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Five Ws and One H: The Secret to Complete News Stories

If you ever sat through Journalism 101, you know all about the Five Ws and one H. For the rest of you, you may find this concept helpful when preparing interview questions or writing factual news stories. This concept may help you write better news releases too, considering they should contain news.

What are the Five Ws and One H? They are Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. Why are the Five Ws and One H important? Journalism purists will argue your story isn’t complete until you answer all six questions. It’s hard to argue this point, since missing any of these questions leaves a hole in your story. Even if you’re not reporting on the news of the day, this concept could be useful in many professional writing scenarios.

In case it’s not obvious what information you would be looking to gather from each of the six questions, let’s look at what information you might want to gather with the Five Ws and One H if you were reporting on The Three Little Pigs: [Read more...]

Is Twitter A Credible Source?

“If you’re twittering, you can go to Hell! Go to Hell! How do you end up with an ego that you’re that interested in your own life?” – Lewis Black

Lewis Black has a bucket-full of opinions when it comes to blogging and the social media phenomenon Twitter. I could go on and on about Black and his rants, and I could go on and on about my initial thoughts on the Twitter craze (which weren’t too far off from Black’s), but I’d primarily like to look at the opposite end of the spectrum: Twitter’s usefulness in finding/reporting the news. [Read more...]

Does News Accuracy Matter?

There was a time when being right was more important than being first to report a story, right? This has been a hot topic during recent months, as news organizations have worked harder to compete in the real-time communication era. I think it’s more likely that news organizations have always wanted to be first and right, but given the choice, first wins out.

The first organization (or person for that matter) to break the news gets all the glory. Few care about accuracy if the report turns out to be rumor. If the story is true, it’s the first to report that gets all the credit. This begs the question, does accuracy in reporting still matter? I think it does, but journalists have less time to check your facts and verify sources than before. Fact-checking often comes as the story develops, after it’s been reported. This changes the way consumers adapt to the flow of information. [Read more...]

Reporting the News: If You Ain’t First, You’re Last

Is it more important to be first or to be right when reporting the news? When reporting the news today, to steal a quote from fictional race car driver Ricky Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Take for example the sad news of Michael Jackson’s death yesterday. AOL-owned TMZ was the first to report that Jackson had died. And sadly, they did get it right.

You have to wonder whether TMZ really talked to a source, or rather just gambled and got it right. Does it matter? Had TMZ been wrong, we would have forgotten in a couple of hours. Instead, they were mentioned as the source by every news organization (not to mention in thousands of tweets). I’m sure there are thousands of people who had never heard of TMZ before yesterday. [Read more...]

What’s the Best Story You’ve Ever Told?

I recently asked some of our Twitter followers the following question:

what's your favorite story?

Within a few minutes, I was flooded by some great examples from some hard-working journalists out there. A few dozen followers asked me to share some of the responses, which seemed like a great idea for a blog post. In no particular order, here are some I think you might enjoy:

@MikeBockoven: I saved someone’s life once. Without a story I wrote, a woman wouldn’t have found a kidney donor.

Saving a life is one cool result of a story. People overlook the value of the knowledge they attain from reading what reporters write. Congrats to @mikebockoven on this one.

@barbaraclements: That would be DC during 9-11, a look into falls in the construction industry and a foster mom who’d fostered dozens of kids.

Three great examples. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to report on 9-11.

@ioriwase: Break a story about a corrupt politician and then covering the aftermath where he was removed from office.

A mini-Watergate? I love it. We need more of this reporting out there.

@quipsandtips: So far, my best story is The Benefits of Breast Cancer” – upcoming in Health Magazine April 2009. Shocking!

I’ll have to read the article. The content promises to be as ‘shocking’ as the headline.

@cjessee2: Last week I got to break the news to Californians that delayed tax refunds were in the mail!

Who doesn’t like reading about “the check is in the mail”? Especially in this economy.

@atubanos: One of my faves was chatting to Marina Sirtis for YourGeekNews b/c we go another side of her than the usual scifi bit.

I am of the generation that knows Marina Sirtis played Deanna Troi on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” That must have been a fun interview.

@AntoniaZ: For me the best was, as media critic, covering how awful the US media was in the wake of 9/11 and in the run-up to Iraq.

I’m sure there was plenty of material to use for this one.

@kpoythress: One of the most well-received stories I ever reported was on a baby girl with Trisomy 18. Shouldn’t have lived to birth.

I had never heard of Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome, until this tweet. It sounds like this was a real-life miracle for the parents.

@stevenpotter: In my college years, I broke apart an indentured servitude racket through a weekly alternative paper.

I can’t believe this still goes on.

@akurys: I did a fantastic package on Oklahoma’s Centenarian’s on the 100th birthday of our statehood a few years ago!

I hope I live to be 100. I’m going to throw one heck of a party in 2074.

If somebody where to ask me right now, “What’s the best tweet you ever twittered?”, I’d have to say it was this one. Thanks to my Twitter participants for sharing their stories, I may have to recycle this tweet again in the future.

Are you a journalist with a story to add? Are you one of the sources I mentioned and want to add some more detail? Please share your comments.