Step 2: Report
After a News Decoder editor has provided feedback on your pitch, it’s time to begin reporting. Reporting is the process of gathering information through:
- Witnessing events
Reporting is a skill that can be learned like any other. Read on for tips on how to report effectively. Then prepare for your interviews by completing News Decoder’s 20-minute E-Learning course Reporting 101: Interviewing Fundamentals.
Follow the guidelines and steps below when you begin to report.
Conduct at least two interviews.
While reporting and interviewing, collect “color” – descriptions of what your five senses experience – that will bring your story alive.
Do not use secondary sources, only primary.
Tell your editor if you cannot meet your deadline and set a fresh deadline.
To build a compelling story, conduct research to gather data and information. Effective research entails identifying strong primary sources and reading them carefully to extract the material information in context.
- Use primary sources. Primary sources include reports, studies, academic papers, books and surveys that have been published by reputable and authoritative sources, such as the OECD, World Bank, Pew Research Centre or universities, to name a few. It is generally not acceptable to use secondary sources such as other news articles as sources in your story.
- Stay organized. When conducting your research, it’s important to stay organized. Save copies of reports, studies and papers to your computer, or the hyperlinks to them if they’re accessible online. Staying organized will save you time down the road, as your story will need to reference a source for every statement that is not generally accepted as fact.
- Take notes. When reviewing your primary sources, take notes of key information and its context. Make sure your notes indicate where you are quoting directly from the primary source or paraphrasing the information. You’ll need to make this clear in the story. Good note-taking will make it easy to draft content once you’ve finished gathering your raw materials.
Interviews enable you to gather unique and distinctive information from primary sources such as experts, eyewitnesses or individuals affected by the topic in question. The information you collect will help you create multimedia content that is original, authoritative and compelling.
If you are producing a reported story, you should interview at least two individuals, and your interviewees should represent different viewpoints. This will help ensure your story is balanced. Interviews can be conducted in person or by phone or video.
Secure an interview
In your preliminary research, you likely came across the names of individuals and organizations who are knowledgable about your story’s subject matter. Reach out to an interviewee by email or phone — and be persistent! You may have to follow up once or twice.
When requesting an interview, identify who you are; where you go to school; why you want to interview that person; where the information from your interview will appear (such as in a News Decoder story or school essay); and how long the interview will take (i.e. 10-15 minutes).
Prepare for your interview by researching the interviewee’s background: where they live and work, what they do, and what they have previously said or published on the subject in question.
Gathering this information in advance will demonstrate you are prepared, well-informed and mature.
Before the interview, prepare a list of questions. Do not ask questions that have been answered in the public domain already. Smart and nuanced questions elicit interesting answers.
Capture the interview
Take copious notes during the interview, highlighting key sections. You may want to record it, but be sure to inform the interviewee that you are recording to ensure you get the details right. They may want to review their quotes before you use them, but do not share your entire article with them before publication.
At the start of the interview, set sourcing ground rules: always push for the interview to be on the record and agree on how they will be identified in your story.
Conduct the interview with these tips:
- Begin with your prepared questions. You may find it easiest to start by asking the questions you’ve prepared in advance. As the conversation evolves, there may be opportunities to go “off script” — that is, diverge from your list of questions. That’s often the most newsworthy part of the interview.
- Listen actively. Effective interviewing hinges on active listening. Really listen to what the interviewee is saying and ask follow-up questions, even if this means diverging from your list of prepared questions.
- Note interesting details. Throughout the interview, take note of interesting quotes and details that give “color” to your story, such as intriguing aspects of the venue, the interviewee or their body language. These details can be used to draw readers into the story and bring a situation to life.
- Ask open-ended questions. At the very end of the interview, ask the interviewee if you have missed anything or if there is anything they would like to add. These open-ended questions can often be crucial for giving the interviewee an opportunity to expound on something you haven’t asked.
- Say thank you. Be sure to thank the interviewee for sharing his or her insights and taking the time to speak with you.
A good reporter gets out into the world to witness events first-hand and capture information about them in written notes, photographs or video recordings. In journalism, this is sometimes referred to as “shoe-leather reporting.”
If you’re producing a story on something that is happening in your school, community, state or country, consider whether there’s a way for you to witness some aspect of the event and incorporate what you learn into your story.
Keep the these tips in mind when covering events:
- Gain access. Consider whether you’ll need permission to attend an event. If so, contact someone in advance to request approval to attend.
- Be prepared. Obtain the equipment you’ll need to effectively capture information in the moment, such as a recorder, notepad, phone or camera.
- Be observant. Pay attention to details about the physical space and the people who are there. You can transport readers to the scene by sharing interesting details that you witnessed. Engage all of your senses.
- Interview those around you. Conduct spontaneous interviews with individuals at the scene. Ask questions that aim to understand what brought the person to the event and what they think or feel about it.
- Safety first! Never put yourself at risk to be a witness. If you have concerns about your ability to safely attend an event, consult your teacher, parents or News Decoder.
I’ve finished reporting. What’s next?
Once you’ve finished gathering information from your research, interviews and reporting, you’re ready to start drafting!
Learn techniques for producing compelling media content in the next step of the publication process, Draft.