Reporting Basics



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



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.



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 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.


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.



The First Amendment

Protestors in Washington Square Park, Photo by

The Bill of RightsThe First Amendment to the United States Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, guarantees freedom of religion and speech, the press and the right of people to gather to protest and complain to the government.

In its own words:

“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.”

After the founders of the United States wrote the U.S. Constitution, some of them realized they had left out critical guarantees to safeguard the type of nation, free of tyranny, they and others wanted.

The newly minted senators and congressmen debated about whether “checks and balances” would protect the rights of the people, or whether they needed to write amendments to the Constitution.

Freedom of the press was one of the priorities for Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson wrote a letter to another lawmaker saying,

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Some wanted to rewrite the Constitution but worried that people would think that they intended to tear up what they wanted to protect. They turned to U.S. Virginia Representative James Madison, a good thinker and a good writer.

James Madison

Madison argued that, “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

In 1789 Madison drafted amendments and presented them to the House of Representatives. The House approved 17 amendments. The Senate approved 12 and the states ratified 10 in December, 1791 as the Bill of Rights.

Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States and James Madison became the fourth.

Opinion vs. News

Photographers waiting in the rotunda of the Russell Building in the United States Capitol, Washington, DC. Photo by

What’s the difference between an opinion piece and a news story? 

An opinion piece gives you information from the point of view of the writer, or presenter. It may include facts, and reporting, but it differs from a news story in that it lays out an individual’s ideas and often their biases.  Opinion is, essentially, someone’s argument for a certain point of view about a specific topic.

When we read newspaper editorial pages, we see two types of opinion. We get the collective opinion of the editors and we also read, on the OpEd page — the page opposite the editorials — what individual columnists have to say in their byline pieces.

A news story reports the facts without the opinion of the reporter, writer, producer or presenter. It can contain attributed or quoted opinions of people interviewed. So a news story can contain opinion and tell a compelling story. But it should not include the opinion of the newsgatherer or the news organization.

A Pew Research Center poll, in 2018, found that younger people were better than older people at figuring out what’s factual and what’s opinion.

Pew said, “About a third of 18- to 49-year-olds (32 percent) correctly identified all five of the factual statements as factual, compared with two-in-ten among those ages 50 and older. A similar pattern emerges for the opinion statements. Among 18- to 49-year-olds, 44 percent correctly identified all five opinion statements as opinions, compared with 26 percent among those ages 50 and older.”

Pew Research Poll Opinion vs. Fact.png

You can take the quiz and see how you do.

Easy to Make Mistakes, So Verify

The Parkland shooting shows us how easily you can make a mistake and report things that are untrue in the rush to get a story out quickly.

Two things stand out:

  1. The false report that Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who killed 17 and wounded 14 others at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, was connected to a white supremacist group.
  2. There have been 18 school shootings since January 1st, 2018.

Let’s tackle the first false report.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that follows hate groups, wrote on its blog the day after the shooting that Cruz was associated with a Jacksonville, Florida, white supremacist group, Republic of Florida (ROF). The ADL had previously been contacted by someone who described himself as the leader of the group.

The ADL told Politico it picked up the information on 4chan, a bulletin board where self-described ROF members claimed Cruz was one of them.  News organizations picked the story up and people on 4chan kept it going. One of the users described it as “prime trolling opportunity,” and the discussions involved fooling reporters and feeding them the story that Cruz was with ROF.

The same kinds of conversations between these trolls about the false connection showed up on Discord, a gamers’ app that attracts neo-Nazis, about a concerted effort to fool reporters.

Politico posted these exchanges from the bulletin boards:

“On the Discord chat, a user called Curbstomp suggested sharing generic photos of ROF and claiming they depicted Cruz.

“I have an idea . . . We can just take a pic of masked ROF members and claim one of them is Cruz,” Curbstomp wrote.

Members of the Discord chat swapped potential photos.

Others joined the chorus on 4chan, interspersing jokes with purported confirmations.

“I can confirm this guy was trying to enact a race war and got kicked out of ROF,” wrote another poster.”

Reporters from AP and ABC contacted the trolls and supposed members of the group and went with the story.

But shortly after the first report, on Thursday, February 15, 2018, the Broward County sheriff said it wasn’t true.

How do you verify a claim that someone is in a hate group?

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups. Contact them and ask.

The FBI monitors hate crimes. Some local law enforcement agencies do too. Contact them and ask.

ProPublica, a non-profit news organization, began Documenting Hate, a project that collects data from journalists from more than 130 news organizations as well as independent journalists, local law enforcement, community groups and civil rights groups to try to get a clear picture of what is happening in America

The Anti-Defamation League has been a reliable source in the past.

The bottom line is that Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter are good sources for leads and ways to connect with people. But you have to be extremely careful, because we know that people in chat rooms, on social media, and trolls are determined to spread false information and use reporters to to do it.  Take your time. Report only what you know.



2. Mistaken numbers about school shootings.

PolitiFact traced the first error to surface to a tweet from ABC reporter Jeff Greenfield.

In the rest of the world, there have been 18 school shootings in the last twenty years. In the U.S., there have been 18 school shootings since January 1.

It picked up 130,000 likes on Twitter.

Greenfield apparently picked up the statistic from Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The number of 18 does not mean that there were 18 incidents of someone going into a school and shooting students, as Cruz allegedly did.

Instead the number includes a man committing suicide in a school parking lot and a student unintentionally firing an instructor’s gun. You can see the full list here.

If we use careful language, we would not classify many as school shootings.

Checking Facts:

PolitiFact checks claims of politicians, reporters and others in the news., a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center was founded in 1994 to research urban legends. It has become a go-to source for checking out internet rumors.

Open, part of The Center for Responsive Politics, follows political contributions and money spent on lobbying. It followed where the National Rifle Association (NRA)  money went in the 2016 election.


Sunlight Foundation shines the light on government and government officials using public records, technology and information from civic groups and journalists,

See Through New York, a project of the Empire Center, shows you salaries of every public employee in New York State as well as pension information.


Types of News Stories

People on the grass in Washington Square Park in early spring


Hard News- Breaking News

It is has happened, or is happening now.

From the New York Daily News 

A woman unleashed a hateful racist diatribe against Asian workers in a lower Manhattan salon — before focusing her ire on an Asian plainclothes cop, who quickly arrested her, authorities said Wednesday.

Sharon Williams stepped into the Good Choice for Nails salon on Madison St. near James St. near Chinatown about 5 p.m. on Tuesday and started cursing out workers, according to cops

“You brought coronavirus to this country!” she allegedly screamed.

Williams, 50, was harassing another Asian pedestrian on the block when an Asian plainclothes cop began to question her.

Outraged, Williams called the cop a “monkey,” authorities said. “You’re a Chinese motherf—er who brought COVID to this country!” she screamed as she was taken into custody, according to police.

NYPD Crest web stock webstock

Williams was charged with aggravated harassment as a hate crime and criminal trespass.

From The New York Times
Jonah E. Bromwich

By Jonah E. BromwichApril 6, 2021

The lobby staff members who closed the door to a Manhattan apartment building last week without taking immediate action after a Filipino-American woman was brutally attacked on the street outside have been fired, the building’s owners told residents in an email on Tuesday.

Rick Mason, the executive director of management at the Brodsky Organization, which owns the luxury apartment building in Midtown, told residents of all the organization’s buildings in an email that two staff members who were inside the building lobby at the time had not followed “required emergency and safety protocols.”

“For this reason, their employment has been terminated, effective immediately,” Mr. Mason’s email said.

He did not identify the employees by name, and a spokeswoman did not specify the protocols that staff members had not followed.

Read more.

From The Guardian

Day 8 of Derek Chauvin trial testimony concludes

The eighth day of testimony in the Derek Chauvin murder trial has come to a close.

Two major themes have solidified during Wednesday’s testimony. The prosecution has tried to convey through their witnesses that Chauvin’s use-of-force wasn’t necessary. On cross examination, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, has attempted to argue that this is a situational assessment.

During his cross examination, Nelson has also continued to lay the groundwork for his position that Floyd died from an overdose – not Chauvin’s knee against his neck for more than nine minutes.

Here are some key takeaways from today’s proceedings:

  • Sgt Jody Stiger, whom prosecutors called as an expert witness on use-of-force, has said that, “No force should have been used once [Floyd] was in that position.” Stiger has said on 


Feature Stories

Feature stories cover everything from arts, to human interest, to trends and anything that is fun.

From the Wall Street Journal

Could You Go for a Month Without Coffee?

Ramadan challenges Muslims who have become especially addicted to caffeine this past year

He’s now down to one daily cup of coffee and is trying to cut back on his soda consumption as well.

Khadijah Fasetire, an 18-year-old high-school student in Dublin, picked up a daily coffee habit in lockdown.  

A fan of cooking and baking shows, Ms. Fasetire started seeing TikTok videos about a whipped coffee drink that became popular early in the pandemic and decided she had to try it. Soon she was hooked and realized she had become dependent on a daily dose of coffee.

“I always need a cup before studying as it gives me a boost,” she said. “I have important exams in June and as Ramadan is between April and May I will be studying a lot…I’m trying to prepare my body and mind for this.”


Has your caffeine consumption increased during the pandemic? Join the conversation below.

She’s trying a mix of weaning techniques, switching to decaf coffee some days and putting off her first morning cup of Joe for as long as she can.

Pre-Ramadan decaffeinating regimens appear to be more common in the West or non-Muslim countries where lifestyles don’t adapt to the side effects of fasting. In the Middle East, for instance, coffee plays a prominent role in Ramadan night culture. In normal times, friends and families enjoy large group iftaar dinners to break the fast at sundown, then often stay up for much of the night and sleep in during the day.

Muslims aren’t the only ones who suffer headaches as a result of religious fasting.

Dr. Michael Drescher, chief of emergency medicine at the Rabin Medical Center in Israel, conducted studies to test if rofecoxib, a long-lasting anti-inflammatory drug, could combat not only the Ramadan headaches but also the “Yom Kippur Headache” suffered by many Jews when they fast for 25 hours during the Day of Atonement.

Read more.


From the New York Daily News

Copy of 1938 Superman comic sells for record-setting $3.25 million

APR 07, 2021  5:22 PM


An old Superman comic book sold for a super-duper price tag.

A copy of the 1938 “Action Comics #1” brought in $3.25 million in a private sale, according to a Tuesday announcement from online auction and consignment company

The record-setting price, narrowly bested the previous record for the comic, sold in the auction of another copy in 2014 for slightly over $3.2 million, the Associated Press reported.

New York City-based company’s chief operating officer Vincent Zurzolo said the comic book that introduced Superman to the world is considered “is the beginning of the superhero genre.”

Read more.


From The New York Times

Profile, A Look at a Person

Ian Austen

By Ian AustenFeb. 5, 2021

OTTAWA — For Murray Sinclair, being a bridge between Indigenous people and the rest of Canada has sometimes been a struggle. After he graduated from law school in 1979, a step that felt like “joining the dark side,” he was frustrated by courts where he heard racist comments flow and saw the justice system work repeatedly against Indigenous people.

“This is killing me, literally, to do this,” Mr. Sinclair, who is Anishinaabe, recalled telling his wife, Katherine Morrisseau-Sinclair. “I’m not really helping anybody, but I’m also being seen as one of them.”

Ms. Morrisseau-Sinclair persuaded him to visit Angus Merrick, an elder from the Long Plain Indian band and an Aboriginal court worker.

The two men met in Mr. Merrick’s tepee, the elder smoking cigarettes and both of them drinking pots of tea until 6 in the evening, at which point Mr. Merrick became direct.

Read more.

From The New York Times

She Never Dreamed of Acting. Now She’s an Oscar Nominee for ‘Minari.’

The veteran Korean star Yuh-Jung Youn has had a thriving career for five decades — all because of a choice she made when she failed her college entrance exam.

By Carlos AguilarPublished April 2, 2021Updated April 7, 2021, 4:39 p.m. ET

For her 60th birthday, the veteran Korean star Yuh-Jung Youn made herself a promise. She would collaborate only with those she trusts. Even if their ventures fell short, as long as she personally appreciated the people making them, the result wouldn’t much concern her.

That late-life philosophy, born of decades of limited choices and professional trauma, brought her to “Minari,” the director Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical story about a Korean family putting down roots in Arkansas. Youn’s bittersweet performance as the grandmother, Soonja, in the tenderhearted immigrant drama has earned her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress, the first for a Korean actress.

“Me, a 73-year-old Asian woman could have never even dreamed about being nominated for an Oscar,” Youn said via video call from her home in Seoul. “‘Minari’ brought me a lot of gifts.”

As she recounted this triumph and the many pitfalls that preceded it, her pensive expression often broke into an affable smile, cheerful laughter even. Dressed in a demure black top and long necklace, there was an effortless grace to her serene presence. She came off unhurried and welcoming but determined to make her ideas understood. Occasionally she asked a friend off-camera for help with certain English words to hit each point more precisely.

Read more.

Sports Stories 

They break down into categories of breaking news and those stories cover games and scores. Great sport stories also involve features and profiles.

From The New York Daily News

Alize Johnson occupies the NBA’s most valuable roster spot and the Nets should keep him there

Alize Johnson has given the Nets a jolt off the bench so the Nets may want to consider keeping him around for remainder of the season.


Alize Johnson is a workhorse, and on a championship contender, you can’t have too many.

For that reason, and that reason alone, the Nets should guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season. Even if it means they can’t add depth at the point guard position.

The latter would not be a long trip: Other teams are monitoring Johnson’s situation, and the Nets don’t want to let him go. It’s no surprise: Johnson adds to general manager Sean Marks’ track record of finding needles in NBA haystacks. Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, D’Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen each became local household names thanks to Marks providing an opportunity, not to mention second-year forward Nic Claxton, a second-round pick who has been playing key minutes on a presumptive championship contender.

As has Johnson, who has impressed teammates and coaches alike, in his minimal time in Brooklyn.“I think we’re pretty comfortable in what we have with Alize. He’s been outstanding, works hard, plays with incredible energy, he’s a great teammate,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “So he’s been really productive in the minutes he’s gotten so we feel confident in him as a player.”

Read more.

A Morning in the Kitchen With the Grandmother Who Cooks for Major League Baseball Players

Altagracia Alvino is used to cooking large meals for her family, teammates and visiting players. I sampled her (very tasty) goat stew.

Credit…Tara Walton for The New York Times

The first words out of Altagracia Alvino’s mouth after opening the door to the apartment and hearing my hello were abrupt. “Shh,” she said. “El nene está durmiendo.” The kid is sleeping. Whoops.

Alvino was referring to her grandson, Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., one of baseball’s brightest young stars. He was still slumbering in the other room. Normally, she cooks without an audience after she wakes up at 7 a.m. But on this recent morning, photographer Tara Walton and I were in attendance.

We slipped inside and quietly watched as Alvino prepared a feast of white rice with stewed goat meat and beans. Alvino, 66, has been doing this for nearly two decades: cooking food for her baseball-playing kin — notably her son, Vladimir Sr., who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, and his son, Vladimir Jr. — plus their teammates and visiting players.

Read more.


Coronavirus in the U.S.:
Latest Map and Case Count

Cases 30.9 million 73,200 +14%
Deaths 558,580 2,564* –31%
Hospitalized 43,044 +5%

Day with reporting anomaly.


Hospitalization data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 14-day change trends use 7-day averages.


* Includes many deaths from unspecified days. Read more here.

At least 2,564 new coronavirus deaths and 73,200 new cases were reported in the United States on April 7. Over the past week, there has been an average of 65,556 cases per day, an increase of 14 percent from the average two weeks earlier. As of Thursday morning, more than 30,944,100 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus according to a New York Times database. See vaccinations by state on our U.S. tracker page.

Average daily cases per 100,000 people in past week



Gianluigi Colalucci, Who Showed Michelangelo’s True Colors, Dies at 91

The chief restorer of the Vatican Museums, he led the cleaning of the Sistine Chapel, a 14-year effort that revealed a new vision of Michelangelo’s complex work.

Credit…Gianni Giansanti/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

Gianluigi Colalucci, who led what was known as the restoration of the century — the cleaning of the Sistine Chapel — and in so doing revealed a new vision of Michelangelo’s storied, complex masterpieces there, died on March 28 in Rome. He was 91.

The Vatican Museums, where he was the chief restorer for many years, announced his death but did not specify a cause.

It took Michelangelo four years to create the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling frescoes and six more to paint his roiling, swirling Last Judgment on the altar wall, and almost immediately both works were under assault.

Soot, smoke and dust in what was always a working chapel began to darken the once-vivid colors. And starting in 1565, after years of criticism that deemed the naked figures of the Last Judgment obscene, decorous draperies were painted over their genitals. (Michelangelo refused to do that work, declaring of Pope Pius IV, “Let him make the world a suitable place, and the painting will fit in.”)

Continue reading the main story












New Opportunities


Thursday, April 8th Graduation: What now? 

Every Summer a new class of graduates is thrust into the world – having to make the nerve-wracking transition from academic life to professional life. The global pandemic has added a new wrinkle to the job hunt. Our experts in talent acquisition along with some of our journalists will walk through the do’s and don’ts of the virtual job hunt. Our experts will focus on tips and tricks for how to successfully get what you need from others when networking and creating a “sticky” message. What are the key elements of a compelling personal narrative? How do you make your own story compelling and relevant to the opportunity at hand? How can you best position yourself when you have so little real-world experience? Register HERE.


The Dow Jones News Fund invites college students studying journalism or working for student media at community colleges and four-year universities to apply for free registration to attend journalism conventions this summer.


The Society of Professional Journalists is looking for students who want to strengthen their leadership skills with a cohort of SPJ peers. Do you know an SPJ student member who has a drive to succeed in journalism? Who would want to build their emotional intelligence to improve their teams and colleagues? Who would benefit from learning alongside SPJ coaches who can help fine tune their skills? Then encourage them to apply for the Student Leadership Institute, sponsored by the Scripps Howard Foundation. Deadline to apply is 5 p.m. EDT April 15.

More details:
Individuals who choose to step up, with a willingness to learn and grow as leaders, are the ideal candidates. No minimum time of membership is required, and acceptance as a program participant is contingent on current membership in SPJ.

Participants will be chosen by a committee of journalism educators and professional journalists. They will focus on your drive and passion to succeed in journalism.

Preference will be given to applicants who have at least one full year of student membership in SPJ to complete after the 2021 SLI dates. However, any student member in good standing as of the application deadline may apply.


Reporters Want Access To Border Facilities

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have called on President Joe Biden’s administration to allow journalists into facilities housing unaccompanied migrant children who have sought asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Biden administration has tried for weeks to keep the public from seeing images of immigrant children in U.S. custody. SPJ urged the Department of Homeland Security to reverse its position on blocking media access to border facilities Tuesday. “[Biden] promised both a more humane approach to immigration and more transparency than his predecessor. His administration’s refusal to let journalists fully observe and assess the growing humanitarian crisis at the border involving unaccompanied migrant children shows he is failing on both promises,” SPJ National President Matthew T. Hall said. Hall’s statement appeared in CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletterTuesday night, in addition to an article from The Hill.

Shootings of Asians in Georgia Massage Parlors

CHICAGO (AP) — The shootings at three Georgia massage parlors and spas that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent, come on the heels of a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans since the coronavirus entered the United States.

As details emerge, many members of the Asian American community see the Georgia killings as a haunting reminder of harassment and assaults that have been occurring from coast to coast.


EXPLAINER: Why Georgia attack spurs fears in Asian Americans

1 of 5
FILE – In this March 13, 2021, file photo, Chinese-Japanese American student Kara Chu, 18, holds a pair of heart balloons decorated by herself for the rally “Love Our Communities: Build Collective Power” to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence outside the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. The shootings at three Georgia massage parlors and spas Tuesday, March 16, that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent, come on the heels of a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans since the coronavirus first entered the United States. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — The shootings at three Georgia massage parlors and spas that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent, come on the heels of a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans since the coronavirus entered the United States.

As details emerge, many members of the Asian American community see the Georgia killings as a haunting reminder of harassment and assaults that have been occurring from coast to coast.


Five people were shot Tuesday at a massage parlor about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Atlanta, four of whom died. Police found three women shot to death at Gold Spa in Atlanta, and another woman dead at Aromatherapy Spa across the street.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that its diplomats have confirmed that four of the victims who died were women of Korean descent.

A 21-year-old white man, Robert Aaron Long, suspected in the shooting has been taken into custody and charged with murder.

As many raised concerns that the shootings are the latest in a string of hate crimes against Asian Americans, police suggested the suspect may have had other motives.

Long told police the attack was not racially motivated. He claimed to have a “sex addiction,” and authorities said he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.

But those statements spurred outrage and widespread skepticism given the locations and that most of the victims were women of Asian descent.


Asian American lawmakers have expressed heartbreak on social media and emphasized the need to support Asian American communities during this moment. The official Twitter account of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus wrote that its members are “horrified by the news … at a time when we’re already seeing a spike in anti-Asian violence.”

Many lawmakers acknowledged a heightened sense of fear among Asian Americans as a result of the increasing number of hate incidents.

Rep. Judy Chu of California reminded people of the effect of anti-Asian rhetoric.

“As we wait for more details to emerge, I ask everyone to remember that hurtful words and rhetoric have real life consequences,” she wrote on Twitter. “Please stand up, condemn this violence, and help us #StopAsianHate.”


Recent attacks, including the killing of an 84-year-old San Francisco man in February, have raised concerns about worsening hostilities toward Asian Americans. Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and its partner advocacy groups, since March 2020. Nationally, women reported more than double the number of hate incidents compared with men.

Police in several major cities saw a sharp uptick in Asian-targeted hate crimes between 2019 and 2020, according to data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. New York City went from three incidents to 27, Los Angeles from seven to 15, and Denver had three incidents in 2020 — the first reported there in six years.


Racism against Asian Americans has long been an ugly thread of U.S. history and was enshrined into law in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was designed to prevent Chinese American laborers from entering the U.S. as a result of widespread xenophobia.

Asian Americans have also long been used as medical scapegoats in the U.S. and falsely blamed for public health problems, including a smallpox outbreak in San Francisco in the 1870s. This racist association between Asian Americans and illness and uncleanliness has also affected views of Asian food and contributes to the “perpetual foreigner” trope that suggests Asian people are fundamentally outsiders.

This fueled suspicions of Japanese Americans during World War II, when many were sent to detention camps solely due to their ethnicity, as well as Islamophobia and prejudice toward Muslim and South Asian Americans following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In 1982, 100 years after the Chinese Exclusion Act, a 27-year-old Chinese American, Vincent Chin, died after being attacked in Detroit because of his race. At the time, a growing Japanese auto industry was leading to major job losses in the city’s auto sector. His killers, two autoworkers, mistook him for Japanese, using racial slurs as they beat him outside a club where he was celebrating his bachelor party. His death led to protests from Asian Americans nationwide.


President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January condemning anti-Asian xenophobia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The directive acknowledges the role rhetoric from politicians, including the use of derogatory names for the coronavirus, has played in the rise of anti-Asian sentiment and hate incidents targeting Asian Americans. Former President Donald Trump, for example, has repeatedly used racial terms to describe the virus, including during a Tuesday night interview with Fox News.

The rash of attacks in the past two months has renewed attention from politicians, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who signed legislation allocating $1.4 million to Stop AAPI Hate and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center for community resources and tracking of anti-Asian hate incidents.

Initiatives such as increased police presence, volunteer patrols and special crime hot lines have also been suggested by local officials and citizens, with big-name brands like the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and Apple, based in the Bay Area, promising to donate to the cause.


Tang reported from Phoenix. Fernando and Tang are members of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team.

News or Opinion From Poynter

August 16, 2017

News organizations aren’t doing enough to help readers understand the difference between news, analysis and opinion. We at the Duke Reporters’ Lab reached that conclusion after conducting a new study that found only 40 percent of large news organizations provide labels about article types — and nearly all of those only label opinion columns.

The Duke Reporters’ Lab examined 49 publications — 25 local newspapers and 24 national news and opinion websites — to determine how many consistently use labels to indicate article types. A team of Reporters’ Lab students examined whether the publications label editorials, news analysis, columns and reviews.

In general, we found inconsistent terminology and a lack of labeling. Some organizations provide a mix of labels that conflate article types such as news and opinion with topic labels such as local, politics and sports. The result for readers is a jumbled labeling approach that fails to consistently distinguish different types of journalism.

The findings are significant because journalists and educators are focusing on article labels as one way to address the decline in trust of the news media. Labels help readers distinguish between news and opinion so they better understand different forms of journalism and can assess allegations of bias. Readers often come to articles from links in social media and don’t know if an article is published in a news or opinion section unless it is labeled.

“People do get confused, and it’s particularly challenging these days when we’re publishing on so many different platforms,” said Washington Post editor Marty Baron when he announced the Post’s labeling approach at a Knight Foundation conference in February. “Our stuff is going out on Facebook, Apple News, Snapchat, this or that. The context that (an article) had in the print newspaper is completely lost on those other platforms. It’s important that we take steps to make sure that people understand what it is, with some sort of label that makes sense.”

The Reporters’ Lab study found The Post has the most extensive system for indicating article types of the 20 organizations that use labels. The Post website uses four main labels — opinion, analysis, perspective and review — and when readers scroll their cursors over those labels, a box appears with a brief definition.

Of the 20 organizations that did label article types, 16 only used them for the opinion section. Those labels included editorial (used on 15 news sites), commentary (seven sites), column/columnist (six sites) and letters (seven sites). Ten of the organizations that used labels were local and six were national.

Our study also revealed how readers encounter a confusing mix of labels. For the study, the Lab examined labels of article type, not the section where it appeared. But we found an approach that harkened to the newsprint days: Many publications used labels to indicate whether stories were in the local news, entertainment or sports sections. That’s helpful, but readers also need to distinguish between a news story and an opinion column or news analysis.

For example, this article in the Star Tribune appears in the Variety section with a music label. That’s a good indicator of the topic, but it doesn’t tell readers what type of story it is. A review? A news story? A first-person essay by a staff member?

We also found topic labels sometimes veered toward too specific, such as #TrumpsAmerica in the Forbes opinions section or marijuana in the Denver Post’s news section, neither of which indicated the article type. The labels were sometimes funny, clever or obscure, but these organizations missed an opportunity to describe the type of content they were producing.

We also found lots of inconsistency. Although some organizations did a slightly better job labeling article types outside the opinion section, the labels still appeared somewhat arbitrarily across the sites, often showing up on a handful of articles in one category but not all of the articles.

Another inconsistency: Even The Post doesn’t label news articles. The absence of a label is supposed to indicate it is news. The Post approach assumes that readers understand that unlabeled content is always news. But our students found it confusing, and we believe The Post should examine whether readers are really able to identify a news story when it is not labeled as such.

The study also found that organizations that do use labels are not making them visible or clear enough to readers. Students commented that the labels were “pretty easy to miss or misinterpret,” “not immediately visible if you aren’t looking for it” or “very small.”

As for the organizations that did not label articles at all, we found a pretty even local-national split. Thirteen of them were local newspapers and 16 were national organizations.

Our study indicates that news organizations can make some easy fixes to provide better guidance to readers. They should:

  • Use consistent labeling on all articles to indicate analysis, opinion, reviews and news. Although The Post is a good model for a labeling system, the lack of labels on news stories could still confuse many readers.
  • Place the labels in a prominent place at the top of articles.
  • Conduct research with readers about the most effective labels and incorporate the lessons in their publications.

Rebecca Iannucci is the manager and editor in the Duke Reporters’ Lab. Student researchers Jamie Cohen, Julia Donheiser, Amanda Lewellyn, Lizzy Raben, Asa Royal, Hank Tucker and Sam Turken contributed to this report.

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Rebecca Iannucci is the project manager for the Duke Reporters’ Lab. A 2014 graduate of Elon University, she spent two years in Los Angeles as…

More by Rebecca Iannucci

The Nut Graf

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

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

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.

2. Summarize your story angle in one sentence.

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

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

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.

2. Summarize your story angle in one sentence.

One of my J-school professors used to say, “If you can’t write your story angle on the back of my business card, you don’t know what your story’s about yet.”

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.

NYT Harlem 911 Call Illustration of Story Logic

Selina McNeal called the police just before 2 a.m. on Wednesday because the superintendent of her apartment building was screaming obscenities and breaking glass in the hallway. She briefly opened her door and spotted him, completely naked, she said.

Minutes later, eight uniformed police officers arrived, pouring out of an elevator. As Ms. McNeal hid under the bed, she heard a struggle and officers yelling, “Shoot him! Shoot him!” Then came a series of shots. “Pop, pop, pop, pop,” she said.

In a matter of seconds, the police officers shot and killed the superintendent, who they said had pointed a gun at them. One officer grappled with the naked man before the shooting started and was shot in the chest during the struggle, the police said. His bulletproof vest stopped the slug.

On Thursday, the police said the man, identified as Victor Hernandez, 29, had fired the bullet that struck Officer Christopher Wintermute on the left side of his chest and lodged in his body armor. Mr. Hernandez’s killing was the fifth deadly shooting by the New York police in a month.


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A review of surveillance footage recovered at the scene and body cameras worn by seven of the responding officers showed that Officer Wintermute was first to arrive at the building’s second floor, the police said.

There the officer encountered a naked Mr. Hernandez in “a shooting stance” at the end of the hallway, said Deputy Chief Kevin Maloney, who leads the Force Investigation Division.

As the two men grappled, Officer Wintermute yelled for backup. Three of his colleagues responded and fired 17 rounds at Mr. Hernandez, Chief Maloney said. Ten bullets hit him.

“I did not want him dead,” Ms. McNeal said, hours after she first called the police. “I just wanted to find out what was going on.”

Mr. Hernandez, a father of two and the son of a police officer, had become the building’s superintendent fairly recently, his family members and neighbors said. Ms. McNeal said that before she called 911, Mr. Hernandez had been yelling in the hall for about 20 minutes, making vulgar threats about a woman.

The police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said on Wednesday that the officers arrived at about 1:50 a.m. and fanned out to search the second-floor hallway of the building, at 2785 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, and encountered a naked man with a gun. “A violent struggle immediately began and shots were fired,” the commissioner said.


Victor Hernandez in a photo posted to Facebook.

Chief Maloney said Mr. Hernandez had been the subject of six domestic complaints in the past. He was last arrested in 2014. He has never been accused of any crime involving drugs, weapons or violence, officials and family members said.

Ms. McNeal said that when she briefly opened the door and saw Mr. Hernandez, she did not see a weapon in his hands. “I saw something that looked like a laptop or a tablet,” she said.

During the shooting, Ms. McNeal said, she was hiding under her bed in tears. After the shots rang out, she heard officers shout, “Watch the fire.” Shortly afterward, she said she heard them yelling at one another, “Where is the gun?”

After the confrontation ended, Ms. McNeal again opened the door and saw Mr. Hernandez lying on the floor face up. The police later told her that what she thought was a tablet was actually a firearm.

“I’m still crying,” Ms. McNeal said. “I close my eyes and it’s all I can see and hear.”

ImageThe vest that stopped a bullet during the confrontation in Harlem.
Credit…New York Police Department

Mr. Hernandez’s family members and neighbors remembered him as a dedicated father to a 6-year-old daughter and an older son, a caring relative and an ambitious man who worked hard.

His aunt, Ana Martinez, said Mr. Hernandez grew up in the Crotona Park East neighborhood of the Bronx. He had taken the police officer and firefighter exams and was studying at Bronx Community College, she said.

Mr. Hernandez’s ex-wife lived in the Throgs Neck neighborhood of the Bronx, Ms. Martinez said. The two had been fighting over custody of their children, and the domestic accusations stemmed from arguments between them, Ms. Martinez said.

The ex-wife, Jaimily Hernandez, declined to comment.

Mr. Hernandez’s mother, Maria, has spent 19 years as a New York police officer, most recently in the Bronx, and he wanted to follow in her footsteps, according to Ms. Martinez. Mr. Hernandez also had relatives who were law enforcement officers in Milwaukee, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Given that Mr. Hernandez came from a law-enforcement family, Ms. Martinez said, she doubted her nephew would have acted violently toward police officers, and she disputed the characterization of him as emotionally disturbed or violent.

“They’re depicting him like he was some kind of psycho or something and he was a menace to society, but he was a person,” Ms. Martinez said. “His mom was on the force for 19 years. She served that city for 19 years, and they murdered her son.”

In a tribute posted to Facebook, Mr. Hernandez’s younger sister, Melissa, said her brother had been her best friend and her protector, an industrious, creative and loving person.


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Mr. Hernandez “was always good at everything,” she wrote. He learned to play piano by ear, taught himself to make high-quality videos and had strong technical and mechanical skills.

“My brother could do so many things, and it was always clear to me that he was destined for greatness,” wrote Mr. Hernandez’s sister, who declined to comment further. “Unfortunately, he’ll never get to use any of his many skills.”

Hours before the shooting, Mr. Hernandez ate dinner at a cousin’s house, Ms. Martinez said. He had also picked up his mother from the airport, where she had returned from a vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Over text message, his mother, Maria Hernandez, said, “His only contact with the police before this was domestic with his wife.”

She declined to comment further, saying: “Just know Victor was a kind, gentle soul. And my entire world.”

In Harlem, neighbors said Mr. Hernandez seemed in public to be a quiet, calm person.

Pedro Ramos, 44, who lives on the seventh floor of the building, said he had befriended Mr. Hernandez.

“He was a sane, good guy,” Mr. Ramos said with a tone of disbelief. “This shocks me.”

Jerome Selassie, 55, who owns the corner store across the street from the site of the shooting, said he saw Mr. Hernandez often and never knew him to be violent.

“I saw him last night, at around midnight,” Mr. Selassie said. “He was running to his apartment because it was raining. He waved at me. That was the last time I saw him. He looked O.K. to me.”


The police officer who was shot in the incident left Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospital in a wheelchair on Wednesday.
Credit…James Keivom for The New York Times

Officer Wintermute, 32, has been on the police force for seven years, working most of that time on patrol in the 32nd Precinct in Harlem. His wife is also a police officer.

During the struggle with Mr. Hernandez, Officer Wintermute was punched several times in the face and took the impact of the bullet hitting his Kevlar vest, officials said. Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was in “good spirits” after the shooting, and he was released from Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospital a few hours later. Fellow officers applauded him as he was taken in a wheelchair to a waiting police van.

The police have shot and killed five people since Sept. 29, when Officer Brian Mulkeen and a armed man he was trying to arrest were killed in a police fusillade in the Bronx. Four of the shootings occurred in the past eight days.

On Oct. 15, in two separate encounters, officers fatally shot two armed men, one in the Gowanus Houses in Brooklyn and one at the 225th Street subway station in the Bronx. Two days later, also in the Bronx, a police sergeant shot and killed a man during a traffic stop.

Officer Mulkeen was the second officer to be killed by “friendly fire” this year. In February, Detective Brian Simonsen was hit in the chest and killed as he and other officers were firing at a robber in a cellphone store in Queens. The robber turned out to have a fake gun.


Continue reading the main story

The police said Wednesday’s incident was the 47th time this year officers have discharged their weapons in confrontations with civilians. Ten of them have died.

“It’s high in the last couple of weeks, but it’s part of where we’ve been consistent in the last couple of years,” Chief Maloney said.

Ms. Martinez said Mr. Hernandez sometimes expressed fear for his mother’s safety because she was a police officer. But his family also feared for his.

“We always told them if the police stop you, you make sure you be respectful and give them whatever they want because you don’t want them to shoot you,” Ms. Martinez recalled. “It’s hard when you have minority children, especially boys, and you have to tell them that.”

Susan Beachy contributed research.


Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misspelled the given name of a resident who called the police. She is Selina McNeal, not Selena McNeal. It also misstated the age of a man who was killed. He was 29, not 27.

Daily News Story About Pressure on Cuomo

ALBANY — Dozens of Gov. Cuomo’s fellow Democrats are defecting in light of the latest allegations of sexual harassment levied against the governor and other swirling scandals.

More than 55 Democratic state legislators issued a joint statement Thursday calling on Cuomo to resign as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he will host a meeting later in the day to assess “potential paths forward.”Advertisement

Mayor de Blasio called the latest claims against Cuomo “disgusting.”

“It’s deeply troubling, the specific allegation, the governor called an employee of his, someone who he had power over, called them to a private place and then sexually assaulted her is absolutely unacceptable,” he said Thursday morning. “It is disgusting to me and he can no longer serve as governor. It’s as simple as that.”

The lawmakers wrote that the governor “has lost the confidence of the public and the state legislature, rendering him ineffective in this time of most urgent need.

“It is time for Governor Cuomo to resign,” they added.

Pressure has mounted against the governor in recent weeks as his administration became embroiled in controversy related to nursing home COVID deaths, which has led to a federal probe, and six women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Calls increased on Wednesday following reports that an aide claims the governor groped her and reached under her blouse late last year.

The Albany Times Union reported that the woman became emotional and told a superior about the incident last week while watching Cuomo deny he ever touched anyone “inappropriately” during a televised press conference.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (Mike Groll)

Five other women, including four who worked for the governor throughout his career, have publicly accused Cuomo of misconduct or inappropriate behavior.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, became the highest-ranking of the governor’s fellow Democrats to call on him to leave office over the weekend.

Cuomo has remained defiant, suggesting it would be “anti-democratic” for him to step down.

“There is no way I resign,” he said on Sunday.

Some Dems have refrained from saying the governor should step aside, instead urging patience as Attorney General Letitia James oversees an independent probe into the allegations against Cuomo.

Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) was one of nearly two dozen Dem lawmakers who signed off on a letter released earlier this week that said calls for resignation were premature. Fahy issued a statement Thursday reversing her position and calling on the governor to step down in light of the most recent accusations.

Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers) also said that “Wednesday’s allegation of groping was, frankly, for me, the last straw.”

Though he stopped just short of calling on Cuomo to resign, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the allegations against the governor are “nauseating” during a Thursday interview on Joe Madison’s radio.

Schumer also said he has faith in James, saying the investigation will “turn over every stone” and not let “any outside or political interference stop her.”Shant ShahrigianNew York Daily NewsCONTACT 

Shant Shahrigian covers politics for the Daily News. He was previously an assistant city editor for the paper, and has also worked for outlets from the hyperlocal Riverdale Press to Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.Chris SommerfeldtCONTACT 

Chris Sommerfeldt is a reporter covering the Biden administration, Congress and a variety of other political institutions and issues through a New York lens. He started working for the Daily News in May 2015 as a city desk reporter.Denis SlatteryNew York Daily NewsCONTACT 

Denis Slattery covers New York State politics as the Daily News’ Albany bureau chief. He began working at The News in 2012, covering breaking news and national politics.