Fundamentals of Journalism

September 23, 2005

Fundamentals of Journalism

It probably isn’t cool or trendy to admit it, but many bloggers have a tendency to grab a germ of fact (and, often, fiction) and write an opinion piece as if it were news. I love to read BoingBoing.net, but they seem to report rumor and hearsay just as much as they report the facts. They are entertaining, but I don’t rely on them as news.

Opinions are great. They make us what we are and shape the way we see the world.

However, sometimes it is better to report what you know or saw as fact; either as a public service or as a starting point for discussion. Lisa Williams points out that you can’t blog about an experience you don’t own (my paraphrase), which is true, but you can write about someone else’s experience and do it fairly and accurately. Above is a link to The Fundamentals of Journalism Class Schedule at the University of Arkansas. Look over the materials that are available online and just read through the first four homework assignments (It is up to you as to whether or not you do them).

There are some basics of journalism that haven’t changed, whether you are a citizen journalist or a prominent broadcast hack.

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • If possible, why

You don’t have to follow a traditional structure (lede, inverted pyramid, et cetera) but everything you write about should consider these items.

Now, if you are writing a creative essay about your daughter or pouring your soul onto the web, these guidelines really don’t apply. But if you have the latest CD by your favorite band or a fabulous piece of investigative work about a local councilman, start with the Five and work from there. You will find that you are more clear, more accurate and less likely to get someone upset because you misrepresented the facts.

Now go out there and find some content!

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