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Lori King

Sword and Pen – Let’s talk: The MVJ Convention and Mentorship Program

By #MVJ2023, Podcast

by Lori King, host of Sword and Pen

Did you know the Sword and Pen podcast, first aired in November 2019, was intended to be a limited-run series? The first host, retired Army intelligence officer Jonathan House, announced that intention during his inaugural introduction to Sebastian Junger, a journalist and documentarian.

Since that first episode, there have been three other hosts, Rich Dolan, Drew Lawrence and me. Drew and I still co-host it, and we plan on keeping this great show going because we believe in the learning environment this podcast provides through the voices of our guests.

With that in mind, stick around for the end of this podcast because you’ll be able to hear Jonathan begin that first show during a special showcase of five memorable quotes gathered from past guests. It’s just one way to honor the continuation of the Sword and Pen.

According to Russell Midori, MVJ president and co-founder, the Sword and Pen mission is to highlight the achievements and ongoing innovations of military veterans in the journalism profession and provide valuable news to our community.

We bring back Russell on this podcast to promote the MVJ 2023 Convention in New York City in October. We also chat with MVJ Mentorship Program manager Simone Doroski and mentorship alumnus Jordan Sartor-Francis about a powerful program that pairs our members with journalism experts in the field.

Listen as we >

  • talk about the what’s happening at the convention this year … and there’s a lot!
  • tout the skills mentees learn from their mentors, and how it’s landed them jobs and internships
  • explain how to sign up to the mentorship program and the convention

I am also excited to announce a new feature in the Sword and Pen that highlights stories in the MVJ Newsletter. The MVJ Bulletin will be a regular segment near the beginning of each podcast.

If you have an idea for a future episode topic, please let me know at [email protected].

And don’t forget to follow the Sword and Pen, published in the MVJ Newsletter and linked in the website under the About page, each month on Spotify so you don’t miss an episode.

Sword and Pen: Chicago Sun-Times photojournalist Anthony Vazquez

By Features, Podcast

by Lori King, host of Sword and Pen

Back in 2013, a year before Snapchat added video capability and the same year Instagram launched video sharing, the Chicago Sun-Times decided to jump on that video bandwagon. But rather than rely on skilled photographers to provide quality video, the Sun-Times canned their entire photo staff and forced its reporters to shoot video using iPhones.

Visual journalist Anthony Vazquez poses for a portrait at the Chicago Sun-Times, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

It was a bold and unprecedented move that sent shock waves and panic throughout the photojournalism world. It was the first time that photojournalists, including myself, realized we could be replaceable in newsrooms. I remember that day well because we were fearful that we could be next.

It’s been 10 years since that bad decision, and I’m still teaching about that mass layoff in my photojournalism

classes at the University of Toledo and Wayne State University (Detroit). I do not want history to repeat itself.

So, when I met marine veteran Anthony Vazquez at last year’s MVJ convention in Washington D.C. and he told me he was a photojournalist at the Chicago Sun-Times, I immediately invited him to be a guest on the Sword and Pen podcast. There was no better person to give our Sword and Pen listeners an update on that situation.

On this episode of Sword and Pen, Vazquez certainly talks about how the Sun-Times currently deals with video, but we mostly chat about his life as a “small town Iowa boy” who enlisted in the marines as a landing support specialist after community college and ended up at one of Chicago’s two competing newspapers.

Vazquez describes the moment he realized he wanted to be a journalist. It was in Afghanistan, and he had witnessed a horrific scene: a local Afghan boy whose leg was blown off by an IED. He watched as the boy’s younger brother frantically ran after him.

“That was his brother, and he was crying and trying to keep up with him as he was carried away on a stretcher by Afghan soldiers,” Vazquez recalled.

A bloodied fan talks back to officers after being injured by police officers after Mexico’s victory celebration in Mexico City, Sunday, June 17, 2018. Mexican fans celebrated around the Angel of Independence monument after Mexico’s victory over Germany in the World Cup. (AP Photo/Anthony Vazquez)

“He was in his flip flops, running across the rocks, and I just remember that whole scene made me realize that we’re here for a certain reason, that we’re impacting the lives of other people,” Vazquez said. “I wanted to write about what was going on in Afghanistan at the time and how war was impacting the locals. That’s what got me interested in journalism.”

It was a defining moment that inspired Vazquez to leave the military to attend journalism school at the University of Iowa. Though his initial intention was to be a writer, he took a few photo classes and joined the school newspaper, The Daily Iowan, which led him to pursue visual journalism instead.

He also talks about how his military experience played a key role in covering one of his first big breaking news stories for the Associated Press in Mexico; makes a case for veterans working in newsrooms; and explains how he went from working at a grocery store to becoming a member of Report for America.

Sword and Pen: Roy Peter Clark and the Art of Writing

By Podcast

A lead sentence.

How to begin? Not with a question.

Nor should leads begin with dates, names or quotes – if you can help it.

A lead sentence is the beginning of a news story, and if you start with any of the aforementioned ways, then I probably won’t read past the first paragraph.

I’m not the only one turned off by weak leads. Ameriforce Media associate editor Kari Williams recently Tweeted, “Full disclosure: If I start to read a story and the lede begins with a question or is an “Imagine” lede, I will immediately stop because I’ve lost all interest.”

Ameriforce correspondent Lucretia Cunningham replied, “Especially if it’s a yes or no question. My answer is always “no” and my reading stops there (insert laughing emoji).”

I believe a lead sentence is one of the most important parts of a story, and a topic worthy of a podcast. It takes skill and savvy to get a reader past the first few lines of a story, and nobody knows that better than Roy Peter Clark, of the Poynter Institute.

Clark, an author, journalist and educator, has made it his mission to rate the best Pulitzer Prize lead sentences for the past six years, so I chose him to shine a light on this underrated art form in the March episode of Sword and Pen.

“If the lead is a gold coin, it shouldn’t be the only gold coin in the story. It should be the first of maybe two or three,” he said.

So, what does he consider a golden lead sentence?

“When they heard the screams, no one suspected the rooster.”

Curious as to why a rooster would be considered as the prime suspect in an investigative story? If the answer is yes, then the writer did her job. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear the rest of the story.

During this 50:26-minute podcast, Clark masterfully expanded beyond lead sentences. He dropped several golden nuggets of writing advice as he wove an instructional tale of how to craft a solid story; gave us a sneak peek into his writer’s workbench; and instructed us on the various moves he makes when trying to engage readers throughout a story, like leading someone into a story without telling them exactly what it’s about.

Clark also divulged one of his favorite (yet embarrassing) lead sentences, explained how he juggles AP and APA style as an author and journalist, and proudly touted the Poynter Institute, which he deems one of the most important influential schools for journalists and democracy.

Lori King, the author of this piece, is a member of MVJ and co-host of the Sword & Pen podcast. She is an adjunct photojournalism instructor, a producer for the ONPA Buckeye Visualist podcast, and a retired military journalist.