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.

 

Assignment Thursday, October 22, 2020

Watch the Presidential Debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

  1. Pick one topic that you, members of your family or community care about.. Report about how they discuss that subject and include quotes.

The story must include: Who, What, When, Why, Where and maybe How

It is due on Monday October 26, at 5 p.m.

Remember to write in the active voice . You can check the website for tips.

Remember to care to capitalize words correctly. Here’s a guide on our website: https://ccnyintroductiontojournalism.com/category/basics/

Assignment October 15, 2020 Cover the Town Halls


Please watch either the Biden or Trump town hall tonight and report and write about it. You can find information about the time and the possibility to watch online later here.

Write 300 to 500 words about the event. Take an angle and remember that you can use either the inverted pyramid style, or start with an interesting detail. You also want to put your nut graf close to the top of the story. The nut graf explains what the story is about.

You can look at examples of how news organizations covered previous town halls here.

The assignment is due Monday at 5 p.m

Please ask if you have questions.

Covering the Biden and Trump Town Halls

Michael M. Grynbaum

By Michael M. Grynbaum

  • Oct. 15, 2020, 7:00 a.m. EST
  • The presidential candidates will respond to questions from voters in prime time on Thursday at two live, nationally televised town-hall-style events. Unusually, the programs will be broadcast at the same time on rival networks, although recordings of each event will be available to viewers afterward.
  • Joseph R. Biden Jr. will appear at an ABC News forum held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and moderated by ABC’s chief news anchor, George Stephanopoulos. The event begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time and is expected to last 90 minutes. A 30-minute wrap-up show, featuring analysis from ABC political reporters and pundits, will air from 9:30 to 10 p.m.
  • About 21 voters from across Pennsylvania, of varying political views, will be on hand to ask Mr. Biden questions. Mr. Stephanopoulos will guide the discussion and follow up on some of the queries.
  • Mr. Biden’s town hall can be seen on ABC television stations throughout the country. It will also be streamed on ABC News Live, an online service that can be watched on Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV and other streaming platforms, as well as the ABC News website.
  • President Trump’s NBC News event will be held outdoors at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami and will be moderated by the “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie. The broadcast starts at 8 p.m. Eastern and is expected to last for about an hour.

Read More

Biden, Facing Voters in a 2020 Rarity, Attacks Trump From a Battleground State

At a town hall event near Scranton, Pa., the Democratic nominee played up his local roots as he sought to connect with voters after many months off the campaign trail during the pandemic.


By Katie Glueck
Sept. 17, 2020


Joseph R. Biden Jr. faced his first sustained questioning from voters as the Democratic presidential nominee on Thursday, as Pennsylvanians pressed him on issues including health care, racism and policing at a CNN town-hall-style event held less than seven weeks before Election Day.
At a gathering in Moosic, Pa., not far from his childhood home in Scranton, Mr. Biden — who played up his local, middle-class roots — sought at every opportunity to turn the focus to President Trump’s stewardship of the coronavirus, casting the president as a callous leader who cannot empathize with the concerns of most Americans and who has exacerbated the hardships they face.
“You lost your freedom because he didn’t act,” Mr. Biden declared. “The freedom to go to that ballgame, the freedom for your kid to go to school, the freedom to see your mom or dad in the hospital. The freedom just to walk around your neighborhood, because of failure to act responsibly.”

The appearance offered a test of his verbal agility less than two weeks before the first presidential debate, after Mr. Biden spent the summer largely off the campaign trail with limited and often controlled interactions with the news media. Headed into the evening, he may have benefited from the low expectations Republicans have set about his ability to communicate clearly, seeking to throw doubt on his mental acuity.

Read More

The New York Daily News

Biden reminds America he’s not president after Trump tries to pass the buck on coronavirus mask mandate

You can’t order Americans to wear masks if you aren’t president yet.

Joe Biden reminded President Trump that he’s the one who’s supposed to be running the country — not Democrats — after a rocky televised town hall hosted by ABC News in which the president sought to pass the buck on his bungled response to coronavirus.

Trump squirmed Tuesday night when a retired chemical engineer asked him why he hasn’t pushed mask-wearing to slow the spread of coronavirus even as the pandemic death toll nears 200,000 Americans.

The president tried to flip the question onto Democrats and Biden, even though they obviously have no power to do implement a national mandate and cannot force Trump himself to be a role model as the voter suggested.

“They called for a national mask mandate but they haven’t done it,” he said. “They checked out.”

Trump went on to claim that “many people have a problem with masks,” suggesting that waiters wind up causing more health problems by touching their masks while serving diners.

The mask misstep was only one of a series of shocking gaffes Trump committed in the rare face-to-face encounter with real Americans.

Trump sought to walk back his damaging admission that he “aways downplayed” the pandemic even as he was told it was far more dangerous than most Americans knew last winter.

“I actually up-played it,” Trump said in a stilted remark that is sure to find its way into critical campaign ads.

One voter who needs daily medication to survive chided Trump four interrupting her when she asked him a pointed question about protection for people with preexisting conditions.

An uncomfortable Trump claimed that he doesn’t want to eliminate those protections, even though his move to eliminate Obamacare would do just that.

When Trump sought to claim that he is preparing to roll out his own health care plan soon, ABC News host George Stephanopolous reminded him that he has been making similar claims for four years now.

The town hall featured voters in battleground Pennsylvania. If the tough crowd is any indication of how Trump may fare at the ballot box in November, he is in a world of trouble.RELATED GALLERY

Joe Biden

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)1 / 18

Joe Biden’s political career through the years

A Philadelphia pastor quizzed Trump about racism in America, and Trump responded by discussing the occasional looting and violence committed at some racial justice protests.

Rev. Carl Day came away profoundly unimpressed, even though he added that he hasn’t heard enough from Biden to win his vote yet, either.

“He gave his answer by not answering,” Day said on CNN Wednesday morning.

The town hall setting is a particularly poor format for the normally bombastic Trump, who is visibly uncomfortable interacting with anyone except his sycophantic aides and loyal #MAGA supporters.

The upcoming three debates with Biden may be a better fit for Trump, who will get a better chance to fire zingers at his Democratic opponent.

Either way, time is running out for Trump to turn the race around. With seven weeks to go and voters already casting ballots early in some states, he is trailing Biden by nearly 10% in national polls and is behind in all the battleground states, albeit by smaller margins.Dave GoldinerNew York Daily NewsCONTACT 


Dave Goldiner is a political reporter at the New York Daily News. A 30-year newsroom veteran, he believes he is the only reporter to cover both the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the death and funeral of South African freedom icon Nelson Mandela on the ground.

Conspiracies And Consequences

The New York Times

By Nicholas Bogel-BurroughsShaila Dewan and Kathleen Gray

Six men were arrested and accused of plotting with a militia group to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, the authorities announced on Thursday.

The men, who the F.B.I. said espoused anti-government views, had talked about taking Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, hostage since at least the summer, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court and unsealed on Thursday.

They had surveilled Ms. Whitmer’s vacation home in August and September, and they indicated that they wanted to take her hostage before the presidential election in November, Richard J. Trask II, an F.B.I. special agent, said in the criminal complaint. He said the F.B.I. believed the men were planning to buy explosives this week for their attempt.

Several of the men had talked about creating a society in which they could be “self-sufficient” and one said he wanted 200 men to storm the Statehouse in Lansing, Mich, the complaint said.

Six men were arrested and accused of plotting with a militia group to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, the authorities announced on Thursday.

The men, who the F.B.I. said espoused anti-government views, had talked about taking Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, hostage since at least the summer, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court and unsealed on Thursday.

They had surveilled Ms. Whitmer’s vacation home in August and September, and they indicated that they wanted to take her hostage before the presidential election in November, Richard J. Trask II, an F.B.I. special agent, said in the criminal complaint. He said the F.B.I. believed the men were planning to buy explosives this week for their attempt.

Several of the men had talked about creating a society in which they could be “self-sufficient” and one said he wanted 200 men to storm the Statehouse in Lansing, Mich, the complaint said.

Read More:

The New York Daily News

The FBI thwarted a sinister plot to overthrow Michigan’s state government and kidnap several political figures, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the agency said in a series of warrants unsealed Thursday.

At least six men have been charged in the investigation, which began in the early days of the pandemic as a group opposed to the Democratic leader’s strict lockdown measures began planning to storm the state Capitol with Molotov cocktails and take her as a hostage, according to the documents.

Criminal Complaint

https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/08/politics/whitmer-kidnapping-criminal-complaint/index.html

https://mediaschool.indiana.edu/research/reports/wave-1.html?utm_source=API+Need+to+Know+newsletter&utm_campaign=e7b929d6b0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_10_06_12_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e3bf78af04-e7b929d6b0-45816177

Photo Assignment

Due: October 8, 2020

Shoot 16 photos with your mobile showcasing the elements of photography we covered in class: compositioncolorlayering and action.  Do the assignment as follows:

4 photos showing effective composition

4 photos showing a command of color (and lighting)

4 photos showing good use of layering (depth of field)

4 photos giving priority to action (catching the moment)

Download the photos from your phone to your computer and rename them color1, color2, color3, color4; composition1, composition2, etc… and be ready to show them in class next week.

Writing A News Conference Story

Think about the atmosphere, what you heard and how other people reacted.

What was the most important point made. Lead with that.

Make sure to give us the basics. You want to avoid giving us a list of items, but you want to cover all the bases and answer the questions:

Who

What

Where

When

Why

How

Make sure you spell names correctly and that you use titles. Titles are only capitalized when they precede the name of a person.

Here’s what the AP Stylebook says about titles:

titles  In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual’s name. The basic guidelines: LOWERCASE: Lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with an [more…]
Chapter T ; Updated on Aug 27, 2018

capitalization  In general, avoid unnecessary capitals. Use a capital letter only if you can justify it by one of the principles listed here. Many words and phrases, including special cases, are listed [more…]
Chapter C ; Updated on May 21, 2002

titles  Capitalize or use lowercase according to guidelines in titles in Stylebook’s main section. Job descriptions, field positions and informal titles are lowercase: coach John Calipari; forward Alex [more…]
Chapter Sports Guidelines ; Created on Feb 03, 2015

legislative titles  FIRST-REFERENCE FORM: Use Rep., Reps., Sen. and Sens. as formal titles before one or more names. Spell out and lowercase representative and senator in other uses. Spell out other [more…]
Chapter L ; Updated on May 01, 2020

nobility  References to members of the nobility in nations that have a system of rank present special problems because nobles frequently are known by their titles rather than their given or family [more…]
Chapter N

religious titles  The first reference to a clergyman or clergywoman normally should include a capitalized title before the individual’s name. In many cases, the Rev. is the designation that applies [more…]
Chapter R

religious titles  The first reference to a clergyman or clergywoman normally should include a capitalized title before the individual’s name. In many cases, the Rev. is the designation that applies [more…]
Chapter Religion Guidelines

academic titles  Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as chancellor, chair, etc., when they precede a name. Lowercase elsewhere. Lowercase modifiers such as department in department Chair Jerome [more…]
Chapter A ; Updated on May 01, 2020

preacher  A job description, not a formal religious title. Do not capitalize. See titles and religious titles.
Chapter Religion Guidelines

military titles  Capitalize a military rank when used as a formal title before an individual’s name. See the lists that follow to determine whether the title should be spelled out or abbreviated in [more…]
Chapter M

minister  It is not a formal title in most religions, with exceptions such as the Nation of Islam, and is not capitalized. Where it is a formal title, it should be capitalized before the name: Minister [more…]
Chapter M ; Updated on May 29, 2002

minister  It is not a formal title in most religions, with exceptions such as the Nation of Islam, and is not capitalized. Where it is a formal title, it should be capitalized before the name: [more…]
Chapter Religion Guidelines ; Updated on May 29, 2002

fire department  See the governmental bodies entry for the basic rules on capitalization. See titles and military titles for guidelines on titles.
Chapter F

recipe titles  Recipe titles that appear in stories or regular text are not capitalized (unless the recipe title includes proper nouns). Recipe titles at the top of actual recipes are written in all [more…]
Chapter Food Guidelines ; Created on Jan 15, 2016

priest  A vocational description, not a formal title. Do not capitalize. See religious titles and the entries for the Roman Catholic Church and Episcopal Church in the Religion chapter.
Chapter P

priest  A vocational description, not a formal title. Do not capitalize. See religious titles and the entries for the Roman Catholic Church and Episcopal Church.
Chapter Religion Guidelines

editor  Capitalize editor before a name only when it is an official corporate or organizational title. Do not capitalize as a job description. See titles.
Chapter E

composition titles  Apply these guidelines to the titles of books, movies, plays, poems, albums, songs, operas, radio and television programs, lectures, speeches, and works of art: — Capitalize all [more…]
Chapter C ; Updated on Feb 02, 2018

Roman Catholic Church  The church teaches that its bishops have been established as the successors of the apostles through generations of ceremonies in which authority was passed down by a laying-on of [more…]
Chapter Religion Guidelines ; Updated on May 01, 2002

shah  Capitalize when used as a title before a name: Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran. The Shah of Iran commonly is known only by this title, which is, in effect, an alternate name. Capitalize Shah of [more…]
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