Search This Blog

Accident Story (News)

Based on Harrower's "Inside Reporting," Pp. 98-99.
  1. Victims: Names, ages, addresses, other relevant personal information. (double-check all spellings.)
  2. Extent of injuries/cause of death. Identify hospital where any injured were taken.
  3. Cause of accident, according to police, not victims or bystanders.
  4. Location of accident.
  5. Time.
  6. Circumstances: road conditions, weather, ect.
  7. Vehicles: number, type (i.e., car, truck, van, bicycle - not the exact make or model), brief description of damages.
  8. Arrests or citations made by police.
  9. Comments from police, eyewitnesses, victims or passengers.
  10. Acts of heroism or dramatic rescues.
  11. Relevant facts about the drivers' destinations, speed, reasons for travel, driving histories, etc. 


A news brief should be three to five paragraphs, up to a maximum of 5 inches. Because of their extreme brevity, briefs should focus on a very small piece of news. Writing should be news writing at its most concise.
Here is a template:
Paragraph 1: a one-sentence lead paragraph summarizing the key information that is new and has impact on readers.
Paragraph 2: a direct quotation from either a source responsible for the news or a source whom will be affected by it. Include some biography on the speaker that also sheds light on the issue. If you can’t get a direct quote then go ahead with a paraphrase. The point is to get a human being in your story.
Paragraph 3: provide background or new information to support your lead. Again, no more than three sentences, and make sure every word counts.
Extra rules:
  1. All briefs must be checked with at least one news source. Even if you are rewriting a press release or email, check with a news source for currency.
  2. No opinions or promotion. Keep your writing factual and to the point.
  3. All briefs must contain a quotation, preferably a direct quote, from a fully identified, qualified source.
  4. Briefs provided a good opportunity to learn Associated Press Style. Take our your style notes and use them.
  1. What questions will you develop for this brief?
  2. What is the “so-what” angle?
  3. Who are your campus sources?Their titles or job description?
  4. If your first source doesn’t pan out, to whom do you go next? 

Budget Story (News)

Students fear writing budget stories because they are awash in numbers. If you follow this principle, these stories will be manageable: Keep the numbers to a minimum and stress impact. Focus on the human angle.
  • Find out the how the change in budgeting or spending will affect people, then stress that in the lead.
  • Follow up with direct quotes from people affected.
  • Summarize the numbers in two to three graphs. Keep the numbers simple, easy to understand.
    • This is how much money was available before.
    • This is how much money will be available now.
    • This is the amount of increase or decrease.
    • This is the percentage increase or decrease.
  • Explain the reason why this budget change is being proposed.
  • The rest of the story should focus on impact. Here are some examples of impact:
    • Cuts or additions to be made to programs, classes, staffing, salaries, etc.
    • Increases in fees or fines.
  • Finally, describe past patterns relevant to your story. For example, is this the third year in a row the college has trimmed spending for the disabled students program? Or is the second year in a row that teachers will not get a raise?

Reporting these stories can be intimidating because you are talking to budget officials who may be mired in bureaucratese. Remember your ignorance can be a blessing: Ask basic questions and get a basic understanding, then explain facts simply and clearly to readers.

Courts - Civil Cases (News)

Harrower's Check List
  1. The court name and location of the trial.
  2. The judge's name.
  3. The specific charges being brought against the defendants.
  4. Translation of jargon or legalese - any terms that could confuse readers. This might even include legal definitions of such commonly used words as manslaughter, carjacking, even arson.
  5. A brief recap of the case, even if you've run stories on the trial many times before.
  6. Descriptions and details that bring the courtroom proceedings to life: facial expressions, gestures and activities of defendants, attorneys, relatives, jurors, the judge.
  7. Quotes and dialog that capture the emotions of the trial - especially any tense exchange between attorneys and witnesses or dramatic highlights from opening or closing statements.
  8. What happens next. Explain what's planned for the days ahead, if the trial is still in progress, if a verdict has been reached, are there plans for an appeal?
Writing verdict stories:
  1. The sentence or, in civil cases, damages awarded.
  2. Details about the jury deliberations: the length of time they took to reach a verdict; the jury's demographics - gender, age, racial composition - if they were a fact in the trial; even the number of jurors (there aren't always 12.)
  3. Reactions from central characters in the trial: prosecutors, defendants, attorneys, jurors, as well as others affected by the trial's outcome.
  4. What it means. Will this verdict have special significance for your readers or leave a lasting effect on the community.
  • Identification of person or organization filing action.
  • Background of plaintiff or petitioner.
  • Defendant respondent.
  • Type of damage alleged.
  • Remedy sought.
  • Date filing; court of jurisdiction.
  • Special motivation behind action, if any.
  • History of the conflict, disagreement.
  • Similar case decided by courts.
  • Possibility of an out of court settlement.
  • Significance of action; effect on others.
  • Lawyers for both sides; types of firms they are associated with.
  • Date and presiding for trial, hearing.
  • Judge’s reputation with similar cases. 

Courts - Verdict Story (News)

  • Verdict.
  • Damages, if awarded. (Same, less, greater than those sought?)
  • Parties involved.
  • Judges statement, if any.
  • Summary of allegations by plaintiff.
  • Key testimony and attorneys’ points.
  • Length of jury deliberations.
  • Comment by jurors on deliberations, verdict.
  • Any appeals 

Court - Criminal Law (News)

1. Following Arrests - Arraignment
  • Plea
  • Bail. (Higher, lower than requested; conditional release.)
  • Behavior, statements of defendant.
  • Statements of prosecutor, defense lawyer, judge.
  • Summary of crime.
2. Preliminary hearing
  • Statements of prosecutor, defense lawyer.
  • Plea bargaining arranged?
  • Summary of crime.
  • Judge’s decision.
3. Indictment/Information
  • Grand jury action: true bill, no bill.
  • Information filed. (Judge decides at preliminary hearing whether there is cause for trial.)
4. Subsequent Procedures
  • Rearrangement, pretrial motions, jury selection, trial.
Trial Procedure
Opening statements, prosecution presents case, defense cross-examine, redirect examination by prosecution, defense motions, defense calls witnesses, prosecution, cross-examination defense witnesses, defense may redirect examination of its witnesses, rebuttals (witnesses may be recalled; judge may permit new witnesses), closing arguments, judge charges or instructs jury, jury deliberations, verdict, sentence.

Crime (News)

Crime Stories
Organization: The hourglass (martini glass) structure.
  •  Start with a summary news lead.
  •  Summarize other key facts.
  •  Describe events in chronological order.
  •  End with kicker: a surprise twist or strong quotation.
Based on Harrower's "Inside Reporting," Pp. 102-103
 1. Victim's name and as much relevant personal information as possible. Double-check spellings.
  •  If you are working from the campus crime log, the victim's name may not be provided.
  •  If sex crime, victim's name is usually NOT published.
 2. Extent of injuries/cause of death.
 3. Location of the incident
 4. Time of incident and police response
 5. Circumstances, including weapons used, other clues, suspectd motive.
 6. Description of suspect, if one is being sought.
 7. Name and indentification of anyone arrested; charges filed, if any.
 8. Comments from police, neighbors, friends, family.
 9. Unusual factors: similar recent crimes, etc.
 10. Attribute to crime report OFTEN. Don't assume; just report what's in the official report.
 1. Type, value of items taken.
 2. Victim, identification.
 3. Location and time.
 4. Circumstances, including weapons used, other clues.
 5. Description of suspect, if one is being sought.
 6. Name and identification of anyone arrested; charges filed, if any. Details about bail.
 7. Comments from police, neighbors, friends, family.
8. Unusual factors: similar recent crimes, etc.

Disasters (News)

  • Dead
  • Injured
  • Total affected or in danger
  • Cause of death
  • Estimated death and injury toll
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Property loss and damage:
  • Homes
  • Land
  • Public utilities
  • Permanent damage
  • Rescue and relief operations:
  • Evacuations
  • Heroism
  • Unusual equipment used or unique rescue techniques
  • Number of official personnel and volunteers
  • Warnings:
  • Health department, public utility commission, police and highway department statements
  • Looting
  • Number of spectators
  • Insurance
  • Suits
  • Arrests
  • Investigations 


The editorial is a opinion piece of a pre-set length on a campus issue, representing the majority opinion of the Editorial Board.
In general, the organizational should follow the following structure:
  • Begin with a short introduction of the topic.
  • Present the Ed Board's opinion, in forceful, persuasive language, either in the lead or by the end of the second graph.
  • Summarize the issue in enough detail that readers will understand all the pro- and con- arguments to come. Ideally, you'll keep this objective summary to one graph.
  • Include opposing arguments. All strong rhetorical writing includes the opposite point of view; this is particularly true for editorials, based on issues with merit on both sides. But again, keep your opposition summary short.
  • The rest of the editorial builds a case for your position and further refutes the opposition. Use facts, data, statistics, and anecdotes if possible. Address only one point per paragraph.
  • Wrap up by restating your position, using different, even stronger language than in your introduction. Don't repeat what you said before. Take that idea and give it a twist with language that will stay on readers' minds—and move them to your position


  1. Personal Revelation (use of "I" is allowed, sparingly).
  2. Local Issue (SBCC or the community).
  3. At-large Issue (outside the local community. Can be a follow-up on a national or international story.
The paper also publishes sports columns, on the sports page.

The following content is based on the lectures of Starshine Roshell:

All columns, no matter the type, should include:
  • A fresh and focused topic.
  • A snappy and compelling lead—and a satisfying ending.
  • A passionate perspective, summarized up high.
  • An identifiable voice.
  • Proof that you're a credible source.
  • A convincing argument developed throughout the column.
  • Acknowledgement of opposing viewpoints.
    • "to be sure..."
    • "granted..."
  •  Compelling writing achieved with one or more of the following:
    • a personal revelaton
    • fiction-writing techniques
    • a proposed solution to the problem


Clarify what type of feature you are writing, then consult Harrower Pp. 116-123 for information on style and structures. 

Most features follow these guidelines:
  • Show, don't tell, writing.
    • Describe people in action, using scene-setting.
    • Quote sources liberally. Secondary sources can be effective as primary sources in features.
    • Memories can be strong scene-setting.
    • Your writer's voice is encouraged, but the star of your piece should be your subject. Resist all temptation to become a character in your story. DON'T drop in lines or paragraphs of unattributed opinion.
  • Include a news peg (or nut graph) within the first few paragraphs. The news peg should explain why you are writing this story at this time.
  • Blend necessary biography and background into the piece, but not before the "so-what" angle. This info is known in the business as BBI (boring but important), so craft your use of it.
  • Unlike the news story, the ending matters. Consider ending with a circle kicker, or a fact or quote that circles back to the beginning of the story.

Fires (News)

Write these stories in the hourglass (martini glass) structure.
  •  Start with a summary news lead.
  •  Include other key facts in inverted pyramid form.
  •  Describe rest of events in chronological order
  •  End with kicker: a surprise twist or strong ending quote.
Checklist is based on Harrower's "Inside Reporting," Pp. 100-101.

1. Victims: names, ages addresses, any other relevant personal information. Double-check all spellings.
 2. Extent of injuries/ cause of death. Indentify hospitals where the injured where taken.
 3. Type of building: home, trailer, warehouse, ect. If it's a commercial building, what do they make or do there?
 4. Location.
 5. Time: where the fire started, how long firefighters fought the blaze.
 6. How the fire was discovered or reported.
 7. Cause of the fire, according to informed authorities. Avoid any speculation by victims or bystanders.
 8. Number of firefighters required to put out the fire.
 9. Estimated cost of damage.
 10. Extent of insurance coverage.
 11. Acts of heroism or dramatic recues. Who? By Whom? Emphisze this aspect of the story.
 12. Weather, expecially if wind, rain or heat played a role in fire's behavior or firefighters' efforts.
 13. Effect of the fire on evacuees - those driven from their homes or forced out of work.
 14. Plans to relocate victims or rebuild structures .
 15. Arrests or citations made by police. Is arson suspected?
 16. Anecdotes and descriptions from firefighters, eyewitnessess, victims, building owners or neighbors.
 17. Any other unusual aspects of the fire: did it shut down traffic? Create power outages? Have there been previous fires at this site, or other similar fires lately that reflect a pattern worth investigation?

Interviews (Reporting technique)

  • Prepare with background on individual, subject matter.
  • Establish relationship with source quickly.
  • Opening question can be general to induce subject to talk freely.
  • Have subject in mind.
  • Move to your subject soon and ask talk-inducing questions.
  • Be ready to move to another subject if interview suggests.
  • Listen and watch attentively.
  • Let the source talk.
  • Ask short questions.
  • Try to get around "no comment" response.
  • Put notebook away if it impedes interview.
  • Never debate or argue.
  • Never make statements.
  • Be cooperative.
  • Note stress factors — frequent leg crossings, puttering with papers.
  • Don't avoid tough, embarrassing questions if they are necessary.
  • Do not accept retroactive off-the-record requests.
  • Do not tamper with quotes, paraphrase if necessary.
  • Avoid requests for anonymity whenever possible. 

Meetings (News)

Your job in covering a meeting is to pick one issue and thoroughly explore it. The topic may be assigned by the Ed Board or enterprised by you.
Strive to get 100 percent of your reporting completed at the meeting, with a few short followup interviews.
What Happened?
  • A vote that will bring a change.
  • A consensus that indicates a future vote.
  • A discussion that reveals an interesting issue or development.
  • A public hearing that reveals how citizens feel about an issue.
 Stress the So-What Angle?
  •  What development will this development or vote or discussion have on people's lives?
 What is the name of agency and date?
  •  The location is not important unless it's unusual.
  • The time is not important unless it's relevant.
  • The fact that a group actually met is rarely the news.
  • Check Channels style on the proper name of the body covered.
What is the vote on any issue?
  •  Who voted yes and no; who abstained; who wasn't there.
  • At least one quote from each side explaining why he or she voted that way.
What happens next?
  • These are so-called cog-in-the-wheel stories.
  • Explain what happens next.
  • Report when the event, project, development, new policy or whatever is expected to be implemented.
Who spoke?
  •  Quotations from people who spoke at the meeting or who were responsible for preparing the information.
  • Get both sides if the issue is controversial.
  • Use after-meeting interviews if you need to.
What is the relevant background/context?
  • What do readers need to know about the issue to understand what has happened? 

News Conferences

  • Major point made in announcement.
  • Name, identification of speaker(s).
  • Background of major point.
  • Question and answer material.
  • Consequences of announcement. 


Use the standard obit form, which means put the following items in the following order:

Harrower's Check List
  1. Name: Use full names, including middle name or initial. Nicknames, if commonly used, can be added in quotes. Please double-check all spellings.
  2. Identification: Find a phrase for your lead that best summarizes who this person was or what he/she did: John Jones, a prominent local dentist or Jane Jones, author of 29 crimes novels. Later in the story, you can elaborate on the details.
  3. Age: State it simply unless the family asks you to omit it: Jones, 57, died Monday. He was 57.
  4. Day/place of death: Give the day of the week. Omit the time unless it's relevant for some dramatic reason. If the death occurred out of town, name the city; otherwise, give the local location (hospital, at home, etc.).
  5. Cause of death: Some publications omit this out of respect for the family's privacy; some omit it only in certain cases such as suicide or AIDS. Most avoid grisly details, summarizing by simply saying 'he died of lung cancer.'
  6. Birth date/birthplace.
  7. Background: Education, military service, honors, career achievements - the amount of personal history you include will vary. The more prominent the person, the more in-depth the obit usually is, incorporating anecdotes and quotes from friends, family and colleagues.
  8. Survivors: name those in immediate family: spouse, children, parents, siblings.
  9. Funeral/burial information: Include the name and phone number for the funeral home, so readers can call for details.
Lead (Usually two sentences, with second sentence being the age)
  1. Full name
  2. Identifying phrase best summarizing who this person is and what they did
  3. Day/Place of death
  4. Cause of death
  5. Age, stated simply
Rest of Story
Birthday if you have it/Birthplace
Background (Remember to Attribute.)
  1. Education
  2. Military Service
  3. Honors
  4. Careers
  5. Achievements
  6. Family
Survivors (include city where survivors live. Punctuate correctly.)

Visitation-Funeral Service-Burial Information (put in chronological order)


  • Mortuary
  • Relatives, friends.
  • Newspaper clippings.
  • References (Who's who)
  • Police, coroner
  • Hospital
  • Attending physician 

Preview (or Advance)

This is a story about an event—a speech, workshop, play, art exhibit, music concert, and so on—that is going to happen. Your goal is to give readers key information on which they can base their decisions on whether they want to attend.

  • FYI items: Title of event, time, date, location, cost, whether reservations are needed and how to make them. Also include phone number and website of the sponsor or venue. Better yet, pull this out into an informational graphic and package with your preview.
  • Sponsor
  • Background information about what the event will be about.
  • If a play, interview the director and one or two of the actors. Briefly describe the plot, the theme and a bit about the playwright.
  • If a speech, interview the speaker and include info on his/her bio and the topic.
  • If a concert, interview the conductor and one or two student musicians. Or members of the band. What's the program? Any work by students?
  • When time and space is at a premium, previews can easily be briefed. The longer preview gives you more time to develop interest in the event.
Another option to the standard preview is a tightly formatted Q&A interview with the speaker/performer/artist. The interview focuses on the source's comments about his or her life and work in the context of the upcoming event.

We tend to use the word "advance" for a news event and "preview" for an entertainment-related event.


What a profile should accomplish:

More than just a list of achievements, it should paint a "word portrait" of the subject.

From "America's Best Newspaper Writing":
"If one goal of the feature writer is to find the human being behind the celebrity, another is to discover what is worth celebrating in the life of uncommonly common men and women."
Elements of a profile:
  1. Name, identification of subject.
  2. Background, including age and hometown.
  3. Reason for profile. Is there a news peg?
  4. Anecdotes and incidents.
  5. Physical description of subject.
  6. Observations of subject, woven into scene-setting.
  7. Ample quotes, put high in story.
  8. Quotations as well from secondary sources, people who know the primary subject and can provide additional insights and information.
  9. A beginning, middle and end
Profile style:

Profiles should be written from the standpoint of an observer, NOT in first-person.

They should be DESCRIPTIVE,
but still OBJECTIVE.

Al Tompkins, Poynter Institute:
"Let the characters evoke emotions, express feelings, and give opinions in their soundbites. The journalists' copy should contain objective words, facts, and truths."
The principal hated what the teacher said.
While the teacher spoke, the principal left the room shaking his head.
Where to get ideas:
  • "writing off the news"
  • tell a friend
  • brain-training
Putting your subject to the test:
  1. Is s/he interesting enough to carry a story for up to 20 inches?
  2. What about him/her is unusual or different?
  3. And what's universal?
  4. Are you personally interested?
  5. Can you FOCUS your topic to a manageable chunk?
  6. Is s/he quotable? If not, can you find secondary sources to do the talking?
  7. Are there great scene-setting opportunities available 


Generally, the critical review runs 15 to 18 inches and includes the following:
  • A clearly identified "voice" in your writing
  • A weaving of the objective and subjective
  • A strongly worded, unambiguous summary of your opinion
  • A well-developed multi-point argument supporting your opinion
  • Complete listing of key FYI details
  • Factual accuracy on all points.
  • Mechanical soundness on all points. Weak grammar and usage weakens the piece as a whole. Readers do not respect the opinion of a writer who hasn't mastered his or her own craft.

Here are some tips on how to write it:
  • Reviews, like columns and editorials, are one of the few places in newspapers and magazines in which the writer can express an opinion. In fact, including a strongly worded opinion is required for a successful review.
  • Many things are fair game for a review: films, television shows, music (DVDs and concerts), theater, books, art exhibits, architecture, restaurants, and so on.
  • When writing a review, keep in mind that at this point in your education, you do not have to be an expert, just an engaged and informed member of the reading public. In other words, you don't have to be William Faulkner to review a book, just a person who appreciates good literature.
  • A successful review should be a melding of the subjective and the objective. Include factual information that cannot be disputed alongside your opinions.
  • Explain early in your article what you are reviewing. This may sound obvious, but sometimes writers begin their reviews with lengthy rhetorical discourses supporting their yet-to-come opinion, but the reader doesn't know what the heck the review is about. Delayed leads are fine, but don't delay your news peg past the third or fourth graph.
  • Clearly state all the so-called FYI details: for a theater production, include where time, dates and location of the play, as well as how the reader can get tickets.
  • A simple organization template of the review is to describe the work of art, first objectively then subjectively. If you are reviewing an art show, for example, you can first describe what a featured picture looks like, its medium, subject, technique. Then, you can describe the effect it has upon you, the feelings (aesthetic or emotional) it inspires, and so on.
  • You can and should be negative and critical in a review if that is your honest response. But back up your criticism as specifically as you can. If you say that a restaurant is lousy, describe how the breast of chicken was raw and the waiter rude.
  • Always give a few solid examples, as you would for all good writing. If you are writing about a comedy, give one good joke. If you are writing about a band, focus on a few specific songs.
  • Remember that reviewers are still journalists, and accuracy remains Rule No. 1. Get every detail correct, which is very easy with Internet research. Nothing blows a reviewers credibility faster than his or her writing a gross factual error. Check all FYI scrupulously. Spell all names correctly.
  • If possible, see a performance once for fun, then a second time for work.
  • The purpose of a review is simply to help your readers decide if they want to spend their money or time on this event or artwork. Keep in mind always that your loyalty is not to the actors, author, artist, chef, architect or anyone else who worked so hard. Your loyalty is to your reader. 

Speeches (News)

Harrower's Check List
  1. The speaker's name
  2. Relevant credentials and background information about the speaker
  3. The reason for the speech. Is it part of a series or conference?
  4. The sponsor of the speech
  5. The time, day and location of the speech along with a brief description of the venue, if it's relevant
  6. Quotes - direct quotes and paraphrases - that convey key points made by the speaker.
  7. Comments from those in attendance. The more controversial the material, the more necessary it becomes to collect a representative sampling of quotes and feedback.
  8. Responses to critical remarks or allegations, if necessary, from those who are target of those statements.
  9. The speaker's fee, if the amount is exorbitant and newsworthy.
  • Speaker's main point.
  • Name, identification of speaker.
  • Quotes to support main point.
  • Purpose, time, location of speech.
  • Audience: number, makeup, reactions.
  • Sponsor of speech.
  • Background to major point.
  • Speaker's comments before, after speech.
  • Material from question and answer period, if any. 

Sports Game or Match Story

Sports Matches
Sports game stories (or matches) should be about PEOPLE.
 The more quotes from players and coaches, the better. And the more the player was key to the win (or loss) the more he or she MUST be in the story.
Also, think about context. Is there a trend or theme that is carried out in this match. That point should be mentioned in the lead or the game summary.
The top of your story should also include a  GAME SUMMARY that describes the strengths and weaknesses of each team in this game. Include this summary before launching into an play-by-play description.
 Here are the complete checklist:
  •  Final score.
  •  Names of teams, type of sport.
  •  Where and when game took place.
  •  Game summary: key plays and players.
  •  Strategies that affected outcome.
  •  Effect on game on standings, rankings, individual records.
  •  Scoring, but no need for play-by-play.
  •  Post-game comments from players first, and then coach, including insight on what this game means.
  •  Injuries.
  •  Statistics.
  •  Other relevant factors: crowd size or behavior, weather, who sat out and why, etc. 


Vignettes are short (8 to 12 inches) profiles.

Really interesting people are the subjects of profiles. Mildly interesting people (or the first type, in a very tight paper) are the subjects of vignettes.

Because vignettes are shorter, the writer cannot include all elements considered essential to a full-length profile.

These are the elements that should be included:

  1. Name and identification of subject.
  2. Key background information, usually woven into the reason that this person is important or interesting enough to write about.
  3. Abbreviated news peg.
  4. Quote from subject.
  5. Ideally, a brief scene-setting passage, VERY relevant to the primary focus of the vignette. 


Visual Variety
Strive to capture three types of shots for each major assignment: the establishing shot (also called the overall shot), the medium shot, and the close-up.
Establishing Shot
If readers themselves were at a news event, they would stand in the crowd and move their eyes side to side to survey the entire panorama. A good establishing shot allows viewers to orient themselves to the scene, whether it be a street, a city block, a hillside on campus, or a room.
Note: Generally requires a high or a wider angle. Climb a ladder or stairs, get on your car roof, or say yes to a helicopter ride.
Medium Shot
Adds drama and tells the story. Shoot close enough to see the participants’ actions, yet far enough way to show their relationship to one another and the environment.
Note: A wide-angle lens such as a 24mm or 28mm works well, although a normal 50mm will do.
Slams the reader eyeball-to-eyeball with the subject. A close-up should isolate and emphasize one element, which is most often a face but can also be the hands of an aging pianist or the child’s doll, mired in the mud of a flash flood.
Note: Longer lenses enable photographers to be less conspicuous. With a 200mm lens, you can stand 10 feet away and still get a tight facial close-up.
The following are the most common photojournalistic genres:
• Head and shoulders.
• Subject looking directly at the camera or slightly off to the side.
• No emphasis on background, little thought to creativity or content.
• Consistency among subjects is key if more than one.
• Eyes are important. Always have subjects removed sunglasses and caps.
Note: Generally with a medium range telephoto lens; around 80 to 100mm. Depth of field F8. Watch the background to see that a tree branch or pole doesn’t appear to stick through the head. Watch for bright sun or too much flash causing a reflection on glasses and for bright sun causing a squint or dark shadows beneath the eyes. The latter can be filled in with flash, or turn the subject’s back to the sun or stand in the shade & shoot with balanced flash, then add a touch of warmth in Photoshop.
Also be aware of the color of the background in relation to the subject. White hair against a white wall will be lost. Likewise, dark hair against a dark wall requires some separation. In such situations, also be careful to meter off the face so the large, single color background does not throw the light meter out.
Environmental Portrait
• Capturing the subject in his or her natural environment.
• Required when one wants to both show a person’s face and say something about what they do or are involved in.
• The background is thus as important as the subject & should say something about the person, or correlate to the article in a direct manner.

Note: Props directly related to the subject or news article may immediately contribute to a good photo. Ask questions – get a good feel for the subject and their activity or profession. Are they linked to a product or activity? If you get a first impression – check or ask that it is accurate, then try to depict that to readers. Secondly, think how you can make good use of light. Use window light, fill in with flash. If an industrial or lab type setting, use a gel on a background light or flash for effect – red & blue always works well here. These shots are generally in the 17 – 35 mm wide angle range. Subjects for the most part look at the camera but not as a rule. Depth of field may vary from F8 to F16.
Story Telling
• Real people doing real things.
• The subject, action or happening is shown as a moment in time in a particular environment. No propping
or posing.
Note: Most generally created with a combination of keen photojournalistic senses, good use of light and a 17 – 35 mm lens. Tele lenses are also used, but less so. The effect is not quite the same – which is to capture a dramatic sense of place and occurrence. The subject may be large and fill three quarters of the frame. Or the subject may be small & fill a tiny fraction of the frame. The emphasis is on story and content. Aperture varies from small to large depending on desired effect.
• Basic celebrity photography in more demanding situations, perhaps from within a pressing crowd.
• Often the best you can to get the face or pose.
Note: Get there earlier to stake out a position & anticipate movement. (Generally within a 28 – 200 mm range depending on position. Also at F5.6 to F8) Look for expression or unusual antics. Try for inside information on arrival times etc. Can include long hours of waiting with short bursts of action. So take trial light meter readings in various clearly thought out parts of the location. (Open up by a stop from the meter reading if you anticipate a dark skinned person arriving, or two stops if someone might be arriving in light but will step into shade etc.)
Spot News
• Emphasis is on content first.
• This might be described as a cross between paparazzi, sports and storytelling work.
Note: In most cases you get the best you can from the best angle possible. Then when you have the bread & butter shot in the bank, look to improving it with more creative angle or lighting, or give attention to a good story telling shot. Emphasis is on capturing a key moment. (The fired Professor’s fist pumping the air in indifferent light with a cluttered background is more important than a beautifully lit image of the President announcing the dismissal in a garden setting.)
Sports Action
Close-up action photography using a medium- to long-range telephoto lens.
Note: Short to medium range teles are generally used for court sports & medium to long range teles for field or other outdoor sports. Aperture is generally from F2.8 to F8. A good tip for flash use is to dial in a negative 1 to 2 stop exposure on the flash if possible and the action is fairly close. This throws just enough light to freeze the action and add light to the subject, but leaves enough power for a double burst before the flash has to recharge. (You thus get two shots with flash on motor drive.) On full charge or equal to the meter reading, the flash fires only once then has to recharge.
Sports action can also be caught with a wide-angle lens, especially when play moves in to the touchline the photographer is standing on. But this requires a second camera with such a lens fitted for quick use, and although action photography, will show a greater element of ‘story telling.’
Sports Reaction
Watch the bench, the team, the coach and the stands when a match point is about to be played, or a penalty kicked or thrown etc, or the final whistle is about to blow. Reaction tells the story of a game as much as the winning move.

Wild Art
• Standard paper filler from everyday activity.
• This is a slice-of-life moment in the day of a student or teacher on campus.
• Look for the unusual, or look for fresh activity in usual places.
• Emphasis is on people & their habits or quirks.

Cliches to Avoid

Standard posed shot for an event. Might include check hand over, award receipt, sod turning, etc.
Note: You can show some creativity, but not much. Try for fresh angles, perhaps low down, off to one side or higher up, and special lighting, sidelight for contrast or a soft flash blending in with ambient light. Try to avoid harsh shadows beneath the eyes. (Generally within a 28-105 mm range at F5.6 to F8)

Execution at Dawn
Line ‘em up, shoot them down.

Note: There’s no way to make this shot interesting. Instead, find out exactly what these people are being honored for, then pick the most interesting one, go to the scene of the action and do an environmental or storytelling shot.

Bored Meeting
Not a typo.

Again, go beyond the lazy shot and find out why these people are in the news. Then head out to where the news or human interest is, and capture that image.

A Guy at His Desk
Same as above, but add mug shot to the list of options. Everybody does something more interesting and action-oriented than sitting at a desk. Find out what that is, and shoot it.


UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Photoshop Tutorial
Associated Press photography
Current editorial content in the field for purchase or ideas
National Press Photographers Association
NPPA Code of Ethics
American Society of Press Photographers
The Digital Journalist
College Photographer of the Year
“Ethics Matters” Column from News Photographer magazine
Poynter Online’s Photojournalism Resources
Pulitzer Prize Photos: Examples from the Newseum
Sports Shooter
Visual Edge

NPPA Code of Ethics

The National Press Photographers Association, a professional society that promotes the highest standards in
photojournalism, acknowledges concern for every person’s need both to be fully informed about public events and to be
recognized as part of the world in which we live.
Photojournalists operate as trustees of the public. Our primary role is to report visually on the significant events and on the
varied viewpoints in our common world. Our primary goal is the faithful and comprehensive depiction of the subject at
hand. As photojournalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its history through images.
Photographic and video images can reveal great truths, expose wrongdoing and neglect, inspire hope and understanding
and connect people around the globe through the language of visual understanding. Photographs can also cause great
harm if they are callously intrusive or are manipulated.
This code is intended to promote the highest quality in all forms of photojournalism and to strengthen public confidence
in the profession. It is also meant to serve as an educational tool both for those who practice and for those who appreciate
photojournalism. To that end, The National Press Photographers Association sets forth the following Code of Ethics:
Code of Ethics
Photojournalists and those who manage visual news productions are accountable for upholding the following standards in
their daily work:
1) Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
2) Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.
3) Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and
groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work.
4) Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion
to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and
justifiable need to see.
5) While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.
6) Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate
images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.
7) Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.
8) Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.
9) Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists.
Ideally, photojournalists should:
1) Strive to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public. Defend the rights of access for all journalists.
2) Think proactively, as a student of psychology, sociology, politics and art to develop a unique vision and
presentation. Work with a voracious appetite for current events and contemporary visual media.
3) Strive for total and unrestricted access to subjects, recommend alternatives to shallow or rushed opportunities,
seek a diversity of viewpoints, and work to show unpopular or unnoticed points of view.
4) Avoid political, civic and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of
compromising one’s own journalistic independence.
5) Strive to be unobtrusive and humble in dealing with subjects.
6) Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.
7) Strive by example and influence to maintain the spirit and high standards expressed in this code. When
confronted with situations in which the proper action is not clear, seek the counsel of those who exhibit the
highest standards of the profession. Photojournalists should continuously study their craft and the ethics that
guide it.


General guidelines
• Every photo must be accompanied by a cutline.
• A mug shot takes simple identification.
• For more complex photos, the cutline must be at least one complete sentence and up to three. Writing is factual and
to the point, and sentences should be short. Avoid fancy prose.
• Cutlines must identify all recognizable people by name. Crowds and people in the background can be identified
more generally.
• When more than one person in the photo, you will probably have to “site.”
Sentence structure
• The first sentence of cutline must describe the action in the photo. The sentence must contain a present tense,
active verb.
• The rest of the sentences can provide background or more information about the story or photo.
• Avoid clich├ęs such as “shown here” or “pictured above.” Better to just identify the subject and provide
a piece of information about the story.
The following can be identified without siting:
• single subject photos
• photos in which the action clearly identifies who is who.

photos of opposite-sex people when they don’t have ambiguous names.
• two-subject photos when one of the people is famous.
Directional siting
• Never use directional siting if you can help it. But use it if you need it.
• The main actor in the photo is generally sited first, by describing the action. Then site from left to right, if you have to.
• Famous people are sited first, the rest left to right, if you have to.
• When no main actor, site from left to right.
• For row or tiered shots, site front to back, left to right.
• For circular shots, pick a focal point (usually 12 o’clock) then site clockwise.
Siting directions can either be in parenthesis (from left) such as The Channels uses, or in commas, front to back, depending on the style
of the publication.

Cutlines for soundslides

Unlike in print, cutlines in this media form should be minimal so they don’t compete with the audio.
• Only describe action if the audio doesn’t.
• Use last name only on second reference.
• Put a cutline on every image, but the text be as simple as the subject’s name.

Reporting and News Writing

The key question: Why are you writing this story at this time?

Set Your Focus
  1. What’s the story about?
  2. How would you tell it to a friend?
  1. Lead hook the reader?
  2. Lead fewer that 30 words, preferable 20.
  3. Lead backed up high in story?
  4. Focus or “nut” graph high in story?
  5. “So What?” angle. Is it lively and strong?
  6. Lead quotation lively and strong?
  1. History included to explain how or why action occurred?
  2. Statistics all there, and clearly explained? Do your numbers add up? Double check.
  3. The money—Where’s it coming from or going to?
  4. What happens now?
  1. Unnecessary words edited out?
  2. Writing precise?
  3. Writing sensitive to all groups?
  4. Sentences and paragraphs short?
  5. Verbs lively? Adjectives and adverbs rare?
  6. Active not passive voice used most of the time?
Double Check
  1. Is impact on reader’s life explained?
  2. Correct sources quoted, leading with students or teachers affected?
  3. Story fair and balanced?
  4. Story free of your opinions and biases?

Style: Titles, Names and Times

Style: Titles, Names and Times
  • Short titles go before names and are uppercase. Long titles of four words or longer go after names, are in commas, and are lowercase.
  • Superintendent-President Dr. Andreea Serban is expected to speak at the student luncheon.
  • Dr. Jack Friedlander, executive vice president of educational programs, will be guest speaker at the awards banquet.
  • Student Senate Adviser Dr. Ben Partee helped circulate the agendas.
  • Matt Riley, president of the associated students, said he wants to get students more involved.
  • Formal and informal titles, including academic titles such as Dr., are used on first reference, then dropped on second.
  • Courtesy titles—Mr., Mrs, Ms. or Miss—are never used.
  • Dr. Kimberly Monda teaches English literature and composition at City College. Monda earned a doctorate from UCLA.
  • Coach Scott Fickerson said this will be his best year ever for cross-country recruits. Fickerson has been building his team's momentum...
  • Use the first and last name the first time you refer to a person. After that, on second reference, use the last name only.
  • Film Studies Professor Nico Maestu will take his students to the Palm Springs Film Festival this winter. Maestu also crafts online courses around several other festivals.
  • Baseball standout Zach Edgington has been named Male Athlete of the Year for SBCC while Meghan Maiwald earned the Female Athlete of the Year honor.
    Edgington and Maiwald were honored at the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Monday night.
  • Times are written as concisely as possible.
  • Don’t use o’clock. The preferred ways of referring to morning or afternoon are a.m. and p.m. (note lowercase and periods).
  • Seconds are rarely important, except for sports and some crime stories.
  • noon (not 12 o’clock p.m.) and midnight (not 12 a.m.)
  • 3:30 p.m. (not 3:30 in the afternoon)
Time Sequence
  • The proper sequence for writing about events is time, date, location. (TDL or tiddle)
  • Philosophy Professor Dr. Joe White will meet with his students at 1 p.m. Thursday in IDC-Room 113.
  • She will be buried at noon Friday at Oakmont Cemetery in Goleta.
  • She returned home at midnight Wednesday.
Seven-Day Rule
  • If an event happened or will happen within seven days of publication, use the day of the week.
  • If an event happened or will happen outside this seven-day window, use the month and date.
  • The Channels always publishes on Wednesday. Look at a calendar and include the Wednesday of publication in the seven-day window.
  • For Channels style, we use today, but not tomorrow or yesterday.
Abbreviating Dates
  • Never abbreviate the days of the week.
  • Abbreviate months longer than five letters. Spell out March, April, May, June and July.
·        The attack took place on Monday Dec. 25.
·        They were married in July.
  • Spell out one through nine and use figures for 10 and above. This includes ordinal numbers (first, second, third, fourth....and so on to ninth).
  • Consult the AP Stylebook, P. 171-173, for numerous exceptions to this guideline, which include addresses, ages, centuries, course numbers, dates, dimensions, fractions, highways, millions and billions, page numbers, percentages, ratios, room numbers, speeds, telephone numbers, times, weights and years, among many others.
  • Don’t use a figure when a number starts the sentence. Better yet, recast the sentence. The only exception is when the number is a calendar year; use the figure.
·        Twenty-five people applied for positions on the Associated Students Senate.
·        A total of 25 students applied for the Associated Students Senate.
·        2000 came in with a whimper, not a bang.

The following are correct ways to deal with money
·        $5
·        31 cents
·        $3,179
·        $1 million instead of $1,000,000.
·        $1.5 million instead of $1,500,000.
  • For large amounts keep it as short and easy to understand as possible. For both large and small amounts, round off then drop the cents (unless you want to use cents for a specific effect.) 

Style: Degrees and Capitalization

Academic Degrees
The following are the correct ways to handle degrees:
  • bachelor’s degree in physical education. Note, it is not a B.S. degree or Bachelor of Arts degree.
  • master’s degree in comparative literature. The same thing applies as in the above. M.A, M.S. or master’s of art or science are all incorrect.
  • a doctorate in math. Doctorate degree is redundant; Ph.D. is incorrect style.
  • Note in both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees, the first letters are lower case, and the possessive “s” follows an apostrophe.
Academic Departments
  • Use lowercase except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives: history department, mathematics department, English department and Spanish department. If the department is used with the formal name of the college then it is capitalized.
Disciplines and Majors
  • Use lowercase except for areas of study that are proper nouns and adjectives.
  • He is studying political science but wants to major in English literature.
  • She is a German major but spends most of her time with arts majors.
  • For specific courses, capitalize and spell out the discipline and use a figure. On first reference, include the full title of the course, capitalized, in quotation marks.
  • I’m taking Journalism 101, “Introduction to News Writing and Reporting.”
  • After taking Art 101, “Understanding Art,” she decided to change her major.
Local Governing Bodies
First Reference
Second Reference
The Board of Trustees
...the board or the trustees
The Associated Students Senate
...the senate or the student senate
The Academic Senate
...the senate or the faculty senate
The International Students Club
...the club
The Faculty Enrichment Committee
...the committee

Style: Abbreviations and Collective Nouns

  • The AP Stylebook gives details on what should and should not be abbreviated, and individual items are noted with abbrev. if it’s correct style to abbreviate. Please consult. In general, though, avoid alphabet soup. Don’t use abbreviations and acronyms unless they are well known.
  • Be careful not to identify groups, clubs, associations, companies and so on by a list of initials. Pick a key word out of the group’s title and use that on second reference.
  • Wrong: I am hoping to attend a conference of the Journalism Association of Community Colleges (JACC). The JACC sponsors twice-yearly workshops and contests designed especially for 2-year journalism students.
  • Right: I am hoping to attend a conference of the Journalism Association of Community Colleges. The association sponsors twice-yearly workshops and contests designed especially for 2-year journalism students.
  • A few abbreviations and acronyms are so well known at City College that it’s OK to use them any time. UCSB and UCLA are among these. Some campus-based groups are fairly well known. For these, write out on first reference, and abbreviate on second ref.
First Reference
Second Reference
Helping Others Through Peer Education
Project HOPE
Extended Opportunity Programs and Services
Disabled Student Programs and Services
Multimedia Arts and Technologies Program
English as a Second Language

  • Students in the Multimedia Arts and Technologies Program have produced a video about computers. This is the first time anyone from MAT has done this.
  • She plans to transfer to UCSB next year.
Groups and Collective Nouns
  • Collective nouns take singular verbs and singular pronouns. Problems with collective nouns haunt campus newspapers because of all the groups we cover.
  • Common collective nouns include: council, board, senate, group, class, committee, club, crowd, faculty, family, group, jury, orchestra, herd, staff.
  • Sports writing is especially tricky. Team, squad, pair, offense, defense, line, City College, Los Angeles, San Francisco are all collective nouns. Players, Vaqueros, Lakers and 49ers are all simply plural.
  • The committee is meeting today to set its agenda.
  • The horticulture class is planting native oaks today for its final.
  • The offense rallied to its best effort in the third quarter.
  • The Lakers gave Southern California an exciting season with their post-season play.
  • Players are expecting another good year, with their fans squarely behind them.