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					News Reporting and Writing
      Accuracy, Clarity and Writing Well
                             Gerry Doyle
      Narrative Thread
Every story should have a clear organizing
principle that pulls the reader through the story:

 Chronological order
 Logical progression
 A narrative voice
        Show, Don’t Tell
 Instead of telling the reader something was difficult,
  dangerous, disgusting or deranged, give them an
  anecdote, detail or quote that shows it to them.

 “The room was filthy.”

 “Tattered curtains, yellow with cigarette smoke,
  dangling from bent metal rods. Cardboard and old
  comforters stuffed into broken, grimy windows.”
Best Stuff Goes on Top
 Put the most compelling info/quotes near the top of
  the story.

 But sometimes you might want to save something for
  the kicker (the end of the report – think “hourglass”).

 A good kicker can be used to give the reader
  something more to think about.
  Accuracy and Clarity

“Journalism is in fact history on
 the run.”
 --U.S. Federal Appeals Court Judge Thomas Beall Griffith
Accuracy and Clarity
   “History on the run” implies that journalism can
 sometimes be sloppy and inaccurate. No doubt, it
 sometimes is. But how can we help guard against it?


 By making our stories as accurate as we can.
 By making our stories as clear as possible.
   Accuracy and Clarity
 Let’s deal with accuracy first. On a fast-
 breaking story, it can be hard to be sure of our
 facts, but some conventions are available:

 Double-check what facts you collect – the who, what,
  when, where and why. And sometimes, the how.
 Attribute information, particularly information that
  might be in dispute or that is controversial, to people
  with access to that information – or whose official
  positions give them the authority to speak.
   Accuracy and Clarity
 On a more practical level:

 When you interview someone, double-check the
  spelling of their name; get their phone number.
 After you’re done with your questions, ask if there is
  anything they’d like to add.
 On your way to cover a story, prepare questions in
  advance.
   Accuracy and Clarity
 Readers and viewers sense a story is accurate when it
  seems well-reported – when it seems the reporter
  has done a good job collecting the information.

 So, while on a story, keep an ear out for the dramatic
  quotation – the judge, for instance, who says a
  defendant has no remorse.
   Accuracy and Clarity
 Similarly, while on a story, look for the telling
  details, the ones that will make your story powerful –
  still accurate, but clearly well-researched.

 The telling details are ones that in a few words say
  something significant – the defendant, for instance,
  who has had 21 convictions since he was 13 years old.
  Accuracy and Clarity
Where can you get accurate information
while researching a topic? Three broad
categories:

 Human
 Physical
 Online
  Accuracy and Clarity
Now, let’s turn to clarity:

“If language is not correct, then what
 is said is not what is meant; if what is
 said is not what is meant, then what
 ought to be done remains undone.”
       -- Confucius
 Accuracy and Clarity

 To reach a large and diverse audience,
writers must present information in a clear
and simple, yet interesting, way.

Every word matters
  Accuracy and Clarity
Good media writing is more than the use of clear
  language. It is:
 Using the correct words.
 Composing sentences carefully.
 Finding a tone that matches the material – a
  dignified tone, for instance, for the story of a
  funeral; a tone of drama for a daring rescue; a
  tone of joy for someone who achieves something
  great.
  Accuracy and Clarity
Eight Tips for Writing:
1) Vary the length of your sentences.

Short, medium, long, short, medium -- variety
 yields rhythm, and keeps people moving through
 the story.

Remember: A short sentence, properly placed,
 packs power. It is dramatic.
   Accuracy and Clarity
2) Use simple, not complex, sentences.
 Simple: Tsang, now in his second term, cannot seek re
  -election.

 Complex: Tsang, now in his second term, cannot seek
  a third term, and so some political observers say that
  is the reason he has not shown much regard for much
  public opinion in several recent controversies,
  including his government’s refusal to reveal the
  salaries it was paying new political appointees, forcing
  them instead to reveal them.
  Accuracy and Clarity
3) Use words most people know.

Do not send people to the dictionary. Don’t give
them reasons to put your story down.
  Accuracy and Clarity
4) Don’t use unnecessary words, as this
 paragraph does.

  A metal-working factory in Yuen Long where a
 powerful blast yesterday afternoon killed three
 workers and injured four other laborers has been
 found to have had failed several types of safety
 inspections last year, according to the Regional
 Factory Regulatory Agency. (35 words)
 Accuracy and Clarity
This version is only 23 words:

A factory in Yuen long where a powerful blast
killed three workers and injured four others
yesterday failed several safety inspections last year,
officials said.
  Accuracy and Clarity
5) When possible, use active voice; use
 strong verbs.

 Active: A leaking gas cylinder triggered the
 explosion.

 Passive: The explosion was caused by a leaking
 gas cylinder.
  Accuracy and Clarity
6) Write the way most people talk –
 direct and plain, NOT like this:

The manager of a money-lending firm, who pleaded
 guilty to dishonestly appropriating $2.4 million
 from his employer, was described by two
 Democratic Party legislators as “a honest man
 with many good qualities.”
  Accuracy and Clarity
How about this?

 A loan-company manager who pleaded guilty to
 stealing $2.4 million from his boss was described
 by two Democratic Party legislators as a honest
 man.
   Accuracy and Clarity
 Avoid using jargon—the language that only specialists
  in a given field might use..

 Q: What does “The perpetrator fled the scene on foot
  after suffering contusions and lacerations” mean?
Accuracy and Clarity

 A: “The suspect ran after away he had been cut and
  bruised.” It’s that simple
  Accuracy and Clarity
7) Use words that help readers see,
 rather than go to sleep, as these do:

 The first and only International Anti-Corruption
 Newsletter is being published on the Internet by
 the Independent Commission Against Corruption
 (ICAC) to help overseas agencies fighting crime
 and corruption.
  Accuracy and Clarity
How about this?

 Hong Kong’s corruption watchdog is publishing
 the first Internet newsletter for helping police
 around the world catch criminals.
  Accuracy and Clarity
Best tip for last:

 8) After you’re done, read it to yourself. Then
 rewrite it. And then rewrite it again. And then
 again.
               Homework

 Reading: Noonan` and Mustain, English-Language
  News Writing, Fudan Press. Pages 35-37; and 91-100

				
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posted:11/11/2013
language:English
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