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Tips/Training

NEWS

How to fly drones for journalism in the U.S.

About six months ago, we bought a drone to help us cover stories at the Yakima Herald-Republic, a daily newspaper in Yakima, Washington. We’d seen other people’s drone footage of fires and floods and protests, and wanted to get our own. We knew that a drone had a lot of potential to contribute to our news coverage, but we didn’t … Read More
NEWS

One last lesson from Don Murray, America's greatest writing coach

There were five huge boxes sitting at the loading dock of The Poynter Institute yesterday, waiting for the FedEx truck to pick them up. They are filled with more than 125 file boxes containing the literary effects of Donald M. Murray, in my opinion the most influential writing teacher America has ever known. The precious content of those boxes — … Read More
NEWS

How the Freedom of Information Act applies to federal agencies

Freedom of information is instrumental to journalism and essential for democracy. FOI laws grant you the right to know what your government is doing — how it spends your tax dollars, how it creates and implements policy and how it makes decisions that affect you. Before you can use the Freedom of Information Act for your research or reporting, you … Read More
NEWS

How to turn your notebook into a camera

Good writers use their notebooks as they would a camera. They change their distance from their characters and change the angles they use to describe a scene. They shift their focus back and forth to capture both landscape and character. They write cinematically. Here are some standard camera angles to help you create a variety of effects: Aerial view: Look … Read More
NEWS

6 non-traditional ways to tell stories

Standalone alternative story forms (ASF) do just what their name implies: They stand alone as independent stories, with no traditional story to accompany them. Like a standalone photo or graphic, the standalone ASF needs to be a complete story. It might be all the reader will see about the topic, particularly in print media. Typically, a standalone ASF begins with … Read More
NEWS

4 strategies for writing story endings

A writer can face many problems in ending a story. Time may run out, or space on the page, so that the ending really says: “I stopped writing here.” The story may lack focus or a problem may not be clearly defined so that an ending strategy appears forced or contrived. Some endings are stale and conventional, the equivalent of … Read More
NEWS

6 questions to help you evaluate media messages

Every time you watch TV, listen to radio, open a web site or read a newspaper, magazine or book, someone is trying to tell — or sell — you something. The best way to achieve media literacy is to evaluate all the messages that bombard you. Ask these questions to understand the message: Who created, or paid for, the message? … Read More
NEWS

What to avoid when writing online headlines

Headlines are lifelines to our readers. They grab attention, build trust and help time-pressed consumers focus on the stories they care most about. They link readers with our content, giving us a chance to reach our audience across a sea of information. Headlines also help search engines decide whether our offerings match what users are looking for online or on … Read More
NEWS

How to move from 'editor' to 'coach'

Every editor must learn to fix stories, but fixing is not the same as coaching. Coaching is the human side of editing. In other words, the editor coaches the writer — but fixes the story. Before an editor can successfully coach a reporter, you need to know who he or she is. A simple "getting to know you" interview with … Read More
NEWS

9 questions to focus your time on the beat

The best reporters learn how the world works, whether it’s the world of law enforcement, the laboratory, the zoning commission, the city council or the corporate boardroom. One of the best ways to provide excellent coverage is to focus your efforts. Here's a checklist to help you think critically about how your spend your time: Enterprise Story Ideas: What are … Read More
NEWS

How to sift through your story ideas

Writers see the world as a storehouse of story ideas. But not every idea is worth a story. Good writers sift the ideas, rejecting some (or most) and selecting the few that have potential. Here are some ways to sort through your ideas. Raise the bar. Be ruthless about whether this is a fresh idea or something you've seen so … Read More
NEWS

5 motivators to engage your viewers

The lead of your story has to speak to what motivates viewers to sit and watch. Here are five motivators for engaging viewers with a news story on TV or the web: Money Family Safety Health Community You can address the “safety” motivator in crime stories, in stories about unsafe cars or in stories about texting or talking on the … Read More
NEWS

6 questions to guide the way you engage with your audience

Audience engagement is more than just a buzzword — it's an essential part of journalism. By focusing on three topic areas — transparency, listening and outreach — you can build trust and engagement with audiences in today’s political landscape. Here's a checklist to help you get started with meaningful audience engagement from Jennifer Brandel, founder and CEO of Hearken: … Read More
NEWS

8 techniques for finding and fixing errors in your writing

Mistakes are not necessarily an indicator of skill — or lack thereof. Certainly, a journalist who consistently makes factual errors is in need of training and guidance. But any of us can make a mistake at any time. Here's a list of useful tips and tricks for identifying and preventing mistakes in your work. Start every interview by asking the … Read More
FROM THE POYNTER INSTITUTE

How writing a Pulitzer Prize-winning story is like eating a big slice of pizza

For Diana Sugg, writing a big story is a little bit like eating a slice of pizza. Don't try to bite off more than you can chew at the beginning, said Sugg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor at The Baltimore Sun. Start with the small end. The slice — and the story — gets wider the farther in you go. At the beginning, … Read More
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