TNJN Nutshell – a new form for getting information on the web site quickly

October 8, 2009 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: news web sites.

One of my big concerns is that our journalism students (at the University of Tennessee and elsewhere) do not understand the immediate nature of the web. As a news medium, the web has more immediacy than even broadcasting.

But the students don’t seem to get that.

And, of course, that means we’re not doing a good job of teaching it.

Too much of what is on the Tennessee Journalist, the student-operated news web site at UT, is old news — sometimes several days old. And the students seem fine with that. They give themselves several days to write a story after an event has occurred when they shouldn’t be giving themselves more than several minutes.

Consequently, I am planning on introducing a new form for the Tennessee Journalist tonight at the TNJN staff meeting. Below is the handout that I will be giving the staff and talking to them about.

TNJN Nutshell
Jim Stovall
October 8, 2009

The TNJN Nutshell is the standardized form for getting news and information on the site quickly. It consists of the following:

  • headline
  • summary
  • lead paragraph – who, what, when, where and the most important piece of information
  • three bullet points about the story – preferably in complete sentences (Check out CNN news story pages for examples.)
  • explanatory paragraph after the bullet points (optional)

Concepts governing TNJN Nutshell:

Gather accurate information. Accuracy is always the first priority.

Work BEFORE the story occurs by

— setting up the page
— writing the headline (you can/should/will change it later)
— writing the summary (you can change that, too)
— finding and putting in the links you want to use
— finding the pictures/audio/video and any other sidebar material that’s relevant

Prepare to take pictures of the event

How do you quickly download, edit and upload your pictures. Figure that out before you cover the event.

Write as the event occurs.

Post as the event occurs, if possible.

Find ways to post your information in places other than TNJN.

— post the bullet points on Twitter with the hashtag #TNJN
— post the bullet points to Facebook (better: set your system up so that your tweets automatically show up on Facebook)
— find other web venues to put your information. Many site accept reports from unpaid reporters. Begin with CNN’s iReport. But that’s just the beginning . . .

Return later to write a full story.

I invite any and all comments.

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