I decided last minute to attend the second session led by Michael Koretzky, aptly titled Chicken Salad 2, but with an emphasis on the “extreme makeover” of design, headlines and leads. While the majority of the presentation again focused on the basics of design, I learned a lot about constructing informative, but also attention-grabbing headlines and leads. Here are some of the key things I took away:
- The job of a reporter is to help the readers understand information
- The deck should be informative and let the reader know what’s actually going on.
- Don’t blow off student profiles – they’re significant, when well done; don’t bury them in the paper
- Never print something in the paper (whether in an article or graphic) that you yourself don’t understand – if you don’t get it, the reader won’t either
- Your lead should fit one story and one story only – if it can be implanted to another story and still fit the story, you haven’t done your job correctly
- Don’t worry what people think about you after you publish a story and don’t try to protect sources
The last two points were particularly meaningful to me. In the case of writing leads, it was a perspective I had previously not even thought about. Each story should be, in and of itself, should be unique, memorable and non-repeatable. Sure, I understand this isn’t that hard to accomplish – when news breaks, it’s highly unlikely that the news will be the same that broke on the front page last week. But what about yearly events, such as homecoming, Elonthon and the spring concert? How do we bring fresh angles to these stories year after year? It’s about finding fresh angles for the same old topics and bringing something new to the table with each story.
I often think back to my time as a journalist both as a high school student and a freshman in college. I’m not going to lie, I absolutely dreaded harsh words from my sources following an article. When I seriously became involved with The Pendulum and began writing on a weekly basis, I quickly got over that. Criticism is a part of life and a definite part of my future career – and in my opinion, if you break a prominent, major story and no one has anything to say about it, you haven’t done your job.