How I work
Working across two industries, my role as an editor often involves translating philosophies and processes between developers, designers, reporters and editors. As for my own work, journalists will recognize the underlying reporting and editing techniques. Designers, the research and content strategy practices. All of it is directed toward the same goal: Finding the story. That process, which is grounded in traditional news verification and storytelling techniques, includes a few ideas worth highlighting for those not familiar with how journalists work:
Getting it right
How? Exhaust all the questions.
Accuracy means credibility, trust. How do I know when I've got what I need? I work out from the questions I have and try to exhaust them. As an old journalism textbook of mine put it, you "must ask and ask and ask and think and think and think ..." There will always be constraints — time, access, etc. I prioritize the questions, knowing that the answers need to show the work I've done and satisfy my most skeptical audience.
Find the best source. Ask the right question.
And when you do, be open. Listen.
Interviewing is an art and a skill that can efficiently cut through a lot of noise, provide greater understanding and help you tell a better story. I do my homework, preparing for each interview, whether I have five minutes on the phone or a full day in the field. The conversation itself is not scripted. I know what I need to learn, and how to ask the questions to get what I need. I listen closely, evaluating and testing what I’m hearing to be sure I understand.
Show. Don't tell.
Story is the heart of it all.
The craft of structuring information for websites, data projects and other non-traditional story formats relies on the same storytelling techniques as traditional narratives — you need a hook, a promise to the audience. Originality. Details. And you need to lead the audience through a beginning, middle and end, regardless of the path the audience chooses.
"Man bites dog."
Find the newsworthiness. Serve the audience.
While accuracy always comes first, throughout my work, I'm keeping in mind another important factor: Do we have what we need to have something worth saying? Why will the audience care? We need to make sure the story being told will be one that not only gets the audience's attention, but is also worth their time.