Take Aways – Preparing for the Newsroom
June 2, 2014
When it comes to writing, there is no easy and basic formula print journalists have to follow, which makes the craft that much more important. For starters, there are different types of writing most journalists undertake that range from social media to newspaper. There are different writing “rules” that you should follow or at least be aware of for each. For example, in a newspaper article you have the ability to go in depth on a certain story whereas if you are posting on a social networking site, such as Twitter, you have a limiting space in which you can work. The style in which you write is important as well because it can set you apart from different articles on the same story. That is why having an interesting angle is so important when it comes to journalism. Spelling, grammar and punctuation are equally as important as the content you are writing because without these simple tools, your writing will be considered sloppy, and your reputation as a journalist will diminish.
Journalism is more than just recounting events, anyone can do that. Journalism is recognizing the events taking place and turning them into a story with an interesting angle. That being said, it is important that you remember that this isn’t the same type of storytelling as a novel; do not tell these stories in chronological order. If you do this, the reader will immediately lose interest, and they will not read any of the important events, changes or actions you have included in your story. Write what is most important first to catch the attention of your readers. Then you can go back and recount what has happened in a way that will still be engaging to your target audience. Leave the most important information until the end of your article so you can get your readers invested in the story first and foremost to ensure that they read it all the way through.
As mentioned before, your story will be needing an angle to make it more interesting and to separate it from stories on the same topic. Those angles all develop from pitches, which in turn develop from ideas. An idea is a very general and broad topic you feel like would be a good topic to cover in an upcoming article. For example, that broad topic could be “Father’s Day”. From your broad topic, you would then develop a pitch you would give to your producer so that he or she could decide if the story is worth publishing. The pitch for Father’s Day may be “the way brand new father’s are feeling on their first ever Father’s Day”. You would then dissect your pitch to a very narrow and specific question, which will then be your angle. For example, you might ask “How are new father’s feeling as they experience their first Father’s Day?” and you take your story from there. If you were to leave your entire story as broad a topic as just “Father’s Day”, it will be non-specific; readers will not know if you are talking about the history of Father’s Day or the way fathers react after their child has passed away or something else entirely. Thus, having an angle that allows you to give a very specific question you can turn into a story is very important.
Before you walk into a room ready to conduct your first story, there are several things you should be aware of. As always, you NEED to know the background information of anyone or anywhere you might be interviewing. This is so you won’t ask obvious and repetitive questions people are tired of answering. “We want them to think,” says Robert Washburn, professor at Loyalist College. When your interviewee thinks about their answer, that is always a good thing and you’re almost guaranteed a well thought out and interesting reply. Upon arriving to the location where you will be gathering information for your story, keep in mind that taking notes to document the events is not enough. You need to ask questions, conduct interviews, and take pictures to help tell your story. As always, the most important thing to do is listen; make sure you are not repeating someone else’s question, and keep an ear out for interesting quotes you may later use. Also, when someone gives an interesting reply, listening to that reply ensures you ask appropriate follow-up questions.
While writing individually is an important skill in journalistic terms, working with a team is equally as important. There will be multiple times where you will have several people working with you on a story, and cooperating with them will be essential to creating a good news report. While some teams may want to adopt a “everyone do your own part and at the end we’ll mush it all together” attitude, it is important to remember that working together on all aspects of your news article or report is necessary in order to give the report a proper flow. You don’t want your work to look choppy or incomplete, and by working together to devise a plan and a theme as well as a direction you want your story to go in together as a team, you are ensuring that the article will be well-polished and put-together by publication. No person should feel as though they are on their own about any issue. As Robert Washburn says, “coordinating and facilitating” are key components to any successful team.
Being prepared for anything to happen during your day is key. As mentioned before, you need to know all of the background information of the people you may be interviewing and the places you are travelling to. You also need to think through every tiny detail of your day and have it chronologically planned as to how you want it to go, as well as backup plans for if things do not go the way you expected them to. In terms of equipment, plan out ahead of time what you will need. If any of those thing are electronic (which they will be), remember to pack extra batteries and chargers. Bring extra note pads, pens and even a change of clothes for when you feel is necessary. Use your better judgement and make a check list you can double check the night before as you pack for your interviews. You can never be too prepared, but you can be underprepared.