Ethics in Journalism

Shot of hands with a Phone and news spelled out in the center over a globe and a newspaper

What is ethics?

Merriam Webster

Definition of ethic

1 ethics plural in form but singular or plural in constructionthe discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

2 a: a set of moral principles a theory or system of moral values

Every good news organization has a handbook with a written policy or guidelines that spell out the way they want journalists to act while gathering and reporting the news. Managers, editors, producers, reporters, photographers and anyone who works in serious journalism takes these guidelines to heart and tries to follow them.

While there may be some corporate deviation, standards remain pretty much the same from one organization to another.

Remember:

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America says:

The Bill of Rights

 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to freely assemble, and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So we have a mandate to report and cover the news and how we do it is critically important.

We have basic values.

We tell the truth.

We remain independent and as objective as humanly possible.

We report fairly giving all sides of a story and giving multiple viewpoints of a story when possible.

We work to present a rounded picture of what we are reporting with context.

We are accountable. We report what we know and stand behind our work and correct errors.

 

Journalists serve the public

The New York Times puts its guidelines online

Other news organizations do the same. For example:

The Daily Beast

Buzzfeed

The foundation of journalism ethics is simple.

This list reflects the Code of Ethics created by the Society for Professional Journalists.

  1. Report fairly and accurately

a. To do that you need to make sure that you verify what people tell you.

How do you do that? By finding more than one source for the information.

2. Avoid conflicts of interest. If you do have an interest in the story you want to disclose it upfront.

3. Do not take gifts, favors, free travel or other perks that could compromise your reporting.

4. Distinguish news from advertising or native content.

4. Update your story to make sure that it is accurate. Things change.

5. Be careful about making promises to people you interview.

6. Identify your sources clearly.

7. Consider your sources’ motives. Why are they talking to you? What is their bias?

8. Be careful about granting someone anonymity. An anonymous source may have a

motive to stay hidden that could undermine the truthfulness of the story. If you use

an anonymous source, explain why.

9. Make every effort to get both sides of a story. Make sure if people are accused of something that you give them every opportunity to respond. This may take extra work.

10. Use undercover reporting only when you must and then explain why you chose to do it.

11. Hold the powerful accountable.

12. Give voice to the powerless.

13. Avoid stereotyping.

14. Label advocacy and commentary.

15. Do not distort information including visual presentations. Make sure that you label re-enactments clearly.

16. Never plagiarize.

17 . Always attribute.

18. Be accountable and transparent.

a. Correct mistakes quickly.

b. Respond to criticism.

c. Explain your ethical choices.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/24/business/media/james-wolfe-ali-watkins-leaks-reporter.html

 

Need To Know Copyright

Copyright symbol All Rights Reserve

by Barbara Nevins Taylor 

Our first instinct is to pull images and music from the internet. Everything is right there for the taking and many who create content think about using what’s accessible and seems available. Borrowing can quickly solve a variety of editorial problems.

But not all material on the internet is free to use and it may be illegal to just grab and go.

Copyright is a law that protects creators of works that include text, books, photos, graphics, artwork, music, and anything that has a copyright symbol next to it.

 

Office of Copyright in the Library of Congress
Office of Copyright in the Library of Congress

How do you get a copyright?

The federal Office of Copyright says:

“The copyright notice generally consists of the symbol or word “copyright (or copr.),” the name of the copyright owner, and the year of first publication, e.g., ©2008 John Doe. While use of a copyright notice was once required as a condition of copyright protection, it is now optional. Use of the notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright Office. 

How long does it last?

Copyright extends for the life of the author plus 70 years. There are some efforts underway in Washington to change the copyright law and reduce the number of years a creator can hold on to copyright.

But the bottom line is that the law, and basic fairness, require us to honor copyright.

That means that we can’t borrow material freely from the internet unless the creator clearly states that you can use the work.

Fee for Use

If you want to use an image or music and the creator does not indicate that you may borrow it, there’s likely a fee to use it.

 Copyright and Creative Commons

On the other hand, the good news is that some content creators are eager to have their work used and distributed even if they don’t get paid.

Most, however, want credit.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Creative-Commons-License-.png

The Creative Commons License was established in 2002 to make a wide variety of content available from willing content creators who want to get their work seen and heard, but may also want credit. The Creative Commons 4.0 license requires you to attribute the photo, or piece of music or artwork. You must link to the site where the image came from and you must give credit on your site to the creator.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Creative-Commons-License-3.0.png

Flikr,  Unsplash, SnapFish, 500px , postimage, and other sites that will probably start up by the time you read this, offer photo sharing of one kind or another.

Many of the photos posted on these sharing sites ask for Creative Commons attribution. They make their work available under a Creative Commons License.

 

In most cases, even with Creative Commons, the creator wants credit. You can freely use these images, but you must credit the creator either on the image, or somewhere in the printed material or the text on the website or the brochure. There is often a request for you to link to the creators site, or Wikimedia where the image may have been posted.

You can find images with Creative Commons licenses indicate via Google and Bing search engines.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Dogs-Settings.png

When you use images on Google there is a tab for settings.

On Bing there is a tab for License.

On Google

Click on Advanced Search and it will take you to this page:

Choose:  “free to use or share, even commercially

If you plan to modify the image or graphic make sure that you choose: “free to use, share or modify, even commercially.”

You’ll then get a range of photos that you can use for free. But you must if it is an attribution license, you must give credit to the creator.

If you use Bing once you choose the subject that you are searching, images will come up and the list of headings in the bar at the top of the images will include the word: License. 

You can also find images through Wikimedia or Wikipedia

Wikicommons Better image

Some people will allow you to use the images without attributions. But be very careful.  To find the license you may have to click through several layers to check to see the requirement. 

Pixabay features a wide range of photos posted by photographers. They are free, but you can leave a donation for the artist. They ask for coffee money.

Tiger, Photo by Gellinger, Courtesy Pixabay

Photo by Gellinger, Courtesy Pixabay, Creative Commons License

Public Domain 

On Wikipedia, and elsewhere, you may find works labeled Public Domain.  The federal Office of Copyright defines public domain this way:

“The public domain is not a place. A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.”

U.S. Government agencies maintain photo and video archives and most of the work is in the public domain. 

This Department of Defense photo for example is free for you to use. It’s always a good idea to give credit to the photographer and the agency.

 Photo By: Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Burgains

 

U.S. Marines on exercise

U.S. Marines, Senor Beach, Oman. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert B. Brown Jr.

The Library of Congress has photos and videos in the Public Domain.

Hot Lips

Hot Lips at the Apollo, 1946.  William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers Public Domain photos and video of disaster areas when the agency responds.

Hurricame Maria Responsed, FEMA photo

Hurricane Maria response, Photo courtesy FEMA

FEMA Home Destroyed in Bayhead, New Jersey

Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Photo courtesy  FEMA.

https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/FEMA

 

VIDEO 

Vimeo offers Public Domain videos. You can them here: https://vimeo.com/channels/publicdomain

Government agencies also have video that you can use for free.

Pixabay  Offers videos on a many subjects and you can use them for free. 

Videvo.net offers free stock footage.

Archive.org features videos that creators will let you use. Make sure to check the license to see if attribution is required.

https://archive.org/details/NycTrafficTimeLapse/NycTrafficWmv.wmv

Moving Image Archive hosts videos you can use. Again, make sure to check the license.

CreativeCommons has a site where you check for video. 

 

Music

Popular music generally requires the payment of royalties to the artists, composers, arrangers, producers and anyone else who had something to do with the production of those works.

Licensed Music and Music for a Fee

 ASCAP and BMI provide licensing for music and it is possible to purchase the rights, or a license, to use something that fits the creative bill.

But in most cases, the cost is prohibitive unless you have a blanket license to use a certain amount of music.

If you use music in a video that you post on YouTube and the creator has not authorized the use, it is likely that YouTube will challenge your right to use it and it may block your video.

However, there are new sites cropping up all of the time and there is a wide range of choices for music selections.

Stock music is available for a fee and there a many sites that offer this service including:

Unroyalty YouTube

http://www.stockmusic.net

http://www.freestockmusic.com

http://www.premiumbeat.com/stock-music

http://www.pond5.com/music/1/*.html

http://us.audionetwork.com

http://www.gettyimages.com/music

 

Royalty Free Music

YouTube’s audio library and has a range of music that is available for free

http://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary

There are many sites that also offer free music. There is generally a stipulation that requires that you honor the Creative Commons License and credit the creators.

ccMixter

Incompetech

SoundCloud

http://www.purple-planet.com

Again, by the time you read this there may be many new sites.

 

Fair Use in News and Reviews

From the American Bar Association

Vol. 28 No. 6

By

Pierre Vudrag practices media and sports law in Southern California.

Fair use is a doctrine that is used to encourage criticism and commentary of copyrighted works. It is based on the concept that one should be free to use portions of copyrighted materials without asking permission from the copyright owner. It is an equitable principle that is frequently used as a defense by those sued for copyright infringement.

Determining fair use. To get a general sense of how fair use is applied, one must understand a set of fair use factors outlined in the lineage of case law dealing with copyright infringement. These factors are weighed in each case to determine whether a use qualifies as a fair use, often through varying court decisions with an expansive or restrictive meaning that could be open to interpretation. If a use is deemed not to be a fair use, then one would essentially be infringing on the rights of the copyright owner and may be liable for damages. Unfortunately, even if you strictly follow these factors and the copyright owner disagrees with your fair use interpretation, your dispute may have to be resolved through litigation or the payment of licensing fees.

Fair use in the general sense, with no hard-and-fast rules, is the use of copyrighted material without permission from the appropriate copyright owner for a limited and, as the courts deem, “transformative” purpose so as to comment on, criticize, or parody such copyrighted work. Specifically, the Supreme Court emphasized that the transformative nature of the use determines whether the material has been used to assist in the creation of something new, rather than merely copied verbatim into another work. In other words, one must ask: (1) has the material taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning? and (2) was value added to the original, thereby creating new information, or new aesthetics, or new insights and understandings?

Generally, two categories are used when making a fair use—commentary or parody. Typically, when focusing on news and editorial reviews, one would look to the first category, commentary. When commenting on or critiquing a copyrighted work, fair use principles would allow one to reproduce some of the work to accomplish one’s intent.

Courts have generally used four factors in resolving fair use disputes, which are laid out in Section 107 of the Copyright Act: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion taken; and (4) the effect of the use on the potential market.

The purpose and character of the use. The “purpose and character” factor is the determining factor in many fair use decisions, as it allows the court to take a subjective look into the potentially infringing party’s intentions behind the use. Particularly in cases involving news reports, footage, reviews, and sports highlights, this factor typically favors the party claiming fair use for various reasons.

The first thing that we need to know is that copyright protection does not protect factual information conveyed in the copyrighted work, meaning that publicizing the scores of a sporting event or other factual information such as injuries, retirement, and so forth is considered fair use and does not constitute copyright infringement. What helps to strengthen a fair use argument in a case not involving the use of mere factual information is the use of the copyrighted material for the purpose of legitimate news commentary. For example, when using a clip or photograph to report the results of a sporting event or other factual information, courts have regarded the use of copyrighted material as fair use when the use is (1) brief quotations only; (2) presented in a news report; and (3) presented in a newsreel or broadcast of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.

Nature of the copyrighted work—published or unpublished. The scope of fair use is narrower for unpublished works because an author has the right to control the first public appearance of his or her expression. Therefore, you have a stronger argument in favor of fair use if the material copied is from a published work rather than an unpublished work.

Amount and substantiality of the portion taken. A general misunderstanding of fair use application has led to the “seven-second rule,” which many clearance representatives follow. A brief use of footage may not be deemed fair use unless all fair use factors can be applied. But the amount of footage used is a key factor in determining if a use is not fair, as highlighted in a key 1977 court case. The Second Circuit found that a CBS affiliate’s use of a one-minute-and-15-second clip of a 72-minute Charlie Chaplin film was not a fair use when used in a news report about Chaplin’s death. The court deemed that the portions taken were “substantial” and part of the “heart” of the film. The court’s analysis may have been different if CBS had used only a limited portion of the footage to simply enhance its news commentary on Chaplin’s death. The Second Circuit’s ruling is a clear indication that this type of use will never be considered fair use.

Effect of the use on the potential market. One of the most important fair use factors is whether the use deprives the copyright owner of income or undermines a new or potential market for the copyrighted work. If a copyright owner feels that he or she has been deprived of income, this is likely to trigger a lawsuit. This is true even if you are not competing directly with the original work.

Does fair use apply? Although the four-factor test of Copyright Act Section 107 provides a firm foundation for understanding which uses are fair uses, courts have infamously favored different factors in different cases, resulting in very unpredictable outcomes. There is a sizable gray area in which fair use may or may not apply.

So how does a news organization invoke fair use while falling within the permitted guidelines established by case law and without invoking potential litigation? The simplest way is to get permission from the copyright holder, but this is not always possible given the fluidity and immediacy of news reporting. To invoke fair use when using noncleared third-party clips, the news organization should follow these guidelines: (1) make sure the use is for a legitimate news report; (2) only use the clip when reporting on a fairly recent news event (usually 24 to 48 hours); (3) make sure that the use is a brief use of the clip to underscore the reporting of the news; (4) make sure there is actual commentary or criticism by a news reporter or anchor of the action appearing in the clip (there has to be a “transformative use” of the copyrighted material); (5) if reporting on a sporting event, make sure the event has been concluded, meaning it may not be fair use if the game has not been completed; and (6) make sure the materials are used in a bona fide news program.

 

More Information about the Entertainment and Sports Industries Forum

This article is an abridged and edited version of one that originally appeared on page 1 of Entertainment and Sports Lawyer, Fall 2010 (28:3).

For more information or to obtain a copy of the periodical in which the full article appears, please call the ABA Service Center at 800/285-2221.

Website: www.americanbar.org/groups/entertainment_sports.html.

Periodicals: Entertainment and Sports Lawyer, a quarterly newsletter; Journal of International Media and Entertainment Law, a biannual journal.

CLE and Other Educational Programs: Forum Annual Meeting, October 13–15, 2011, New York, New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the prompts at the top and enter your search.

 

You can skip down to the bottom where it says: usage rights. Click on the arrow and the following choices come up.

 

Choose:  “free to use or share, even commercially

 

If you plan to modify the image or graphic make sure that you choose: “free to use, share or modify, even commercially.”

 

You’ll then get a range of photos that you can use for free. But you must give credit to the creator.

 

If you use Bing once you choose the subject that you are searching, images will come up and the list of headings in the bar at the top of the images will include the word: License.

 

 

A drop-down menu provides the same choices that appear on Google Images.

 

Always choose a commercial license and if you plan to modify make sure that you choose the license that allows you to modify the image.

 

Music

 

Popular music generally requires the payment of royalties to the artists, composers, arrangers, producers and anyone else who had something to do with the production of those works.

 

Licensed Music and Music for a Fee

 

ASCAP and BMI provide licensing for music and it is possible to purchase the rights, or a license, to use something that fits the creative bill.

 

But in most cases, the cost is prohibitive unless you have a blanket license to use a certain amount of music.

 

If you use music in a video that you post on YouTube and the creator has not authorized the use, it is likely that YouTube will challenge your right to use it and it may block your video.

 

However, there are new sites cropping up all of the time and there is a wide range of choices for music selections.

 

Stock music is available for a fee and there a many sites that offer this service including:

 

http://www.stockmusic.net

http://www.freestockmusic.com

http://www.premiumbeat.com/stock-music

http://www.pond5.com/music/1/*.html

http://us.audionetwork.com

http://www.gettyimages.com/music

 

Royalty Free Music

 

YouTube recently launched an audio library and has a range of music that is available for free

 

http://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary

 

There are many sites that also offer free music. There is generally a stipulation that requires that you honor the Creative Commons License and credit the creators.

 

ccMixter

Incompetech

SoundCloud

http://www.purple-planet.com

 

Again, by the time you read this there may be many new sites.

 

 

 

 

 

Punctuation Update

Quotation marks in a bubble

The Reuters Style Guide offers guidance about grammar and word usage. It is free and an excellent resource for you.

http://handbook.reuters.com/index.php?title=The_Reuters_Style_Guide&oldid=251

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.”

 

Journalism Style Guide

Most news organizations have style and ethics handbooks. They expect reporters, editors and producers to follow the guidelines they lay out.

When it comes to writing, this means that reporters use the same abbreviations, punctuation and approach to writing.

Here’s an example from the Reuters Handbook:

adjectives

Use sparingly. Inject color into copy with strong verbs and facts first. If you have more than two adjectives before a noun, rewrite the sentence. A reader struggles with “the one-eyed poverty-stricken Greek house painter.” Avoid adjectives that imply judgment: “a hard-line speech,” “a glowing tribute,” “a staunch conservative.” Depending on where they stand, some people might consider the speech moderate, the tribute fulsome or the conservative a die-hard reactionary.

When using an adjective and a noun together as an adjective, hyphenate them if it helps to avoid a realistic ambiguity: “a sliced egg sandwich” could mean two things; “a happy birthday card” cannot; “a blue-chip share,” “high-caste Hindus.” By extension, adverbs that end in “-ly” paired with adjectives modifying nouns do not need hyphens, since adverbs cannot modify nouns: “a poorly planned operation” cannot be misconstrued to mean an operation that is poorly and that is planned.

The Reuters’ handbook is a great free resource for you to use. If you wonder about capitalizations, abbreviations, or many other writing questions, please look here:

http://handbook.reuters.com/index.php?title=A

 

Our Class Style Guide

  • Write in the active voice. That means the subject does the action. You can find more on this website here.
  • Start your paragraphs at the margin.
  • Write out numbers one through nine.  Use numerals beyond 10.
  • Write out the full name of a person, organization company, country or state before you use an abbreviation or the initials.

You can use initials for well-known names like the FBI or DEA. When the name is unfamiliar write out the full name: The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, before you write ATF.

When you abbreviate the United States always put a period between the letters. U.S. to avoid confusion with us.

Because most of your work will appear on a website, write out the full name of a company or organization followed by the initials in parenthesis. For example The Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

 

  • Link to the company or organization when you mention them. If you site research, link to the page where you found the research. Also mark open a new page or tab when you create the link.
  • Write percent rather than %
  • When you quote someone, punctuation goes inside the quotation marks. For example,

“Being around guns didn’t affect on me, but knowing how to use guns definitely had an impact on me,” Max said.

Use . . . three dots, at the beginning and end when you use only part of a quote.

  • Capitalize job titles only when they come before a name.  For example: City College President Vincent Boudreau.

Use the lower case when you write, “The City College president held a town hall meeting.”

If we talk about the president of the United States, “The president told his supporters that he doesn’t care what other people think.”

“President Trump said he doesn’t care what people think.”

Some words sound alike but have different meanings. People confuse affect and effect frequently.

  • Use affect as an adjective, noun or verb when you want to say that something influences or when something is put on.  “Nicky’s yelling affected everyone in the room.”  Or, “Nicky affected an angry air.”

Use effect when you mean the result.  “They felt the effects of the drug.”

Use italics for the names of books, magazines, newspapers, plays, movies, works of art, TV programs, radio shows, songs, albums.

  • Avoid fussy words that connect ideas:

however

furthermore

nevermore

nevertheless

  • You can find more examples of fussy words and phrases in the How We Write section of this website.
  • We’ll continue to add to our style guide.

 

 

Writing Dates and Time and Word Usage

From the Associated Press:

Time:
Time: Use lowercase a.m. and p.m., with periods. Always use figures, with a space between the time and the a.m. or p.m.: “By 6:30 a.m. she was long gone.”

Dates:

Always use numerals: April 23, 2020. Do not use th, nd, rd, st.

From Reuters Titles: 

Capitalise an official’s title, or a former official’s title e.g. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former U.S. President George Bush, deposed King Constantine, Attorney General-designate Griffin B. Bell, Acting Mayor Peter Barry.

Honourific or courtesy titles such as Professor, Dean, Mayor, Ambassador and the like are capped when used before a name (e.g., Professor Harold Bloom). In the US, the wife of the president is known as the first lady (no caps). Abbreviate Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr, and only use Mr, Mrs, Ms in quoted material. When necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, as in married couples or brothers or sisters, use the first and last name.

Avoid putting long titles, such as “Professor of Art History” or “Ambassador to the Bahamas” in front of a name, instead writing, “Leo Steinberg, professor of art history,” with the title lowercased. Reserve “Dr” for medical doctors only.

Junior, Senior – If the source insists on the preference, then abbreviate as Jr. and Sr. only with full names of persons. Do not precede by a comma: Martin Luther King Jr.

Use titles of nobility and military, medical and religious titles on first reference only: Lord Ferrars, the Rev Jesse Jackson. Except for obvious cases, e.g., a king or queen, avoid foreign honourifics as it is difficult to be consistent through various cultures. In general it is better to describe people by their job title or position. See military titles.

In most cases it is not necessary to distinguish between assistant, associate or full professors in Reuters stories. Adjunct professors or adjunct instructors are freelancers hired by a college or university, though they may have permanent or semi-permanent status. Depending on the context, it may be germane to note a professor or instructor’s adjunct status.

Hyphenate titles when the first word is a preposition, e.g., under-secretary, vice-admiral, or when a noun is followed by an adjective, e.g., attorney-general. (However, official U.S. titles are not hyphenated, e.g., the U.S. Attorney General.) Do not hyphenate when the noun follows the adjective, e.g., second lieutenant.

Use quote marks for the titles of films, plays and books, but not newspapers or magazines. On their capitalisation, see publications.

Government programmes, campaigns, etc., do not take quotes (Operation Iraqi Freedom). Not every name bears citing: An ad campaign called Latinos for Healthcare to drum up Latino enrollment in Obamacare may not be worth it; Swiftboat Veterans for Truth Against John Kerry may be.

 

WORD USAGE 

transgender

An umbrella adjective to describe people whose gender identity or expression differs from the sex assigned at birth. A transgender man is somebody who was assigned female at birth and lives as a male. A transgender woman was assigned male at birth and lives as a female. Do not use transgender as a noun; no one should be referred to as “a transgender.”

Always use a transgender person’s chosen name. Do not use the word “chosen” to describe a person’s gender identity; do not write “a person’s chosen gender identity.”

We typically only mention that a person is transgender if it is relevant to the story. For example, no need to describe one of three victims of a random car crash as a transgender person.

If you are not sure which gender pronoun to use, ask. If you can’t ask, then use the one that is consistent with the way a person presents himself or herself. In some situations confusion may be avoided by not using pronouns. Do not use transgendered.transpired

transsexual

The terms transsexual man or transsexual woman should be avoided as they are considered outdated. Unless a person specifically requests to be identified that way, use transgender instead. See transgender.

transvestite

This term is widely regarded as pejorative and should be avoided. Use a simple description or explanation of how the person prefers to be described, e.g., “Award-winning potter Grayson Perry, who frequently dresses as a woman and calls himself Claire…” See transgender.

Twitter, tweet

The microblogging platform and website is Twitter with initial capital letter. The verb is to tweet, tweeted etc, no capital letter. The noun is a tweet meaning a message on Twitter. Use @handle or #hashtag to cite Twitter as a source. But see the Sourcing section of the Handbook for sourcing from Twitter. [[2]]

What The Heck?

Barbara Nevins Taylor and Spring 2019 Introduction to Journalism Class at City Hall behind George Washington's desk at New York's City Hall

A Quick Tips for Covering Any Story

Whether you cover the opening of a food pantry, a fire that takes the lives of young children, a city council hearing, or a press conference in the Knicks locker room, you want to take a breath when you arrive at the scene.  Stop, look around and think about what is really going on.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s happening here?
  • What’s important?
  • What’s interesting?
  • How does this affect the people there?
  • How does it affect people in the broader community?
  • Is there something that people aren’t telling me?
  • How can I tell this story?

The best reporters analyze a situation quickly and sum up the essence. Once you understand what’s going on, you can think about a creative and interesting way to tell the story.

Reporting Basics

 

Reporting 

Journalism means more than taking handouts or reporting what’s said in news releases. Good journalism rests on a set of principles. Solid stories require accurate information and balance in reporting it.

Think about answering a story’s basic questions:

  • who
  • what
  • when
  • where
  • why

 

HOW

Then examine how the story happened.

How do we connect the dots to tell a good story with a beginning, middle and end?

The inverted pyramid.

Traditionally journalists use the model of the inverted pyramid construct a story.Inverted Pyramid

 

But increasingly, news organizations encourage reporters to use better storytelling techniques, using characters and interesting details to get the reader, viewer or listener interested. Television stories often start with small details, or personal stories and we see that more and more in print, digital and radio.

pyramid
pyramid

Accuracy

Only report what you know was said, and by whom.  This means attributing statements to specific people:

  1. The mayor says…
  2. The district attorney says…
  3. The neighbor says…
  4. According to the Associated Press…
  5. According to The New York Times…
  6. According to the website….

 

Wikipedia

Wikipedia and many other websites aren’t always reliable sources.  If a site quotes another source, it’s important to go to the primary source to make sure that you have accurate information.

Just because somebody says something doesn’t mean it’s true.  Even high-ranking public officials may be misinformed, or may have an agenda that obscures the truth.  Even when you’re under deadline pressure, try to confirm everything that you’re told with additional sources.  It’s a good idea to have at least two sources.  Remember:  truth is an absolute defense against libel.

 

Elements of a Good Story

Ancient Greek writers developed a basic storytelling formula and they understood the importance of characters:

  • villains
  • victims
  • heroes

You’ll find victims, villains and heroes at the center of every good drama.  Audiences recognize the victim’s pain, hiss at the villain, and cheer for the hero. Most of what we cover will not be as dramatic as a classic Greek tale, and news coverage demands that we balance two sides of a story. Until the jury returns a guilty verdict, it’s unfair to characterize the accused as a villain. But if the actions of the accused are villainous, you report the facts and the audience, like the jury decides.

Highlight Characters

In daily news reporting, we don’t always have the luxury of a developing a story around a character. We do have to report the facts. But where we can, we want to highlight characters.

Often they reveal themselves in what they say, how they act, and through the expressions on their faces.

Readers, viewers and listeners want to engage with the real drama in real people’s lives. We feel their pain, their anger, their frustration and their triumph. We cheer them, get angry, or feel their pain. We’re indignant or inspired.

Characters drive stories and make them memorable.

Organization

Whether you begin with just the facts, an engaging character or an interesting detail, you   need to let your reader, viewer or listener in on the point of the story pretty quickly.

Journalism uses the nut graf , or paragraph, to explain the heart of the story. The nut graf should come pretty close to the top of the report. It helps to tie everything together.  It helps you keep the focus and continue to the ideas in your story.

Once you explain the point of the story, you can move on flesh it out with facts and details.

 

 

Active Writing Exercise

Active Writing Exercise

This is not a quiz. You will not be graded. Do your best

  1. This paragraph is from the Daily News.  Use the active voice to make it better. You can break it up into more than one or two sentences.

The Empire State is one step closer to approving adult use marijuana after Gov. Cuomo released an amended version of his pot proposal Tuesday that would reduce criminal penalties for illegal sales, outlines how some of the tax revenue would be spent and allows for the delivery of cannabis products.

  •   This is from Vice. Use the active voice to make it better.

         At least 2.3 million women have been forced from the workforce during the pandemic, many due to closed schools and a lack of child care.

So after one Ohio mother was arrested on charges of child endangerment for allegedly leaving her young kids in a motel room while she tried to go to her job at Little Caesars, sympathetic people rallied to support her.

  •  This is from me.  Take out the clunky words and phrases and use the active voice to explain the problem.

Currently my boss won’t give me the extra money he promised and I really need the money and the job due to COVID and due to the fact that there are so few jobs available.

  • From the New York Post. Use the active voice and rewrite the story.

      Ryan Leaf is calling for the NFL to do more for retired players in the wake of Vincent Jackson’s death.

Jackson, 38, was found dead in a Florida hotel room by a housekeeper on Monday morning. There were no apparent signs of trauma, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Police are investigating and a cause of death has yet to be determined by the county medical examiner.

  • This is from the New York Times. Use the active voice to rewrite it.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Admitting a degree of fault for the first time, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday that his administration’s lack of transparency about the scope of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes in New York was a mistake.

How to Write A Pitch

Outdoor Restaurant on Corneila Street

A pitch describes the story you want to tell. You need to write a short paragraph that gets attention and explains what you plan to do. So avoid writing, “I want to do a story about outdoor dining in New York City,” because that’s not a story.  It’s a general idea. You want to look for an angle.

Your outdoor dining pitch might read like this:

Outdoor dining changed the look of many New York streets and saved over 10,000 restaurants, but what happens when it gets colder and winter sets in? I’ll visit a neighborhood with a number of outdoor restaurants and talk to two owners about their plans. I’ll also talk to customers to find out whether they will feel comfortable eating outside in frigid weather.

Or

Outdoor dining changed the look of many New York streets and saved a lot of restaurants, but what happens when the pandemic ends? Danny Meyer of the Union Square Hospitality Group agreed to talk us. He is a spokesman for the industry and can give us insight into what may happen. He said we can talk to his customers, if they want to talk to us.

I’ll also talk to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs to find out what the city plans to do and I’ll talk to Nevah Assang, New York and Company’s senior V.P. for community relations, about how the tourism industry sees the future.

I’ll take photos of restaurants in a variety of neighborhoods and talk to customers.