1. A Sense of the News
  2. Passion for being specific
  3. Willingness to find things out
  4. No to assumptions 
  5. Never be afraid to sound stupid
  6. Be suspicious of any source
  7. Being proactive
  8. Zero judgment
  9. Realise that you are part of a system
  10. Empathise with readers
  1. A Sense of the News

If you don’t have it, forget it. It is essential for three reasons.

  • It is necessary to have a sense of the news in a positive sense, to identify a  good lead and grasp the essential news among all the multitude of information available. 
  • In a negative sense so as not to waste time chasing stories from which nothing new will come out. 
  • If you have no sense of the news or you have it and do not use it, you will miss things and regret it.

2. Passion for being specific

To be precise, three things must be taken care of:

  • Record and write down correctly what people tell you.
  • Be accurate in every detail and that the story told is an exact description of the atmosphere of the situation or event. In short: always provide context and tell the backstory.
  • Do not get into the habit of saying: Well if this happened then this must have happened too. Never make wishes. Always write only what you know.

3. Willingness to find things out

I will explain it to you with some stories that I know from my studies and reading about journalism.

You can recognise the bad journalist immediately. When he is writing a story and comes back to the newsroom he says: I can’t find anything.

The good one doesn’t give up on a dead-end phone call or from obstructive sources. That is where the determination to get to the bottom of writing a story counts. 

Like Cathy Free did. Her name is linked to the story of the Unabomber (whose series of letter bombs to universities and airplanes killed three people and injured 29) who was arrested in Montana in 1996. 

Cathy Free was a local correspondent for People magazine and became famous because she asked a school secretary to fax her all the pages of the phone book (luckily there were only four), and phoned all the people to gather information about the suspect.

Or like Evelyn Shuler of the Philadelphia Ledger who knew that she would beat the competition on a murder case if she could witness the exhumation of the victim’s body. She stayed awake for three days standing guard at a cemetery and on the morning of the fourth day she got her article.

4. No to assumptions

Tell what you know not what you think you know. The problem with assumptions is that they often turn out to be correct. And that is the thing that makes them dangerous. Better to write what you know rather than to appear inaccurate, dishonest, misleading, or fired.

In this matter, imagine the embarrassment that the editorial staff of that British magazine bought the photo showing Prince Charles hugging a lady who was not his wife.

At that time everyone knew that his marriage was not going well.

The newspaper published the photo with a headline suggesting the existence of an affair between the two. But it was wrong. The photo had been taken at the funeral of the woman’s son who had died of leukemia at the age of four.

5. Never be afraid to sound stupid

If you do not understand, ask for explanations. He laughs at you when you ask a question, he is not a journalist. 

The stupid journalist is the one who thinks he knows everything without asking questions, who nods throughout the interview even though he does not understand. 

Then he finds himself at the time of writing the article that he does not get it. And of course that is easy. The right time to show one’s ignorance is when asking the questions, not when writing the article.

6. Be suspicious of any source

Why do you tell me these things?

What are his reasons?

Is he able to know what he says he knows?

Three questions, plus a thousand others come to mind when you have any news source in front of you.

7. Being proactive

Using talent and charm in journalism? Yes, you should.

Think of Marguerite Higgings, who in the 1940s, to write an article about a high society wedding, borrowed the uniform of a hotel cloakroom attendant and managed to sneak into the wedding.

Ann Leslie the reporter for the Daily Mail, in 1989 was so furious at the distance at which the press had been placed at the funeral of Emperor Hirohito that she wore a luxurious fur coat and managed to sit next to President George H. Bush.

8. Zero judgment

Having one’s own convictions is part of one’s personality. But these should not influence a journalist’s work. Opinions are not facts.

9. Realise that you are part of a system

Many journalists think that an indicator of literary talent to be late or to overrun the preset length of an article. They don’t. These are the traits of the unreliable amateur. 

Instead, it is important to understand that once you are hired as a journalist you become part of an establishment that has its own rules. 

Of course you can argue with editor, publisher because maybe you don’t agree with some decision they made year however you have to submit to their rules. It is a matter of professionalism. 

10. Empathise with readers

Readers are attracted to articles when they identify with them. Here are some practical examples:

  • 1. in the article include stories and tell how the event will affect the reader’s lives that of others.
  • 2. Use examples that are part of their experience.
  • 3.Tell the sortie that normal people would make.

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