Aug 16

JOURNALISM 101

During this school year, the Community Journalism Project will offer an array of writing challenges, skills-building exercises, and resources online as well as opportunities for live workshops on storytelling, arts criticism, public speaking, and journalism basics through YWP's Writing on the Roof and Voices for Change series. Watch the site for updates.

In the meantime, consider the tools a journalist needs to be successful:
  • An open, independent mind
  • Curiosity
  • Patience
  • The ability to listen, learn, and synthesize information
  • Bravery and a strong moral compass
  • A sense of humor
A journalist must:
  • Read, read, read, especially about current and historic events, people, issues -- global, national, local 
  • Research using reputable, non-partisan sources
  • Love writing
  • Learn how to interview and tell the story (the who, what, where, how, why -- and what's next?)
  • Be honest and truthful
  • Be skeptical of speculation, political propaganda, rumor, rhetoric, inflexible arguments, extremism
  • Meet deadlines
(Interested in adding to the list? Go to the writing challenge "CJP-Tools.")

On interviewing: 

It’s an amazing experience to interview people, to have the opportunity to drop into their lives and ask questions. Here are a few tips:
  • Do your research. Find out as much as you can in advance of the interview so the subject knows you're serious (and you'll get a better interview).
  • Be ready with the questions you need to ask for a complete story (the who, what, where questions referred to above).
  • The best interviews are easy conversations. Make your subject comfortable; do a little warming up, give the person a heads-up about what you plan to talk about.
  • Engage. Don’t just read off the questions without looking at the person. And don’t be afraid to go off-script. An answer can lead to more questions and deeper stories. 
  • Avoid questions that would lead to "yes"or "no" answers. Instead, ask open-ended-style questions, such as, What are your thoughts on ... OR Could you expand on... OR Describe your feelings... 
  • Listen carefully to the answers and springboard from there. Be aware of unexpected turns interviews can take, and be ready to respond with more questions.
  • Dig for details. Seek the story behind vague generalities. The quickest way is to ask: Could you be specific? OR Could you give me an example? 
  • Don't be afraid to ask tough questions. It can be uncomfortable, but often those questions are critical to the story. You have committed to getting the story. Follow through!
Here's a challenge to get you started