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Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Pollak’

Leading my workshop on Making Routine Stories Special. Photo by Bryan Cantley

Leading my workshop on making routine stories special. Photo by Bryan Cantley

I’m updating some old workshop handouts that I think will be helpful in teaching journalism, maybe in some of my classes, maybe in some of yours. “Make routine stories special” was my most popular workshop about a decade ago, when most of my training focused on traditional writing, reporting and editing skills as well as leadership.

In a meeting of Digital First Media editors in New Haven last year, Tony Adamis of the Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y., suggested that some tips in improving coverage of routine news would be helpful, and I promised to dust off this handout and update it. Well, that evening I learned about upcoming upheaval at Digital First Media that would bring the end of my job. So it took me a while to get around to it, but here it is.

What I’ve done here is grab an old copy of my workshop handout from those days, dated April 2003, update it with some newer tips on making routine stories special and add some links. I’ll also update references to the journalists who provided some advice for this workshop when I was doing it originally more than a decade ago and provide links, where I could find them, to the journalists today. Where I could not learn what some journalists are doing today, I have cut them out.

In most cases, I could not find the stories referenced still online, but I’ve linked to stories where I could. I welcome your help in updating this with new stories and links illustrating these techniques as well as new tips for covering routine stories.

After my tips, I’ll tell the anecdote I used to use in the workshops, a story involving the cap I’m wearing in the photo above. So here are my updated tips for making routine stories special: (more…)

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This is another Training Tracks blog post from the No Train, No Gain archive. It originally posted March 29, 2005. Any updates from me are in bold. It includes links to a couple of my favorite stories and some outstanding narratives by other writers.

When a reporter asks for help, a writing coach needs to respond with helpful advice right away.

When I was writing coach at the Des Moines Register, a reporter asked me to take a look at a draft of a story he was working on. I said I’d take a look and get back to him. But I was busy. I can’t remember what I was busy with, but a day slipped by, then a couple of days, then a week or two. Then I found out I would need surgery and I was off work for a little more than a month. As I was sifting through the mound of stuff that accumulated while I was gone, I found the reporter’s story. It was an enterprise story that hadn’t run yet, so I responded with some advice and an apology. The reporter was understanding, probably giving me a pass because of the surgery. But he never asked for my help again.

The best training opportunity is when someone wants to learn. Ever since I blew off that reporter, I try to drop what I’m doing and respond right away when someone asks me for help. Pride of authorship keeps too many reporters from asking for help. When one does request help, that is an excellent opportunity for a writing coach or editor to have an impact and teach a new skill. (more…)

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