Sample Exercise 1
The angle of a story in large part depends on your audience. For example, readers of a general interest publication, like your hometown newspaper or the Yahoo News, will best appreciate a story with an angle (pg. 127) that promises widely accessible content and terminology. Whereas, a specific audience, such as an engineer reading an association magazine, may expect and appreciate a story with an angle that promises to explore specific concepts peppered with jargon or specialist terminology.
This exercise consists of two parts:
1. Choose a news story and summarize it using the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why and possibly how).
2. Drawing on these 5 Ws as inspiration, formulate angles for two of your own stories. One angle should promise a story meant for a general audience, and the other angle should represent a story meant for a specific audience. Please clearly define your specific audience. Of note, although specific audiences are often specialist in nature, they need not be. For example, children are a specific audience without specialty.
Please limit your answer to 250 words or fewer.
Who: Heather Cho is the daughter of Korean Air Chairman, Cho Yahg-ho. Before what later became known as the “Nut Rage” incident, Heather Cho was vice-president of her father’s airline.
When: December 8, 2014
Where: JFK International Airport
What: Cho flipped out when she was served a closed bag of macadamia nuts and demanded that the plane’s crew chief be removed from the flight. Her reaction was interpreted as an abuse of power by the Korean public. Cho’s father was deeply embarrassed and issued a public apology.
Why: Cho expected that the nuts be served to her on a plate and not in a bag.
General audience: The “Nut Rage” incident represents the widening chasm between the privileged elite and average citizens.
Parenting magazine: How to best raise your child not to be a spoiled brat who turns a plane around after receiving a bag of nuts.
Sample Exercise 2
Once upon a time, newspapers with their large profit margins could fund beat reporters. A beat reporter’s only responsibility was to cover a certain topic like state politics, poverty or education. As such, you would likely find a beat reporter in every congressional session and school board meeting. These reporters were journalism’s foot soldiers whose reportage fueled advocacy and watchdog groups. Nowadays, only the largest of newspapers can afford to keep beat reporters on staff, and in much diminished numbers.
Some may argue that specialist reporters have assumed some of the roles of beat reporters which to a limited extent is true. However, few specialist reporters have the financial means to completely devote themselves to a topic of choice.
With this exercise, let’s pretend that we still have beat reporters. Describe one beat that a reporter could cover with proposed roles and responsibilities. Although your proposed beat may cover any topic, try to imagine beat journalists tackling topics that have proven most relevant in more recent times (post-2000). In other words, come up with beats that weren’t covered when beat journalists numbered in the plenty.
Please limit your answer to 150 words or fewer.
Beat 1: Internet Privacy
New technology makes it easier for governments, corporations and criminal rings to spy on individuals and organizations. Furthermore, outdated federal laws such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act inadequately protect citizens from invasions of privacy especially by the U.S. government. A beat reporter covering Internet privacy could follow major events that represent violations to perceived individual civil liberties like the Edward Snowden leaks or Sony hack. A beat reporter covering Internet privacy could also monitor the efforts of groups intent on protecting privacy such as the American Civil Liberties Union.
Sample Exercise 3
As discussed in The Complete Guide to Article Writing, there are many types of ledes. One lede that is particularly effective is the transformative lede (pg. 122) which uses elements of a transformative explanation to introduce a features article or blog posting. Transformative explanations present counterintuitive concepts.
With this exercise, come up with your own transformative lede. Author’s note: I find transformative ledes especially useful when writing about scientific concepts.
Please limit your answer to 250 words or fewer.
For years, physicians believed that increased cholesterol levels in blood (lipid levels) caused plaques which occluded arterial blood flow. Such blockages lead to adverse cardiovascular events like heart attacks or stroke. In order to prevent such potentially deadly cardiovascular events, physicians prescribed medications that lowered cholesterol levels in the blood. On its surface, this hypothesis seems to make sense. After all, plaques are made up of cholesterol so decreasing levels of cholesterol in the blood makes sense, right? Wrong!
After an exhaustive review of the literature and long-term research on the subject, cardiologists now believe that high levels of cholesterol in the blood have little to do with plaque formation, heart attacks and stroke. In fact, prospective (long-term) clinical studies showed that Zetia, a drug that drastically lowers cholesterol in the blood, does little to prevent heart attack and stroke. Moreover, in 2013, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) issued joint guidelines which effectively downplayed the importance of cholesterol levels in the blood and recommended the prescription of statins, another type of cholesterol medication, only in people with very high lipid levels and no previous history of heart attack or stroke.
Sample Exercise 4
Much like interviewing, incorporating direct quotations (pgs. 18 to 20) into articles is a difficult—but necessary–skill for any journalist to master. Please choose a long quotation (two or more sentences) that’s amenable to being introduced or broken up for use in an article. First write out the quotation and identify the speaker or writer and source (either book or online). Second, introduce or break up the quotation in two ways.
Please limit your answer to 200 words or fewer.
Speaker: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Source: Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 17th edition
“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”
“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the help of nuclear destruction,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”
“I refuse to accept,” stated Martin Luther King, Jr., “the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the help of nuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”
Sample Exercise 5
For many reasons, a stand-out headline is key to a strong article. A good headline will invite the reader into the article with the promise of rich thoughts and information. In more practical terms, online headlines that contain relevant keywords help with search engine results and search engine optimization. Drawing on advice presented in The Complete Guide to Article Writing (pages 129 and 130), please formulate three catchy headlines for a blog posting on a topic of your choice. Feel free to have some fun with this exercise!
Topic: In 2014, cannabis was legalized in Colorado and Washington.
Headline 1: Wanna Some Legal Marijuana?
Headline 2: Toke Legal Marijuana Smoke in Colorado and Washington
Headline 3: Legal Pot Is Hot in Colorado and Washington
Sample Exercise 6
As discussed in The Complete Guide to Article Writing, social media allows us to follow a news event as it unfolds in real time. With this exercise, by using Twitter you will retrospectively examine a news event. Using a hashtagged news event of your choice, quote 5 news tweets from various publications that demonstrate the unfolding of a news event over a timeline of several days. Please make sure to specify the publication, the date of the tweet and the tweet itself. (No need for images or shortened URLs.) Of note, make sure that the tweets evidence progression of the event and don’t merely repeat each other with little variation in theme.
1/11/2015 ABC News (@ABC)
George Clooney on millions who marched in France: “They marched in support of the idea that we will not walk in fear” #JeSuisCharlie
1/12/2015 Huffington Post @HuffingtonPost
“The Simpsons” pays tribute to Charlie Hebdo, declares #JeSuisCharlie with striking animation
1/13/2015 The Telegraph @Telegraph
Outrage after hotel group uses #jesuischarlie in post promoting new property
1/13/2015 Wired @Wired
Some idiot will probably try to trademark #JeSuisCharlie. It won’t work.
01/15/2015 Fox Nation @FoxNation
CAIR Offers Free ‘Journalist’s Guide’ To Islam #JeSuisCharlie