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#Tip: Remember these science writing tips for getting more from a study

April 4th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists
Image by Horia Varlan on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Image by Horia Varlan on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Science stories always have the power to fire the imagination of the reader so it is important to be able to relay new discoveries or important announcements well.

Unfortunately, as Ian Sample says in this Guardian guide to science writing, most stories are based on published papers, not all of which are interesting, important or even accurate.

He’s put together ten tips on writing good science pieces as the first in a series on the subject that is well worth following for aspiring science writers out there.

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#Tip: Advice for making FOI requests in the UK and US

April 3rd, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Freedom of Information laws are a game changer for journalists anywhere, opening up the inner workings of government for inspection and now 90 countries have some form of FOI legislation. Sweden set the ball rolling in 1766, the US ‘sunshine’ laws have been in place since 1967 but it took the UK until 2000 to catch up.

As part of Sunshine Week, an annual US event to celebrate and promote open information, IRE and NICAR put together this Soundcloud playlist of “tips, tricks and techniques” for FOIA requests in the US covering resources, tactics, workflows and appeals to help fellow journalists.

Sources for advice in the UK are a bit more disparate, but the FOI Directory has a good list of tips based on personal experience; the government has its own guide to the process; WhatDoTheyKnow.com offers advice alongside pending and answered requests and here at Journalism.co.uk we spoke to journalists in the know for this feature.

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#Tip: How to build sources when you’re starting out

April 2nd, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

All the web-scraping, Twitter-searching, FOI-requesting tools in the world will never be able to fully replace a reliable human source as an asset to a story.

A reliable network of contacts and sources is vital to any journalist, and can take years to develop, but where do you start?

Last year WorkInSports.com spoke to ESPN anchor Anish Shroff about how to build sources in sports journalism, but the tips and advice shared are just as relevant to any field.

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#Tip: Remember these guides to online content length

April 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists
Image by Thinkstock

Image by Thinkstock

In print, the parameters for article length, headlines, picture arrangement and more have been handed down over generations, tried and tested over centuries to determine what best draws readers’ attention through an article.

Reading gravity is central to article lay-out and space limitations dictate how long articles should be, how they fit around images, and where they appear on the page. On the web, all of that goes out the window.

Or does it?

A recent blog post from Buffer collects results from multiple studies on the “ideal length” of Facebook and Google+ posts, tweets, headlines, blogs, paragraph width, email subject lines and other online publishing platforms, based on the level of engagement they received.

Screenshot from Buffer

Screenshot from Buffer

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#Tip: Learn how to use Weibo to find Chinese stories

March 31st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Social media has become a vital tool for distributing content and its growing usefulness in finding stories and sources makes it a key part of the modern journalist’s toolbox.

Self-proclaimed social newswire Storyful has made a business out of finding stories on social media, far beyond the mainstream of Facebook and Twitter, and shared some tips on the subject recently.

In a blog post looking at how to “discover content” on Chinese social network Weibo, Storyful’s Sophia Xu said “its integration with other social platforms make it the first place where Chinese users spread news and share viral stories”.

The whole thing is well worth a read if you’re looking to find stories that may not have made it into the English-language media.

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#Tip: Watch this quick video on riot safety for journalists

March 24th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Kiev, Caracas, Istanbul… London? It is difficult to predict when or how a protest may turn into a riot, so the best policy is to be prepared for anything.

The BBC runs public order awareness courses through its College of Journalism, and in this video Mal Geer, who runs the course, explains some of the basics between hurling abuse and tennis balls at trainees. Still, it is better to practice dodging tennis balls with a camera on your shoulder than figuring out the best plan of action when it’s a brick.

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#Tip: Remember these 10 tips for interviewing

March 21st, 2014 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Despite all the modern talk of data and visualisations, great stories always need to be anchored by a human element, so the ability to talk to people openly – and have them do so in return – is vital to a journalist’s work.

These ten tips on interview technique on corporate communications site Ragan, written by former newspaper editor turned writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant, cover the bases: getting great quotes, wading through jargon, note-taking advice and more.

 

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#Tip: Remember these digital ethics issues for journalism

March 20th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

 

Digital journalism brings up a whole new world of ethical issues that don’t apply in print. Copyright and social media are foremost among them as the wealth of available images, video and information, both true and false, make up much of what constitutes the online media.

Digital First Media’s Aimee Heckel, the self-styled ‘Modern Lois Lane‘, spoke with senior colleague Ivan Lajara for a recent post discussing six digital ethics issues and how to navigate through them.

Some of the examples may be America-specific but the conclusions are relevant to journalists everywhere and are well worth bearing in mind when using online material.

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#Tip: 5 pieces of advice for getting into music journalism

March 10th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

A lot of young journalists have a passion for music but it’s not always easy to translate that passion into a career. This recent blog post from Haulix gives some helpful tips on how to start, while a Journalism.co.uk feature and podcast from last year goes into yet more detail.

It is a competitive industry at the best of times but bearing these thoughts in mind and putting them into practice should help to sweeten the pill.

 

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#Tip: Here’s how you can password protect a Google form

February 11th, 2014 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Padlock

Google’s range of document formats in Drive have a lot of use for journalists, as the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism’s director of education, Jeremy Caplan, describes in this Google doc.

Google forms are particularly useful in crowdsourcing information and automatically organising it into a spreadsheet, so have been used by Pro Publica, for example, to gather information and sources around stories or by Digital First Media to canvas opinion within organisation about future plans.

Google forms are public by default, so if the questions or topics are sensitive for any reason the platform is a bit of a non-starter.

On his Digital Inspiration blog, Amit Agarwal has posted a simple how-to guide on password protecting Google forms from within the form itself. It is not 100 per cent secure, as Agarwal explains, but will deter any passing visitors.

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