Practical tools to help journalists learn about what's happening in their communities and do a better job of reporting the news are spotlighted in a new set of four training videos from the Pew Center for Civic Journalism.
Each 13-minute video describes deliberate strategies that reporters, editors and producers around the country are using on a daily basis to conduct better interviews, tap new sources, discover new stories and report them better.
The videos in "A Journalist's Toolbox," for instance, show the difference between questions that "shut down" an interview and those that "open up" a conversation. They show how reporting on tensions or patterns rather than conflict can produce stories that "ring truer" to readers, viewers and listeners. They show how journalists can build a better community Rolodex.
"A Journalist's Toolbox" draws on the techniques and experiences of working journalists at The Charlotte Observer, The Orange County Register, The Virginian-Pilot, the Tampa Tribune and Tampa's WFLA-TV.
"Journalists need to retool some core competencies to met today's reporting realities," said Jan Schaffer, the Pew Center's executive director. "And journalists who are building on these skills discover quickly that they are doing better stories."
The videos build on the work of Richard Harwood, president of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, who has conducted Civic Mapping Seminars for the Pew Center and has served as a consultant for many news organizations.
"This video toolkit is one of our most extensive efforts to help civic journalists enlarge their skills beyond project journalism and to help all journalists develop some new routines and reflexes," Schaffer said.
The videos complement a newly revised workbook, "Tapping Civic Life. How to Report First, and Best, What's Happening in Your Community," a do-it-yourself manual for injecting fresh voices and citizen concerns into daily journalism. The workbook was prepared by The Harwood Institute.
The videos were produced with funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. They come with a discussion guide to help journalists engage in ways to improve their journalism.
Interviewing: New Questions, Better Stories - TRANSCRIPT
How a reporter asks questions can influence the answers. Learn interviewing techniques journalists can use to produce stories that "ring true" to readers and viewers. See how one type of question can "shut down" an interview and another "open up" a conversation. Discover the one question that will improve almost every interview. TRT: 14:17
Framing a Story: What's It Really About? - TRANSCRIPT
News is more than just conflict or controversy. Journalists who cover two sides of a story and believe it's balanced may be shortchanging themselves and their readers. Discover why stories that identify tensions or patterns may be more accurate, more interesting and more engaging to readers and viewers. TRT: 13:21
Finding Third Places: Other Voices, Different Stories - TRANSCRIPT
There is a lot of news in communities that reporters don't often visit. Find out how to spot "third places" in these communities and then use them as entry points to acquire useful information and sources. Develop the skills to tap into the conversations of people not in your Rolodex and enlist them as sources. TRT: 13:20
Tapping Your Community: What Don't You Know? - TRANSCRIPT
You can develop beats and get better news coverage by systematically tapping ordinary people who are knowledgeable about their community. See how news organizations are using civic mapping techniques and other skills to improve coverage and break stories. TRT: 12:52
Order your copy today! Send $10 per 4-video set to cover packaging and mailing. ($15 U.S. for mailing to Canada, all other international orders, $20 U.S.) with your Order Form to the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, 1101 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 420, Washington, DC 20036.