Monthly Archives: August 2015

Wednesday, 26 Aug 2015


The CRAFT of News Writing

If I have taught you journalism before, I have probably already shown you this introductory video. You’re welcome to watch it again if you wish, but instead of responding to it, please tell me 2 or 3 things you’d like to learn more about during our News Writing course.

If you haven’t already seen this video, watch it, and tell me 2 or 3 things that you found most interesting.

Respond either by leaving a comment this page, or by using the “Login/Blog Me” button (connected to your existing SHU WordPress blog… if you don’t already have a WordPress blog yet, don’t worry about it — there’s an upcoming assignment for that.)


What is Newsworthy?

If I have taught you journalism before, I have probably already asked you to listen to this 9-minute podcast, “What is Newsworthy?”

You are welcome to listen to it again to refresh your memory; but instead of responding to it again, I’m asking that you choose two different events — one that you feel is prominent in the media, but is NOT a newsworthy story; and one that you feel is not prominent in the media, but IS a newsworthy story. Link to your examples, and demonstrate your understanding of newsworthiness.

If you have not heard this podcast before, listen to it and share your reaction. Include the URL of a current news story, and use it as an example to demonstrate your understanding of newsworthiness.


NR&W 1

News Reporting and Writing, Chapter 1.

( offers a free 7-day trial of the electronic version of this text. The bookstore was acting on old information when they ordered The Elements of News Writing.  I’ve informed them of the problem, and I regret the inconvenience.)

Before class, read all of chapter 1. Our textbook starts each chapter with a list of main points. When you finish reading the chapter, I suggest you go back to the first page, and check that you understand each of those main points.

An upcoming assignment asks you to follow instructions to create a WordPress blog at Seton Hill, You are welcome to jump ahead to that assignment now, so that you can respond to this reading on your SHU blog; you may use your existing SHU blog from a one of my previous classes; or you can wait on that and instead respond to this reading just by posting a comment on this page.


Consider the design and sample the contents of website 1 and website 2. Apply what you learned from this chapter to an assessment of each site. What would it mean to be a writer for each website? What does it mean to be a reader of each site?



Friday, 28 Aug 2015


NR&W 2


  1. What does the textbook mean by “Newspapers: The Source of Most News”? If you, personally, never pick up a physical newspaper, and instead inform yourself in other ways, does your experience invalidate the authors’ claim that newspapers are “the source of most news”? (Read that section carefully.)
  2. Discuss the relationship between democracy and citizen journalism. (Demonstrate your ability to draw directly from direct quotations from the textbook.)
  3. How relevant is “the future of journalism” to you, as a current student? As a graduate (and a potential leader in society in the near future)?
  4. What is an additional topic that you feel is worth talking about? Quote a passage from the book (with page number) and explain why you chose that passage.



NR&W 3


  1. What did you learn from this chapter about the business side of journalism?
  2. In light of what the chapter has to say about jobs, review recent postings on the SHU New Media Journalism blog, and consider the career paths pursued by these recent SHU English major graduates (or, if you prefer, the career path of any recent SHU graduate). What
  3. What is a writing-related goal that you’d like to reach by the end of the term?
    1. What specific action could you take — today — to meet that goal?
    2. What would be the next few steps?
  4. What is a writing-related goal you’d like to reach by the time you graduate?
    1. What specific action could you take — today — to help you meet that goal?
    2. What would be the next few steps?



Invisible Observer

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TV News Exercise

“I don’t have time to read the paper. I watch the news on TV instead.”

  • During a 30-minute local TV news program, how much time is actually taken up by the news?
  • Why doesn’t the local TV news show start with a slide showing the 5-day forecast and the sports scores?

Watch a half hour of local TV news; keep a log of what, exactly, is happening on your TV every 15 or 30 seconds.

I would prefer that you sit in front of an actual television, but WTAE-TV offers a link to live-streaming the local TV news to watch on your computer. The link should show you live broadcasts weekdays at 4:30am, 6am, 12pm, 5pm, 6pm and 11pm; or, if you visit when a live show is not airing, you’ll see a recording of the most recent broadcast.

Plan to watch a full half hour program.

Plan to keep a log. It is not easy to pay attention to the broadcast and also update the log. For that reason, I am asking you to record the audio (so that you can go back and check the times).

Plan to record the audio. (I know from experience it’s very hard to pay attention to the broadcast and also update your log at the same time.)

Your log should look something like this:

:00 Opening theme music.
:05 Anchor: Fire on 66 (coming up).
:15 Politics, Steelers, and fashion (coming up)
:30 Reporter: Live from fire on 66
1:00 Citizen daschcam footage shows 66 crash
1:30 Witness interview 66 crash
2:00 Anchor thanks reporter.
2:15 Anchor and weather guy chat.
2:30 Weather guy: “Coming up, we’ll let you know whether you’ll need that umbrella.”
3:00 Lawyer commercial
3:30 Optometrist commercial

[And so forth, for the full half hour.]

When you are finished, tally up the amount of time the TV news program actually devoted to news. (Giving a brief teaser and saying “We’ll have the full story later in the broadcast” doesn’t count. )

  • How much news was delivered during the 30-minute local TV news show?
  • How much of that news was local news — that is, journalism created by news professionals in Pittsburgh, about issues that matter to Pittsburghers?
  • Did you include the weather and the sports segments in your tally for “news”? Why or why not?

Media Awareness Exercise

Monday, 31 Aug 2015


NR&W 4

On the record; off the record. Face-to-face; telephone; email. Stopping random people on the street. Reporters reach out in different ways, for different purposes.

Important lessons:

  • Emailing a list of questions is not the same thing as making a source want to talk to you.
  • While some sources may prefer to respond by email (rather than having a face-to-face or telephone conversation), a successful reporter lets the source decide how to respond.
    • It would be take little effort on my part to email the same list of questions to 40 strangers, in the hopes that one or two will respond before my deadline.
    • But precisely because it takes so little effort to send such an email, an important source is probably bombarded with similar requests.
  • Emailing a source a list of questions is no substitute for conducting an interview. (An interview is interactive. The reporter asks a question, listens to the response, and then asks a follow-up that draws the source out more.)
  • I warn my student reporters not to call up a source and “ask for a quote.” (Your source will feel put on the spot. And, while the national public figures and celebrities you regularly see on TV are all very comfortable coming up with witty things to say on the spot, most ordinary citizens — the kind of people who get interviewed by student journalists — may not feel comfortable just coming up with a quote at random. Ask them open-ended questions that get them talking.)
  • If you want to talk to a SHU faculty or staff member, make an appointment during that person’s office hours. This may mean finding where their office is, looking for a list posted on their door, and planning to return when you know the person will be sitting there in the office.
    • The point of having an office hour is to reserve time so that other people can talk to you about anything they want.
    • Many faculty and staff have an “open door policy” — meaning that they are willing to drop what they are doing and talk to you, at least briefly, whoever you stop by.
    • On the other hand, sometimes an employee will be rushing to meet a deadline, or in the middle of an important meeting with a supervisor, or booked solid with students who requested meetings days ago, or out running errands. So, even if you plan to stop by a faculty or staff member during office hours…
    • Sending an email asking for an appointment is a sensible strategy.

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