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In my journalism classes on the morning of the election, I was imparting some received wisdom to my students. “If you see North Carolina go for Hillary, then it’s all over for Trump. It should be an early night,” I told them, confidently. How wrong I was. Of course, I wasn’t alone (not that that’s any consolation). From the polling organizations to Nate Silver’s to the country’s major news outlets, many, it seems, missed not just the boat but the entire lake by a pretty wide margin. Jim Rutenberg put it this way in The New York Times: “The country’s major news organizations, asRead More →


It’s early in the semester and students at the college where I teach journalism have just turned in their first articles for the student newspaper. Most of them are really good, but as always there are a few common mistakes that students make early on. Here are some of the problems I see most frequently: Long leads and long paragraphs – Remember, news stories should use a one-sentence lead. And paragraphs in news stories should generally be just 1 to 2 sentences each. I can always tell when someone has written their first news story, because it’s invariably full of giant paragraphs that look likeRead More →


I’m a journalism professor, and one of the questions I’m most often asked by students is this: “Should I record my interviews, or just take notes?” It’s a good question, but one that reflects the insecurity journalism students feel when they go out to do their first interviews. Many are concerned that if they simply take notes they won’t be able to get down everything the interviewee says. So here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of notebooks versus recorders. Notebooks: The classic reporter’s notebook is a time-honored tool of journalists everywhere, and for good reason. The reporter’s notebook is the ultimate low-tech,Read More →


Journalism students tend to fret a lot about learning the newswriting format. But learning to write a news story is relatively easy, and any experienced journalist will tell you that reporting is at the heart of what the news business is all about. And when it comes to reporting, there is nothing more important than learning to be a good interviewer. So here are six important tips to keep in mind when doing any interview. Do plenty of preparation. Preparation means doing background research before the interview, both about the interviewee and the subject you will be discussing. Nothing inspires confidence in an interviewee moreRead More →


I’ve already talked about the basics of writing a lead, and the idea that it should summarize the main points of the story using the 5W’s and the H. But experienced reporters know there’s another important element to writing a lead – grabbing the reader’s attention. After all, journalists are writing to be read, and with the lead they have one chance to convince the news consumer to dive into their story. To do this you must figure out which element of a story is most newsworthy and interesting, and make that that the focus of your lead. Start by looking at the 5W’s andRead More →