Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

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.

April’s best

April 30th, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

Thanks again for a great semester, everyone!  Here’s the last batch of bylines…

Amital Isaac reported on the New York Botanical Garden’s annual Orchid Show for the News Service.

At the Local, Erin Horan wrote about Ed Towns’ love of golf and covered a Stop the Violence march in Fort Greene.

And I finished up my season-long series on the most important college basketball statistics.

Research bonus: The Research Center has posted some excellent videos on Factiva and a new mobile app, with the latter hosted by one of your classmates (ask Melissa her middle names…LOL).

Double bonus: Check out the new online photo gallery from New York City Department of Records Municipal Archives, as noted on the New York Times City Room blog.

One more: Here’s a good article on the state of advanced searching in Google.

And a flashback: This week marks a major anniversary.

Latest and greatest

March 31st, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

For those of you who missed Gary Price’s webinar on Tuesday, here’s a link to the tools he reviewed.

I know you remain busy.

Gwen McClure covered a hunger strike in protest of China’s occupation of Tibet.

Tom DiChristopher profiled a Brooklyn skateboarding pioneer, with an accompanying slideshow.

Alexander Tucciarone collaborated on a story and video about families rallying for justice in the Trayvon Martin case.

And Erin Horan wrote about the new Urban Assembly Unison School.

March Madness update: I continued my relentless pursuit of hoop truth here and here.

Last but not least: Congratulations to Class of ’09 graduate Maya Pope-Chappell, who’s soon headed to Hong Kong to be an online news editor for the Wall Street Journal Asia. You can watch Maya’s latest below. One of my best students ever!

Martin’s tip and byline madness

March 13th, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

Last week after class Martin Burch tipped me off to another resource for archival video. Check it out at archive.org.

With that, it’s about time for another round of links to your work.

Alexander Tucciarone contributed to a City Limits package on the participatory budgeting process.

Minty Grover profiled a first-time novelist.

And Erin Horan recently wrote stories about an arrest for murder, a replacement school and redistricting.

The bonus: It’s that time of year when I’m “feelin’ the madness.”  I recently wrote about Jeremy Lin’s replacement, five college basketball programs going nowhere fast and some others to watch in the NCAA tournament this month.

March is the month that gives me the energy of a kid!

March is the month that gives me the energy of a kid! (Photo courtesy: not AP...LOL)

Highlighting your work…and more

February 21st, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

It’s been a busy month and I’ve yet to post any news, so here goes.  For starters, I bow to your reporting efforts…

Evan Buxbaum wrote about a plan to bring a Gourmet market to Melrose.

Erin Horan has news on a Baptist church and some Black History Month profiles.

And Minty Grover is also on the Black History Month profiles beat.

Speaking of profiles, I finished mine on Staten Island hoopster O.D. Anosike; only you know how a clip search made it better.  And as long as I’m citing my own work, see if you can figure out the background research I did on this profile of a woman boxer.

Last but not least, here’s the promised Facebook page I mentioned in class that includes a number you can call to check if someone is a Level 1 sex offender in New York.

The bonus: Next time we’ll be discussing how to find video and graphics for use in your stories.  For a preview, watch the segment below that I helped out with just yesterday!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Research-inspired enterprise option

November 3rd, 2011 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.  As I mentioned last month in class, 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.

Beat memo advice

September 19th, 2011 by Jack Styczynski

Some things to keep in mind when compiling your beat memo:

  1. Don’t skip questions.  You’d think this would go without saying, but based on past experience, it needs to be said.  If you’re having problems with a question, ask us for guidance.  We won’t give you answers, but we will try to point you in the right direction.  This is not like my final research quiz, where in the interest of time I do suggest skipping questions that give you too much trouble.  In this case, you have more than enough time to overcome problems.
  2. Whenever possible and wherever applicable, we want you using primary sources to answer questions.  There may be some that require the use of secondary sources, but sourcing answers from other media outlets is not permitted.  So no links to newspaper articles or the like.  That’s not to say you can’t scan articles to figure out where those outlets got their information, but then you have to go to the primary source and get the info yourself.
  3. Speaking of links, whenever you get information from an online source (especially statistical data), provide a DIRECT LINK to that information in your answer.  For example, sourcing an answer as just “NYC.gov” or even the department on NYC.gov is not acceptable.  If for any reason providing a direct link is not possible, give step-by-step instructions on how to get the info online.  (Sometimes this is necessary with searchable databases.)   All that said, not every question is designed to be answered with an online source, so for those, you obviously don’t have to be concerned with providing a link.  Some are more of the “reporting” variety and others are more of the “research” variety.  It will be up to you to determine which is which.  Show us that you can get your boots on the ground as well as your fingers on a keyboard.  And don’t be afraid to make phone calls either.  Some people are too averse to that.
  4. There are some questions that are common to everyone and others that are specific to your beat.  As such, the latter are of greater importance to your individual beat memo grades.

Last but not least, remember that my lesson and the accompanying handout posted here August 29th were designed in part with the beat memo in mind.  So you’ll certainly want to peruse those, as well as the related post by Barbara Gray.

The M?ammar conundrum

September 7th, 2011 by Jack Styczynski

Remember yesterday’s Factiva search when I used only the Libyan leader’s first name because there are so many different spellings of his surname?  I said using the “atleast” command to narrow the results of that search would be difficult, but for that specific search in just two sources (Reuters and WSJ), I now realize I could have used it without much trouble.  After I got my initial set of results, I could have scanned the stories to see what surname spellings those sources use, and assuming they spell the same way all the time, gone back and plugged them into an “atleast” command, such as atleast6 (gaddafi or gadhafi).  Or in this case, since the two sources use similar spellings, atleast6 (gad?afi).  The ? wild card character should work here because it represents the fourth character in the word.  Our problem yesterday with m?ammar was that Factiva didn’t accept the wild card as one of the first three characters in a word.

But again, this is only because I was searching a limited number of sources.  Had I been searching all sources, which would have many more different spellings of the surname, using the “atleast” command becomes tougher.

That’s not to say you couldn’t take a swing at it though.  For example, something like atleast6 (gad* or qad* or khad*) might catch most of the surname iterations.  (Remember that * is the truncation character in Factiva, as opposed to the wild card character in Nexis.)

Final roundup

May 25th, 2011 by Jack Styczynski

On the News Service, Alva French had a piece on a mecca for graffiti artists.

Nathan Frandino and Annais Morales did a story on a New Yorker who recycles old bikes. Ms. Morales was also back in the New York Post last month. In addition, busy Annais had a contribution on the latest episode of “219 West”, as did Alcione Gonzalez, Sherrina Navani and Michael McCutcheon.

Elsewhere, Ad Age recently had a nice breakdown of The Demographics of Social Media. Speaking of which, check out The Most Complete Twitter Application List Available.

And what would the last post of the school year be without another Census tool?

Best semester ever.  Now please go out and kick you-know-who’s you-know-what in a research contest.

Have a great summer!

Broadcast Craft, Spring 2011: I'm expecting fame and fortune from this crew.

Broadcast Craft, Spring 2011: I'm expecting fame and fortune from this crew.

Last words: Until we meet again, Uncle Don.

Happy Easter!

April 24th, 2011 by Jack Styczynski

First of all, prayers for my irrepressible cousin Tricia and a New Orleans recovery miracle.

And for those not celebrating this joyous holiday, I’ve got good wishes (and another useful Census link) for you too.

Census data continues to be released and one way to keep up is through the bureau’s own Random Samplings blog.

See you again on May 4th for a special court research session.  Don’t miss it!