Covering national news – call up the FBI while you’re at it
My guess is that if you’re here, it’s because you go to a small private school where nothing ever happens, and if things do happen, the administration refuses to tell you about it.
Thus began Michael Perrota’s talk on covering national news on campus. For schools like UP, hard news stories are hard to come by. So, when a national news story hits, it’s only natural to want to cover it. The trick is simply how. In order for a college campus to cover a national news story, Perrota said one of three criteria must apply:
The story is applicable to the college campus
The story is applicable to the local area
The story is applicable to the life and experiences of a college-aged student
Filling one of these three criteria is not too challenging. What is challenging is coming up with the right sources to talk about an issue. Perrota said that once you have sources that are knowledgeable on a topic in national news, the story is set.
For national news stories, sometimes the best sources will be off-campus. Perrota said there is nothing wrong with branching out to sources like lawyers, business owners, or students from local colleges if they add to a story. Newspaper clips that show reporters have put in extra effort to contact sources outside the campus will impress their future employers. Besides, Perrota pointed out, getting an interview with the FBI is a lot easier than getting an interview with a university president.
Another source to scavenge for story ideas is PEW research. Many surveys can become stories if they are about college students.
Details, details, details
The next time I interview a source, I’m going to ask them where they got their shoes. And it’s not because I’m in need of a new pair or a creep.
By asking students in our session where they got their shoes, Rob Kaiser discovered that one student is 20 months apart from her sister, who she regards as a best friend. Random? Not if you knew that she was wearing her sister’s shoes to the conference. With this demonstration, Kaiser pointed out how important the details are to revealing people’s character.
The amount of detail in an article can make or break a story. There is a fine line between too much extraneous information that takes away from the point, and not enough detail to engage readers.
Using details in stories take readers to an angle not usually explored. Kaiser showed us an example article about Jackie Kennedy at the funeral of her husband. Rather than focusing on simply the 5 W’s, the author “zoomed-in” on a moment where Jackie struggled to take off her black glove and remove her wedding ring to place by her husband’s body. It was simple description that added a powerful component of connection to the story. The reader saw the human element in the story rather than the simple facts.
I loved this talk because it focused on the art of writing that can be added to news stories. Sometimes I find myself getting bored with a story and frustrated with the writing process because it seems so lifeless. This session gave me a new way to add life to my stories.
“Writing is really a wrestling match with yourself – it’s an act of self-discipline.” –Rob Kaiser