Cutting through the clutter

CAJ live events

Cutting through the clutter

Session hashtag: #CAJ16clutterYour cellphone’s buzzing.Someone’s mentioned you in a tweet.Your Facebook, Twitter, Periscope and Vine time lines are scrolling faster than you can keep up with themPR flacks are deluging your inboxes with things they want you to write about.Your editor wanted a story pitch five minutes ago.How do you cut through the noise that increasingly fights for everyone’s attention — including yours as a journalist — and find the diamonds in the rough? The tip, the tidbit, the morsel of goodness that leads you to create journalism that endures?Jacqui Banaszynski will lead this session full of examples and practical tips you can use to help cut through the clutter and find the great stories.

  • Between social media, video, newsroom communication and actually speaking with sources and putting together stories, the modern journalist is balancing seemingly endless tasks at the time. How do we cut through the clutter? Jacqui Banaszynski, Knight Chair at the Missouri School of Journalism and international journalist, is going to give us some tips in what she's calling a brain-storming session. #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • A bit about Jacqui: No longer works as a reporter, put worked doing the "pre-digital" version of what you do now. Interned at Washington Post. In newspaper business, had to file for multiple editions, but didn't have to do audio and video. Most of career, up against bigger organizations with more resources, had to scramble, hard. #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • With all the tasks journalists have, how do we get to the Big Honking Project? @JacquiB speaks #caj16 #caj16clutter

  • Talking about a series of stories she worked on. A priest was fired from his diocese for something he wrote in the church press. She read a brief and start riffing; came up with about 50 questions, led to numerous story ideas. What is the motivation for his piece? Was this priest gay? How come Catholic church out in front dealing with HIV/AIDS hospices and whatnot, but can't deal with homosexuality? What is the church press? All the little stories, about eight in total, equated to the Big Honking Project. #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • Trick on writing a daily story back in the day was squinting, writing about what's going to be on the 11 o'clock news, write three paragraphs. #caj16 #caj16clutter

  • Started looking into different religions, dueling theologies. What leads to different perspectives on theology? Used this line of questioning to talk to priest in question, opened doors to talk to other bishops and again, led to about 6 or 7 separate stories. #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • Editors can't write blank cheques. If you say, I've got a clear idea, I can deliver it in x amount of time, they are likely going to say yes. #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • Started talking to other people about priest. Led to doing national police check. Found that preist had been assigned to parish in Florida in the past. One night was at a gay bar; assaulted by two men; When police interviewed him, he lied about where he had been. Police knew this and tipped off press. Police incident report and news story made it sound like they had outed the priest for hypocritcal actions. Jacqui made appt to meet with priest. I have paper, it's time to talk.   #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • Wanted to talk to priest about his story, shine a light on people not living their true lives because of the church. He did not want to participate, even though his story was already on paper; his mother did not know he was gay. A chance to divulge in journalism ethics. Editor did not let her write the story. Essentially, she said if you don't let me write this story, someone else will. Everything will be out there for the reader to infer. #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • Got a call from the priest six days later; he was living in fear that his story would come out. decided he cou;dn't live with the lie. Had a seven hour interview, got the Big Honking Story. #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • Stories come from events or concepts. You can either extrapolate from event, or narrow down from a concept. This priest story was from an event. Throughout the multiple stories, she was really researching for the Big Honking Story. #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • Thing a lot of journalists do by default; run out to the field, try to find out everything. They end up with schmear, like on a bagel. Without the bagel, it's not much. #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • @Jacqui If I want to go deep, I save sthng or earmark it. I want to go horizontal, not vertical. #caj16 #caj16clutter

  • Universal frustration reporters have: They can't get all  the info at one time. They get caught up in the grind, never get to it. Then forget about it.
     
    Take 2 minutes, riff, capture all the questions you have left over. 1) You will have readied yourself for the next day because you have follows. You've got a defence against all the incoming things. 2) You've got a clear concept to show what you want to work on.
     
    As time goes on, clear the clutter and keep the questions that really matter. These lead to Act 2 stories, Act 3 stories, etc. #caj16 #caj16clutter 
  • How to determine if you've got yourself stories to pursue: ask yourself 3 questions with every story.
     
    1) What's at stake? Make that your summary nut graf. 
     
    2) Who are the stakeholders? All of them, on either side of an issue.
     
    3) Who has the most at stake? This is where you find the most tension in the story. 
     
     #caj16 #caj16clutter 
  • Simplify what happens in stories by dividing them into four buckets. 
     
    1) Primary stuff - the news, something happened. Day 1 stories. 
     
    2) Reactionary stuff - people, institutions affected by primary stuff. 
     
    3) Background, contextual stuff - where did the story come from? Stories not one-time events, they come from somewhere
     
    4) Cool stuff - human element, "sparkle left on a chair at a hearing by strippers."
     
    These "buckets" don't have to be covered in the same story, but can be referenced throughout a series. 
     
    #caj16 #caj16clutter��
  • Story viability checklist. Whether and how to pursue?
     
    1) Imagine the maximum. What is the best story you could get if everything goes your way, you have no limitations? Make a list to get maximum story. 
     
    2) What are the minimums? What are your limitations?
     
    If you have a decent story left, go after it. If you don't move on.
     
    3) Figure out legitmate sources and access to those sources. 
     
    4) Story has to be fresh and timely. Don't mistake timeliness with immediacy. 
     
    5) Story has to be manageable. HAs to have a centre driven by singular question; the rest is supporting material. 
     
    6) Story has to have credibility.
     
    7) Want stories to be concrete, not speculative. Cannot answer a speculative question, just a bunch of talking heads. 
     
    8) Have, ideally, action of some sort or acutallity. Something in the real world. 
     
    9) Story built around a person, they have to be able to carry that weight and represent a bigger issue. 
     
    10) Have tension. Not conflict necessarily, but a reason to care about the story. 
     
    11) Need an outlet that can take your story. Bigger deal for freelancers, but still applies to journos in newsrooms - does outlet cover that issue/in geographic region?  
     
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  • Back to the priest; he and his mother were estranged after story came out. He came to accept it was on her, not him.
     
    Jacqui also went to his wedding and acted as his witness. She's the one who knows their whole story, they said. They still keep in touch. 
     
    #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • I don't transcribe; it's a waste of time in the modern world. Do NOT let it overtake notes. 
     
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  • If you take notes you have to be listening, you're forcing yourself to be in the moment. Note time stamps, if you really want to capture something.
     
    #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • Question - How do you navigate line between being a friend and being a journalist?
     
    Let the person know you are working and this is a professional relationship. 
     
    Your notebook or your camera signifies this. Make your working ground rules clear. 
     
    #caj16 #caj16clutter
  • Question: How do you circumvent communications people, lawyers - those people that keep you from getting in touch with your sources?
     
    Uses intermediaries all the time. Don't let up; keep trying to contact. 
    Evenutally builds trust with source because she keeps her word. 
     
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  • That's it for now. Thanks for your tips and stories Jacqui! #caj16 #caj16clutter
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