Interviewing is one of the most important parts of writing a story. Any story is more impactful with quotes, but you also want to ask the right questions to get those quotes.
One of the most important things to keep in mind in interviewing is to ask open-ended questions. If you ask a millions yes or no questions, odds are your quotes won’t be very good.
Another huge part interviewing is to always ask “why?”. Interviews should always feel more like a conversation than a probing for information. If you have a good flow within the interview, the person will be more likely to open up more and give you more than you need for the story.
Silence in interviews is also a huge tool that you can use to your advantage. The subject will most likely jump to fill the silence if you’re patient enough to wait on them to elaborate.
Filak and Briggs talk about using twitter as a way of microblogging.
Twitter is a great tool, but has just as much downside as it does upside. Twitter isn’t always filled with the most accurate information to say the least. Often times, people read a tweet and take it as fact, instead of researching the thing they are reading about.
I’m a huge fan of the way Twitter limits its users to 280 characters, formerly 140. It keeps users concise and makes them get to the point quicker. Other medias like Instagram and Facebook always seem to have long, never ending rants, that Twitter has been able to avoid for the most part (threads).
It’s very nice to have all different types of news, sports and entertainment in one place, but you can’t believe everything you read, especially on Twitter.
Everyone in today’s society relies on data in some form or another. With all the technology readily available to us, anyone can find data in a matter of seconds.
When writing, you want to use data where applicable, but do not want to put in stats just for the sake of doing so. The data in the article should add value to the piece, not confuse the reader.
In some cases, data can tell a story all on its own. An infographic or spreadsheet can be very helpful and informative to the reader. Interactive maps could also be very useful. Readers tend to connect and pay attention more when they have something that they can interact with.
GPS and map systems in phones have made this process so much easier. With cell phones and other portable data devices, data is more important and accessible than ever before.
In chapter 5, Briggs talks about visual storytelling with photographs. Briggs highlights the digital camera basics very early in the chapter.
Pictures can be more powerful than words, if used properly. The audience can connect more with the actual scene or circumstance. Most of photography is just being the right spot at the right time. Timing is everything.
Often times, photographers will try to overdo themselves, trying to find the most artistic photo, instead of trying to take a picture that best captures the story.
Filak discusses writing on the web in Chapter 6. Blog writing can be very tricky. You have to focus on audience interests and continuously think of new ways to attract new readers. With blogging, you have to constantly keeping up to date on your subject area. Like Filak says, no one wants to read about things that happened six weeks ago, they want to read about what’s happening right now.
Briggs says that a good blog is a “continuing conversation.” Twitter has now become a form of microblogging. Live tweeting is a great form of blogging as something happens.
Briggs also touches on several key important parts of a blog, including the appearance and system. Briggs says you should post approximately once a day, and participate in the community. Twitter is a great website to use to keep up to date with the community and interact with your readers.
In chapter three, Filak discusses the importance of grammar. Even if you what you wrote isn’t “what you really meant,” the audience does not know that. If your readers cannot understand what you have written, your have missed the mark as a writer. Active voice is another big topic that Filak touches on. Active voice is much easier to read and keeps the audience more engaged. The 17-23 word sentence section really stuck out to me. they contain one or two key points but are not so long that your audience will be become tiresome. I generally keep my sentences shorter than that, so that is something I definitely need to work on.
In chapter four, Filak talks about the “Killer Be’s.” Be Right, Be Tight, Be Clear, Be Active, Be Smooth and Be Quick. The most crucial thing is to get the reader the important information as quickly, and correctly as possible. While you want to be quick, you do not want to confuse the reader by not having a consistent flow. If your article does not flow, it’s very hard to keep the reader engaged. The inverted pyramid writing style is something that I’ve used over and over again while writing journalistically. Because some only read the beginning of an article, it’s very important to get the most vital information across as soon as you can, while maintaining flow and accuracy of course. Leads are always something I struggle with while writing, so having all the different examples of leads right in front of me was very helpful.
Chapter eight discusses reporting. In our advanced writing and reporting class in the spring, I was able to get some experience with a few of these types of reporting. Feature and Profile stories were some of my favorite, and event reporting is pretty neat, depending on the event you’re covering. Beat reporting is something that I’ve yet to do, but I always enjoy reading beats, mainly sports. Getting to cover the same team, or league, day in and day out would be fascinating. Working with the same group of people would help you build deeper connections in the field that you are covering, as well as improve your knowledge of the way that organization operates.