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.”
You can take the quiz and see how you do.
You can take the quiz and see how you do.
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:
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.
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:
- The mayor says…
- The district attorney says…
- The neighbor says…
- According to the Associated Press…
- According to The New York Times…
- 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:
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.
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.
Wayne Barrett an investigative reporter for the Village voice wrote:
“My credo has always been that the only reason readers come back to you again and again over decades is because of what you unearth for them, and that the joy of our profession is discovery, not dissertation.
There is also no other job where you get paid to tell the truth. Other professionals do sometimes tell the truth, but it’s ancillary to what they do, not the purpose of their job. I was asked years ago to address the elementary school that my son attended and tell them what a reporter did and I went to the auditorium in a trench coat with the collar up and a notebook in a my pocket, baring it to announce that “we are detectives for the people.”
The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan research organization that conducts research, polls surveys, checks facts and analyzes media trends.
This video posted by The Guardian highlights Huffington Post’s White House correspondent S V Dáte asking a quesstion.
The 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.
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.
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.
Misinformation is information that’s wrong, false or inaccurate. It happens when people make mistakes and write or say something that isn’t true. It could also be incorrect information that is shared to deceive, or maybe not.
But disinformation is deliberately, false information aimed to mislead you and others. We know now that it is easily spread on social media.
Disinformation is a manipulative tool meant to harm.
AOC Wasn't Even in the Capitol Building During Her 'Near Death' Experience.— Benny (@bennyjohnson) February 3, 2021
What actually happened?
A Capitol Police officer knocked on her door in the Cannon Building to direct her to another building.#AlexandriaOcasioSmollett https://t.co/WcJaeE8qIu
Disinformation we’ve seen recently
30 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of QAnon, according to a YouGov poll.
45 percent of Republicans say they favor the actions of the rioters at the Capitol according to another YouGov poll.
70 percent of Republicans believe Trump won the election.
40 percent of Americans believe the false notion that COVID-19 was manufactured in a lab in Wuhan China.
Disinformation has a history
Disinformation is not a new phenomenon. The Russians apparently first used the term dezinformatsiya in 1923 to describe their effort to manipulate public opinion. It was used by the then KGB, which is now the GRU. This was basically their term for propaganda, according to Wikipedia.
English speaking intelligence agencies picked up the term in the 1950’s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. (OED)
Governments used disinformation against each other during World War II and during the Cold War.
The Russians used disinformation in the run up to the 2016 election, according to the Mueller Report.
“There’s a direct connection between disinformation and the insurrection on Capitol Hill. The mob was motivated by the false idea of a stolen election, which has traveled across social media for months, amplified by Mr. Trump and his supporters. Courts and election officials alike have rejected the idea of a stolen election, but their hard evidence was no match for the power of viral memes reinforced by lies and half-truths from elected officials. We’ve seen this scenario play out globally, and now it’s playing out in the U.S.”
New Yorker Reporter Luke Mogelson followed Trump supporters as they forced their way into the U.S. Capitol, using his phone’s camera as a reporter’s notebook.
.@donie, reporting from Capitol Hill: "In 2016 people tried to write off anything about social media, saying oh, it's only a few Facebook posts, what harm? Here's the harm. The harm of conspiracy theories, the harm of people living in these online and Trump media echo chambers." pic.twitter.com/kisSUSNRxb— Tara Mulholland (@tara_mulholland) January 6, 2021
- false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.”nuclear matters are often entangled in a web of secrecy and misinformation”synonyms:disinformation, false information, misleading information, deception; lie, fib, false rumor, trumped-up story, fake news, alternative fact, gossip, red herring, false trail.
- Misinformation is false or inaccurate information. Examples of misinformation include false rumors, insults and pranks, while examples of more deliberate disinformation include malicious content such as hoaxes, spearphishing and propaganda.
The Center for Counter Digital (CCD) hate compiled a list of 12 people who spread misinformation on social media. All of them seem like reliable experts and the CCD says they are responsible for spreading almost two-thirds of the anti-vaxxer disinformation on social media. Here are a couple of examples.
BuzzFeed also tracked so-called experts who spread COVID and vaccine disinformation.
Before COVID, Before the Capitol Insurrection, There was the Mueller Report.
The Mueller Report issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team documented Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.
In February 2018, before the report was issued, the Special Counsel indicted 13 foreign nationals and a Russian “troll farm” connected to the Internet Research Agency or IRA. Facebook disclosed in the fall of 2017 that it sold $100,000 worth of ads to the Internet Research Agency.
How did they use the ads on Facebook and on other social media platforms?
This is from the Mueller Report:
“Dozens of IRA employees were responsible for operating accounts and personas on
different U.S. social media platforms. The IRA referred to employees assigned to operate the social media accounts as “specialists.”42 Starting as early as 2014, the IRA U.S. operations included social media specialists focusing on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
The IRA later added specialists who operated on Tumblr and Instagram accounts.44
Initially, the IRA created social media accounts that pretended to be the personal accounts of U.S. persons.
By early 2015, the IRA began to create larger social media groups or public
social media pages that claimed (falsely) to be affiliated with U.S. political and grassroots organizations. In certain cases, the IRA created accounts that mimicked real U.S. organizations.
For example, one IRA-controlled Twitter account, @TEN_ GOP, purported to be connected to the Tennessee Republican Party.
More commonly, the IRA created accounts in the names of
fictitious U.S. organizations and grassroots groups and used these accounts to pose as antiimmigration groups, Tea Party activists, Black Lives Matter protestors, and other U.S. social and
Groups (with names such as “Being Patriotic,” “Stop All Immigrants,” “Secured Borders,” and
“Tea Party News”), purported Black social justice groups (“Black Matters,” “Blacktivist,” and
“Don’t Shoot Us”), LGBTQ groups (“LGBT United”), and religious groups (“United Muslims of
Throughout 2016, IRA accounts published an increasing number of materials supporting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. For example, on May 31, 2016, the operational account “Matt Skiber” began to privately message dozens of pro-Trump Facebook groups asking them to help plan a “pro-Trump rally near Trump Tower.”55
To reach larger U.S. audiences, the IRA purchased advertisements from Facebook that
promoted the IRA groups on the newsfeeds of U.S. audience members. According to Facebook, the IRA purchased over 3,500 advertisements, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100,000.56.
During the U.S. presidential campaign, many IRA-purchased advertisements explicitly
supported or opposed a presidential candidate or promoted U.S. rallies organized by the IRA ( discussed below). As early as March 2016, the IRA purchased advertisements that overtly opposed the Clinton Campaign. For example, on March 18, 2016, the IRA purchased an advertisement depicting candidate Clinton and a caption that read in part, “If one day God lets this liar enter the White House as a president – that day would be a real national tragedy.”57
Similarly, on April 6, 2016, the IRA purchased advertisements for its account “Black Matters” calling for a “flashmob” of U.S. persons to “take a photo with #HillaryClintonForPrison2016 or nohillary2016.”
Collectively, the IRA’s social media accounts reached tens of millions of U.S. persons.
Individual IRA social media accounts attracted hundreds of thousands of followers. For example, at the time they were deactivated by Facebook in mid-2017, the IRA’s “United Muslims of America”
Facebook group had over 300,000 followers, the “Don’t Shoot Us” Facebook group had over 250,000 followers, the “Being Patriotic” Facebook group had over 200,000 followers, and the “Secured Borders” Facebook group had over 130,000 followers.61 According to Facebook, in total the IRA-controlled accounts made over 80,000 posts before their deactivation in August 2017, and these posts reached at least 29 million U.S persons and “may have reached an estimated 126
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:
- 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.
- 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.
PolitiFact checks claims of politicians, reporters and others in the news.
FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center
Snopes.org was founded in 1994 to research urban legends. It has become a go-to source for checking out internet rumors.
Open Secrets.org, 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.
Friends offered these ideas when I put out a call on Facebook and asked, “What makes journalism?”
Here’s a sampling of what they said:
Hard News- Breaking News
It is has happened, or is happening now.
“It was a lot of smoke coming out all of the windows,” said neighbor Adina Landon.
The first floor of the house is a daycare center, police said.
“Companies arrived and found heavy fire in the basement,” said FDNY Chief of Operations John Esposito.
Firefighters removed 18 children from the house, where one was critically injured. The others suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.
One of the injured children was rescued from the basement, the FDNY said.
A woman who lives on the block said a neighbor took in the children as they waited for their parents to arrive.
“There were firemen, paramedics all over the place and the kids were already out,” said the woman. “I’m sure some of them were scared.”
The fire was placed under control around 2:45 p.m., according to officials.
City officials were investigating whether the daycare facility was unlicensed, said a law enforcement source. Neighbors said they hadn’t known the location to be a daycare.
On Friday in the same borough, a man was killed and 10 others were hospitalized when a charging e-bike sparked a fire.
The blaze was the first fatal fire of the year attributed to the deadly batteries used in e-bikes and electric scooters. Last year, six people died in fires caused by the batteries.
Esposito told reporters Wednesday the fire department encourages lithium-ion battery users ensure their products meet industry safety standards.
Display cases in the foyer of the Baruch College athletic department are cluttered with shimmering trophies. Framed photographs of championship teams line the cinder-block walls of the hallways. N.C.A.A. tournament banners hang from the gymnasium rafters.
Nowhere, though, is there any sign of the man who put the Baruch men’s volleyball team on the map — and on social media, network news and “Saturday Night Live.”
It is as if the collegiate athletic career of Representative George Santos — the self-described Baruch Bearcats volleyball star, whose teams vanquished Harvard and Yale and who gave so much to the game that he needed knee replacements when his playing days were over — did not exist.
Of all the fabrications conjured up by Mr. Santos, the newly elected Republican congressman of New York, the most fabulous may have been his claim to volleyball fame.
From the New York Daily News
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 ComicConnect.com.
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.”
Profile, A Look at a Person
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.
From The New York Times
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.
The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook is widely accepted as a standard guide for writing and is frequently used as a reference on how to deal with numbers, names and titles, abbreviations, punctuation, time, capitalization, and many other important issues.
While it’s best to read the stylebook to learn all of the rules, there are some common ones you can learn without the book.
- Spell out numbers between one and nine, and use Arabic numbers for 10 and higher. If you are referring to an age or percentage, use an Arabic number even if it is less than 10. When you start a sentence with a number, it should be spelled out even if it is 10 or higher.
- When you refer to the United States as a noun, the two words should be spelled out. If you are using it as an adjective, it should be abbreviated as U.S.
- Dates should always be expressed in Arabic numbers and should not end with a suffix such as “rd” or “th.” Months should always be capitalized, and certain months (Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.) should be abbreviated when they are used with a specific date. Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone.
- Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3… ) should be used for time, with the exception of midnight and noon. Insert a colon to separate hours and minutes, and use
a.m. or p.m. to indicate whether the time is during the day or night.
- Academic degrees should not be abbreviated, and an apostrophe should be used to indicate a bachelor’s or master’s degree, but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Abbreviations are only acceptable when you are referring to a list of people with degrees.
- Check for correct spelling and capitalization rules for some common technological terms: email, e-book, cellphone, smartphone, BlackBerry, download, Internet.
- Also, it is important to ensure there are no statements in the text that might be considered libelous, that the meaning is clear, and there is no personal opinion, bias, or prejudice in the story. You should look for the following:
- Check that you do not use adjectives to characterize persons and institutions as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in hard news stories – this injects your biases or prejudices in your reporting.
Example: The eloquent mayor of Paris gave a speech Sunday. (biased)
The major of Paris gave a speech Sunday. (neutral)
- Don’t make inferences, or statements about the unknown. Your judgment may be relevant in analytical writing, but not news reporting.
Example: The building caught fire early in the morning. It is likely that homeless residents set the fire. (unfair inference)
The building caught fire early in the morning. The cause is unknown, but under investigation. (fair)
- Discriminate between the need for present and past verb tenses. Make your choice depending on emphasis and perspective: if what happened and its impact are more important, use present tense. If the emphasis is on time when or during what period an event occurred, use simple past.
Example: Last November’s election has changed the laws on marriage in California. (present)
The cease-fire was signed at 11:00 p.m. yesterday. (past)
- Decide when to use active or passive voice. Consider whether you are emphasizing a subject or an object in your story. Active is typically the
preferred voice in news writing because it reveals the subjects that perform the actions. Passive voice shifts emphasis from subjects to objects, and thus can conceal the actor. This is especially common with crime stories, political and war reporting.
Example: The prime minister signed the treaty. (active)
The cars were stolen sometime last night. (passive)
The word civics comes from the Latin word civicus, which means relating to citizens. In the Gettysburg Address in 1863, after the Union army defeated the Confederate army, President Abraham Lincoln stood on a battlefield in Pennsylvania and said, “…that these dead shall have not died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth.
Government of the people, for the people is basic civics. It is a call to action for Americans to come together and participate. But we need knowledge to become informed citizens and participate. Journalists need to know the basic things about government to cover stories with context that provide people with the information they need to make informed decisions.
Maybe you already know the answer. But hey. Lots of people don’t.
From the American Press Institute
Paul Taylor, former chief political correspondent at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Washington Post, says that if you are covering a political campaign or any other ongoing, long-term story in which you could find yourself gravitating toward one side or one person:
- Periodically examine yourself for bias building up — understanding what your views are and why you have them is the best way to keep them under control.
- Who do you personally like or dislike? Why?
- How might that be coloring your judgment?
- Read through some of your stories and be self-critical.
In an effort to
For the purpose of
In order to
Is of the opinion that
Due to the fact that
In the near future
At this point in time
During my time
A pitch describes the story you want to tell. You need to write a few short paragraphs that get attention and explain what you plan to do. Avoid writing in generalities like, I want to do a story about gentrification in Washington Heights. You want to focus on a specific angle. Are you reporting from the perspective of business and developers? Or, are you looking from the ground level up and the perspective of people who feel that their homes are threatened.
Your pitch might read like this:
Many Dominicans settled in Washington Heights during the 1970s and the neighborhood quickly filled with Dominican restaurants, bodegas and the sounds of Bachata. Multi-generational families filled the spacious apartments from Dyckman Street to 155th Street. But a study by the CUNY Dominican Institute found that the number of Dominican households shrunk by 21% in fifteen years. Rising rents forced many families to move to the suburbs or elsewhere.
I’ll talk to Melissa Suero and her family who have lived in the neighborhood since the 1970s. They worry about whether they can continue to live there. The rents are going up in the building and a developer just bought the building next door. I will also talk to the owner of the Mi Esfuerzo bodega. He opened his store in 1971 and has seen many changes. I’ll talk to other people in the neighborhood, and reach out to the developer who bought the building next door to where Melissa’s family lives. I’ll also try to talk to someone who has moved into the neighborhood more recently.
I’ll also take photographs to help illustrate the story.
What is ethics?
Definition of ethic
1 ethics plural in form but singular or plural in construction: the 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.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America says:
“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
Other news organizations do the same. For example:
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.