Tag Archives: writing

Playing with Ethics

There’s always a shade of gray when talking about ethics.
A rule of thumb that helps guide is: if you can’t tell your grandmother/parents about it, do not do it.

Ethics in writing tell you to attribute, attribute, attribute.
Ethics in photography say if your eye did not see it, don’t edit it in.
I do not know what ethics in video are about. I assume it is the same as it is for pictures. After all, video is motion picture.

I write articles for my campus newspaper and I have not once been inclined to misquote, put in information that did not happen or make up sources. ‘Course, I mostly write the crime beat and there’s not much you can fiddle with there (at least, I don’t think so).

Out of curiosity, I looked up some instances of unethical writing. What I read showed me journalists usually pull a fast one when it comes to citing sources, which does not make sense to me. How difficult could it be to talk to someone on a topic?

This article mentions unethical examples of journalism in the year 2005 (I think). Barbara Stewart’s example confused me the most. How do you fabricate a hunt when you were not physically in the situation, especially if said situation is in Canada? However she did it, kudos to her imagination (or research. Of course it was research!).

Just for fun, I took one of my stories and came up with ways I could have made it more “newsworthy”.

First: I could have given a number of girls the officer raped.
Second: I could have “forgotten” to use the word consensual.
Third: I could have reworded Flakne’s quote to make it sound like he does not think Columbia Police Department (CPD) does a good job. Admittedly, doing so would have required skill I do not think I have.
Fourth: I could have written how this is a problem CPD has faced before. I could have said they faced this recently.
Fifth: the example I quoted from Sergeant Bernhard could have been used to “validate” my fourth point.

It is a good thing I did not do that. It gives me slight shivers to think how that story could have been manipulated in five different ways. Yikes!


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A Lakshna story

Title credit: Sarah Hill

I am not much of a video person. For me, the written word always holds more power than sounds and images can.

Monday’s lecture was a video lecture by Sarah Hill (haha, I see what you did there, Prof. Rice!) and I thought she had some interesting points which work for print news too.

1. Write in the active voice – subject, verb, object. This is how you tell the difference between active and passive voice:

2. Write your script (I substituted script with article) but know it is going to change (sometimes, your sources give you information which completely changes the angle you had in mind).

3. Use the best video in the beginning. For news in print, we use the inverted pyramid – the best, most interesting part of the article is the lead.

Image from Wikipedia

4. Stories have a beginning, middle and end. Except in print, the order is played around with. Typically, the end is the beginning (read: inverted pyramid)

5. Make sure your story has the “today time element”. For print, this is a “duh”.

I find it fascinating how telling a story through video or print is essentially a play of words. With video, it is a game of matching sounds and words. With print, it is a competition of words – which one gets picked to go where.

Image credits:

1. Twitter image: http://ppbh.com/grammar-and-zombies/

2. Inverted pyramid image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_voice

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March 15, 2013 · 10:48 pm


One of the faculty members of the print and digital sequence at the J-School spoke to our class for two minutes. He gave one bit of advice – skill sets is what is important to be a newspaper reporter. He got me thinking of the various ways journalism has changed over the years. From simple words and maybe a few pictures, reporting has changed to info-graphics, videos, live-blogging, web-interactions, etcetera. There is so much more to being a journalist than just being able to write. The professor told us as reporters, we had to think about info-grahics, data visualizations, design and multimedia.

I spent a big chunk of Thursday browsing the internet for what the journalists themselves had to say about being a journalist of the 21st century. These are some of the gems (at least, I think so) I found:

1. 25 essential skills for student journalists


2. Tips and tricks of visual storytelling by photojournalist Bethany Swain


3. Gene Weingarten, a Pulitzer-prize winner (twice), on how to be a journalist


4. Lessons learnt from Wall Street, but they apply to any profession.


5. 22 rules for journalists.


6. Proof that sometimes a conversation is the best kind of interview than a Q&A


7. Hearing vs. Listening. Personally, the last five paragraphs are the most important. Go ahead and read the entire article though; it makes for a thoughtful read.


8. Missourian editor Tom Warhover’s reporting and writing tips (also updated every so often).


PS: This list will be updated every so often.

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My story

Location: a 6th grade classroom, Indian School Muscat, Muscat, Oman.

When I was in middle school, there was a compulsory writing competition conducted for all students in fifth through eighth grades – creative writing.

We were given a sheet of paper with a prompt and we had to write a story based on said prompt. I do not remember doing this in fifth grade.

In sixth grade, however, I decided to have some fun with the prompt by making the story funny. I think the prompt was about a man who spends a whole day fishing. I may be wrong though. As I wrote my story, my 11-year-old self was trying to stifle her laughter; I thought I was absolutely hilarious.

Apparently, the judges of the competition thought so too because a couple of weeks later I was called out of my classroom to be told I won first place among all my sixth grade peers. Obviously, 11-year-old me was ecstatic.

I repeated my modus operandi in seventh grade and it worked again. I won first place for the second year in a row. By then, I was convinced I had found one of my strongest strengths.

At around the same time, my elder sister was looking at colleges to apply at and thinking of what career path she wanted to take. It got me thinking about what I wanted to be. I decided I wanted to be a journalist simply because I knew I could write.

Seven years later, my decision to become a journalist is still unwavering.

As I have learned, being a journalist is about being able to report with all the facts intact, cross-checked and conveyed in a manner that readers don’t equate with a lullaby. While the skill does rely heavily on writing, adding multimedia elements to a story is always a bonus. It engages the audience which may not particularly enjoy words as much as a Tolkien or Thomas Hardy fan.

I can write. I have two trophies to prove I can be funny. But can I shoot videos that do not look like they were shot by a drunk orangutan? Can I take good-quality pictures without having to edit them (too much)? I don’t know.

Alright, I admit: I know I can take halfway decent pictures (without editing). But as Mizzou’s J-School is teaching me, good (or better) journalists do not settle for halfway decent. And I want to be a good journalist, at the very least.

With the J2150 class, I hope I learn to take good pictures on a camera with more features than I know what to do with. Better yet, I expect to learn how to make those features work for me, like the Uruk-Hai work for Saruman. I hope I learn how to shoot videos and not mess up the audio, or the visuals, or both.

At the end of this semester I expect to be able to add “Audio, Photography and Video” under the heading “Skills” on my resume.

Challenge accepted?

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