Friday, October 30, 2015

Writing for Communication - 10/29/15

Hey everyone, happy Friday! During last night's class we spent more time working on writing for PR. We also welcomed NBC reporter and anchor, David Culver. Homework for next class is at the bottom of this post.

Here are some things we talked about during class about getting better at writing for PR:

  • Be careful when using psychic distance, don't over use things like "our" and "I will miss Homer"
  • Stress positive news
  • Always make sure to get names and proper nouns 100% correct
  • Make sure to use AP Style - if you're not sure about something, look it up
  • Numbers 10 and up use numerals
  • Use present tense because it's immediate
  • Don't switch tenses unless you're telling backstory (and therefore need to use past tense)
  • Make sure headlines are capitalized except prepositions (ex: Homer Dead at Sixteen)

We discussed what to expect for the final. We will be given two stories to write: print story and broadcast story. For the print story, be sure to use past tense. For the broadcast story, be sure to use present tense. 

We were then given approximately 45 minutes to complete another press release about Glamour, Inc. In order to get better at writing for PR, keep practicing! 

David Culver, reporter with News4's Northern Virginia Bureau and anchor of the Saturday edition of News4 Today, joined us for the second half of our class. 

Culver talked to us about what it's like to be a reporter and his journey to where he is today. Local to the Northern Virginia area, Culver attended the College of William and Mary. He spent years interning and working odd positions to get where he is today. He was given a huge opportunity while in college with a reporter at NBC and even spent time working as a web editor his senior year. 

One thing Culver stressed during his discussion with us was that the initiative is on you! Nobody is going to hand you anything, you're going to have to work your way up. The industry is hard and competitive. During Culver's internship at NBC, he tried his best to take the time to meet with every single person at NBC to learn their job and gain relationships. It's all about networking and making relationships with people, he told us. 

He then took time to answer questions and get to know us better. Culver told us to watch the Amy Cuddy TED Talk. The link to view the video is here:

Homework for next class: 

  • Read Chapter 12 of the book and focus on pages 233-235

  • Watch the news (either NBC, ABC, or CBS) and pick a story and compare it to a story from the Post - write several bullets on the differences. We will be presenting these in class next week!
  • Don't forget to keep reading the Post and the Skimm every day
Have a fun Halloweekend! See you next week,
Jacob Popescu

Friday, October 23, 2015

Writing for Communications-10/22/15

Hello everyone! Yesterday's class focused primarily around writing for PR, but we also, of course, worked a little more on print writing. Below is a recap of the class, which I have split into sections for your convenience. I also love bullet points, so have fun trying to get through them. At the bottom is the homework for next week.

Part One-Review

  • We started class by reviewing the Pictionary story from last week 
    • Don't tell the story chronologically, especially if there were as many new developments as this story had. You don't have to tell the story chronologically, only tell the most important, relevant details.
      • It's okay to start from scratch and write a story over in order to make judgements about what's important. 

Part Two-More Work on Leads
  • We watched a scene from The Shipping News
    • Total non sequitur but I read the plot summary of this film on Wikipedia while I was writing this post, and it's really messed up.
    • Anyways, the point of the scene: to help you write the lead, find the center of your story, and your lead is the center. 
  • Zoo story
    • We were given a fact sheet containing information about a gorilla who had given birth at the National Zoo after 10 years of no new gorilla births at that particular zoo, and were asked to write leads from the information.
    • Center of the story: "For the first time in 10 years, a gorilla at the zoo has given birth."
    • After we wrote our leads, we typed them on the computer, projected them, and discussed how each one could be improved.
    • Remember:
      • All numbers 10 and over are written as numerals
      • When there's a way to minimize comma usage in a sentence, do it
      • Always write the day (Thursday), not "today" or "tomorrow"
      • Be specific and concise
        • Write "gave birth" instead of "gave birth to a baby"
      • Capitalize proper nouns (National Zoo)
Part Three-Introduction to PR Writing
  • What is PR?
    • PR is about communication goals in a way that will further an image
    • Represents the clint instead of informing the public
    • PR is fluid and always evolving through "brand journalism" and social media
  • Press release formatting
    • There must be an active verb in a headline
    • Headline cannot go over one line
    • Don't capitalize prepositions, capitalize everything else in a headline
    • Remember to write as the company, not for the company
    • No more than two sentences in subsequent paragraphs
    • Give quotes their own paragraph
    • AP Style
  • Press release fact sheets are distributed
    • We are writing as Midland Zoo, after their oldest polar bear was found dead in his exhibit. Two other animals have also recently died--a gazelle from renal failure, and a giraffe after it broke its neck after getting its horns stuck in a part of its cage. 
    • What's important?
      • Start with the fact that Homer (the bear) died
      • That he was the oldest polar bear
      • That the zoo will miss him
      • Don't know the cause of death
      • Information about other bears
      • We were ultimately required by Prof. Piacente to include the information about the other animals who had also died
      • Due Monday by 5pm
  • Exxon Valdeez
    • Massive oil spill off the coast of Alaska of approximately 11 million gallons
    • Largest human-made environmental disaster until 2010
    • We then watched the 1989 interview with the CEO of Exxon 
    • The PR people had not done their job as the CEO came off as condescending, combative, argumentative, and unapologetic
Homework and Announcements
  • Press release assignment is due on Monday by 5pm by email
  • Watch some broadcasts from David Culver, and come prepared with questions for him
  • Practice sheets that were distributed in class are a good way to practice your print writing, and practice is the only way to guarantee that your writing will get better. You can write some for practice and email them to Professor for feedback, or make an appointment with Sarah Baker to go through them. Both are optional. 
  • Final Exam
    • Will take place the last class of the semester and will consist of 2 stories
    • One print, and one broadcast with 2-3 prompts for each 
That's all for today, have a great weekend!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Writing for Communications--10/15/15

Wow! What a class, right? That developing story activity was exciting--we learned how quickly news can change, and how complicated it can be for journalists to keep their writing clear and accurate in the face of new information. Below is a detailed summary of today's block. I've separated the class into sections for clarity.

Part 1:

  • We started class by discussing news stories we'd seen that may have violated the code of ethics we studied last class. We talked about the coverage of the Lamar Odom story, and how CNN's possible conflict of interest affected its coverage of the Democratic debate.
  • We also turned in the homework and graded our AP Style take-home quizzes. As many of us guessed, the quiz was meant to help us find the AP Stylebook.
Part 2:
  • We edited passages from last week's news story. Most of our time was spent on leads (with good reason--they're the hardest, at least for me!), but we read a few quotes and middle paragraphs as well. Some of the main takeaways from the exercise:
    • Always be precise. If a baby was left in a hot car in a parking lot outside of a casino, a reporter cannot write, "The baby was left in a hot car in the casino." 
    • Be "ruthless" in your editing, as Professor Piacente said. Eliminate all unnecessary words.
    • When you begin a sentence with a numeral, spell it out. Example: "Sixteen people came to the rally on Saturday." 
    • Read your writing aloud before turning it in--the inner ear hears differently than the outer ear.
    • Quotes absolutely cannot be changed. They can be shortened or paraphrased, but we must be able to explain every decision we make. 
    • Identify what is newsworthy about an event: The fact that an autopsy was performed is not news. What the autopsy showed is news. 
Part 3:
  • We read a hilarious article on how to make sentences unintelligibly long. It identified common ways in which writers muddle their writing by adding unnecessary words.
  • I recognize that I could do with a peek at this document now and again, because of the fact that my sentences are often extremely more lengthy than they could be. Yeah, I should really start keeping that thing handy.
Part 4:
  • We worked on a rapidly developing news story. We started writing an article with one set of information, then updated it twice as more facts came in. This modeled what it is probably like in a real newsroom, where reporters must adapt to constant change. 


  • For next week, complete the "Watch or Read?" assignment. Don't forget to keep reading the Washington Post and the Skimm! 
Have a good week, everyone! 
-Elli Bloomberg

Friday, October 9, 2015

10/8 - Ethics Night, by Roxy Adechoubou

·      Part 1 of the class:
Ø  We did the exam: current events/grammar/Lead
Ø  We discussed what is important to put in a lead and what’s not. The lead should “always” contain the 5W’s.

·       Part 2:

Ø  We did a Skype session with Sarah Baker:
-       Baker is the writing tutor assign to our class.
-       She has a degree in Communication, and a specialization in Journalism. Her minor is International Studies.
-       She was also a writing consultant
-       Her office hours are Monday from 1pm to 3pm in T19.
-       Let her know before you come to see her. Most importantly, do not come empty handed.

Part 3:
Ø  We talked about the Codes of Ethics:
- We learned that there is no such thing as losing a license in journalism. A journalist is not a lawyer or a doctor, as he/she cannot lose his/her license.  However losing credibility is totally possible because credibility is critical in Journalism.  

Part 4:
We did an interesting activity where we were given different scenarios. Professor Piacente broke the class into six groups, and each group got a tough ethics case.

1-    Discuss the case away from the rest of the class
2-    Groups write three persuasive bullet points to back up their decisions on whether / how to do a story.
3-    When turn comes, spokesman 1 explains the case to class.
4-    Spokesman 2 reads lead or summary to class
5-    Group takes questions from class & prof

Example: Case 1:
 This case was one of many that made us think on how we should handle a story. Every person in the class had different opinions, but we all agreed that the first case should be in the news. The mother should quit her job of County Child Protection, and the father should face criminal charges. However, we all had different opinions on whether or not the name of the daughter should be in the news. In fact, some of us were concerned about some possible repercussion on her life. Thus, we decided that it would be preferable to do the story without putting the daughter’s name in the news.
Ø  Theses cases are some examples of the decisions that a reporter makes every day on different stories.

What do to for next class:

-Write the Joy baker’s news story and submit to the professor by 5.PM Friday, October 9th.
-Pick a story in The Post and the same story in TheSkimm. In one page use 3 to 5 bullets with specific examples explaining the differences in the substances, styles and tones.
- We have been given a paper with 10 sentences with AP styles mistakes. Our job is to correct them.
- Read chapter 15 in the book; think about the differences between the job of a reporter and someone who’s in PR.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Judy and Greg Romano: Intro to Broadcasting

Yesterday we were introduced to and taught by guest professors Judy and Greg Romano. Below I include a recap of the events of that night. At the bottom of this post you can find the homework assignments which will be due next class. Below each topic or conversation I included comments and takeaways that Judy and Greg shared with us to help improve our writing for Broadcast Journalism. I sectioned each part of my blog post into activities which are marked by a time stamp.

8:12 Introduction
  • “You’re not late until the on-air light is on” - Judy
  • Judy's introduction: started as a military broadcast, freelance, AP for 7 years and now communication for the government (GSA)
  • Greg's introduction: GSA, left a year ago, director of communications for the National Weather Service
  • Together they started the GSA video department
  • Introductions of students

8:24 Discussion of Reading
  • Hash marks: only used when learning how to become a broadcaster so that one can train themselves to know when to breathe
  • Terminology: different depends on where you work
  • Voicer: voicer, readers, broadcast stories (different wherever but always a 30-second story)
  • "Conversationality": concise approach to it
  • A-wire copy: longest version of a print story > turn it into 30 seconds, what are the relevant facts, pull out enough excitement to draw someone in and keep them for 30 seconds
  • Write for a basic, general audience (on radio)

8:30 Take away from the reading:
Lex: Formatting portion: tools to make it different from what we’ve been working on
Miah: Make sure it is clear at that moment because the audience cannot go back and reread it
Karli: Conversational tone of it
  • Stop looking at the words, what did you just see? (suggestion: write, then flip the paper over and say what you just wrote)
  • Challenge yourself to speak using full sentence
  • Professional jobs require different voices, depending on the time of day, the subject
  • Contractions: we speak with contractions in normal conversation, but in print you never do this
  • When you are quoting someone, it is because of who they are, not their name
  •             Who they are: their title, such as President, the mother. Who is the person is in the relation of the story?
  • Find that sometimes you don’t use AP style
  • In broadcast you write out everything:
  •             Ex: $5,000,000,000 > Five Billion Dollars
  • Approx. 120-130 words/30 seconds
  • Simple sentences and active voice
  • If you can’t figure out what word to use, rewrite the sentence

8:45 Active voice
  • print journalism is a passive voice
  • broadcast is always active voice
  • first sentence: short, punch-y and active

8:50 Homework

1. Karli reads her homework
      Comments: The first sentence was too print in design
2. Lillian read her homework
      Comments: Started out past tense
3. Ellie read her homework
      Comments: Don’t use the number of the street

Additional Comments on this particular assignment:
  • Know the audience: if it is local, use the name of the street. If not local, use the location in the town/city
  • Dates: you can say “written a month after the battle” instead of using the date “August 1863”

o   Given a set of facts, but in order to make the story more interesting you can describe the facts in a different way
o   Unless it is a significant date (i.e. Christmas Day), not that important

Comments/Suggestions on Broadcast Writing in general:
  •      Active voice is a challenge
  •      Broadcast there is no headline so jump right into the story
  •      First liner: “You never know what hidden treasures could be hidden in your attic”
  •     Don’t asks questions because the answer is usually obvious
  •     Say you were writing for TV:
    •        If you could use a photo of the letter show physical/visual document
    •     Explain the visual of the situation
    •     Write to what you’re seeing

  •     Say the audience is for the University’s radio station examples:
    •     “Women gives university new historical documents”
    •     “History department investigates civil war claims”
    •     Where is Donald Avenue? Location can change the view of the audience
    •     North versus South (audience’s reactions to Lee would change)
    •      *shape the story based on the audience

9:03 Examples of video stories and take away comments below 
  • write to the video
  • make it compelling enough so people care and want to listen
  • give visual cues, references that people can understand when trying to describe something
  • make it personal
2. Tour in Afghanistan by GSA

3. Bringing Electric cars to the government
  • general: uses “millions of dollars” instead of exact number
  • visual: video of her handing the keys
  • 3 key speakers
  • usually pick the one best sound bite/quote

9:33 Break Time!

9:45-10:15 Write News Stories in Groups from page 244 in textbook

10:20: Read stories out loud to the class
  • Include transitions
  • The summaries buried the lead in the book, so make sure to find the lead to start with in the broadcast
  • Unless you have a physical clip of someone saying anything, don’t quote someone, just paraphrase
  • Make sure to use active voice
  • the most important part should come in the first sentence
  • Edit, keep trying to cut out non-essential information
  • Order of stories is key

Homework for next class (10/8):
  • Print the news stories we worked on in class to give to the Professor
  • Read Chapter 14, 16
  • Read the Journalist’s Code of Ethics for Second quiz
  • Bring in a front-page story or a feature story of your choice
Posted by Alexandra Marcus
Please feel free to comment, and enjoy the meme Greg shared with us (you can find it below)!