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


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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The performance of HealthCare.gov isn't what will count in the end, says Politico's Joanne Kenen. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

Health care coverage is more than numbers

We’ve heard a lot about the HealthCare.gov website and its performance metrics recently.

But the Affordable Care Act metric that really matters isn’t error rates or response time. It’s enrollment.

Furthermore, what matters isn’t just how many people enroll – although that’s part of it. It’s also who enrolls – in particular, their age and health status. A mix that includes younger and healthier people is needed for a viable insurance risk pool. And whether that mix has been achieved may not be clear until later in the six-month open-enrollment season.… Read more

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Occupy Oakland

Journalists under attack: Pros offer safety advice

Look at this page on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ website and feel a pain in your gut. The site documents the 45 journalists who have been killed on the job worldwide this year. Most were covering human rights, politics and/or crime when they died.

If you think the only journalists who face danger on the job are those working in Syria or Egypt, you’re wrong. Last week, WDAZ reporter Adam Ladwig was attacked by three people while covering a fire. Last month, a woman attacked a WUSA9 crew. A CBS2/KCAL9 reporter and photojournalist were attacked while covering the Zimmerman verdict protests in July. In August, Poynter.org told you about the San Francisco area attacks on news crews. In a six-week period, thieves attacked journalists six times, targeting cameras, computers and tripods and taking gear at gunpoint in at least one case.… Read more

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Attribution in a digital age is getting murkier. (Depositphotos)

Getting digital attribution right, Part 2

This is the second of a two-part series. Part 1 is here.

Traditional journalism standards have typically governed attribution, and the general rule when using the work of others verbatim is to put quotation marks around the republished content and clearly indicate the source.

But this isn’t the only method of attribution used in the digital world — publishers are trying different tactics, and audience expectations may be changing as well. During a recent Poynter and MediaShift symposium on journalism ethics in the digital age, Tom Rosenstiel, former Project for Excellence in Journalism director and current executive director of the American Press Institute, said that the norms and ethics of journalism “have come from the streets,” adding that “audience has been the determiner of what works.”

Aggregation and curation, two techniques that often overlap, have become popular forms of publishing — and places where problems with attribution often arise.… Read more

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Computer keyboard keys used CTRL, C and V for copy and paste. (Depositphotos)

Getting digital attribution right, Part 1

Control+C, Control+V.

These two simple keystrokes — copy, paste — have created a culture that makes it easy for online publishers to share others’ content and use it in their own work. Much of this sharing and reuse is done appropriately, but sometimes the way a work is credited may not meet traditional standards for attribution.

Most people agree on a definition of plagiarism: It’s a verbatim republication of work that was originally published elsewhere, without clear attribution to the original publication. But ask how to apply that definition to practices and things get murky. Some say any use of more than seven words should be attributed. Others say attribution becomes necessary when more than two sentences are used. Applying that definition to the online publishing world introduces even more gray areas.… Read more

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An undated photo of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. (AP Photo)

What writers and speakers can learn from the Gettysburg Address

Editor’s note: Nov. 19 is the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, arguably the most famous speech in American history. In his new book How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times, Roy Peter Clark devotes the chapter “Surprise with brevity” to an examination of Lincoln’s speech. It is reprinted here with permission of publisher Little, Brown.

In the fourth grade I memorized and delivered the Gettysburg Address to my parochial school classmates. I can’t remember the assignment that inspired my performance, but I do recall that I was more parrot than poet, reciting Lincoln by rote with no understanding of historical context or of the meaning of individual words and phrases, beginning with “Four score and seven…” The only “four score” I knew was a grand-slam home run at Yankee Stadium.… Read more

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In this June 5, 2013 file photo, Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, then-Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., after the third day of his court martial. Manning provided information to the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Nine ways journalists can do justice to transgender people’s stories

Transgender people make news of all kinds, so reporters of all kinds need to know how to write about them – not just journalists whose beats regularly include diversity issues. Recently, government reporters found themselves writing about Pvt. Chelsea Manning, crime reporters in Orlando covered the murder of Ashley Sinclair, and Cosmo got an exclusive shot at punk rocker Laura Jane Grace’s coming out story.

A good starting point is this style guide from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which monitors media coverage of the LGBT community. But the issues go deeper than the basics of pronouns, adjectives and names.

“You can still be insensitive using the right words,” Janet Mock, an advocate, author and former journalist at People, said in a phone interview.… Read more

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How to turn hard facts into easy reading

I was recently hired by a department of the federal government to conduct a workshop on how to write reports that were short and clear. The director of the department who hired me pointed out the problem in her own official title. It was 29 words long.

I am “vice-president and senior scholar” at the Poynter Institute. I am embarrassed that my title is too long — and it’s only five words. What could I possibly do with 24 more?

“Bureaucracies,” I moaned, “is where language goes to die.”

The sixty policy wonks in the room collectively rolled up their sleeves. They understood the problem. They knew that they worked in a language club where jargon and thick information were king and queen. But they were stuck.… Read more

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wafflessmall

Details ‘are what make people connect’ with stories, says student who wrote about Waffle House closing

Jessica Contrera’s “The End of the Waffle House” begins on the morning when a big change comes to a small square of Bloomington, Ind.

“Tap, tap, tap. Bud Powell’s aluminum cane led the way as he circled the floor of Bloomington’s Waffle House. His Waffle House. That Wednesday in September, the owner didn’t know what to do with himself. The smell of frying oil, the same greasy perfume that had greeted customers for 46 years, wafted into his nose as he wandered past the vinyl booths. He sat down, then stood up again.”

Contrera had never been to the old restaurant surrounded by new student apartments before, but when the senior from Akron, Ohio, started her semester at Indiana University, she saw the sign reading “We will close Sept.… Read more

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icon for writing

Tips for Storytellers: How to polish your writing

Lucky me. My office is two doors down from one of the world’s best writing coaches. I go to Roy Peter Clark often when writer’s block hits me. Here, you’ll find a few particularly helpful tips. Part of a series of graphics with tips for storytellers, think of this as bite-sized inspiration. Next Friday: How to make your photos better.

Poynter Quinn-fo-graphic: Polish your writing

For a PDF: Poynter Quinn-fo-graphic: How to polish your writing

Related: How to make the most of your tweets | How to shoot great videoRead more

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