile on BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti. Here’s another good article about the company that takes a look at how it’s rethinking the way reader engagement gets measured. Expectedly, the new approach goes beyond the age-old standard of tracking unique visitors and page views to their website (which is where many/most publishers are still placing their bets despite the declining value of traditional banner advertising) and extends into measuring audience interest across a multitude of platforms. This is important because as mobile and social increasingly become our main avenues for media consumption, the way content gets created will continue to change (BuzzFeed is already doing this with its distributed content strategy), which means the way publishers sell around that content will change, which means the key metrics that get measured will need to change as well. Online media entities take a cue from BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen: Start shifting the way you create, distribute, and sell around content—along with rethinking the metrics you track—if you want to be in it for the long haul. “The way Nguyen thinks about content and how it is found, what purpose it serves and why it gets shared, is worth considering for almost any media company that wants to survive the current upheaval.”

Is longform storytelling coming up short?

“This modern middle ground of longform in theory, digital by practice is pretty clearly fraught.” Longform storytelling is all the rage on the interwebs these days with sites across nearly every area of interest publishing lengthy feature stories about all sorts of shit. The problem is a lot of it is just that: shit. Few outlets are doing feature writing the right way. This is a good read from Esquire writer Chris Jones discussing the resources that go into producing great work, including writing, editing, fact-checking, photography and—perhaps most importantly—time. (On that note, and to drive one of my earlier points about journalism home, I encourage you to watch Spotlight to see what this process looks like in action.)

“You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.”

Several issues ago I wrote about deadlines and how “crunch time can squeeze out some of your best creative juices.” Well, maybe I’m onto something with my practice of forced procrastination. Turns out it's a tool that can help ignite creativity. “Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind “Steve Jobs” and “The West Wing,” is known to put off writing until the last minute,” Adam Grant writes in The New York Times. “When Katie Couric asked him about it, he replied, “You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.” 

That’s it for Issue 16 of The Morning Shakeout. I encourage you to share your thoughts on what you've read here by replying to this email or engaging me on Twitter. If you enjoy receiving this weekly missive, please consider passing it along to someone else who might like it. 

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

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