A personal note

If you are new to news writing, and the format seems really weird, don’t panic — yet.

When I was in graduate school — here at AU — a zillion years ago, I was unable to craft a lead for quite some time. I couldn’t get it! Not until I kept writing, writing, writing, and after I worked at the radio station, did the rhythm of a story settle into my brain. The best thing to do is practice. And to read very clear news writing by others.

I would suggest you read news stories on CNN, BBC and NPR. Journalists in those organizations write for broad audiences, and must be crisp and clear. Not that it is necessarily fun, but focus on breaking news about weather, crime, war, accidents, trials and more. They usually follow the same format: A news lead; a second paragraph that supports the lead; a third paragraph that offers context or a quote; a fourth paragraph that offers context or a quote, and so on.

Read the stories aloud until you hear the beat of a news story. I promise it will kick in.

Professor Eisman


Avoid common writing errors by doing the following:

1. Write in active voice, not passive voice. (Check out Grammar Girl for tips)

2. Put punctuation inside quotations. We are not in GB.

3. Use quotes as gems. If a quote is not special — conveying emotion, or important information from someone important — then paraphrase it. Quotes slow down stories, but used correctly, can propel your article forward.

4. It is the web. Be interactive, have archives, add links. But do not have a “sea of blue.” Link key words.

5. Check AP Style. It is very goofy and sometimes confusing. But most news organizations — online and not — follow some style format. AP is common. You have access to AP style online. Use it.

6. Please don’t err on the big ones: who/whom; which/that; its/it’s; there/their.

7. Organizations are not “they.” Officials, spokesmen, leaders … all are “they.” The FDA is an “it.” If you want to use “they,” say, “Officials at FDA today said … ”

8. Avoid most acronyms anyway. Some are OK, like CIA. But not the made-up acronyms of groups formed just to fight Washington.

9. Check your spelling.

10. Use one thought per paragraph.

11. Be consistent in tense. USUALLY news stories are written in past tense while feature stories are written in present tense.

12. Remember that you attend the School of Communication, not the School of Communications.

More later …

Professor Eisman


Grammar quiz and news gathering


  • Grammar quiz:
  1. Take the 50-question Grammar Mastery Test.
  2. When you’re done, click the Grade Quiz button at the bottom of the page and review your responses.
  3. Print out and closely study the Quiz Results page.
  4. Take the test again until you score 50/50 (aka 100%)
  5. Bring to class a printed copy (or screen grab) of the final score.

You’ll find that this test quiz will be a big help in the graded quiz on Thursday.

  • Electronic clip file
  1. Create an account on Diigo.com.
  2. Follow the instructions for placing a bookmarklet on your Web browser’s bookmarks bar.
  3. Bookmark and tag a few sites (you can keep them private if you like).



All news gathering rests on three pillars: interviews, observation and background research:


Legal liability:


Class recap: shooting day! And tomorrow’s editing homework.

Bootcamp teams fanned out across the metropolitan area today aiming to shoot an array of video projects. Tomorrow, we edit!

Note: Prof. Olmsted has uploaded the PowerPoint used by Jan Schaffer, SOC’s Entrepreneur in Residence, in her presentation on the digital landscape. The PowerPoint can be found in the Content area of the course site on Blackboard.

Editing-related Homework: To prepare for tomorrow’s editing of your footage on Final Cut Pro X, it’s important for you to get acquainted in advance with interface basics. So please review the six clips cited below. They can all be found on Lynda.com. As an AU student you have free access to Lynda tutorials. First log in with your school credentials at:


Then click to the Final Cut Pro X Essential Training tutorial. Study the following clips (the time in minutes and seconds follows the clip name):

  • Understanding the world of nonlinear editing 5m 2s
  • Taking a tour of the FCP X interface 8m 59s
  • Accessing additional tools 6m 23s
  • Performing video- and audio-only edits 3m 45s
  • Adjusting the audio level and channel configuration via the Inspector 8m 47s
  • Creating and adjusting titles 7m 18s