Writing Business News for the Web (Day 1)

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Jacqui Banaszynski presents "Writing Business News for the Web," a business journalism Webinar hosted by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. For more information free training, please visit http://businessjournalism.org.

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  • Especially important for numbers clarity.
  • Writing Business News for the Web (Day 1)

    1. 1. WRITING BUSINESS NEWS FOR THE WEB Online, On Deadline and Beyond
    2. 2. WRITING TO PURPOSE AND PLATFORM <ul><li>“ Yep, text still matters.” ONA 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>Effective writing is defined by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The audience you are trying to reach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The message you are trying to deliver </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The medium (platform) you are using </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. BEAUTIFUL BUT … <ul><li>Not long after we moved to Paris, in the fall of 1995, my wife, Martha, and I saw, in the window of a shop on the rue Saint-Sulpice, a nineteenth-century engraving done in the manner, though I’m now inclined to think not from the hand, of Daumier. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>By ADAM GOPNIK, from “Paris to the Moon” </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. CHALLENGES <ul><li>Subject and verb delayed </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple phrases and clauses </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple informational stops </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple points of view </li></ul><ul><ul><li>External: ‘saw’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internal: ‘think’ </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. DESCRIPTIVE BUT… <ul><li>From the frothy cups of cappuccino to the stylish furniture, from the musicians’ stage to patrons surfing the Internet on their laptops, the room exudes the vibe of a hip coffeehouse. </li></ul><ul><li>But it’s a McDonald’s. As in Big Macs, golden arches and a certain fright-wigged clown. </li></ul>
    6. 6. SIGNIFICANT, BUT… <ul><li>A former United Airlines ramp-services supervisor was awarded $3 million Friday, after a U.S. District Court jury in Denver found she was retaliated against because she complained of sex discrimination. </li></ul><ul><li>Jennifer McInerny, 37, of Centennial, was terminated from her job at United in March 2006 after 12 years at the company. </li></ul><ul><li>United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy on Friday said the company does not “tolerate discrimination in any form, and we are pleased the jury ruled in our favor on the discrimination claim. We are reviewing our options, including potential appeal, on the matter.” </li></ul><ul><li>Also, she noted that the award to McInerney could be reduced. </li></ul>
    7. 7. SCAN and SKIP READING HABITS <ul><li>Less than 30 seconds on a home page </li></ul><ul><li>Less than one minute on an interior page </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SOURCE: HOA LORANGER </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Director, Nielsen Norman Group, San Diego </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Presented at ONA, October 2009 </li></ul></ul></ul>
    8. 10. KEY ELEMENTS OF NEWS-WRITING FOR FAST WEB READING <ul><li>Priority </li></ul><ul><li>Clarity </li></ul><ul><li>Efficiency </li></ul><ul><li>Brevity </li></ul><ul><li>Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Audience-think (common sense) </li></ul>
    9. 11. 1. SIMPLE, DIRECT SENTENCES <ul><li>Subject-Verb-Object </li></ul><ul><li>Active verbs </li></ul><ul><li>Clear subjects </li></ul><ul><li>Keep subjects and verbs linked </li></ul><ul><li>Minimal compounds </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>One main fact per sentence </li></ul></ul></ul>
    10. 12. PHRASE SEPARATES SUBJECT-VERB <ul><li>TCF Financial Corp. , the bank that turned retail banking upside down two decades ago when it introduced &quot;totally free checking” accounts, will soon put an end to them. </li></ul>
    11. 13. CLUTTERED WITH PHRASES <ul><li>Manasota Goodwill opened its third area bookstore last week in Venice and, last month, its first art gallery off Clark Road in Sarasota, reflecting a growth of niche retailing for the nonprofit thrift chain. </li></ul><ul><li>The bookstore concept, started in Sarasota a decade ago, has been so successful, with about 300,000 books sold last year, that Goodwill personnel are flying as far as Reno, Nev., to teach other Goodwill chains how to start their own. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE, January 2010 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
    12. 14. DELAYED POINT What do the Dallas Cowboys, about 100 race horses, a set of skull and bones, casinos in Nevada, and the rights to a couple of films called &quot;And They're Off&quot; about race horsing and &quot;Grizzly II: The Predator&quot; starring Charlie Sheen have in common? They were assets once owned by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp during some of the worst bank failures in U.S. history decades ago. These and others are some of the assets left behind when a bank fails and is seized by the FDIC, the agency whose mission is to maintain confidence in the industry by insuring deposits and other bank products.
    13. 15. 2. BRANCH RIGHT <ul><li>Modifying and qualifying phrases at end of sentence </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t bury essential information </li></ul>
    14. 16. BRANCH RIGHT <ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>DETROIT — Toyota Motor issued its second large recall in two months on Thursday to fix a problem with accelerator pedals that can get stuck, causing vehicles to speed up unintentionally. </li></ul>
    15. 17. Non-right branching
    16. 19. 3. STAY PARALLEL <ul><li>The boy hit the ball, ran the bases and slid into home. </li></ul><ul><li>Rainfall totals by county: XX, 3 inches; YY, 2.3 inches; ZZ, 1.7 inches. </li></ul>
    17. 20. PARALLEL (not quite) <ul><li>The company said the problem was “rare” but could result in a worn gas pedal being difficult to depress, slow to spring back or getting stuck partly depressed . </li></ul>
    18. 21. PARALLEL <ul><li>Toyota dealers recently began modifying vehicles under the earlier recall, by shortening or replacing the gas pedal, removing some padding in the floor under the pedal and installing brake-override systems. </li></ul>
    19. 22. PARALLEL <ul><li>It posted fourth-quarter net income of $19.5 million, or 15 cents a share, down from $27.7 million, or $20 cents a share, a year earlier. </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    20. 23. 4. BE SPECIFIC and PLAIN <ul><li>Beware jargon, acronyms or vague terms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Explain your terms </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Understandable identification </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Repeat ID as reader reminder </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Beware confusing pronouns </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure pronouns refer back to obvious noun </li></ul></ul>
    21. 24. SPECIFIC, PARALLEL and PLAIN <ul><li>Summit makes 747-8 fail-safe bars, which allow the flaps to move on the wings; 787 edge frames that fit around the doors; and 767 main-landing-gear beams, which facilitate the landing gear rotation, Boeing said. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Puget Sound Business Journal </li></ul></ul>
    22. 25. 5. PUNCTUATION <ul><li>Periods to delineate information </li></ul><ul><li>Commas to connect related (modifying) information </li></ul><ul><li>Colons to organize or broadcast </li></ul>
    23. 26. COLONS TO ORGANIZE <ul><li>This recall includes the 2005-10 Avalon; 2007-10 Camry and Tundra; 2008-10 Sequoia; 2009-10 RAV4, Corolla and Matrix; and 2010 Highlander. It also covers the 2009-10 Pontiac Vibe , a mechanical twin to the Matrix. It does not include the Prius hybrid, which was in the November recall, or Lexus or Scion models. </li></ul>
    24. 27. COLONS TO ORGANIZE <ul><li>Cars in this recall: 2005-10 Avalon; 2007-10 Camry and Tundra; 2008-10 Sequoia; 2009-10 RAV4, Corolla and Matrix; 2010 Highlander, 2009-10 Pontiac Vibe , a mechanical twin to the Matrix. </li></ul><ul><li>Not in this recall: Lexus or Scion models. </li></ul><ul><li>The Prius hybrid was part of a November recall and is not on the latest list. </li></ul>
    25. 28. 6. QUOTES <ul><li>Edit quotes to strongest, essential statement </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid “echo” quotes </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid informational quotes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use for emotion, accountability or spice </li></ul></ul>
    26. 29. RUN-ON QUOTE <ul><li>A USDA spokesman said it could not release the city, name of the facility or the size of the herd where the pandemic H1N1 virus was found &quot;in order to ensure continued high levels of participation in swine surveillance efforts, and because this is not a food safety or public health risk.&quot; </li></ul>
    27. 30. RUN-ON QUOTE <ul><li>&quot;It's the end of an era,&quot; Cooper said in an interview. &quot;We invented totally free checking and everyone copied it. It was a wonderful product. But the regulatory apparatus, misinterpreting what everyone wants, has changed that.&quot; </li></ul>
    28. 31. ECHO QUOTE <ul><li>Until Thursday, Toyota had denied that there was a mechanical or electronic problem with the pedals. The company said the problem was “rare” but could result in a worn gas pedal being difficult to depress, slow to spring back or getting stuck partly depressed. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Our investigation indicates that there is a possibility that certain accelerator pedal mechanisms may, in rare instances, mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position,” said Irv Miller, a group vice president of Toyota Motors Sales U.S.A. </li></ul>
    29. 32. QUOTES AS SPICE (but overlong) <ul><li>&quot;You're not happy if you're in Duluth and you're trying to buy gas at 2 a.m. and we don't authorize it&quot; because the customer doesn't have overdraft protection, Cooper said. &quot;I'd love to have that guy in Duluth call [Federal Reserve chairman] Ben Bernanke and say, 'Hey, I don't like your new rules.'&quot; </li></ul>
    30. 33. 7. ATTRIBUTION <ul><li>In middle or end of sentences </li></ul><ul><ul><li>NOT THIS: Bill Cooper, chairman and chief executive officer of the Wayzata-based regional bank, said Thursday that new rules that limit overdraft fees will force the bank to introduce a monthly maintenance fee on more than 1 million checking accounts that previously had none. He declined to disclose the amount of the new fee, which will go into effect early this year. </li></ul></ul>
    31. 34. <ul><li>BUT THIS: </li></ul><ul><ul><li> New rules that limit overdraft fees will force the bank to introduce a monthly maintenance fee on more than 1 million checking accounts, said Bill Cooper, chairman and chief executive officer of the Wayzata-based regional bank. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>OR BETTER… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The bank will add a monthly maintenance fee to more than 1 million checking accounts, said Bill Cooper, head of the Wayzata-based regional bank . </li></ul></ul>
    32. 35. PLACEMENT OF ATTRIBUTION <ul><li>NOT THIS : Alina Monighan, 19, a student at the University of Minnesota who works two part-time jobs, said the only reason she opened an account at TCF was because it offered free checking. &quot;I don't make much money,” she said. </li></ul><ul><li>BUT THIS : Free checking prompted college student Alina Monighan to open an account at TCF. &quot;I don't make much money,” said Monighan, who works two part-time jobs while she attends the University of Minnesota. </li></ul>
    33. 36. SUMMARY or IMPLIED ATTRIBUTION <ul><li>Authorities and eye-witnesses gave this account: </li></ul><ul><li>Car dealerships across the country were reporting record business following the recall. </li></ul>
    34. 37. 8. TRANSPARENCY <ul><li>Be clear about source and credibility of information </li></ul><ul><li>Link to documents and other sources </li></ul><ul><li>Consider sourcing boxes </li></ul>
    35. 40. 9. BE LITERAL <ul><li>Don’t assume knowledge of source expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t assume knowledge of location </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t assume knowledge of background </li></ul>
    36. 41. 10. READER SENSE <ul><li>Anticipate reader/audience knowledge, questions, needs </li></ul><ul><li>Consider logical order of information </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t write around unanswered questions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make questions part of the information </li></ul></ul>
    37. 43. READER SENSE <ul><li>Time stamps </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To orient readers and invite them back </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Place stamps </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t rely on your masthead </li></ul></ul>
    38. 44. Day 2 AGENDA <ul><li>Organizing breaking news online </li></ul><ul><li>Stakeholder wheel </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Prioritizing information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identifying key audience and sources </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Blueprints for clarity and speed </li></ul>
    39. 45. KEY ELEMENTS OF NEWS-WRITING FOR FAST WEB READING <ul><li>Priority </li></ul><ul><li>Clarity </li></ul><ul><li>Efficiency </li></ul><ul><li>Brevity </li></ul><ul><li>Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Reader sense </li></ul>
    40. 46. Questions?

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