Public Radio¶s Core Values

Listeners are: ‡ Engaged in contemporary public life and culture ‡ Curious about the world; want depth & context ‡ See the world as interconnected web of causal relationships; want us to help them connect the dots by focusing on the "why", not just the "what" ‡ Believe in finding solutions for problems of their community, nation & world. ‡ ³Being First´ is not a core value
Morning Edition Grad School

The Five Tiers
‡ Modified from Four Tiers developed by Jay Kernis, former NPR Senior VP for Programming ‡ The tiers are about story SELECTION, not story EXECUTION!

Morning Edition Grad School

Five Tiers of News Coverage
Tier One: COMMERCIAL ‡ ³If it bleeds, it leads.´ Crime, fires, sensationalized weather, local sports teams, plus those quirky/human interest kickers that inevitably end the TV newscast. Tier Two: STAGED ‡ City council meetings, school board meetings, local government and political pronouncements, news conferences. Tier Three: CULTURAL RESONANCE ‡ Profiles of artists, musicians, cultural figures. Tier Four: LOCAL IMPACT/NATIONAL ‡ What is the local impact²or local representation²of a national or international story? At its best, this kind of reporting fosters civil discourse, the desire to learn more, and to become more involved. Tier Four: LOCAL MEANING ‡ What news event, person, trend or new idea is or is about to make a real difference in my life and my community? What truly reflects who we are and why we live here? What will have lasting impact? What trends and events are not being noticed?

Morning Edition Grad School

Developing Pitches
Mine people for story ideas: Pay attention to what you see Pull a thread from another story Surveys, polls that spark questions
Newspapers: localize a national story Press releases

‡ beat sources, listeners, friends, neighbors, cashiers, cabbies

Before You Pitch a Story
‡Make sure you actually have a story in mind, and not just a vague idea. ‡If a newspaper article prompted your story idea, make sure you can suggest how to advance the story. ‡Figure out whether your story should be told by a reporter or through a host interview.

Story Visioning Worksheet
Story Length: 1. 2. 3. What is my Focus Statement? Who stands to win/lose in this story? Who are the players? Who do I need to interview? Side 1 Side 2 Side 3 Expert/Perspective

4. What is this story REALLY about? Who stands the lose the most? How does it feel to be him/her? How can I open the story with this person? 5. Where should I interview him/her? (do this for every person in #4) How can I describe this place? What nearby sounds should be miked for prominence? What obstacles can I anticipate? 6. What questions should I ask? (remember the ³20 minute rule´) 7. Go. Be ready to change course if you find new information. Source: Melanie Peeples w/modifications by Tanya Ott

Public Radio¶s Core Values: Editorial Planning Grid
Copyright© Public Radio Program Directors, Inc.

Qualities of the Mind
yLove of lifelong learning ySubstance yCuriosity yCredibility/Accuracy yHonesty yRespect for the listener yPurpose

Qualities of the Heart
yHumor yIdealism yInspired about public life and culture yCivility / belief in civil discourse yGenerosity

Qualities of Craft
yUniquely human voice yPacing yAttention to detail

Station call letters: Selecting Content and Topics

Content Questions

Talent Questions
What does our host, reporter newscaster or producer need to meet our content goals?

Production Questions
How can we write, structure, edit and texturize* this content for the ear? (possible texture elements include ambience, actualities, vox, music, movie clips)

What are the key issues that make this something we should cover for our listeners?

Framing / Shaping Content and Topics Questions for different types of news programs

How can we add new depth, substance and perspective on these issues for our listeners?

Whose voices do we need to hear and what questions do we need to ask?

How can we re-version this content to reach more of our listeners in other programs and dayparts?

Newscast ± How should we stack the newscast?

Talk Shows ± What is the pathway for callers to participate in the program?

Magazine Programs ± how should the elements: (interviews, features, music, news items, etc.) relate to each other editorially and contextually?

The defining element of public radio news

What is ³Context´
‡ Part of the story that tells listeners why they should care ‡ The competitive advantage public radio holds over commercial radio and television

‡ Standard in a national story; often missing in a local story

Different Flavors of Context
‡ Historical: has this happened before? ‡ Geographical: where else is this happening? ‡ Political: how does it reflect shifting partisan tides? ‡ Behavioral: what does it say about changing beliefs/attitudes? ‡ Demographic: is this part of a ³Gen X´ or ³Baby Boomer´ trend/movement?

Where to Find Context
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Analyst Researcher Historian Journalist

Closing Thoughts
‡ Reporting the context of a story takes time, but it¶s why people listen to you. ‡ It helps listeners understand their place in the community, the nation, and the world.

Depth vs Breadth
‡ Breadth: more stories, less detail, less production ‡ Depth: fewer stories, more detail, more production ‡ Research shows public radio listeners want depth over breadth

‡ Find Sources Fast
‡ press release email list (searchable, customizable) ‡ searchable expert database ‡ expert query (sent immediately ± best for tight deadline)

‡ press release email list ‡ expert query (batched and sent a couple times a day)

Maximizing Your Time, Their Time, and Results

It¶s Not a Conversation
‡ "Interviewing requires more than a good ear for quotes. It's a process, like writing, that involves a series of decisions and actions designed to get the best possible information.´ -Chip Scanlon, author: Reporting and Writing:
Basics for the 21st Century

‡ The process starts with Preparation

‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ To ensure you have a ³good talker´ To get facts, not emotions To get chronology, not insight To get a µcontract¶ on what the on-tape interview will be about ‡ If you can¶t interview your source, interview the flak ± Breaking news ± Political spot news

‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Necessary for new angles Good for establishing credibility Blogs, articles, transcripts Phone-a-Critic Identify ³juicy center´ You DO have time: 10 minutes is all it takes

‡ Know where you want to start and end ‡ Scribble down µmust haves¶ ‡ Be open to new routes

Bedside Manner
‡ Gear as wardrobe ‡ Comfort: yours and theirs ‡ Eyes and Smiles

³Do¶s & Don¶ts´
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ DO: ask simple questions: why, what, how DON¶T: ask double-barreled questions DO: ask for details, examples, pictures DON¶T: be afraid to admit you don¶t understand DO: ask µhow do you know that?¶ (burden of proof) DON¶T: use trigger words DO: strategize on difficult or sensitive issues DON¶T: be afraid of silence

‡ Most important: listen more, talk less.

Golden Rules
‡ First Questions: dive right in ± What happened? ± What¶s at stake? ± Why did you do it? ‡ Last Questions: ± What would you like to add? ± Who else should I talk to? Don¶t provide a list of questions to source ahead of time


What do strong stories have?
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Iceberg Effect Gold Nuggets Little Things Sense of Place Sense of People Sense of Time Other

Best Practices
‡ Write for the ear ± Use conversational style, including contractions ‡ Use active verbs ± ³A car hit him´ NOT ³He was hit by a car´ ‡ Use present tense ± ³Jones says´ NOT ³Jones said´ ‡ One thought per sentence ± Candow: whenever you see a µconnecting¶ word, [which, that, and] break it into two sentences.

Best Practices con¶t
‡ Plainspeak
± ³The city will use the funds soon´ NOT ³the city will utilize the funds soon´

‡ Economize
± ³The city will spend the money soon´ NOT ³the city will utilize the funds given to it by the federal government sometime in the next two to three months.´

Best Practices
‡ Avoid cliches like the plague ‡ No long-phrased introductions to sentences, or clauses in the middle of sentences. ± ³Walking amongst the wavy winter wheat, the farmer¶s eyes grow big at the prospect of large profits´ ± ³The mayor, who thought he was late, burst through the council chamber doors to testify.´

The Strong Script
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Concise Least # Words Active Verbs and Active Voice Short titles No fact trains Strong anchor intro and ending Gold coins scattered throughout Good transitions Good tape

* Remember the Cardinal Rule for Radio: You¶re writing for the ear, not for the page, so READ ALL SCRIPTS ALOUD.

Leads« or Ledes, if you prefer

Does this sell the story?
In impoverished Honduras, problems range from a lack of resources for education, to the lack of food and even the most basic healthcare. A group of medical missionaries from the greater Birmingham area takes several trips a year to help the Hondurans who need it the most. But what they've encountered over the years is a big catch-22: a cyclical environment of malnourishment and disease. The missionaries' challenge is to teach Hondurans the wherewithal to break the cycle. Dr. Tom Camp, who heads up the Alabama/Honduran Medical Educational Network, or AHMEN, spoke with WBHM¶s Joe Blow.

How about this?
A quarter of all Hondurans live on less than a dollar a day. They lack formal education, food and even the most basic healthcare. A group of medical missionaries from Birmingham Just returned from a trip to Honduras. Doctor Tom Camp heads up the Alabama/Honduran Medical Educational Network, or AHMEN. He spoke with WBHM¶s Joe Blow.

Writing for the Web
(it¶s more than just deleting pronouncers from the script)

Writing for the Web
‡ 79% of people scan websites. Only 16% read word-byword. ‡ Help them by using:
± ± ± ± ± ± Highlighted keywords (hypertext links, typeface/color variations) Meaningful sub-headings (not "clever" ones) bulleted lists one idea per paragraph the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion half the word count (or less) than conventional writing
Source: web usability expert Jakob Nielson Alert Box, Oct 1997

Writing for the Web: Credibility
‡ Credibility is important for Web users ‡ Increase credibility by using:
± high-quality graphics ± good writing ± outbound hypertext links. Links to other sites show that the authors have done their homework and are not afraid to let readers visit other sites.

‡ And avoiding "marketese´

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