Recording Phone Calls

Young woman with red hair and smart phone.

We want to make sure that you take special precautions to stay safe when doing an interview. The best method now, not always, is using your phone. You can record with Voice Memos. But it may not be the best quality. You can also get an app that does a good job.

Rev Call Recorder is available for free in the App Store. It says it provides free and unlimited call recording.

TapeACall is a favorite in the podcast world. It offers a free trial for seven days. That might work for your next assignment. But they ask for a credit card and that turned me off.

THE LAW AND RECORDING PHONE CALLS

Federal and state wire-tapping laws govern how, or if, you can record a telephone call.

You could be prosecuted or sued if you don’t follow the rules. So it’s imperative to understand and abide by them.

Federal law requires one-party consent. That party could be you. But individual states have their own laws. New York and New Jersey require only one-party consent. Again, that could be you.

But twelve states including California and Florida require all parties to consent to the recording.

You can check the laws of all the states here.

The Ethics of Recording A Call

It is always important to be as transparent as possible. Before you hit the record button ask your interviewee if it is okay with them. You want to make sure they are comfortable with having their voice and words recorded. They generally say, “Yes,” and appreciate being asked. This is the ethical thing to do when you are dealing with a regular interview.

The rules, not the law, change when you are interviewing for a story that requires undercover work. News organizations have different rules for their reporters and you want to make sure that you follow them carefully.

Journalists have a responsibility to honor the trust of the public and the people they interview. Please take this seriously.

Jimmy Breslin’s Grave Digger Story

‘It’s An Honor’

New York Herald Tribune, November 1963

By Jimmy Breslin

WASHINGTON — Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9 a.m., in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call he had been expecting. It was from Mazo Kawalchik, who is the foreman of the gravediggers at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where Pollard works for a living. “Polly, could you please be here by 11 o’clock this morning?” Kawalchik asked. “I guess you know what it’s for.” Pollard did. He hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment so he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

When Pollard got to the row of yellow wooden garages where the cemetery equipment is stored, Kawalchik and John Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, were waiting for him. “Sorry to pull you out like this on a Sunday,” Metzler said. “Oh, don’t say that,” Pollard said. “Why, it’s an honor for me to be here.” Pollard got behind the wheel of a machine called a reverse hoe. Gravedigging is not done with men and shovels at Arlington. The reverse hoe is a green machine with a yellow bucket that scoops the earth toward the operator, not away from it as a crane does. At the bottom of the hill in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pollard started the digging (Editor Note: At the bottom of the hill in front of the Custis-Lee Mansion).

Leaves covered the grass. When the yellow teeth of the reverse hoe first bit into the ground, the leaves made a threshing sound which could be heard above the motor of the machine. When the bucket came up with its first scoop of dirt, Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, walked over and looked at it. “That’s nice soil,” Metzler said. “I’d like to save a little of it,” Pollard said. “The machine made some tracks in the grass over here and I’d like to sort of fill them in and get some good grass growing there, I’d like to have everything, you know, nice.”

James Winners, another gravedigger, nodded. He said he would fill a couple of carts with this extra-good soil and take it back to the garage and grow good turf on it. “He was a good man,” Pollard said. “Yes, he was,” Metzler said. “Now they’re going to come and put him right here in this grave I’m making up,” Pollard said. “You know, it’s an honor just for me to do this.”

Pollard is 42. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the 35th president of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.

Yesterday morning, at 11:15, Jacqueline Kennedy started toward the grave. She came out from under the north portico of the White House and slowly followed the body of her husband, which was in a flag-covered coffin that was strapped with two black leather belts to a black caisson that had polished brass axles. She walked straight and her head was high. She walked down the bluestone and blacktop driveway and through shadows thrown by the branches of seven leafless oak trees. She walked slowly past the sailors who held up flags of the states of this country. She walked past silent people who strained to see her and then, seeing her, dropped their heads and put their hands over their eyes. She walked out the northwest gate and into the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. She walked with tight steps and her head was high and she followed the body of her murdered husband through the streets of Washington.

Everybody watched her while she walked. She is the mother of two fatherless children and she was walking into the history of this country because she was showing everybody who felt old and helpless and without hope that she had this terrible strength that everybody needed so badly. Even though they had killed her husband and his blood ran onto her lap while he died, she could walk through the streets and to his grave and help us all while she walked.

There was Mass, and then the procession to Arlington. When she came up to the grave at the cemetery, the casket already was in place. It was set between brass railings and it was ready to be lowered into the ground. This must be the worst time of all, when a woman sees the coffin with her husband inside and it is in place to be buried under the earth. Now she knows that it is forever. Now there is nothing. There is no casket to kiss or hold with your hands. Nothing material to cling to. But she walked up to the burial area and stood in front of a row of six green-covered chairs and she started to sit down, but then she got up quickly and stood straight because she was not going to sit down until the man directing the funeral told her what seat he wanted her to take.

The ceremonies began, with jet planes roaring overhead and leaves falling from the sky. On this hill behind the coffin, people prayed aloud. They were cameramen and writers and soldiers and Secret Service men and they were saying prayers out loud and choking. In front of the grave, Lyndon Johnson kept his head turned to his right. He is president and he had to remain composed. It was better that he did not look at the casket and grave of John Fitzgerald Kennedy too often. Then it was over and black limousines rushed under the cemetery trees and out onto the boulevard toward the White House. “What time is it?” a man standing on the hill was asked. He looked at his watch. “Twenty minutes past three,” he said.

Clifton Pollard wasn’t at the funeral. He was over behind the hill, digging graves for $3.01 an hour in another section of the cemetery. He didn’t know who the graves were for. He was just digging them and then covering them with boards. “They’ll be used,” he said. “We just don’t know when. I tried to go over to see the grave,” he said. “But it was so crowded a soldier told me I couldn’t get through. So I just stayed here and worked, sir. But I’ll get over there later a little bit. Just sort of look around and see how it is, you know. Like I told you, it’s an honor.”

Examples of Good Writing

The deadliest flower in the insect world is a lifeline to farmers—and the planet

(From National Geographic)

The yellow center of the ‘killer chrysanthemum’ contains a natural toxin that is a powerful insecticide.PHOTOGRAPHS BYVITO FUSCOBYJACOB KUSHNERPUBLISHED AUGUST 4, 2021• 15 MIN READ

GILGIL, KENYAThe deadliest flower in the insect world is soft to the touch. Each morning in the hills above Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, the white petals of the pyrethrum plant become laden with dew. To the people who pick them, the flower is utterly harmless. But bugs beware: Its yellow center contains a natural toxin that can kill them in seconds.

Discovered in Persia around 400 B.C., the flower produces an active ingredient, pyrethrin, that can be extracted and used to create natural insecticides that farmers spray on crops to protect them from mites, ants, and aphids without harming anyone’s health. Herders rub pyrethrin ointments on their cattle to repel flies and ticks.

In its most common applications, pyrethrin paralyzes pests by attacking their central nervous systems. “If you spray an insect with pyrethrum, for the first 30 seconds it goes mental, incredibly hyperactive, then it falls to the floor,” explains Ian Shaw, managing director of the pyrethrum producer Kapi Limited.

Simply growingChrysanthemum cinerariifolium near your home may be enough to repel parasite-carrying sand flies, whose bite can spread the skin disease leishmaniasis, which affects nearly one million people globally, including many throughout Kenya. The resulting rash can eat away at people’s faces and become fatal if left untreated.

Pyrethrin has also become a powerful tool in the global fight against mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, a parasite that sickens more than a million people and kills more than 400,000 each year, many of them in Kenya. Manufactured in spiral-shaped discs known as mosquito coils, they emit a shroud of smoke like incense that repels mosquitoes but is harmless to humans.

part of the pyrethrum nursery

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From ESPN https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/32489351/rb-mark-ingram-traded-houston-texans-reuniting-new-orleans-saints

METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints have reunited their dynamic running back duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram by acquiring Ingram in a trade with the Houston Texans, sources confirmed to ESPN.

The deal includes a swap of late-round picks, the source said. NFL Network first reported the trade, the second in two months between the Saints and Texans after New Orleans acquired veteran cornerback Bradley Roby in Week 1.

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Writing Exercise

Exercise

You will not be graded on this exercise. This is for you to practice the craft of writing.

NORTH PORT, FL — With a forensic anthropologist analyzing Brian Laundrie’s remains, Steven Bertolino, the Laundrie family’s attorney, told Fox News Wednesday that autopsy results, including the cause and time of his death, aren’t expected for another two to three weeks.

Laundrie, a person of interest in the strangulation death of his fiancée, Gabby Petito, left his North Port home Sept. 13 — two days after she was officially reported missing — and hasn’t been seen since.

(From The Patch)

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has a double-digit lead over Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli in the fight for New Jersey governor that ends with next week’s election, according to the latest poll of the race.

Murphy is ahead of Ciattarelli by 11 percentage points among registered voters, according to the Monmouth University Poll released Wednesday. It showed the governor with 50% support compared to his rival’s 39%.

(From New Jersey.com)


In a major win for climate advocates and supporters of wind and solar energy, New York State environmental regulators refused on Wednesday to allow two companies to upgrade their gas-fueled power plants — signaling a newly aggressive approach to ending fossil-fuel emissions that drive climate change.

With the decision — and a strong, immediate statement of support from Gov. Kathy Hochul — the officials took a clear and potentially influential position on a longstanding question that is at the center of national and global debates on renewable energy.

(New York Times)

A shootout at a popular outdoor restaurant in the trendy resort of Tulum that killed two foreign tourists and wounded three more ripped through the Caribbean town’s laid-back vibe and shocked many who’d considered the region an oasis immune to Mexico’s insecurity. 

But the October 20 killings revealed the dark underbelly of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, one that tourism officials along the vacation corridor have struggled to hide. Over the past decade criminal organizations—including some of the country’s most notorious drug cartels—have established lucrative extortion and local drug peddling rackets that are leading to open conflict.

(Vice)

Punctuation 4.0

Dateline For example: NEW YORK, Sept 12 (Reuters) – BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, Sept 12 (Reuters) – Put your byline underneath by Chris Valentin Quotation Marks Periods, commas, question marks and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks. Example: Billy Collins stood in line to vote and looked up when someone asked why he came out to vote early, “I haven’t voted in 30 years and now I’m here,” he said. Use a comma before the quotation. Example: New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell warned residents about the dangerous hurricane heading their way. She said, “This is not a drill.” The first letter of the first word in a quote is capitalized. Example: N.B.A. star LeBron James and other prominent black athletes and entertainers started a group aimed at protecting African American voting rights and encouraging people to vote. “Yes, we want you to go out and vote, but we’re also going to give you the tutorial,” Mr. James said. “We’re going to give you the background of how to vote and what they’re trying to do, the other side, to stop you from voting.” Write out percent. Put Links Under Facts or for Attribution. Example:

It is difficult to tease apart the reasons that the virus ebbs and flows in this way, and harder still to predict the future.

But as winter looms, there are real reasons for optimism. Nearly 70 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, and many children under 12 are likely to be eligible for their shots in a matter of weeks. Federal regulators could soon authorize the first antiviral pill for Covid-19.

“We are definitely, without a doubt, hands-down in a better place this year than we were last year,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research at Boston University.

Attribution

A 14-year-old boy was grazed in the head Thursday by a bullet as he stepped off an MTA bus in Harlem, officials said.

The teen was exiting the M1 bus on E. 139th St. near Fifth Ave. when shots rang out just before 10 a.m., cops said.

Dashes Between Words Compound words  use dashes when the two words used together  express a specific concept. Often they are adjectives before the noun they describe. Example: The hard-hit neighborhood in Brooklyn hopes to find an investor. It became cost-effective to shop at the neighborhood grocery store. Quinceañera is a coming-of-age celebration. Use hyphens to separate the numbers and words if the phrase is an adjective. The 17-year-old swimmer won the medal. (Using as an adjective.) The winner of the medal is 17 years old.   (Stating the age.) Exercise: 

Kyrie Irving has finally opened up to the public about his future in the league and why he’s not vaccinated.

In an Instagram Live, Irving disclosed not only did he have no plans to retire from the game, but also that his vaccination status has nothing to do with the Nets or the

Punctuate: Don’t believe I’m retiring, don’t believe I’m gonna give up this game for a vaccine mandate the Nets star said Wednesday night All these people saying all these things about what’s going on with me and it’s just not true.
Punctuate:

I certainly think in a lot of instances we’ve gotta be a phasing out these zoos — definitely the circuses and the rodeos and all that because of the barbaric behavior, the inhumane behavior towards the animals he said. Eventually we’re going to have to start phasing out zoos, or at least some of the animals that are housed in zoos

Sliwa, who’s facing Democratic nominee Eric Adams and is considered a long shot in the race, conceded he’s not an expert on the subject, but added that he’d look at the issue on a “case-by-case” basis if elected mayor.

Story Logic From the Daily News

Boy, 13, shoots and wounds Snapchat rival, also 13, in Bronx playground — mom turns suspect in after seeing wanted poster

By BRITTANY KRIEGSTEINROCCO PARASCANDOLATHOMAS TRACY and LEONARD GREENENEW YORK DAILY NEWS |OCT 13, 2021 AT 2:19 PM

https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-boy-shoots-snapchat-rival-bronx-playground-20211013-qhmv3pbay5cqbd4fctvb5nf5wm-story.html

A 13-year-old boy wanted for shooting a rival his same age over a Snapchat feud was arrested after his mother saw a wanted poster and hauled him into a Bronx NYPD stationhouse, police said Wednesday.

The two boys had been sparring in messages to each other on the popular phone app — and on Oct. 6 the suspect sent a message threatening to shoot the victim, police said.

The next day, the argument moved from online messages to the street, with the 4-foot-11, 110-pound teen allegedly shooting the victim in the left knee inside Hunts Point Playground about 5:35 p.m., police said.

“You just shake your head,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said on PIX11 Wednesday morning. “It’s terrible all the way around. We have to do better as a society.”

EMS took the victim to Harlem Hospital in stable condition.

“It went in and it came out, so that’s good,” the victim’s mother, Suleykie Rivera, said. “They caught it in time, they called 911 in time. He was really lucky. If the bullet would have went in and stayed that would have been tragic.”

The boy was still recovering in Harlem Hospital on Wednesday. He had also tested positive for COVID-19, the mother said.

Rivera, 33, said she didn’t know the shooter or anything about the Snapchat feud.

Social media is really a bad thing for these kids. They shouldn’t even have social media,” she said.

Snapchat allows users exchange pictures and videos — called snaps — that are meant to disappear after they’re viewed. The app, which is particularly popular among teens, has about 293 million daily active users worldwide, according to the company.

She learned of the shooting from one of her son’s friends.

“I was just shocked,” she said. “I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel, nothing, you know. He’s 13!”

The teen shooter ran off but was captured on surveillance video, gun in hand. A second suspect, still being sought, also appears on the video, clad in a red sweatshirt and riding his bike behind the shooter, police said.

Cops released the video Sunday and asked the public’s help tracking down the suspect, known to police by his nickname Chulo.

The suspected shooter’s mother, who declined comment, saw a wanted poster with her son’s image, took him to the 41st Precinct stationhouse Tuesday afternoon and asked for a lawyer, police said.

The pint-sized suspect was charged with attempted murder, assault and harassment. His name was not released because he is a minor. The Daily News is not naming the 13-year-old victim because of his age.

Cops said that the teen shooter was processed through Family Court and returned to his mother’s custody.

Shea said that the NYPD has been trying to get to children “before they get into the violence” but more needs to be done.

“What do you do with a 13-year-old in this circumstance?” Shea asked. “There is no right answer. The courts will figure it out and you hope. You feel for the victim, but you also think about the side of the family of the child that pulled the trigger here. There are no winners.”

Amanda Palermo, 30, said she heard the shots.

“I was sitting right next to the basketball court. Four shots,” she said. “A bunch of kids came and then all you heard was four shots and he got shot in his leg. “

She said the boy fell to the ground and the shooter dashed off.

“When that happened the other kids in the park ran away,” she said. “The only ones that stayed were (the victim’s) friends.”

Local parents said the suspect and his crew have slashed tires of cars, thrown beer bottles at mothers and scared little kids with threatening looks. One of the menacing boys has a black dog that he sics on smaller kids, they said.

“Last year, they stole my son’s bike,” a local mother said. “I called the police and they never came. ”

She said parents have to take more responsibility.

“These boys have been making this a violent area,” she said, adding that one of the boys punched her son in the stomach during the robbery.

“These young boys know that the police will never come” she said. “It’s a huge problem. And as an adult, I can’t do anything against minors.”

Scared neighbors said there are also mischievousgirls who egg the boys on to fight.

“They’re really aggressive,” one of the mothers said. “They’re always alone, they’re never with their parents. One time we asked about their parents and they laughed at us.”

The parents said one of the boys flashed a knife when they threatened to call the cops but they were unaware of any of the boys carrying guns.

Michael Greene, 63, a painter who has lived in the neighborhood since the 1960s, said locals have worked to improve the area. The shooting didn’t help.

“It was kind of disturbing, a 13-year-old shooting a 13-year-old in a public park,” Greene said. “This neighborhood is trying to clean up and it’s like we’re right back where we started.”

Greene praised the mother who turned in her own flesh and blood.

“Well, that was a good thing,” Greene said. “That’s what parents are supposed to do. The kids, they so-called don’t want to snitch.”

“I feel for the young kid because he’s so young,” Greene said of the suspect. “He’s got his whole life in front of him and you’re making decisions like that. You’re supposed to run around, play fighting, playing PlayStation, eating candy. Not doing stuff like that.”

Rivera said her son is focused on his recovery, hoping to get back on the field to play football again when his knee heels. She said the doctors have given him a good prognosis for his recovery.

“I’m so thankful. He’s gonna be good. He can go back to football. He can go back to school. He’s in shock right now, so right now he isn’t really talking. Right now, he can’t even believe he got shot,” she said.

“And it’s just sad. Kids are kids. Kids trying to kill each other. It’s sad for my son who got shot, but it’s sad for the little boy that shot my son, because he’s also a kid.”

Capitalization

Capitalized and small a

https://www.apstylebook.com/ap_stylebook/capitalization

capitalization 


In general, avoid unnecessary capitals. Use a capital letter only if you can justify it by one of the principles listed here.

Many words and phrases, including special cases, are listed separately in this book. Entries that are capitalized without further comment should be capitalized in all uses.
If there is no relevant listing in this book for a particular word or phrase, consult Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Use lowercase if the dictionary lists it as an acceptable form for the sense in which the word is being used.
As used in this book, capitalize means to use uppercase for the first letter of a word. If additional capital letters are needed, they are called for by an example or a phrase such as use all caps.
Some basic principles:
PROPER NOUNS: Capitalize nouns that constitute the unique identification for a specific person, place, or thing: JohnMaryAmericaBostonEngland.
Some words, such as the examples just given, are always proper nouns. Some common nouns receive proper noun status when they are used as the name of a particular entity: General ElectricGulf Oil.
PROPER NAMES: Capitalize common nouns such as partyriverstreet and westwhen they are an integral part of the full name for a person, place or thing: Democratic PartyMississippi RiverFleet StreetWest Virginia.
Lowercase these common nouns when they stand alone in subsequent references: the partythe riverthe street.
Lowercase the common noun elements of names in plural uses: the Democratic and Republican parties, Main and State streets, lakes Erie and Ontario. Exception: plurals of formal titles with full names are capitalized: Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford.
Among entries that provide additional guidelines are:
animals holidays and holy days
brand names legislature
building months
committee monuments
Congress nicknames
datelines organizations and institutions
days of the week planets
directions and regions plants
family names police department
food religious references
geographic names seasons
governmental bodies trademarks
heavenly bodies unions
historical periods and events
POPULAR NAMES: Some places and events lack officially designated proper names but have popular names that are the effective equivalent: the Combat Zone (a section of downtown Boston), the Main Line (a group of Philadelphia suburbs), the South Side (of Chicago), the Badlands (of South Dakota), the Street (the financial community in the Wall Street area of New York).
The principle applies also to shortened versions of the proper names of one-of-a-kind events: the Series (for the World Series), the Derby (for the Kentucky Derby). This practice should not, however, be interpreted as a license to ignore the general practice of lowercasing the common noun elements of a name when they stand alone.
DERIVATIVES: Capitalize words that are derived from a proper noun and still depend on it for their meaning: AmericanChristianChristianityEnglishFrenchMarxismShakespearean.
Lowercase words that are derived from a proper noun but no longer depend on it for their meaning: french friesherculeanmalapropismpasteurizequixoticvenetian blind.
SENTENCES: Capitalize the first word in a statement that stands as a sentence. See sentences and parentheses.
In poetry, capital letters are used for the first words of some phrases that would not be capitalized in prose. See poetry.
COMPOSITIONS: Capitalize the principal words in the names of books, movies, plays, poems, operas, songs, radio and television programs, works of art, etc. See composition titlesmagazine names and newspaper names.
TITLES: Capitalize formal titles when used immediately before a name. Lowercase formal titles when used alone or in constructions that set them off from a name by commas.
Use lowercase at all times for terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles.
ABBREVIATIONS: Capital letters apply in some cases. See abbreviations and acronyms.

Example of Logical Story Flow

How Young People’s Social Anxiety Has Worsened in the Pandemic
They expected their 20s to be a time for friends and the passage to adulthood. Instead, they drifted into isolation. Now thousands of young people are struggling to socialize again.


By Eduardo MedinaSept. 27, 2021

One student had several panic attacks a week, alone in his room. One felt her hands shake when walking on busy streets. Another hid in a bathroom while at a restaurant with friends, wondering why she was hyperventilating at her own birthday party.

They are all living with some degree of social anxiety, a growing problem among young people as the disorder, amplified by the pandemic and intensified through months of isolation, fuels social withdrawal and entrenches reclusive habits.

About 9 to 10 percent of young adults and adolescents in the United States have the disorder, defined as an intense fear of being watched and judged by others, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Now many have felt their extreme self-consciousness grow more severe, psychologists say.

That was the experience of Garret Winton, 22, of Tallahassee, Fla. He recalled an afternoon last May when he curled up in bed and placed two fingers on his neck. One hundred thirty beats per minute, he guessed. The sign of another panic attack, his fourth that week.

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The Nut Graf

Nuts by Monofocus

How to write a nut graf, or nut graph

Tell readers what you’re going to tell ’em

If I came to your house and told you to grab your things and follow me, how far would you go? To the front door? The driveway? Would you hop in my car without further explanation?

How to write a nut graf
Put the kernel of your story into a nutshell. That’s your nut graph. Image by kaanates

Home » Ann Wylie’s blog of writing tips » Writing and editing » Story structure » Feature Structure » Feature Leads » How to write a nut graf, or nut graph

No matter how dazzling your scene-setting feature lead, at some point, readers want to know where we’re going with this story. And that’s the job of the nut paragraph, aka the nut graf. (This, by the way, is the nut graph for this story.)

The nut graph is the transition from the lead. In the nut graph, writers and editors:

  • Explain the lead and its connection to the rest of the story
  • Reveal your destination, or the essential theme of the story
  • Set up the supporting material to explain the rest of the story
  • Explain why the story is important to convince your readers to come along for the ride

You don’t need a nut graph in news stories, but they’re essential in feature-style stories.

Let’s pause and ponder that for a minute too.

Here are four ways to crack the nut graph:

1. Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em.

Remember the old writing guideline, “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em; tell ’em; then tell ’em what you told ’em?”

The nut graph is where you tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em.

The nut graph — aka the “billboard” or the “so-what graph” — is where you put the story into a nutshell. It explains why the story is timely and provides the kernel, or central theme, of your piece.

“Once you find that idea or thread, all the other anecdotes, illustrations, and quotes are pearls that hang on this thread,” says Thomas Boswell, a Washington Post sports columnist. “The thread may seem very humble, the pearls may seem very flashy, but it’s still the thread that makes the necklace.”

So the first step to writing a nut graph is to find that thread. In other words, you need to figure out your point, or story angle.

To figure out what your story is about, write a one-sentence walkaway. That’s the one sentence you want your reader to — you got it! — walk away with after reading your piece. Then craft that so tightly that it will fit on the back of a business card:

Your walkaway sentence should answer the readers’ two most burning questions:

  1. What’s your point?
  2. Why should I care?

Stuck? Try telling a friend who knows nothing about the story what it’s about. Then capture that summary for your nut graph.