Most readings on this page are to be done after class. Take a brief look through the sections we’ll cover and dig into the recommended links as and when needed. There is a one-hour preparatory reading to do before class of two articles below, read and be ready to discuss:
- Who, what, when, where, why, and how. CJR asks the question: What is journalism for?
Schedule: You do not need to bring equipment to class this week, other than your laptop. However, I will want to see you image archive to check your systemised picture archive and metadata.
- M: am 1-hour Seminar: Brief Introduction to Journalism — What is Journalism & Who is a Journalist? / 1-hour Critique: Photo Assignment (*NOTE: See notes at bottom of page).
- M: pm 30 mins Seminar: News Principles / 1-hour Seminar & Exercise: News Values / 1-hour Seminar: News Writing Basics
- T: am 45 mins Seminar: Feature writing basics / 45 mins Exercise: partner story / 45 mins Seminar: Sourcing & Interviews (part 1) TBC in the following intensive week.
- T: pm 45 mins seminar: finding story focus / 15 min Seminar: reporting process / 1-hour Exercise: Report a feature
800 (700–1000 max) word news feature about the rising numbers of Chinese graduates that face an increasingly competitive job market. This is not a new story, but it’s an ongoing and an important one. It’s also easy to access both primary and secondary sources, so a good starter assignment. A news feature is an article that focuses on a topic of interest in the news. Hard news stories assemble facts to quickly convey information. Feature stories convey facts and information too of course, but they are also typically human interest stories, which tell stories about real peoples to reveal “the story behind the story”. For example the experience of a single University cohort, or the life of a refugee who survived a journey to safety. News features often cover the same subjects as hard-news stories, but do so in greater depth and detail and they employ a richer writing style to entertain as well as inform.
The general topic of the assignment is that right now China has twice as many university graduates as it did a decade ago. According to the New York Times, About 88 jobs requiring graduate-level education are available for every 100 such job seekers. Year on year the number of graduates is rising while the percentage of graduate employment is falling. Please find your own angle. You’ll need to include 5 key components:
- A single, relevant header image
- A good lede
- Quotes, sourced from interviews you conduct
- Anecdotes – mini stories – which summarize the stories or parts of the stories of your interview subjects to illustrate broader key issues
- Hard facts & information, such as data and statistics, research reports, press releases and so on.
- Context, background information necessary to put the story into fair context
- Description or colour brings the people, places and issues in your story to life. Write details that will engage and transport a reader to your story by building mental images.
- Proofread. Do not turn in your story with spelling or grammatical mistakes, get used to doubling up with a partner and helping each other to proofread. Assignments with spelling and grammar that inhibit reading will not be accepted and will need to be resubmitted with a loss of grades. In term 2 we’ll introduce the AP Stylebook and do have a class copy on hand, you may also purchase your own online version at http://www.apstylebook.com
There’s lots of material you can look at for research, be sure to find one or more people to interview to produce an original and current story. Your interviewee(s) cannot be a direct friend. It may be a friend of a friend, we’ve given you this assignment as a warm-up. In the future, you’ll largely need to find, approach and interview and tell stories about strangers. We expect a balanced story on an important / interesting issue. Include a single header photo. Your publication this week is The Guardian, you must take a look at their features section, particularly the news features. If you find the general feature section a little overwhelming you might start with these: Long good reads: the best features from 20 years of G2. We will be using this news feature: Cambodia proves fertile ground for foreign surrogacy after Thailand ban, as an example in class. Analyze how it incorporates all of the essential elements that your article will need to.
It’s critical that you get to know the publication a little, each week you’ll be assigned to produce a story for a different publication to help build an understanding of different publications and styles.
Journalism Basics & Essentials:
So what is Journalism & who are Journalists? Here are a few resources to get you started. Much of this information will be extended and re-enforced through both theory and practice as we work through the terms. Find a simple answer to the questions “so what is Journalism & who are Journalists?”, here at Ethics 101: What is Journalism And Who Is A Journalist? Find some more complicated perspectives in the two articles below:
- Who, what, when, where, why, and how. CJR asks the question: What is journalism for?
Here is a really wonderful and thorough collection of guides explaining the basic principles and elements of good journalism. Many of these guides are largely based on the research and teachings of the Committee of Concerned Journalists — a consortium of reporters, editors, producers, publishers, owners and academics. The Journalism Essentials guide above is a huge resource, I recommend taking a quick scan through and then returning to most sections later as required. But do make sure you read this one this week after class:The elements of journalism
Journalism Principles / Values
Journalism is built on a number of editorial values including accuracy, impartiality, accountability, public interest and independence. The IMMJ recommends and adheres to the BBC Academy website ‘Journalism Values’ section. Make sure you watch all films — BBC director of news James Harding outlines why the BBC’s ethics and values underpin everything its journalists do. And senior BBC editors discuss how they put these standards into practice.
Hard news & Features
The IMMJ-MA programme largely focuses on features rather than breaking news. News stories are split into two major categories, spot news and features.
Spot news — aka hard or breaking news — stories deliver short, fact-based accounts of important, impacting current events. Features tell stories in more depth and don’t necessarily centre around current events. Features often provide some interpretation of events and are written in a more creative, entertaining style than hard news. Feature writing doesn’t have a clear structure like the inverted pyramid structure of ‘hard’ news writing, and any number of writing structures can be employed. Features include the whole range of journalism, from sports to profiles, to explainers, investigations and news features.
Hard news stories generally are written so that the audience gets the most important information as quickly as possible. Feature writers often begin with an anecdote or example designed primarily to draw the audience’s interest, so the story may take longer to get to the central point.
Accuracy, balance, fairness and conciseness are the corner stones of good journalistic writing. Your news feature will need to adhere to good standards, highlight important topics and engage your audience.
The writing week introduces the very basics of journalistic writing, so If you’ve had text reporting training previously, you might skip this session’s accompanying writing chapters at http://www.multimediatrain.com. For those without prior text experience, however, this week gives a solid basic grounding and you must view all Multimediatrain writing sections . Text is a key multimedia skill; you’ll use it as a singular media, as well as for structuring video and audio scripts or use it an integrated part of your multimedia packages.
Do not forget to read the required textbook Handbook of Independent Journalism by Deborah Potter. Right now you just need to read chapters 1–3.
You don’t need to read or think too much about writing online this week — We will cover it next week during the intensive. Again you’ll need to go through the accompanying Multimedia train section: Writing Online. In the age of multimedia journalism, text is delivered on a variety of platforms: print, web, tablet and mobile. Check out the links we’ve provided at multimediatrain.com for further material that will help you consider writing for web and mobile.
You don’t need to go through all the resources this week, the most important thing you should be doing however, is reading features, it’s impossible to write a feature if you are not critically reading the work of others. There’s plenty of places to start in this section. Do read the first two, as they apply specifically to this week’s assignment publication – The Guardian.
This article below by @taniabranigan has a whole stack of links of her feature writing on China, pick some topics you like and dig in for a good read and some great feature writing examples. Goodbye to smog, cold noodles and breakneck change: my seven years covering China.
Here are some more tips and resources…. read at your leisure. Tips for writing a features article
You might also enjoy:
- Feature writing tips from a journalism professor
- This course syllabi on Feature writing: ‘Crafting research-based stories with characters, development and a structural arc’ Has lots of great information
- What Are the Different Kinds of Feature Stories?
- How to Write a Profile Feature Article
- The Power of Leads (Poynter)
And of course READ Plenty of FEATURES! The single two best things you can do to improve your writing is more reading and more writing. When you read, consider the article carefully, where are the elements lead, nut graph, quotes and how are they written and used.
- Pulitzer winning feature stories
- Nearly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism (Great features here)
- Essential pieces of journalism from the first half of 2015
- Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing | Wikiwand
Editing each others work will also be an enormous learning curve. Not only will you’ll be helping your classmates, you’ll help yourself. Learn to spot mistakes you’d make and avoid them, and become better at improving awkward wording.
Wonderful advice from the BBC:
We’ll focus more on interviews in the future (let’s take one step at a time) — but this is really great advice if you’d like to do some early reading:
Here are some notes to help you with your first critique session. It addresses some points for assessment.
Technique & Workflow
- Exposure – are shots well exposed? Any consistent errors?
- Focus – are shots in focus?
- Are pictures organized and have metadata?
- Proper captioning?
Composition & Lighting
- Visual variety of distances and angles? Is the photographer moving around?
- Is the framing close enough? Is framing to loose?
- General composition, are subject & meaning clear and enhanced by composition?
- Is there a variety of light, framing and composition – if relevant?
- How is the light?
- Good timing and moments captured?
- Do pictures lack a point of view or reason for being?
- If images lack meaning or interest, the photographer likely did not plan or take enough time to observe the given scenes or event, meaning the photographer was not sure what they were looking for or doing. In future, watch and identify what is interesting, and then anticipate the peak of the action or the emotion
- Appropriate use of depth of field, either shallow to clean up busy backgrounds, or higher as and when needed.
- Do we see faces? Too many backs or sides of people?
- Is there enough confidence and time taken to get close to subject matter and choose good moments?
- Pictures lack feeling and emotions. Too many ‘information’ pictures of people showing action rather than ’emotion’ pictures revealing mood, feeling or emotion
- Lens choices? How do they work, any poor use of wide angle?
- Too many or not enough frames of shots.
- Worked a subject when needed
- Enough time invested? Good pictures usually require time and patience.
- Are there wide shots, tight shots, detail shots, portraits, verticals and horizontals?
- No one key or representative picture that could be used as a theme or dominant picture. You need that one killer or foundation image that captures the essence of the story
- How are the images presented, is it effective?
- Are the images ordered well?
- How do they work on computer & mobile?
- Is there a clear theme or storyline? Can I see this just from looking at the images, or do I need to read text?