Cmanyc13 has drawn to a close and our brains are buzzing with hashtags, headlines and new story ideas. We got to meet social media superstars, renowned professors from across the country and fellow student journalists who have had to deal with campus controversies that received national attention. Now that it’s all over there are couple of things that are still buzzing around in my head that The Beacon should take to heart:
Did this headline grab your attention?
According to one of the session leaders, you’re probably not reading this right now. In fact, if you’re on this blog, you probably just scrolled down the page, scanned the words in bold and the photos, and if nothing was shocking enough to read further, you scrolled right on past the rest of this post. So…it remains to be seen why I’m even writing this right now…OH RIGHT, it’s for the minority of you who are “committed readers,” and the few of you scanners who are fascinated enough by my stunning headlines and photos to continue on. So, if by some miracle you’re still reading, you’ve probably gotten the gist of what I’m trying to say. Headlines are, in many cases, the only words people who pick up the newspaper read. So it’s important for headlines to be accurate and not mislead the story, and to be eye-catching and interest-sparking.
“UP installs new water fountain” is a boring headline that appears to preclude a boring story – and it seems to the reader that all the information they need to know is right there in the headline. Headlines need to feature the most interesting detail of the story, and the subheading can elaborate on what that means. “Athletes’ thirst quenched after two-year dry spell,” for example, is a slightly more interesting headline. It features two details, “athletes” and “dry spell,” the former of which would catch the attention of any athletes vested in getting a new water fountain for their fitness center. It also tells you just how long the fitness center has been without a water fountain, which might surprise some, and interest others because they’ve had to deal with the problem. In order for editors to come up with more engaging headlines like this, they need to read through the whole story and figure out what the story is, not just a summary phrase of the broadest interpretation of the story possible. Reporters work hard on stories, and it’s a disservice to them and to the paper to guarantee that no one will read their story because the headline makes readers nod off.
Beaconites in front of the NY Times building
Can I get a photo with that, please?
Most section editors are former reporters, so they often think like reporters – in terms of content, ledes, nutgraphs and word choice. The story is the most important things, photos get inserted later, and design is just a way to make the story more readable. But like I wrote earlier, most readers are scanners, so the majority of them won’t read the story, or at least all of it. Don’t be discouraged – having the whole story, and having the whole story well-written and accurate is vital. There are those that will read the whole things, especially those who are directly involved in the story. But photos and design should never be afterthoughts or fit in at the last minute because there is extra space. The photos and design will be seen by vastly more readers than will actually read the stories, so they need to be given just as much time and though. The leader of this session suggested having the photographer, designer and reporter meet as soon as the story is assigned and have a face-to-face conversation about their vision for the story. From then on, they should be in contact whenever the story morphs or changes. If a photographer goes to an event and gets a really great photo, they should notify the reporter so that they can go talk to the subject of the photos, keeping the photos and story connected. When the photographer has a very clear idea of the details of the story, they can take photos that represent the story best. Similarly, when the designer is in the loop the whole time, they can come up with a design that represents the story, showcases the photos appropriately and catches the reader’s eye. When all three are in communication throughout the entire process, they can all share input into every facet of the story and how it is presented, giving the paper a chance to be the best it possibly can be.
#buildyourbrand #getyourstoryoutthere #unnecessarilylonghashtagsareneveragoodidea
During the convention, Beaconites got the chance to meet Twitter superstar Sree Sreenivasan and VP of Twitter Mark Luckie, who made our heads spin with hashtags and the importance of building our brand. In the information age, twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets are as much a part of your resume as your references and work experiences. Social media cannot be considered a private outlet for everything that pops into your head. Whoever you want to hire you will look at your social media presence, and if it’s unprofessional or shows that you don’t seem to fit in with the company’s mission, you’ve hurt your professional reputation and your chances of getting hired. Not only that, but having no social media presence is also a problem. Social media is a huge part of journalism today, and being active in social media is a must. What’s more, is that having connections is vital in journalism, and with social media you can have connections with people across the world whom you may never have met. These connections can help you find stories and source, as well as make career connections. Sreenivasan talked about how having the skills to get and write the story is only half the battle. Having the skills to get the story is just as important. You could be insanely talented at getting information and interviews and writing the story, but if you can’t get the story out there, then the story you’ve covered is basically useless. Nowadays, social media and the web world are the primary platforms on which to share information. If you show, by your social media presence, that you can be successful at sharing stories and being seen, you show that you know how to get stories out there.
Beaconites with Twitter VP Mark Luckie
The End…OR JUST THE BEGINNING?!
Cliches aside, this convention has taught us all things that we will now bring back to our work at The Beacon, having learned how to me more professional, effective journalists and create a paper that is a must-read. There’s so much more we learned…such as to use narrative arcs and anecdotes in stories to lure the reader in and create a story that really communicates the emotions of what you’re covering, instead of only reporting cold, hard and dry news. We learned so much more than we can fit into a few blog posts, but everything we learned will help push us to be better student journalists. #cmanyc13 #studentjournalist #hashtag #goodnight