Journalism Style Guide

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

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

Here’s an example from the Reuters Handbook:

adjectives

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

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

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

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

 

Our Class Style Guide

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Avoid fussy words that connect ideas:

however

furthermore

nevermore

nevertheless

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

 

 

Opinion vs. News

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

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.

https://www.pewresearch.org/quiz/news-statements-quiz/

The First Amendment

Protestors in Washington Square Park, Photo by ConsumerMojo.com

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.

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.

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.

 

Student Investigative Reporting

By Jordan Wolman, Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)

At The Brown and White, Lehigh University’s student newspaper, we noticed we were caught in the trap of turning around one-off, 500-word rundowns, week after week, on the latest sports game, event or university announcement. Sadly, it took the college news equivalent of a bomb going off to make us realize this.

New York Times Looking for Student Coronavirus Stories

via Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJNierenberg/status/1326897276569194498?s=20
Amelia Nierenberg
@AJNierenberg
https://amelianierenberg.com/College journalists: We always feature updates from local news in the @nytimes
 Coronavirus Schools Briefing. I want to regularly link to student journalism.So! If you write a story that I should read — now or whenever — please send it my way: amelia.nierenberg@nytimes.com. Thx!  

Flash Active Writing and Punctuation Quiz

 

Flash Active Writing and Punctuation Quiz

November 12, 2020

 

 

Your name:

 

 

  1. Most trainers at the gym like to use free weights. Alex Herrera said I’m afraid that I am going to get hurt because the weights are too heavy

 

  1. Student journalists can’t find internships due to the coronavirus.

 

  1. Currently my boss won’t give me the extra money he promised and I really need the money and the job due to the wide spread layoffs.

 

  1. However, I told my supervisor that prior to coming to work at this job I felt happier.

 

  1. Bars, restaurants and gyms must close at 10 p.m. due to the coronavirus. Governor Cuomo issued the order and also put a cap on private gatherings due to rising cases of coronavirus.

 

  1. We’re seeing a global COVID surge and New York is a ship on the COVID tide the governor said.

 

  1. Rudy Giuliani tweeted to his million followers and thanked them. Put his tweet in the active voice. “Thank you to 1M that are following me here.”

 

  1. Gregory Scarpa a former Columbo crime family boss currently serving time at a half-way house in Kansas City will get early leave due to the fact that he is seriously ill.

 

  1. Both are facing charges of wide-spread fraud.

 

  1. President Trump is of the opinion that the election was rigged.

 

  1. How do you write a dateline?

 

 

False News Targeting Latinos Trails the Election

Rampant falsehoods evolved online on Wednesday, intended to make Spanish speakers question the unfolding election results and believe that President Trump was being robbed of victory.

A Republican watch party on Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Fla. Ahead of Election Day, false reports in Spanish appeared to be aimed at turning Latinos against Black Lives Matter and tying Joseph R. Biden Jr. to socialism, both tactics that experts said could depress the Hispanic vote.
A Republican watch party on Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Fla. Ahead of Election Day, false reports in Spanish appeared to be aimed at turning Latinos against Black Lives Matter and tying Joseph R. Biden Jr. to socialism, both tactics that experts said could depress the Hispanic vote.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

By Patricia Mazzei and Nicole Perlroth

  • Nov. 4, 2020

Get emails for all live election updates

MIAMI — The posts proliferated on election night before anything remotely definitive was known about the results of the presidential race. “Robado,” they falsely repeated again and again in Spanish: President Trump was being robbed of a victory. He had won Arizona. George Soros was funding violent “antifa riots.”

The baseless social media messages to Latinos trying to delegitimize the election and the results for Joseph R. Biden Jr. circulated online on Tuesday night and into Wednesday, part of a disinformation campaign to undermine Latino confidence in the vote as it unfolded.

Ahead of Election Day, false news in Spanish tried to turn Latinos against Black Lives Matter and tie Mr. Biden to socialism, tactics that experts said could depress the Hispanic vote. Now that voting is complete, the rampant falsehoods have only garnered larger audiences — including among immigrants less familiar with the institutions of American democracy. The gist of the falsehoods is that the election is “rigged” against Mr. Trump.

“These misinformation narratives are helping plunge the country further into chaos and confusion,” said Fadi Quran, a director at Avaaz, a nonprofit that tracks disinformation. He called the disinformation campaigns a “democratic emergency.” “The most vulnerable communities in the country are paying the highest price,” he said.

Continue reading the main story

Journalism Minor Curriculum

JOURNALISM MINOR CURRICULUM
The minor in journalism consists of four required 3-credit courses and two electives for a total of 18 credits. Most students also participate in campus student media and intern at local news organizations.

REQUIRED

MCA 101: Introduction to Media Studies

MCA 233: Introduction to Journalism
MCA 333: Reporting and Writing

(Note, students can take either Radio or Television Journalism as the fourth required course. Or take both and apply one as an elective.

MCA 341: Radio Journalism  

MCA 343: Television Journalism 

ELECTIVES

Select two from the following list. 

MCA 105: Introduction to Media Production

MCA 365: Social Media Strategies

MCA 31013: Supervised Radio Station Study (by permission)

MCA 401: Ethics and Values in Communication

BLST 31136: Race & Media

English 230: Writing Workshop in Prose

English 342: Advanced Grammar

Soc 250: Theory of Mass Culture and Mass Communications

Art 24020 Photojournalism


Media Internship or Independent Study for Academic Credit (by permission of program director)

Spring 2021

Journalism Minor Courses

MCA 233 M    Introduction to Journalism – Linda Villarosa teaches    

                       Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:15 a.m. to 12:15

MCA 233 4PR Introduction to Journalism – Barbara Nevins Taylor teaches

                        Thursdays 2:00 p.m. to 4:45

MCA 333 2PR Reporting & Writing – Garry Pierre-Pierre teaches

                        Tuesdays 2:00 p.m. to 4:45

MCA 333 4PR  Reporting & Writing – Michele Chen teaches

                         Thursdays 2:00 p.m. to 4:45

MCA 343          TV/Video Reporting — Barbara Nevins Taylor teaches

                         Mondays 3:30 p.m. to 6:00                          

MCA 31139      Podcasting – Camille Peterson teaches

                         Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00 a.m. to 11:40

MCA 31006      Race & Media – Linda Villarosa teaches

                         Tuesdays 2 p.m. to 4:45

Independent Study 3 credits to work on HarlemView.

What Makes a Good Story

Vida Americana Show, Whitney Museum

What Makes a Good Story?

Curiosity Pays Off

All kinds of stories make a good report. But some will pan out and others won’t. We all bring personal history, individual interests and perspective to the job of reporting. You can bet that if you’re curious about something, others will find it interesting too.
Once you have a story in your sights, just remember that as journalists we temper what we bring to the table with a strong measure of objectivity, and an even stronger dose of fairness.

Define A Good Story 
So how do you define a good story? Think about your day and the challenges that you have. Think about your friends and family and how the commute to school or work affects them, what’s happening in their neighborhoods. How do they juggle kids and work, or kids and school? What does the drama in Washington, and President Trump’s tweets have to with them?
You can turn anything into a story. But the best stories have:
• A little drama
• A little conflict
• Pure joy
• Surprising new facts
• Need-to-know information
• Entertainment value
The stories don’t have to extend beyond your college or community to have meaning and impact. But remember you approach the world as a video storyteller now and that means that the stories require interesting video.
1. DRAMA:
A father races into his family’s burning home to save his children. He dashes through the flames again and again and brings five children out to safety. But neither he nor the firefighters can save the sixth child who is asleep in a room at the back of the house. Although it is grim, it is a true story and breaking news reporters find themselves covering a version of this tragedy again and again.
2. CONFLICT:
A community garden is set for demolition to make way for an athletic field. The gardeners and their plants provide a beautiful visual for video, and the conflict is clear. People want to continue to garden and people want to stop them in order to use the land for another, equally valid, purpose.
3. JOY:
A young ballerina from your community wins a competition and lands a job with a prestigious ballet company.
The debut of rare Siberian tiger cubs at a local zoo also falls into this category.
Some stories bring smiles to the faces of your viewers and offer opportunities for creative shooting, writing and editing.
4. NEW INFORMATION:
A doctor tries a new medical procedure in which he uses stem cells harvested from fat. He says that injecting one’s own stem cells into arthritic joints can ease pain and improve movement.
5. NEED TO KNOW INFORMATION:
The city council considers a sales tax hike. There’s a meeting where politicians, merchants and consumers will testify. A timetable and the items covered by the tax will be revealed.
6. ENTERTAINING INFORMATION:
Beyoncé comes to your community to film music video. You have the opportunity to visit the set and report the story. In this category you’d also include fashion, new restaurant openings, or lifestyle segments that highlight new trends.

Enterprise

Some reporters like to come up with their stories and that’s called enterprise reporting. You might have a lead on an unreported element in breaking news, discover the cutest puppy in the neighborhood, get an exclusive interview with an interesting character, learn from a source about a Ponzi schemer or discover a contractor ripping off homeowners.

Unique Reporting 
News directors value enterprise reporting because it produces unique reporting that they can promote. Original reporting gives an organization bragging rights and allows them to draw in viewers with the promise that they’ll see something special that the competition doesn’t have.
Any reporter can produce enterprise work, but covering a specific beat or area means you can develop the sources and knowledge that tend to trigger new story ideas. Investigative, consumer, political, medical, business, entertainment, environmental, life-style, and technology reporters typically generate enterprise stories.
The list expands or contracts depending upon the size of the newsroom. But people with wide-ranging interests and curiosity have tremendous opportunities. You can report about virtually anything, if you come up with the story.

Competition
Competition plays a big role in newsrooms. While producing a news broadcast requires that you work hand in hand with colleagues, and you have to play nice in order to retain your job and succeed, people vie for the best stories and the stories that lead the newscast. General assignment reporters, those who do the important breaking and daily news stories, often view “specialist” reporters suspiciously by daily news reporters.
“What makes them so special? Why do THEY get extra time,” the rank-and file reporters often grumble.
Enterprise Reporters
But while enterprise reporters have the opportunity to take control of their daily destiny, they frequently work longer hours to dig deeper than the reporters who pick up an assignment and bolt to“run and gun” to cover a breaking news story.
Enterprise reporters depend upon sources to tip them to news stories. The hardest working reporters have the best sources. They also have the curiosity to follow leads, ask questions and uncover stories, and the tenacity to work at those stories a long time.

Quick Turns
You’ll turn some stories around quickly. Others stories will take weeks or even months of research and shooting and editing and writing before they’re ready. But if you realize th importance of face-time on the air, you’ll juggle. You’ll produce other stories that can get you on the air or on the web quickly while you’re working on your blockbuster.

How to Write A Pitch

Outdoor Restaurant on Corneila Street

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

Your outdoor dining pitch might read like this:

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

Or

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

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

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