Expectations in Journalism
Journalism has been defined as an engagement of free society's conversation with itself in democratic art; a can-and-must pursuit for the daily truths that people operate by. Most salient is its ability to construct the truth. In his book The Sociology of News, Michael Schudson says, "Journalists normally work with materials that real people and real events provide. But by selecting, highlighting, framing, shading, and shaping in reportage, they create an impression that real people -- readers and viewers -- then take to be real and to which they respond in their lives."
In a place where the consequences of making mistakes are direly grave, where do beginning writers fit in? Like all writers in the field before them, they live and learn. Pieces in journalism demand accuracy, an interest or relevancy to the reader, and require the writing to be technically correct. Each of these aspects have their own individual importance:
Interest and Relevance
This is perhaps the most salient of expectations in a story a writer takes on. As the aforementioned definitions suggest, news prompts thinking. If the topic of the story isn't particularly interesting, the goal of the writer should be to engage the reader through his or her writing. What good is a story if it's never read? And then, why would a reader choose to read a story that's not interesting nor relevant to his or her life? (There is an exception, see Developing a Good Story) However, this can prove difficult to a novice writer and stories are liable to be spun in way that distorts facts, so make sure to avoid this huge mistake through...
Accuracy, or getting the facts right.
A story that is spun may omit or include aspects into a story that aren't true. Spinning stories, although it can deeply engage the reader, is dangerous and immoral in journalism. This video of a Fox News coverage provides an example of spin in the media.
When writing a story, facts should checked time and time again, sources analyzed, and of course, no method of spin should be used in the final presentation. This applies to all mediums of coverage in print, video, online, and radio. Writers caught using spin or constantly getting facts wrong are bound to have their reputations ruined.
Technicalities are similarly important to getting the facts right. They show that a writer has carefully crafted the story to reflect the best knowledge with the facts available at the given time of the story. Readers will not take the story or writer seriously when technicalities are not consistently correct. Examples include grammatical errors, and many others like abbreviations, addresses, quotations, weapons, even the weather. For example, if writing about a wind storm, know that gale force winds range from 34-54 mph, whereas high wind persists for longer than hour above 39 mph.
For more on technicalities, see our page devoted to them!