How to find stories by listening

How to find stories by listening

One of the most basic skills every journalist needs is the ability to come up with stories worth reporting. It may be basic, but it’s not always easy. Some reporters have lots of ideas but they fail the “so what” test. Just because something’s interesting to you doesn’t mean it’s going to interest your audience. Other […]

How to shoot better vox pops (MOS)

How to shoot better vox pops (MOS)

Whatever you call them, “man on the street” interviews are a staple of TV news. Done well, they can reflect public opinion on important issues in your community. Done badly, they’re just a waste of air time. So how do you shoot them well? Start by thinking very carefully about where to go. Many stations […]

The art of the follow-up

The art of the follow-up

News conferences are part of every journalist’s work life. Some reporters can’t go a week without covering several–largely because the newsmakers on their beat hold group sessions regularly but rarely schedule one-on-ones. It’s not easy to get good material from a news conference, but some journalists are skilled at it. What’s their secret? Good follow-ups. Bob […]

How to listen for stories

How to listen for stories

Everybody has a story, it’s often said. CBS’s Steve Hartman turned the adage into a franchise. NBC’s Bob Dotson does something similar in his American Story features for the Today Show. They make it look easy, but often times it’s not. Just because people have a story doesn’t mean they can tell it well.  That’s where […]

Tips for telling vivid stories

Tips for telling vivid stories

The elements of engaging stories are universal: strong characters, plot, beginning-middle-end, tension, surprise, resolution. What’s more, they’re central to every kind of story, not just features. Just ask investigative reporter Daniel Zwerdling, who has reported on everything from pesticides to mental health in his 30 plus years at NPR. “You can do the greatest investigation of […]

How to break through interview barriers

How to break through interview barriers

No matter what kinds of stories you cover, you’re bound to run into public information officers. And while paid professional spokespeople can be a huge help to journalists, I used the term “run into” for good reason. All too often, PIOs act as barriers instead of conduits to getting information. How can you break through? […]

Career advice from public radio's Kai Ryssdal

Career advice from public radio’s Kai Ryssdal

He has a memorable name and a prominent job, but public radio’s Kai Ryssdal followed anything but a typical career path on his way to anchoring the daily business program Marketplace. His story proves the truth of his own maxim: “Do what you love.” After eight years in the Navy and four in the Foreign […]

The downside of media training

The downside of media training

Are some of the people you interview sounding a little rehearsed these days? More and more officials, professionals and business executives are being coached on how to deal with the media. And while that can be a good thing, it isn’t always. Many doctors and lawyers have been advised to avoid acronyms and technical language so […]

How to interview almost anyone

How to interview almost anyone

Interviews are an essential building block for just about every news story, so it’s obviously important to know how to conduct a good one.  Most interviewing advice comes in the form of tips and hints, like these dos and don’ts from Canadian journalist John Sawatsky and the suggestions we’ve previously posted here. But sometimes it’s helpful […]

Top 10 NewsLab posts of 2011

Top 10 NewsLab posts of 2011

Beginning a new year by looking backward is a time-honored tradition among procrastinators and (true confession here) I can procrastinate with the best of them when I’m not on deadline. So herewith, a look back at the posts that got the most traffic at NewsLab in 2011, in case you missed any or would like […]

Tips for dealing with confidential sources

Tips for dealing with confidential sources

How far will you go to protect the identity of sources who give you information on the condition that you not reveal their names? If you haven’t thought about it, you should. Every reporter eventually runs into a story so important that it’s worth getting the information on a confidential basis. But you’d better understand […]

Should journalists be sneaky?

Should journalists be sneaky?

I love reading what other journalists have to say about their work and sharing their insights here, but sometimes I find myself in a bit of a quandary. What to make of this comment? “You’re in the wrong job if you think that political journalists can or should be entirely up-front and open in their […]

The art and aggravation of the interview

The art and aggravation of the interview

Mark Twain is one of the most quotable of American writers, especially on the subject of writing. Two of my favorites: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” And: “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and […]

Interviewing victims

Interviewing victims

People who have lost relatives or friends in a disaster are often the first target of journalists seeking to report on the event. How can journalists do their job of covering breaking news and informing the public, while showing sensitivity to victims? Sue Carter and Bonnie Bucqueroux of the Victims and the Media Program at Michigan […]

Interviewing glossary

Interviewing glossary

Most interviews we do for television or radio are on the record. Seems obvious–after all, we usually show up with a microphone! But there may be times when you have to make a deal with a source in order to get any information at all. In that case, you and the source must agree on the ground rules.