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Beginning reporter in need of advice... (1 Viewer)

Well, it seems I'm in a unique situation. Most of my writing experience has centered around fiction. Mainly short stories written purely as a hobbyist. Well, I've been job hunting and I saw a classified ad looking for writers. I sent two writing samples and interviewed. I really wanted the job, but in my heart knew that it could possibly be more than I could handle at this point. I guess they kinda liked the fact that I don't have a degree in journalism. The editor's vision is to have a paper that doesn't just "report" news, but to actually tell stories.

Anyhow, long story short... I got the job and I'm green as hell. Sure, I can write. But I'm struggling to develop a style. I had to rewrite three of the first stories I did, but the rewrites were much better and they were very happy with the result. I'm just looking for any advice you could give to a new reporter. Remember, I'm supposed to be writing stories. Interesting and engaging personal narratives about peoples' lives.

Any tips, suggestions, or advice regarding interviewing, structuring my articles, or simple logistical things that reporters struggle with would be appreciated.

thanks in advance


WF Veterans
I was 'as green as hell' when I started writing for a newspaper five years ago so I identify. Like you I didn't have a degree in journalism, or in anything for that matter as I've not been to university at all. (Teenage pregnancy put an end to that:).)

Though I mainly write my column (which is not quite the reportive writing you're doing) and travel peices I did write a six-month-long weekly reportive column some time back called 'A Day In The Life Of...' I interviewed people about their jobs, mainly to provide information for readers on what particular jobs entail.

To make these a little more interesting I listened, when interviewing my subjects, for a 'catch.' For example I spoke to a builder and he mentioned that he had his red checked shirt a long time before 'Bob The Builder' (UK childrens show) did and so he was way more cool. I used this line to open the article, and referred to it throughout. Putting factual info across can be tedious without a unique angle to raise it out of dullards-ville.

I was gonna scan and load up an example on here but it's way bigger than what's permitted and I can't reduce it enough. Not sure how to do a link to it either.

Good luck on everything though and congrats on the job!


I'm don't even hold a job (not old enough), but I can still give help right?

Well, I suggest making sure that when you interview people you're as nice as possible, and when you're interviewing you don't sound bored, but genuinly exicited, no matter what your real feelings are. And if you are getting things assigned to you, try to go the extra mile even if you really hate it, cause that's what makes you climb up the ladder in the industury.
Always try to make the reader want to keep on, like the above poster said, she found out about Bob (also in America) and she kept going back to that. For instance, I read an article simply because it was entitled 'Which Wrestilng Superstar considers himself a Barack Obama?' I read all the way through it, and it told me in the middle why he said that. I was so interested in teh beginning I kept on reading even after the question was answered cause it hooked me in. Which is what you wanna do.


Senior Member
You might even consider going on ebay and getting any of the several books by Mitch Albom.....not his fiction books but his books that are compilations of his columns for the detroit free press. He has been well received nationally, and though he is a sports columnist, his columns often deal with anything but sports and they are great examples of "slice of life" writing........


^ Dang, I knew I forgot someone...and for one more day is right here next to me...oh well, modfied is right, he's a good columinst and could suck you in if he was describing a cubicle.


Senior Member
My two cents, if you please.

First, when doing the interview, listen intently and actively, note questions down and ask them when there's a natural pause in the conversation. Don't interrupt your subjects train of thought. Too many interruptions and the only thing you'll end up with is a fragmented and shallow rendition. Try to keep a pleasant expression, welcoming and encouraging, but don't react too much to your interviewee or they'll start playing to your emotions. Watch their body language and make note of it in your notes where it occurs. Body language speaks volumes and there are books in kinesic interview techniques that can help you hone your skills. Make sure your interview takes place in a quiet, comfortable place where you won't be interrupted by people or other busyness in the environment around you.

Second, when relating the story back to your audience, picture them as one person, a friend, to whom you want to tell the real substance of the story. Don't be in a hurry to blurt it out -- too many writers do tend to seem in a hurry. Make sure you're covering all the senses, too, or as many as possible.

Third, study the essays of E.B. White. Your local library should have them all. He was a fantastic essayist and storyteller and you'd do well to learn from him. Don't try to mimic him. He has his style and you'll develop yours, but you'll find that he's a thinking man's man and that's what endeared him to generations of readers.

Finally, read your work out loud to yourself before you submit it. Record it if you must and listen to the piece. It will help you fine tune.