Don’t let your opinions sneak in

Journalists don’t put their thoughts and opinions in anything except columns and editorials. Doing that is referred to as “editorializing.” Instead our job is to ask others for their thoughts and report them to our readers. Here are some examples of editorializing in the first issue.   We also editorialize in a headline and the…

Public meeting closed illegally?

If you believe a meeting is being closed to the public illegally, you should utter the script below. HOWEVER, do this rarely and make sure your feet are firmly planted in the facts/OMA. Talk with your editor first. (Mr. Or Madame Chairman): I am _______, a reporter for_________. I protest the closing of this meeting….

When to cite your sources

I’ve noticed we’re citing our sources when we don’t need to sometimes. Other times we don’t attribute when we should. For example, in today’s anti-hazing story, we cite the Daily-Herald for the details of Bogenberger’s death. But then we don’t attribute this: “On the night of Nov. 1, 2012, 19 pledges were questioned in the…

Pause and think before taking the obvious shot

    Somewhere there must have been written a rule about taking photos of police dogs. It would go something like this: When taking a photo of a police dog, make sure the dog is posing with an officer in front of a police car. It’s easy to go with the first thing we think…

Deadly words

Our recent double-homicide presents an opportunity to talk about how important it is that we use words precisely. When you find yourself writing or editing the words “killer,” “murderer” and “homicide,” alarm bells should go off in your head to justify the use for each one so you don’t open yourself and the Star up…

Avoiding cop speak

It’s not often we kick off a school year with news as prominent as a double-homicide in the usually sleepy town of Sycamore. I’m reminded of an excellent post from former EIC Kelly Bauer of how to avoid the dreaded “cop speak.” She starts with the cop speak term, followed by the conversational replacement we…

Tips for having difficult conversations

Part of being a manager is confronting employees with changes they need to make in their behavior or their performance. These conversations are never easy and certainly don’t come naturally. Try to see the conversation as a way to gain information and get results, not “punishing” someone.  Here are some tips to make these conversations easier….

Let’s enter more stuff

It’s easy to forget the parade of awards and winners announced Saturday in the run up to the general excellence award. We placed well in the categories that matter, but there were many categories we had no chance of winning because I didn’t have anything worth submitting. This made for a long, discouraging wait. I’ve included the…

How to recover from being scooped

scoop (verb): to get the better of (other publications, newscasters, etc.) by obtaining and publishing or broadcasting a news item, report, or story first. Maybe it’s the upcoming Super Bowl. Maybe it’s that the story we were scooped on today involved football. But WNIJ’s scoop of us on the tuition-giveaway-that-wasn’t story has me thinking that we’ve…

11 commandments of beat coverage

I seem to pull this out every time I go searching in my email history for something else. I used to give this to my new staffers to read back in the day. Enjoy. 11 Commandments of Beat Coverage By JOHN SWEENEY Wilmington, Del., News Journal 1. Know Your Readers Know who your readers are….

What does digital-first mean to us?

An editor once told me that if you have a date in a news lead that is more than a day old, you either have the angle wrong or you missed a story. Let that be food for thought about how we covered the city council story in today’s paper. I knew what happened Monday night because…

Covering a meeting

It can be tough deciding what to lead with in a meeting story. Here are some things to watch for that you might want to include in the story or even lead with: Laws, ordinances or resolutions passed Plans or budgets passed Officers elected or committee appointments made A meeting that goes really long or is…