Author Archives: Elise Hu

Elise Hu coordinated the digital launch and hiring of NPR StateImpact's eight pilot stations in 2011. In her role as digital editorial coordinator, she was responsible for the digital vision, feature development and editorial training for the reporters in the network.

Adding Lawmaker/Legislation Widgets

As part of our state legislative coverage, we’ve partnered with the Sunlight Foundation to make it easy for our reporters to include information about lawmakers and bills in their WordPress posts and pages. We’ve created a tool that automatically pulls in data points from the foundation’s Open State Project and places them inside widgets.

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Do You Really Need That Question in Your Headline?

If you’ve been asking yourself whether you should put questions in your post headlines, the guidance from Team StateImpact is this: Only use a question in your headline if you have a really compelling reason to do so.

Asking a question in a headline can be a way to get people to click on your post if they see it in social media or through search. But it’s also an easy cop out, especially when your post can go a step further and promise the reader something more definite. Wright Bryan, who heads up’s many, many blogs, adds this:

“Headlines with questions should largely be avoided because they suggest uncertainty. It sends a message to your reader that the story is incomplete, that you haven’t gotten to the bottom of it. Anyone can speculate about the news. Our job is to provide facts and answers, to bring clarity to the story.”

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Eight Interviewing Techniques to Get the Best Sound, Stories

Elise Hu / NPR StateImpact

NPR Education Correspondents Larry Abramson and Claudio Sanchez giving us interviewing tips.

Hello from Indianapolis, where the StateImpact education reporters and editors have gathered for an NPR fly-in sponsored by the Lumina Foundation. There’s no shortage of wonky talk about the big issues in K-12 and higher education, but NPR veterans are also here to offer reporting guidance. Some takeaways from NPR education reporters Larry Abramson and Claudio Sanchez about conducting great interviews for your pieces:

1. Build Great Sources First
Spend time with teachers, administrators and students before you need them. It doesn’t hurt to do a positive story about education or a profile before you careen into a story that’s harder hitting. Continue reading

Some Common Style Mistakes And How To Correct Them

StateImpacters, I know many of you come from a broadcast writing background where your scripts didn’t get publicly published. But now that you are expected to produce clean, error-free copy from the get-go, here is a guide, put together by my friend and former copy editor David Muto, to common style mistakes and how to correct them. Find the main StateImpact style guide in our documentation.

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11 Ways To Take The Planet Money Approach To Your Stories

This morning, StateImpact Florida aired its first piece in a series of “Planet Money-style” explorations on an issue of interest. Reporters take a single question and pursue the answer, then they have a (scripted) conversation with one another with relevant sound bites sprinkled in.

Planet Money’s conversations come in the form of their tremendously popular podcasts and radio pieces, and their explanatory approach to reporting has landed their first Planet Money piece, “The Giant Pool of Money,” as one of the Top Ten Works of Journalism of the DECADE.

Florida StateImpact reporters John O’Connor and Sarah Gonzalez are aiming to do these segments regularly, and it’s a format you, too, can try in your own state. It’s a good way to work together with your reporting partner and give your audiences an answer to important question on your beat.

How does the Planet Money team do what it does? Here’s the guidance from Planet Money’s Robert Smith, who spoke with our Florida staff. (Hat tip to WUSF’s Scott Finn for taking notes that I could then turn into a blogpost.)

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Matt Thompson’s Dark Secrets of the Online Overlords: A Recap

Matt and I pretending we were at prom, May 2011

For as long as I’ve known Matt Thompson (we first met a concert in Austin, natch), he’s shocked and awed me with his large brain. Over the past half decade, everything I was trying or figuring out or finding success with in digital and multi-platform journalism, Matt had already thought through, unpacked and articulated. He’s not just a close friend who rescues my $20 bills when they go flying into downtown streets, he is my journalism sherpa.

Few people can describe what’s happening across the media landscape and what audiences need from journalists better than Matt. His world-famous (or at least it should be) ‘Dark Secrets of the Online Overlords‘ presentation explains how we can take the webby sensibility that pervades the most-popular sites on the web and use it to do great, public interest journalism. Yesterday he shared the secrets with our StateImpact reporters and it got a fantastic response, so we will post the video of our webinar soon. But for now, a recap:

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Five Layout Tips For Prettier Posts

Team, you may not hear from him much, but our StateImpact Designer, Danny DeBelius, is always watching your work. He’s noticed some areas for improvement when it comes to our page design and making our posts visually compelling, which he outlines here. Enjoy! -Elise

1. Use logos sparingly, if at all.

Click to enlarge.

While logos are readily available and a tempting target for topics light on visual opportunities, the disappointing truth is that logos do little to draw users into your post. Worse still, a logo recycled from an earlier post can erroneously signal to your reader that they’ve already read the surrounding content; recycled art of any kind runs this risk. A photograph is always preferable, and photos that include human subjects are generally the most effective visual tool to put eyeballs on your post. The same principle holds true for selecting featured image art for your topic buildout pages. Logos are rarely effective, expedient as they may be.
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Promotion and Audience Building Ideas You Can Use

We’ve just wrapped up our September Monthly Reporter Challenge, which focused on promotion techniques reporters could take on to build a wider audience for their sites and broadcast coverage. But stations can help in the effort, and since we had a question from StateImpact Oklahoma on what the entire statewide collaborative could do to better spread the word, let’s cap our monthly challenge with a look at some ideas you can use.

First, the initial goals:

  • Gen­er­at­ing buzz around the StateIm­pact brand; get­ting peo­ple talk­ing about it
  • Build­ing up fol­low­ers on Twit­ter, Face­book, and your site
  • Build­ing a more loyal audience
  • Increas­ing the reach of your content
Beyond the tips outlined in an earlier post, we’ve also observed what our sister project, Project Argo, has done to build audience. I’ve picked out a few traditional and non-traditional promotion they’ve done to get you thinking.

Broadcast Workshop: Keeping Your Audience’s Attention

Thanks, broadcast reporters, for taking part in this week’s webinar with Ken and Cathy on how to keep your listeners hooked during your stories. Here are Cathy’s key tips in case you missed the action.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to ignore a radio story? It’ll start and then a few minutes later you’re lost and you don’t care. Once you get out of the story, it’s hard to get interested again.

The key to getting and keeping listener’s attention is storytelling.
The key to good storytelling is story structure.
That means a strong beginning, middle and end.

This is especially important with policy stories. You have to share your passion and enthusiasm for an issue in a way that makes people care. As Nancy Updike said at Third Coast a couple of years back, “the biggest enemy is not bad-ness. It’s okay-ness.” You need to constantly ask yourself: “Is there a better beginning to my story?” “A more interesting middle?” “A snazzier end?”

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Online Communities

NPR’s Social Media Team member and Two-Way Blogger Eyder Peralta was kind enough to give us some practical examples of NPR’s work in community engagement. Of course, you had to sit through me talking about how to frame online communities, first. Here’s a look back at our webinar from last week:

Characteristics of online community

  • Authenticity: as long as you are authentic to your community, you can pretty much tell them anything and they’ll believe it.
  • Purpose: what do your community members have in common?
  • Safety: if your community doesn’t feel safe, it won’t participate.
  • Empowerment: if you gives tools to your users, they can do work for you.
  • Trust: if your community doesn’t trust you, it won’t participate.

Eyder Peralta’s tips:

  • Comments are content.
  • After cultivated a community, ask your community questions. Simple questions yield complex answers.
  • Edit your community, e.g. Audience diary project and NPR baby project.