COM 351: Assignment #3 and something new

Your third assignment is a news story. The assignment is due Oct. 18. You may do this assignment on your own or team up with a classmate. Elements of a news story, guidelines and tips are below.

News story – News stories can be about people or places, trends or issues. There is virtually no limit to what you can write about, but your story should contain news. It should be timely and relevant. It should appeal to your audience. And let’s make your audience Florida readers, even though your audience is anyone who reads your story on the Web.

Key elements of a news story include:

  • News. Why is your story important now? What is new and newsy? Tell readers up high in the story why your story is important and why they should read it.
  • An interesting lead. You need to hook the reader right away. Try to capture the reader’s attention and then keep it.
  • Lively quotes. The reader needs to know you were there. You interviewed real live humans. This isn’t some second-hand story taken from a press release or a web site.
  • Balance. If you are writing about a controversial subject, seek out a variety of points of view. That helps give your story balance.
  • Depth. Keep reporting until you believe you have discovered the essential truths about your subject. That will give your writing some authority once you put your story on paper (or computer screen).

Tips:

  • Google your story topic to see what else, if anything, has been written. Your goal should be to add to the conversation or debate about your topic, not rehash what’s already been covered.
  • Don’t leave unanswered questions in your story.

Guidelines:

  • Please type your story, print it out and give me a copy of it by the start of class on Oct. 18.
  • Do not post your story to your blog yet. Wait until I grade it and give it back to you. But – if your story is time-sensitive and needs to be posted quickly, let me know and I’ll make sure you can do that.
  • You are not allowed to interview friends, relatives or family members.
  • Your topic should be of interest to Florida readers.
  • You may conduct interviews in person or by phone or by email.
  • You must shoot or obtain a photograph to illustrate your story.
  • Make sure your interview subjects know that the story will appear online for the world to see.
  • Your story must include interview subject’s first and last name, job title or occupation, age and town of residence.
  • If you do this story on your own, you must talk to and quote at least three human sources who are knowledgeable about your subject. If you work with another classmate, you must talk to and quote at least five human sources.
  • Your story should contain at least 500 words if you work alone, and at least 750 words if you work with a classmate. You are welcome to write more than that. Include the word count at the bottom of your story, please.
  • Your story must include an element of news, timeliness or human interest.
  • Your news story should include quotes. That helps give life to your story.
  • Your story should include proper attribution.
  • Your story should be fair to people you interview. You should not, for instance, make accusations against anyone without supporting documentation, including police reports, court documents and other evidence. You should also give people the chance to respond to any accusations before your story is published.
  • Include your email address at the bottom of your story so that readers can contact you.

The assignment is worth 10 points. Be aware of these point deductions:

  • 1 point off if you don’t cite the required number of human sources
  • 1 point off if you misspell the name of a person, company or organization
  • 1 point off if you have five or more AP style errors
  • 1 point off if you don’t meet the word requirement
  • 1 point off if your story does not contain a strong news element
  • 1 point or more off for serious attribution errors
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