July 14, 2021

If you’re new to reporting, here is an easy checklist to follow when filing your stories. (Your newsroom’s rules on sourcing may be more rigid and individual editors may make exceptions on a couple of these things, so always check with them first.)

  1. Are the content and general angle of the piece in line with what you had discussed with your editor? (If not, you should let the editor know and get feedback before filing.)
  2. Do you have an enticing lead and a nut graph that explains the point and why it matters to your audience?
  3. Did you double- and triple-fact-check all points, including numbers and the spellings of locations and names of people and groups?
  4. Do you have AT LEAST three credible first-hand sources in your story, including at least two human sources? (More sources are expected for non-breaking news. You might not include all the folks you interview in a piece but they will still help you produce a more informed story.)
  5. Did you aim for a diversity of sources in terms of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability, religion, political leanings, etc.?
  6. Did you reach out multiple times, in multiple ways to folks potentially harmed by the content?
  7. Are all facts and opinions attributed to sources with full first and last names and other identifying information such as titles, majors (if they’re students) and/or cities or neighborhoods of residence?
  8. Is your writing clear, concise and conversational? Do you use active voice and active verbs when possible?
  9. Are your captions written in present tense and complete sentences with identifiable people named after getting their permission?
  10. Is text content in past tense and audio or video content in present tense?
  11. Are quotes used to capture colorful language and feelings instead of dry facts or stats?
  12. Did you provide alternative text for photos and closed captions on video or audio content?
  13. If you did not shoot any of the footage or photos included in your piece, did you get written permission from the owner? (Same for embedded content from social media.)
  14. Did you include a headline that is accurate, relevant and can draw in your audience? Did you include SEO keywords that are relevant for the audience looking for your content?

This article originally appeared on Julie Patel Liss’ website and is republished here with permission.

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Julie Patel Liss, a professor and head of journalism at Cal State LA, worked as an investigative reporter at the Center for Public Integrity and…
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