Editor’s note: The orientation and multimedia training program for the Summer 2015 class of Chips Quinn Scholars was held at the John Seigenthaler Center in Nashville, Tenn., May 11-17. As part of their training, students blog about the conference and aspects of journalism.
What suggestion or piece of advice have you heard at orientation that will help you to improve a specific reporting, writing, editing, photo/video or storytelling skill?
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The best piece of advice was the three-to-one rule for shooting video. For every wide shot, you should shoot three to five medium and tight shots. Although I’ve thought about it subconsciously, having it explicitly said has made me realize how I can efficiently shoot video.
In terms of interviewing, CQS career coach Colleen Fitzpatrick’s advice about transitions and interview strategies will be extremely useful. It showed me how I can get what I want out of an interview and develop a motif by asking the right questions. Digital journalist and media strategist Val Hoeppner’s advice on social media was also excellent because I love social media and know that what I learned about mobile reporting will come in handy.
This week has been filled with helpful advice that will help me improve my reporting, writing, editing and photo skills. The most important piece of advice that applies across every platform has been to take the time to turn broad story topics into focused story ideas. This can be a really difficult step but can make all the difference in ensuring that reporters produce clear, well- structured work.
I will think about how to do more alternative storytelling at my internship. Instead of going for the classic news story with photos and maybe a video, I want to experiment with websites that offer ways to present data visually. I also think creating breaking-news stories using mobile media will be an important part of my job as a crime reporter.
A piece of advice from orientation that will benefit my writing and reporting is the “questions” method of organizing a story, in which you build upon a story by answering one question after another, beginning by asking the most important question after the lead. I’ve subconsciously done this in the past, but now I will become more conscious of it. I trust that this writing method will make my articles stronger by prioritizing information, and perhaps will make the process faster by actively applying a method to my writing process. I will no longer stare at a blank document without having a plan.
The greatest piece of reporting advice I’ve learned at orientation has been the “fork” technique for organizing a story: focus, outline, repeat and kill. After you narrow the focus of your story, you should create an outline around the focus, sprinkle key words throughout the piece and kill off unnecessary factoids to condense your writing.
The concept of sequencing in video is something I had never thought about while editing. Now that I’ve seen what that looks like, I understand how changing angles and varying shots from wide to medium to tight in post-production gives a video more depth.
During our third day of orientation, Colleen Fitzpatrick, a career coach for the Chips Quinn Scholars program, emphasized the importance of moving a story along through effective transitions. Under a tight deadline, Fitzpatrick suggested a writer constantly ask himself or herself, “What is the next question that needs to be answered in the story?” Because this summer at the Contra Costa Times will be my first internship at a professional newspaper, I have a feeling that I will be using her advice regularly.
I learned that a journalist should always ask for help if he is stuck writing on deadline. It doesn’t make sense for a writer to try to crank up a story on his own when no ideas are coming out. This wastes too much time and could potentially threaten the timeliness of a story.
I’ve learned what to do and not to do when shooting video on a mobile device. Digital journalist Val Hoeppner taught us her “5-5-5” strategy for producing a video: shoot for five minutes, get five shots, edit for five minutes. I now have the skills to accompany my written stories with video.
The “fork” method of organizing a story that CQS career coach Colleen Fitzpatrick shared will undeniably aid me in writing stories. Fitzpatrick encouraged us to focus on the main idea of the story, outline the details and the answers to the questions readers will ask about the idea, repeat terms and ideas throughout the story and kill details and reporting that have no relevance to the story’s focus.
When organizing your story, think of the next logical questions you suspect readers would ask. Sequence sentences and graphs based on that. Doing this allows the story to flow like a natural thought process.
Everything I know about shooting video I learned at orientation: how to take wide and narrow shots, how to pace the video so it moves quickly and keeps the reader’s attention, how to edit audio behind video. Val Hoeppner, CEO of Val Hoeppner Media and Consulting, was an excellent teacher. I also learned the “question” method of organizing stories — asking “what would the reader be wondering here?”– as I write each paragraph.
Cameron Teague Robinson
Throughout the week I have received a lot of helpful advice about reporting, writing, multimedia and data visualization. The most important piece of information I’ve received has come from CQS career coach Colleen Fitzpatrick, who spoke about organizing stories. I’ve struggled with that, and her advice will help me as I move forward.