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Coffee Break Course

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

NEWS

7 ways to improve your video storytelling

The best video stories get close to help viewers feel, taste, hear, smell and see the story. And they get wide to give viewers context and perspective. Here are some ways to bring viewers into your story. Put the camera on the shadow side to record better video. Have your source face 20 or 30 degrees away from the key … Read More
NEWS

How audio brings a story to life

Sound is vital to online and broadcast journalism. In radio and podcasts, sound is the only way to impart meaning and convey emotion. Online and in TV, sound can complement words and visuals in powerful ways, often enhancing an already well-told story. Sound can bring a story to life in many ways: Interviews capture the voices of the people we … Read More
NEWS

Questions to ask scientists about scientific research

Journalists talk to a variety of sources about scientific research. Different types of sources have different qualifications and can provide different types of information. Here are some considerations and questions when you are interviewing scientists. To understand their academic background, check: Educational background Number of publications Lack of retractions on RetractionWatch.com Questions to ask: Why does this study matter? Why … Read More
NEWS

How to focus on the people in every story

The lead of a story makes a promise to the reader of good things to come. The classic journalism device of asking five W's (who, what, where, when, why), an H (how) and an SW (so what) helps you analyze, organize and present the beginning of a news story. Let's start with "who" to discover the newsworthy elements of your … Read More
NEWS

6 ways to make better photographic portraits

Photos are an important element of any story you tell about a person. An expressive photograph of a person captures a key part of his or her personality. Here are some ways to get genuine, authentic images with journalistic excellence. Do some reporting so you know something about your subject. Feel free to ask questions such as "Where are you … Read More
NEWS

How surveys can help you understand your news audience

You want your audience to engage with your news product: read it, value it, think about it, talk about it, share it, return to it and trust it. So you have to understand your audience's behaviors, needs and motivations to create stories and products that are valuable and engaging. The deepest, most accurate understanding of your audience comes from quantitative … Read More
NEWS

Why you should be cautious about poll results

Numbers imply precision, so it can be tempting to accept poll results. Here are reasons journalists should be cautious about the numbers: Polls are not predictions; they are snapshots of opinion at the time they were conducted. Polls can report only on the questions that were asked. There may be other important issues that were not included in the poll. Read More
NEWS

How to coach a writer before the writing starts

For an editor, coaching means engaging the writer in an ongoing conversation about the story, from the idea to the final edit. You probably will spend less time "fixing" a story when it comes in if you invest time throughout the reporting and writing process. One key moment to coach is after the reporting but before writing. Here are some … Read More
NEWS

How to report on the differences among scientific studies

How do you make sense of scientific data so that you can translate to your audience? First, know your data. Data from different types of studies means different things. Animal studies. We care about, and report on, scientific studies that involve animals for one reason: If something causes a health problem in an animal, we assume that the same substance … Read More
NEWS

3 guidelines for a good story pitch

Pitching a story is a particularly important skill in broadcast, because air time is so precious. Pitches need to prod, pique and provoke. You need to make it impossible for an editor or producer to say no. And if you're a freelancer , pitching is an essential skill. Getting good at pitching has an unexpected, high-impact side effect: It helps … Read More
NEWS

Editors, here are 5 tips for working with writers

Today we announce a new training program and certificate with our partners at the American Copy Editors Society. Since 2013, Poynter and ACES have created 25 online courses on the craft of editing. Today's Coffee Break Course comes from one of those courses, Fundamentals of Editing. Relationships between writers and editors can be sensitive. A writer might … Read More
NEWS

Want to guard against mistakes? Watch your technology and workflow

To think that making an error is something we alone cause or control is to ignore the larger systems and factors at play. Our brains play an undeniable role in the mistakes we make. It's true we can be tired, rushed or sloppy. But there are other elements at work, too. Here are some other factors that cause errors and … Read More
NEWS

8 questions that will sharpen a story idea

For an editor, coaching means engaging the writer in an ongoing conversation about the story, from the conception of the idea to the final edit. The more time and thought you invest in this conversation, the less work you will likely face in “fixing” the story when it comes in. One key moment in coaching: after the idea, but before … Read More
NEWS

4 essential questions to ask about scientific studies

When it comes to scientific studies and research, you can start by asking the same basic questions, including: Who funded the research? Are there connections to big industry or advocacy groups? What biases might be at play, based on the study's or researcher's funding history? Who conducted the study? Are the study authors academics or consultants? Or both? Sniff out … Read More
NEWS

How to identify a "push poll"

It happens  every election cycle. You’ll get a call that sounds like a political poll but is really a campaign tactic. Some calls are “push polls,” political telemarketing that attempts to create negative views of candidates or issues. Others are legitimate message-testing surveys, used by campaigns to see which types of messages will be most successful. Here’s how you can … Read More
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