ADVERTISEMENT

Coffee Break Course

A two-minute selection from a News University online course.

NEWS

Pros (and cons) of open-ended or closed poll questions

Every poll involves a questionnaire that contains a standardized set of questions that are asked of every person. The way a question is asked can affect the answers that people give. In an open-ended question, people answer in their own terms. In a closed-ended format, people choose from a given list of answers. (The vast majority of polling questions are … Read More
NEWS

How to avoid clichés in your writing

Roy Peter Clark writes, "Clichés can multiply and take over your story like text-eating bacteria." Playing your cards close to your vest…whistling past the graveyard…minding your p’s and q’s…facing the music…toeing the line…putting your nose to the grindstone…swimming against the tide… Over-reliance on clichés is a form of automatic thinking. As part of the writing process, you may find that … Read More
NEWS

6 ways to learn what works on a social media platform

Different audiences live on the various social media platforms, and their expectations for what you share (and how) can be wildly different. Here's how you can learn more about the voice, tone and content for any platform: Start using it and seeing what other people are sharing Ask people who use the platform what types of content they like (and … Read More
NEWS

6 tips for writing broadcast stories

Great stories hang in the viewer’s ear and catch the viewer’s eye. Here are some guidelines for writing for broadcast (and beyond). Focus your story by summarizing in three words. Use one theme per story, one thought per sentence. Select, don't compress, what goes in your stories. Tell complex stories through strong characters. Viewers will remember what they feel longer … Read More
NEWS

Evaluating ideas you've brainstormed? Here are 6 questions to ask

Innovations can be analyzed so you can evaluate whether they will work at your organization. Here are some questions to ask when you are in the first phase of innovation: gathering ideas. Have you established realistic goals for this idea? Even if this idea had a positive outcome elsewhere, will it work at your organization? Is there a downside to … Read More
NEWS

4 ways to break through writer's block

Good writing may be magical, but it's not magic. It's a series of actions and decisions that can be observed, learned and repeated. If you find yourself stuck, try these tips. Lower your standards (at first). Drafts hold the promise of the final version. Look for the possibilities in raw copy instead of dismissing the effort as a failure. A … Read More
NEWS

6 tips for writing photo captions

Even if a picture is worth a thousand words, it still needs a caption to draw readers, provide context and tell the story. Here are some tips for writing effective captions. Check the facts. Be accurate with credit lines, details and anything else that might catch a reader’s eye. Captions should add new information. Don't merely repeat the story headline … 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
ADVERTISEMENT