Exploring Written Journalism

One criteria of news is proximity. Proximity means that people care about news happening close to home. People care even more about news affecting their community than international news. Journalists should make international news and national news stories relate close to home by seeing if there are any connections to people that live in the area or whether it can be related to the community at large.

Objectivity means presenting all sides in a news story. For example, a reporter should not put their opinion into the news article but provide an account illustrating more than one side to the news; often there are even more than two sides to articles of news. Reporters who actively seek all sides to the story are taking the human factor error out of the equation and as a result it makes for a better article.

An open-ended question would be used in an interview and would be especially helpful when interviewing authority figures who are comfortable dealing with the media. An open-ended question is one that requires the answerer to answer a broad question and gives the answerer more leeway while a closed-ended question means the answerer can only answer the question by saying yes or no which isn’t very informative at all. In my experience, broad open-ended questions work well with authority figures who can make themselves or their cause look good by answering the question. For instance, asking Dr. Carter or one of his executives about the future projects planed for the campus in an open-ended question would yield for a detailed and informative answer since him and his executives want to promote the university in a positive light and by talking about future projects that’s in fact what they are doing. Asking Dr. Carter an open-ended question about the use of alcohol on campus would not yield a good response – more specific questions would need to be asked and of course he would probably not answer a question like that in a way to make the university appear in a negative light.

An inverted pyramid lead is one in which the most important information is given first while least important information is towards the end. The climax is at the beginning of the article unlike a narrative or other pieces of writing in which the climax usually is in the middle. An inverted pyramid story would answer the questions, who?, what?, where?, why?, and how?.

Delayed identification lead is used when the subject is not popular or the group not well-known. For example, few people know the AARP is the American Association of Retired Persons so a person writing an article about the AARP may want to start out saying what the AARP does than relate that to the full name of AARP, then they could relate to it through the acronym. In a major newspaper like the Hartford Courant a story might start out by saying, “A West Hartford man was robbed at gunpoint in the West Farms Mall parking lot”. Later in the article, it would specify the man’s name but for popular people a story would start with their name. For example, “Representative Rob Simmons was robbed at gunpoint as he was leaving the Crystal Mall”. Representative Rob Simmons is well-known in his district and even in the state of Pennsylvania, the article might start out with Representative Simmons’s name since he serves a federal position and is known by politicians nationwide, known by his supporters and friends in the Republican Party, and is known by all who are deeply interested in politics.

Foreshadowing is used to grab the reader and is used for feature stories. For example, “Maureen Thompson kissed her husband goodbye yesterday evening when headed to pick up some things at the local Wal-mart. It would be the last time she was seen alive”. Foreshadowing is normally used at the end of the paragraph and is used like a street sign pointing the reader to what is going to happen next. In some aspect, foreshadowing can be used in the inverted pyramid style. For example, one could assume that if the story starts talking about a fire that somewhere in the story it will say the cause, who reported it, and what the fire marshal’s comments are. However, foreshadowing is mostly used in narratives and feature writing.

The focus structure is used in feature writing. First there is focus on the individual, than its relation to the group, than facts about that group and its significance, and then the story finishes back to the individual. The focus structure allows a reader to become emotionally involved in the story evoking more of an emotional response than if the story was totally based on facts. For example, “Bill Zimmerman has lived in Columbia off Route 6 for the past 5 years. In that time, he has witnessed 7 accidents along that stretch of roadway. Route 6 between Bolton Notch and Columbia is one of the nation’s most dangerous portions of roadway as a result of curves, heavy traffic, and a mix of local and through traffic all on a 2-lane road. It serves as a roadway connecting to highways, Interstate 384 which ends in Bolton Notch and the 5-mile Route 6 expressway that goes from Columbia to Windham. “Route 6 should be widened to four lanes and if the state gave me just compensation for my house and property I would happily leave so that less people will get hurt and killed on this dangerous road,” said Zimmerman as he stood in his front yard starring at a bundle of flowers stapled to a phone pole in memory of a 24-year-old man killed their last December.

In covering a speech, it is best to obtain a copy of the speech beforehand. However, a reporter should bring a tape player and write notes anyway to note any deviation the speaker may make from the pre-written speech. Sometimes what is important is what is not said or how someone says something and these elements can be seen when the reporter goes to the event. In other words, just writing an article based on a pre-written speech would not be effective. If a reporter can, it is best to interview the speaker afterwards and ask any questions that they have of the speaker.

In writing a crime story, the suspect’s presumption of innocence is important to protect since our society believes in the concept that one is innocent until proven guilty in the court of law. Statements made about an individual should be carefully constructed to illustrate who is saying what and the reporter should not make judgments. He or she should get the side of the story from the person accused of the crime, if possible. It is helpful when reporters explain what the police believe or think and attribution is very important to prevent a reporter from being sued for libel.

In writing a news story about a rape, I would not name the victim. Society has a stigma towards women who are raped that they did something to cause the rape such as dress a certain way, walk in a certain area, or say certain things. However, of course, rape is not wanted and none of these things are true. The victim’s right to privacy should be protected and their identity not revealed. A woman who was raped could be raped by another potential rapist if that potential rapist read her name in the newspaper. Readers who know the victim might treat her differently in a negative way if they know she was raped. For example, if a rape happened at ECSU an article for the Campus Lantern might be the following, “An eighteen year old female who resides at Burr Hall was raped last night at 11:30pm. She had just left the Webb Hall Computer Lab and was headed back to her residence hall when she was attacked and raped near Winthrop HallâÂ?¦”

Focus Structure Article – “Food needed for Thanksgiving by food pantry”

Hartford – Randy Smith won’t be able to provide for his family like he used to. He recently lost his $20 an hour job at the Stanley Works plant in New Britain but the plant closed and is making the same tools in China. Randy, who only has a high-school diploma, is working as a school bus driver, making a mere $10 an hour and much of his wages goes towards rent and heat. He will be unable to provide his family a big Thanksgiving meal like they usually have. His wife, Lenora says it is hard on their children, Diana 13, Jacob, 10, and Benjamin, 7. The family of five has turned to the food pantry for help not everyone who needs food will be able to get it.

The local food pantry director Susie Latimer says she wants people to donate “all the fixings” this year to help like Randy and Diana Smith out this year. The fixings include turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, canned vegetables, potatoes, pie crust mix, and canned pie filling. Monetary donations are also being donations since items in the shortest supply can be bought.
“At this time of year, everyone is so busy with the holidays that they forget their neighbors in need. They want to help but they get caught up in their own holiday preparations and forget that not everyone can just walk into the store and put down $60 for a single meal.”

The panty’s empty shelves illustrate the ongoing need for nonperishable goods.

“We have some elderly people who need our help on an ongoing basis – single moms, the elderly. But with the recent layoffs, we’re seeing more and more families.”

Gloria McAdams, head of Hartford area FoodShare says that the emphasis of encouraging people to donate food is greater at Thanksgiving since, “It’s the one meal each year when everyone in America is eating the same thing. We all have individual traditions for other holidays, like Christmas, but on this one day, everyone in the American community shares the same menu. The poor should be part of that.”

Lenora Smith is a newcomer for the pantry while many longtime ‘customers’ of the pantry come to expect this needed help when they are financially unable to provide themselves and their families with the food they need.

“The people at the pantry, they’re so nice. They never make you feel anything but welcome,” said Smith.

Police capture man for auto-theft article: inverted pyramid style: (Written as it would appear in tomorrow morning’s newspaper)

New Britain – Police charged a Bristol man with grand theft auto, criminal tovering, and leaving the scene of an accident yesterday.

Police Captain Henry Girad says that Ronald Pulaski, 22, 42 Farmington Ave., Bristol was arrested after police chased the vehicle he was driving onto Interstate 84. The incident happened during rush hour leaving the accused with no other option than to pull over.

Girad also said that after police investigate other charges may be added.

Police identified his vehicle, a 1998 Lincoln Town Car, as the same vehicle that was stolen in Bristol that morning.
Girad said that “he should have known better than to get on I-84 during rush hour. Going toward Hartford, it’s a parking lot at 4:30”.

Police first chased the stolen vehicle as it left the CVS parking lot on 75 Chestnut Street in Springfield. They are in the process of contacting the owner of the car for permission to search it.

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