Think about writing, journalism and storytelling

His Girl Friday (Still) 1940_7

How to Write a News Story

This is the crux of all news – you need to know five things:

Who?   What?   Where?   When?   Why?   How?

Any good news story provides answers to each of these questions. You must drill these into your brain and they must become second nature.

For example, if you wish to cover a story about a local sports team entering a competition you will need to answer these questions:

  • Who is the team? Who is the coach? Who are the prominent players? Who are the supporters?
  • What sport do they play? What is the competition?
  • Where is the competition? Where is the team normally based?
  • When is the competition? How long have they been preparing? Are there any other important time factors?
  • Why are they entering this particular competition? If it’s relevant, why does the team exist at all?
  • How are they going to enter the competition? Do they need to fundraise? How much training and preparation is required? What will they need to do to win?

The Inverted Pyramid


This refers to the style of journalism which places the most important facts at the beginning and works “down” from there. Ideally, the first paragraph should contain enough information to give the reader a good overview of the entire story. The rest of the article explains and expands on the beginning.

A good approach is to assume that the story might be cut off at any point due to space limitations. Does the story work if the editor only decides to include the first two paragraphs? If not, re-arrange it so that it does.

The same principle can apply to any type of medium.

More Tips

  • It’s About People
    News stories are all about how people are affected. In your sports story, you might spend some time focusing on one or more individuals, or on how the team morale is doing, or how the supporters are feeling.
  • Have an Angle
    Most stories can be presented using a particular angle or “slant”. This is a standard technique and isn’t necessarily bad – it can help make the purpose of the story clear and give it focus. Examples of angles you could use for your sports story:
    “Team Tackles National Competition”
    “Big Ask for First-Year Coach”
    “Local Team in Need of Funds”
  • Keep it Objective
    You are completely impartial. If there is more than one side to the story, cover them all. Don’t use “I” and “me” unless you are quoting someone. Speaking of quoting…
  • Quote People
    For example: “We’re really excited about this competition,” says coach Bob Dobalina, “It’s the highest target we’ve ever set ourselves”.
  • Don’t Get Flowery
    Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Don’t use lots of heavily descriptive language. When you’ve finished, go through the entire story and try to remove any words which aren’t completely necessary.

How do journalists become better storytellers?

How journalists write. 

Assignment for Thursday

Find someone on campus who might not always get noticed and do a story about that person.  It should include all of the above elements and three to five photos.



Understanding the News

What do journalists do?

  • Watchdog
  • Truth-teller/seeker
  • Informer
  • Storyteller
  • Trusted Friend
  • Dangerous Enemy
  • Celebrity

All news stories have common characteristics:

  • Important or Significant
  • Prominence
  • Conflict
  • Human Interest
  • Time & Proximity – all stories need to consider this

Types of Stories

  • Breaking News
  • Planned Event Reporting
  • Enterprise Reporting
  • Investigative Reporting
  • Special Segment Reporting
  • Features


  • Longer form, more descriptive
  • NPR, PRI, U-92, MSN Sports Radio


  • Shorter forms, video key element, concise info


  • Block style, more visual, mid-length with links
  • Yahoo, Google,,,

Your Role in News Media

  • You are reporting these stories to the public through audio and visual mediums
  • You need to know how to find stories, interview subjects, write compelling & complete copy
  • Your challenge – to find and deliver according to changing mediums & technology

Your Assignment – For Thursday

Prepare questions to ask our guest speaker Mo Mozuch. Learn all you can and challenge yourself

Your assignment for Tuesday

Under each type of delivery system find an news piece that reflect each of the types of stories and then talk about the characteristics of that story. This is when expanding you media diet is critical. What did you think about the story?


Radio – NPR Morning Edition

Story $50,000 In Student Loans? You Probably Don’t Think College Was Worth It

Type Special Segment Reporting

Characteristic(s) – Time, Importance,

I think that this story showed . . . I would have added . . . I would have liked to know . . . I would have changed . . . .

You are working in culture – what does that mean?

Culture Defined


The symbols of expression that individuals, groups and societies use to make sense of everyday life and to articulate values.

  • Cultural values can be contested
  • Many smaller, bounded cultures (sometimes co-cultures) exist within large, national culture
  • People who like football – cheer for a certain team(s)
  • Culture can divide and/or unite
  • Chocolate and Vanilla
  • AFC North
  • Edward and the werewolf kid with no shirt
  • Differentiation can divide (even within the group)
  • Culture constructed and maintained through communication (This is how you know who you are in the group) Soph, Richmond, Biology major

Functions and Effects of Culture

  • Limits our options and provides useful guidelines for behavior
  • Culture’s limiting effects can be negative
  • In pluralistic society, dominant culture (sometimes mainstream culture) often challenged openly
  • Co-cultures (smaller cultures within the mainstream)
  • Steelers Nation, Deadheads, Jocks, Stoners, Southern Ladies, Frat Boys etc.
  • Our culture can divide us Steelers vs. Raven – Americans vs. Communists

Fear of a Black Hat 1993

Cultural definition of communication

“Communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed”         (James W. Carey)


  • Our stories help define our culture
  • We know who we are by the stories we tell each other and the stories that we accept.
  • Change comes when we disregard the story.
  • What would make us disregard the story?
  • Something personal?
  • A change in media perhaps?
  • Changing the way we think

What story changed you?

(This is a good opportunity to think about how you talk about yourself on your blog.)

Models of Mass Communication

  • Linear Model:
    • Sender—message—mass media channel—(gatekeepers)—receivers
    • How does feedback fit into the model?
  • Cultural Approach:
    • Individual cultural component
    • Selective exposure
    • Storytelling

Coming back to “What does media do to us?”

  • Some who likes Beethoven also like American Idol.
  • Do The Munsters rip off Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?
  • Does popular culture cheapen public life?
    • Some who likes Beethoven also like American Idol.
    • Did The Munsters rip off Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?
    • Does popular culture cheapen public life?
    • TV sets in use for more than seven hours a day
    • Social media accounts for A LOT of your time
    • More refined culture struggles to find an audience
    • Popular media may inhibit social progress by transforming us into cultural dupes. (Go back to Brave New World.)
  • We have been seduced by the promise of products
  • The “Big Mac” theory: We have lost our discriminating taste for finer fare.


Write about how you see media influencing consumer culture? What stories are important in your view of yourself – either from a personal or a consumer position. Both are valid.

Include links, video if applicable and photos. 500 words. Due Thursday.

A couple of things to start:

From this day forward I only reply to professional emails.

What does that mean?

First you need to understand . ..
What is your audience’s relationship to you—for example, is the reader your teacher? Your boss? A friend? A stranger? How well do you know him/her? How would you talk to him/her in a social situation?
What do you want your audience to think or assume about you? What kind of impression do you want to make?
With that said then make sure:

  1. There is a specific subject line
  2. There is a greeting to the person receiving the email
  3. You get directly to the point. Use no exclamation points, emoticons or slang.
  4. Use proper grammar, spelling and style. Email is not an exception, especially since it might be the first or only was someone gets an impression of you.

5 Use a closing.

For your closing, something brief but friendly, or perhaps just your name, will do for most correspondence:

Thank you,
Best wishes,
See you tomorrow,

For a very formal message, such as a job application, use the kind of closing that you might see in a business letter:

Respectfully yours,

E-mail from Student 1:


i need help on my paper can i come by your office tomorrow


E-mail from Student 2:

Hi Dr. Crowley,

I am in your MCOM 101 class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I have a question about the paper that is due next Tuesday. I’m not sure that I understand what is meant by the following sentence in the prompt:

“Write a 10 page paper arguing for or against requiring MCOM 101 for all SU freshmen and provide adequate support for your point of view.”

I am not sure what you would consider “adequate” support. Would using 3 sources be o.k.?

Can I come by your office tomorrow at 2:00 pm to talk to you about my question? Please let me know if that fits your schedule. If not, I could also come by on Friday after 1:00.

Thank you,

Tim Smith

How to work with media sources to help you become a better communicator.

  1. Figure out how to integrate your sources into your day.
  2. NPR
  3. BBC
  4. The Economist
  5. Twitter
  6. Create a way to track what you encounter (notebook, etc.)
  7. Note the show
  8. Note the topic
  9. Note the date
  10. Make a connection
  11. Make sure you share some of what you encounter with several people during your day (to get other’s perspective)
  13. Spend 25 minutes with your thoughts and puke something out. It might become the basis for something useful: article idea, blog post, make it local, make it yours.
  14. The next day turn the page

Ways to listen to NPR

  • In your car
  • get the app
  • download a podcast

Reading NPR online DOES NOT COUNT

Think of all of the things that listening does for you

  1. Improves you concentration
  2. Improves how you “hear” the words you write
  3. Provides more layering to the story

So to understand creativity you must encounter it everywhere.

For some inspiration:

Check out this website about creativity.

Watch these examples of good final projects from this class.

For Tuesday:

Find a paragraph or two of elegant writing. Something that impresses you when you read it.

  1. It cannot be from something that you read in high school.
  2. It does not have to be fiction.
  3. You do have to explain why it is appealing.
  • What does it inspire?
  • What does it signify or represent?
  • What makes it special?
  1. Dig deep. If you really find this paragraph appealing you should have a lot to say about it.
  2. Be specific; it will make you better.

Here are some examples:

“He went out into the hallway. Behind him, like an eyelid shutting, the soft closing of the door winked out the light. He assayed the stairs, lapsing below him into darkness, and grasping one by one each slender upright to the banister, went down. David never found himself alone on these stairs, but he wished there were no carpet covering them. How could you hear the sound of your own feet in the dark if a carpet muffled every step you took? And if you couldn’t hear the sound of your own feet and couldn’t see anything either, how you be sure you were actually there and not dreaming?”

Check out this article by Michael Wilbon about Chuck Daly.

This site might help you, sports fans.

Have the paragraph and the critique printed out for Tuesday. Also, be prepared to talk about it.

Fun stuff for this weekend

Hi everyone,

I hope you had a great weekend! I am emailing you because you teach or work in an area that deals with social justice, current events, storytelling, or spoken word. We have an exciting workshop THIS SATURDAY that students can sign up for. It’s open to artists and non-artists…anyone who wants to learn more about self-expression.
Check out this video to learn more about the musicians and forward this info to anyone who you think might be interested!

Saturday, Sept. 19: Telling Your Own Story in Word & Music is a FREE workshop for students from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the Brandt Student Center Room 123. As part of a 3-day residency surrounding their new work BLACKBIRD, FLY, award-winning spoken word artist/actor/playwright Marc Bamuthi Joseph and composer/violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain present an interactive workshop engaging artists and non-artists alike in their unique brand of artistic creation and performance. Participants will learn how to use (sampled and live) music, movement and spoken word to tell their own story, reflecting on issues of importance and relevance to themselves and the world around them. Registration required. Seating is limited. Register at Contact Courtney Reilly

What will you do for the first assignment?

First you will go to WordPress and choose Big Brother as your theme for your site. (If you are in other classes with me you will use the site, too)

You will start to gather the materials you need for your first post based on the videos, readings and links provided to you.

You will also take into account the media diet assignment to give you a base to work with.

Take a look at the questions and start to form a idea for a story you want to tell

  • The day in the life of my cell phone
  • I’m gorged on media
  • Why is this Canadian telling me I’m bad?
  • How Brave is the New World of connectivity?

The assignment will have the following elements:

The first post will contain the following:

  • 500-700 words
  • Three photos
  • Five links
  • A video portion (with voiceover, graphics, photos and/or videos – 1 minute) *
    • This is not one minute of someone else’s Youtube video.

You will post it on your site and share your site with me by 8 a.m. next Thursday. 

You have to read and listen and pay attention to the materials and then let the story unfold itself to you.

Talk with the muse who speaks to you.


Analytically the Nine Muses are:

1. Clio: The Muse Clio discovered history and guitar. History was named Clio in the ancient years, because it refers to “kleos” the Greek word for the heroic acts. Clio was always represented with a clarion in the right arm and a book in the left hand.

2. Euterpe: Muse Euterpe discovered several musical instruments, courses and dialectic. She was always depicted holding a flute, while many instruments were always around her.

3. Thalia: Muse Thalia was the protector of comedy; she discovered comedy, geometry, architectural science and agriculture. She was also protector of Symposiums. She was always depicted holding a theatrical – comedy mask.

4. Melpomene: Opposite from Thalia, Muse Melpomene was the protector of Tragedy; she invented tragedy, rhetoric speech and Melos. She was depicted holding a tragedy mask and usually bearing a bat.

5. Terpsichore: Terpsichore was the protector of dance; she invented dances, the harp and education. She was called Terpsichore because she was enjoying and having fun with dancing ( “Terpo” in Greek refers to be amused). She was depicted wearing laurels on her head, holding a harp and dancing.

6. Erato: Muse Erato was the protector of Love and Love Poetry – as well as wedding. Her name comes from the Greek word “Eros” that refers to the feeling of falling in love. She was depicted holding a lyre and love arrows and bows.

7. Polymnia: Muse Polymnia was the protector of the divine hymns and mimic art; she invented geometry and grammar. She was depicted looking up to the Sky, holding a lyre.

8. Ourania: Muse Ourania was the protector of the celestial objects and stars; she invented astronomy. She was always depicted bearing stars, a celestial sphere and a bow compass.

9. Calliope: Muse Calliope was the superior Muse. She was accompanying kings and princes in order to impose justice and serenity. She was the protector of heroic poems and rhetoric art. According to the myth, Homer asks from Calliope to inspire him while writing Iliad and Odyssey, and, thus, Calliope is depicted holding laurels in one hand and the two Homeric poems in the other hand.

The Nine Muses have been inspiring artists since the antiquity and there countless paintings, drawings, designs, poems and statues dedicated to them. All artists of the Renaissance acknowledged their importance in artistic creation,  dedicating their works to the Muses.