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Week 3


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  • 1. Week 3Press Releases
  • 2. Interviewing
  • 3. Preparing for the interview• Know the purpose of your interview: – news, – feature, – investigation.• Select your sources.• Research your sources and topics.• Prepare your questions.
  • 4. For news story interviews• Obtain the following: – facts, specifics, details; – chronology; – relationships; – context and perspective; – anecdotes.
  • 5. For feature story interviews• Obtain the following: – everything you get for a news story plus... – description of environment; – description of subject; – mannerisms; – smells, sounds, likenesses; – vignettes.
  • 6. For investigative story interviews• Obtain the following – everything you would seek for a new interview or a feature interview plus … – the source’s version of events; – explanations of contradictions; – replies to charges, allegations.
  • 7. Selecting sources• Review the presentation “Sources.”• Interview the best available source.• Interview sources who are relevant to the central point.
  • 8. Researching sources and topics• Research helps you – Save time by not asking old questions. – Prepare questions that will interest the source. – Recognize newsworthy statements. – Spot inconsistencies in a source’s story. – Avoid having to reinterview a source. – Encourage the source to speak freely.
  • 9. Interview secondary sources first• Secondary sources provide leads, possible questions.• Secondary sources provide context.• You’re less likely to have to reinterview your main source if you interview secondary sources first.
  • 10. Preparing questions• Ask questions that will enable you to develop the tentative central point of your story.• Don’t hesitate to change the central point if something more newsworthy emerges.• Write down questions in abbreviated form.
  • 11. Open-end vs. closed-end• Dont ask closed-end questions: – Will the states new lids on taxes and spending hurt local schools?• The source can answer just yes or no.• Ask open-end questions: – How will the states new lids on taxes and spending affect local schools?• The source must provide explanation.
  • 12. Prepare questions that…• Allow sources to tell their stories.• Elicit anecdotes and examples.• Don’t make the source think you are bringing preconceptions to the story.• Are short.
  • 13. Questions that elicit anecdotes• What crime was the most difficult for you to solve in your career as a police officer?• What television shows do you consider most harmful for children to watch?• (Always seek examples or anecdotes to illustrate or support generalizations.)
  • 14. Don’t ask questions that…• Make statements.• Are double-barreled and may have more than one correct answer.• Use loaded words, like “plot” or “scheme.”• Imply you know what the answer should be.
  • 15. Conducting the interview • Select a location for the interview. • Organize the questions. • Plan for dealing with reluctant sources. • Consider special situations. • Take notes. • Tape record the interview.
  • 16. Selecting a location• Conduct the interview in a setting that makes the source comfortable. – The source’s office – The source’s home• Don’t interview the source at a restaurant.• Don’t interview the source in your office.
  • 17. Organizing the questions• State the purpose of your interview (if not already clear).• Start with small talk, easy questions; save the hard questions for the end.• Group questions by topic and organize topics for a logical flow.• Ask questions in a logical order. – Funnel or reverse funnel, for example.
  • 18. Reluctant source• Most sources want to tell their stories.• Some sources fear being misunderstood.• Try to build rapport with the source.• Explain the interview is an opportunity for source to tell public her side of story.
  • 19. • Maintain neutrality. – Attribute harsh questions or points of view to third parties. – Sugar-coat questions. – Ask sources to explain previous statements. – Ask sources to talk about others. – Ask sources what others might say about them.
  • 20. Special situations• Telephone interviews – OK for news interviews, if they’re short. – Avoid for long interviews.• E-mail interviews – Some sources may respond to e-mail but not other methods of communication. – E-mail creates a written record. – But it can’t convey a source’s facial expression or voice inflections.
  • 21. • Interviews for broadcast. – The interview is the story, not just a component of the story. – Interviews must be structured to produce a pleasing narrative, not just answers to a questionnaire.
  • 22. Taking notes• Take detailed notes, even if you also use a tape recorder.• Notes are easier to organize and use when writing than are audio tapes.• Jot down descriptions of the source and her mannerisms as well as what is said.
  • 23. Tape recording• Creates a verbatim record of the interview, which increases accuracy.• But tape recorders sometimes fail, so be sure you have written notes as a back up.• Always ask permission before taping an interview.
  • 24. Writing the interview story• Q-and-A format may be used, but it is sometimes difficult to read.• Most interview stories use a summary lead or an alternative lead and nut paragraph.• The body of the story reports the most newsworthy remarks in descending order of importance.
  • 25. Sourcing
  • 26. Tools for gardening• Which would you use to start your garden? – A sharp stick, or – a hoe, a rake and a spade.
  • 27. Tools for journalism• Tool for better stories is better reporting – that is the source of raw material.• Better reporting comes from knowing where and how to find the information you need to tell the story.
  • 28. Gathering news• Reporters gather raw material by – Observation. – Interviewing sources. – Reading. • Computer-Assisted Reporting. – Participant Journalism (out of favor).• Reporters rely on interviewing sources above all others, rightly or wrongly.
  • 29. Fact gathering• Levels of Reporting – Passive: Passing along source-originated material – Active: Covering spontaneous events, engaging in reportorial enterprise – Probing: Investigating and interpreting situations and events.
  • 30. Passive level• Rely on source-originated material. – Press releases, speeches, press conferences, photo ops.• The materials are generated by a source who is seeking publicity.• Reporting at this level becomes dependent upon the source.• There is a danger of manipulation of news.
  • 31. Active level• Examples are spot news, reportorial enterprise.• The reporters is covering events that are beyond a source’s control.• The reporter uses her own initiative to – check information, – supply missing facts, – explain complex matters, – clarify vague ideas.
  • 32. Probing level• This includes interpretation and investigation• It is the most difficult and least “objective.” – News analysis. – Investigative journalism. – Precision journalism. – Expert journalism. • Donald Barlett and James Steele of Vanity Fair.
  • 33. Basic principle of sourcing• Seek the best available source.
  • 34. Sources should be...• Appropriate to the story.• Knowledgeable and have expertise or insight.• Articulate.• Accessible.
  • 35. Finding sources• Public officials• League of Women Voters directories of local officials• State blue books• U.S. Government Manual
  • 36. Government sources• Other federal agencies –• Federal and state courts – –• State and local governments – The Web site State and Local Government on the Net,, has links to governments across the country.
  • 37. Involved individuals• Identify affected parts of the public and find individuals. – Public and private agencies sometimes help.• Public records.
  • 38. Involved groups• Directories of corporations.• Encyclopedia of Associations.
  • 39. Expert individuals• Directories of scholars.• Library catalogs and article data bases.• University public relations offices.
  • 40. • Web pages. – – – – ProfNet: – Policy.Com:
  • 41. Information subsidies• Rich organizations subsidize the dissemination of information. – Press releases, pseudo-events, photo ops, junkets.• Such information is often biased.• Subsidized information may drown out other information.
  • 42. How many sources?• Three factors affect how many sources you need for a story: – Expertise. – Controversy. – Complexity.
  • 43. Expertise• The individual’s breadth of knowledge.• The more individual sources know about the subject, the fewer you will need to talk to. – For a story about economic conditions, you might have to interview dozens of individual business men and women to get as much information as you might get from a few economists.
  • 44. Controversy • The degree of controversy or room for bias. • When a topic is controversial or driven by ideology, talk to more sources to make sure you have all points of view. – Example: There’s little controversy surrounding the cause of polio but a lot about the benefits of the war in Iraq.
  • 45. Complexity• As your story becomes more complex or ambitious you need to talk to many sources, get many kinds of information, get many points of view. – Example: A story about teenage crime rates is more complicated than a story about a particular crime committed by a particular teenager.
  • 46. Evaluating your sources• Two questions you should ask about your sources: – 1. What is the basis of their knowledge? – 2. How credible or reliable is the source?
  • 47. Bases of knowledge• Eyewitness.• Hearsay.• Documents.• Empirical study.• Extensive reading.• General personal experience.• Surveys or polls. – How were they conducted?
  • 48. Credibility• Credentials.• Bias.• Internal consistency of information.• Consistency with other sources.
  • 49. Additional checking• Check and cross-check sources as extensively as possible.• Use public records other sources. – Don’t place excessive faith in public records; they may be wrong, too.
  • 50. • When you have doubts about a source, tell the reader.• Reporting of this nature is an intellectual exercise of the highest order.
  • 51. Speeches and meetings
  • 52. Three steps to speech andmeeting coverage• Writing the advance story.• Covering the speech or meeting.• Writing the follow story.
  • 53. Advance stories• Advance stories alert readers to speeches and meetings they may want to attend.• Stories should report ... – what will happen, – when it will happen, – where it will happen – and who will be involved.• Keep stories short ─ four paragraphs or fewer.
  • 54. Covering speeches or meetings• Get background on the group or speaker. – Meeting agenda – Advance text of speech• Learn the names of all participants.
  • 55. • Find out whether you will be able to interview the speaker or participants.• Arrive early; find a seat where you can see and hear as much as possible.• Introduce yourself to the speaker or participants if they do not know you.
  • 56. • Take detailed notes; include colorful quotes, information about the setting, responses of participants and observers.• Identify people who may be affected by what happens at a speech or meeting or who may have other points of view and seek responses from them.
  • 57. Follow stories (in general)• Follow stories report what happened at the speech or meeting.• Organize stories in inverted-pyramid fashion, not in chronological order.• Vary the location of the attribution in direct and indirect quotations so that the story does not become monotonous.
  • 58. • Provide transitions from one topic to the next.• Eliminate jargon or technical terms.• Check controversial facts; give any person or group who has been attacked in a speech or meeting a chance to respond.• Include color through quotations and descriptions of speakers, participants, audience and setting.
  • 59. Follow stories (meetings)• Ignore routine events (Pledge of Allegiance, reading of the minutes).• News stories are NOT minutes of meetings.• First few paragraphs should identify all major topics (which are developed in detail later).
  • 60. • Take up topics in the order of their newsworthiness, not in the order in which they were discussed.• Don’t forget the “why.” Include discussion and background that would explain why a group acted as it did. Voters need this.• Items that are discussed but not acted upon may be newsworthy, too.• Seek missing viewpoints.
  • 61. Follow stories (speeches)• Usually, the lead should state the speaker’s central point.• The speaker’s central point may be stated in the middle or near the end of the speech.• Organize the speaker’s remarks in a way that explains and amplifies the central point.
  • 62. • Listen for anecdotes, examples the speaker uses to illustrate her points. Include these in your stories.• Capture enough detail to recreate the speaker’s argument or line of reasoning.• Seek other points of view. The more controversial the speaker’s message, the greater the need for other viewpoints.
  • 63. Public Affairs Reporting
  • 64. Covering government• Providing readers with timely information about government is one of the primary jobs of news organizations.• Three government beats are of particular importance to new reporters: – police; – local government and education; – courts.
  • 65. Police beat• The source of much of the news in a daily paper or news broadcast.• Crimes, accidents are staples of news business.• Police reporters also must cover the bureaucracy: budgets, promotions and public service programs among other things.
  • 66. Police sources• Police officers often are suspicious of reporters.• Successful reporters develop sources over time by proving their trustworthiness and learning about police officers and their work.• Policies on releasing information vary from city to city.
  • 67. Documentary sources• The police blotter records all calls for assistance.• The incident report gives a more complete description of a crime; parts of the report may be confidential.• Arrest and search warrant affidavits are filed with the court; they are public and often contain key facts.
  • 68. • Autopsy reports describe the cause and manner of death. Some states withhold them from the public.• Arrest reports describe the persons arrested, offense, witnesses, outcome of case.• Criminal history records disclose all prior arrests and convictions for a person.
  • 69. • Police misconduct reports describe complaints against officers and resolution.• Accident reports describe traffic accidents, injuries and damages.
  • 70. Elements of crime stories• Deaths and injuries, if any.• Nature and value of any stolen property.• As complete identification of suspect as is possible.• Identification of victims and witnesses.• Whether weapons were used.• Exact charges filed.• A narrative of the crime.
  • 71. Elements of accident stories• Any deaths or injuries.• Property damage.• Identities of people involved.• Types of vehicles involved.• Citations given to any of the drivers.• Any unusual conditions at the time of the accident.• A narrative of the accident.
  • 72. Local government beats• Local governments provide police, fire, education, ambulance, street repair, water and sewer services among other things.• And they perform these tasks with money raised from taxes.• Local taxes and local government functions affect citizens daily.
  • 73. Taxes and budgets• Budgets tell what government officials want to accomplish and what they are doing.• Understanding budgets and taxes is a key to understanding government and assessing the performance of public officials• See the presentation “Taxing Matters.”
  • 74. City or county documents• Purchase orders show what products and services have been purchased.• Payroll.• Bids and specifications.• Licenses.• Inspection reports.• Zoning maps, reports and petitions.
  • 75. County documents• Real estate assessment records show the estimated value of land and buildings.• Tax records show taxes assessed on property and how much has been paid.• Deeds record transfers of real estate.
  • 76. School districts• The largest part of local taxes in most communities goes to schools.• Schools are also a major concern of citizens, especially parents.• Individual student records are closed, but schools file many reports that are public, as are district budgets.
  • 77. Courts• Only a few sensational cases – mostly criminal cases – draw substantial news coverage.• But less notable cases, including civil cases, may have a more profound affect on the general public.• Reporters who cover the courts must understand the legal system.
  • 78. Criminal and civil cases• In criminal cases, the state, through a prosecuting attorney, accuses someone of violating a criminal law – homicide, robbery, larceny are examples.• Civil cases are between private individuals. Someone who has been harmed sues another person believed responsible for the harm. Personal injury, contract disputes are examples.
  • 79. Pretrial stages – criminal cases• A complaint is filed at the suspect’s initial court appearance.• A preliminary hearing determines whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial.• In federal cases, a grand jury must indict the suspect.
  • 80. • Often the defense attorney files motions to suppress evidence or statements.• The judge considers these motions at the preliminary hearing or at separate pretrial hearings.
  • 81. Trials – criminal cases• The trial begins with jury selection, the step many lawyers consider most important.• Court proceedings, except the jury’s deliberations, are almost always open to the public.• Stories should emphasize what’s new each day.
  • 82. Post-trial – criminal cases• If the defendant is acquitted, the reporter should interview the defendant and family, lawyers, jurors, and victim and family.• If the defendant is convicted, reporters will interview many of the same sources, but the final step will be sentencing, which may be weeks later.
  • 83. Court proceedings – civil cases• The process is very similar, but cases begin when one party files a complaint.• Much of the reporter’s information comes from reading complaints and responses.
  • 84. • The complaint may ask for large sums of money. Reporters should be skeptical of these amounts.• In some civil cases, courts have sealed documents, but this is unusual.