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Coffee Break Course

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

NEWS

Why it matters where you place modifiers in a sentence

Location is key with modifiers — those words or phrases that describe something in your sentence. Put them in the wrong spot and the sentence is unclear or, worse, inaccurate. Here are some common problems: Dangling Modifiers You'll run into this when you start a sentence with a phrase. Make sure the beginning phrase matches the subject of the sentence. Read More
NEWS

Florida's sunshine laws: Ethics

The main purpose of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees in the state of Florida is to promote the public interest and maintain public respect for government. Under the code, public officials must be independent and impartial and must refrain from using public office for private gain. The ethics laws generally consist of two types of provisions: … Read More
NEWS

How 'quotes' differ from 'dialogue'

The quote offers your audience these benefits: It introduces a human voice. It explains something important about the subject. It frames a problem or dilemma. It adds information. It reveals the character or personality of the speaker. It introduces what is next to come. Most quotes are above or outside the action of the story. Quotes are "about" the action, … Read More
NEWS

Here are 4 guidelines for audio in multimedia stories

As you plan your multimedia story, you have to decide which tools (video, audio, photos, graphics, etc.) would best tell each part of the story. Good audio makes still photos and video seem more intense and real. Bad audio makes video seem worse than it is, and it detracts from the drama of still photos. Here are some general guidelines … Read More
NEWS

5 guidelines to protect yourself from legal risks while reporting

Whether a story is published or not, your conduct during the reporting process can result in severe liability. Here are some guidelines to protect yourself from legal risks that arise in the course of gathering news information. Be careful what you promise. Don’t promise sources or subjects more than you are willing or able to deliver. Try to keep your … Read More
NEWS

Some guidelines for rounding off long numbers

It's so tempting to round off numbers and present your audience with pretty whole numbers rather than cluttering up the text with decimal points and a string of digits. Sometimes rounding a number up (or down) is just fine. But sometimes it creates an inaccurate picture. How can an ethical journalist tell the difference? Here are some guidelines: Tip 1 … Read More
NEWS

3 questions to guide your ethical decision-making process

As a journalist, you cannot rely on your institution, your brand or your colleagues to guide you down an ethical path. To build trust with your audience, you must create a solid body of sound ethical journalism that sets you apart. When considering the practice of ethics, ask yourself these questions: When do I make good ethical decisions? What skills … Read More
NEWS

Here's how you can use punctuation with power and purpose

To help readers, we punctuate for two reasons: To set the pace of reading To divide words, phrases and ideas into convenient spaces You will punctuate with power and purpose when you begin to consider pace and space. Think of a long, long, well-written sentence with no punctuation except the period. Such a sentence is a long, straight road with … Read More
NEWS

Want to be a better journalism entrepreneur? Here are 5 big factors to consider

As you manage your journalism business, it’s useful to step back periodically to look at the big picture. Schedule time to look at your overall strategy, how you’re positioning your business, and what your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities are. Here’s a framework to help you do that, called the five Cs. Company What are our strengths? What do we do … Read More
NEWS

Tools for Smart Science Journalism: The Perception Barrier

Barriers between journalists and scientists can make journalists' jobs more difficult, and they can lead to unintentional misinformation and confusion.  These barriers have a lot to do with the vastly different environments in which journalists and scientists operate. One of the biggest barriers is the perception each group has of the other. Scientists say: Journalists are imprecise and impatient. They … Read More
NEWS

Accuracy and verification in the digital age: the human factor in errors

If you ask a journalist how a particular mistake occurred, you might hear, "I was rushed and didn't check." Or, "I made a typo.” These are valid reasons, but they pertain only to a specific incident. To think an error is something we alone cause or control is to ignore the larger systems and factors at play. Saying that you … Read More
NEWS

The Language of Coaching: The Writing Process

When the reporter and coach work together during the writing process, you’ll see that investing a little time early saves a lot of time later. Two minutes invested in the idea step can cut reporting time in half. Two minutes invested in the organize step sends the reporter into the draft and revise steps knowing what to say and how, … Read More
NEWS

Here are 5 tips for analyzing media messages

Five core principles underlie every media message. You can use these to evaluate the truth, accuracy and relevance of any information you're reading, seeing or hearing. Messages are constructions. Someone thinks long and hard about any print or electronic message that is produced: What it will look like; what it will say; and what it will do. Ask: What's behind … Read More
NEWS

Cleaning Your Copy: Ways to Use Colons

There are several ways you can use colons in your writing. Use a colon instead of a period between two sentences that present contrasting ideas. The researchers expected to solve the puzzle of the disease: Instead, they found more questions. Use a colon between two clauses (complete thoughts) when the second thought adds to the first. He explained … Read More
NEWS

Writing for the Ear

Want to produce an engaging audio story? Make sure it has these elements: Tell a story. This might seem self-explanatory, but it's essential and doesn't always happen. Identify a conflict. This doesn’t mean an argument or disagreement. A conflict involves someone who wants something and faces obstacles to get it. Know who the main characters are. Most good stories have … Read More
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