How to think like a Journalist: Above the Cut I

It feels good having an article above the cut.

In newspeak, being above the cut means having a story be the lead front-page story.

When newspapers are folded, the front-page story will appearing newsstands as the first thing shoppers see. To pick up and actually buy the newspaper, sometimes depends on the urgency or interest in the lead story.

Some lead stories were inaccurate as when the Chicago Daily Tribune wrote in their headline that Dewey defeated Truman in the 1948 presidential elections.

“Dewey Defeats Truman” was an incorrect banner headline on the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune on November 3, 1948, the day after incumbent United States President Harry S. Truman won an upset victory over Republican challenger and Governor of New York Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 presidential election.

Others will be ever memorably tragic such as when every newspaper’s front-page headlines told about 9/11 and the bodies falling from the towers.

In advertising, the placement of an ad as well as its size is important in how the viewer sees it.

Could it be buried on page 3? Could it be located on the back? Could it be in classifieds? Brrr! The Dread!

The importance of location in a publication whether it is in print or online cannot be stressed more.

When looking at text on a screen – mobile or otherwise – the first thing that the viewer sees is the front-page story. If they have to scroll to see your stories, it may not be the best location for it.

How does a story become a front-page lead story? What should someone do to get the best results in their stories location? Find out on Monday Dec. 17 for an answer. To be continued.


How to think like a Journalist: Transitions

As a rookie reporter, I once made the mistake of writing a ‘He said. She said’ story until the newsroom’s city editor cringed.

Transitions are extremely important in writing. They offer balance within the story.

Instead of stringing long quotes together, transition to paraphrases and plain facts, not opinions of others.

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Make your Writing Shine with Similes

We use the word ‘like’ a lot without even realizing we use it. Like, wow! Like, radical! Hey, it’s like you know, cool!

And this is just the tip of expressing ourselves. Many writers use similes using connecting words ‘like’ and ‘as’ in their stories to express something unfathomable to our senses. Take for instance the singer-songwriter John Denver who used ‘like’ a lot in his song Annie’s Song:

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again

Similes, unlike metaphors, compare one thing to another and are used to describe something more vividly. Similes can be used either positively as the above Denver song or negatively as in “You’re as cold as ice. You are ready to sacrifice our love” (Foreigner).

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How to think like a Journalist: Pyramids

You may have come across the five Ws of writing: Who, what, when, where, why (and how). A story is not complete without the five.

In a news story, the five Ws should be at the top of the story, within the lead or at least within the first few paragraphs. Don’t leave readers guessing or you will lose them.

The most important elements of the story – the five Ws – should be written in the beginning (no cliffhangers allowed!). Supporting elements should be written lastly.

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How to think like a Journalist: the Hook

Ask any fisherman and he will tell you, the way you cast your hook is half the battle in catching fish. According to Bob Puccinelli of the St. Petersburg Times, for fly fishermen, or women for that matter, accuracy is important when casting the line. So is delivering the fly.

The same holds true for reporters and their profession. You have to find the right hook.

Continue reading “How to think like a Journalist: the Hook”