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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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If you are taking your first journalism class, you’ve probably discovered that newswriting is very different from other kinds of writing. But don’t be intimidated. The newswriting format is very straightforward and you should be able to master it without too much difficulty. Newswriting is based on the idea that readers have limited time and attention spans, which means you want to put the most important information in your story at the very top, or beginning, of the story. Then, as you go from the beginning to the end of your story, the information presented should be of gradually lesser importance. This is known asRead More →