Monday, July 13, 2009

The Other Wire Service

As a one-time "employee" -- if stringer can get you that -- of United Press International back in my newspaper days, I was intrigued to learn through Craig Silverman's Regret the Error website that what goes for the alternative to Associated Press has put its stylebook on-line for the public.

Silverman, as you'd expect, is focused on what Reuters has to say in its Handbook of Journalism about accuracy, error correcting and validation. He hits some very strong points in the Handbook, and I'd highly recommend you taking a moment to jump over and read his linked blog entry.

In light of a growing number of weather hoaxes -- both here and across the country -- I was drawn to the Reuters' hints on dealing with internet sources. These would be words that every consumer of networked news -- both "professional" and citizen/participatory -- should have Post-It noted to their computer screen:

Do a reality check. Does this information fit within the bounds of what was expected? Any wild divergences are a clue you may be viewing information in the wrong context.

And this one, which Silverman also highlighted:

We have no greater protection if we pick up a hoax from a newspaper, a broadcaster or any other third party news organisation. The damage to our reputation from running a hoax is the same and in many jurisdictions we are just as liable under the law.


Now there are some great tips for writing within the Handbook, one in particular that would be helpful for those of us attempting to create those ever-so-pithy Tweets. Quoting:

The 10 key words approach

Try making a list of 10 key words without which you simply could not write the story. They don’t have to be the exact words you will use in the story. Think more of the facts or concepts which must be there. So a story about oil prices would definitely have the key words oil and prices, but they might be expressed in the story as crude and dollars per barrel. Once you have that list of keywords you have the essence of the story. Most or all should appear in the first sentence. All should appear by the end of the second paragraph. [My emphasis]

And who says you can't say anything important in 140 words?

1 comment:

Chris said...

Bill, for an excellent use of 140 words on Twitter, go to Golf Digest's Dan Jenkins (danjenkinsgd). He is tweeting from each of the majors, including the Open Championship this week. His writing is short and to the point, often funny and informative.