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Roseland Standoff Wednesday Night
• ROSELAND, NJ - Residents are reporting that
a long five and a half hour standoff with
police is now over.
• Wednesday ni...
• Unconfirmed reports to TAP from neighbors
say that this is closely tied to a domestic
situation at Unit 29 on Schweinber...
At 2 a.m., neighbors were reporting the police
are yelling "Anthony, come out we will not
hurt you."
At 3:10 a.m., an ambu...
The New Jersey State Police TEAMS unit, similar
to a swat team, then arrived and swapped
the area police out to take their...
Quick fixes
• Avoid self-references that high
• Facts need attribution; the more specific the
fact, the more required the ...
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Fixing common mistakes in a a news story

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Fixing common mistakes in a breaking news story

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Fixing common mistakes in a a news story

  1. 1. Roseland Standoff Wednesday Night
  2. 2. • ROSELAND, NJ - Residents are reporting that a long five and a half hour standoff with police is now over. • Wednesday night, at approximately 10 p.m., reports came into West Essex TAP of a possible intruder in the area of Schweinberg Road. Quickly after, reports came of the sound of gun shots. Unconfirmed reports say the suspect had been shot twice tonight, possibly gunshot wounds to the right side. It's believed, after the crisis past, he was taken by ambulance to Morristown Memorial Hospital.  The bolding is good. But the most valuable real estate in a sentence, especially a lede sentence, is the front. Putting ‘Residents are reporting’ dilutes the power of the news. Specifically here, and generally most places, attribution is better at the end of the sentence.  ‘Wednesday night,’ is a subordinate fragment which sounds good but is hard on the reader since it creates a non-linear sentence. More of an issue is the self-reference that high. Immediacy and exclusivity are important for online, but the self –reference so high changes the reader’s priority. Instead of the emphasis being on the incident, it’s now on you. If you’re going to use unconfirmed reports, good that you call them that. But a report without attribution – even a ‘police said’ – is suspect. Also, ‘passed’ is a verb and ‘past’ is a noun.
  3. 3. • Unconfirmed reports to TAP from neighbors say that this is closely tied to a domestic situation at Unit 29 on Schweinberg Road where the first 911 call did come from reporting an intruder. A woman who lives at that address has had a restraining order against her boyfriend. The boyfriend apparently violated that order and there is reportedly a warrant out for his arrest. Neighbors believe that this evening, he broke into her house, shot at her and she ran out of the home. She then yelled for her son who called police from the basement and then escaped the home. The latest report is that the man has threatened to kill her dog, and then himself. Neighbors believe he has barricaded himself at this point in the garage.  This needs attribution and less self- reference. The important part of the sentence is buried by the front part.  Paragraph breaks when the topic or locale shifts help the reader.  This paragraph is a load of legally actionable accusations, with no specific attribution. The more damning the accusation, the more specific it needs to be attributed to someone. This is as much for legal CYA as it is for the reader.
  4. 4. At 2 a.m., neighbors were reporting the police are yelling "Anthony, come out we will not hurt you." At 3:10 a.m., an ambulance approached the residence where the suspect is thought to be hiding while at the same time police began to remove the trashcan barricade. Vehicles have been seen leaving the scene and police can be seen walking along Schweinberg. Police from Roseland requested mutual aid after shots were fired and area towns including East Hanover, Fairfield and West Caldwell, responded to the location. Unconfirmed reports say that the suspect apparently was inside the house with a hostage. The police then made contact with the suspect on the phone and after negotiations, the hostage was released.  Good detail. The narrative here is less important than the content it holds, so a bulleted chronology can work.  Tense shift is jarring. Could be ‘ambulance approached the residence where the suspect WAS thought…’ It’s OK to jump around in stories , but the story has to make up its mind if it’s an online update story or a after- the-fact summary and tense appropriately.  This doesn’t fit the chronology of the previous two sentences. It just feels dropped in. In a more traditionally structured news story, the mutual aid stuff would be down towards the bottom since the different agencies that responded are less relevant than the rest of the stuff.  The hostage release is the big moment. Few details make it easy for the reader to gloss over.
  5. 5. The New Jersey State Police TEAMS unit, similar to a swat team, then arrived and swapped the area police out to take their positions. Area police have been armed with shot guns, rifles and shields. The TEAMS unit arrived in large, loud trucks according to neighbors, possibly tahoes or suburbans.  What’s TEAMS stand for? Also, SWAT is an acronym and needs to be capitalized.  Awk. verb usage. Better “replaced local police.”  Good detail, but it needs a contrast in this context (State police snipers with long guns replaced local police who had been on the scene with shotguns and shields)..  Is the model really important (if it is, capitalization is important)? A better way might be use a color description (arrived in black SUVs).
  6. 6. Quick fixes • Avoid self-references that high • Facts need attribution; the more specific the fact, the more required the attribution • The story needs to be told in ways that make intuitive sense to the reader: If it’s a chronology, tell the story chronologically, with time cues. If it’s going to be blended story –as this was – give a summary of the event, then go into the detailed chronology.

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