BASICS OF NEWS REPORTING AND WRITING #1: Tips For News Gathering
This training series examines the basics or fundamentals of news reporting and writing. News is at the heart of journalism. It is the most important product provided by the mass media. As a result, reporting and writing news properly is a sine qua non for journalists.
Moreover, as we have noted in an earlier post, “Writing is Central to Every Area of Mass Communication,” news writing and writing in general are part of the duties of communicators in media-related positions besides journalists. Such communicators include information officers in government ministries, media aides to prominent officials and corporate affairs officers of organisations.
We certainly cannot look at everything about News Reporting and Writing in a few lectures but I’ve noticed that there’s an urgent need to acquaint students at all levels and other aspiring journalists with the fundamentals of News Writing.
Many of the news stories submitted to The Record, the departmental newspaper of the Mass Communication Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) for online publication lack the elements, format, language and other characteristics required of a news story. Even when corrections are made, the students tend to struggle to effect them, sometimes resulting in the stories being trashed for being unusable or becoming stale.
So in this series, we intend to discuss various aspects of news reporting and writing as the former precedes the latter and must be done right to ensure that an excellent news story is composed.
Our main story of reference will be the story on the UNN matriculation ceremony linked below. We shall also refer to other recent stories on The Record‘s website as occasion demands.
Take some minutes to read that story and a few other news stories on The Record, to apprise you of what we’re examining in this series.
Stories To Read (Note that these stories are not long.)
God bless you! 💜
Without further ado, we commence with what makes an event newsworthy.
DETERMINANTS OF NEWS WORTHINESS
Not every event that happens merits coverage. Writing a story on a meeting of a students’ association is a wasted effort except something happens that makes the event noteworthy.
Some students think that they can write a few paragraphs on every trivial thing that occurs and get a by-line thereby. Except you are writing for a low-quality blog or tabloid, you need to do much better than that.
Below are three of the most important criteria for judging what you should cover. The questions beneath each one show how they should be applied in making news coverage decisions. Further research will expose you to other relevant criteria.
Is the story important enough to affect many people? Will people be endangered or make costly mistakes if they don’t get the information?
This is why we have given sustained coverage to the fallout of the CBN’s Naira redesign policy as you can see from The Record UNN’s website (Business Section).
Is the story about something exceptional, something that is very unusual?
If your answer to the questions above is “Yes,” you have a story worth covering.
TIPS FOR NEWS GATHERING
After deciding to report on an event, you need to cover it well. Otherwise, you will discover that your story is full of errors or has many holes when you submit it. Bearing the following in mind will, therefore, help you turn in a standard piece.
- Be punctual to the event.
- Stay at a position where you can see and hear well.
- Record the event electronically, in addition to taking notes.
- Collect any handouts distributed, like speeches and brochures.
- Interview some people at the event, especially those who can answer important questions you have about it.
If there’s a dispute or conflict, talk to people on both sides.
And talk to a cross-section of people, not one class alone.
- Take pictures of the event and people who participated.
- Briefly explain why each of the steps mentioned above is crucial to turning in a good story.
(Do not muddle up your answers. Take the steps one after the other.)
- Suppose you covered a skills acquisition programme hosted by an NGO at Ekpo Refectory, UNN:
a. Who would you interview at the event?
b. Describe the pictures you would take to illustrate your story.
This training continues in the second segment.
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