Practical Journalism: How to Write News

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Helen Sissons

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    Acknowledgements

    I have been amazed at how positively colleagues in the media have responded to this project. My thanks to all the journalists who have given their time and the benefit of their experience. They have, without exception, talked candidly and honestly about their work – its pressures, its high points and its low points. Their wisdom appears throughout the book explaining examples, recounting anecdotes or giving advice. Without them this book could not have been written, as it was a project born out of the belief that only those at the coalface can teach others how to mine.

    Many of the journalists quoted are friends and former colleagues. Others responded to a phone call or email from a complete stranger asking if they would mind being stalked while they went about their duties and asked dozens of obvious or impertinent questions.

    Among the latter the staff at 2BR radio station in Burnley, those at Ananova online newsroom in Leeds and the Craven Herald newspaper in Skipton stand out as being particularly helpful. But thanks to all the staff at the newspapers, radio stations, online organisations and television stations who tolerated my visits and endless questions or willingly passed on information, graphics and other material.

    Of my friends and former colleagues there are some who need special mention. At the BBC Jo-Anne Pugh's encouragement, inspiration and sound advice were invaluable and Cathy Killick's patient reading of the text and her sensible suggestions were much appreciated. Gillian Hargreaves, Geeta Guru-murthy, Tom Symonds, Peter Sissons, Denise Wallace, Sophie Raworth, Jon Williams and John McIntyre helped with extended interviews, advice and insights as well as reading and commenting on chapters.

    Thanks too to others who frankly shared their thoughts and to the BBC management who allowed me to spend days hanging round newsrooms in London and the north.

    I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Shelley Bradley, a solicitor with the BBC who responded to a phone call out of the blue and agreed to read the law chapters (without pay). Her detailed suggestions and corrections were gratefully received. Any remaining mistakes are mine.

    Elsewhere, thanks to Mike McCarthy of Sky for the time I spent in the Northern Bureau. To one of my first editors, Bob Bounds of the Kentish Gazette, who answered pages of questions patiently and with the kind of sagacity only one who has nurtured many young reporters would be able to provide.

    Warm thanks to my former colleagues at the University of Leeds who helped me make the transition from hack to reflective practitioner and teacher. Among them Judith Stamper, Dr Graham Roberts, Dr David Gauntlett and Prof. Philip Taylor stand out.

    I thank also my former students who gave me six rewarding years and highlighted the common challenges faced by young journalists. It is with them in mind that this book was written.

    Credit goes to John Sissons for his perseverance in reading and re-reading the proofs, catching errors and repetitions and saving me from much embarrassment.

    To Paul Denny for his help with Chapter 6 on online journalism and for rescuing early copies of the script from the computer when I carelessly fed it several cups of tea.

    I am grateful to my editors at Sage – Julia Hall and Jamilah Ahmed – for asking me to take on the project in the first place and then encouraging me all the way. I've enjoyed the journey immensely.

    Finally my thanks are due to the many newspapers, internet sites, radio and television bulletins from which I have quoted. Every attempt has been made to obtain permission to reproduce copyright material. If any proper acknowledgement has not been made, we would invite copyright holders to inform us of the oversight.

    Introduction

    The working journalist is not a homogeneous beast. There are myriad hybrids to the breed. You have the monthly women's magazine writers penning their lifestyle features and listing the ten best lipsticks/handbags/places to have sex. There are the monthly men's magazine writers with their lifestyle features and ten best gadgets/ties/places to have sex. There are the newspaper columnists taking their ‘sideways’ look at life/politics/ latest fad diet. The travel reporters describing the horrors of flying with four kids or wandering down yet another impossibly narrow alley in yet another Mediterranean town; the motoring correspondents; real estate writers and so on.

    Then there are the news journalists. They are what this book is primarily concerned with. Even here there are different varieties. You have the crime reporter of the metropolitan daily. The stories they cover will be a world away from those tapped into the screen of the staff writer at trade magazine Builder's Week or those of the online journalist for an activist website. You have the badly paid junior on a local weekly paper covering their first parish council meeting after a day of writing articles from golden weddings to the hiring of a new lollipop lady to the closure of the sub post office. Their life is very different from the senior correspondent on a regional television station who covers one or two stories a day and may have a researcher working alongside.

    Yet a journalist who starts on a local newspaper can move to a specialist trade publication, or to a monthly glossy, or into broadcasting. Perhaps they stay as a print journalist but must file, in addition to copy, pictures or audio or any combination of these to the online site of their paper. Good journalists need to be able to move easily between different media and be comfortable reporting and presenting their stories to whatever channel is required.

    Practical Journalism: How to Write News introduces the beginner to the skills needed to become a journalist. There are chapters covering interviewing and research techniques and news writing. Further chapters cover working in broadcasting and online. Throughout the book we hear from practising journalists. They share their thoughts on the profession and we watch them work – selecting stories, carrying out interviews and writing scripts.

    Learning to interview effectively, report accurately and then to write in a manner that is not only truthful but is also attractive to read or listen to is difficult. It would still be a challenge if journalists were paid handsomely, worked in plush offices and had acres of time to complete their tasks. But they don't. They work to tight deadlines, in cramped offices, often for poor pay.

    They can also be physically or verbally threatened by governments and other powerful interests wishing to prevent publication of embarrassing or damaging stories.1

    Despite the challenges, young people still want to join the ranks of the more than 70,000 journalists practising in the UK.2 Why? Some think it's glamorous (it's not); others enjoy writing. The best join because they want to know what's going on and to tell people about it, and because they realise news is not an optional extra for society. It is only with reliable information that people can keep abreast of events and monitor those in power.

    It also has to be said that on the whole journalists love what they do. I was told many times during interviews for the book that it is ‘one of the best jobs around’, and it's hugely enjoyable having ‘a front seat at the making of history’ and what a privilege it is to write the ‘first draft’. Clichéd, but the message is clear. Studies too have found most journalists to be satisfied with their choice of profession.3

    We may be happy being reporters, but is anyone interested in reading or listening to what we do? Yes, they are. In Britain, people spend more time consuming the media than doing anything else except work.4 News fulfils a fundamental human need to keep up with the latest gossip and important events. And good journalists have always been in demand. Since the earliest times people have shared news and desired that its tellers be accurate and entertaining.5

    Today, news is being shared as never before, with new technology ensuring that breaking stories can travel around the world in seconds. Reporters from Britain could be covering a story in Pakistan for a news outlet in New Zealand. It is more than ever a time when the people need to be able to rely on the supply of information as reliable, accurate and independent.

    Most journalists believe they work honestly and ethically, but few can explain how they come to their decisions and others admit to coming under pressure early in their careers to behave in ways they found unacceptable. This book looks at how journalists can work more ethically and provides a guide for those starting out.

    I have approached the writing of the book as one that will be relevant to news journalists no matter what medium or media they aspire to work in. It is meant to be easy to read and to understand. The chapters are self-contained and able to be read on their own, so readers can dip in where they wish. Chapter 5, which covers broadcasting, is very long. For this reason it is divided into three parts that can be read separately: an introductory section, a section on radio reporting and a section on reporting for television. Each chapter concludes with activities for students and trainees and a list of further reading and useful websites for each topic. There is also a glossary of terms at the end of the book.

    The book draws on interviews with dozens of working journalists; these are found throughout the text in the form of numerous unattributed quotes. Many are my former colleagues who have generously given their time and from whom I have brazenly stolen their best lines and ideas. To them my wholehearted thanks.

    Notes

    1 Reporters without Borders, ‘The deadliest year for a decade’: 53 journalists killed. See http://www.rsf.org.

    2 There were around 70,000 practising journalists in the UK in 2002 and the number was expected to rise. Press Gazette, 12 July 2002.

    3 Ibid.

    4 John Lloyd, What the Media are Doing to Our Politics, London: Constable, 2004, p. 9.

    5 B. Kovach and T. Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism, London: Atlantic Books, 2003, p. 9.

  • Appendix: The Editors' Code of Practice

    The Press Complaints Commission is charged with enforcing the following Code of Practice which was framed by the newspaper and periodical industry and was ratified by the PCC on 13 June 2005.

    All members of the press have a duty to maintain the highest professional standards. This Code sets the benchmark for those ethical standards, protecting both the rights of the individual and the public's right to know. It is the cornerstone of the system of self-regulation to which the industry has made a binding commitment.

    It is essential that an agreed code be honoured not only to the letter but in the full spirit. It should not be interpreted so narrowly as to compromise its commitment to respect the rights of the individual, nor so broadly that it constitutes an unnecessary interference with freedom of expression or prevents publication in the public interest.

    It is the responsibility of editors and publishers to implement the Code and they should take care to ensure it is observed rigorously by all editorial staff and external contributors, including non-journalists, in printed and online versions of publications.

    Editors should co-operate swiftly with the PCC in the resolution of complaints. Any publication judged to have breached the Code must print the adjudication in full and with due prominence, including headline reference to the PCC.

    • Accuracy
      • The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
      • A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
      • The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
      • A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed statement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
    • Opportunity to reply

      A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.

    • *Privacy
      • Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent.
      • It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent. Note – Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
    • *Harassment
      • Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.
      • They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them.
      • Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.
    • Intrusion into grief or shock

      In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.

    • *Children
      • Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
      • A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child's welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.
      • Pupils must not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.
      • Minors must not be paid for material involving children's welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.
      • Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.
    • *Children in sex cases
      • The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.
      • In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child:
        • The child must not be identified.
        • The adult may be identified.
        • The word ‘incest’ must not be used where a child victim might be identified.
        • Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.
    • *Hospitals
      • Journalists must identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.
      • The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions.
    • *Reporting of crime
      • Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.
      • Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
    • *Clandestine devices and subterfuge
      • The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs.
      • Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.
    • Victims of sexual assault

      The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so.

    • Discrimination
      • The Press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
      • Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
    • Financial journalism
      • Even where the law does not prohibit it, journalists must not use for their own profit financial information they receive in advance of its general publication, nor should they pass such information to others.
      • They must not write about shares or securities in whose performance they know that they or their close families have a significant financial interest without disclosing the interest to the editor or financial editor.
      • They must not buy or sell, either directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which they have written recently or about which they intend to write in the near future.
    • Confidential sources

      Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.

    • Witness payments in criminal trials
      • No payment or offer of payment to a witness – or any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness – should be made in any case once proceedings are active as defined by the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

        This prohibition lasts until the suspect has been freed unconditionally by police without charge or bail or the proceedings are otherwise discontinued; or has entered a guilty plea to the court; or, in the event of a not guilty plea, the court has announced its verdict.

      • Where proceedings are not yet active but are likely and foreseeable, editors must not make or offer payment to any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness, unless the information concerned ought demonstrably to be published in the public interest and there is an overriding need to make or promise payment for this to be done; and all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure no financial dealings influence the evidence those witnesses give. In no circumstances should such payment be conditional on the outcome of a trial.
      • Any payment or offer of payment made to a person later cited to give evidence in proceedings must be disclosed to the prosecution and defence. The witness must be advised of this requirement.
    • *Payment to criminals
      • Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general, must not be made directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates – who may include family, friends and colleagues.
      • Editors invoking the public interest to justify payment or offers would need to demonstrate that there was good reason to believe the public interest would be served. If, despite payment, no public interest emerged, then the material should not be published.

    Glossary

    • Actuality/Natsof (natural sound) Interviews or sounds recorded on location such as chanting, children playing, fire engines etc.
    • Angle The approach the journalist has taken to the story, i.e. which elements are stressed.
    • Archive 1. Files where background material, clippings and previously broadcast stories are kept. 2. Archive/library material is material pulled out of the archive.
    • Arrest When a person is detained or deprived of their liberty for a legally determined length of time.
    • As live A pre-recorded 2-way between a reporter and a presenter or reporter and guest/s or presenter and guest/s and set up as if it were live.
    • Aston/name super Aston is the machine which generates the words which go onto the screen, but the term now means words which go on the screen such as ‘Denise Wallace reporting’ or ‘library pictures’. Also used to give the name and job title of interviewees.
    • Backgrounder Feature looking at the issues involved in or story behind the main news story.
    • Backpack/multimedia journalist A journalist who can work across different media. They can write a print story, a television or radio script, operate a video camera, compile a photo gallery, edit an audio clip and make a web page. They can also put together multimedia stories that include video and audio clips, still photos as well as text.
    • Bail The sum put up by the accused or another person to ensure the accused's appearance at their trial. It allows them to be free until the trial.
    • Barristers Known, singly or collectively, as ‘counsel’, these are lawyers who represent their clients in court. They wear a wig and gown in the higher courts, the crown courts and in the county courts but not in the magistrates' courts. They are instructed by solicitors and should not be confused with them.
    • Best value New Labour policy which replaced compulsory competitive tendering (CCT). Local councils must now demonstrate that they award the contracts for delivering local services to companies that provide ‘economy, efficiency and effectiveness’ rather than to those that are simply the cheapest.
    • Big close-up (BCU) Shot used to show intense emotion; an angry or shouting or singing face. It is a very close shot. When filming one person, the whole screen is filled with the features of the face.
    • Blog Personal journal-style website allowing updates to be made easily by the owner and allowing others to contribute comment.
    • Breach of confidence The law which protects an individual from the misuse of information about him or herself.
    • Break When a news story becomes known. Also the point of interruption in a story.
    • Breaking news/spot news A story that is happening or unfolding right now.
    • Brief Instructions given to a reporter or camera person about covering a story.
    • Broadsheet Large-size newspaper such as the Daily Telegraph or the Financial Times as opposed to tabloid. Also implies quality, although a number of former broadsheets have now become ‘compacts’ (e.g. the Independent) which means they are smaller in size.
    • Browser Software needed to interpret and display web pages which allows you to navigate the internet.
    • Bulletin board Electronic forums that host messages and articles related to a common subject.
    • By-line Gives the name or names of the journalist(s) who wrote the story.
    • Catchiine Word or words identifying the story placed at the top of the article.
    • Check calls Regular calls by journalists to the emergency services and hospitals to find out if any news is breaking.
    • Circuit judge Judge appointed to sit at the crown court or county court within a circuit (one of the administrative regions of England and Wales).
    • Civil defence The organising of civilians to deal with enemy attacks.
    • Claimant Previously known as the plaintiff. The person who takes action in the civil court. See also defendant.
    • Cliché A phrase or word which is so overused it means little – dumb blonde, innocent bystander.
    • Clips/cuts/insert Audio which has been pre-recorded from an interview and one answer or part of an answer has been edited to form a news clip or ‘sound bite’.
    • Closed question Question that demands a yes or no answer.
    • Close-up (CU) Shot showing the head only.
    • Committal for trial Where a case is committed from the magistrates' court to be tried at crown court before a jury.
    • Compact A broadsheet newspaper printed in a tabloid-size format. See also Broadsheet.
    • Contact Someone who provides the journalist with information.
    • Contempt of court The laws that try to strike a balance between the principle of open justice and the defendant's right to a fair trial. They seek to ensure UK media reports are fair and accurate and report only what is said in open court; this in turn prevents juries and witnesses having access to information which could influence them, other than that which is presented in open court.
    • Copy The text of the story.
    • Copy-only story News story with no audio or visuals.
    • Councillor People who are nominated by at least ten electors in the area can stand for election to the local council. They must also be at least 21 years old and must live or work in the council areas. Once elected they represent the people of their ward.
    • Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) The official agency that decides on and carries out prosecutions in the criminal courts. The Director of Public Prosecutions heads the CPS.
    • Cue 1. Introduction to a broadcast report. 2. Instruction to a presenter or reporter to start and stop speaking.
    • Cutaway Shot used as a bridge in editing, often in interviews. If you want to edit two answers together, you may use a shot of the interviewees' hands as a cutaway.
    • Cuttings file Collection or portfolio of stories you, as a journalist, have written. They should usually have your by-line (e.g. by Jo-Anne Wallace) attached.
    • Cuttings library Files of material from newspapers cut out and stored in a library by subject. Large organisations file material from all newspapers; local or regional papers may just keep articles published in their own papers and these could be stored in a filing cabinet. Increasingly, large organisations are storing them electronically.
    • DA Notice Defence Advisory Notice. These notices offer guidance on national security to the media. There are five standing DA Notices.
    • Damages The monetary sum ordered by the court to be paid by the defendant to the claimant in civil actions. Damages usually represent compensation for loss, but they may also be used as a form of punishment.
    • Deadline The time by which the journalist must complete the story and submit it.
    • Death-knock Visiting the home of the recently bereaved in pursuit of a story.
    • Defamation Covers slander and libel. Slander is defamation by the spoken word, i.e in a transient form; whereas libel is defamation by the written or printed word, i.e. in a permanent form.
    • Defendant A person appearing in a criminal court charged with a criminal offence or a person appearing in a civil court having been issued with a claim form (in a civil hearing defendants must not be said to be charged or prosecuted).
    • District judge Legally qualified person, either solicitor or barrister of seven years' standing, who hears cases sitting alone in magistrates' and county court.
    • Doorstepping Involves a journalist going uninvited to someone's house or waiting outside a restaurant, cinema or court in the hope of getting a few comments for a story.
    • Down-the line interview An interview with a presenter or journalist asking the questions from another studio so the interviewer and interviewee cannot see each other. In these interviews, the interviewee looks straight at the camera and listens to the questions through an ear piece.
    • Drop intro or delayed intro Approach to a news story which delays the important facts for effect.
    • Edit 1. To select the pictures and cut them together into the final package for TV broadcast.

      2. To select interviews clips and put together with recorded links for a radio report.

      3. To select and formulate copy for written media.

    • Either-way offence An offence which could be tried either at crown court or at the magistrates' court. Offences that fall into this bracket include theft and indecent assault.
    • End item/And finally Story that runs at the end of the television or radio news programme. It can be a lighter item or a quirky story.
    • European Court of Justice (ECJ) Highest authority on points of EU law.
    • Exclusive Story carried by just one newspaper, internet site, television or radio station.
    • Executive and non-executive councillors Since the Local Government Act 2000, there is now a division between executive councillors, who are leaders or part of the cabinet and have the legal powers to make certain decisions without the approval of a committee or the council, and non-executive councillors, who are not able to make decisions by themselves.
    • Face-to-face interview Interview where the journalist meets the interviewee in person.
    • Features These are longer than straight news articles and concentrate on the human or entertaining aspects of the story. They usually include more background, description and colour.
    • Fifth estate The fourth estate is the press and journalism, while the internet has been called by some the fifth estate. The estates refer to Estates of the Realm. The other three refer either to the priesthood, the aristocracy and the common people or the powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary.
    • File To submit or send the story to the office, usually by computer or over the telephone, or to put the news on the wires.
    • Flash Software used to develop interactive graphics.
    • Follow-up Where a journalist does a follow-up or update on a story they covered at an earlier time. Or a follow-up can be a story covered by one news organisation that is used as the basis for a story by another news organisation.
    • Footage Raw, unedited material as recorded on camera. See also Rushes.
    • Fourth estate The fourth estate is the press and journalism. The estates refer to Estates of the Realm. The other three refer either to the priesthood, the aristocracy and the common people or the powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary. See also Fifth estate.
    • GIF/JPEG/TIF Are files used by computers to digitally represent images.
    • Graphics/captions Still photographs, maps, charts, courtroom sketches, written statements etc. These can make a short report for a bulletin or form part of a package.
    • GVs General views. A wide view of the scene, often buildings, shots of crowds, etc.
    • Hack Slang term for journalist, sometimes considered abusive, but used by journalists themselves.
    • Hard news Stories of current events focusing on the factual detail of what has happened or what has been said. See Soft news.
    • Headlines/summary Short roundup of the main news events, each story is summed up in one or two sentences.
    • Homophone A word that is pronounced the same as another word, but has a different spelling and meaning (e.g. weight and wait).
    • HTML Format or protocol that allows information to be distributed on the internet so that a page downloaded from the internet looks the same on all computers. Without it no page would be formatted, and so there would be no punctuation, only a succession of words without breaks.
    • Hyperlinks/Links Highlighted piece of text or a graphic that takes the user to another part of the web – it could be a different place on the same web page, a different page on the same website or a page on a different website altogether. Links allow the user to follow different threads in the story.
    • In quality interview Radio term meaning that a source was interviewed in person, not simply recorded on a telephone line.
    • Indictable offence One that may be tried on indictment at crown court before a judge and jury.
    • Indictment Document containing the charges that are read out to the accused/defendant when they stand trial at crown court.
    • Indymedia Network of independent and alternative media activists offering non-commercial coverage of social and political issues.
    • Injunction Court order instructing a person to do or refrain from doing something, such as to ban the publication of material identified by the court. It may be for a short period of time or permanent. Breaching an order is contempt of court.
    • Inquest Hearing held to inquire into violent, unnatural or sudden deaths.
    • Internet Infrastructure that allows computers to talk to each other.
    • Interview Presenter interviews someone involved with a news story. This can be a politician, an expert, a celebrity or a member of the public. See also Vox pop.
    • Intro First paragraph in a news story. In a hard news or direct or straight intro the main facts are summarised. In a delayed or drop intro they are held back for effect.
    • ISP Internet Service Provider. It hooks into the system and provides users with a storage area. Most offer a web access and email service.
    • Leak Unauthorised supply of information to a journalist.
    • Libel Defamation by the written or printed word, i.e. in a permanent form. See also Slander; Defamation.
    • Link or bridge Linking or transitional words and phrases, e.g. ‘after’, ‘following’ ‘however, ‘although’. In broadcasting the ‘bridges’ or ‘links’ can be pieces to camera (PTCs).
    • Long shot (LS) Often used for establishing shots or general views (GVs) to show the location or all the action. Can also use a very long shot (VLS). A long shot of a demonstration outside a council chamber would show the whole group and much of the building. If filming a person it takes in the whole person from head to feet.
    • Magistrates Representatives of the local community who decide matters of guilt and what action to take against defendants. There will usually be three magistrates in the court.
    • Mayor A ceremonial mayor or chairman of the council presides at full council meetings and has ceremonial and public duties to perform, such as opening galas or greeting foreign dignitaries. An elected mayor is the political leader for the community with a wide range of decision-making powers.
    • Medium close-up (MCU) The standard TV interview shot, showing head and shoulders. We can see facial detail, but it is not too intrusive.
    • Medium long shot (MLS) When filming one person it would show from their head to just below the knees.
    • Metaphor and simile A metaphor describes one thing in terms of another (e.g. the president is a lame duck). A simile makes a comparison using the words as or like (e.g. he is as big as a barn).
    • Mid-shot or medium shot (MS) Frames from the head to the hips.
    • Minutes The record of what goes on in meetings, written up shortly after the meeting. When their contents are agreed, they can be read at most council offices and public libraries as well as on council websites.
    • Moral panic Mass response to a group, a person or an attitude that becomes defined (often mistakenly) as a threat to society.
    • Multimedia journalistSee Backpack journalist.
    • Multi-skilling Where journalists are skilled in more than one area. A print journalist who can take pictures and record audio clips is multi-skilled, as is a television journalist who can write scripts and film and edit pictures.
    • News agency News service provided by newsgathering agencies such as the Press Association, Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Presse and the dozens of local news agencies. Many news organisations rely on these for international stories, coverage of court cases and tip-offs on good local stories.
    • News bulletin Usually on the hour, this is a synopsis of the main news stories. It will consist of about half a dozen stories, some containing audio (clips, voicers, etc.).
    • News clip Interview or speech extract from an interview with a source. Also known as a sound bite.
    • News ‘peg’ Sometimes you need a peg to get into a story. For example, a report on the number of teenage heroin addicts could be the news peg for a story on drug taking by young people. A celebrity divorce could be the news peg for a story on the number of failed marriages.
    • News programme This is longer than a news bulletin, usually 15 or 30 minutes or an hour and broadcast at breakfast, lunchtime, early evening or even late evening. It includes extended reports, packages and interviews.
    • News release Also called a handout. A story given to the media by a public relations company or organisation that wishes the story to be published.
    • Newsroom diary A diary in which is noted all the known events and stories that are taking place that day.
    • NoddiesSee Reverse shots.
    • Ofcom The Office of Communications (Ofcom) was created in 2003 and replaced five regulators covering radio, television and programme standards.
    • Off the record Information offered in confidence. The material should not be able to be traced back to the source and should only be used as background.
    • Oftel The Office of Telecommunications, the telecommunications watchdog, which was replaced by Ofcom.
    • On-diary/off-diary A reporter working on-diary is covering a story known to the newsroom, hence it's been written ‘in the diary’. The reporter working off-diary is working on a story they have originated themselves.
    • Online When you access the internet you are online.
    • On the record When what is said can be reported and interviewees quoted.
    • OOV Out of Vision. This is a reporter/presenter voicing a script over pictures.
    • Open question One that needs a full answer giving details and explanation, as opposed to a closed question.
    • Opt-in and opt-out The process of switching between local and network transmissions or different networks, such as BBC1 and BBC World. Opting-in occurs when one station or network joins another and opting-out occurs when that station or network returns to its own programmes.
    • Out of court settlement Refers to civil cases and mean the parties agree on how they should resolve the case and therefore it never comes to trial.
    • Package Report containing interview clips, music, graphics and reporter script.
    • Page 2 Details of the first and last words of a television report as well as aston times and overall duration. Page 1 has the cue on it.
    • Pan The camera moves from left to right or right to left in the horizontal plane. Must start and end on strong frames. A pan can follow a person, car or bird.
    • Paparazzi Photographers who follow the rich and famous to get photographs of them.
    • Participles Part of a verb. Present participle – coming, going etc., the past participle – fallen, parted etc. A hanging or dangling participle is where the participle has no subject, e.g. ‘Having been chopped down 10 years ago, I missed seeing the tree I used to climb.’
    • PDA Personal digital assistant.
    • Piece to camera (PTC) or stand-upper Script delivered by a reporter straight to the camera often in front of the event or at the scene.
    • Plaintiff Now known as the claimant. The person who takes action in the civil court.
    • Portal Entry point onto the web providing a window onto many services including email, news and search facilities. Yahoo is a well-known portal.
    • PPC Press Complaints Commission, which is an independent self-regulatory organisation dealing with complaints from members of the public about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines.
    • Press conference or news conference An organised gathering to which the media are invited.
    • Press release Also called a news release or handout. A story given to the media by a public relations company or organisation that wishes the story to be published.
    • Q&A See 2-way.
    • Real Player/Windows Media Player For playing audio and video files. Most computers have them already installed when they are sold. To create the files you need Real Producer.
    • Reverse shots/noddies Shows interviewer listening to the interviewee, often nodding. Can help the editor piece together the interview.
    • Round table discussion/DISCO This includes several participants with contrasting views on a subject and is chaired by a journalist.
    • Running order Order of transmission of items in a programme.
    • Running story Event that develops and is covered over a period of time.
    • Rushes Pictures shot by the journalist or camera operator which have not been edited.
    • Search engine Search engines scan web pages looking for documents that match the keyword or words you have requested. One of the most popular is Google.
    • Set-up shot Introduces the players and can show the geography of the location. Also known as the establishing shot.
    • Slander Defamation by the spoken word, i.e. in a transient form. See also Libel; Defamation.
    • SMS Short Messaging Service to mobile phones. Generally messages should be between 140 and 160 characters in length.
    • Snap on the wires Short news release of something that has just happened.
    • Snapper Photographer.
    • Soft news Lighter, more colourful than hard news, and is often more about entertaining the audience than informing them.
    • Solicitors Lawyers who deal directly with clients. They advise them and prepare the client's case. They can represent the client in court, but in the past have usually only done so in the magistrates' courts and the county courts. More recently some solicitors, who have gained a higher courts qualification, have been allowed to appear in the higher courts, where they compete with barristers in representing clients. Otherwise they instruct a barrister to conduct the case.
    • Sound bite Interview or speech extract from an interview with a source. Also known as a news clip.
    • Source Individual, publication, document or event that supplies the information for a story.
    • Spike Literally a metal spike on which journalists traditionally used to put press releases, documents, copy etc, that they had decided were not newsworthy.
    • Splash Also called on some papers the ‘front page lead’. This is a newspaper's main story of the day and will be given the prime spot on the front page. In broadcasting the main story is often referred to as the ‘top’ story because it is placed top of the bulletin.
    • Story This does not refer to a piece of fiction, but is what journalists often call a news item.
    • Summary trials Cases tried by magistrates.
    • Tabloid Smaller size newspaper used to describe the ‘popular’ or ‘down-market’ press (e.g. the Sun). See also Broadsheet; Compact.
    • Talking head Any interviewee. It can be used pejoratively if a story has too many talking heads in it.
    • Tautology Saying the same thing more than once: a fatal accident in which people were killed.
    • Tilt Camera movement up or down in the vertical plane. This can be from the face of a child to the jigsaw they are completing or from the front step of a house to the top window where someone is leaning out.
    • Tip-off Information given to a journalist by a member of the public or a contact about a story.
    • Tort Civil wrong such as negligence, nuisance or defamation.
    • Tracking shot This is where the camera films while moving. Typical tracking shots are filming from a moving car, walking through a house, or down an alleyway, moving through the woods.
    • Two-shot Shows back of interviewer's head and interviewee's face listening.
    • 2-way/Q&A (Questions and Answer) A presenter interviews a reporter on air about a story he or she is covering.
    • TX Transmission.
    • Usher Manages cases between courts, checks that everyone involved is present and offers assistance to those attending court. In the magistrates' courts, ushers are the only people who wear black gowns.
    • Video-journalist (VJ) Reporter who shoots and edits their own pieces.
    • Voice piece, voice report, voicer Details and explanation of a story by a reporter. Tells more than a copy story. Permits a change of voice from a newsreader.
    • Voice track The reporter's voice recording of the script.
    • Vox pop Latin ‘vox populi’ which means ‘voice of the people’. Refers to short (usually one or two question) interviews with people selected at random to get a flavour of public opinion on a specific subject.
    • ‘War on Terror’ Phrase used to describe the campaign by the United States and its allies to stop terrorism around the world, following the attack on the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001. Most often used in connection with trying to destroy the group al-Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden, believed to be behind the attacks.
    • Web Interface that allows people to exchange information including text, pictures and sound.
    • Wild track Real sound recorded on location which is related to the picture.
    • Wire services or the wires Press agencies to which news organisations subscribe and are sent copy. They include the Press Association, Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, as well as dozens of local agencies.
    • Wrap Voice report that contains clips.
    • Zoom Varies the focus length of a shot, taking it in or pulling it out. Inexperienced camera operators tend to use too many zooms. Only zoom when necessary otherwise your audience gets dizzy.

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