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Campus Journalism

Pre-Writing Concerns
2. Choosing a Topic--
3. Researching-4. Pitching a Story-5. Interviewing and Quoting Sources-6. The Print Media: From Topic to Article--
2. Choosing a Topic
Choosing a Topic
1. What are they interested in?
2. What is interesting to other people?
Topic-------]smaller---------] Idea to write a story on
What are you interested in?
1. Type
2. Place
3. Time
3. Researching
In this topic we will discuss:
Types of Articles:
Immigration Family
Types of Sources
1. Human Sources
2. Documentary sources
Issue: Water quality
witnesses or participants,
custodians of records,
experts or interpreters of
information and advocates.
Levels of Observation
As information moves farther from firsthand observation, we should be increasingly careful
about the reliability of the information:
1. Direct or firsthand observation: The reporter sees or hears something herself. An example
would be a reporter covering a city council meeting.
2. Second-hand observation: The reporter gets information from a witness.
3. Third-hand observation: The reporter talks to someone who got information from a witness.
An example is the account a police officer gives a reporter based on the officer’s conversation
with a witness or witnesses.
4. Fourth-hand observation: Reporters occasionally receive information from spokesmen or
spokeswomen, or from news releases, that is based on information that is already thirdhand. An
example would be information from a police spokesman who summarized the report of an
officer who had talked to witnesses.
Writing Different Levels of Observation
Firsthand: “The Chevrolet ran a red light and struck the pickup truck.”
Second-hand: “Witnesses said the Chevrolet ran a red light and struck the pickup truck.”
Third-hand: “Witnesses told police the Chevrolet ran a red light and struck the pickup truck.”
Fourth-hand: “A police spokesman said witnesses told officers that the Chevrolet ran a red light
and struck the pickup truck.”
Combination of levels: “Witness accounts varied sharply. Two said the Chevrolet ran a red
light. (second-hand) Another told police the light was yellow. (third-hand) A police spokesman
said still another witness told investigators she thought the light was green. (fourth-hand) But all
agreed that the Chevrolet slammed into the pickup truck broadside. The driver’s door of the
truck was crushed inward so far that it had shoved the steering column into the center of the
cab. (firsthand
2. Documentary Sources
In addition to the obvious — copies of lawsuits and other
court filings, arrest reports, budgets, consultants’ or
government reports, agendas — documentary sources can
include clippings or file tape of previous stories (often
accessed online now), telephone and city directories,
encyclopedias or other reference works, and, increasingly,
electronic databases.
When judging credibility, journalists
occasionally give the benefit of the
doubt to a document over a quote
from a person, or they use it to
support the credibility of a human
source, or they do not subject it to the
same verification that they would
information from a human source.
But remember that all documentary sources are
generated by people, so information in documentary
sources can be lies or be simply wrong, too. Make
sure that your document really is support or proof,
and not just someone else making an unsupported
4. Pitching a Story
What is a story pitch?
A pitch is a brief description (usually no longer than 500
words or two paragraphs) of a story intended to convince an
editor, producer or publisher to commission the piece.
Writers in various industries use pitches to encourage an
organization to publish their work.
Why is it important to know how to pitch
a story?
For professional writers, knowing how to pitch a story is helpful for
getting their work published and developing professional
relationships with publishers, editors and producers. Understanding
the fundamentals and expectations of pitching a story may help you
feel more confident when approaching publishers. It may help you
become more successful at getting your ideas accepted.
1. Know the story you want to tell
No matter what industry you work in, the first step to
pitching your story is knowing the story you want to tell.
Identify the main narrative elements such as who the story
is about, what the subjects do in the story, where the story
takes place, why the action of the story takes place and how
the events of the story happen. Knowing the story you want
to tell may make it easier to summarize the most significant
points in your pitch.
2. Introduce your story with an engaging
opening line
Though there are different ways to start your pitch, it is important to
engage your reader's attention with the first line. You might begin
your pitch by writing a sentence that summarizes the main idea of
your story, by asking a rhetorical question related to the piece or by
describing a scene or action. Be straightforward in explaining what
the story is about and what perspective you plan to take with it. Try
to explain what actually happens in the story rather than the themes
or ideas it wants to express.
3. Explain why they should publish your story
After describing the story you want to tell, explain why the story is
urgent, interesting or meaningful for the publication's target
audience. Keep your explanation brief, but inform the publisher why
their audience may be interested in your story. You may outline the
primary sources or evidence you plan to use in the story or the key
plot points that may engage the reader.
4. Thank them for their time
After presenting your pitch, thank the editor for their time and
consideration. Even if they choose not to accept your pitch, it is
important to acknowledge the value of the time they spent reading
or listening to your ideas.
5. Interviewing and Quoting
Journalists recognize two
kinds of interview subjects:
Use open-ended questions (often expressed as a
statement) when a subject won’t open up:
Tell me about your son.
Talk about that for a minute.
Describe what you did at that point.
Use closed-ended questions when a subject
won’t shut up, or is being vague or evasive:
Did you take the money?
What was her name?
How many hikers are missing?
When did he graduate?
Interviewing Techniques
to identify techniques
of interviewing and to
employ these
Preparation for interview
Call ahead or send e-mail to schedule an interview.
Identify yourself by name and publication. Give the nature of the article
Be punctual
Do your homework.
Dress with respect for the person you are interviewing
Write down key questions before the interview.
It's easier for a source to hang up a telephone than slam a door in your face.
Avoid ambush interviews. Be honest. Don't mislead your source -- that can be more
trouble than it's worth
During the interview
•Make eye contact. Nod, smile and look interested. Now is not
the time to zone out.
•Use the interviewee’s name
•Take good notes discreetly.
•Observe the surroundings. Look for details that set a mood,
reveal personality
Interviewing Style—Do’s
Start by asking easy questions and get tougher as you go.
Save controversial questions for near the end, but don’t skip
Ask open-ended questions
Let the source fill the awkward moments. Allow the subject to
stray from the topic. You may get another – or better – story that
way. However, remain in control of the interview
Get all your information the first time
Double check spelling of all names and addresses
Interviewing style-don’ts
Don't start out by antagonizing your source.
Don't talk too much. Give the subject time to answer
questions completely
Don’t ignore body language
Do not let your opinion of the interviewee or what
he/she represents influence your questions or
After the interview
check your list of questions to ensure you asked them.
Ask: “Is there anything else I should ask?”
Thank the interviewee.
Re-read your notes immediately after the interview.
Write a three- to five-sentence summary in your notebook at
the end of each interview
Taking notes in interview
Develop your own note-taking system. Use abbreviations.
Use texting method
Jot a question mark in the margin if you need to clarify a point
before the interview ends.
Always put quotation marks around direct quotes. Don’t fixate
on quotes.
If the subject is saying something you won’t use or aren’t
interested in, don’t write it down
Note changes in body language
What types of questions should I ask?
Open ended questions—Why, how,
describe, what?
Interesting questions
What types of questions should I ask?
If stuck, ask stock questions—those that can apply to almost
anyone in that position
1. Who has influenced you in your life
2. What is the one quality you have that you admire, regret
Steer away from est questions; best memory, worst
experience, best game etc
What about taping devices?
--always get permission
Obtain exact quotes;
Outside noise may interfere
Can hear the tone
Interview may be more
Get more accurate details
Interviewee may be less
willing to give information
Taping --Always continue to take notes
Qualifies important information
— names, figures, dates
Maintains a sense of interest on part of reporter.
What about the internet interview?
E-mail questions/use chat rooms
Face- to-face interview is still preferable
body language
If doing research, can post a note in newsgroup to solicit
Going off the record
Reporter can use information , not give sources
Reporter cannot use information at all
Reporter and interviewee can agree to rules.
Agree when interview is back on the record
No info off the record unless reporter agrees
If reporter accepts off-the-record cannot divulge
source or information
Pre-publication checking
Source wishes to read story before publication
Used to be NO
Now some reporters are reading back stories to sources
1. Good PR
2. Eliminates mistakes
3. Avoids libel cases (must show malice)
Writing the interview story
Be specific in description
Use details that tell what the person has done
Do not use physical characteristics
Use quotes often—bring the person to life
Do not say “I asked” or “when asked”
Q and A Reporter not part of the story; more objective but lazy
Using Quotes
News stories ought to be about people, or about people involved in
events or issues. They should not be just about the event or issue. As
journalists we need to find ways to get people into our stories. Now
that we have addressed finding sources and interviewing them
effectively, we will look at using those sources’ quotes to put a
human face on our stories.
The work that quotes do
1. Quotes lend immediacy, so your audience has a sense of being there and gets
the sense that you were there. Even the best narrative, by itself, can’t do that.
2. Quotes impart emotion, the reactions of the people involved and affected, in
their own words. Allowing the people in our stories to report their own
emotions carries more weight than our attempts to describe those emotions.
3. Quotes help us show — rather than just tell — what’s going on.
4. Quotes help convey the personalities of the people in our stories. As in
personal relationships, audiences best get the sense that they know others
when they feel that they are conversing with them.
Types of quotations
1. Direct quotations depict word-for-word what the speaker said.
“We will find the remaining leaders of al Qaeda even if we have to turn over every rock on
earth,” the president said.
2. Indirect quotations convey what the speaker said in essentially the way he said it, but
quotation marks aren’t used because the quote has been altered slightly:
The United States will find the remaining leaders of al Qaeda no matter how hard we must look,
the president said.
3. Paraphrased quotations express the essence of the speaker’s comment in the reporter’s
The president vowed to find the remaining leaders of al Qaeda.
4. Partial quotations take a fragment of the quote to preserve the color of it. Because
their fragmented nature makes them distracting, they should be used sparingly, and
never as a sound or video bite:
The president said finding the remaining leaders of al Qaeda would happen “even if we
have to turn over every rock on earth.”
5. Dialogue captures the drama of an exchange between two or more people:
“We will find the remaining leaders of al Qaeda even if we have to turn over every rock
on earth,” the president said.
“All we can expect of an effort like that is a lot of pain,” the Senate minority leader
Using Difficult Quotes
1. When you are confronted with bad grammar, profanity or obscenity, remember that
a paraphrased or indirect quote is usually a better option than altering the quote. Depending on
whether you are working for print, the web or broadcast, other options include:
2. Ellipsis, the three dots that indicate something is missing, can be used in print or web stories.
Similarly, brackets [ ] indicate that a word has been substituted for the offensive word.
3. A partial quote allows the speaker’s voice, but not the bad grammar or language, to reach
your audience.
4. Listen for trouble spots when you conduct your interviews. Asking a question a second time
often yields a “cleaner” quote.
5. Most newsrooms have a policy against using bad grammar, profanity or obscenity
gratuitously. If you think you have a compelling reason to use a quote containing any of
those, talk with your editor, producer or news director before you use it.
Strategies for Using Effective Quotes
Gather many quotes, but use few.
Use quotes that put a human face on your story. Don’t use them for long explanations or to carry a
Remember to use paraphrase, indirect quotes and dialogue as well as direct single quotes. But use
partial quotes rarely.
Identify all sources by name and position or relevance to your story. Attribute carefully, and often.
Use full-sentence transitions to introduce speakers and set up their quotes.
“Said” is the best form of attribution for news stories. Use it.
Don’t try to convey a speaker’s emotion in your attribution. Show his or her emotion in the
transition to the quote.
6. Print Media:
From Topic to Article
Study collections