EIJ Day 2: Bad News Writing

We’re sharing highlights from the Excellence in Journalism national conference. Follow @spjonadepaul on Twitter for more journalism news and tips!

By Erica Carbajal

On day two in Baltimore for EIJ 2018, the “Bad News Writing: The no good, the bad and the ugly” session led by radio journalist Christopher Cruise served as a good reminder for fellow journalists in the room: write like you talk.

The breakout session started off by highlighting the “strange” ways we as reporters often talk and write, and how it’s almost like its own language. The audience poked fun at this while watching the “How a local news anchor makes a phone call” video by feature reporter, Kate Welshofer. The crowd laughed and nodded along in agreement at the exaggerated pronunciation and change in tone, recognizing Welshofer’s demonstration of news reporter speaking style in themselves.

Cruise’s presentation then transitioned into the overused phrases and journalism cliches that can be seen in almost any local newscast. “What does an ‘area resident’ mean?” Cruise asked, “Why don’t we just say ‘local resident’?” and the audience laughed in agreement. His favorite though, is “local hospital.” Cruise said he sees this in almost every script that comes across his desk. His simple solution is to write like you talk. “Just say ‘hospital,'” Cruise said, reminding everyone that no viewer or reader will assume a victim was taken to a hospital hours away.

My personal favorite phrase that I hear often, particularly on broadcast news, was “brutal gang rape.” Cruise said “Is there any other kind of gang rape?” reminding members of the field to avoid fillers and tell a story similar to the way you really talk, while maintaining balance and professionalism, of course.

Cruise convinced us to always consult the “Overused Phrase List” when in doubt, and to never reference tragedies as “terrible” again.

Meet our new board!

2018-19 Board

Congratulations to our 2018-19 board members! We can’t wait to see all of you next year. We’d love to hear your ideas and feedback for how to keep building SPJ.

Left to right in the photo:

Abby Yimer, secretary/treasurer

Erica Carbajal, social media coordinator

Ally Pruitt, 2017-18 president (she’s graduating!)

Jesus J. Montero, membership/Online News Association coordinator

Lacey Latch, vice president/events coordinator

Carina Smith, president

Find us online:

Twitter and Instagram: @spjonadepaul

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spjonadepaul/

SPJ Free Speech Wall: Sept. 17

On Sept. 17, 2013, SPJ/ONA DePaul launched the first SPJ Free Speech Wall exercise on Constitution Day. Students set up blank “walls” on our Lincoln Park and Loop campuses so students, faculty, administration and staff could write anything they wanted, exercising their First Amendment rights.

On Sept. 5, SPJ/ONA DePaul will present the Free Speech Wall at the SPJ/RTDNA Excellence in Journalism conference in Nashville. Our student executive board will walk you through how to do your own Free Speech Wall on Sept. 17 this year and join a nationwide effort by tweeting photos, findings and observations to our hashtag, #fsw17.

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A few steps to get you started:

  1. Follow the instructions in the Free Speech Wall presentation on Sept. 5
  2. Set up your own Free Speech Wall and tweet findings, turnout and photos to #fsw17 on Sept. 17.
  3. Categorize posts and build a visual (data visualization, chart or other visual). See charts in Powerpoint.
  4. SPJ/ONA DePaul will do data visualizations in Google Fusion Tables and/or Datawrapper.de this year and post them online.
  5. Share your work: Tweet findings to #fsw17 by Oct. 1.
  6. Watch @spjonadepaul for more details and examples. Make sure to follow us and we’ll follow back. We also will post findings to SPJONADePaul.com