Covering meetings

A story is inadequate if it offers nothing but facts from an event or about an upcoming event. There’s no need to write long stories on boring meetings. File information on breaking news and then follow up with focused news features on individual aspects of the meetings. Don’t feel compelled to files stories if nothing occurs. Nobody wants to read that. Find a way to make the meeting part of a larger story. The meeting supplies part of the story, not all of it. Could focus on writers in general with references to a scheduled visit by an author. If someone wants money to build something, go to the location and see how that construction would affect the neighborhood. Interview locals. Don’t rely on a bunch of people in a meeting to tell you what is going on. You are not there to sell an event. Leave that to the PR people. Don’t run stories for the sources. Nobody wants to read stories on how people organized events or ran meetings.

BEFORE THE EVENT
• Do your homework before covering a speech. That way, you can cover the event on deadline. Check clippings in the office and call some potential sources about the subject materials.
• Find out what people would like to know about this event. Ask friends and classmates what they would like to know about mosquitoes. Or about Spanish artists.
• Look for research on this topic by checking sites and publications online and/or by calling experts in the community. You could call somebody at a local art gallery concerning the styles typically offered by Spanish artists. A specific question like this can yield great insights.
• Arrive early so you can speak to the presenter. If he is busy, ask if you can spend 10 to 15 minutes asking questions afterward.

DURING THE EVENT
• Get a copy of all handouts.
• Listen for things that are NEW, IMPORTANT, UNUSUAL.
• Listen for the issues that illustrate the struggles and drama faced by those involved with complaints.
• Count people attending.
• Take notes about anything the speaker says—these can be used as direct and indirect quotes. Listen for themes that you can use as a LEAD for your story. Don’t settle for a one-liner or metaphor to characterize the speech.
• Measure audience reaction on specific points.
• Find one person to write about at a meeting. Make the event part of the story on someone who is interesting. The organizer of a sausage festival that hates sausages for example.
• Record questions by individuals. Make sure you get their names before they leave.
• Listen for stories that you can use as well to illustrate some points. Record the specific details. Was it a small turtle or an eight-inch box turtle? Where on the coast did he go? Cite the specific town.
• Speak with audience members who posed questions.
• Ask follow-up questions regarding comments made during the presentation.

AFTERWARD, WHILE WRITING
• Tell stories. Don’t describe boring details about how the meeting. There is no need to narratively explain what happened at a boring meeting. Just cite the highlights. But find the interesting story behind the meeting by making connections and some additional reporting.
• Call other experts in the field—other artists, entomologists, marine biologists, political leaders. Ask them to respond to the ideas presented by this speaker.
• You can write this as straightforward news or as a feature where you experiment with the lead by offering narrative or some other technique.
• You are the eyes and ears of your readers who cannot attend meetings. Write about what’s most relevant and interesting from these meetings. Give reader only newsworthy material.

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One Response to “Covering meetings”

  1. Go deeper, longer when developing feature leads « Daily Eastern News Guide & Stylebook Says:

    […] repeating whatever anybody says at these meetings and events. Check out the page on the right (Covering Meetings) for more tips and suggestions on turning event stories into news […]

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