By Danielle Church
Reporters are not just writers anymore. They are photographers, videographers, graphic designers, etc. In this generation, they have to be everything…or so they thought. According to University of California Berkley professor Richard Koci Hernandez, reporters really don’t have to do it all. In fact, we all really need to let go of that burden.
Here are some of Hernandez’s best tips on why journalists truly don’t have to do it all:
The best story ideas are the most passionate ones
It may sound a little crazy at first, but the best reporting doesn’t come from someone who tries to do everything. It all starts with someone who has a great story idea.
It doesn’t matter that technology and social media are the way people read stories, because if the story itself isn’t good, people won’t share or read it anyway. People who are passionate about certain topics are going to be very knowledgeable about them. They’re the ones that have gone out of their way to do loads of research or will eventually.
Therefore, it only makes sense that the best journalism would, as Hernandez says, come from someone who is extremely passionate about what they are doing. When you focus on a story idea that you know so much about, it’ll encourage you to think of more creative ways to share it with the world, such as through videos, interactive maps, etc. It also means that there is no room for someone in journalism who isn’t passionate about what they’re doing because their story ideas simply won’t measure up to the ones that are.
You’re not broken, the business model is broken
Journalism is not about working for the so-called “best” media company and it doesn’t mean you aren’t successful just because you haven’t gotten there. The foundation of any multimedia, or any part of journalism for that matter, is writing.
Don’t think about what the story will look like six months from now because it will probably change by then. Focus on what the story looks like now and put everything you have into it. As Hernandez says, the web is a creative platform and not just a single canvas.
That means you can do anything with it and it’s up to the reporter decide which platforms or materials they should use to help their audiences dive deep into the story.
Don’t worry about people who don’t matter
It’s impossible for reporters to reach everyone. Therefore, they shouldn’t be trying so hard to reach people that won’t pay any attention to the story.
The best way to spread a story is to know who to target. When reporters focus on who their story needs to reach specifically, it will do so much better because those people will be affected by it. If a reporter is able to inform a few instead of many, that’s fine because the point is that it reached the people that it matters the most to.
By Ally Pruitt
How often do we hear reporters say things like “31 shot, 10 murdered”? or “The shooter is still on the loose and police are on the hunt?” Unfortunately, murder, mass shootings and convictions, whether wrongful or purposeful, are prevalent in today’s news.
The Excellence in Journalism Conference, held in New Orleans, acknowledged these issues and held three sessions on these hard to cover subjects that I was lucky enough to attend.
Each session touched on a different aspect of the news and crime. The first session was “How Well Does the Media Cover Mass Murders?” The second, “How to Investigate Potentially Wrongful Convictions and Other Criminal Justice Issues?” And the third, “Making a Murderer- And Covering Him”.
Here are ten tips to keep in mind when covering tough subjects like these!
- Try your best to keep multiple photos of the shooter out of the media. To many, the publicity is motivation to commit these horrific crimes.
- Focus as best you can on the victims. Include their stories, display their photos, and try your best to make them the soul focus of the story.
- Be a human. Stay sensitive to the people involved in such a horrific event. Do not park your car outside of their property in hopes for an interview. Respect the fact that they are grieving.
- Study false convictions and highlight red flags within cases.
- Push for independent third parties to conduct DNA testing to keep the case completely unbiased.
- Remember that in order to be involved with the Innocence Project, the accused must be factually innocent, which means not present at the scene of the crime.
- Expect many legal obstacles when it comes to getting a case back into court and prepare yourself for a process that may take years to complete
- Keep your opinion on any ongoing murder trial out of any coverage you do.
- Bring a different perspective to the case if you cannot be right there at the crime scene or in the court house.
- Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Do not forget to keep that within your story when you report on crime.
All of these tips were given by professional reporters who have covered big issues such as the Colorado shootings, Lafayette shootings, the Steven Avery case, and multiple wrongful convictions all over the country.
Keep these in mind whenever a big story like this comes your way in order to be a successful reporter on tough subjects!
By Marc Filippino
Audio is hot. And Rivet Radio’s Charlie Meyerson says sound is just as hot now as video was a few years ago.
And there’s proof to back it up. The Pew Research Center State of the News Media 2016 found podcast listenership and downloads are up again for a third straight year. Which is why Meyerson says it’s essential to make audio a part of your news organization’s game plan. And the good news is producing is cheap and easy.
At the 2016 Excellence in Journalism Conference in New Orleans, Meyerson hosted a seminar called “Audio: It Doesn’t Have To Be Hard.” Based on some of his tips and tricks, the session’s title holds up.
You don’t need to drop hundreds of dollars on a state-of-the-art recorder. Meyerson says something as simple as an iPhone will do if you want to get great sound quality. Yes, iPhone audio has some drawbacks. Without a microphone cover, you can run into some popped “p” sounds and some glaring, unwanted background audio. But, the audio quality is still great, and Meyerson says why not use what you already have?
“There’s a saying that the best camera is the one you have with you. Well, same goes for audio. The best microphone is the one you have with you and most of us don’t walk around with a professional microphone in our pockets.”
And the same goes for editing equipment. Sure, it would be great to have Adobe Audition or Pro Tools. But you can get a decent experience out of free software programs like Audacity. TwistedWave is also a relatively less expensive audio software option. Editing with these tools is simple and efficient, especially if you have a solid production plan going into it ahead of time, Meyerson says.
Audio editing software like Audacity is free and gets the job done.
Okay so you have your tools and you’ve recorded sound and an interview. How do you keep your listeners engaged? Meyerson laid out a few tips that will make your life easier and payoff later on.
- Write a script and know your questions ahead of time. That way if you fumble a word during an interview, it will be easier to edit around later. (Bonus hint: For mess ups, edit between consonants. Rivet Radio’s George Drake Jr. lays that concept out well, here.) Plus, if you rehearse, you will feel more comfortable and your questions will sound way less rehearsed during the actual interview.
- Make sure you speak the way you do in real life. Sometimes hosts want to sound smarter than they are. Don’t do that. Instead, be conversational and explain concepts like you’re talking to a friend. Use contractions when you’re speaking and make sure you pronounce words they way they’re meant to be pronounced (“a” should be pronounced “uh,” “the” should be, for the most part, should be pronounced “thuh.”)
- Use engaging sound, especially at the beginning of your story. People need to be drawn into a piece, and the best way to do that is to use sound elements that mirror your story. That means use the sound of guns firing from a 21-gun salute at a police memorial, or using sound from a movie when talking to a famous comic book illustrator.
Concepts and order of importance
Finally, Meyerson says, make sure you don’t set limits for yourself. We don’t live in an era where we have to adhere to broadcast schedules. Segments don’t have to be a certain length. You can create a piece as long or as short as you want and not have to worry about an upcoming commercial. Just make your piece as long as it is interesting, throw it into SoundCloud or any other audio hosting site, and you’re good to go.
That being said, Meyerson believes you should sometimes edit your piece so the best stuff stands out first.
Here’s an example: If you’re doing a segment on Richard Nixon resigning your audience will definitely want to hear the entire resignation speech. But at the beginning of the segment, you should probably introduce your listeners to the news and play the clip of Nixon saying “I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.”*
That way, your listeners know the important stuff, they’re hooked, and they’ll keep listening to know more.
That’s just a taste of what Meyerson presented at EIJ 2016. A full pdf copy of his presentation can be found here.
Editor’s note: Marc Filippino is a former employee at Rivet Radio and co-worker of Charlie Meyerson.
*Clarification: That example is from the author, not from Meyerson’s presentation.
Corrections: A previous version of this article described TwistedWave as a free service. It offers a free demo service and is cheaper than most other high brand audio services.
By Kyle Woosley
Networking events can be awkward. You’re walking up to strangers in your professional get-up (at least, the fanciest a college student can afford), talking about how amazing you are and ending the conversation with a look of uncertainty that screams “Please hire me!”
Although it was not on the agenda, I made networking one of my number one goals for last week’s Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans. And these are my top five take-aways.
- Always bring a hard copy of your resume. This was something I learned the hard way by not having a hard copy of my resume. I was having my resume and online portfolio critiqued by an executive producer and hiring manager at a television station in Albuquerque. Since I’m interested in becoming a producer, I picked his brain about things like editing reels, special segments and good markets to start in. However, when he handed over his business card and requested my resume, I was empty-handed. Instead, he just snapped a photo on his phone from my laptop and said he would keep me in mind. Will it stop me from hitting him up in the next few months when I’m on the job search? No. But still, having that resume would have made the situation less awkward.
- Make business cards. It doesn’t cost much (this site prints for a low as $7.99), and even for a student this networking survival item can make it easier to exchange information quickly, especially with your peers. I ended up with 10 different business cards at the end of this conference. And if I had printed some, those 10 people would also have my information right now. It just makes the transferal of information from person to person easier. Plus, it shows your legit about joining the field if you’ve already printed off cards.
- Talk to strangers. Your parents may tell you not to do this as a child, but in this instance, if a stranger offers you candy, or in this case a professional connection, I suggest taking it. Get to know the people in your field. Ask them questions. If you’re a student looking for your first job, ask how they got started. Find some more established individuals and ask them what their advice is on getting hired. This is an event where Marty Baron, formerly of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team, was in attendance. You never know who you’re going to meet at this things. Connections are important in this field.
- Stray away from your group. Almost every connection I did make at this conference, I made in the moments I was away from the group I was attending with. Go to sessions that interest you, not just the ones that interest your co-workers or peers. When you’re alone and approaching people, you’re less eager to escape the conversation quickly and you’re more likely to be your authentic self, which is what employers want to see. It shows you know how to take the initiative to talk to people.
- Attend the after party. While the actual event is a great place to talk about your career goals, the after party is the best place to get to know someone outside of that, which makes for a more meaningful connection. This allows your colleagues to get to know you on a more personal level, outside of all the job stuff. It gives them a better of who you are as a person. And even if you don’t actually get the job, you may make a new friend in the process.
Sept. 13, 2016
- Met new members
- Discussed pros of a paid SPJ membership
- All board members in attendance tell the group what SPJ has done for them
- Free Speech Week
- Free speech wall – We will be bringing this back this year for students to write what free speech means to them on the wall.
- Panel – A lot of great ideas to get some free speech panels during the week to discuss the importance of the First Amendment. If anyone has any recommendations on who to invite for this panel, please let us know.
- Gun Violence
- The idea was brought up by Jason Martin to have a separate panel in the winter or a meet-and-greet to focus on reporters covering gun violence in Chicago – what’s the process and what techniques do reporters use?
- Once again, if you have any suggestions, please let us know.
- Alumni Event
- Another idea by Jason Martin to have the Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence sponsor an alumni event for current students to meet and ask questions to former DePaul journalism students.
- Live Debate / Fact Checking Event
- This will be an event with Reboot Illinois on Oct. 3 to do a live watch and fact check of the debate. Marc said the room is reserved from 5:30 – 9PM.
- Chicago Headline Club – Marc Filipino
- Student Input – looking for student liaisons in Chicago to bring in more student input and target the group toward a younger crowd.
- Mentor/Mentee program – similarly, the idea was brought up to mentor with a Chicago journalist for around 6 months. This would be someone you could ask questions to, find out about their background, see what their production cycle is like, etc.
- WBEZ Tour
- In progress of figuring out the kinks of this.
- We hope to do a site tour about once per month this year, so if you have suggestions of places you would like to see, let us know.
- Other Comments
- One student brought up doing something for Free Speech Week in connection with all of the Milo Yiannopoulos/Ben Shapiro bannings.
- Also, the idea was mentioned about having an event about technology/Twitter and what that means for free speech.
- Board Member Session
- Discussed New Orleans trip this weekend, check-in processes, restaurant suggestions, etc.
YOU could have the chance to interview Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Bob Woodward at this year’s ACP fall convention! Apply here: http://acpdc16.org/bob/