News brings readers to The Tab, and if you are looking for a career in journalism, this is the best place to learn. Writing up a story is only 10% […]

News brings readers to The Tab, and if you are looking for a career in journalism, this is the best place to learn.

Writing up a story is only 10% of the work of a news reporter. Most of the effort comes in gathering the information needed to form the words.

If you are working on a story, try to meet the people involved face-to-face. A story is made by its quotes and you will get much more from someone if you talk to them directly. If you hear about a newsworthy event (e.g. a flood) leave your house and go there. You might get a good photo as well.

The next best option is to use your phone. If you can’t get somewhere in person, call as many people as you can. Someone always knows something, and good reporting is about persistence. You may have to use Facebook and Twitter to find the numbers you need, but don’t shy away from talking to people.

Never rely on emails, Facebook or Twitter as your preferred method of interviewing people. You won’t get snappy quotes as your contact will have too much time to prepare their answers. Email interviews sound scripted and don’t say anything interesting. Use them as a last resort if you can’t speak to someone any other way.

Talking to strangers can be a bit nerve-wracking at first. If you’re nervous, cover the story with a partner. The more you practice the more comfortable you’ll feel. Newspapers and magazines hire the people who are used to doing these things, so it’s well worth starting now. Getting a good story is a buzz and you should enjoy it.

Interviews are the basis for most good news stories. We’re not just talking about sit-down interviews here. Most of the time an interview will consist of grabbing someone for literally one minute. Don’t be afraid to hassle them, you are a reporter and the worst that can happen is they walk off.

If you have a chance to speak to someone famous who is visiting your uni, don’t just do a straight interview with them. Ask them funny and provocative things, and enjoy it.

Which is the more enticing headline?: “Jessie J: Cambridge boys are posh and ugly” or “Interview: Jessie J”. Always ask yourself how you can find a line which interests people at your uni.

Interviews are also a way of finding a new line on an existing story. If someone has been thrown out of the university, get quotes from them, their friends or the bigwigs who threw them out. That’s your follow-up line.

It can feel like there is no news out there – but really most news in the papers is manufactured. Take a look at stories on The Tab and in rival papers and think about how you can take them on with a new line. For example, if a favourite nightclub is closing down, speak to the owner, the manager, promoters, famous ex-students who went there. One of them will have something interesting to say about it.

Don’t worry if you are nervous, everyone feels the same way when they are starting out. The reward is big if things go well, and if they don’t, who cares?

What readers want in a news story:

  • A human interest angle. Students love hearing about names around campus. Always focus your stories on the people involved.
  • Great quotes. If someone says something funny or outrageous, it’s always going to be more interesting to read than a bland press release statement.
  • Great pictures. These add so much to a story. Always try to get the faces of the people involved to add to your human interest angle. Smartphone cameras are easily high enough quality. If you get a video, even better.
The Tab Journalism