Sunday, February 28, 2010

Spring Break

I spent several hours yesterday reading and grading your Spring Break stories and I realized how much you have learned since our class started back in January. The leads were 100 percent better, most of the quotes were well setup with all the necessary information provided such as year, major, age....and most of your kickers were good with strong quotes.

Thank you.

Need to remind you that March 5 - according to my diary - is the withdrawal deadline for grade forgiveness. I have the latest grades if you want to check in with me on Monday. If you have had a story published in CFF or CFF online, you are in good shape. The extra 100 plus points makes a huge difference, especially if you have had good grades on quizes, exercises etc.

See you Monday.

Ann H.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Useful pointers for journalism students

(excerpts from New York Times - Advice for Journalism Students

Q. Wondering if I could get your advice for my journalism students — what kind of things should someone who is considering a career path in journalism understand about the relationship between the business side and the editorial side in the online world? How should these students prepare themselves in terms of business knowledge and additional entrepreneurial skills?
— Mo Krochmal, assistant professor of journalism, media studies, and public relations, Hofstra University

A. I advise journalists coming out of school today to take a programming course or two, at least. I also think it’s a good idea for journalists to have a basic understanding of business; after all, journalism is a business in the United States and journalists should understand the basics of the businesses they work for. Regarding entrepreneurial skills, the best way to learn them is to work in a startup or early-stage business. Talk to accomplished venture capitalists. Read some of the better venture capitalist blogs. Dive in.

Career Concerns of Journalism Students

Q. What advice do you have for students considering a career in journalism and related fields, what skills would a student need to be marketable in a highly competitive field, and how can you reassure the career concerns for someone going into this field?
— Mark Fiorito

A. I’ve turned to my colleague, Deputy Managing Editor Jon Landman, who manages the editorial side of, for an answer to this one. He writes:

For someone intent on a career at a newspaper or news magazine, there's no reassurance to give. Those careers will be harder and harder to establish and jobs at journalism companies that come with health insurance and a pension will be scarce, to say the least. But journalism is changing, not dying, and for someone with an entrepreneurial bent, a sense of adventure and a sense of the value of journalism as a calling, there are still opportunities.

A handful of big news organizations, like this one, have flourishing Web sites along with their familiar print publications. Journalists with technical savvy and technical people with a passion for journalism are almost always in demand. There are opportunities in specialty journalism like Politico, which publishes in print and online for people hungry for detailed information about national politics. Journalistically minded startups employ some journalists;, for example, has editors who manage Web-only news and information sites for small towns. And there are large numbers of news entrepreneurs with a vision for news and a blog or some other platform. Some, like Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo are well known; others struggle for attention and a niche.

In all cases, basic journalistic skills and values — curiosity, skepticism, intellectual honesty, a sense of fair play, the ability to tell a story well — remain as essential as ever.

I largely agree with Jon’s view: The number of traditional news outlets, and jobs in those places, is diminishing. From my perspective, the shift taking place today is part of a very long-term transition from telling stories in analog formats, to working in digital ones. We are in the middle of that transition today, and for those of us inside, it sometimes feels a little like working in the midst of a great hurricane.

On the other hand, transitions such as these often offer great opportunities for people who are more entrepreneurial. My friend Rafat Ali, for example, was a young journalist who started a site called in the middle of the dotcom bust. He recently sold his business to The Guardian for a very tidy sum, and he and his staff now run the business inside a larger entity.
If I were in college today, I’d try to complement my journalistic training with a combination of hands-on technical expertise and some basic courses in business management and finance. The most important thing Jon recommends, in my view, is the “sense of adventure” necessary during times like these.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Class Feb. 17

Prepare for writing your Spring Break story by reading Chapter 11 Preparing for the Interview, Page 272.

We won't have a news quiz Monday so you can spend time interviewing students for your Spring Break story, which we will write in class.

But first we'll share information that you researched Wednesday about a variety of background issues ranging from unemployment rates in Central Florida, the economic situtation in the area that could affect students ability to go, how many students take part in Spring Break, top places to go, prices -- are cruiselines and airlines cutting rates.

This story will require a different approach from the straight "give us the facts, maam" leads we have been learning. You will be required to interview 6 students and you can work in teams.

Here are examples from The Elements of News Writing by James W. Kershner of the various approaches you can take.

The quote lead - but only if you have a good, strong quotation, which is not a cliche. "It was a hell of a melee," said Dean of Students John McIntyre. Next graph outlines what he was referring to.

The anecdote lead - begins with a short vignette or story that sheds light on the subject of story. Should only be used when the anecdote is exceptionally telling and it must be accurate. Here is an example for a story about the increase in coyote sightings.

Mary Silva was pushing her 2-year-old daughter, Tiffany in a stroller through the UCF campus Monday. The toddler was practicing new words she had learned. She pointed out "tree" and "truck" and "flower."

Then Tiffany said "dog!"

But the animal she saw was not a dog; it was a coyote.

A rapid increase in sightings of coyotes in the city has wildlife officials, pet owners and parents concerned.

The list lead - this involves starting a story with three examples of people, places or events that demonstrate the thrust of the story.

The descriptive lead - sets the scene or paints a picture of a place or situation.

The question lead - There is one important rule about question leads: They must be followed quickly by the answer. The question should NOT be directed at the reader. .. Have you ever wondered what it would be like...? runs the risk of receiving a negative answer. Don't give the reader the chance to say "No, not me" and then turn the page.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Check out Tim's excellent story about a UCF alumni who knits for the homeless and the sidebar on homelessness in today's CFF.

Eight of you have had stories published in CFF and I know some of you are working on assignments.

Ann H.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Common mistake

Most of you missed the comma in $3000 on the AP Style test.

Remember to always use commas to separate off the thousands, millions and billions in numbers. Example: $3,000, 2,460,558 or $1,000,000,000

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Homework Feb. 10

Good work on the leads today in class. You worked hard. That is the only way to learn the skill.

Homework. Write alternative leads - LEADS ONLY - from Exercise 2 , 3,4, 5, 6 on Page 197 and 198.

Read Chapter 8 on alternative leads.

Have a good weekend.

Ann H.

How to write a strong lead


Just finished grading your Jeannette Emert stories - the stories made good use of quotes and the tips that the police officer gave on staying safe on campus.

BUT - the royal but - the leads were almost uniformly awful. Until you can write a good lead you aren't go to get anywhere in mastering the skills of writing a news story. The lead is the first thing an editor and reader sees. If that doesn't engage, they aren't going to waste their time either working the story or reading it.

So here again are some rules:

Get to the point. News stories DO NOT have introductions (a common failing in your stories.)

A good lead summarizes the main focus of the news story and lets the reader know what to expect from the rest of the story. A good lead also may hint at what is to come.

A good lead usually should be less than 25 words, although special types of leads can be longer, if necessary.

To decide on a lead, first ask yourself what the story is about. Answer the question as if you were telling a friend who had no prior information on the subject.

Most leads will answer the basic five-W questions: who, what, where, when, why and how.

In most cases, a lead should be one simple declarative sentence structured in the active voice.

The primary types of leads include the straight news (or summary) lead, the quote lead, the anecdote lead, the list (or "bam-bam-bam") lead, the descriptive (or scene-setting) lead, and the question lead.

A nut graf is a paragraph that summarizes in a nutshell the main point of the story. In simple stories, the lead is the nut graf. In feature stories, the nut graf may follow the lead. Every news story should have a nut graph somewhere near the beginning.

Never bury the lead -- e.g. putting the most important element of the story anywhere other than at the beginning.

Avoid leads that place readers in unlikely situations -- e.g. Inexperienced writers occasionally try to put the reader in the picture with the use of second-person voice writing using the word YOU. This rarely works. Sometimes it is ridiculous.

Avoid cliche leads --e.g. expressions such as avoided like the plague, flies in the face of ...worth its weight in gold.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Amendments on the November ballot.

Here are the amendments on the Nov. 2 election ballot that Deirdre Macnab was talking about in class today.

Floridians will see questions on campaign finance, property taxes, growth plans and legislative redistricting come November.

Repeal of public campaign finance laws - The Florida Legislature voted in the spring to put before voters a proposed amendment that would repeal the public campaign financing for statewide campaigns. In 2006, the state shelled out $11,133,761 to 10 candidates for statewide office. Gov. Charlie Crist received about $7.4 million, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink received about $1 million, Attorney General Bill McCollum received $897,104 and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson received $393,459.

Homestead ad valorem tax - The Legislature is asking voters to provide an additional homestead property tax exemption for members of the U.S. military or military reserves, the U.S. Coast Guard or its reserves, or the Florida National Guard, who receive a homestead exemption and were deployed in the previous year on active duty outside of the United States.

The exempt amount will be based on the number of days the person was deployed.Property tax limit for non-homestead property –

The Legislature also put on the ballot a proposal to limit the maximum annual increase in the assessed value of non-homestead property to 5 percent. It also requires the Legislature to provide another homestead exemption for people who have not owned a principal residence during the last eight years.

Amendment 4 - Hometown Democracy – The group known as Florida Hometown Democracy garnered enough signatures to place an amendment on the ballot that would require changes to local comprehensive growth plans to be approved by local voters at the polls. Backers say the measure would end what they call undue influence by local developers. However, opponents argue it would make it much more difficult for local governments to make even small, necessary changes for local community growth.

Redistricting – The group Fair District Florida collected signatures for Amendments Five and Six, which deal with the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts. The proposed amendment prohibits officials from drawing legislative districts that favor incumbents or political parties and sets up other requirements also known as gerrymandering.

Amendment Five deals with the Florida House and Senate seats and Amendment Six addresses Florida's congressional seats.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Homework - Wednesday, Feb. 3

Write a news story based on your interviews today with UCF police officer Jeannette Emert. Remember to pick what you thought was the best and most interesting news angle and develop that as the main thrust of your story.

You can touch on other angles by using bullet points and saying something like...

In a wide ranging interview, Emert gave the following advice OR Emert also said:

  • Don't walk alone at night on campus.
  • Keep your apartment doors locked, even if you are just going down the hall to speak to a friend.
  • Your head, hands and feet are better weapons when it comes to protection than gadgets.
  • The library attracts thieves.
  • UCF students like marijuana.

Of course if you are using one or two of these angles for the main part of your story you'll have to change the bullet points.

You can prepare for Monday's speaker - Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, by reading up on the women's suffrage movement and the 19th amendment giving women the vote. It was ratified on Aug. 26, 1920.

See you Monday.

Ann H.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Inside the AP Style Book

Check out this link for interesting story about AP Style and why we should care


OK Gang

Let's start practicing AP Style when we write, not just when we do an AP Style test.

Too many of you are still not using numbers for amounts from 10 up.

Measurements, distances, weights etc. do take numbers so check those out in your style book.

Remembers ALL ages takes numbers.

Except on rare occasions, do NOT begin a news story with the day of the week or time of day.

ACCORDING goes with records, documents not humans. Fire chief John Brown said. According to the Declaration of Independence.


Try not to use unnecessary words. Give us the facts please, NOT your opinions. Get to the meat of the story. Readers don't have the patience to wade through flowery phrases.

On second reference to something use the instead of a... e.g.

A plane crashed into the hills over Denver.

The police officer said the crash caused two deaths and massive damage.

People think about things. They believe in God. Only use believe in a religious context.

Read your stories aloud - some of your leads didn't even make sense because of dropped words or muddled thinking. If they don't make sense when you say them to yourself, then rework them.

Remember - I want you to be the best you can be, so I'm going to keep on nagging and docking you points until you get it right.

Ann H.

Monday, February 1, 2010


1. Look for one main point and make that point the focus of the story. Build your lead off that angle and do not begin by saying that aperson spoke. Say what they said.

2. Figure out what the general public needs to know and provide that information.

3. Focus on the most important, significant or interesting aspect of the speech.

4. 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.

5. Include audience reaction and setting.

6. Where possible get reactions to the speech.

7. Include enough background so those not familiar with the issues can understand what happened and its significance.

8. Do your homework before the speech. Get biographic information about the speaker. Read bios or news accounts of previous speeches by the person. Try and get an advance copy of the speech.

9. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you interview a speaker after the speech be sure to state in story that the comment was made after the speech. Don't imply it was part of the main speech.

10. Write the story as soon as possible. Writing the story as soon as possible gets the information down more accurately.


Complete exercise handed out in class using writing rules.

AP Style CAPITALIZATION - Page 640-642.

Redo Parking stories for 10 extra points.

Read Chapter 13 Page 323 on Speeches and Meetings... in preparation for UCF police officer Jeanette Emert speaking to the class on Wednesday about crime on campus.

You will have to cover her speech as a news story and ask questions in class to flesh out the information she gives you. you need to take good notes and be prepared to write your story on deadline in class.