Reporting and writing tips

In News & Feature Reporting class today, we are going to be talking about news reporting. Lecture notes are below.

Report the story first
Understand what you are writing about first, then start writing.
Gather the best quotes, facts, color, etc., that you can.
If not, it’ll be ‘garbage in, garbage out…’

Ten rules, according to a textbook entitled “News Reporting and Writing”:

    • Understand the event, the news story
    • Find a focus, an angle, then start writing
    • Show, don’t tell
    • Put good quotes and human interest high in the story
    • Put relevant anecdotes high
    • Use concrete nouns and colorful verbs
    • Don’t use too many adverbs (don’t overwrite)
    • Avoid judgments and inferences. Let the facts talk
    • Don’t raise questions you can’t answer
    • Write simply, succinctly, honestly and quickly

The best news stories are:

  • Accurate
  • Properly attributed
  • Complete
  • Balanced and fair
  • Objective
  • Brief and focused
  • Well-written

Types of attribution

  • On the record
  • On background – can be quoted, but not by name. Example: A White House official said.
  • Deep background – not for attribution, but can be used
  • Off the record – for the reporter only

Thoughts on writing

  • Keep it clean, simple and clear
  • Choose the right word for the job
  • If you aren’t sure, look it up
  • Vary sentence length, but keep most sentences short (12 words or less)
  • Don’t forget transitions
  • Read it aloud and see how it sounds
  • Don’t sweat it if it doesn’t come out just the way you want the first time…you can always rewrite

The Writer’s Art
Stephen King wrote:

Writing is a matter of exercise…if you write for an hour and a half a day for ten years you’re gonna turn into a good writer.

Find the right approach

  • Hard news – an investigation, a killing, a resignation, a new finding, a government action, etc.
  • A feature – a trend, a profile, a how-to, a travel piece, a survivor’s story, etc.
  • Something in between…A hybrid?
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