Most people were never taught to report when they were younger – let alone embark on a journalism degree. Interestingly enough, I’ve got a journalism degree, but I have to admit that it’s not something I’ve used a lot on my professional journey. Lately, I’ve been doing some thinking about the situations when I do use my journalism skills.
When people share stories, they sometimes forget that it’s not really about them – their stories are important because of the facts and ideas behind them. The power of sharing is enhanced by the quality of the information you’re using. Your well-researched ideas should become the real story, instead of your ego.
Because it’s the information that truly matters. This is the essence of true journalism. But who is doing it well….
My friend Robert Scoble is a prime example and he effectively shares quality information about Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, and he’s not necessarily working for a news outlet. He’s got his own journalism degree and uses his journalism skill set to tell stories, shares high-quality information in his sector and Robert presents it in a unique, personal way through social channels and live video.
So, here are 5 ways to train yourself to take a more journalistic approach to your reporting on any subject:
Research at least 3 credible sources
Extensively researching your subject is the key to good reporting. Being able to uncover the most interesting, informative ideas and then present them in a concise, clear way is the way to get a handle on any story. So, you must gather information about your topic to gain more insight and authority before you write. Your information must be credible and robust, as it will make up the heart of your reporting.
Credible sources can be people, public records, academic journals, newspaper articles – basically, well-researched and authentic sources that can back-up your claims and assertions. In an era of fake news, making sure your sources are credible is more important than ever. Look at the author, how recent a source is, the purpose of the source and who it’s aimed at.
Having at least 3 sources strengthens your writing and gives it more reliability. If your claims can’t be reinforced then they’ll be easily challenged.
List both sides of the argument
Balanced reporting is about outlining both sides of an argument. You can have more focus on certain ideas and perspectives, but opening your arguments up to the other side of the coin makes them stronger because you’re showing that you’re not a blinkered storyteller. Refusing to acknowledge other perspectives and arguments isn’t healthy personally and it’s not healthy in your writing process either.
Good reporting is about presenting the facts and information in a clear way to your audience. Avoid using generalizations, write truthfully and collaborate with others to ensure that you’re writing in a fair, balanced way.
The BBC is one of the best examples of using balanced reporters; their impartiality and tax-payer funding means that their coverage of issues must always show a broad range of perspectives. Take a look at their articles and you’ll find a range of views when they cover politics, public policy, and business matters.
Interview others (on both sides)
When you’re interviewing people, you’re gathering information from primary sources. In order to get the best stories and perspectives from your sources, you need to prepare and lay the groundwork for a successful interview. Plan your interviews, sort out the subjects you want to cover and construct some quality questions beforehand. By educating yourself on a subject, you’ll feel confident when asking questions.
Decide what you want to find out, what you’re trying to tell your audience, who your audience is and how you can cover differing perspectives. Contact a range of sources that enable you to gather widespread information and perspectives on a subject.
Keep your questions focussed and concise, so you’re not asking loaded questions that influence your source to answer in a certain way. You also want to make sure your questions are easy to understand and don’t confuse people.
Open-ended questions allow your interviewees the chance to answer in lots of detail too. Give your interview room for spontaneity too and ask follow-up questions too. T
Be yourself and be appropriate.
Present your findings
You must structure your reporting in an effective way. Having high-quality, insightful information is a great start, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t present your findings properly. Organize your information before you start writing. Map out the key points, stats and quotes you’re going to use – decide which sources to use and the notes and observations to back up your main ideas.
Your story needs to lead with attention-grabbing assertions that introduce your findings in a persuasive way. Set the tone for your piece early on and give reasons for your audience to keep reading.
You can then work on the main ethos of your article. Make sure that you’re giving a full, comprehensive account of the claims your making and covering all of the necessary information. Answer who, what, where, why, and how, so your piece isn’t missing material.
Use an active voice, different viewpoints, varied sentence structure and quoted sources to make your piece readable and easy to digest.
Rinse and repeat for reporting the same topic
By creating a suite of articles on the same topic, you can build your authority and expertise in a certain area. Consistently writing fantastic, informative content will help you to grow your personal brand. Look at SEO whizz-kids Brian Dean and Neil Patel who have become thought leaders through informative, data-driven content.
You can position yourself as a thought leader and someone with credible ideas about a subject. Creating a strong association between yourself and your subject means that people will come to you for reliable analysis and insight.