First reporting assignment: a preview story

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A preview story is an excellent first assignment for beginning reporting students. Students simply need to find something that is going to happen (not something that has already happened) and find a person who is in charge of the event. All this will give students practice in finding and talking with sources. It should give them confidence to go on to more complex assignments.

The example below is one that students can emulate because it contains all of the elements necessary for a good story, including a straightforward inverted pyramid structure, a live source, direct and indirect quotations, background material, and proper attribution.

In addition, I ask my students to write a headline and a summary, as if this story were going to appear on a web site. I also ask them to include a web link with the appropriate HTML tags. They should also list their sources at the bottom of the story, along with emails and telephone numbers. This will give you an easy way to check to see if the source was really contact if you feel that it is necessary.

Always, of course, emphasize accuracy, not just in the facts but in the way students quote their sources.

You are welcome to use this example in your classes. You may print this page (the handout is a JPG file), or you can download the handout below as a PDF file.

Jim Stovall

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Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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