How To Cover Speeches
Covering a speech is a typical assignment for journalists. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not too tricky. But many young journalists initially struggle with speech stories. Too often they fail to explain to readers why the speech matters or what was newsworthy about it. Instead of focusing on who said what, they focus on dull details.
For example, many a college newspaper article has begun with a topical lead like: “On May 17, Gen. Norman Johnson addressed students at Stansbury University. The event was held in the Performing Arts Center at 3 p.m. It was sponsored by the Student Affairs Office.” Approaches like that are boring because they don’t explain to the reader why they should care about the story. A better approach would be something along the lines of: “Openly homosexual soldiers should be allowed to serve in the military, a high-ranking U.S. Army leader said Monday. ‘A soldier’s sexual preference has nothing to do with his ability to serve and protect the nation,’ Gen. Norman Johnson, under secretary of the U.S. Army, told an audience of approximately 300 students and faculty at Stansbury University.”
Below are some general tips for covering speeches along with a suggested story format. An optional speech assignment is at the bottom.
Advice on Covering Speeches
Research the topic and speaker. Ask the organizers for a speaker’s bio or look him up on the Web ahead of time. Get background info on the topic, look at articles previously written on it. And see if you can either get a copy of the speech ahead of time or at least talk to the speaker in advance to get a feel for what the speech will cover. This way you can write a skeleton outline ahead of time and fill in the details during the speech. Of course, you may learn of the speech so close to deadline that this may not be possible.
Arrive early and find a good seat. Place may fill. Don’t want to be late and miss part of speech. May not be allowed in after starts. Sit where you can hear well.
Bring the right materials. Notebook, pen, recorder, perhaps a camera or videocamera. Take notes as if recorder doesn’t exist. But recorder is good to capture precise language – speaker may say something controversial or other media may be there and you want quotes that are consistent with theirs.
Estimate crowd size. Or ask organizers for a head count. If their number seems way off, you may want to mention that.
Don’t summarize entire speech. Most speeches are boring and really only deliver one message. So, don’t try to cover every point the speaker makes. Focus on the most important stuff. That’s what the reader wants to know. If s/he wanted to hear the whole speech, she would have attended or watched on TV.
Listen for the take-away moment. Many speeches have a pivotal moment that defines them. Maybe speaker says something controversial or suggests an unusual plan of action. If audience has a strong reaction to something said, chances are that’s the takeaway moment. The take away moment is what you should lead with, and go into more detail about later in your story.
Stay after. Don’t leave immediately after speech, unless you need to cover another event or get back to the newsroom to make a fast-approaching deadline. Ask audience members for their reactions. If there’s a reception, go to it and talk to people there. Try to grab the speaker and ask follow-up questions or clarify points he made, if possible. This way you can ensure you understood what he was saying. Don’t be timid in asking tough questions.
Balance your story. People often make speeches in areas or places they are comfortable with, where they know they will be surrounded by their supporters. So, the audience’s reaction may be very partisan. Talk to other people affected by the speech, who may not be in attendance. If the College President, for example, mentions at an alumni reception that he is raising tuition, that won’t affect alumni. But it will affect students, who likely won’t be in attendance. Get reaction from students.
Writing the story. Reporters have two jobs: pass along the speaker’s message and also help readers examine that message. Keep in mind that what’s newsworthy may not be what the speaker thinks should be reported or the focus of your story. Or what’s newsworthy may not be what was said during the speech but what was not said. Or the news may be how the crowd reacted to what was said. What’s newsworthy may not even factor into the speech. The news may come after the speech, when the speaker is answering questions. If an answer provides the most interesting piece of news, lead with that. Do not include everything said in the speech, just the most important parts. Take good notes so you can use direct quotes in your story. Make sure all names and titles are correct. Write the story as soon as possible. Writing the story as soon as possible gets the information down more accurately.
Suggested Speech Story Structure
1) The lead: the most newsworthy point the speaker made. If the speaker is not well-known, such as a famous person, it’s probably best to use a delayed identification lead.
2) Second paragraph: powerful quote from speech to reinforce the lead.
3) Third paragraph: where, when, why the speech was given.
4) The rest of the story: combines quotes, descriptions, background information and audience reactions.
How to Screw Up a Speech Story
- Use the words addressed, or spoke to, or spoke on, or spoke about in the lead
- Back into the lead: In an address to the Garden City Rotary Club Thursday…
- Tell your readers what the speaker thinks or feels or believes instead of what he/she said
- Try to add liveliness to your story by characterizing what the speaker said or how strongly he or she felt it, instead of telling me what he said: Jones stressed the potential problems for societies that choose not to value the lives of the unborn.
What Is a Beat Reporter?
Reporters develop expertise and sources in a specific area, like sports or crime
In newspaper parlance a beat is the subject area that a reporter is assigned to cover and write about. Beat reporters can cover everything from local crime to a specific sports team. They develop expertise in their beat, getting to know people and earn their trust, so that when news happens, the journalist can report on it with authority and some depth of knowledge.
Typically beat reporters work with a specific editor who also knows the beat, who can guide the reporter toward sources or information, and help them shape their stories.
A reporter covering retail companies might report to the business editor, for instance, who will be able to help that reporter gather information more effectively.
Beat reporters are expected to develop sources, i.e. people who have information about their subject matter, so they can better gather news and find scoops. Sources for a reporter on a crime beat would be local cops. By talking to the local cops and developing a rapport with them, the beat reporter can more easily get information about crimes happening in the neighborhood.
But to offer balanced coverage, a crime beat reporter needs to develop sources beyond just cops; they’ll need to know defense attorneys, community leaders, coroners, judges, district attorneys and public defenders. A good beat reporter will be so immersed in her beat that she’ll have people who contact her with news tips before she hears about them.
The Meaning of the Term Beat
The etymology of the term “beat” to mean a reporter’s assigned topic or area takes its roots from police work.
Police officers typically have an assigned route or neighborhood where they “beat a path” while patrolling the area. So journalists beat a path in their assigned subject area.
The use of beat reporters has fluctuated over the years. Once a common way of assigning work to reporters, some news organizations preferred to have general assignment (or GA) reporters.
This gave more flexibility to newsrooms to assign reporters to the news of the day, since not every beat is going to produce daily news items.
With the newspaper industry struggling to remain profitable and relevant as online competitors continue to change the business model of journalism, developing a niche or a beat is more important than ever. There are multiple news outlets covering the “what” of the news, but good beat reporters can also provide the context of “why” and “how.”
Beat Reporters and PR People
That expertise is even more important in the age of public relations. Most organizations and businesses, from Fortune 500 companies to sports franchises have PR representatives whose jobs are to get coverage for positive news about their company. They’re also tasked with handling queries from reporters about topics that the company might not find flattering or complimentary.
In order for a beat reporter to be effective, she has to develop relationships with these PR people, but also should be savvy enough to know how to get information without their help or guidance. Working a beat is the best way to learn how to be an effective journalist, whether in print, online or on television.
HUMAN INTEREST AND FEATURE WRITING
Human interest is hard to define. Most editors say stories about children, animals or human emotions
have automatic human-interest value. Consequently, a story about a little girl and her father combing the
city for their missing sibling has guaranteed reader appeal. So does a medical feature about a young
woman struggling to cope with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or one about a doctor at the
research hospital trying to find a cure for baldness?
Consequently, if you want to write a profile about a man who traps or frees birds for a living, you
probably have a sufficiently unusual story for broad reader appeal.
The talking bird story also has unusualness–assuming the little fellow really can muster up verbs and
nouns–as well as human interest and proximity.
Of course, you can write a feature without conflict, human interest, importance, prominence, proximity or
unusualness, but if your feature has none of these qualities, it is probably not going to be very interesting.
And dull features do not appeal to anyone except perhaps the subject of the article.
However, unusualness is extremely important to the feature writer. A university teacher who turns
junkman is, in fact, unusual. A junkyard owner who earns his doctor of philosophy degree and becomes a
university teacher is equally unusual. On the other hand, a male registered nurse is less unusual, and
probably is not worth a story. Verification is the key to deciding if a story is truly unusual.
A strong human interest feature does three things: (1) It describes an extraordinary experience; (2) it
shows how people have coped with a problem common to many people; and (3) it focuses on a timely
issue of wide regional or national concern.
A human-interest story may emphasise such news elements as relationships, drama, conflict, or oddity.
While the inverted-pyramid pattern of organisation is not common in this type of feature story, punch and
anecdotal leads can be used effectively.
Another type of features are those of human interest or human value. This is very popular source of
writing features. Such features can be written on ever-green subjects like health, family, equality between
men and women, industry, economics etc. Nowadays, many newspapers and magazines are full of
features on freedom of expression.
Understanding the human interest story
There must be something appealing to the emotions, not only of the writer but also of the readers as well.
This could be developed from a situation or an incident, but must be based on facts of timely nature.
A human-interest story entertains the reader more than informs, except for the fact that it is usually based
on facts of a timely nature. It has little news value and probably would not be published except for the
interesting style in which it is written. Hence, it entertains the reader more than it informs though it
influences a great deal, in certain cases.
It must be short and crispy, averaging between 75 to 200 words. However, it is not as such a strictly
It can be written about almost anything from living to inanimate that is, persons, places, animals and
objects. However, it is more personal and intimate, than being objective. Hence, it is meant for enlivening
the news pages, both in make-up and content despite the fact that it is frequently based on generally
accepted truths that everyone knows what happens when young boy meets his parents after he has been
kidnapped, but people like to read about emotions.
It is not necessary that it must be a story of an ordinary man; rather he achieving an extra-ordinary feat is
better, while the extra-ordinary person cannot be erased from this list.
The feature writer must develop a habit observing keenly and of being intellectually curious. He must
learn to think of interesting little happenings, and registering them, both in his mind and notebook. He
must also recognise particular sources of human interest, that is, any unusual situation or incident, which
can touch emotions by arousing interest or sympathy.
Any major news event can have a human-interest angle.
Writing a Feature Lead
All about the feature lead
Imagine catching up with a friend over a cuppa and having them describe a recent vacation. If they were to rattle, “The temperatures in Turkey ranged between 22 and 28 degrees, with occasional afternoon showers,” would you spend more time wanting to know details of that getaway? Instead, if your friend pulls out a souvenir for you from a local bazaar there and describes the scene, you are fascinated almost immediately and want to hear more. So too, with a feature lead!
A feature lead is often described as a conversation that anyone would like to be a part of. It introduces your story (just like a news lead), is informative and informal (without being frivolous), and sets the tone for what will follow. For it to grab your reader’s attention ever so gently, it must be interesting, creative and illustrative too. Instead of drawing you in with hard news, facts and figures, it softly lures you with anecdotes, quotes, colorful descriptions and narratives which are factual, yet presented in a non-formal manner.
Woo your reader in the first para
A feature lead is quite different from a lead in a news story or even an opinion piece on a blog. In a news story you are informing your reader about events, situations, incidents etc, without beating around the bush. In a feature piece you do the same, but you invite your reader, sit him or her down and explain in some detail the topic you’ve chosen. You have to woo the reader in the first para itself. I am a feature writer – when writing a news story, I seldom sweat over the lead. Instead most of my time and energy is spent getting my story right. However, with a feature lead, I have to spend a fair amount of time to ensure that the first para hooks my readers.
Unlike news story leads that are shorter and get straight to the point, feature articles most often begin with a delayed or soft lead. A feature lead is allowed the freedom to linger, wander and eventually connect to your main story. The actual lead as in a news story that explains the news value of the write up comes after the main ‘feature lead’ and is called a nut graf. This second lead gives context to your story and makes it easy to connect your feature lead to your story.
NEWS LEAD: Take a look at this news story where the lead tells you immediately what the story is about.
FEATURE LEAD: Compare this to the narrative lead in this film review here. It’s after two paragraphs of the lead that the article transitions to its body.
Both articles deal with an aspect of news – you are giving information to your reader,you’re your approach is different. Feature leads are best used for features/feature story, which is written to entertain and give a human element to a piece of news, while adding depth and perspective.
Spend time on a feature lead
Don’t write right away: It is because you want the best start to your story, that you must give it time. Take time to flip through your research and interview notes. Relive your experiences while working on your story. While researching on the story did you stumble upon other stories? Do you remember the noise or smell of streets you walked through, the voice of the interviewee who spoke to you? The details that catch your attention are often the ones that make for absorbing leads. In this story for the New Yorker, the writer uses an anecdotal lead to begin his story on surveillance today. He turns back in time to look at examples from history to make it an interesting start.
Write many leads
Put down the various options you have to write your feature lead. Write about two or three sentences of each and decide which reads well and fits your story. You are allowed to add drama, transport your reader to a time and place where your story begins.
While writing a feature lead, if I find myself stuck with the first few sentences I write one or two leads and see which flows into my story well. In a recent article I wrote about a walk with an ant- expert, I wrote down a few leads – one about the kinds of ants we found on our walks, one with my experiences with ants – that of being mostly bitten; one about the amazing feats of ants and so on. In the end I chose to begin by narrating the circumstances in which the walk began, so readers could experience it.
Eg: “Passers-by stared at Sunny as they would at crazy entomologists crouched on a public park pathway scrutinising itty-bitty insects that no one else cares to notice. His unlikely public stance was in response to taking me on an insect trail in a city park. He’d promised to show me creatures he’d been fascinated with for years, ones that I see every day, but knew precious little about except that they bite — Ants.
There are various kinds of leads you can pick for an article (link to Sahana Charan’s article on types of leads).
Tell it like it is
An easy way to begin a feature lead is to visualize that you are telling your reader a story. You will never start a story with ‘’One hundred sailors were cast ashore’’. You will begin with something like, ‘’A merchant ship was sailing in the calm waters of the Indian Ocean, and suddenly, a storm hit.’’
In this article, the writer chooses one of the most common, traditional leads for feature stories – the descriptive lead to describe his return to his country Libya. Crafting his sentences beautifully, he allows us to travel with him and experience what he would have.
What not to do
It’s best to avoid certain kinds of leads when writing feature pieces. There is no rule of thumb as such, but it is easier for your readers to understand what the article /blog is all about. So, avoid….
Quote leads: Quote leads work well for reports that need to keep to the point. Unless the quote is exceptionally special, it isn’t the most original or exciting way to start your story
Question leads: What must a feature lead start with? Certainly not questions. ‘Did you knows’ and rhetorical questions make for bad sentences and are hardly interesting.
Summary leads: Leads that sum up important what-when-where kind of details work best for report stories rather than soft features.
There are lead styles that work almost always even though are used so frequently.
Among them are-
- Descriptive leads: They describe a place, person or an event with great care so the reader can envision where the story takes place or what would have happened
- Narrative leads: Narrative leads are similar to descriptive leads but use strong action verbs and sometimes even dialogues are employed to make narration effective or to recreate situations powerfully.
- Anecdotal leads: Everyone loves a good story. Anecdotal leads where interesting stories, metaphors or events make for a riveting read.
Depending on your write up, your lead can take even as much time as rest of your article, but in the end this is worth it. Make sure it is relevant to rest of your story. All artistic and imaginary meandering must rejoin the reader to the focus of the story. The most wonderfully written lead can be pointless if doesn’t relate to your story. It’s good to remember that no matter where you begin your piece, what’s equally important is what follows. The lead should facilitate the transition or the nutgraph (a simple declarative sentence or paragraph in the piece which talks about what the writer intends to do in the paras that follow). Always Make sure it doesn’t end too abruptly.
Attribution is stating who said something. Attribution is essential in all the media, including radio and television. Journalists do it so that your readers or listeners can know who is speaking or where the information in the story comes from. You can use attribution for both spoken and written information, so that you attribute information gathered from interviews, speeches, reports, books, films or even other newspapers, radio or television stations. In a moment we will discuss when you need to use attribution. First, however, we will look briefly at how attribution works in reported speech.
In the previous chapter, we mainly looked at attribution as it applied to quotes. However, attribution should be used whenever you want your readers or listeners to know where your information comes from. For example, in reported speech the attribution is still part of the sentence, although it is not as distinct as when you use a direct quote. In both of the following sentences, we attribute the words to Ms Mar. In the first, her words are in quotes; in the second they are put into reported speech. The attribution is in italics:
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ARTICLE AND FEATURES
A newspaper is like a treasure house. It is one document that has all types and kinds of content in it, from fresh news updates to sports news, from page 3 gossips to political/city news. It even has the entertainment section which includes game puzzles, Sudoku, comic strips, zodiac predictions, etc. For the sake of this article, we will be dealing with two sections of the newspaper, namely: news report and a feature report.
Both the news report and the feature are news stories that contain facts and information and yet both of them are different. What exactly is the difference between a news report and a feature report then?
A news report is basically a general reporting of an event that has occurred. The report is filled with facts and information. It usually contains answers to all the “5 W’s” i.e. Why, Where, What, Who and How. The event that is covered in a news report is fresh and current. News reports include certain beats such as crime, politics, education, sports, etc.
The main purpose of a news story is to inform the people what is happening around them. It generally follows a pattern known as ‘The Inverted Pyramid’ which means writing the facts and information in the order of its importance. The main information at the beginning of the article means people can get the gist of the news report at a quick glance, thus ensuring good use of their time.
Also, with the increasing need and demand of advertisements in the newspaper, there is hardly any space available to accommodate many. Sometimes in order to accommodate an advertisement, there is always the danger of the news article being chopped from the bottom. Hence, ‘The Inverted Pyramid’ format is followed.
The news report has a headline, an introducing paragraph, the body of the news covering the main questions pertaining to the “5 W’s” and the tail paragraph. The average words range between 700 to 1200 words. News stories also contain at least one of the following important characteristics relative to the intended audience: proximity, prominence, timeliness, human interest, oddity, or consequence. The personal opinion of the writer or reporter is not expressed in the news report.
Feature news on the other hand also contains factual information like that of news report. However the feature news is not necessarily fresh or current news. A good feature goes deeper than just a press release as it thoroughly explores an issue from all direction. The feature news consists of quotes from important people pertaining to the story of the feature news. It analyses the events, ask pertinent questions and seeks answers. It does not merely report, it ponders. The writer or reporter gives his opinions in a feature piece. Different writers follow different styles of writing news features. This very difference in every news feature makes it unique in its own way. The average words in a feature news range between 2000 to 2500 words.
Both, news report and features complete the newspaper copy that is delivered to your doorstep daily. One is quite handicapped without the other
News features are increasingly found in publications, as they are more engaging for readers than hard news. To write a news feature, journalists must focus on a specific topic that can be thoroughly covered within a given word count. The topic must also be important and include firsthand accounts of real people, opinions from experts and facts and evidences to establish the truth and gravity of the issue. Though their topics have a local focus, news features should put everything together and show that there’s larger context to the issue.
A newsroom is the central place where journalists—reporters, editors, and producers, along with other staffers—work to gather news to be published in a newspaper and/or an online newspaper or magazine, or broadcast on radio, television, or cable. Some journalism organizations refer to the newsroom as the city room.
The concept of “newsroom” may also now be employed by some public relations practitioners, as representatives of companies and organizations, with the intent to influence or create their own “media”.
Print publication newsrooms
In a print publication’s newsroom, reporters sit at desks, gather information, and write articles or stories, in the past on typewriters, in the 1970s sometimes on specialized terminals, then after the early 1980s on personal computers or workstations. These stories are submitted to editors, who usually sit together at one large desk, where the stories are reviewed and possibly rewritten. Reporters generally used the inverted pyramid method for writing their stories, although some journalistic writing used other methods; some of the work of Tom Wolfe is an example of reporting that did not follow that style.
Once finished, editors write a headline for the story and begin to lay it out (see publishing) on a newspaper or magazine page. Editors also review photographs, maps, charts or other graphics to be used with a story. At many newspapers, copy editors who review stories for publication work together at what is called a copy desk, supervised by a copy desk chief, night editor, or news editor. Assignment editors, including the city editor, who supervise reporters’ work, may or may not work with the copy desk.
How a newsroom is structured and functions depends in part on the size of the publication and when it is published, especially if it is a daily newspaper, which can either be published in the morning (an a.m. cycle) or the evening (a p.m. cycle). Most daily newspapers follow the a.m. cycle.
In almost all newspaper newsrooms, editors customarily meet daily with the chief editor to discuss which stories will be placed on the front page, section front pages, and other pages. This is commonly called a “budget meeting” because the main topic of the meeting is the budgeting or allocation of space in the next issue.
Newsrooms often have an assignment desk where staffers monitor emergency scanners, answer telephone calls, faxes and e-mails from the public and reporters. The assignment desk is also responsible for assigning reporters to stories or deciding what is covered and what isn’t. In many newsrooms, the assignment desk is raised a step or two above the rest of the newsroom, allowing staffers who work at the desk to see everyone in the newsroom.
In some newsrooms, a teamwork-integrated system called the Maestro Concept has been applied to improve time management of the newsroom. This maestro system is a method to improve the presentation of stories to busy readers in today’s media. Teamwork and collaboration bring a story to life from an initial idea by integrating reporting with photographs, design and information graphics.
Broadcast newsrooms are very similar to newspaper newsrooms. The two major differences are that these newsrooms include small rooms to edit video or audio and that they also exist next to the radio or television studio.
Changes in newsrooms
The modern American newsroom has gone through several changes in the last 50 years, with computers replacing typewriters and the Internet replacing Teletype terminals. More ethnic minority groups as well as women are working as reporters and editors, including many managerial positions. Many newspapers have internet editions, and at some, reporters are required to meet tighter deadlines to have their stories posted on the newspaper website, even before the print edition is printed and circulated. However, some things haven’t changed; many reporters still use paper reporter’s notebooks and the telephone to gather information, although the computer has become another essential tool for reporting.
What are the Role of Editorial Department of a Newspaper?
The primary concern of the copy editor in the organizational chart of his newspaper is, of course, the editorial department. Here the description is not so easy, since very marked differences are discernible from one newspaper to another. However, a typical organizational scheme would go something like this:
The editorial department actually has two sides, and usually these are separately responsible to the publisher. They are “news” and “editorial”. The news side is usually under the supervision of a managing or executive editor. The editorial page crew consists of editorial writers and is directed by a “chief editorial writer,” and “editor”, or “editor-in-chief”, or sometimes an “editorial page editor”.
(i) The News Desk:
All stories destined for the newspaper, whether they come from the typewriters of reporters and rewrite men or from the several wire services, teleprinters and other sources-require editing. This duty falls chiefly on the copyreader who sits on the horseshoe shape table called the desk. The city editor and other editors read all the copy.
In the old days there was what was called the universal desk system under which the desk editor handled everything that came in. Nowdays, even in small dailies, the work is usually divided between the city desk and the teleprinter’s desk. Between them they edit the copy and write headlines for all spot news-everything except sports and financial coverage.
The independent or separate desk system in operation on a large scale allocates the news of different readers, each of whom has his own team of copyreaders. The editors with a crew of men edit the news designated as cable, teleprinter, city beats, society, business, finance, sports and reserve news. In larger newspapers there is a separate desk for international news.
Where the system is the universal desk or separate desk, the process of editing runs along similar lines, in which case the story goes to a ‘slot man’ who sits at the head but on the inside rim of the horseshoe desk.
This editor, called the news editor, glances through the copy quickly, gauges its relative importance, determines the space it should occupy-200 words or a half or three-quarters of a column- and decides the type on the copy and passes it on to one of his copyreaders who sits on the rim of the horseshoe.
This copyreader, also called the desk man, rim man or ‘mechanic’ of the editorial room, is the anonymous and frequently unappreciated collaborator of the writer. Newsmen or correspondents who see his blue pencil flay their cherished prose, have no words of praise for him. Neil Mac Neil in his book “Without Fear or Favour” indicates the newsman’s true worth. He says that the reputation of many a star reporter rests partly on the work done by rim man in the green eye shade who comes out the reporter’s cliches and trims them, to pieces.
Only where the copyreader happens to be a former reporter, driven to the horseshoe desk by the dint of seniority, does the correspondent feel encouraged.
Copyreaders are generally paid higher than reporters. The work holds out attractions for men with editorial ability. The chances for advancement are good as the copy desk is a recruiting ground for office executives. The work is mainly two-fold: the editing of the story and the construction of a suitable headline for it.
The amount, of this work varies with each paper and even at different timings on each day. On a big desk the copyreader may edit from 10 to 15 columns. His editorial function is to bring each news that comes to him up to par. As he picks up the copy and reads; he forms general conclusions about the story in hand.
Has it news value? If it hasn’t, then it is not worth printing.
Is it accurate and fair? Inaccurate and uncertain items are no; wanted by a good newspaper. If at all he selects anything which is dubious or doubtful, he takes the responsibility for published inaccuracies.
Is it libellous? An item that contains words or implications that may get the paper into legal difficulties has to have the danger spots eliminated.
Is it complete? Is the treatment fragmentary and partial? Will it lead the reader up in the air? If so, its details must be rounded, with or without the help of background materials.
If the item meets these qualifications, the copyreader starts his editing to fit his paper’s requirements. These requirements may vary but, as a general rule, we take it that the paper requires.
The reader must have no difficulty in finding out what the story means.
The copyreader must cut and condense each story to the length assigned to it. Condensation applies to words and not to ideas. Verbal frills may go but the meaning must remain. Condensation is done by substituting short words for long ones-even smaller words tor bigger ones; for example, ‘try’ in place of ‘endeavour’.
The copyreader’s notion of arrangement differs from that of the literary man. It is based on the convention of the Mead’ which puts the important parts first and the least important parts last. It also makes for the sequence of ideas.
The copyreader’s style has nothing to do with literary quality. It refers to particular rules which his paper has laid down for spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, abbreviation, use of numerals and the like.
The copyreader edits his copy along the foregoing principles by means of a set of standardised copy reading symbols, which tell the typesetter what section to omit, when to transpose, when to spell a word out and when to contract. He then proceeds to check the copy paragraphs and if the story has sufficient length, supplies subheads.
The subhead is a line to be printed in a type which differs from the body of the story/article and is used to break up the too solid look of a long column. The best rule is to paragraph for ideas and not for mechanical reasons. Copyreaders try to avoid being mechanical when it comes to the subhead.
The look of the column demands a sub-head every two sticks or a stick and a half at least, or say about every 300 or 350 words.
The copyreader aims to have his subheads make divisions in the subject, each division meant for something new, and not merely for repeating what has been already told.
The copyreader usually faces three problems: (i) to tighten up the story and thereby speed up the action; (ii) to cut out the excess matter and bromides; and (iii) to reduce the story so that a telegraphic editor could splash it in a page-one box if he chose to handle it that way.
The Art of the Headline:
Although the copyreader works anonymously, when he constructs a good headline, he feels the pleasure of a creative artist. With short words and in short compass, he can tell a whole story. He knows that the headline must fulfil two requirements-it must attract attention to the story; it must announce the story’s main facts. He sees to it that each headline he concocts does both.
NEWSPAPER ORGANIZATION setup
In order to operate a newspaper effectively like any other organization, it must be organized in a systematic way. The departmental structure and staffing of a newspaper vary with its size. All newspapers, however, have certain common structure. Head of newspaper organization is called Editor-in-Chief or Chief Editor. Under the head, two main departments work :
1. News Section
2. Management & Services Department
1. NEWS SECTION :
This section deals with things printed in newspapers. It covers all spheres of journalism. News section broadly divided into two fields:
i. Editorial Board
i. Editorial Board :
Editorial board is the main pillar of a newspaper organization. It elaborates the paper’s policy. Journalists who work in this section, write editorials about an issue. Number of editors vary according to the size of a newspaper. Big organizations have almost twelve-thirteen editors working in editorial board.
ii. Editor :
Head of news section is called Chief News Editor. His important role is to select the matter would be printed in a newspaper. Following are the sections worked under Chief News Editor.
a. Newsroom :
We can rightly called newsroom as backbone of a newspaper. Getting out a newspaper is a 24-hour a day job. Events are happened at all hours and many stories come unexpectedly. Not only that, news is perishable, it becomes less valuable as it ages. Trying to cope with the never ending flow of news and the constant pressure to keep it fresh requires organization and coordination among the paper’s staff. An event becomes news in newsroom by passing through different stages. Sub-editors prepare news by polishing an event.
b. Reporting Section :
Chief Reporter heads all other reporters. In reporting section, reporters compile their field work in news form. Chief reporter prepares duty chart for all reporters. He assigns beats to his subordinates.
c. Photographic Section :
Pictures have great importance to communicate a message. All big newspaper groups have established photographic section. Many photographers are engaged to perform their duties. Every important news is visualized by using photographs.
d. Magazine Section:
Magazine Section is related with Sunday magazine and daily special editions.
Magazine Editor is responsible for editions. Following features are the speciality of
1. Copy Editors :
Copy editors work in magazine section. Their duty is to arrange different pages of a newspaper. Sub-editors are worked under copy editors.
2. Edition Incharge :
Edition Incharge of different editions like political, children, women, showbiz and sports are assigned. Edition Incharge is responsible to prepare his/her own edition.
2. MANAGEMENT & SERVICE DEPARTMENT :
The head of Management & Services Department is called general manager. He supervises the management of an organization. Different sections are worked under this department:
i. Administrator :
Administrator is a head over this department. Under group general manager, all other sections like Personnel Section, Accounts Sections, Procurement Section, Store Section and Reference Section are worked.
ii. Production :
Newspaper production task is accomplished in three phases. The first phase occurs in the composing room or composing section where the page is laid out, the second phase occurs in the. Plate Making Section, where the plates that produce the printed page are prepared, and the last phase occurs in the Press Room, where the paper is actually printed on high speed presses.
Computers, offset printers and lasers have all combined to increase the speed and efficiency of newspaper production.
i. Business Manager :
Business manager is the incharge of economics of a newspaper. The newspapers business office operates pretty much like any other business office. The newspaper’s business department performs advertising, circulation and promotion functions. It has major divisions, an advertising department, a circulation department, a promotion department and an accounting or auditing department.
Newspaper Economics :
Newspapers derive their income from two sources:
(1) Advertising Section
(2) Circulation Section
(1) Advertising Section :
Advertising provides 75 to 80 percent of the total revenue. This revenue is closely related to circulation since papers with a large circulation are able to charge more for ads that will reach a large audience. Advertising revenue comes from four separate sources:
i. National and governmental advertising.
ii. Local advertising.
iii. Classified advertising.
iv. Preprinted inserts.
Local retail advertising is the most important source of newspaper’s income, accounting for about 50 percent of all revenue. Classified ads come next with 40 percent, followed by national ads and preprinted inserts. In most countries, newspaper industry cannot Stand without government ads. Government ads are major source of income.
(2) Circulation Section :
Revenue comes from subscriptions and single copy sales, that accounts for other 20 to 25 percent of total revenue. Circulation revenue includes all the receipts from selling the paper to the. consumer. The newspaper, however, does not receive the total price paid by a reader for a copy of the paper because of the many distribution systems that are employed to get the newspaper to the consumer. Circulation manager maintains the circulation records for city and area publications. He is also incharge of moving the papers into the appropriate distribution channels as they move into the mailing room from the press. He also supervises the sales promotion department.
Principles of Editing
“Drama is life with the boring bits left out” – Alfred Hitchcock
Rules of Editing (1 of 7)
Never make a cut without a positive reason. It is unwise to cut film adhering to arbitrary principles, such as keeping all shots under a certain length.
Rules of Editing (2 of 7) When undecided about the exact frame to cut on, cut long rather than short. It is much easier to trim a bit of excess duration than to splice more on to increase duration.
Rules of Editing (3 of 7) Whenever possible, cut in movement. The concept here is that during movement of any kind, be it a man sitting down on a park bench or a woman darting her eyes to the left, cut in the space between the beginning and end of the action so as to mask the cut.
Rules of Editing (4 of 7) The fresh is preferable to the stale. In order to maintain the invisibility of technique, a film editor strives to avoid boring, confusing, or disappointing the audience with a poorly managed cut.
Rules of Editing (5 of 7) All scenes should begin and end with continuing action. It is entirely unnatural to begin a scene with an actor doing nothing, preparing to act.
Rules of Editing (6 of 7) Cut for proper values rather than for proper matches. Often enough in production, the action between takes and different angles will not match with one another. While this is no concern at all when you leave a shot alone, this lack of continuity becomes extremely problematic when you must intercut frequently between different shots.
Rules of Editing (7 of 7) Substance first — then form. More of a summary rule than anything else.
Rules of Editing (7 of 7) Substance first — then form. More of a summary rule than anything else. The Elements of Cinema by Stefan Sharff Editing is the selection and ordering of shots to create a narrative structure that communicates ideas, feelings or attitudes. SEPARATION – Fragmentation of scene into single images in alternationA,B,A,B,A,B Showing two people who are close together in separate shots. A conversation is going on with one person looking right in a MS and the other person looking left in a CU (usually after a two shot establishes that the two people are close to each other). This technique brings us closer to each person than we could be if both are shown in the same shot; it places the viewer as a third person in the conversation. SLOW DISCLOSURE: The gradual introduction of pictorial information within a single shot, or several shots. A shot starting with a CU that does not reveal the location of the subject at first. It then pulls back or cuts to a full revelation of the location, which surprises the viewer. FAMILIAR IMAGE: A stabilizing anchor image periodically reintroduced without variation. A landscape, an object or activity that repeats itself with little change during a film. The repetition has a subliminal effect, creating a visual abstract thought. It can be used as a stabilizing bridge to new action and to assumes meaning as the film progresses. MOVING CAMERA: Used without cuts and from a camera mounted on a dolly, crane, steadicam, or hand held. These are used to follow action as the subject moves through a location or to disclose new visual information (see Slow Disclosure). MULTI-ANGULARITY: A series of shots of contrasting angles and compositions (including reverse and mirror images). MASTER SHOT DISCIPLINE: A single shot over an entire dramatic action. A traditional Hollywood film structure, i.e., an establishing shot, used as a “cover” for the entire scene. This is often accomplished by doing a multicamera shoot. One camera covers the twoshot as master, the two other cameras cover the medium, over-the-shoulder shots. Since the action is recorded only once but from three angles, it is always consistent – there will be no continuity problems. ORCHESTRATION: the arrangement of the cinematic chain of shots and scenes throughout the film that keeps the momentum flowing. Shots and scenes are interdependent in that they effect one another and influence what comes after as well as explain what has gone before. Ochestratrion harmonizes the cinematic continuum. Orchestration’s initial purpose is to present the basic iconography of the film, to acquaint the viewer with its “way of speaking”, its “voice”, the cinesthetic method of the film.
headline is the most important
The headline is the most important part of any piece of writing – whether it is an article, newsletter, sales copy, blog entry, web page, email or business report. Without a good headline the rest will not be read. By improving your headlines you will find that your writing will no longer be ignored, dismissed or deleted as they will be hungry to find out more.
Busy people keep their lives manageable by deciding almost instantly whether something is worth their time. It’s the headline’s job to entice them, engage them and capture their attention so that they ignore all other distractions to read to find out more. It’s frightening, but this process takes just a second or two and it’s brutal. An email appears, a web page loads, a magazine page is flipped open and in a second or two the readers has made an instant judgment – to read or move on.
The headline is your first and sometimes only chance. Their eye will scan the headline and an instant decision will be made. Does it interest them, intrigue them or amuse them or can it be ignored? There’s no second chance. No appeal. Just one chance. There is no going back and the rest of your article, brilliant, amusing and informative though it may be will never be read.
If you succeed then you need to back up your killer headline with a brilliant introduction, superb main copy and persuasive summary and a call to action that they can respond to. For now, our focus is on the headline as that must be good for the others to be read at all.
The golden rules of headlines There are five golden rules of headline writing that every successful headline must follow.
1. It must be clear – The headline is not the place to be confusing or circumspect. It has to be clear what the headline is saying and what the rest of the article is about.
2. It must be relevant – The headline must be relevant to the introduction and the rest of the article otherwise you will lose the reader as soon as they see any discrepancy.
3. Focus your headline – If you focus your headline on one specific group then they will love it and hang on your every word. This will also help it be more relevant.
4. It must be lean – A waffle-filled wordy headline will not be read. Keep your headline short and to the point.
5. It must be exciting – Don’t bore your reader – excite them, amuse them, make them curious…
Types of headline The final rule leads onto the next important point – don’t limit yourself to just one type of headline. Traditional choices for headlines such as “How to…” or “10 ways to” are great why not try one of the others and try an emotional headline, prediction headline or command headline.
Spice up your headlines You should then try and spice up your headline. Use what I call hot words as well as your keywords. Hot words are those words that are very strong in your particular field or market. For example if writing about a food or drink topic then words like taste, taster, flavour, serve or “on a plate” can be used with effect. Don’t try and use them all as too many create a headline that is more likely to make your readers groan then nod with approval.
Finally, test your headline Look at your headline again and test it. Does it read out loud well? Can any of the words be improved? Does it produce a feeling in them or make them think that you have empathy and feel the same way? Would it make you want to read more? The chances are good that you may have two or three variations of the same headline. Try them out and go with the one that is the best.
LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Identify the functions of the headline.
The modem trend in headlines is toward simplicity. Most newspapers now use heads that say what has to be said in a minimum of words. A good headline conveys the news in a story and the significance and meaning behind the story. It never implies more – and should not say too much less – than what actually appears in the story. It does not contain misleading suggestions and it does not leave false impressions.
An easy way to remember the functions of the headline is through the acronym HEADS:
H – Heralds the days news; tells what is of importance.
E – Entices the reader with essential or interesting facts.
A – Advertises the most important story by size or placement on the page (the most important stories are displayed at the top of the page).
D – Dresses up a page with typography; helps male design attractive.
S – Summarizes the story with a “super” lead; tells what the story is about.
LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Recognize the various types of headline styles.
There are several ways in which you can display headlines. For style variation, your headlines can beset in all-caps, caps and lowercase or downstyle. These methods are covered in the following text.
The all-capital letter headline style is almost extinct. All-caps heads, while they are easier to write than others, are the most difficult to read To test this premise, read the following paragraph:
AS THIS PARAGRAPH DEMONSTRATES, THE ALL-CAPITAL SETTING IS NEITHER EFFICIENT FOR THE READER, NOR PLEASING TO THE EYE. WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST USED TO HAVE KEY GRAPHS IN HIS EDITORIALS SET ALL-CAPS. INSTEAD OF MAKING THE POINT EMPHATICALLY, AS HE INTENDED, SUCH SETTING ACTUALLY CUT DOWN THE READERSHIP AND ITS IMPACT.
Even the most patient, attentive and skilled reader will be blinded by the onslaught of all those capital letters. By the way, did you spot the typo?
CAPS AND LOWERCASE HEADS
A widely used headline style is the uppercase and lowercase head In this headline style, all words, other than articles, conjunctions, and prepositions of fewer than four (and sometimes five) letters, are set with the first letter in caps and the others in lowercase.
The down-style head usage has increased in popularity in recent years. In down-style heads, the first letter of the first word – and the first letter of any proper noun – is set as a cap, and all other letters are lowercase. Down-style is presented in the way persons are taught to read and write. The style is visually attractive and enhances the readability of the line. By design, it lacks the numerous capital letters in a headline which serve as “eye stoppers.”
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point sizes, line lengths, line-spacing (leading), and letter-spacing (tracking), and adjusting the space between pairs of letters (kerning). The term typography is also applied to the style, arrangement, and appearance of the letters, numbers, and symbols created by the process. Type design is a closely related craft, sometimes considered part of typography; most typographers do not design typefaces, and some type designers do not consider themselves typographers. Typography also may be used as a decorative device, unrelated to communication of information.
Typography is the work of typesetters (also known as compositors), typographers, graphic designers, art directors, manga artists, comic book artists, graffiti artists, and, now, anyone who arranges words, letters, numbers, and symbols for publication, display, or distribution, from clerical workers and newsletter writers to anyone self-publishing materials. Until the Digital Age, typography was a specialized occupation. Digitization opened up typography to new generations of previously unrelated designers and lay users, and David Jury, head of graphic design at Colchester Institute in England, states that “typography is now something everybody does.” As the capability to create typography has become ubiquitous, the application of principles and best practices developed over generations of skilled workers and professionals has diminished. So at a time when scientific techniques can support the proven traditions (e.g., greater legibility with the use of serifs, upper and lower case, contrast, etc.) through understanding the limitations of human vision, typography as often encountered may fail to achieve its principal objective: effective communication.
Types Of Headlines
Different types of headlines are used in journalism; the specific type used is based on the structure of the news story. Print media is geared toward informing the public on various topics. An important aspect in getting and holding the attention of the public is through the use of attractive headlines, no longer than one, two or in some cases three lines. Headlines should summarize in a few striking words the news story featured under it. The point is to get the attention of the reader and draw him into the story.
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Flush Left Headline
This is one of the more modern headline forms in use. It consists of two or three lines of headline, each one set flush left to the left side of the space. The design is simple and allows freedom in writing the headline. No rules govern the writing of the flush left headline; however a uniform style for better results is generally adopted. This type of headline is popular because it is easy to write, allows flexibility in unit count and provides a feeling of airiness to the page with the white space.
The journalism industry is highly competitive, and attracting the attention of the readers, viewers or listeners is the most important thing. The audience should have a reason for choosing a particular newspaper, television channel or radio station. Headlines play an important role in attracting attention, especially in print media. Banner headlines are words printed in extra large letters across the top of the front page of the newspaper on extremely important stories; they are not used frequently, but when they are used, they have significant impact.
Inverted Pyramid Headline
There are distinct advantages to using the inverted pyramid headline style for news writing. People often are in a rush and seldom have time to read every word of a story. The advantage of the inverted pyramid headline is that it concentrates on presenting pertinent facts first. With inverted pyramid stories, the most important information goes in the first paragraph, and the less important information follows to the very end of the story. The inverted pyramid headline generally consists of three lines — the first runs across the column and the other two lines are shorter than the first line. The headline is created from the informative facts presented at the start of the story, giving the reader the most important points quickly.
The cross-line headline is quite similar to a banner headline. While it is a large headline, it does not span the entire width of the page, but it does run across all the columns of the story it pertains to. The cross-line headline is one of the simplest types of headlines, consisting of a single line and one or most often more columns in width. It can run flush on both sides of the paper or it can have the words centered over the columns. This type of headline is generally used when there is more than one column for a story and to produce a formal look.
You may or may not be familiar with style sheets, but you might find them beneficial as you write or edit.
A style sheet is simply a statement and a reflection of the style standards and practices of a publisher of newspapers, books, or magazines.
One publishing house may adhere to recommendations from the Chicago Manual of Style and a newspaper may follow the Associated Press’s guide. But both may have special rules and recommendations for specific instances, in-house rules that they recommend for their writers.
Depending on the publisher, some items from a style sheet might be absolute rules and some might be strong recommendations. A writer or editor might be able to make a case for a usage contrary to the publisher’s recommendation or accepted practice. The writer or editor can always ask or challenge a standard practice.
These recommendations, both in-house and not, make up the publisher’s style guide or style sheet.
Style sheets inform writers and editors about spelling, punctuation, and capitalization practices so a manuscript can be consistent within itself as well as match the style of the publication.
Yet writers and editors don’t have to rely solely on a publisher’s style guide. Instead, they can put together their own style sheet for their manuscripts.
If you’re a plotter, you may have written a detailed spreadsheet listing scene layout, plot threads, and character traits, physical description, and history. But even plotters can benefit from a style sheet.
A style sheet can help writers and editors maintain consistency and help them reduce errors in story details.
How to set up a style sheet
Since I edit from hard copy, I create a style sheet on a sheet of paper rather than using a spreadsheet on the computer. (I do, however, copy the details to a spreadsheet when I share them with clients.) Use whatever method, paper or computer, that works for you.
If you use the paper method, simply draw a horizontal line across the center of one side of the paper (think landscape view rather than portrait). Then draw three vertical lines from top to bottom to divide the page into eight boxes.
Flip the paper over. Draw another horizontal line across the page, yet do it a little higher than center on this side (you’ll need more room in the boxes at the bottom of the page). Divide the top section into three or four boxes. The bottom section may have two or three or four different-sized boxes. (The setup is virtually the same for a spreadsheet done on the computer.)
Mark the eight boxes on the first page and those on the top of the second page with groups of letters in alphabetical order. Put A/B or A/B/C at the top of the first box, C/D or D/E/F in the second box and so on until you’ve covered all the letters and used all the boxes.
You’ll be entering words based on their first letters into these boxes.
Why? To keep track of odd spellings or words that you make up. To list titles or place names used in the manuscript. To keep up with oddities of any kind from the manuscript. To create a reference document so that anyone working on the manuscript can see exactly how words should be spelled or capped or hyphenated or abbreviated.
Title columns at the bottom of page two with Characters, Punctuation, Numbers, and Miscellaneous. The column for characters may require the most space; you might not need a separate column for numbers. If you’ve got another column option, feel free to include it.
What to include
Include any item or topic for which the writer or editor must make a decision. Remember that the style sheet is an aid for consistency. A writer might use it as a reminder for herself as she writes and edits or she might pass it on to her copy editor at a publishing house. An editor might use her own style sheet to show a writer what choices she made while editing.
Use a style sheet to—
~ List character names in the character column with the first spelling you find for each and the page number of the first use of each name. If there are different spellings, note the differences and the page number of the first usage of each different spelling.
~ List punctuation rules—serial comma or no serial comma, em dash rather than parentheses, and so on, whatever you’ve decided you’ll use for the manuscript.
~ Spell out the rules for using numerals and words for numbers. Will it be numerals for all numbers greater than nine or will your cut-off be ninety-nine?
~ Note if which is acceptable in place of that for American English restrictive clauses.
~ Note whether a mix of British English and American English spellings is acceptable or if it’s necessary to choose one style.
~ Show how contractions will be used, if they’ll be used. Might all characters except for one use contractions? Are any contractions unacceptable?
~ Spell out uses of quotation marks and/or italics, especially for unusual words or for emphasis or for words used as words.
~ List acceptable dialogue tags other than said or asked, if there are any. Or list unacceptable dialogue tags.
~ List any limits on curse words, either by word or use by specific characters.
~ Show correct spelling of unusual or made-up words.
~ List abbreviations. List words that are always capped.
~ List hyphenated words or unusual compound words.
~ List oddities in grammar or punctuation, especially anything outside standard usage. If the writer wants a knowingly different usage, be sure to include a note about that unusual usage.
~ List foreign words.
~ Note anything unusual that the writer or copy editor should know about, anything that would enhance consistency if followed throughout the story or that would challenge the suspension of disbelief if not followed.
Most of these suggestions are geared toward a fiction manuscript, but you can also include notes for non-fiction works. For example, spell out the procedures for labeling graphs or images, explain layout, include standards for headings and titles, and make clear how scientific notation and definitions will be written.
Make a note in the style sheet for the unusual or use the style sheet to tell the writer about grammar, punctuation, or spelling rules he might not know. For example—
Write words for numbers and symbols in dialogue rather than using numerals and the symbols themselves.
Use ellipsis for dialogue that trails off, em dash for dialogue that’s cut off.
Use a comma to separate names in dialogue from the rest of the dialogue when a character is being addressed.
“I warned you, Syd. Now it’s too late.”
A style sheet is easy to fill out. Easy to forget to fill out as well, unfortunately. But it can be highly useful for both writers and editors, especially as a writing project nears completion.
Writers, you might not want to start your style sheet until after you’ve written the first draft. Working on one before that point might get in the way of your creativity. Of course, if keeping up with the details helps you as you write, by all means begin the style sheet with your first page.
Do consider adding a style sheet to your writing tasks. Don’t feel that you must start it early in the project.
If you’re a freelance editor, there’s no consideration about it; prepare a style sheet for your clients. Show them how consistency can be worked into their manuscripts.
Give them one more tool for writing better fiction.
The important of photography in newspaper
Continuing the importance of photos in newspapers, we should endeavor to improve our photos and newspapers by using more photographs in the pages and this will help improve the credibility and success of the papers.
In Sierra Leone freelance and professional photographers are not common, so we the reporters have to take up our cameras and do the job. Most of the photographs we take can show our inexperience, but the continued use of the camera will improve our skills.
News photography is a craft that many freelance photographers overlook all over the world as their interest is in photography of art form. It is because of this trend that most of us reporters are picking up the camera especially in the advent of digital cameras. The best newspaper photographers and photojournalists combine the art of photography with the storytelling abilities of a reporter.
If we have to improve our photos, every photo we take should tell a story with action and movement. Newspaper photographs should serve to tell a new element of the story through action. This means that each news photo should have an element of action; simply asking a person to pose for a shot doesn’t tell a story in the world of photojournalism. There must be an element of action or movement in every photograph, something must be happening in every frame.
Also we should take photographs for potential news stories. In the developed world, newspaper photographers are out and about in the community to a degree that is impossible for reporters and editorial staff. But in Sierra Leone the editor only rely on us the reporters to get the photos and in getting the photos, we should endeavor to get good photos that would tell part of the story.
Any incidents going on whether it’s a road work’s project or arguments between two people are potential news stories as something big can pop out. This is why the professional photojournalist and the paparazzi can beat us to the photo news.
We should learn to capture photographs of everyday life as it is a significant portion of the photographs that appear in a newspaper that are unassigned. These are photos that the photographer generates on his or her own. Photo ideas are everywhere. Life is filled with the ordinary and we need to capture that as a photojournalist; make it interesting.
Let us always look around us and we will see dozens of potentially compelling photographs that tell the story of life within a community – two dogs playing, a man walking with his dog, children selling on the streets, a police questioning a taxi driver etc. This is all part of life and it’s these human interest photographs that distinguish the true photojournalist from a reporter with a camera.
Another very important point we should consider in photojournalism is we should not learn to tamper with photos to tell a different story. It is unethical and wrong to do it. The photos we take should stand the same at all times as they tarnish the image of newspapers.
Couple of months ago, a reporter working for Daqing Evening News in China doctored two photographs he had taken and turned them into a composite of Tibetan antelopes crossing near a bridge on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway as a train passes. He submitted his work in a news photograph competition held by CCTV, the national TV network, and won a prize.
Despite the initial failure at detection, it was detected later that it was a doctored photograph, the Daqing Evening News later fired the photographer and the editor-in-chief of the newspaper also resigned. The Railway construction company also sued him for damages as they were criticized for endangering the lives of the antelopes by constructing the bridge in that area.
Most people in China supported the paper’s decision, but we must also recognize the fact that the scandal has sent out a clear warning. It is not the first time the media has come across doctored or staged photographs. Also Two years ago in my investigation, the World Press Photo awarded a third prize to a photograph in China entitled Wedding during SARS. It featured a newly-wed couple crossing a street in Wuhan in their wedding outfits, and each wearing a mask.
Soon after the news of the award reached China, the groom in the photograph took the photographer to court. He revealed that it was a staged wedding and he and the young woman in the photograph were actually models. The popularity of the photograph had done him much harm as he was in fact planning to get married.
A lecturer in my University once told me that few years ago when he was in active journalism, he received several photographs from a freelance photographer depicting how a major Siberian tiger-breeding center in Harbin was thriving with dozens of the felines roaming on a snow-covered field. He submitted the pictures for use, he said the newspaper photographer picked them up to be fakes as no two tigers are the same, but in some of the photos they were.
This has been happening across the world and even in Sierra Leone. It is totally unacceptable in the confines of journalism ethics as it can destroy someone’s credibility in just hours. We should always be vigilant against fakes, and double-check for doctored news photographs.
To explore the use of photographs in newspapers especially on the front page, and subsequent interpretation of these images by readers, a semiotic analysis of examples would provide a useful insight. However, it is necessary to set the scene of the subject matter under scrutiny. First of all we should understand what is a photograph; which is a picture produced through the chemical action of light on light sensitive film. It is a medium of recording reality that is iconic as well as indexical.
Although a photograph resembles or imitates something, making it iconic, it achieves this through the use of light from the subject, therefore making it less arbitrary and indexical. In other words the signifier is directly linked to the signified, be it physically or casually. This indexical property of photographs leads observers to make a judgment that a photo is an objective medium of record as there is a smaller difference between the signifier and the signified.
However, a photograph is a representation of a particular moment and situation in time. Barthes expressed his view that a newspaper photograph is, an object that has been worked on, chosen, composed, constructed, and treated according to professional, aesthetic or ideological norms which are so many factors of connotation.
There are many decisions taken by the photographer such as; focusing, lighting, angle that produce various representations, and readings, of the same moment creating different connotations. From the choices made from the paradigm sets of these signifiers, and the syntagmatic relationship between them, it is possible to decode and compare the front-page photographs from examples of newspapers.
However, although a semiotic analysis can determine the meanings connoted by a photograph, and the codes that achieve this, it cannot determine the reader’s interpretation of the text in a social context. It can only serve as an insight to the conventions that different newspapers employ and the responses that are attached to the codes at work within them.
Some newspapers in Sierra Leone prefer using small pictures on their front page others prefer full size. But the bottom line is that the picture is used to help tell the story and we should strive to continue in that trend as beautiful pictures with actions give the readers the enthusiasm to buy the paper.
During the elections in 2007, the picture of President Ernest Koroma in the billboard at Cotton Tree and Eastern Police, were the very best as every second you’ll see pedestrians standing in front of the board smiling and making positive comments of the beauty of the image. This is the essence of good photos in action.
Most print media use a combination of words and pictures to tell the news, but some only use words. If you have ever seen a newspaper with no pictures, you will know that it does not look attractive; it does not make you want to read it. It looks as though it will be hard work, and readers are therefore put off. It is also limited in its ability to tell the news accurately.
When we talk about “pictures”, we are usually talking about photographs, but there are other kinds of pictures, too. Good drawings, paintings and other graphic work also work well as news pictures. We shall consider those in the next chapter.
Why do we need news pictures?
There are three main reasons why newspapers need news pictures.
To brighten the page
A page without a picture is just a slab of grey text. It looks boring and many people will not bother to read what is written on it.
That is a pity if some of those stories are well researched and well written, but it is true. The readers who pay money for a newspaper expect their job to be made easy for them. They expect the news to have been sorted out into big stories and little stories, to have been written clearly, and to be presented in a way which is easy to read.
Newspapers without pictures do not make the news easy to read. They make life hard for the readers. The newspaper’s journalists are not doing their job properly.
To tell the news
As we saw in Chapter 1: What is news?, news is something which is new, unusual, interesting, significant and about people. It is obvious that new, unusual, interesting and significant things about people can be communicated by pictures as well as by words.
Not all stories will be ideal for pictures. Some will be told more easily in words than in pictures, while other stories may be told with one picture more easily and more clearly than in many words.
There is an old saying in English that “one picture is worth a thousand words”. That can be true, but only if it is the kind of story which is suitable to be told by a picture, and only if it is a good picture. We shall look in a moment at what makes a good news picture.
Pictures can sometimes tell the news just by themselves, with a caption to say who the people are and where the event is taking place. At other times, the picture may go with a story, to work as a team with the words. In either case, a news picture must always leave the reader knowing more than he did before. It must carry information.
To show what it looks like
Only a very gifted writer can use words in a way which lets the reader visualise exactly what a scene is like. Not every reporter can write as well as that.
A picture can let the reader see what a person, or a place, or a building, or an event looks like.
In societies which do not have television, newspaper photographs are probably the only way that most people can know what these things look like. They may be the only way that people outside the capital city will know what their own leaders look like. Even in societies with television, some areas of the country and some levels of society may have no access to it, and many of the programs may be imported from overseas. The newspapers still have an important job to let readers know what their own news looks like.