Friday, February 13, 2009

Step One: The Basics are Still the Key

It starts with the basics: Consistency, clear thinking and accuracy. At the increasing speeds at which journalists are commanded to perform, there isn’t time to Google, to get on line and search. Drilling on the style book of your respective organization or field to insure consistency, and it starts in the introduction class and continues to graduate school.

This is the point where the basics become crucial to our mission. The four Ws and one H applied to the story. Clear, concise composition of the narrative. Good, old fashioned sourcing from two or more fully independent sources. Weeding out the opinions. These become the touchstones.

The techniques to achieve them are increasingly different, but their value to the end product remain the same.

Alongside the time-tested skills of Reporting 101, more than ever, critical thinking skills to vet and verify the veracity of sources in all forms is a basic skill. In the past, interviews and direct experience served as coverage. The Networked Media adds extra dimensions. The crowd’s participation steers the interest in stories. The bloggers and citizen journalists become a force multiplier for the ever-shrinking manpower of the mainstream newsroom. Why is so much time spent by journalists chasing blogger leads – because at the end of the day, people still put faith in the trained professional journalist.

In the end, it’s all about the story, and the ability to be an honest broker. Message is the key to content; content is the coin of the network realm. For some time, repurposing of content was seen as the key to new media. There is great economy in a capture once, use multiple approach.

The best methods recognize the differences in multiple platforms and the knitting together of content in its four forms: Written – Oral – Visual – Data.

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