Lecture 2 - Hard News


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  • Welcome to Introduction to Journalism & PR, lecture 2.
  • Today we’re going to focus on writing hard news stories. We’ll talk about the elements of a hard news story and I’ll introduce you to inverted pyramid, the writing style most commonly used in hard news writing. At the end of the lecture, I will give you some instructions for an extra credit assignment due by 11:59 tonight that will help you prepare for your homework assignment tomorrow.
  • Let’s talk about hard news writing. Hard news typically involves breaking news stories or stories on more serious topics, such as crime, collisions, politics, and the like. Most hard news stories are written in inverted pyramid style, which means the most important information is presented at the top and the least important at the bottom. The reason journalists write these stories in inverted pyramid is because many people do not read an entire news story from start to finish. The reporter wants to ensure the reader has the most critical information first in case he or she does not continue reading. You’ll begin with a first sentence, called a lede, which will contain many of your 5 Ws – who, what, when, where, and why. You’ll want to summarize the key facts here or the most interesting thing about the story first. Next, you’ll organize the story in a way that makes sense. Often, this may be in chronological order, detailing what happened first, second, third, etc.Last, you will end the story with the least important details, ending it when there is no more information of note to give.
  • Let’s take a look at this example written in inverted pyramid. Notice it is a very short story. Many crime and collision stories tend to be short, as they often appear online and readers do not like reading a lot of text online. We’re going to go through this story now, examining all the elements of a hard news story that you will use for your first assignment. Again, you will find more examples of hard news writing in Chapter 9, Story Forms.
  • The first paragraph of a story is called a lede. In a hard news story, it can be referred to as either a hard news story or a summary lede, because it summarizes the main point of the story. The least contains the most important, eye-catching part of the story. Again, it should provide a summary of what the reader needs to know in case he or she does not continue reading beyond the lede.
  • Look at the lede in this example. Notice it is one sentence. I would like all of the ledes you write for this class to be one sentence, as well. The lede conveys the main point and what is interesting about the story: there was a collision and a woman and police officer were injured.This lede contains many of the 5 Ws. The who: a woman and police officer; the what: a collision; the when: Tuesday; and the where: Lake City. Note that the reporter does not get into the “why” just yet, which is fine because it may have made the lede too long. As you can see, this lede is only 22 words long, yet it contains all the important information you need to know to determine whether you want to continue reading.
  • The order in which you organize information in the lede can be important. Let’s look at several variations of the lede we just saw.
  • You’ll notice in the example we just went through, neither the woman nor the police officer were named in the lede. That is called delayed attribution. As you are trying to keep the lede short, or tight, as we call it in media writing, you’ll want to use vague details rather than specific names. You can say things like, a Jacksonville man, or a local apartment complex, rather than naming them straight away. Once you have launched the story with the lede, you’ll want to provide specifics in the next one or two grafs. Let’s look at this example… Notice how I named the person and gave his age in the second graf, along with the criminal charges. You’ll want to use a similar style for your first assignment tomorrow.
  • Lecture 2 - Hard News

    1. 1. Hard news stories Dr. Jennifer Cox
    2. 2. objectives • Introduce you to hard news writing • Introduce you to inverted pyramid • Assign extra credit • Prepare you for your first writing assignment
    3. 3. Inverted pyramid Summarize key facts Organize logically End when you run out of facts
    4. 4. Inverted pyramid
    5. 5. ledes • Hard news lede/summary lede • Contains the most important information in the story • Must grab the reader’s attention • No more than one sentence; 30-35 words MAXIMUM
    6. 6. Elements of a story Lede: • Hard news/summary lede/nut graf • Introduces the main point of the story • How does event impact the reader? • Summary of main facts • Who, what, when, why, where, how? • Not all are necessarily needed in lede
    7. 7. Elements – lede A collision in Lake City critically injured a woman and seriously injured a police officer Tuesday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. A woman was critically injured and a police officer seriously injured after a collision in Lake City Tuesday… A collision in Lake City critically injured a woman and seriously injured a police officer Tuesday… Tuesday, a collision in Lake City critically injured a woman and seriously injured a police officer…
    8. 8. Elements – lede A collision in Lake City critically injured a woman and seriously injured a police officer Tuesday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. A Lake City collision critically injured a woman and seriously injured a police officer Tuesday… A woman who did not see an approaching police car was seriously injured after crashing into the officer in Lake City Tuesday.
    9. 9. Delayed identification • Start with vague details, words • “Jacksonville man” • Local apartment complex • List specifics beyond that A Delmar man was arrested Friday morning after police say they caught him attempting to break in to a local nightclub using a sledgehammer and saw. Jason Smith, 27, was charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools. Owners of the University Bar, at 123 N. College Ave., reported hearing strange noises outside the business at about 1 a.m.
    10. 10. Instant identification • Well-known public figures • Celebrities • Profiles
    11. 11. tips • Short sentences • Try to keep to less than 30 words per sentence • Short paragraphs (grafs) • No more than 1-2 sentences • Short ledes • No more than one sentence (to begin with) • KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid
    12. 12. tips • Don’t use two pages when one will do • Break long sentences up into shorter sentences • When you think comma, think period instead! Tom is an 8-year-old boy who goes to school in Philadelphia. Tom is an 8-year-old boy. He goes to school in Philadelphia.
    13. 13. tips • Strive for balance • Be truthful • Give equal voice to all involved • Don’t assume officials are right/truthful • Keep yourself out of the story! • Don’t include your opinion/bias • Don’t bore readers with the process The faculty protested the unhealthy food served in the cafeteria. Journalism is great, said Professor Cox, who is highly qualified to teach. The bill should be approved by Congress, said Obama in an interview.
    14. 14. attribution • According to & said • People speak • Documents don’t • Only attribute information that is subjective • Don’t attribute charges, descriptions The man was charged with burglary, police officers said. The man was charged with burglary, Sgt. Rick Nelson said. The man admitted to burglarizing the store, according to a police report. The woman was banging loudly and threatening her husband, said Rick Jones, a neighbor in her apartment building.
    15. 15. Other points • Use past tense! • Days vs. dates • No “tomorrow” or “yesterday”; “today” OK The carnival will take place Monday. The carnival will take place Sept. 19. The carnival will take place today.
    16. 16. Extra credit • Five extra credit points • Write a short hard news story based on the information we went over today • Turn it in to MyClasses by 11:59 p.m. tonight
    17. 17. announcements • Read Chapters 9 (Story Forms) & Chapter 20 (Crime & Punishment) • Tomorrow: • Crime writing • Homework assignment #1 • Peer editing partner assignments