Research-inspired enterprise story

February 17th, 2009 by Jack Styczynski

I’ll use the same parameters I established in Craft I for this assignment, which most of you didn’t get and the others can benefit from doing again.  Click here to read the required three-step process.  Pitch is due 3/10, although earlier is better.

Also, having gone through this once already, I can now point out some common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Back-end research: Don’t conjure up a story idea and then try to figure out how to fit (statistical) research into it.  That’s backwards.  The research is supposed to inspire the story.  In fact, don’t even bother making a pitch unless you already have the data that inspired your story idea.  Once you start writing, if you find yourself several paragraphs into the story before you’ve mentioned any numbers, you’re also “back-ending” it.  A research-inspired enterprise story needs the research up high.  If not in the lead, then shortly thereafter.
  • Numbers without context: Reporting that there are 27 widget manufacturers in your CD means nothing without some context.  How many were there five years ago?  What is the difference from the average CD?  Get it? Some kind of comparison is vital.  Chronological or geographical comparisons are two of the most common and accepted.
  • Statistical overload: Don’t operate on the “more is better” principle.  All you really need is one good statistic to inspire your story.  That’s not to say you’re limited to one, but don’t bombard us.  Cramming too many numbers into a story often clouds the theme or makes the necessary backup reporting too unwieldy.

Helpful hints: Interesting statistics you found while researching your beat memos may make for good story ideas.  Many of the sites listed on my NYC.gov handout are treasure troves of statistical information.

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