We need to constantly emphasize the process for developing stories

I teach processes more than anything.

Today, I sent students an assignment that involves them taking the first step toward developing and writing a sports feature. Along with observation and interviews, research is essential — perhaps even more so in the germination process.

Continue reading “We need to constantly emphasize the process for developing stories”

How to report and write news stories more visually

Co-wrote an article with friend and colleague Brian Poulter that has been published in the current issue of Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication. This evolved from a workshop we presented at several conferences on ways to improve writing skills by employing photographic approaches. Check it out.

Interviewing is essential to engaging readers in sports features

I originally published this on Indiana University’s National Sports Journalism Center website in July 2011.

ESPN’s Wright Thompson was chatting with some golf writers in a bar near St. Andrew’s, host course for the 2010 British Open, when he heard an unusual story.

Apparently, golfers took boats to play on a course at Daufuskie Island, an islet along the South Carolina coast that is nearly abandoned except for a few employees and some Gullah, direct descendents of African-American slaves. More than a hundred people a day were once drawn to the majestic course, where Spanish moss hangs thick on trees, big waves crash onto fairways, and raptors soar overhead. Three scenic holes run along the Atlantic Ocean. Continue reading “Interviewing is essential to engaging readers in sports features”

Don’t stop until you reveal conflict

As you develop features and profiles, don’t forget to focus on conflict, a driving force in all storytelling. A profile story without conflict is typically as exciting to read as someone’s resume. Don’t just cite someone’s accomplishments and stats, sprinkled with some general comments. Instead, tell stories that involve your characters, scenes, plots, and conflict. That means you’ll need to dig through articles, observe locations, and interview as many people as possible in order to find a compelling angle. During interviews, keep talking until you find a major conflict. Once this person starts talking, listen for visual markers and other specific details that will enable you to paint the story more clearly. If this information is not supplied, ask for it – “What was the weather like?” “Where were you standing?” “Describe the trail you ran on.” “What did the heat feel like?” There are a million ways to write a profile, or feature, but there is really one primary factor that drives these stories – conflict. So go find it. Your readers will be most thankful.