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Coffee Break Course

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

NEWS

10 ways to engage readers with alternative story forms

Non-traditional news story forms go by many names: charticles, non-narratives, storytelling devices, alternative story forms, ASFs and alts, among others. Some stand alone as a story, and some are supplemental: forms that clarify, complement and explain information in a traditional news story. Here's a look at some supplemental forms, with tips on how to use them effectively. If You Go: … Read More
NEWS

How to find that break-your-heart detail for your story

Every conversation and moment in your reporting process can yield powerful details that guide you to the heart of your story. Here are two ways veteran journalism Diana K. Sugg suggests to search for the clues that lead you to the "sacred moment" in journalism--when you discover what your story is really about. Constantly scan the beat. Read the email, … Read More
NEWS

Questions to ask when covering poll results

Journalists are constantly bombarded with data from polls, particularly as election day approaches. Here are some questions you should ask as you're covering the numbers: Who conducted the poll? Who sponsored or paid for the poll? How many people were surveyed and what's the margin of error? Who are respondents (registered voters, likely voters, state residents, etc.)? When was the … Read More
NEWS

Which is best? Who or whom?

The rules of grammar can seem complicated and rigid, but they will help you keep your writing clear and tell a story effectively. When the language is muddled, readers may get confused and have trouble understanding your story. Even worse, they may quit reading. Here's some help when you are unsure whether to use who or whom in a sentence. Read More
NEWS

How the basics of storytelling can help you cover a big event

Great writers get ready for the big story, even if they don't quite know what the story will be.  They report and report and research and then report some more. They expect the unexpected. And then they write powerful stories. Here are some tactics to guide you on the big story. Stick with the basics of telling a story: beginning, … Read More
NEWS

4 ways to create a compelling video story

Telling a story across platforms? Think about all the platforms you will be using (TV, online, mobile, print) before and during the reporting process. You're looking for opportunities to broaden a story or topic beyond the one angle or element you’re covering for a single platform. While you gather information for all platforms, you will approach a story differently for … Read More
NEWS

5 guidelines for writing about poll numbers

Reporting on polls or survey results is similar to reporting on any other news story: It requires attention to the same principles of journalism, such as always reporting with precision and without bias. In addition, journalists need to make the results understandable and intelligible for an audience that may have little statistical training. Here are some do's and don'ts for … Read More
NEWS

3 ways to find and fix mistakes in your writing

In the crush of deadline, it's easy for mistakes to creep into your writing. Even more, errors can happen at any point in the process. Whether you're writing a tweet, a breaking news story, an email or a book, here are some ways to find and fix those mistakes before you hit send. Pick out and highlight the who, what, … Read More
NEWS

How to tell news from advertising, publicity and more

Sorting through a daily flood of information to find news can present quite a challenge. Information can appear in print, on a website, in an audio or video package or on social media. Investigative reports, entertainment, propaganda and advertising can be presented in feature-length films. Here are some ways to put information into meaningful categories that will help you make … Read More
NEWS

How to encourage audience-first thinking

Audience engagement goes beyond traditional journalism to create an environment for listening to your community, sharing meaningful stories and responding to people's questions, wants and needs. Here are some ways to create room for engagement and audience-first thinking in your organization. Start small. Embrace a culture of learning (failure = not learning). Create space for a sandbox and protect that … Read More
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
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