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It's Time for Sensible Talk

Robert Niles
By Robert Niles
Published: June 15, 2008 at 4:26 PM (MST)
Why "sensible talk"?

Because that's how we make better journalism -- with sensible talk. Our ability to report is only as good as our ability to perceive, and our perceptions are best informed by both our senses and our understanding of facts.

When journalism is working well, good reporting flows from facts to conclusion to action, giving citizens the tools to build a better society.

Journalism fails readers when it regurgitates ideology, from publishers or from sources, instead of exploring facts. Just as political leaders fail the public when they do the same. Unfortunately, the past decade has seen too much of both in the United States.

I've built this website as a community for journalists who want to speak truth to power, and for readers who want to do the same. That's why I call the site "analysis from the reality-based world."

I'll be interviewing people who are working to make journalism better -- entrepreneurs trying new ways to expand coverage to under-served communities, both physical and virtual; educators changing how they train journalism students; and reporters using new techniques, influenced by social science research, to improve the accuracy and endurance of their reporting. I've also included Statistics Every Writer Should Know, the introductory math tutorial I wrote for journalists several years ago, because numbers are never fuzzy -- they always have a story to tell.

In addition, I will be talking with people engaged in politics, from office-holders to activists, discussing ways that readers, collectively, can help ensure that better reporting leads to better public policy.

My wife, Laurie, is on board, too. A professional journalist and website publisher herself, she'll be helping with the editing of the site, as well as posting her own observations from time to time.

We hope that you will join the talk, too.

See or hear something outrageous or inspiring? Click the "Write Journal" link in the upper left corner of the page to start your own journal on Media, politics, business, arts, science, technology? It's all fair game for discussion on the site. Need help with a project or your website? Want to spread the word about notable work you've done at your publication? Do the same.

Anyone can respond to a journal entry, so your submissions can provide the beginning of an informative discussion among Sensible Talk readers.

If you are not ready yet to join the conversation with your own writing, I hope that you'll continue to follow as a reader. Please sign up for our e-mail newsletter, or subscribe to our RSS feed. (If you are on Facebook, you can become a fan of us there, too.) We will have fresh journal entries on the site every weekday.

Thank you for reading, and for supporting, Sensible Talk.

Robert Niles also can be found at

From a reader at on June 16, 2008 at 1:36 PM

I got your message about the OJR so I had to head over here and see what your new site is about. Thanks for all you've done on the OJR, I really enjoyed it.


From Emmanuel Parody on June 16, 2008 at 2:56 PM

Thanks for the good job on OJR, I will follow you here...
Congrats from a french reader

From Jason Preston on June 16, 2008 at 3:04 PM

Robert, it's good to see you continue to write about journalism and publishing as it transitions to the internet. More often than not, I've read your posts on OJR and thought "that's what I'm saying, only better!"

Yours is an excellent voice in the community, and I look forward to following you (and your wife) on Sensible Talk ;)

From Scott Ruecker on June 16, 2008 at 5:01 PM

You can plan on seeing me around here, I like this kind of format better anyway. I like the more direct interaction between us, you and the site. I like the layout too.

From Robert Niles on June 16, 2008 at 5:37 PM


From KG Kumar on June 17, 2008 at 1:39 AM

It was with a great deal of sadness that I read your mail re: the discontinuance of the OJR website. As a longstanding visitor to the site and an ardent fan of your writings, how could I not trot over to SensibleTalk? All the best with the new site, and I hope you will also be able to write on and comment about media and tech-related happenings in the rest of the world, though I fully understand the US focus.

With best wishes,


KG Kumar
Independent journalist and editor

From Heather McCall on June 17, 2008 at 6:43 AM

Just wanted to say I was sad to hear of OJR's demise, but glad you are continuing to do what you do...

From Patrick Murphy on June 17, 2008 at 6:56 AM

Robert, please be aware that your OJR newsletter provided some excellent tips over the past couple years for a 19,000-site corporate intranet.

In shaping your new site and working out its mission, you might want to consider the needs of journalism's "evil twin," corporate communications. Although external communication (PR) is necessarily circumscribed (chiefly by lawyers), internal communication is undergoing something of a revolution with the widespread adoptions of collaborative publishing platforms like SharePoint and especially by Web 2.0 tools, which tend to push outside the corporate firewall. Practitioners of internal corporate communications could use some Sensible Talk.

At any rate, good luck with your new site.

From a reader at on June 17, 2008 at 8:25 AM

There is a great new book Makers and Takers by Peter Schweitzer that addresses a lot of statistical silliness in describing segments of our society. You should find it worth a browse.

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