Week 2 (19/2): How the sausage is made

The American press reports on 9/11. Photo: Ann Althouse/flickr/CC

BY MARK GATELY

What is a news conference?

News conferences are meetings to plan a newspaper/magazine/website/TV or radio show’s next edition/broadcast and take place multiple times in the run-up to deadline.

People involved will include:

  • The editor
  • Deputy editor
  • Chief of staff
  • Section editors (Sport, Features, Business, Digital, etc)
  • The photographic department
  • The art department
  • Reporters

What goes on:

  • Stories and photos are pitched to the editor
  • Major news stories discussed and angles explored
  • Section editors provide a rundown on their own news list
  • The first draft of the news list is decided upon
  • Assignments are handed out

Here’s how Spotlight, the 2015 Oscar winner for Best Picture, portrayed not just a news conference but the pursuit of the resulting story – including the section editor meeting with his reporters.

Where does news come from?

The stories which get pitched in news conference come from a variety of sources:

  • Reporters
  • Section editors
  • Media releases
  • Wire services
  • Contacts
  • Whistleblowers
  • Leaks
  • Events calendars
  • Reader tips
  • Social media
  • Other media outlets/platforms

That’s a lot of input, right? Which is why a news conference is necessary. They help to triage story ideas, to establish priorities, so the most important or interesting ones are provided with the resources they need and given the prominence they demand.

But it’s not just about writing out a list. Political, ethical and legal debates are also had and often result in stories being delayed or abandoned.

Even the reporters responsible for one of journalism’s most iconic stories had to convince sceptical editors they had the goods – and that the risk was worth taking.

Story ideas

Last week we finished class by researching ideas for stories. This week we will split up into smaller groups and spend some time kicking around ideas before the best are pitched to the whole class.

These groups, if possible, will be loosely arranged by areas of interest such as sport, politics, crime, entertainment, the environment, social justice and human interest.

Group members will take it in turn to pitch to the whole class each week.

Volunteers

We are also looking at class members who are interested in taking on more formal editing roles. This will involve working with myself and the other students in the development and publication of stories.

Author: veritychambers

Journalist and teacher

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