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journalism interview assignment

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Your interview must be with someone who is in a position to talk authoritatively about an issue of your choosing that is closely related to Story 2’s topic (see below), hate crime statistics. The person or persons you interview must be a community leader, activist, law enforcement official, or other local, state, or national authority on your topic. 

Your story should be 250-300 words and must be enhanced for online publication.

Enhancing Your Story for Social Media

You must include online enhancements with this sidebar, like some of the “live” newsfeed things that you saw in our course readings journalists are doing now while they’re covering stories, such as tweeting factoids, Snapchat commentary, Instagram photos from their interview, posting crime data to Pinterest, texting, and other tools like these to gather and disseminate information from and for your story. If you tweet with an appropriate hashtag, you might get tweets back that you could use in your story!

Newsworthy Interviewing Skills

Remember, if you ask someone a yes-or-no question, you’re going to get a yes-or-no answer. That won’t do you any good when it’s time to write your story.

If you ask someone a question that she can answer with a one-word answer, you’ll get a one-word answer. That won’t do you any good when you sit down to write.

Do you think the government should fund a jobs creation program?

Yes. And because that’s all you asked me, I won’t elaborate.

What should the government change to deal with U.S. joblessness?

Everything. And because that’s all you asked me, that’s all I’m going to say.

These are called “closed-ended questions.” Closed-ended questions can be answered with a yes, a no or a single answer. They don’t ask the source to elaborate or say “why.” And unless you need specific information, they’re not useful questions to ask because they don’t produce answers you can use in your story. They surely don’t produce colorful quotations.

A better question is an “open-ended” question. An open-ended question is one that allows the source to “think out loud.” It invites the source to wax poetic, ramble on, offer perspective, give opinions. Those kinds of responses are the ones that will reap you good material for your story.

What do you think about the debate over funding a new jobs creation program?

What do you think about the proposals from members of Congress to raise taxes and cut government spending in order to stimulate the economy instead of spending more money on a jobs creation program?

What do you think about proposals from members of Congress to cut corporate taxes to stimulate corporate re-investment in business development to stimulate the economy instead of spending more money on a jobs creation program?

These open-ended questions are the kind that will force sources to answer in paragraphs rather than in single words. From those paragraphs, you will get good quotes, perspective and the right angle for your story.

So skip the yes-or-no questions and the ones that allow sources to get away with giving you one-word answers. Ask your sources open-ended questions, especially at the beginning of the interview.

In order to get an A on Story 3, the sidebar due Sunday by 11:59 p.m., you must:

·        Interview a law enforcement official or other authority or expert on crime, such as your hometown’s police chief, EMT chief, mayor, campus police chief, a victim’s advocate, etc., about the type of crime or a crime issue that’s closely related to the story you covered for Story 2. For example, suppose you wrote about bank robberies. You might check the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports or some other online source for crime statistics for your community, such as the Department of Education’s campus security statistics, to find out if there’s been a rise in the number of bank thefts this year – you might even be able to relate that upswing to other statistics or changes in the community, say the shuttering of a factory, retail outlet, or other major income source for residents. You will be assessed in part by how well you do your research to find a relevant source of information for your sidebar.

·        If you can’t reach someone in your community who could be interviewed for this sidebar, consider talking to a state or national subject matter expert from this database.

·        Write a 250-word news sidebar related to your Story 2 topic that structured in the inverted pyramid. Refresh your memory on how to do this with The Inverted Pyramid and The Body of a News Story resources.

·        Leverage every opportunity possible to enhance your sidebar with visuals – charts for crime statistics, for example.

·        Leverage every opportunity possible to enhance your sidebar with social media news reports. But do not link to other publications or competing news sources. That’s like telling your readers that someone else is doing a better job of covering this story. You can link to other stories in your news organization about similar incidents (i.e., recent domestic disputes that ended in murder).

·        Leverage every opportunity possible to engage your readers with your story. For example, include a discussion question that relates to the story. Make sure it is factual and professional. For example, a question about safety for shoppers would be relevant to a police story: Should retail stores increase security to protect shoppers and employees following this stabbing? 

·        Do your interview(s) face-to-face or by telephone/Skype/Google Videochat. Use email only in extenuating circumstances, i.e., you’re stationed in a different time zone than your source. Do not conduct your interview by text message or social media survey. Do not troll for and clip tweets. 

·        Do not submit a story that says most of your source(s) don’t know or care about the topic. Do not submit a story that broadly discusses the topic. You need specific and informed opinion(s). 

·        For every source in your sidebar, give first and last names and a title or some kind of relevant description, like city of residence. You may not quote unnamed sources or sources who do not give both first and last names. (Use last names only except on first reference.)

·        Do not use any anonymous quotes or any person for whom you cannot provide complete identification information. 

·        Use at least two substantive direct quotes and attribution from the person or people you interviewed. If someone is reluctant to give you both a first and last name, you may not use that source. 

·        Try to avoid interviewing a PR person. You want someone who is authoritative and in the thick of this kind of news. Think “action figure.”

·        Include at least one sentence or well-placed clause of background to inform the reader about the sidebar’s tie-in to the original story you wrote in the previous assignment. Remember, in the “real” world, the two stories would be published together. Write as if that’s what’s going to happen here!

·        Properly punctuate and attribute all quotations without breaking any of the rules we’ve covered. Use the quotation and attribution rules from Newsgathering and Interviewing as your guide.

·        Use a nut graf. 

·        Write in the third person only; do not include yourself in the story. 

·        Do not repeat your questions or write “when asked.”

·        Report the facts only, which means you must provide context for quotes. 

·        Avoid inaccurate quotes (unless you background them).

·        Do not include your opinion.

·        Write what your sources said, not how they think, feel, believe or hope. 

·        Write a one-sentence news lead of 20 words or fewer in active voice that tells: who-did-what-when.

·        Avoid writing a lead that reads like a headline, uses passive voice, doesn’t contain time, names a name. 

·        Use transitions; make sure every paragraph follows up on the one before it.

·        Group similar points together.

·        Do not stack quotes.

·        Write with the fewest possible words.

·        Use perfect grammar and follow AP style.

·        Use active voice. Don’t forget to use the new media tools to help you with this! To verify that you have eliminated passive voice in your writing, test it using the Hemingway app, the Grammarly Blog’s zombie test, or MS Word’s grammar check-function. 

·        Proofread carefully. Write your slug and byline at the top and -30- at the bottom.

Meeting Story 2 – Topic Related – Hate Crime Statistics

The County Council heard about the hate crimes in a report from sheriff during the County Council’s regularly scheduled Tuesday night meeting. The Sheriff’s Office is seeing a rise in hate crimes in Harkensville County. Sheriff Noah Lane said his office has investigated 54 hate crimes and bias incidents this year, which is up 21 percent from last year. Most of the incidents have occurred since the summer, including an Israeli flag burning on Monroe High School’s football field, a swastika painted on a fence near the front doors to the Libertyville library and racist graffiti spray-painted on cars parked at Steiner’s Grocery. He also said a Pakistani exchange student was attacked outside the Pennywhistle Diner. A Baptist church was vandalized with the words “Whites only.” County Commissioner Thomas Roszkowski had his “Make American Great Again” banner splattered with eggs and later torn down from his liquor store in Grantville. He said a Muslim-American teen had her head scarf yanked off on Maple Street in Longview last month.

The council also heard from Harkensville Police Chief Denny Malloy. He said a physical education teacher at Harkensville Elementary School was suspended last Friday after he allegedly told some Latino students they were going to end up in foster care because their parents were going to be deported. He said many of hate crimes have occurred in the county’s schools. He said many cases go unreported because the victims are afraid. He said his the Sheriff’s Office, the City Police Department and the public school system are committed to investigating every reported case. The state attorney general has setup a 1-800-555-1212 hate crime hotline.

Comments from the council members at the Tuesday meeting included: County Council member Antonio Delgada said, “Are people losing their minds?” County Council member Hilda Sweet said, “We need to speak out against this kind of bullying.” County Council member Arthur Price said, “Getting involved will only make things worse.” County Council member Martha Glick said, “We have to stand up for our constituents’ constitutional rights. When one person in our community is a victim, all of us are victims.” County Executive Marion Thomas said, “These are cowardly acts taking place after dark. Their victims are traumatized, angry and scared. They feel powerless and vulnerable.”

 The city council members called on residents and county agencies to take a stand against the hate crimes. Council member Hilda Sweet proposed that the County Council formally endorse the rally that the county’s Interfaith Coalition was planning to champion diversity and tolerance. Thomas said the civil rights leader Jesse Jackson had been invited to speak. It is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon at the town square in Harkensville. The board’s vote to endorse the rally was unanimous.

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