Archive for November, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21st, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

More bylines, no turkeys…

Michael Russell contributed to a video report on gourmet food trucks delivering free meals to struggling Red Hook residents.

The latest from the Mott Haven Herald includes Brianne Barry’s piece about a church’s 125th anniversary, Anna Teregulova’s story about a rally to save a school, Nicholas Wells’ article about FreshDirect’s controversial early entry into its proposed new headquarters, and a police blotter by Tanisia Morris and Elena Popina.

Keep up the good work!

Research-inspired enterprise option

November 13th, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

If you choose this option for your enterprise assignment, it should be a three-step process.

  1. Find a newsworthy statistic that interests you.
  2. Compare it to something.  (e.g. other geographic areas, the same statistic in previous years, etc.)
  3. Use reporting, and possibly more research, to determine and explain why your number compares as it does.  This will certainly involve identifying and interviewing experts on the subject.  In addition to getting them to explain “why,” you’ll probably want them to make suggestions for how to improve the number and/or predictions for the future.

Your research grade will be based on how well you handle items 2 and 3.  (Note: identifying and using experts will be part of your research grade no matter what enterprise option you choose.)

Common pitfalls to avoid (the first of which is more specific to this particular enterprise option; the others apply to any story):

  • 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.  The nut graf is often a good place for statistics.
  • Numbers without context: Reporting that there are 27 widget manufacturers in your CD means nothing without 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.  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.

Finding sources for stories

November 12th, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

Points of emphasis for critical thinking:

  • Experts should be one of your first thoughts as a source of information on any subject.  They can lend authority, accuracy, balance and credibility to your stories.  They may also refer you to other sources.
  • One good way to find experts is to do a Nexis or Factiva search on your story subject and see who has spoken on the topic in the past.
  • Another way is to seek out local or national organizations related to the topic.  One of my favorite tools is the Encyclopedia of Associations, an “old-fashioned” print resource available in our Research Center.  Online, you can use the school’s related Associations Unlimited account or the universally accessible Gateway to Associations.
  • Also worth checking is the school’s Leadership Library subscription, an online version of the well-known “Yellow Books.”  You can find contact information for the leaders of major United States government, business, professional, and non-profit organizations.
  • Government employees can often be of help.  Any New York City reporter should have the latest copy of the Green Book.
  • Many colleges and universities provide access to faculty and staff experts via their web sites, including CUNY and other local schools.   There are also web sites specifically devoted to connecting journalists with experts, such as ProfNet and the Yearbook of Experts.
  • Sources need not always be subject experts.  Acquaintances of people or witnesses to events would be prime examples.  ReferenceUSA is a great tool to find such sources.

For more ideas on finding experts, see Barbara Gray’s guide.

Never had a class with so many bylines!

November 10th, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

So you obviously survived Sandy, let alone the storm this week.

I noticed Brianne Barry, Jesse Metzger, Nathan Place and Shamanth Rao all made contributions to the “Scenes of Sandy” package on the News Service.

On the same theme over at the Herald, Irina Ivanova, Nicholas Wells and Alex Eidman teamed up to report the hurricane went easy on Mott Haven, and Tanisia Morris took the neighborhood business angle on the story.

Moving to the police beat, we’ve had recent contributions from Nathan Place and Sofia Perpetua, Jessica Glazer and Michael Russell and Alex Eidman and Anna Teregulova.

Ms. Glazer also had a piece on a rooftop garden opening atop a charter school.

And last but not least, Ann Marie Awad reported on Puerto Ricans voting for statehood.

Finally see you again Tuesday!  ‘Til then, I’ll keep holding down the fort in our New Orleans bureau (hee hee)…

Yup, that's me this week with the Saints' actual Lombardi trophy from Super Bowl 44.

Yup, that's me this week with the Saints' actual Lombardi trophy from Super Bowl 44.

Your research geek goes viral…

November 1st, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

Hope everyone survived Sandy unscathed.  Sorry I missed you this week, especially since I know a few of you wanted to discuss your beat memos.

Anyway, a big reason I had been a little slow getting them back to you last month was because I was working on this and this, which comprise an enterprise project I undertake every five years.

And today, it’s worth it as news of the project makes its way around the web, such as here and here.

It’s nice to be recognized.  Particularly when your name is spelled correctly (hint, hint). 😉

See ya soon!

The world is mine!

The world is mine!