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News Writing: Getting Started. The Writing Process.

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Presentation on theme: "News Writing: Getting Started. The Writing Process."— Presentation transcript:

1 News Writing: Getting Started

2 The Writing Process

3 The Foundation

4 Writing: Getting Started You win or lose in the first several graphs –Helping a writer find his or her focus This will help you too –The all-important lead How alternative forms can help with stories that run long after events –Building a basic story Quotes –Helping a writer find his or her voice This will help you too

5 Finding Your Focus The story’s focus isn’t here or here. Hint: It’s between These two things.

6 Finding Your Focus Six-Word Rule Thompson’s reporting obsession leaves students scrambling. Bumper stickers predict road rage risk.

7 Finding Your Focus Start Writing! Striving for perfection from the start doesn’t work. Some writing coaches (me included) recommend writing a framework without notes.

8 Finding Your Focus “Bumper stickers predict road rage risk.” Two researchers examined 1,008 reports involving road rage by those with bumper stickers. Arizona State University study in Driver Behavior Quarterly finds bumper stickers with profanity and angry statements correlated with road rage. The study comes after several highway shootings that Arizona authorities blamed on road rage. A spokeswoman for AAA Arizona called the study “junk science.” Tip: Based on what you’ve learned, think about and then rank the main points you want to make.

9 Finding Your Focus Two researchers examined 1,008 reports involving road rage by those with bumper stickers. Nex Mexico State University study in Driver Behavior Quarterly finds bumper stickers with profanity and angry statements correlated with road rage. The study comes after several highway shootings that Arizona authorities blamed on road rage. A spokeswoman for AAA New Mexico called the study “junk science.” Tip: Based on what you’ve learned, think about and then rank the main points you want to make. “Bumper stickers predict road rage risk.”

10 Finding Your Focus Using data from the National Highway Niceness Administration, Doe and Schmoe spent three months examining 1,008 reports involving road rage by those with bumper stickers. They found that someone with a bumper sticker with a message such as “I’m Packing!” were three times more likely to commit road rage than someone whose bumper sticker encourage other drivers to “Coexist.” Drivers with bumper stickers bearing profanity and angry statements are more likely to commit acts of road rage, New Mexcio State University researchers report. The findings should give pause to anyone driving near someone with such bumper stickers, said Jane Doe, an assistant professor in NMSU’s School of Driver Etiquette. “It might be time to pull off the highway and get a Tastee Freeze,” said Doe, who conducted the study with Todd Schmoe, another assistant professor in the school. Their findings ran in fall edition of Driver Behavior Quarterly, which came out Tuesday. The study’s release follows several recent highway shootings that New Mexicoa authorities blamed on road rage. Officials from the state Department of Public Safety hadn’t seen the results and couldn’t comment, spokeswoman Sarah Roe said. But Gore Pamela, executive director of AAA New Mexico, a driver’s advocacy group, called the results “junk science.” “Look under the hood of this study and you’ll see wild assumptions that lead to only loose correlations,” she said.

11 Finding Your Focus For speech or news conference story, rank quotes –In many ways, speech/news story is like a TV package –You need actuality to make interesting.

12 Readers understand the basics. –News (5W/H) –Background, Context Readers care about it. –Impact –Human Dimension Strongest leads play here Gannett initiative requires that news stories have all four elements in the first five paragraphs. The All-Important Lead

13 Leads must (true or false): – Sum up the story in one paragraph. – Always contain attribution. – Run no longer than 30 words. The Truth: There are no hard-and-fast rules on how a lead should be structured, though you are wise to follow general guidelines.

14 The All-Important Lead KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- A Russian passenger jet carrying at least 170 people, including 45 children, crashed Tuesday in eastern Ukraine after sending a distress signal, killing all aboard, authorities said. 27 words

15 The All-Important Lead NEW YORK (AP) -- That’s what some people worry will happen when a pen with erasable ink hits stores Friday. 0 words

16 Concise –Write as if each word costs you $20 –In general, 25 words or less works best After 25 words, $100 per word Clear –Short words, sentences, active voice, strong verbs Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. –Decipher bureaucratic language, stats and vagueness Colorful –AP’s tip: What is different about this story? The All-Important Lead

17 Direct / Hard News (“Tell me the news.”) –Summary –Analysis Delayed (“Tell me a story.”) –Anecdotal ( “Narrative Lead”) –Left-Hook Lead ( “Contrast Lead”) –Staccato Lead –Direct Address –Question –Quote The All-Important Lead

18 Direct / Hard News (“Tell me the news.”) –Summary –Analysis Delayed (“Tell me a story.”) –Anecdotal ( “Narrative Lead”) –Left-Hook Lead ( “Contrast Lead”) –Staccato Lead –Direct Address –Question –Quote The All-Important Lead

19 Direct / Hard News (“Tell me the news.”) –Summary –Analysis Delayed (“Tell me a story.”) –Anecdotal ( “Narrative Lead”) Other Delayed Leads: –Contrast Lead (Left-Hook Lead) –Staccato Lead –Direct Address –Question –Quote The All-Important Lead

20 Summary Lead MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – A woman who spent nearly 60 years of her life in an iron lung after being diagnosed with polio as a child died Wednesday after a power failure shut down the machine that kept her breathing, her family said. Advantages of Summary Lead Gets news out there right away. Feeds into inverted pyramid structure. Helps speed writing - Most breaking news stories have summary leads. Disadvantages of Summary Lead Usually doesn’t have much of a shelf life. Not much flexibility to illustrate impact through people.

21 Anecdotal Lead PHOENIX -- A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Gov. Fife Symington of lying to lenders to get millions of dollars for his failing real estate ventures, making him the state's second governor to be ousted in less than a decade. (Los Angeles Times) PHOENIX (AP) -- Fife Symington's lip trembled and his voice cracked. After years of vowing to beat whatever federal prosecutors threw at him, he had lost, he was to be ousted as governor and he was almost certainly going to prison. "Every once in a great while, there is salvation in surrender," a tearful Symington said as he announced his resignation, which will take effect Friday. "I have never been one to linger and I don't intend to start now." The two-term Republican was convicted Wednesday of lying to get millions in loans to shore up his collapsing real estate empire in the 1980s, becoming the second Arizona governor in a decade to be forced from office by scandal.

22 Anecdotal Lead Advantages of Anecdotal Lead Good way to illustrate impact. Can engage reader emotionally. Disadvantages of Anecdotal Lead Difficult to write and report. - Anecdote has to clearly illustrate point of story. Takes a lot of space to get to the point. Natural tendency to over-write these.

23 Left-Hook / Contrast Lead ThompsonTimes Hundreds of students stream out of their classrooms and head toward the gym, where the music is pumping. On the way there, teenage girls rush to restrooms to primp. Middle school boys saunter to the corners of the gym, converse and gaze at the groups of girls. A few students venture to the dance floor. The majority of students peak in at the lighted room and leave: Roughly 40 students, less than a third who could go, actually dance.

24 Left-Hook / Contrast Lead Advantages of Left Hook / Contrast Lead Engages reader powerfully. A good way to illustrate impact through people. Disadvantages of Left Hook / Contrast Lead It’s difficult to do right. - When done poorly, simply confuses reader. Usually makes even more real estate to get to the point.

25 Staccato Lead Cotton candy. Corn dogs. Deep-fried Twinkies. Gut-twisting rides. The San Juan County Fair promises fun for all ages, but it can tough on a child’s tummy if parents don’t watch out. Advantages of Staccato Lead Short bursts create engaging mental images. Poor-man’s anecdotal lead; not as difficult. Doesn’t take as long to write. - Some breaking news stories use staccato leads. Disadvantages of Staccato Lead Only as good as material in your notebook. - Garbage in, garbage out. Can lead to embarrassing “marriage” of events.

26 Direct-Address Lead The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger In answer to your question: No, venomous snakes are not allowed on airplanes. Everything else – from lemurs to lizards to lion cubs – may be traveling in the belly of your next flight. What, you thought they drove? Advantages of Direct-Address Lead Informal tone can engage reader. Work on light topics, news you can use (health, finance) Doesn’t take as long to write. Disadvantages of Direct-Address Lead Can come across as flip, especially topics and tragedies. - “You won’t want to drive Interstate 10 today. Somebody died.” It gets annoying if you do it too often.

27 Question Lead Farmington, N.M. -- Why are the lights on at Tibbetts Middle School dances? Two words: Pre-teens misbehaving. Does having those lights on effect dance attendance and the number of people dancing? Students say yes -- because the lights change the mood of a dance. Advantages of Question Lead Can work if it offers quick points and cadence. Disadvantages of Question Lead They work very, very, very rarely. Usually offers a “junior journalist” tone. Often a sign that writer doesn’t understand point. - “Should the city allow a new bridge? That was the question before the city council last night.”

28 Quote Lead DENVER (AP) -- “Dying is beautiful,” Lyn Helton confided to her tape recorder. “Even the first time around, at the ripe old age of 20.” She made the comments two months ago, as bone cancer sapped her strength. The young wife and mother died Sunday at Children’s Hospital, her husband, Tom, at her side. Advantages of Quote Lead Can work if dialog sets sense of person or moment. Disadvantages of Quote Lead Works very, very, very, very rarely. Usually offers a “junior journalist” tone. Almost always is vague and should be replaced.

29 ANYTOWN -- Town Manager Fred Farkle discussed the budget deficit with Town Council members Monday night at the council’s regular monthly meeting. Farkle agreed to meeting after council members raised concerns about the size of program cuts and layoffs he has recommended. But Farkle came with even more unpleasant news: The deficit is $50 million - twice as big as he had thought. In response, he proposed doubling layoffs to 200 and cutting Anytown’s bus service. BURIED LEAD Problem Leads

30 CLUTTER LEAD WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Trade Commission agreed Friday to allow the nation’s biggest leveraged buyout to go through, provided the two corporations involved -- which together account for one-eighth of the food sold in the nation’s supermarkets -- reduce their share of markets for ketchup, Asian foods and packaged nuts.

31 ANYTOWN -- When it rains, it pours. Anytown faces a perfect storm of dwindling tax revenues and a bad economy, forcing it to lay off 200 employees -- twice as many as originally predicted, Town Manager Fred Farkle said Monday. ANYTOWN -- A $50 million budget deficit has Town Manager Fred Farkle on the warpath when it comes to spending. CLICHE LEAD Problem Leads

32 ANYTOWN -- Doubling layoffs and cutting the city’s bus service are what Town Manager Fred Farkle proposes doing in response to a $50 million budget deficit. SCOTTSBORO, Ala. -- Plans are being made for special entertainment at the next First Monday Trade Days slated on the First Monday weekend in September. PASSIVE LEAD Problem Leads

33 LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Reese Witherspoon has sealed another deal: her divorce from fellow actor Ryan Phillippe. TOO-CUTE-FOR-ITS-OWN-GOOD LEAD Problem Leads

34 Sunset Point Rest Area opened in 1967 at a cost of $50,000. It will reopen Tuesday after 18 months of renovation. BACKGROUND LEAD Problem Leads

35 Strong Leads The (Newark) Star-Ledger, 2006 A state appeals court has ruled that Marty Richards, a Broadway and movie producer, is eligible for a share of a $350 million family trust built on Band-Aids and baby powder, but the long-running inheritance dispute may not be over. The appeals court ruled last week that Richards, who produced the Oscar-winning movie "Chicago," qualifies as a "spouse" who can collect part of a charitable trust established in 1961 by J. Seward Johnson Sr.

36 Strong Leads The Washington Post, 2003 BAGHDAD -- On a cold, concrete slab, a mosque caretaker washed the body of 14-year-old Arkan Daif for the last time. With a cotton swab dipped in water, he ran his hand across Daif's olive corpse, dead for three hours but still glowing with life. He blotted the rose-red shrapnel wounds on the soft skin of Daif's right arm and right ankle with the poise of practice. Then he scrubbed his face scabbed with blood, left by a cavity torn in the back of Daif's skull. The men in the Imam Ali mosque stood somberly waiting to bury a boy who, in the words of his father, was "like a flower." Haider Kathim, the caretaker, asked: "What's the sin of the children? What have they done?"

37 Strong Leads The State Press, 2006 (modified for audience) If you could forgo one power drink a day, and stash the cash instead, in about 40 years – with an 8 percent return – you would have about a million dollars.

38 Exercise Break into six groups. Watch J-Mac news and take quotes and notes the news event. Write a lead type that I assign: 1.Summary 2.Anecdotal 3.Question 4.Quote 5.Staccato 6.Direct Address Your deadline: Five minutes!

39 Building a Basic News Story ANYTOWN -- Americans would be healthier and happier if everyone wore sandals, Generally best to focus summary lead on new maker or event’s strongest point – an idea stating impact or opinion of impact. ANYTOWN -- The American Association of Podiatry held its annual meeting Tuesday. A noted expert gave a speech. Avoid leading with the place or the person in the event. Dullsville. ANYTOWN -- Podiatrists from around the country gathered Tuesday to hear a noted expert say …

40 Building a Basic News Story ANYTOWN -- Americans would be healthier and happier if everyone wore sandals, one of the nation’s leading podiatrists said. To establish context and preserve flow, attribute and end of lead and to credibility of speaker rather than name … ANYTOWN -- President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Americans would be healthier and happier if everyone wore sandals. … unless speaker so prominent that his- her making statement is the story.

41 Building a Basic News Story ANYTOWN -- Americans would be healthier and happier if everyone wore sandals, one of the nation’s leading podiatrists said Tuesday. Time element can go at end of lead.

42 Building a Basic News Story ANYTOWN -- Americans would be healthier and happier if everyone wore sandals, one of the nation’s leading podiatrists said Tuesday. “It is time to end the madness of shoes, clogs and Crocs and let our embattled feet breathe,” If possible, hammer with your best quote in graph two. Sometimes need another graph to set up quote.

43 Building a Basic News Story ANYTOWN -- Americans would be healthier and happier if everyone wore sandals, one of the nation’s leading podiatrists said Tuesday. “It is time to end the madness of shoes, clogs and Crocs and let our embattled feet breathe,” said Dr. Susan Lien, founder of the Zapatos Institute of Foot-Related Studies Drop in name and title after (or in the middle of) the hammer quote,

44 Building a Basic News Story ANYTOWN -- Americans would be healthier and happier if everyone wore sandals, one of the nation’s leading podiatrists said Tuesday. “It is time to end the madness of shoes, clogs and Crocs and let our embattled feet breathe,” said Dr. Susan Lien, founder of the Zapatos Institute of Foot-Related Studies, told those attending the National Association of Feet’s annual convention. In general, slip forum in as a parenthetical either with quote attribution …

45 Building a Basic News Story ANYTOWN -- Americans would be healthier and happier if everyone wore sandals, one of the nation’s leading podiatrists said Tuesday. “It is time to end the madness of shoes, clogs and Crocs and let our embattled feet breathe,” said Dr. Susan Lien, founder of the Zapatos Institute of Foot-Related Studies. Addressing the National Association of Feet’s annual convention at Anytown Visitor Center, In general, slip forum in as a parenthetical either with quote attribution … … or as aside in next paragraph.

46 Building a Basic News Story ANYTOWN -- Americans would be healthier and happier if everyone wore sandals, one of the nation’s leading podiatrists said Tuesday. “It is time to end the madness of shoes, clogs and Crocs and let our embattled feet breathe,” said Dr. Susan Lien, founder of the Zapatos Institute of Foot-Related Studies. Addressing the National Association of Feet’s annual convention at Anytown Visitor Center, Lien said her research has fond sandal wearers to be half as likely to suffer from athlete’s foot. Get on with the rest of the story.

47 A news story needs strong quotes. –Aim for 4-5 quotes from varying sources. Should add spice/opinion, not basic info. –Good: “We must end this madness.” –Bad: “The car ran off the road and hit a tree.” Use partial quotes sparingly. –Good: Jones called Adamson a “loser.” –Bad: Jones said “we should go” to school. Good Quote, Bad Quote

48 Strong quotes come from “Why?” questions. –Be open-ended: “Why is this important?” “The federal government says a lot of people are going to be hurt by this oil spill. What do have to say to those people, communities and businesses?” Broadcast trick: “Talk to me about …” Poor quotes come from “What?” questions. –Q. “What happened to the car? –A. “It ran off the road and hit a tree.” Good Quote, Bad Quote

49 Finding Your Voice Writing is a conversation with the reader. Good writing is conversational. –Active voice. –Punchy (usually brief) sentences. Avoid bureaucratic phrases.

50 Finding Your Voice Bureaucratic –Optimal results can be achieved by applying pressure to the central quadrant of toothpaste delivery vessel and completely emptying the area being utilized until the vessel is drained. Better –For best results, squeeze tube from the middle and flatten as you go up.

51 Write visually: –Details create strong mental images. –Shun adjectives; strong verbs instead. –Clever phrases, irony, humor help. –CNS camera example. Finding Your Voice MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State Sen. Clifford “Tiny” Krueger eased his 300-pound frame into a witness chair Friday and said fat people should not be barred from adopting children.

52 Read Your Writing Aloud: –Can you say the lead or a sentence in a single breath? –Do you stumble over words? –Would you say this to a friend? –Does it put you to sleep? –Does it confuse you? Finding Your Voice

53 Read good writing –Doesn’t have to be newspaper writing Science fiction teaches good context. Imitate good writing –You don’t have to invent new ways to construct stories. Finding Your Voice

54 Final Thought on Writing


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