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News judgment, brevity, curiosity and accuracy are the hallmarks of journalistic thinking. In this
assignment, you¶ll demonstrate journalistic thinking by creating an ³FAQ´ ± a list of frequently asked
questions ± that explains a topic in the news.

Here are some examples of FAQs, both from traditional news organizations and from other sources.

FAQs highlight those traditional news elements of who, what, when, where, why and how? Without
understanding news elements, you can¶t write an FAQ.
FAQs are a form of explanatory journalism. NYU Professor Jay Rosen has a whole project dedicated
to ³building a better explainer´:
In fact, the Q-and-A model drives much of the audience engagement in news today. Seventy-one
percent of Americans who use the Internet to get news say they use search engines to find news at least
once every few weeks. And those searches are often in the form of a question. Try this: Go to and start typing one of the news elements ± who, what, when, where, why, how ±
into the search form. You¶ll quickly see suggestions of popular searches. These are examples that show
how many people type their search queries in the form of a question.
Many technology companies ± including Google ± use the Q-and-A metaphor to develop technology
they hope will lead to increased customization of the online news experience. For two examples, check out:
(Not terribly successful examples, but that illustrates just how broad the interest is in the FAQ as a
customization metaphor.)
Writing a well-structured FAQ naturally helps optimize your content for search engines. FAQs
include relevant keywords in the title and are keyword dense in the body.Good FAQs are focused on one
topic and often have meaningful outbound links. Practicing FAQs is a great way to reinforce the role of
traditional news elements within a writing style that is native to the Web.


1. Pick a topic in the news about which you are curious. It might be the student body elections, the
state budget, the arrival or departure of downtown business, organic food, or didgeridoos. As long
as it has a news peg, anything goes.
2. Good journalists are curious. Write 10 questions that you have about the topic, each starting with
one of the news element words ± who, what, when, where, why, how.
3. Great journalists channel the curiosity of their audiences. Write 10 questions that you think the
readers of your website might have about the topic? What do they probably already know? But
what more would be useful or interesting to them?
4. You now have a list of 20 questions. Ditch or reword all the questions that can be answered with
³yes´ or ³no.´
5. Look at your amended list. For each question, write three potential places you might find the
answer. Ditch any question for which you can¶t think of three places to find the answer.
6. For the remaining questions, research the answers. Use Web research techniques, news archives,
reference books and perhaps interviews.
7. Pick the 5-10 questions for which you have the most substantial information. Write the answers to
those questions. Use as few words as possible.
8. Finally, place the questions and answers in the order they would occur in a conversation. Present
the broadest information first and add detail in each subsequent question. Each answer in the FAQ
should have the nugget for the next question. Anticipate what your reader will think: "But what
about ...," and that should be the next question.

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1. Now, put your FAQ into an HTML document using basic HTML elements such as <b> and <p>.
Divide your FAQ into an index page that links to each Q-and-A on separate pages.
2. Add hyperlinks to your source material. Follow the guidelines provided in Chapter 7 of Producing
Online News.
3. Edit your FAQ for search engine optimization. Follow the guidelines provided in Chapter 5 of
Producing Online News.