The pitfalls of being a journalist

This was another session was led by Tom Pierce of the St. Petersburg Times.

Pierce reviewed some of the pitfalls of being a journalist and how they can be avoided with experience, effort and attention to detail.

In reporting:

Oftentimes, writers have too few sources. Always have at least more than one source in your story. It helps your credibility and builds your story.

Keep it easy for sources to contact you, appreciate them and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t let them read your story before it’s published. You can go over quotes with them, if you so desire, but YOU’RE the writer of this story.

Make sure you get enough information. Be sure to exchange e-mail and phone numbers with your contacts.

Don’t procrastinate with your writing like you do with your homework. Write while it’s fresh in your mind. You can always go back and add ideas or make changes, but keep it fresh and keep it real.

and fresh

Keep your interviews professional. Remember: you’re representing yourself, you school and your newspaper. Make a good impression and be professional.

News values? What are those? I guess my hacky sack game in front of the School of Communications didn’t make the front page. If I set it up as a fundraiser for the damages in Japan and 126 people joined me in a mega-game, that’s newsworthy.

In writing:

Editorializing is not good, and being inaccurate is worse. Check facts, check names, check building names, check bylines, check cutlines, check headlines and check the staff list.

Using bad grammer is not alright. Its not a best way to communicate with you’re readers’.

Stories should be at least 400-500 words, and anything less than that is a brief or something else that’s not a real story.

Awkward quotes are awkward. That’s why they’re aptly names as such. Don’t waste your quotes. Use good ones that help tell the story. “I disagree with the policy,” Muriel said. That’s just not a useful quote. You could use that information in the lead-in, and add more substantial information in the attributed quote.

Why are leads important? If you can’t answer this question, I’ll track you down and beat you with a copy of “Les Miserables.” Why? Readers expect the introductions of news stories to be concise and to the point. They don’t want to read a novel. They want to read the news.

Refer to all of the information above. If this were one paragraph, it would be too long. Keep paragraphs short and simple.

–Eva Hill


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