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Coffee Break Course

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

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
NEWS

4 questions to help you go beyond religious cliches in your reporting

The nagging suspicion that there is more to a story than appears on the surface makes any good journalist keep digging. Here are some guiding questions to help you unearth the religious angle that will enhance and add depth to the coverage of any story, regardless of topic. Cultural influences: Religious partisans, like participants in political or social movements, often … Read More
NEWS

4 guidelines for aggregating news content

Media consumers are bombarded with information from an ever-growing range of sources. Many journalists and news sites act as curators, collecting and sorting information for their audience. You add credibility--and avoid the appearance of plagiarism--when you are transparent about the sources of your information. Here are some guidelines for avoiding plagiarism when you are aggregating content. Publish just the content … Read More
NEWS

4 ways to aim for the heart of your viewers

How do you take a collection of facts and tell a story that engages viewers? There are some simple guidelines you can follow to aim for the heart of your viewers: Engage their emotions. Television is unique in its ability to teach through emotions and sensory experiences. Motivate viewers to watch your story. Consider these angles as you craft stories … Read More
NEWS

9 ways to conquer writer's block

In the writing process, there will be a time when you get stuck and can't write. It may be anxiety, a boring topic, self-criticism or something else that keep you from getting words on paper (or screen). To become a more fluent writer, try these strategies: Trust your hands. Forget your brain for a while, and let your fingers do … Read More
NEWS

2 tips when interviewing for audio stories

The basics of good interviewing apply to an audio story. But there are additional factors for audio narratives, especially if you’re planning to tell the story without the benefit of a reporter or narrator. Here are some tips for producing non-narrated stories: Ask the person speaking to say their name and occupation in the form of a sentence. This serves … Read More
NEWS

5 stories that can be told with alternative story forms

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. Some opportunities are more ripe for … Read More
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