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Coffee Break Course

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

NEWS

4 ways to dig deeper in stories of faith and religion

Stories about religion are not just about a church, temple or mosque. Here are some guiding questions to help you tell stories with context and credibility. Motivation. Religious belief or morality is often used to justify assertions or behaviors--and it can also be used as a screen to disguise other motivations. Are there other factors or concerns at stake in … Read More
NEWS

5 tips for writing blog posts

Even the best writers struggle from time to time in crafting their work. This can be especially tricky for bloggers, who want to produce a steady flow of content for their audience. Not to worry. Every writer faces this dilemma. Here are some strategies to kick-start your work. Try the Hemingway Trick for Early Productivity Ernest Hemingway concluded his writing … Read More
NEWS

How to replace 'planning' with 'doing' in your work culture

Brainstorming new ideas is easy. Changing the culture to launch successful new projects is difficult. Here are some way to bring a startup culture into your organization. Divide and conquer: Pick two or three small teams and give them decision-making authority. Allow them to launch anything the whole team agrees is worth trying. One caution: Certain types of people prefer … Read More
NEWS

8 steps for building your writing process

Writing is a process – a set of predictable, repeatable steps in the journey to the finished work. While there are probably as many processes are there are writers, here are some of the identifiable steps. Explore: All good writers express a form of curiosity, a sense that something is going on out there. See your world as a storehouse … Read More
NEWS

4 places to find story ideas for investigative reporting

Investigative reporters turn routine observations, reports, tips and conversations into questions about the way the world works. Curiosity is your starting point for great stories. Here are some places to begin: Observation. Be curious about the people and places you see every day. Your questions may be the seed of an idea for an investigative story. Tips. Tips can come … Read More
NEWS

4 guidelines for writing SEO-friendly 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. Most search queries … Read More
NEWS

6 ways to spread facts

The simple but frustrating truth is that facts alone are not enough to convince people. Even the most thorough, accurate piece of reporting might still be trumped by a poorly reasoned and false counterargument. Therefore, it's crucial to understand how to publish persuasive factual journalism. Here are some tips for spreading facts: Don't Hesitate: Act quickly to dispel and debunk … Read More
NEWS

A checklist for the tasks and territory of your beat

With the passing of our colleague and friend Steve Buttry, we wanted to highlight some of the teaching he brought to Poynter. Today's Coffee Break Course is courtesy of Introduction to Reporting: Beat Basics, an online course that Steve developed for News University. Like a job description, a beat description outlines the tasks and territory of your beat … Read More
NEWS

6 alternative story forms that can stand alone

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 factors that influence people's attitudes toward facts

The simple but frustrating truth is that facts alone are not enough to provide context and clarity for your audience. Even the most thorough, accurate piece of reporting might still be trumped by a poorly reasoned and false counterargument. Decades of research into the way humans process information and deal with misinformation and propaganda show that people are more inclined … Read More
NEWS

How to write stronger sentences with fewer adverbs

Use adverbs sparingly. At their best, they spice up a verb or adjective. At their worst, they express a meaning already contained in the sentence: The blast completely destroyed the church office. The cheerleader gyrated wildly before the screaming fans. The accident totally severed the boy's arm. The spy peered furtively through the bushes. Consider the effect of deleting the … Read More
NEWS

How observation can turn into an investigative story

Ideas for great investigative stories come from many directions, including your daily activities. But good stories don't tell you they're good stories right away. For example, on your way to work, you may see vacant buildings, a homeless person, dangerous driving, a dilapidated bridge or broken traffic lights. Each of these could lead you to an investigative story if you … Read More
NEWS

How font choices create contrasts in your design

By creating contrast in your design, you guide your audience through the content of your page. One way to create contrast is with type elements. Here are some guidelines for using typography. Try to limit yourself to two typefaces on a publication. Then limit yourself to two weights of each face. Adding italic versions of each weight gives you eight … Read More
NEWS

How to provide context when writing about numbers

Numbers crop up in media stories in the most unexpected places. Your goal is to provide context and the story behind the numbers. Here's how you can write about two terms — risk and rate — accurately and ethically. A rate compares quantities that are measured in different units: for example, an amount or frequency over time or other unit. Read More
NEWS

8 ways to write shorter stories

Do you feel (or your readers) feel as though your stories drag on too long? Do you struggle getting to the point of the story? Story length is a function of focus. When you (or your editor or teacher) has a keen understanding of the what the story is about, it will be easier to revise your work. Here are … Read More
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