Articles about "Best Practices: Reporting and Writing and Editing"


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On profanity: As language evolves, should the media?

The New York Times | The Wall Street Journal

On Sunday, Jesse Sheidlower wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times making “The Case for Profanity in Print.”

Our society’s comfort level with offensive language and content has drastically shifted over the past few decades, but the stance of our news media has barely changed at all. Even when certain words are necessary to the understanding of a story, the media frequently resort to euphemisms or coy acrobatics that make stories read as if they were time capsules written decades ago, forcing us all into wink-wink-nudge-nudge territory. Even in this essay, I am unable to be clear about many of my examples.

Sheidlower, author of “The F-Word” and president of the American Dialect Society, wrote that often the words themselves are the story, and other times, they’re integral to the story itself.… Read more

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SXSW Interactive and Film Festival attendees crowd the Austin Convention Center, Saturday, March 9, 2013 in Austin, Texas.(AP Photo/Jack Plunkett)

Poynter at SXSW: Welcome back to the WED dance

Editor’s Note: Poynter will be at South by Southwest, the annual music, movie and interactive festival, March 7-16, in Austin, Texas. Look for our Poynter faculty members, Roy Peter Clark, Ellyn Angelotti and Kelly McBride, and digital media reporter Sam Kirkland. Here is the first in a series of posts on what we’ll be doing at SXSW.

One of the great libels against newspapers is that they’re averse to change. It’s true that newspapers could have changed more to forestall their decline. But they have changed — the newspaper of 2014 little resembles the newspaper of 1984.

I recall Orwell’s famous year – 1984 – as a tumultuous one in the history of the news business. Old gray papers were suddenly filled with color. Vertical columns gave way to modular boxes.… Read more

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CNN Photo by Brandon Ancil

CNN sheds light on family’s harrowing experience, Alaska’s highest rape rate

CNN Photo by Brandon Ancil

Convicted sex offenders are American pariahs, kept at bay by law and stigma. In the Alaskan wilderness, however, an experiment is underway to keep these criminals close to their communities.

“The Rapist Next Door,” by CNN.com columnist John D. Sutter, describes the approach through the harrowing prism of one family: a wife, daughter and the husband who raped the child. This remarkably detailed story blends a family’s tragedy and startling response with a policy-driven look at the state with the country’s highest rape rate, accompanied by absorbing videos. In an email interview for the Poynter Excellence Project, Sutter reveals how he reported, structured and wrote the story, grappled with ethical dilemmas, why he employs first-person storytelling and describes CNN’s unusual approach to choosing such stories.… Read more

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Poynter/Sandra Oshiro photo

Five questions answered about reporting on your local confession site

Confessions sites are popping up in teen communities all over the country. There is a Twitter feed called yococonfessions, targeting the community of York County, Pa. A post about a weapon on the Facebook page, Amherst Regional High School Confessions, closed the high school for a day.

Sometimes confessions sites disrupt schools, making it likely that local reporters will pay attention. Here are five questions to consider when writing about confession sites:… Read more

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Avoiding ‘suitcase leads’ can help reporters and readers sort out the truth

News organizations change the leads of stories all the time: to update, clarify, and correct. When it happens with The New York Times, it gets more attention, especially when the subject of the story is a political scandal.

Here is the original lead of the Times story posted Friday on Chris Christie and Bridgegate, written by Kate Zernike:

The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had evidence to prove it.

One of the standards for judging an effective news lead is considering its length. Is it six words or sixty?… Read more

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Cover of "Secrets to Prize-Winning Journalism" (The Poynter Institute)

Learning from prize-winning journalism: tips for executing an investigative journalism project

In Poynter’s new e-book, “Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism,” we highlight and examine 10 award-winning works from 2013 through interviews with their creators. Starting with the “secrets” shared by reporters and editors, we’ve extracted some great lessons on producing outstanding journalism.

In the first installment, we explored lessons for covering breaking news stories based on The Denver Post’s coverage of the Aurora theater shootings.

In this our second installment, we share tips for executing an investigative journalism project based on the Chicago Tribune series “Playing with Fire,” which earned a Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, Scripps Howard Foundation Award for Public Service Reporting, Hillman Prize for Newspaper Journalism, Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers, National Headliner Award, Gerald Loeb Award, and Pulitzer Prize finalist honor.… Read more

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As a New Jersey state trooper stands at attention nearby, Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State of the State address Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Blindsided: How Christie used passive verbs to turn himself into a victim

My brother frequently drives from New Jersey to New York across the George Washington Bridge to visit our 94-year-old mom. Her name is Shirley Clark, and she likes Chris Christie. She prefers her politicians to be straight talkers. She would agree with George Orwell that the best political rhetoric is “demotic,” a fancy word for the “voice of the people.”

If I could bring Orwell back from his early grave, I would have loved to have sat next to him during the New Jersey governor’s press conference apologizing for dirty political tricks, or at his subsequent State of the State of New Jersey speech. Based on what Orwell wrote in “Politics and the English Language,” I think he would have given the governor a mixed grade.… Read more

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This photo taken Aug. 2013 shows New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow throwing during warmups before a NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. There wasn't much reason to dislike Tim Tebow, who never pretended to be anything he wasn't. Blame him for the Tebowing craze, if you will, but even that was worth a few laughs in a league that doesn't always embrace fun. There wasn't much reason to like him as an NFL quarterback, either. Three teams tried their best to make use of his unique talents, but even Bill Belichick couldn't find a way to turn him into a competent QB. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

How Sports Illustrated reporter captured the athlete in ‘The Book of Tebow’

Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated writer Thomas Lake embarked on a challenging project: to profile Tim Tebow, an athlete who’s been covered as thoroughly as any in America and who didn’t want Lake to write about him.

With limited access to his subject, what Lake produced was a robust, seven-part, 15,000-word story. It explores oft-analyzed Tebow topics – his successes and failures, his inability to get a job, his faith – but in a much deeper way. It’s a story powered by the author’s voice and transparency.

In an email interview for the Poynter Excellence Project, Lake told us how he did it.

How did the idea for the story come about and what was the initial vision?

This all started last spring, around the time Tebow left the Jets.… Read more

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Newtown’s media blackout forces journalists to do their jobs

The one-year anniversary of a tragic event is a significant moment. But for journalists, such moments too often become opportunities for emotional exploitation rather than real journalism.

The citizens of Newtown, Conn., and the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims have drawn a hard boundary around their homes. No media, they’ve said to the outside world. Don’t talk to the media, they’ve said to the 28,000 people who live in the community.

In doing so, they’ve deprived newsrooms of the easy visuals and rote storytelling that have sometimes substituted for meaningful journalism. And that’s good: It forces journalists to do the hard work they should be doing on the first anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six adults.

In a way, it’s a gift to the audience everywhere that Newtown is spurning public events.… Read more

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Desensationalizing stories dealing with tragedies such as the shootings at Columbine High School require careful reporting by journalists. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

5 tips on how to desensationalize stories

Every year, news agencies fight harder than before to capture the audience’s attention — and every innovation seems to make that job tougher. With the creation of cable news, the 24-hour news cycle and, more recently, a seemingly infinite number of online options, consumers can get their news just about anywhere, forcing news outlets into ever-more-questionable reporting practices.

Kathy Walton, an audio engineer for several broadcast news services, told me online recently, “I blame the wireless remote control. I’m serious. The day it became so easy to change the channel was the day television news stopped being news and began tap dancing to keep people from clicking away.”

Often, sensationalism is used to lure the audience’s attention. While some publications have made exaggeration and manipulation of the news their stock-in-trade, others stretch the truth less intentionally, not realizing their chosen angle is iffy or just plain wrong.… Read more

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