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Coffee Break Course

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

NEWS

5 fact-checking questions editors should ask

Fact-checking needs editors, who are the final line of defense in ensuring objective and transparent fact checks. For starters, editors should follow the advice offered by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their book, “The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect,” which outlines the principles of “the journalism of verification.” Editors should ask: Has … Read More
NEWS

5 questions to ask about automated polls

Automated (or Interactive Voice Response) Polls have received mixed reviews in the polling community. Many remain skeptical of the capability of these polls to produce reliable results. But some believe their track record suggests that the technique can be valid. Some essential questions to ask about IVR polls include: How were households selected to participate? How did the poll address … Read More
NEWS

What to look for in covering Hurricane Matthew

For today's Coffee Break Course, I asked my Poynter colleague Al Tompkins for some tips on covering Hurricane Matthew. His recommendations fall into several categories. Understand these three numbers Barometric pressure. The lower the number, the stronger the storm. Distance. Nautical miles are less than land miles. Speed. Storm speed is typically measured in knots, a nautical … Read More
NEWS

5 tips for writing for TV scripts

Strong, clear writing is the backbone of any script. If your story doesn't make sense to your audience, they will quit watching. Here are some guidelines when you are writing a broadcast script. Read your story out loud. Even if you read it softly, read as if you were saying the story on air. See if it would make sense … Read More
NEWS

How to protect yourself from legal risks while reporting

Documents add detail and confirm newsworthy information in your reporting process. These records might include anything from a photograph to a computer hard drive to internal documents belonging to a company or government entity. When you come into possession of such items, you should know what legal issues you could face if you access, retain or use those materials. Here … Read More
NEWS

3 ways to put more power in your video stories

When words and images compete, pictures win and your viewers misunderstand your story. But when words, images and audio work together, you give your story greater power and meaning. Explain the video Enrich viewers' understanding of your story. Don't simply tell them what they are seeing in the video. Explain what they are not seeing. But be careful: Don't talk … Read More
NEWS

How headline writing and SEO collide

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) includes techniques (both editorial and technological) to ensure relevant content ranks well in search results on search engines. Good SEO calls for breaking--or at least re-examining--some established conventions of headline writing. Consider these ways that headline practices and SEO needs collide: Style issues. Conventional print headlines typically use last names only and abbreviations (in state names, … Read More
NEWS

How to write a clear fact check

Fact-checkers often have to check statements that are confusing, unsupported and unclear. The fact check addressing it should be the opposite. Focus on writing that offers context, clarity and transparency. Context Start by providing context to the claim you're checking. Where and when was it said? To whom? Is there a history of repetition? Is there a pronoun or reference … Read More
NEWS

Three ways to identify and build your audience

When you are starting a blog, or any online site, your relationship with and understanding of your audience will be the most important aspects of your success. Who are they? Communities break down in different ways for different topics. Here are some examples. Industry community: People whose livelihoods are directly related to the subject Academic community: A crowd of wonks … Read More
NEWS

Where to find story ideas in annual reports

If you are planning on writing about business, you will need financial information about the companies you are covering. Public companies file a 10-K, an annual overview of a company's business and financial condition. It contains extensive background and financial information, including audited financial statements. It is also one of the most difficult documents to read. (Don't confuse the 10-K … Read More
NEWS

10 ways to generate story ideas

The best writers see a world full of story ideas. They typically have more ideas than they can put into practice. That’s a good problem to have. Here are some ways you can generate your own story ideas rather than rely on the ideas of editors, producers or teachers. Break your routine. Drive to work or school a different way. Read More
NEWS

9 questions for creating a copyright agreement

If someone is working for you and creating content, you need to reach an agreement concerning who will hold the copyright on that content. Answering these questions before coming to an agreement with a content creator can help you create a clear, substantive agreement: What work will the content creator create? Who owns the rights to the work? What rights … Read More
NEWS

How to think photographically with your audio story

When you’re reporting an audio story, collect all the sound elements you will need to reconstruct a scene for a listener. That means collecting the sound of doors opening and closing, the sound of thunder in the background, the sound of your subject answering the phone or greeting a friend. You want sound that paints a picture or sets a … Read More
NEWS

9 ways to improve transparency when fact-checking

Transparency is important for fact-checkers and for all journalists. Let your audience know what you are doing, as well as how and why you're doing it. Here are steps journalists can take to help improve transparency and trust with your audience. Upload documents, transcripts, data and any other materials used to write an article or fact check. If it’s available … Read More
NEWS

In an interview, let your questions guide the conversation

Think of an interview as a canoe. The source should do all the hard work--the paddling--of answering the questions. As the interviewer, you should do the steering. Different kinds of questions can guide the conversation in different ways. Ask open-ended questions when possible. These are helpful for people who've never been interviewed before. Closed-ended questions (that can be answered with … Read More
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