The essential questions of a journalist

Posted on January 4, 2013


This category of posts is aimed to provide you with advice, guide lines, tips and golden rules I have learned during my master in International Journalism and I have still been learning by being a journalist.  Post by post I will teach you the main structures of the different articles, you will learn appropriate research methods, adequate techniques, words and lengths for each type of article; the right methods and approaches for interviews and the essential differences of the diverse platforms.

Let’s get started.

In this first post I want to highlight some rules you have to follow, despite the type of article you are going to write. As a journalist, you must ask yourselves some essential questions:

  • What is my role?

Anyone becomes a journalist for their very own reasons but there is a universal role which is the one of the Mediator.  As a journalist, you are in charge of informing people about what happens in the world; you have several instruments in order to accomplish this mission and the most essential is the truth: readers deserve true facts; they should never, ever be misinformed.  Consider it as a capital sin. Thus, you should always verify the reliability of all the material you collect and then write the story.

  • What does make a story worthy reading?

1) Something that affects many people. Think about that: you are more likable to be interested in something to which you can relate best.  If the shooting occurred in Connecticut, for example, had happened at the school in your home town, or the school you attended during your childhood, your feelings – as well as your empathy and therefore you interest – would have been much more stronger.

2) A big tragedy, a shocking event. The surprise is a big element when it comes to catch readers’ attention.

Advice: Given the story, look for the most interesting /surprising fact and use it as intro. However, do not reveal everything at the beginning as you want to keep the reader’s attention throughout the piece.

3) A “What’s next?” story. The incertitude, the doubt, any possible speculation stimulates the reader’s mind and make them willing to know as many details as they can in order to satisfy their curiosity.

4) Controversy. A controversial story make readers feel more attached to the topic as their own ideas come into play. Think about political election, referendums, euthanasia, gay marriage, etc..

5) Everything related to famous people. Out there there are thousands who live just for the Gossip.

  • Who is my audience? 

This is a key question you will always ask yourself (will you?) as the answer defines the language you are going to use, ( if you are writing for a teen magazine you should not use an intricate, scientific language…maybe put some teen expressions here and there. If you write for non-native speakers use a simple and common language), the length of the article ( it really depends on the platform you want to use and the style of the magazine/ website you write for), the people to interview (if you write for a women’s magazine, for example, you should interview a woman, possible of the same age of the readers and whose interests are the same as the readers’. However, this does not always apply).

  • Where do I get my ideas from?
  1. First of all, read! Magazines, newspapers, books, blogs, websites, placards, leaflets etc… Read every type of articles in order to gain ideas and to understand what people are most interested in. Most of the times you can use a story from a piece you read to make your own article by choosing different angles, by stating the opposite opinion or by making an extension of it. 
  2. Use Twitter. There is no best thing such as this social media to discover trends.
  3. Use your personal experience. People will definitely relate to it. ( A friend of mine had an abortion few years ago. She decided to write a blog about it and she has now thousands of followers and supporters).
  4. Look for important historical anniversaries or upcoming events
  5. Watch movies, you can get ideas and also write a review, if it’s your kind of writing
  6. Read statistics. You can create an article by comparing and contrasting tendencies and facts in different countries.
  7. Look around you
  8. Talk to people, do not be shy! The bets stories come out when you are not looking for them.

That’s all for today. I hope you found it useful. If you enjoyed reading and you learned something, wait for the next one.

Posted in: BeaJournalist