Just don’t do bad.

                    To me ethics and morals are the same thing.  If you feel bad about either you are most likely doing bad.  Some times you have to do things others think are ethically wrong, but how does it feel? Are you hurting anyone? Are you creating a bad or untruthful situation? Like I say it should not feel bad to do something.  We, being in a journalistic profession, constantly hear about being truthful and honest so we know we should not mess up.

                    Ethics is not just in writing it is in your life, but you could mess up and think you are doing right and you really are doing something wrong.  But you learn from you mistakes and you correct them (hopefully you do not get fired from your job).  If you question yourself ask someone you really trust or admire them for the honesty and truthfulness.

                   The worst thing you could do is just make stuff up, and unfortunately that happens a lot– thanks to the internet and people loving to blog about their opinions and others taking it seriously.  You now, as a writer, have a moral obligation to not fool your readers.  You want to gain their trust and you should never lead them into a lie.

                    If you writing seems like it would be better because of “lies” just look at the words you are using try to create a better story with better words– not false words just more exciting words.



“The principles Do not add and Do not deceive should apply to all nonfiction all the time, not just to the text of newspaper stories. Adding color to a black-and-white photo, unless the technique is obvious or labeled, is a deception,” says Roy Peter Clark at the beginning of the reading. This analogy between words and photographs summarized the entire reading without question.

 As a journalist, our duty is to be a gatekeepers for the truth. People rely on us to provide credible information that they can take with them throughout their day. In feature writing, it can be difficult to stick to being accurate when writing a compelling story. The use of adjectives or painting a vivid setting may tempt those into falling along the lines of JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer…but this isn’t Hogwarts and vampires don’t attend this University.

 As a broadcast journalist, I’ve always been told that if there aren’t any valid sources to support any claims in my story, the story simply DOESN’T EXIST. Journalism involves a heavy grasp on reality no matter how creative the story may be. I have to constantly remind myself that there is a huge difference between feature writing and CREATIVE writing.

 As much as you want to attract the reader to your story with massive suspense and attention to detail, you want to make sure it’s accurate or else you’ll be looked at as an unreliable journalist who should probably look into becoming a novelist. The reading also mentions a very important element of journalism we should all be aware of – FACT CHECKING. Nothing’s worse than reporting/writing a story and being caught red-handed with an article full of lies. Make sure you always double check… or else the reader will.

Better know your ethics

Photojournalists are sometimes forced to complete work or projects that are, to say the least, messed up. Crisis and conflict photography, although gruesome, is needed to tell the stories of the people involved through dramatic and moving images. In order to document these stories with as little involvement as possible by the photographer, a delicate balance of ethics must be kept. This is demonstrated in Isabel Wilkerson’s section of the book where she stated, “Caring about our subjects without sacrificing our narratives, while caring about our narratives without sacrificing our subjects.” When dealing with delicate situations or subjects, I think it’s important to keep one thing in mind as a photographer: Just because I can take the photo, doesn’t mean I should. There is a line that if crossed, we are sometimes forced to intervene and play the role of a human being rather than a journalist. This was demonstrated strongly in the recent Boston Marathon bombings. In a video that went viral on the internet, a couple of photographers were seen removing a massive amount of barricades that were tangled up around a person lying on the ground trying to get out. This was a situation where the photographers knew they needed to put down their cameras and help another human being.

All in all the great ethical structure is unique and lies within each individual reporter. The line they cross when confronted with a dangerous situation may be to protect them, their subject, or to not act at all. I don’t think it matters what kind of ethical codes a journalist has, just as long as they have some that they actively practice and live by when out in the field.


Ethics: a hazy dilemma

At Southern Miss, I have not taken a media ethics class yet. So I am really glad the assigned reading was about ethics in journalism. I like to think of myself as a very accurate reporter. I only want to tell the story as a the truest sense of reality to the reader and to the subject. I always make sure to double check my quotes and observations in my notebook. When I took my first reporting class last semester, I learned how to be ethical through finding credible sources and asking open-ended questions.

But, nothing has prepared me for the grey areas of reporting until I read this chapter “In Telling True Stories.” I was not prepared when Anne Hull told her reporting experience with a family in deep poverty. I was completely dumbfounded. When Hull describes the scene when the family’s baby has a high fever and the parents could not afford to drive her to the hospital, I wondered what I would do in this situation. Human instinct would tell me to immediately offer to drive my car to the hospital. But, Hull stood back and did her job, even though I predicted this was one of the biggest ethical dilemmas she has dealt with. 

So where do journalists draw the line between remaining ethical and remaining human while reporting? I do understand how intervening the situation changes the story completely. In Hull’s situation, the universal theme of her story, a poor family living on the edge could have been altered by her actions. And if the baby’s fever would have gotten worse, she would have intervened. This reporter’s situation made me realize that the basic framework is we are here to do our job. We cannot let the story suffer because we altered a situation that distorted its context. 

Outlines…. the death of me.

I have, unfortunately, received major deductions from final grades from not doing an outline.  I hate outlines.  I write like I speak and I do not speak in outline form.  I honestly can’t stress how much I dislike outlines.  I have never found them helpful, and they actually confuse me more.  I take a very liberal approach to writing and it consists of my throwing it together and then reviewing it after the fact– so honestly I could possibly benefit from an outline, but I sincerely doubt I’ll enjoy it. 

I understand the pro of outlines, but they are certainly more of a con for me than anything.  I never really organize my paper until after the paper is written on paper.  I feel like maybe we were so forced to do outlines so much that now I just hate them.  I know writers should be more organized than we usually are, but I just feel better if I don’t have to do an outline. Editors as said in the book would probably like an outline to see how we have organized our thoughts but until the I will stick with my writing style. I also understand the “you will need, most likely, more than one edit of a draft,” I recently edited a story about 5 times and I sent it back and forth to people who were helping me edit. My best draft is never my first and is usually never my second. There is always something else I want to add.

Outlines are essential

I find I cannot write a story without a structured and focused outline. Depending on if it is a short feature story or long feature story, the outlines will be different. The long feature story would be more detailed and possibly include more potential sources. Outlining can be tedious, but I find I write the best stories when my thoughts are clearly writing down and laying right next to my laptop. 

In “Telling True Stories,” I appreciated how the authors talked about the editor-writer relationship because it is good for writers to understand that the relationship is not meant to assert authority. I am an editor myself and I always find myself constantly improving my writing. Also, it was interesting how they said editing can take more than two or three drafts for a piece to be publishable. It is a process that takes patience and immense reflecting on myself. As far as style goes, I was intrigued how the author made the suggestion always keep Strunk and Whites, “The Elements of Style” nearby your writing desk. I also enjoyed the other style ideas presented such as embody the ideas in the nature of language, restore worn-out words, take an art class (really?), use concrete detail and compose the piece. These elements really make a feature piece coherent and interesting to the reader. Our audience, after all, is the most important. 

Reader Interest Plane: Enjoy your flight.

Structure is everything. Without a strong structure houses would tumble down around us, bridges wouldn’t hold anything much less a car, and skyscrapers would be piles of rubble. An outline is essentially your structure; where your piece is going to take readers and how. What’s more, the reader must know and understand where the story is going in order to retain a high interest level. This is one of the most important things I got out of chapter 10 from The Art of Feature Writing. The Reader Interest Plane is kind of like five-card draw: Don’t show your cards too early. Generating a clever hook to initially grab a reader, then keeping them on the line by slowly reeling them in is the name of the game. Putting everything into the first couple of paragraphs will be a good story, but the end of it will be cut and dry. Who knows, the reader might not even make it to the end to see how dry it is.

The ideas that the writer has need to be organized in a manner that flows well, while also not revealing everything at once. The secret is in how these are organized. The book says this is the same between a newspaper article and a magazine feature (narrative hook, idea and transition). But, the paragraphs must also have climactic elements that build and build all the way through to the end. This will guarantee a lingering impression with the reader, and leave them impressed but also none the wiser to your carefully planned out story structure.


It’s Just An Outline

I remember taking speech class a couple years ago at Jones County Junior College, and we had an assignment that required us to make an entire outline of a five-minute speech. Easier said than done. What I took from that experience is that when delivering a story, whether it’s written or verbally, there has to be some element of organization to keep a steady flow in whatever is being delivered to the audience.

As writers, it can be easy for us to become frustrated with so many thoughts circling our mind when we are composing a feature story. The reading shares several tips on how to avoid that along with making the writing process easier. Whether it’s a simple outline with main topics and subtopics or an inverted pyramid, your story deserves some type of organization to help make it more compelling. The last thing you want is for your story to read off as a cluster of words with no meaning.

I’ve learned from past experiences with composing stories that it really helps to map out the sequence of ideas even before working on my rough draft. It’s like playing a game of spades. You set your cards up, see what you’re working with and play to your advantage in order to win. The same concept (sort of) applies to writing a feature story, set your main topics up, see what additional commentary and notes you’re working with and write to your advantage.

It never helps to immediately start writing a story with no sense of direction.

Lead them away from the zombies.

The only thing I know for sure is how to create a lead. I could write you any type of lead any type of way. I mean we have only been practicing writing leads since we began our education here. If you leave this school without knowing how to create a lead then that is on you as we have basically been brainwashed with leads.I love that Leading the Way was not really teaching new leads, but offering tips on how to create fantastic leads. It is time to stop learning new leads and time to start making our leads catch our readers attention. I can not tell you how many leads I have read from my local news station that makes me want to scream. Leads are one of the most important parts of the story. A terrible lead can make a reader run faster than if they had a herd of Walkers chasing after them. Your lead has to be the best thing you have ever written or you can forget about your reader even considering finishing your story. Trust me if the lead is awful I just cannot go on with the story.
Writers should also learn to speak simply to their readers. Do not pretend that your readers are stupid, but do not think they have the same vocabulary as you do. Your job is to make a story interesting, informing, or entertaining. Do not confuse your readers, because you enjoy big words. No, bad. If you can read your paper without going, “oh yeah I am a genius,” then your reader will probably enjoy your paper.

P.S. They should teach continuing education classes for journalist in how to perfect the lead.

Finding the English Major in You.

The more I do in this class, the more I realize that I’m just unlearning what I have been taught in the rest of the media writing curriculum.

In media writing there seems to be a lot of value put on simple sentences. Subject, verb, object and move on. We have deadlines to meet and the editors have not slept in two days. Now this book is giving radical ideas such as inverting the sentence for emphasis? Crazy.

Though there is something to changing up the sentence structure in even the hardest news stories. If the goal is to get the reader to the bottom of the page and across the break then adding diversity is important.

At the same time, the content of the story may be all one needs to carry a story. What’s scary about features is that split between content and style is much closer to 50/50. I know I have opened some poor written, but interesting, feature stories and quit after a few paragraphs. That also holds true the other way around.

I have gotten really comfortable hiding behind the content of a news story lately. This chapter has really made realize I need to rediscover my English major if I want to do well with features. Though now that English major is a little less likely to drone on due to writing on deadline, so maybe that won’t be a bad thing.