What The Heck?

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

A Quick Tips for Covering Any Story

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

Ask yourself:

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

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

Reporting Basics

 

Reporting 

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

Think about answering a story’s basic questions:

  • who
  • what
  • when
  • where
  • why

 

HOW

Then examine how the story happened.

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

The inverted pyramid.

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

 

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

Accuracy

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

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

 

Wikipedia

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

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

 

Elements of a Good Story

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

  • villains
  • victims
  • heroes

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

Highlight Characters

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

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

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

Characters drive stories and make them memorable.

Organization

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

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

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

 

 

How News Organization Get News

TV crews set up in the Russell Building, Washington, D.C.

https://www.cnn.com/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/17/trump-attack-on-journalist-baquet-intv-axe-files-vpx.cnn

News organizations gather information with teams of reporters and editors. But they also use outside sources including wire services, or news agencies, to provide information.

These news agencies have their own teams of reporters, videographers, editors and producers who cover breaking news, politics, business, sports, entertainment, culture and more. They have investigative teams that frequently break important stories.

 

The Associated Press, a not-for-profit news cooperative, has teams in 100 countries and provides content to more than 1500 news outlets. Those news outlets contribute to the cost of news gathering and can use the material that the AP provides.

AP

Reuters describes itself as the “world’s largest multi-media news-provider.” Part of the Canadian Reuters Thompson Company, traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange, it says it serves more than a billion people every day.

Reuters

Bloomberg, a privately-owned company, provides business and other news, digitally, through video, audio and on TV.  It has a big business providing news to Wall Street firms and other financial companies.

 

Bloomberg News

 News agencies headquartered in countries around the world also report and provide important information.

Lester Holt on NBC News set

ABC, NBC, FOX , CNN,  NPR , BBC  and other broadcast groups have services to provide content including video and audio to smaller TV and radio stations around the country.

Government Agencies

Police departments, fire departments and some government agencies have public information offices that put out alerts and updates about breaking news.

NYPD Counter Terrorism Officers

NYFD at 10 Alarm fire

The NYPD, for example, has an office called D.C.P.I., run by the Deputy Commissioner,  Public Information.

Hurricane Harvey

During hurricanes and disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) put out regular bulletins including those warning people to watch out for scams and frauds.

Social Media

Increasingly, news organizations look to social media to stay up with breaking news. They monitor social media platforms and then verify information from the posts, or tweets.

Other News Outlets

Newspapers, radio stations, television news organizations and digital news companies monitor one another.  If one breaks a story, others may pick it up and give credit: The New York Times , ABC News,  the BBC , Al Jezeera, ESPN, etc. reports, or they may assign a reporter and try to advance the story themselves.

Reporters and editors in news organizations work as a team, but they also compete with each other and other organizations to get stories. Sources provide an important stream of information that reporters and editors verify and expand.

Public Relations and Communications Directors

Public relations firms representing companies and clients, communications and p.r. people from companies, sports teams, not-for-profits and every type of organization you can imagine contact news organizations and individual reporters to push stories.

Reporters and editors often pick up these stories, verify and expand them.

News organizations and reporters often reach out to p.r. people to provide an expert who can help flesh out a story. They also use public relations representatives to help get access to government buildings, hospitals, sports arenas and private spaces.

DailyNewsScreenshot

 

News Sources

  • People we talk to every day.
  • Family and friends.
  • The crossing guard on the corner.
  • Reporters get assigned to beats — the police, the courts, city hall, the White House, the arts, celebrities, fashion, food, movies, books, business.
  • Reporters develop sources and the best reporters get information from those sources regularly.
  • Reporters get access. Access to a crime scene, a fire, politicians, a mayor, a closed meeting with a group of people making a big decision, athletes, a sports team, celebrities and more.

Good Reporters, Editors and Producers Always:

Ask Questions

Research

Ask more questions

Take notes

Ask More questions

Fact check and ask more questions

 

CUNY Professors March on Wall Street

CUNY Adjunct Professors Protest on Wall Street for Higher Pay.

By Laura Fotovich –

John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor, Katie Surrence stood, outside the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, September 27 carrying a sign that read “CUNY needs competitive salaries.”  “I am an adjunct and I currently make $3,200 per course.  This is kind of obscene considering the amount of work and investment I put into [teaching],” she said.

CUNY faculty and students demonstrated in support of a Public Service Commission Public Staff Congress (PSC) contract that will grant adjunct professors a salary of $7,000 per course.

The demonstrators marched from the New York Stock Exchange to 100 Wall St., the office of CUNY Board of Trustees Chairperson, William Thompson. They chanted “Education is a right! Fight, fight fight!, as they marched.

“CUNY is a wonderful system, but it’s budget has been cut for decades,” said Abby Scher, an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College.  “I like teaching my one class a semester, but I would like to make a fair wage,” she added.

The demonstration began at 4 p.m. and lasted almost two hours.  Members of the CUNY faculty gave speeches throughout the afternoon.

According to the CUNY/PSC,  raising the adjunct salary to $7,000 will require additional funding.  Additionally, supporters pushed for granting tuition waivers for the students of full-time faculty and providing better support for the department chairs.

“We are almost a year out of contract and our salaries are not competitive, especially for adjuncts.  It’s really shameful what CUNY pays,” said John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Nivedita Majumdar.  “The reason we are fighting is because we believe in what we do and we believe that our students should have the best education,” she added.

“The work we do is really valuable and we’re drastically underpaid for it,” said Hunter College adjunct professor Emily Crandall.  “We have this two-tier class system at CUNY where we do a lot of the work and we receive very little reward or recognition for it.  It’s a disservice to us and our students,” she added.

The next formal bargaining session for the CUNY PSC is scheduled for October 4.  Contract negotiations will continue at this meeting.