Presentation on theme: "Every story should have a clear organizing principle that pulls the reader through the story: Chronological order Logical progression A narrative voice."— Presentation transcript:
Every story should have a clear organizing principle that pulls the reader through the story: Chronological order Logical progression A narrative voice
Instead of telling the reader something was difficult, dangerous, disgusting or deranged, give them an anecdote, detail or quote that shows it to them. “The room was filthy.” “Tattered curtains, yellow with cigarette smoke, dangling from bent metal rods. Cardboard and old comforters stuffed into broken, grimy windows.”
Put the most compelling info/quotes near the top of the story. But sometimes you might want to save something for the kicker (the end of the report – think “hourglass”). A good kicker can be used to give the reader something more to think about.
“Journalism is in fact history on the run.” --U.S. Federal Appeals Court Judge Thomas Beall Griffith
“History on the run” implies that journalism can sometimes be sloppy and inaccurate. No doubt, it sometimes is. But how can we help guard against it? By making our stories as accurate as we can. By making our stories as clear as possible.
Let’s deal with accuracy first. On a fast- breaking story, it can be hard to be sure of our facts, but some conventions are available: Double-check what facts you collect – the who, what, when, where and why. And sometimes, the how. Attribute information, particularly information that might be in dispute or that is controversial, to people with access to that information – or whose official positions give them the authority to speak.
On a more practical level: When you interview someone, double-check the spelling of their name; get their phone number. After you’re done with your questions, ask if there is anything they’d like to add. On your way to cover a story, prepare questions in advance.
Readers and viewers sense a story is accurate when it seems well-reported – when it seems the reporter has done a good job collecting the information. So, while on a story, keep an ear out for the dramatic quotation – the judge, for instance, who says a defendant has no remorse.
Similarly, while on a story, look for the telling details, the ones that will make your story powerful – still accurate, but clearly well-researched. The telling details are ones that in a few words say something significant – the defendant, for instance, who has had 21 convictions since he was 13 years old.
Where can you get accurate information while researching a topic? Three broad categories: Human Physical Online
Now, let’s turn to clarity: “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone.” -- Confucius
To reach a large and diverse audience, writers must present information in a clear and simple, yet interesting, way. Every word matters
Good media writing is more than the use of clear language. It is: Using the correct words. Composing sentences carefully. Finding a tone that matches the material – a dignified tone, for instance, for the story of a funeral; a tone of drama for a daring rescue; a tone of joy for someone who achieves something great.
Eight Tips for Writing: 1) Vary the length of your sentences. Short, medium, long, short, medium -- variety yields rhythm, and keeps people moving through the story. Remember: A short sentence, properly placed, packs power. It is dramatic.
2) Use simple, not complex, sentences. Simple: Tsang, now in his second term, cannot seek re- election. Complex: Tsang, now in his second term, cannot seek a third term, and so some political observers say that is the reason he has not shown much regard for much public opinion in several recent controversies, including his government’s refusal to reveal the salaries it was paying new political appointees, forcing them instead to reveal them.
3) Use words most people know. Do not send people to the dictionary. Don’t give them reasons to put your story down.
4) Don’t use unnecessary words, as this paragraph does. A metal-working factory in Yuen Long where a powerful blast yesterday afternoon killed three workers and injured four other laborers has been found to have had failed several types of safety inspections last year, according to the Regional Factory Regulatory Agency. (35 words)
This version is only 23 words: A factory in Yuen long where a powerful blast killed three workers and injured four others yesterday failed several safety inspections last year, officials said.
5) When possible, use active voice; use strong verbs. Active: A leaking gas cylinder triggered the explosion. Passive: The explosion was caused by a leaking gas cylinder.
6) Write the way most people talk – direct and plain, NOT like this: The manager of a money-lending firm, who pleaded guilty to dishonestly appropriating $2.4 million from his employer, was described by two Democratic Party legislators as “a honest man with many good qualities.”
How about this? A loan-company manager who pleaded guilty to stealing $2.4 million from his boss was described by two Democratic Party legislators as a honest man.
Avoid using jargon—the language that only specialists in a given field might use.. Q: What does “The perpetrator fled the scene on foot after suffering contusions and lacerations” mean?
A: “The suspect ran after away he had been cut and bruised.” It’s that simple
7) Use words that help readers see, rather than go to sleep, as these do: The first and only International Anti-Corruption Newsletter is being published on the Internet by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to help overseas agencies fighting crime and corruption.
How about this? Hong Kong’s corruption watchdog is publishing the first Internet newsletter for helping police around the world catch criminals.
Best tip for last: 8) After you’re done, read it to yourself. Then rewrite it. And then rewrite it again. And then again.
Reading: Noonan` and Mustain, English-Language News Writing, Fudan Press. Pages 35-37; and 91-100