A. Gathering information is essential to writing news. Thus all newswriters must be experts in methods of research. Common information sources include books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias and dictionaries, almanacs and yearbooks, journals, government documents, electronic data bases, news releases and people.
B. Surveys are used for many purposes by many people and organizations today. As reporters, you will be expected to write stories about the results of these surveys, so you must know something about how surveys’ are conducted. In some news organizations reporters are expected to initiate and direct surveys, generally based on some significant issue.
C. News departments also use surveys and polls for information about themselves. Broadcast ratings often directly affect those news departments.
D. The journalist who needs to gather information in a hurry
should follow an organized, systematic strategy. One possible approach to a research problem:
1. Consult a general encyclopaedia.
2. Consult a specialized encyclopaedia.
3. Seek major magazine articles.
4. Consult the card catalogue.
5. Examine government documents.
6. Consult journal articles or major published studies.
7. Consult newspapers and news magazines.
8. Interview the appropriate people
Editors, media functions and the market determine what gets covered. Managing editors generally control the newspaper newsroom with all departments answering to them directly or through other editors. News directors and producers generally control the broadcast newsroom, and, along with assignment editors, determine what news gets covered and aired each day.
1. Check the medium’s files to see what information is on hand before you write.
2. Be frank about anything you don’t understand and ask for clarification from your sources.
3. Be sensitive to partisan points’ of view and be very careful in note taking.
4. Be direct and honest with your sources.
5. Two stories beginning writers are most often assigned are the advance and the obituary.
6. The advance describes something that is to happen. The story needs to be as complete as possible because it will be read carefully by people who might ~ant to participate.
7. Obituaries also are read carefully and must be handled with sensitivity. You can make them interesting if you’re creative in your interviewing and in your search for facts.
8. Rewrite assignments are “generally of holdover copy, a story that was prepared but not used because of space or time considerations, follow-up stories to bring audiences up to date on new developments, and futures file stories that are often announcements or service features.
Covering meetings and conferenfes
Not all meetings and news conferences warrant intensive coverage; editorial judgment must be exercised in determining which stories are to be assigned. A common practice is to assign a reporter to write both the advance and the follow-up story for meetings and news conferences, which gives. the reporter the advantage of preliminary information that helps in organizing and writing the final story. Background research is necessary before covering meetings and news conferences. Finding the central purpose for the meeting or news conference is crucial. Often, the advance will help, but if the meeting is non-structured, the reporter must be continually listening and observing to find the “news peg.” Two common categories of meetings are the civic/social and the political/governmental. Each requires a different approach, for each has a different purpose. Having a copy of .the formal programme or agenda can assist in planning for the story.
In covering a meeting, be particularly careful about citing the proper source for statements and quotes. Determine early if the participants or the event itself should be the central thrust of the story. Take good notes, even if you have electronic equipment as aids. You may be under deadline pressure and may have to file a story rapidly. Include details about the audience and audience reaction. Was it responsive? Bored? Be continually alert to possibilities for stories other than the one which is obvious. Be attuned to clues that may reveal more than what is forthrightly said
Stories from public-relation sources
Just becuase a story, news or feature, is Plc-generated or presented with PR assistance does not mean it can’t serve the news media’s audiences. That is the responsibility of the reporter to see that it does.
1. You’ll be working with experienced public relations people who will know exactly how material should be prepared for you. But you’ll also be working with inexperienced publicity committee heads who dont’ know what you need, when or in what form. In either case, your job is to see that all the information that the public you’re writing for needs and wants is presented in as complete a form and as interesting a format as possible.
2. PR people can supply tips for you to do the story and they will set up interviews, photos and provide background information.
3. PR sources generate advance stories, coverage stories as follow-up and final or “result’: stories. Most of the advance stories need little editing for use. You may want to do your own coverage and result stories, using the PR copy as background.
4. PR Dews arrives to media in a variety of forms: the PR wire services, media kits, news releases (print and broadcast materials), letters and phone calls.
5. PR news is prepared for print and broadcast with audio and video available.
6. Be sure you and the source understand terminology such as, “Background only” and “Not for the record.”
7. Sometimes PR people ask that copy be held for a particular release. Some media policies prohibit this.
8. You should weigh the PR information against what you think your audience is interested in.
9. You will not always he dealing with professional PR people. They may have prestigious titles but are not educated in PR. They have often been hired to stonewall and cover up, or deceive.
10.PR people may have to tell you they know the ans Vier to your question but can’t tell you. There is never an excuse for a PR person to lie to news media even under the guise of national security.
11.Know the PR sources and learn which ones can be trusted.
12.Work with PR sources to let them know your needs and deadlines. Most are willing to help.
13.Experienced PR people are just as willing to help you develop a feature as cover a crisis.
14.Always remember that the PR person must serve two masters-the client or employer and the news media .