Archives for category: COM 3100 Public Affairs Reporting

Beginning journalism students often try to insert themselves into the story, and they have a hard time understanding why they shouldn’t. It was explained to me that the reporter shouldn’t be part of the story. So here’s how I explain it: I ask, “Did you ever watch the movie ‘Men in Black’? Well, as a reporter that’s what you are. When they went out to investigate space aliens and UFOs, did any of the civilians remember they were there? No.” And this student today was like, “No! Because they used their neuralizer!” And I said, “That’s right! They used their neuralizer! Reporters are like the Men in Black in that way. They are not seen and they are not heard in any news report that they write. They are visible in the byline. That’s it.”

I made that analogy during a discussion among journalism professors on a Facebook post a few years ago. It resurfaced yesterday, and I’m so glad that it did during one-on-one consultations with my public affairs reporting students. I’d actually forgotten about this tactic because it hadn’t been necessary the last couple of years.

Well, one of my students who just couldn’t resist inserting himself into the story with stuff like “In our short interview, X told me …” and “X said when we talked about Y for this story” finally got it when I brought up the Men in Black analogy.

And as a bonus, I thought of another way to explain why synonyms for “said” are wasted creative energy: The NBA All-Star Game. There’s a place for creativity on the court and a place for discipline on the court. Go wild all you want in the lead and with your ending, which are the Slam-Dunk Contest in this analogy. But use “said” at the free-throw line, which is about quietly getting it done without thinking by putting your feet place, using the same amount of force, launching the ball the same way, following through the same way every single time. Anyway, I think he got it.

Story pitch forms are a useful tool for reporters who are developing a story. Use this form to guide your thinking about what your article will be about and whom you will contact to interview for your story. Remember the requirements of our stories:

— Each story will be 500-750 words in length.
— Each story will have no fewer than THREE SEPARATE HUMAN SOURCES whom you have interviewed.
— If you’re covering a speech story, you must include lots of quotes from the speech or lecture; comment about the speech from a member of the audience; and comment from one other type of source, which might be another audience member, an event organizer, a protester, or someone else who provides an opposing viewpoint about the ideas presented by the person who gave the lecture or speech. 

Topic Beat Story Pitch Form

  1. The topic, issue, or public event I plan to write is about:


  1. This story is appropriate to my beat because:


  1. This story is timely because:


  1. These are among the people in the community (aka stakeholders) who are affected by this topic or issue:


  1. My leader source will be:

          This source can answer the following questions I have about this story:


  1. My expert source will be:

            This source can answer the following questions I have about this story:


  1. My functionary source will be:

            This source can answer the following questions I have about this story:


  1. My real people source or sources will be:

            This source can answer the following questions I have about this story:


  1. These are the names of the three people with whom I am setting up interviews for this story:


Source 1:

Person’s name:


Phone number:

Source 2:

Person’s name:


Phone number:

Source 3:

Person’s name:


Phone number:

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