Archive for September, 2007

Tips on how to be a better journalist

September 30, 2007

Paul Bradshaw offers 10 tips for becoming a better journalist online while Bryan Murley offers five more tips on how to be a better online journalist. You should try to check out both of these excellent blogs as often as you can.

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Editorials can be engaging

September 28, 2007

Editorials can be written conversationally, include quotes, and can even profile an individual. Editorials, like columns, are really news stories with strong opinions. Check out today’s editorial on voter registration, a topic that is often presented in a preachy (screechy?) manner. Ours was much more engaging. Plus, we included historical perspective (the 1992 elections), and reasons one needs to register and vote — to be a solid citizen, really. The strength of this editorial, though, is that it profiles someone who feels passionately about this topic. Good job.

You might want to emulate these stories

September 28, 2007

Michael Cortez did a great job writing about banned books today. The lead draws us in with short informational sentences, conflict, and then ties it all together with a nice nut graph. Here are the lead elements.

Roy and Silo.
Two penguins at the Central Park Zoo.
Together, they incubated an abandoned egg until it hatched.
They raised the baby penguin, Tango, and were a happy family.
Here’s the catch: Roy and Silo are both males.
This children’s story is the most challenged book of 2006. The book is called “And Tango Makes Three” and is written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. This book is one of 546 books that were challenged in 2006. Booth Library will celebrate Banned Books Week, which begins Saturday and ends Oct. 6.

The story also includes expert sources (an associate director of the office for intellectual freedom for the American Librry Association, the dean of Booth Library, a faculty member who has some expertise on the topic, and a research librarian who produced the exhibit.) This story is sourced well, written well, offers context, and is timely. Good job.

Emily Zulz also did a nice job telling stories about the study abroad program. She also offered key information. She did not just explain study abroad as if it were written for a boring brochure. These stories offer insight into the program in a much more interesting manner.

And Stacy Smith wrote a funny, engaging story on a visiting comedian. The story does not just rely on insights from the comedian, Dan Cummins. Stacy also offered comments from his wife and a manager for a comedy club where Cummins has performed. This was fun to read. This is how we should approach precedes (and precedes are more important than follows because readers can then go out and attend these events.)

Use visual elements to help tell stories

September 28, 2007

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We did a really nice job presenting follow-up information on the bar raid at Jerry’s. The package includes break-out info on fake IDs, on the effects of alcohol on grades and what will happen to the people arrested. A brief story offers comments from the police and city attorney. The only advice would be to have reduced the size of the map since most of our readers know where the bar is — and because it is not the most important angle to this story. Still, this is a very good package. We should spend more time developing graphics like this.

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Here’s how to cite info from web sites

September 27, 2007

Who speaks for a website? Online communities often operate as a news medium, rather than a traditionally staffed news publication. Other news reports about these sites, to be fully accurate, should reflect that fact by citing the individual author of information found on the site, rather than just the site itself. OJR editor Robert Niles proposes a three-point checklist that reporters ought to follow whenever citing information they find on the Web.

Here’s the checklist:
1) When you find information you wish to cite online, note both the author of the information as well as the website upon which it originally appeared.
2) Make a good faith effort to determine the author’s relationship to the site. Read the author’s profile (often linked from the byline), or the “about us” or FAQ section of the site to see if the author of the information is the publisher, editor or other paid representative of the site.
3) If the author is not, the citation of the author’s information should be to “[the author], writing on [the site].” If the author is a paid representative of the site, then the citation should note that relationship, i.e. to “[the author], [the relationship] of [the site].”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

News process

September 26, 2007

NEWS SENSE
Reporters use news sense to recognize a good news story. But most often, they are assigned news stories from their editors. So it is possible for a reporter to avoid initiating a news story until a story he should have written is missed and the editor demands to know why. An enterprising reporter will always be on the lookout for potential stories that the editor might not know about otherwise. And if that story turns out, not only will the editor and the readership be satisfied, you will have exercised good news sense.

Anyone with an interest in writing can learn to write for a newspaper by learning to use a few simple writing and style rules. However, the ability to locate and compile the facts of a potential story into a readable story demands more than classroom construction. It takes good judgment, curiosity and determination to dig up the facts – the natural talents of a news reporter. Plus, the reporter seldom takes anything at face value. This person knows there are always questions to be answered and stories to be told, and the reporter looks out for clues that lead to these stories.

A news editor must know what a staff writer is working on before the staff writer presents him- or herself as a writer for The Daily Eastern News. In regards to blotter, two reporters will go together to collect the police blotter as often as needed.

INTERVIEWING
In most cases, you will have time to prepare in advance for interviews you’ll conduct as a News reporter. An editor will assign a story and guide you in preparing for the interview(s). Be sure to check the morgue for past articles and read all documents related to your story prior to your interview.

You should try to conduct interviews in person whenever possible by phoning for an appointment. Set up the interview as far in advance as you can. Only when you cannot arrange to meet in person, a phone interview is necessary. Some sources may request to do the interview via e-mail, but use this method as a last resort.

When conducting a phone interview follow these basic rules:
1. Always identify yourself as a reporter from The Daily Eastern News, or The Summer Eastern News, whether you are talking to a student, secretary, clerk, president of the university or a strip-tease artist.
2. Be sure you have prepared questions and necessary background information ready. You don’t want to stumble through the interview making the source think you don’t understand the topic. There are two or more sides to every story; make sure you find and include them all.
3. Ask if you may call back in case you have more questions.
4. Thank the person for his or her time.

Setting up interviews
When setting up for an appointment, tell the person the reason for the interview. This gives the subject time to prepare for questions you might ask. If you are seeking specific information, tell the source so he or she will be prepared to give the information at the interview. It is good to contact multiple sources for a story, but if you have contacted more than one source for the same information be sure you tell them you have contacted others who have not yet gotten back to you.

Getting background information
In any interview, the background information on the person and his area of expertise should be obtained by the reporter. Gaining this information beforehand will serve several purposes. First, it will allow you to save time in the interview because you will not have to ask these questions. It also will demonstrate you thought enough about the importance of the interview to spend some time preparing for it. Before arriving for the interview, you should read recent news clips on the topic, check the morgue and ask your staff editor about other possible sources of information. Also, it’s always to your advantage to read other newspapers and watch news broadcasts.

Preparing questions
The questions you will ask are the most important part of the interview. Rarely does a reporter go to an interview without questions prepared in advance. Preparing questions is not difficult. The first question is the one the reporter must answer. What is the purpose of the interview?

Two general rules should be followed in preparing questions. First, prepare specific questions that will receive specific answers. Present your questions in an organized manner. Keep questions on similar areas together. It will help the interviewee organize his thoughts on the topic.

Second in preparing questions, always think of the reader. The News’ readership consists of students, instructors, civil servants, administration, alumni and townspeople. How is all of this important to the reader? What does the reader want to know about this topic? What would be particularly interesting?

Being flexible
A good interviewer not only asks questions and records the answers, he also listens for comments that will lead to other subsequent questions. Every reporter should be wary of off-the-record remarks. Off-the-record remarks serve no purpose to the news process except offering the reporter additional background information that cannot be used. Honor off-the-record requests unless another, separate source either inadvertently repeats the same information or if the original source refers you to another source who will go on the record. The same rules apply to anonymity. Information gained by anonymity or or off-the-record interviews merits caution and suspicion, so discuss it thoroughly with your staff editor if there are problems.

COMMON PROBLEMS TO AVOID
Spelling
Spelling is the number one problem with copy, according to any editor. Winning the county spelling bee is not a prerequisite for being a reporter, but the ability to use a dictionary is. Double check every name in the story for correct spelling with the campus phonebook.
Long sentences
Short sentences are the best sentences. The longer the sentence, the more likely the reporter will introduce confusion, not clarification.
Wordiness can lead to long sentences. It can also cause repetition of facts and overly-long stories.

Ambiguousness
Does a story make sense? If it contains any of the errors discussed so far, the story is not going to be clear and easily understood by the readers. Reporters write for readers. Readers are the people who know less about the topic than the reporter. Reporters should not write down to the reader, but the story should not be written as if the reader did as much research as the reporter.

Active vs. passive voice
To keep sentences moving, use active voice. To keep stories moving, and readers interested, always keep in mind who did what to whom and try to report it that way. One thing to remember about using verbs; because they add action to the story, don’t fight the natural progress of a sentence by using passive voice. Passive voice rearranges the natural sentence order and makes the object more important than the subject and verb.
Example
Correct: The senate will meet Tuesday.
Incorrect: The senate will be meeting Thursday.

Tense
Verb tense refers to the time frame in which the action of the sentence is viewed by the writer. Because news stories are read after an event and after the reporter describes the event in writing, the most natural tense for most news stories is the past tense. People don’t say things in news stories: It’s ‘Jones said’ … Not ‘said Jones.’

Quotes
News is what people say and how they say it – as movers and shakers and as the moved and shaken. The chatter is incessant. So are the reporter’s efforts to distill useful quotes from it. Quotes are indispensable. They lend authenticity. They put readers in touch with people as directly as print can manage it. A story of any length that lacks quotes is barren.

The art of handling quotes comes down to knowing when to quote, when to paraphrase, when to forget the whole thing. Sometimes the choice is simple – just think it through. Quotes perform certain standard functions:
—Document and support third-person statements in the lead and elsewhere.
—Set off controversial material, where the precise wording can be a an issue, as in legal contexts.
—Catch distinctions and nuances in important passages of speeches and convey some of the flavor of the speaker’s language.
—Highlight exchanges and testimony in trials, hearings, meetings and other encounters.
—Don’t paraphrase a quote and then use it.

MISTAKES
Never hide a correction. Tell others that a mistake has been made and correct it. They need to know. Don’t let errors stick in the story. You may be on deadline and carelessly overlook the error. Study this stylebook and the AP, and ask questions.

ONE LAST TIP
Probably one of the best ways to learn about effective reporting is to read it yourself. And that’s what you should make a point of doing on a regular basis. Read daily papers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and Washington Post as often as you can. You’ll get a healthy dose of solid, objective, clearly-written reporting that will help you become a responsible journalist.

ORGANIZING STORIES BEFORE WRITING THEM
Planning precedes writing. Even while reporting a story, a reporter should try to visualize what he is going to write, especially the beginning of the story, the lead. Not only will planning while in the field speed up the writing process, it will also serve as a check on uncovered aspects of your story that need coverage and help reveal a logical order to organize the facts. News stories have linear structure. The beginning includes the most important material. It tells the reader what to expect. The remainder of the story, the body, amplifies, buttresses and explains the beginning. Always keep the readership in mind.

The Lead
The hardest part of the story to write is the lead. It also is the most important part of the story. After the headline, the lead must catch the reader’s attention and hold the reader for the rest of the story. Writing good leads is a skill perfected over time, but there are a few basic principles to get you started.

Leads should be kept under 30 words long, under 25 is possible. This will let readers know the essential information in order to decide whether to read on. The idea of decision is important; a good, clearly written lead will draw readers into the story.

Who, what, when, where, why, how and so what will have to be answered in the story, but the lead isn’t necessarily the place to do it. When working with the five w’s and h, remember time, date and place in that order.

Use active verbs, and put the source of action in the beginning of the lead.

Don’t put too much detail in the lead. You don’t want to lose the reader or bog the story down with information which belongs lower as background or explanation.

The Body
Following the lead, elaboration of the story’s theme will set the pace for the rest of the story. Explanatory and amplifying materials, and most always, background are required to explain the lead. Your quotes, paraphrases and figures, et al., should be organized to logically strengthen your explanation.

There are as many basic structures as there are story ideas, but the inverted pyramid structure is commonly used. The main facts of the story are presented first, with the supplemental facts written in descending order of importance. This structure has several advantages. First, it gives the reader the gist of the story in a few words in the lead and the important facts in the first few paragraphs. It also facilitates the editor who must cut the story to fit a predetermined news hole.

DEN Code of Ethics

September 26, 2007

Daily Eastern News Code of Ethics

The Daily Eastern News serves and informs the Eastern community and the Charleston community.

Every person who works for The Daily Eastern News editorial staff must follow a Code of Ethics. If a person cannot follow the code he must consult the executive editorial staff.

Such a code is essential to building a certain amount of trust between the readers of this paper and the journalists working on it. This trust includes carrying out the job of a journalist with intelligence, objectivity, accuracy, and fairness. If this trust is broken, then we have failed as journalists.

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
Freedom of the press is to be guarded as an inalienable right of people in a free society. It carries with it the freedom and responsibility to discuss, question and challenge actions and utterances of our government and of our public and private institutions. Journalists uphold the right to speak unpopular opinions and the privilege to agree with the majority.

ETHICS
Journalists must be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know the truth.

1. Gifts, favors, special treatment, free travel, free meals or privileges can compromise the integrity of journalists. They should neither accept anything nor pursue any activity that might compromise or seem to compromise their integrity. Some gifts – free in particular – can be accepted only with the understanding that the journalist is not obligated to the source offering free travel; such exceptions shall be made because of the frugal nature of a student newspaper.

2. Pledges of confidentiality to news sources must be honored at all costs and therefore should not be held lightly. Unless there is a clear and pressing need to maintain confidential sources, sources of information should be identified. Journalists should make every effort to get information on the record. If that is not possible, journalists should seek information elsewhere. If that fails, journalists should get an on-the-record reason for not identifying the source and should include the reason in the story; also journalists should seek to identify the source by position, department or any other type of identification. When journalists agree to protect a source’s identity, that identity will not be made known to anyone. A journalist shall tell his editor of any confidential information only upon approval of the journalist’s source.

3. Political involvement, holding public office, secondary employment and service in community organizations should be avoided if it compromises the integrity of the journalist and his or her ability to report and edit with fairness. His or her life should be conducted in a manner which protects him or her from a conflict of interest. All journalists will notify the editor in chief in writing of any outside commitments that may affect their integrity. A journalist shall not be allowed to file a story where a conflict of interest is real or apparent.

4. Press releases from private sources should not be published without substantiation to their claims of news value.

5. Journalists will make constant efforts to print news that serves the public interest, despite the obstacles.

ACCURACY AND OBJECTIVITY
Good faith with the public is the foundation of all worthy journalism.
1. Truth is our ultimate goal.
2. Objectivity in reporting the news is a goal student journalists should strive for on this paper.
3. There is no excuse for inaccuracies or lack of thoroughness.
4. Newspaper headlines should be fully warranted by the contents of the articles they accompany. Photographs and telecasts should give an accurate picture of an event and not highlight an incident out of context.
5. Sound practice makes clear distinction between news reports and expressions of opinion. News reports should be free of opinion or bias and represent all sides of an issue.
6. Partisanship in editorial comment that knowingly departs from the truth violates the spirit of American journalism.
7. Journalists recognize their responsibility for offering informed analysis, comment, and editorial opinion on public events and issues. They accept the obligation to present such material by individuals whose competence, experience and judgment qualify them for it.
8. Special articles or presentations devoted to advocacy or the writer’s own conclusions and interpretations should be labeled as such.

FAIR PLAY
The dignity, privacy, rights and well-being of people encountered during the course of gathering the news shall be respected.
1. Unofficial charges affecting the reputation or moral character shall not be published without giving the accused a fair chance to reply.
2. Errors shall be corrected with completeness and expediency. The Daily Eastern News shall print all corrections in a conspicuous place on Page 3.
3. Journalists should be accountable to the public for their reports, and the public should be encouraged to voice its grievances against the media. Open dialogue with our readers, viewers and listeners should be fostered.

RESPONSIBILITY
The public’s right to know of events of public importance and interest is the overriding mission of the mass media. The purpose of distributing news and enlightened opinion is to serve the general welfare. Journalists who use their professional status as representatives of the public for selfish or other unworthy motives violate a high trust.

The Daily Eastern News code of ethics is based on the Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics.

Check in daily

September 26, 2007

Staff members should check into this blog for updates on style, journalism tips, newspaper procedures and critiques.

Hello world!

September 26, 2007

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!