Writing

Recent posts

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 NPR.org’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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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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Web Writing for Broadcasters: The Webinar

NPR.org weekend web editor Melisa Goh explains how to convert radio scripts for web and passes on some other helpful web writing tips.

Writing for the Web:

  • Text is king on the Web.
  • Your goal for everything you write on the Web is to get the user to stick around.
  • Your Web text needs to hook people in early and get them to keep reading.

Melisa Goh’s Ten tips for writing web text:

  • Think about how to tell the web story before you start reporting.
  • Report for the web while you’re reporting for broadcast.
  • Keep your writing tight and compelling.
  • Think visually: what parts of the story can you tell with images?
  • Use nut graf.
  • Manage your quotes and transitions.
  • Always attribute.
  • Watch your spelling, style and grammar.
  • Consider how the user will get to your story.
  • After your story posts, promote it.

From Broadcast to the Web: Writing Tips from the Digital Editors

Write on.

We’re fortunate to have Melissa Goh, one of NPR.org’s homepage editors, do a little training for us later this morning on turning your broadcast copy into web scripts. Here are some general tips for you to consider, whether you’re primary broadcast, digital, or something in between:

1. Think Before You Start

  • At the inception of the story idea, ask yourself: What’s the smartest way to tell this story on the Web? Story text? Q-and-A? Reporter’s notebook? Photos? Photo gallery? Audio slideshow? Video? Blog item? Social media?
  • Talk it over with your assignment editor, photo editor and Web producer — before you start reporting.

2. Report For The Web While You’re Reporting for Broadcast

  • Some storytelling elements that can’t fit into a broadcast piece might be great to include in the Web story instead.
  • Conversely, some elements may be better suited for broadcast or otherwise unnecessary to the Web version.
  • As you report, ask questions and gather detail for the Web version – descriptions of scene/setting, details of characters (age, occupation, background), a map, documents, links, pdfs or photos.

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