For me, ‘Writing News’ has provided an insight into the history of journalism, its key concerns, and the current issues facing journalists working today. At the same time the basic elements of style and structure have been discussed and put into practice in a methodical way, allowing time for analysis and discussion.
We began by gaining an understanding of the main factors affecting journalism today – digitalisation, concentration of ownership, deregulation and globalisation – factors which were put into context by wide ranging background reading.
For example the chapter ‘The print industry – yesterday, today, tomorrow’ from Richard Keeble’s Print journalism: a critical introduction, was crucial for developing an understanding of the historical role of advertising as well as notions of political independence, specialisation and technical advances. The chapter ‘Profits and the public interest’ explained the financial framework in which newspapers exist including revenue streams and cost management, and touched on the difficulties associated with delivering news online while generating a profit.
Looking at online in more detail, ‘News on the web – The emerging forms and practices of online journalism’ in Journalism: critical issues, offered an insight into early developments in online news reporting and how it “had its legitimacy confirmed” by the public’s desire to stay on top of developing stories and delve into background content. Though useful for contextualising the evolution of online news, it would be interesting to read about more recent developments and the impact of changing technology, including social media (the source was published in 2005).
Other sources helped reinforce a growing understanding of structure provided by the lectures. The ‘six questions’ and the news pyramid were introduced as the basis for good news writing, as well as an understanding of how these conventions might be subverted effectively and for specific purposes. As well as structure, style – in terms of clear and concise language – was emphasised at all times.
The topic of objectivity was an interesting one and the suggested reading was wide-ranging and informative. The short clip featuring Alex Jones was in some ways the most succinct description of what journalistic objectivity should be. He described it as a “a practical truth,” stating that journalists act as scientists – embarking on a story with a preconceived idea of what that story is, before testing the facts to see if they fit the hypothesis. In my opinion some of the most interesting journalism emerges from a scenario where the facts do not fit the original hypothesis.
Beginning with analysing news from various sources – historical examples and broadsheet/tabloid variations as well as running news, we went on to create our own stories step by step. Beginning with the crucial introduction (the what, who, where, when, why and how), we went on to craft stories which either maintained the pyramidal structure or deliberately departed from it.
The result of this combined understanding of conventions and the act of putting them into practice has, for me, reinforced an inherent awareness of news writing. We are so used to consuming news that its style and structure often become invisible, only really noticed when it is departed from. The course revealed the complexity and the conscious decisions guiding the hand of the journalist.