Your beat is a particular area that you cover. This might be a geographic area — the city of St. Paul or the Frogtown neighborhood, for example. Your beat might be topical: higher education or restaurant reviews.
If you are working for a news outlet, you might be assigned a beat. If you are writing as a freelancer, you can choose your own beat, based on your expertise, your interest, your passion. You develop a beat by deciding to become an expert, researching and reading about the topic; building a virtual rolodex of sources and contacts; pitching story ideas to the right places; writing, writing, writing. Continue reading
1) What’s the story? Summarize the story in a way that tells why it is important, interesting, or appealing. Think: How would you tell the story to a friend? Continue reading
What’s the story? That may seem like a simple question. Your editor assigned you to cover the city council meeting, so the city council meeting is the story, right? So you go to the city council meeting, and you report: Continue reading
You want to be a reporter. That means writing news stories. Where do you find a story idea?
First, read, read, READ — develop a list of publications that you read or check on daily. Continue reading
Copy this form, complete it, and email to the editor.
Sometimes the editor may use this information for fact-checking, or checking on spelling, contact or address information. Stakeholders, sources and subjects will get an email from the editor that lets them know the article has been published. Contact information may also be entered into the general TCDP database. Continue reading
Looking for a quick intro to some journalism basics? Each of these 20 mini-lessons will take no more than 20 minutes. Continue reading
Is this story worth writing?
Here’s another take on the five Ws –
Who will be interested in reading this?
What is important, interesting, surprising, exciting?
When is this story relevant or useful — and will it still be relevant or useful when it is published?
Where does it take place — and where should it be published?
Why will readers care? (This may be the most important question!)
x x x x
Finding a Focus
(from New Standard Handbook, ©2006 by PeoplesNetworks)
The focus of the story is a conscious decision. Together, you and the editors must decide on the main topic and angle of the story and choose the perspectives that will be most prominent. When determining a story’s focus, it will be helpful to ask:
- Who does the policy or event most affect and how?
- What are the most recent developments in the story?
- What voices or angles have not been represented in other media coverage of this issue?
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
A focus paragraph tells what the story is about, including the five Ws – who, what, when, where, why – and sometimes how. Here are two examples:
Example 1: This story is about how the St. Paul schools budget is made up, and how it changes. It will tell what the schools need for money and where they find it. It will look at this year’s budget.
Example 2: In 2008-09, St. Paul schools had a budget shortfall. The school board made decisions this summer about where to cut the budget to make up the shortfall. The story will describe why the budget shortfall happened and list some of the cuts that were made.
1) Evaluate the two paragraphs. Can you find the five Ws? Which paragraph will be more helpful in focusing your story and why?
2) Think about one of your stories (past or present), and write a focus paragraph.
©2008-2014 Mary Turck