Tag Archives: the new york times

Interviews, Speeches and Meetings Within the Framework of The New York Times

By Imman Merdanovic

Just having a good central point is often not enough to produce an outstanding news story. Facts, opinions and controversial points are what  what sparks a reader’s curiosity and what makes a story interesting. To write an engaging, credible story, journalist ought to interview individuals for which they believe are their best available sources.

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An interview can simply be defined as a meeting or an encounter of some sort for the purpose of obtaining additional information. According to Bender et al., many experienced interviewers think of an interview as a conversation. However, the point of this conversation is to collect information for an imaginary audience (Bender et al., 2012, p. 306).

Interviewing is considered an essential tool of the journalists and can be done in person, over the phone or via e-mail. According to Bender et al., while it may seem that conducting interviews is an easy task, successful interviews do not just happened and are a product of a lot of planning (Bender et al., 2012, p. 306).

The key in conducting a successful interview is preparation. Before identifying the sources, a journalist should identify the purpose for the interview (Bender et al., 2012, p. 306). Journalists also need to decide whether they are covering a news story, a feature story or an investigative story in order to be able to create an interview outline (Bender et al., 2012, p. 306). The journalists can then proceed onto collecting any necessary information: facts, dates, names, chronology showing the unfolding of events, context and perspective, opinions and anecdotes, among others (Bender et al., 2012, p. 306).

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In addition, journalists also have a choice to cover speeches and meetings, which may or may not include interviews. Reporters assigned to cover speeches and meeting usually write either an advance story or a follow story. The advance story sets the ground for an event which will occur soon, while the follow story reports on an event primarily for those who were unable to attend (Bender et al., 2012, p. 378).

To see how the reporters of The New York Times utilize interviews and cover speeches and meeting, I have analyzed three articles which the newspaper published on March 6, 2016. First, I look into the context of each story and the purpose with which the reporter interviewed his or her sources. I look into what information the reporters looked for at a particular interview. I also look at how many people the reporters interviewed and why.  Lastly, I look into the coverage of speeches and/or meetings. 

The featured articles are:

In her article on boar invasion in Italy, Pianigiani reports on the pressing issue of boar invasion in Italian wine yards. Thus, the context of the story is based on a rather dramatic series of events that pose a threat to numerous wine producers in Tuscany, Italy.

The purpose of interviews was to  get more information on boar invasion and to get first-hand insights of the wine producers whose business is under a threat. For example, Pianigiani managed to get some valuable statistical data from quite a few influential individuals in their respective circles:

“We now live enclosed,” said Francesco Ricasoli, the owner of the Barone Ricasoli estate, which includes about 2,000 acres of oak and chestnut woods where the boar and deer live and hide, as well as more than 500 acres of vineyards, where they love to forage” (Pianigiani, G.).

Moreover, to provide more information and thus improve the credibility of her story, Pianigiani interviewed  Bettino Ricasoli, twice the prime minister of Italy and creator of the modern Chianti wine recipe in the 19th century:

“Our vineyards are rather protected,” Mr. Ricasoli explained, “but our fields are prey to wild boars and roe deer recurrent incursions and have holes that look like Ho Chi Minh trails” (Pianigiani, G.).

Furthermore, Pianigiani also interviewed the councilor for agriculture, another influential source: “This law is at least a first step,” said Marco Remaschi, the Tuscany region’s councilor for agriculture, who acknowledged that the proliferation of the species here had been “largely undervalued and not governed” (Pianigiani, G.).

To wrap up the story and ensure a balanced perspective for the readers, Pianigiani interviewed the hunters and the technical director whose words added quite a bit of melancholy to the story: “We had and are having enormous damage because of this uncontrolled phenomenon,” said Roberto Da Frassini, the technical director who joined the Tenuta di Nozzole estate in northern Chianti in 2011. “We don’t live off philosophy,” he added. “Tuscany’s landscape is beautiful because it’s human-shaped. I can’t preserve it if I don’t pay the salaries” (Pianigiani, G.).

Therefore, the information Pianigiani looked for is how the boar invasion is affecting the wine producers and how much of an issue it really is. In other words, the story is really trying to raise awareness of this rather unusual issue.

Lastly,  the number of sources that Pianigiani interviewed for this story is seven. This is seemingly a short story, thus the number of interviewees is more than sufficient. The reason for this particular number is to provide a balanced, well-researched perspective on the issue.

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Ted Cruz spoke Friday at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in National Harbor, Md. Photo Credit, Stephen Crowley via The New York Times

Moreover, Flegenheimer and Habermann’s story is a follow story on an event concerning presidential elections. The event itself was a debate, thus the story offers opinions of those who spoke during the event itself. The story can also be viewed as an advance story, since it introduces another similar event and provides a rather valuable speech coverage.

The reporters start the story by briefly outlining the event that they are covering and its outcomes: “Mr. Trump’s losses to Mr. Cruz in Kansas and Maine on Saturday, coupled with closer-than-expected victories in Louisiana and Kentucky, have heightened the prospects for a two-man race, though many Republican leaders eye Mr. Cruz warily” (Flegenheimer and Habermann).

The reporters then quote various individuals who stated their opinions during the event: “Trump has to worry about the consistent late-voter rejection of his candidacy,” said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Republican presidential candidate (Flegenheimer and Habermann). “Some hope with Ted, no hope with Donald,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on “Meet the Press,” summarizing the party’s dim view of its remaining options.

Lastly, the reporters unofficially introduce another similar event in Michigan: “A moment of reckoning for Mr. Rubio will come Tuesday in Michigan, a state that has concentrations of the kinds of voters he performs well with: professional, younger, highly educated and upper-income”(Flegenheimer and Habermann).

Therefore, the context of this story is to inform the readers of the going-ons regarding presidential elections, and it appeals particularly to those who oppose Donald Trump. The reporters did not interview any of their sources, instead they quoted what the politicians said during the event itself. The information the reporters looked for in these quotes were opinions of Donald Trump and his campaign as well as alternative approaches for the election.

Finally, Coscarelli’s article on the music of Cuba is a classical example of a feature story, with a coherent interview of the musicians. The reporter interviewed the musicians who brought their brand of music to Cuba: “I know you’ve been waiting a long time for a party like this,” the D.J. and producer Diplo called out to a sea of pulsating young Cubans here on Sunday evening, during a free concert by his Caribbean-influenced electronic group, Major Lazer (Coscarelli, J.).

“The money D.J.s make is obnoxious and it’s not going to be around forever,” Diplo said in his room at Hotel Nacional, overlooking the growing crowd about an hour before he took the stage (Coscarelli, J.).

The context of this story is based on an emerging genre of music in Cuba, which relates to artists, residents, visitors and just about anyone who cares about music and Cuba. The purpose of interviewing the sources was to get first-hands insights on the emergence of new music in Cuba. The information that the reporter looked for from the interviews was more details on the music itself and the purpose for bringing the music Cuba.

In conclusion, two out of the three stories analyzed include interviews of some sort and only one is a follow story. While one story includes seven interviews, another story includes only two interview, thus showing that the number of sources is in direct correlation with the breadth and depth of an event/issue being covered. The more pressing, unresearched, controversial and dramatic the issue, the more likely it is to have a larger number of sources. As for event coverage, the reporters preserved most of the original quotes, thus allowing the readers to come to their own conclusion without giving away any bias. 

Work cited:

Coscarelli , J. “Diplo and Major Lazer Bring Their Brand of Music to Cuba.” March 7, 2016. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/08/arts/music/diplo-and-major-lazer-bring-their-brand-of-music-to-cuba.html

Fedler, F., Bender, J. R., Davenport, L., & Drager, M. W. (2012). Reporting for the Media. Oxford University Press, USA.

Flegenheimer, M., and Habermann, M. “Money Pours In as Move to Stop Donald Trump Expands.” March 6, 2016. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/07/us/politics/donald-trump.html?ref=politics

Photo Credits, Crowley, S. “Ted Cruz spoke Friday at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in National Harbor, Md.” via The New York Times

Pianigian, G. “Italy’s Famed Wine Region a War Zone, Invaded by Boars and Others.” March 7, 2016. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/08/world/europe/italy-tuscany-chianti-wine.html?ref=world

The Body of a News Story, Quotations and Attributions as Portrayed in The New York Times

By Imman Merdanovic

Having a good central point is essential for writing an engaging news story. However, presenting the body of the story in a clear and concise manner is what truly gives it the power.  After introducing the story in a one or two sentence lead which serves as a brief summary of the most important information, the reporters ought to further build up the content through the body of a news story.

The body of a news story is simply the portion of a story that follows the lead and answers the question of when? where? and how? the given event happened (Bender et all., 2012, p. 242). In order to be able to build up a good story, it is necessary to have a good lead. The stronger the foundation, the more information it is able to support.

There are numerous ways in which reporters can write the body of a news story. The most common styles are the inverted pyramid style, the hourglass style, the focus style and the narrative style (Bender et all., 2012, p. 251).  Having a set framework within which to build a story makes it easier for reporters to write in a clear and concise manner and, most importantly, to meet deadlines.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Capitol Hill in October. Photo Credit, Zach Gibson via The New York Times.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Capitol Hill in October. Photo Credit, Zach Gibson via The New York Times.

Moreover, apart from following a given framework for writing the body of a news story, reporters also need to follow a set of guidelines for properly using quotations and attributions. Every idea that does not directly come from the reporter needs to be properly attributed and presented in a coherent way.

To see how the reporters of The New York Times write the body of a news story and use quotations and attributions, I have analyzed three articles which the newspaper published on Feb. 29, 2016. First, I look into the style that the authors have used to write their stories. Then I look at the use of quotations and attributions in these stories, with a special focus on their effectiveness and the ability to emphasize a point or change pace.

The featured articles are:

Breeden’s article on the migrant protests in France uses the inverted-pyramid style to present the body of the news story. As explained in Bender et all., inverted-pyramid stories present information in descending order of importance of newsworthiness (Bender et all., 2012, p. 242).

In the case of inverted-pyramid style, the lead  is followed by the second paragraph which answers the questions when? where? how? and why? The third paragraph normally describes the event in more details and is followed by paragraphs explaining factual background and/or a short summary (Bender et all., 2012, p. 243). The advantage of the inverted-pyramid style is that it allows the reader to stop reading at any point, while still retaining enough information (Bender et all., 2012, p. 247).

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Breeden begins the story with a clear one-sentence lead explaining who did what, followed by the second paragraph which explains how the incident happened. The following paragraphs provide more details on the migrant crisis and the reasons for the protests. Finally, the story ends with  statistical data explaining how many migrants live in the camp and how the camp imposes a threat for the EU security. The story concludes by briefly mentioning the upcoming meeting between President François Hollande and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Hence, Breeden’s story is clear, concise and effective, allowing the reader to stop reading at any point. It presents information in order of importance and newsworthiness and serves as a classical example of an inverted-pyramid style.

On the contrary, Steinhauer’s article on presidential elections uses the narrative style to tell the story. According to Bender et all., the narrative style consists of a story and a storyteller and requires a good deal of observation (Bender et all., 2012, p.251).  This approach allows the reporter to capture any drama involved and creatively express the story through the use of dialogues, chronology, quotes and actions (Bender et all., 2012, p.251).

In fact, Steinhauer starts the story with an alternative lead and then develops the story so that it comes across as a debate between those who support Bernie Sanders and those who support Hilary Clinton. The story depicts politicians interacting with each other and their actions and opinions are described in vivid details. The last paragraph best portrays the narrative style as it ends by describing the main actors’ troublesome interaction:

Migrants lit shacks on fire to protest their eviction from a camp near Calais, France. Photo Credits, Laurent Dubrule/European Pressphoto Agency via The New York Times.
Some migrants lit shacks on fire on Monday to protest their eviction from “the Jungle,” a camp near Calais, France. Photo Credit, Laurent Dubrule, European Pressphoto Agency via The New York Times.

“Like his colleagues, Mr. Cardin said he bore Mr. Sanders no grudge, especially since Mr. Sanders does not appear to be much of an impediment to Mrs. Clinton’s expected romp through Super Tuesday this week. “His campaign has been electrifying to the process,” he said” (Steinhauer, J.).

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Finally, Scott’s article on   Trans-Atlantic data transfer deal is an example of an inverted-pyramid style. The story begins with an effective lead, followed by a number of paragraph each listing information in order of importance. The story provides details on the E.U. and U.S. previous data transfer deals and the logistics of the current deal, and concludes by introducing an upcoming meeting.

Moreover, the use of quotations and attributions is rather interesting in the articles analyzed.

According to Bender et all., quotations and attributions should always be used when presenting an idea that does not directly come from the reporter. Those can be incorporated as direct quotes, indirect quotes, or partial quotations (Bender et all., 2012, p. 280).

Direct quotes are used to present someone’s exact words, while indirect quotes are used in paraphrasing and, hence do not require quotation marks. Partial quotes directly quote certain phrases, but paraphrase others (Bender et all., 2012, p. 280).

Attributions give credits to those whose ideas were used in texts, and allow the readers to see the reporter’s sources. Anything that is not considered common knowledge, direct and indirect quotes, controversial statements and opinions need to be attributed (Bender et all., 2012, p. 286).

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While Breeden correctly attributes statements of opinion in the form of direct quotes “The destruction of the shantytown is not the solution,” Mr. Guennoc said, he neglects the rules outlined in Bender et all. by overusing so-called orphan quotes. An isolated word or two in quotation marks is considered an orphan quote (Bender et all., 2012, p. 282).

For example: Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said last week that the authorities would not conduct a “brutal evacuation” of the camp (Breeden, A.).

  Additionally, Breeden also correctly paraphrases others’ statement in the form of indirect quotes:

“A judge in Lille said last week that the plans could go ahead, but stopped short of authorizing a leveling of the camp, ruling that the makeshift restaurants, places of worship and other community areas would have to remain untouched” (Breeden, A.). 

However, he continues to use orphan quotes such as “extremist activists” of “intimidating” migrants.

Google devices on display at an electronics store in London. Photo Credit, Andrew Cowie, European Pressphoto Agency via The New York Times.
Google devices on display at an electronics store in London. Photo Credit, Andrew Cowie, European Pressphoto Agency via The New York Times.

The use of quotes is effective in Breeden’s case and serves the purpose of enriching the point of the story, however the overuse of orphan quotes may be very distracting for the reader.

Furthermore, Steinhauer also demonstrates proper use of direct quotations, and remembers not to place double attribution when continuing the quotation in the same paragraph:

“It’s totally positive. It is not negative toward anyone else,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, an early endorser of Mrs. Clinton. “That’s the difference between our side and theirs. Also, don’t forget many of us did serve with Hillary in the Senate, so there’s a lot of history there” (Steinhauer, J.).

Steinhauer does not use orphan quotes, but lacks the use of indirect quotes. Because of this, the story seems like a long list of direct quotes and is somewhat complicated and possibly boring for an average reader. The sentences tend to be long and the quotation marks overused, thus defeating the original purpose of quotation marks to refresh the story and create contrast.

Finally, Scott demonstrates possibly the most effective use of quotations out of the three authors. Quotations, in this case, are used sparingly and effectively, with only one use of orphan quote. The article ends with a direct quote, in a rather dramatic way, which triggers the reader to think more about a much larger issue presented here:

“We need ways to check that this works” (Scott, M.).

In conclusion, the three articles analyzed followed certain rules on quotation and attribution as outlined in Bender et all., and deviated from others. They were all written in a slightly different way, not necessarily all following one specific style for writing the body of a news story. This may be explained by the fact that these stories come from different sections of The New York Times, and so a more complicated style was used to depict a business story as opposed to a world story. Nonetheless, the stories provide a good insight into how theoretical knowledge presented in Bender et all. is translated and used in practice.

Work cited:

Fedler, F., Bender, J. R., Davenport, L., & Drager, M. W. (2010). Reporting for the Media. Oxford University Press, USA.

Breeden, A. “France Faces Protests as It Dismantles ‘Jungle’ Migrant Camp.” February 29, 2016. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/world/europe/france-faces-protests-as-it-dismantles-jungle-migrant-camp.html?ref=world

Photo Credits, Dubrule, L. “Some migrants lit shacks on fire on Monday to protest their eviction from “the Jungle,” a camp near Calais, France.” European Pressphoto Agency via The New York Times.

Photo Credits, Cowie, A. “Google devices on display at an electronics store in London.” European Pressphoto Agency via The New York Times.

 Photo Credits, Gibson, Z. “Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Capitol Hill in October.”  via The New York Times.

Steinhauer, J. “Bernie Sanders Stands Alone as Hillary Clinton Gains Senate Endorsements.” February 29, 2016. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/29/us/politics/bernie-sanders-stands-alone-as-hillary-clinton-gains-senate-endorsements.html?ref=politics

Thomas, K. “Valeant Pharmaceuticals Is Under S.E.C. Investigation.” February 29, 2016. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/business/valeant-pharmaceuticals-is-under-sec-investigation.html

The News Leads As Portrayed in The New York Times

By Imman Merdanovic

Capturing a reader’s attention within the first few lines of a story has been a challenge that even the most experienced journalists still battle at times. To arouse a reader’s interest and tell the story in the most effective, organized and concise way possible, it is necessary for journalists to start their stories with an effective lead. The lead is an introductory sentence which summarizes the central point of the story and conveys the most important details of the featured event.

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Every news story must answer six questions: Who? How? Where? Why? When? and What? The lead, being the most important part of a story, should however not answer all of them. Instead, the lead should answer only one or two questions that are most newsworthy and unusual (Bender et all., 2012, p. 187).

To write effective leads, reporters need to be specific, concise, and to emphasize the story’s most important and unexpected developments. It is in the reporters’ interest to emphasize a story’s magnitude and to eliminate statements of opinion. A well-written lead should consist of simple, short sentences with active verbs and a simple sentence structure: subject-verb-object (Bender et all., 2012, p. 187). Agendas, label leads, lists and exaggeration are off-limits.

However, should  journalists find a story to be particularly creative and unique, they are permitted to use “soft leads”, in other words, begin with a story’s most interesting details— often an anecdote, description, quotation or question. Stories that begin with a soft lead have a nut paragraph immediately after the lead, which states the central point of the story and serves some of the same functions as the summary news read (Bender et all., 2012, pp. 223-224).

To examine to use of leads in The New York Times and see to what extent its reporters follow the rules of writing effective news leads, as outlined in Bender et all, I have analyzed three articles which the newspaper published  on Feb. 15, 2016. First, I look into whether the leads are simple summary leads or alternative, “soft leads”. Then I look into whether the lead itself is concise. Finally, I examine the use of strong, active verbs.

The featured articles are:

Afghan farmers harvested poppies last spring in the Nad Ali district of Helmand Province. Photo Credits, Bryan Denton via The New York Times.
Afghan farmers harvested poppies last spring in the Nad Ali district of Helmand Province. Photo Credits, Bryan Denton via The New York Times.

The news of Van Munching’s death was effectively captured by Bruce Weber in a summary lead:

“Leo Van Munching Jr., whose stewardship of the importing company started by his father made the Dutch-brewed beer Heineken and its low-calorie sibling, Amstel Light, familiar brand names in the United States, died on Sunday at his home in Darien, Conn. He was 89” (Weber, B.).

This particular lead is a summary lead which outlines the essence of the story— the fact that the empire builder for Heineken died. The lead answers the question who? what? when? and where? While the reader is able to grasp the news within the first few lines, this particular lead seems somewhat redundant in its long description of Van Munching’s profession, as well as in mentioning Van Munching’s father and the relation of their brand to the United States.

 Azam starts his story on the Afghan opium with an alternative lead that introduces the most important point and the issue later on in the story. For that matter, this lead could be classified both as a “buried” or “delayed” lead and a suspenseful lead:

“The United States spent more than $7 billion in the past 14 years to fight the runaway poppy production that has made Afghan opium the world’s biggest brand. Tens of billions more went to governance programs to stem corruption and train a credible police force. Countless more dollars and thousands of lives were lost on the main thrust of the war: to put the Afghan government in charge of district centers and to instill rule of law” ( Azam, A.).

Typical to delayed leads, a nut graph— in this case the fourth paragraph— summarizes the story and provides a transition to the body (Bender et all., 2012, p. 225). Similarly, there is a certain dose of suspension in the paragraph, which aims to arouse  readers’ curiosity and raise a question in their minds (Bender et all., 2012, p. 228).Finally, Gladstone also uses an alternative, descriptive lead and only reveals the most important information in the second paragraph:

“It was supposed to be a routine refueling stop in Zimbabwe by an American-owned cargo plane, traveling to South Africa from Germany. Then airport officials noticed blood spattered on the fuselage and found a corpse and a small fortune in South African cash inside” (Gladstone, R.). In this case, the descriptive details paint a picture for the reader and summarize the story before moving gradually into the action (Bender et all., 2012, p. 228).

Furthermore, the concise style of writing makes it easier for a reader to comprehend leads, and essentially the whole story. It is best to use one-sentence leads,  because two-or three-sentence leads often become wordy, repetitious and choppy, thus harder to understand (Bender et all.,  2012, p. 190). According to Bender et all., the average number of words in most The New York Times leads is 33.0, yet many readers find  a 25-word lead “difficult” to read and a 29-word lead “very difficult” (Bender et all., 2012, p. 190).

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Weber, in her article on Van Munching, uses 40 words in the lead. She mentions Van Munching’s father, the relation of their brand to the United States, and then introduces a whole new sentence to bring about his age— all which could have been eliminated. Munching’s father clearly did not play a major role in the story. Hence, this particular lead, according to the rules of Bender et all., may not be particularly concise.

Azam’s lead consists of 74 words distributed across two sentences. However, this is an example of a suspended lead and an exception to the rules, as such. The lead could be more concise, thus helping  the readers, not making them work harder. Gladstone’s lead consists of 37 words and only one sentence, hence making it much easier to understand, even though the central point of the story is introduced later on, thus affecting the consistency.

Needless is to say that all three leads are significantly longer than what an average reader is able to comprehend with ease. However, we need to remember that The New York Times is written for a more highly educated audience, and thus likely to be comprehendible to them.

In addition, the use of strong, active verbs is required, as they paint a vivid picture of the scene in reader’s minds. They capture the drama and emotion of a news event (Bender et all., 2012, p. 191). Similarly, active verbs should always be used instead of passive verbs, as they help the reader understand the impact of the story better (Bender et all., 2012, p. 192).

For example, Weber uses a strong verb “died” to explain what happened to Munching, however fails to use active verb when saying “whose stewardship of the importing company started by his father.”  Azam uses verbs such as “spent, fight, train”, however forgets to use active verbs in saying “thousands of lives were lost.” Gladstone makes his lead relatively simple and only uses active verbs “noticed blood” and “found a corpse.”

In conclusion, the three leads analyzed above may not stand as the best examples of effective leads, at least according to the rules of Bender et all. However the three leads analyzed here are great examples of the ways reporters can play around with the content of a story to create a dramatic, engaging opening. 

Work Cited:

Azam, A. “Tasked With Combating Opium, Afgan Officials Profit From It.” February 15, 2016. The New York Times.http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/world/asia/afghanistan-opium-heroin-taliban-helmand.html

Gladstone, R. “U.S.-Owned Place Carrying Corpse and Cash Is Impounded in Zimbabwe.” February 15, 2016. The New York Times.  “http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/world/africa/us-owned-plane-carrying-corpse-and-cash-is-impounded-in-zimbabwe.html

Fedler, F., Bender, J. R., Davenport, L., & Drager, M. W. (2010). Reporting for the Media. Oxford University Press, USA.

Photo Credits, Denton, B. “Afghan farmers harvested poppies last spring in the Nad Ali district of Helmand Province. ” February 15, 2016. The NY Times.

Weber, B. “Leo Van Munching Jr., Empire Builder For Heineken, Dies at 89.”February 15, 2016. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/business/leo-van-munching-jr-empire-builder-for-heineken-dies-at-89.html

Newswriting Style as Portrayed in The New York Times

By Imman Merdanovic

In order for journalists to write effective stories and appeal to a wide audience, it is necessary that they follow a carefully designed newswriting style— that which allows for factual information to be presented briefly and in a fair, objective manner (Bender et all. 53). Identifying the central point and creating a brief outline from the skeleton of the story are some of the key stages of prewriting a story. According to the newswriting style, once reporters gather their ideas in a coherent, concise manner, it is their job to, ideally, create a story that presents short, familiar words, as well as short sentences and paragraphs that focus on a single idea.

Moreover, they are expected to refrain from using unnecessary words, as well as from overloading sentences, in order to make sure their stories are understandable to all, regardless of their educational background. Lastly, reporters ought to avoid statements of opinion, as well as stereotyping.

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To see to what extent the editors of The New York Times follow the newswriting  style, I have analyzed three articles which were published in The Times on February 5, 2016. Among others, I have focused on the authors’ ability to avoid sexism, as well as complicated words, and to overload sentences with multiple ideas. Finally, I look into the elements of a good story and the overall news selection process as described by Bender et all, and the extent to which The New York Times reporters follow these guidelines. The featured articles are: 1) “N.F.L. Addresses Gender Gap in Hiring” by Ken Belson; 2) “Seeing a Business Opportunity for Firms’ Outside Overseers” by Alexandra Stevenson and 3) “The Evil Queen Lands a Gig at the Kit Kat Club” by Brian Seibert.

Laura Careless, center, and other members of Company XIV in “Snow White” at the Minetta Lane Theater. Photo Credit, Andrea Mohin via The New York Times.
Laura Careless, center, and other members of Company XIV in “Snow White” at the Minetta Lane Theater. Photo Credits, Andrea Mohin via The New York Times.

Journalists have opinions and biases as do other people, but it is their goal to remain as impartial and objective as possible.The tendency for the reporters to identify with sources is natural, but good reporters strive to resist the temptation and to keep their stories free of opinion (Bender et all, p. 57). Register who covered a Marine company during the Iraqi War said: “The biggest problem I faced as an embed with the Marine grunts was that I found myself doing what journalists are warned from J-school not to do: i found myself falling in love with my subject” (Bender et all. p. 57). Typical, among others, are the “ISMS”— racism, sexism, ageism— that can appear in a story even unintentionally.

Sexism is still a prominent issue, as in the past news stories identifies women only as wives, mothers and sex objects. Nowadays, more women than ever are employed and hold high positions of responsibility. The Associated Press Stylebook recommends journalists avoid awkward or contrived words, such as “chairperson”. Instead, the stylebook advises using “chairwoman” or “spokeswoman” when referring to a woman. When appropriate, the stylebook advises using a neutral word such as “leader”  (Bender et all, p. 58).

In her article “Seeing a Business Opportunity for Firms’ Outside Overseers”, Stevenson illustrates this rule by correctly saying “Ms. White, now chairwoman” and “Tiffany Moller, the assistant deputy commissioner and chief of compliance” Moreover, Stevenson Properly titles all involved: “Mary Jo White, the former United States attorney, thus avoiding identifying the woman by her relationship with a man, who was previously mentioned in the article (Stevenson, A.).

Similarly, Belson follows the rule by saying: “His wife, jane Skinner Goodall; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.” Likewise, Belson avoids writing about a woman differently from the way in which a man is written: “Lisa Friel, a former prosecutor.” However, because of the nature of the article  titled “N.F.L Addresses Gender Gap in Hiring”, Belson puts an emphasis on the fact that the N.F.L., for the first time, hired its “full time female referee, Sarah Thomas”, thus deviating from the rule (Belson, K.). Reporters are strongly discouraged from using the words “female” in places where you would not use the words “male”, yet Belson is making a special point here that is likely to be justified.

Moreover, Seibert, in his article “The Evil Queen Lands a Gig at the Kit Kat Club” mentions that the Queen was played by the actor-dancer Laura Careless, thus remembering to use a unisex substitute, as indicted in Bender et all.

Furthermore, one survey found that 75 percent of readers were able to understand sentences containing an average of 20 words, but understanding dropped rapidly as the sentences became longer(Bender et all, p. 53). Reporters tend to use complicated words in places where the simplest word would be sufficient and in sentences that could be as short as six words.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.06.08 PM

And while Stevenson manages to keep the paragraphs short and coherent, the use of words such as chokehold, maneuver, beefed up, scrutiny, coveted and compliance might lessen ones ability to fully understand her text. On the contrary, Belson uses very simple words and phrases, however tends to overload her sentences with ideas and write longer paragraphs:

“The announcement — in front of a group that included his wife, Jane Skinner Goodell; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; the tennis champion Billie Jean King and others — came at the N.F.L.’s first Women’s Summit, days before the Super Bowl on Sunday and in the wake of a series of domestic violence cases involving some of its biggest stars that threw the league into crisis last year.” (Belson, K.)

This paragraph introduces the members of the group, the Super Bowl, and domestic violence, thus forgetting to address one idea per paragraph,

Lastly, Seibert uses both longer paragraphs with structured ideas and very hard words, which clearly only appeal to cultured audience: relish, leer, decadent, marquee, protégée, supplant, cavort, pastiche, devoid. However, according to Bender et all, The New York Times appeals to a wealthier, better educated audience, hence the cluttered wording.

Finally, Bender et all identify the following elements as making a good story: timeliness, impact, prominence, proximity, unusualness, drama, humor and conflict or controversy. Seibert’s story about the evil queen certainly radiates the unusualness, as well as humor and controversy. Belson’s story about N.F.L. encompasses impact, proximity and timeliness. Finally, Stevenson’s story about a business opportunity addresses timeliness, impact and unusualness.

In conclusion, the three stories analyzed both follow certain rules and deviate from others. For the most part, they stick to the rule addressing sexism, yet use complicated words which cannot always appeal to all. The paragraphs tend to be longer and contain multiple ideas, which are often hard to grasp. Yet, it is necessary to keep in mind that this is The New York Times, hence the reporters assume that the audience is likely to be more educated and more familiar with somewhat redundant phrases.

Work Cited:

Belson, K., “N.F.L. Addresses Gender Gap in Hiring.” (February 5, 2016). The New York Times.

Fedler, F., Bender, J. R., Davenport, L., & Drager, M. W. (2010). Reporting for the Media. Oxford University Press, USA.

Photo Credits, Mohin, A. Center, and other members of Company XIV in “Snow White” at the Minetta Lane Theater via Laura Careless, The New York Times.

Seibert, B., “The Evil Queen Lands a Gig at the Kit Kat Club.” (February 5, 2016). The New York Times

Stevenson, A., “Seeing a Business Opportunity for Firm’s Outside Overseers.” (February 5, 2016). The New York Times.

The New York Times within the framework of the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook

   By Imman Merdanovic

Being a journalist entails ones ability not only to write well, but also to ensure that the information presented is both accurate and error-free. Introducing modern typewriters opened up a world of possibilities to current and emerging journalists, and brought to life an entirely new side of journalism— that to which many of us refer as digital. However, even so, a good piece of writing requires accuracy and a recognizable format through which reporters and editors can communicate with each other.

To minimize the flaws and ensure that all journalists follow the same rules, most news organizations have adopted The Associated Press Stylebook, which lists hundreds of rules, presented in alphabetical order, for abbreviations, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, spelling and word usage (Bender et all, p. 11). Following a nationally accepted stylebook, they found, is less expensive, more consistent, and much easier(Bender et all, p. 11). Having no rules, or, worse yet, having multiple different rules, would cause many more errors and discrepancies, thus lowering the credibility of journalism as a discipline.

Over the years the stylebook has grown to include information necessary for journalists, such as guidelines for the Internet, sports and business, media law and photo captions. A few newspapers such as The New York Times have published stylebook of their own (Bender et all, p. 12).

Following a nationally accepted stylebook, they found, is less expensive, more consistent, and much easier.

To see to what extent the editors of The New York Times follow the AP stylebook, I have analyzed three articles which were published in The Times on February 1, 2016. Among others, I have focused on abbreviations, capitalizations and numerals, with a brief overview of the titles. The featured articles are: 1) “Trump Delivers a Flurry Of Flattery to Iowans To Try to Seal the Deal” by Maggie Habermas and Thomas Kaplan; 2) “Stockholm Police Foil an Anti-Immigrant Attack” by Christina Anderson, and 3) “Some Restaurants in China Caught Spiking Food With Poppy Capsules” by Edward Wong.

Demonstrators in Stockholm express their disapproval of an anti-immigration movement. Photo Credits, Marcus Ericsson/Tt News Agency, via The New York Times.
Demonstrators in Stockholm express their disapproval of an anti-immigration movement. Photo Credits, Marcus Ericsson/Tt News Agency, via The New York Times.

Abbreviations are simply defined as shortened versions of words. The names of the following eight states should never be abbreviated: : Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah (Bender et all, p. 11). Habermas and Kaplan, hence, do a good job here in refraining to abbreviate Iowa, and remembering to keep an elongated version of Mississippi and Missouri as, in this case, they refer to the rivers.

Moreover, the stylebook strictly advises against abbreviating assistant, association, attorney, building, district, government, president, professor, superintendent or the days of the week (AP stylebook). For example, “Professor Denice Bealle, a member of the journalism department… ” (Bender et all, p. 15). Not surprisingly, all three articles seem to have satisfied this rule. More precisely, Wong mentions: “Provincial governments and leaders of the warring Kuomintang Communist parties.” (Wong, E.)

Similarly,  Anderson’s article clearly states days of the week: “A station chief with the Stockholm City Police, said on Sunday that the police had received a tip on Friday.” (Anderson, C). In addition, Haberman’s and Kaplan’s article states: “The Tea Party favorite and former vice-presidential nominee”, thus satisfying the abbreviation rule (Haberman and Kaplan).

Furthermore, the AP Stylebook advises to avoid unnecessary capitals. It requires capitalization of nationalities, races and tribes (AP stylebook). For example: “It is no secret that fans of Chinese food often find it addictive” (Wong, E). It also requires capitalization of proper nouns, such as the Missouri River. In addition, it requires capitalization of formal titles when used immediately before a name: Mayor, Chairman, former President Bill Clinton (AP Stylebook). Habermas and Kaplan do a good job here in saying that “Senator Ted Cruz” (Haberman, Kaplan).

Additionally, the AP stylebook advises capitalizing both the name of a political party and the word party: the Democratic Party, as well as capitalizing Communist, Conservative, Republican, but lowercase the common noun elements of all names in plural uses: the Democratic and Republican parties (AP stylebook). Wong follows the rule in saying,  “Leaders of the warring Kuomintang and Communist parties” (Wong, E.). Habermas and Kaplan follow the rule, too: “A Democratic objective that Republicans hate” and “Closing message to Iowa Republicans” (Haberman and Kaplan).  

Likewise, in terms of writing government-related names, the stylebook requires capitalizing city, county, state and federal when part of a formal name and also capitalize city council, county commission, city hall, police department, legislature, assembly and all other names for governmental agencies when part of a proper name (AP Stylebook). For example, “In Council Bluffs”, “Mr. Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County” (Haberman and Kaplan). Similarly, “the Stockholm City Police” and “the Swedish Migration Agency” also follow the rule (Anderson, C).

Lastly, “the Ministry of Public Security” from Wong’s article is another such example. The AP stylebook also requires capitalization of the U.S. Senate, which Habermas and Kaplan do well: “His 2012 campaign for the Senate” (Haberman and Kaplan). Buildings and rooms also need to be capitalized: the Empire State Building (AP stylebook). “Central Station in Sweeden and “First Christian Orchard Campus” are good examples of how Anderson and Haberman-Kaplan duo follow this particular rule.

Moreover, the general use for the numerals is to spell out whole numbers below 10, and to use figures for 10 and above (Bender et all).  Anderson satisfies the rule by mentioning that three people were arrested, yet more than 35,000 unaccompanied minors sought asylum (Anderson, C). Wong agrees in saying: “More than 20 types” and “In 2014, three central governments” (Wong, E).

 Similarly, “the 32 Caucasian youths” and “A degree within five years” also satisfy the rule (Bender et all, p.15). Additionally, the AP stylebook advises lowercasing centuries and spell out numbers less than 10: the first century, as showed in Wong’s article “In the 18th and the 19th centuries…” (Wong, E). As for dollars, the stylebook requires using figures and the $ sign, but for amounts of more than $1 million, it is necessary to use the $ sign and numerals up to two decimal places (AP Stylebook). Haberman and Kaplan perfectly capture this: “$1 million”, and so does Wong “$455”.

As for fractions, those should be spelled out amounts less than one, using hyphens between the words: two-thirds (AP Stylebook). Anderson does it well in saying that about two-thirds of the migrants arrived in the last few months (Anderson, C).

Lastly, the AP Stylebook states that formal titles that appear directly before a name are capitalized: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yet, if the title comes after a name or is alone, then it should be lowercase and spelled out (AP Stylebook). Haberman and Kaplan do this well in saying “He has campaigned alongside Sheriff Joe Arpaio..” and later “Mr. Arpaio, the sheriff” (Haberman and Kaplan).

Therefore, having carefully analyzed the above texts and the frameworks within which they fit the AP Stylebook rules, I conclude that the authors have done a great job following the guidelines. It was incredible to see the extent to which the rules have been followed. In fact, I did not find a single discrepancy in their writing and I am quite pleased and with the outcome.

Work Cited:

Anderson, C., ” Stockholm Police Foil an Anti-Immigrant Attack.”(February 1st, 2016). The New York Times. 

Fedler, F., Bender, J. R., Davenport, L., & Drager, M. W. (2010). Reporting for the Media. Oxford University Press, USA.

Goldstein, N. (2006). AP Associated Press stylebook and briefing on media law. Associated Pr.

Haberman, M., Kaplan, T. “Trump Delivers a Flurry Of Flattery to Iowans To Try to Seal the Devil.” (February 1st, 2016). The New York Times.

Wong, E. “Some Restaurans in China Caught Spiking Food With Poppy Capsules.” (February 1st, 2016). The New York Times.

Page One- Inside The NY Times (2011)

Page One- Inside the NY Times (2011)

Date: January 27th, 2016                                                                                                  By Imman Merdanovic

Inside the NY Times (2011). Photo Credits, Page One- Inside The NY Times Movie.
Inside the NY Times (2011). Photo Credits, Page One- Inside The NY Times Movie.

We have all heard it: the means of reporting information has shifted from a linear process in the traditional newspapers to a nonlinear process in online reporting.  The tremendous progress in technology and devices such as Kindle and iPad have forever changed the concept of traditional news reporting, with over 50% of Americans now citing the Internet as a main source for obtaining national and international news. Getting news nowadays is easier, more engaging and more interactive than ever. And while the general public continues to enjoy the perks of accessing daily news with just one click, traditional media outlets like the New York Times have faced an era of indefinite uncertainty and likely bankruptcy. Collapse of advertising, the end of gatekeeping, new technologies, sensationalism, and corporate ownership have created unimaginable economic circumstances for companies like the Times, which have altogether made it a lesser paper.

Obituary columns are nowadays full of news about the death of American newspapers. In fact, at the end of 2009 the NY Times was forced to eliminate 100 newsrooms jobs through buyouts and layoffs. The collapse of advertising happened faster than anyone could have imagined, with a 30% decline in advertising revenue in 2009, and a 17% decline in 2008. Same year, the Times created a Media Desk to report on changes in the media industry. Currently, about 17mil people visit the NY Times website every month, to see some of its new 100 videos and 80 blogs uploaded monthly. Yet, one thing is clear, the profit nowadays goes to the aggregators of news — those who steal big works and  make profits by selling advertising space on the website. Although this is not the way to go, one thing is clear— this is a competition that only acknowledge the survival of the fittest.

Print newspaper revenue 1950-2011. Photo Credits, Newspaper Association of America.
Print newspaper revenue 1950-2011. Photo Credits, Newspaper Association of America.

In addition to technological advances, there have been so-called “intelligence agencies for the people” like WikiLeaks, which have also contributed to the diminishing of the traditional newspapers. In 2010  WikiLeaks released secret documents and a video of the US aerial attack on Baghdad, that would shake the media establishments  around the world. What WikiLeaks did is they simply created a Youtube channel and waited for the video to go viral, thus showing that one does not need to be a big name anymore to make a big impact. By 2015, WikiLeaks has published more than 10 million documents and associated analyses. Assange, an editor for Wiki Leaks refers to it as “a giant library of the world’s most persecuted documents”. Similarly, the Pentagon Papers have been another such outlet that has shaken the world of traditional media outlets. The Pentagon Papers are secret reports about the Vietnam war leaked by military analyst Daniel E. EllsbergCredible or not, these outlets have sparked the fire and gotten our attention. They were faster, meaner and hotter, thus altering the social role of papers like the Times in a non respectable way.

The social role that the Times have been playing in the U.S./global society in the past decades has undoubtedly changed.The Times used to be a powerful institution run by men who always tried to be fair. It was by far the most trusted source of information and the copies of it were sought after not only domestically but abroad as well. In fact, over time emerged the concept known as the NY Times effect— other papers imitating the Times. This role of the Times is now being challenged by startups like VICE magazine, which offers investigative journalism and social commentary. Big companies like CNN pay VICE to tell them how to be meaner and faster than anybody else.  In other words, VICE offers more edgy type of reporting, they don’t care about facts, they want impressions. Above all, VICE is controversial,  provocative and far more commercial than NY Times and other similar newspapers. After all, this is what the millennials want. We grew up in a different age. We did not base our morning routine on flipping the pages of a newspaper while having a cup of coffee. Instead, we spend hours on 9Gag, then hours recovering from “thumbititis”, the red blister on the underside of the thumb.

Furthermore, apart from changing billions of lives and making access to daily news easier than ever, the emerging of digital media has as also altered the coverage of the U.S. presidential politics. Sending journalists on board with the president is costly. The journalists are doing less now and presidential politics is often captured by ordinary people with a video camera. Leaked videos on Youtube or a personal Tweet have taken control over New York Times’ extensive cover page.

And while the Times have begun adjusting to the new digital era, the question remains whether this establishment can ever go out of business? The answer is unclear and there is a collective denial about what is going on. However, one thing is clear— the public trusts them. People are becoming more aware of what it would mean to lose the Times. When asked about his opinion on the rumors, David Carr, an American columnist and a respectable man at NY Times,  jokes: “Are we gonna toss out the Times to get back and see what Facebook turns out? I don’t think so.”

David Carr's impression of Online media taking over. Photo Credits, Page One Movie.
David Carr’s impression of Online media taking over. Photo Credits, Page One- Inside The NY Times Movie.

Traditional media now compete with the Internet for revenue. They are concerned as more people decide to search for free news instead pay for subscriptions.

 More than 85% of the factual information on the Internet comes from traditional news outlets that invested its resources in getting that information.

Additionally, Carr disapproves of any arguments that even vaguely speak of the Times falling down on the job, as, according to him, by doing so you are underestimating years worth of work and some really important events such as reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq, if we ignore Miller’s embroilment in controversy after her coverage of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Now, we ask ourselves, can non-profit websites for investigative journalism save news reporting? Such organizations can certainly make an impact by making information available to the public, but to make stories possible and credible, they still need someone on the ground for credible reporting. For-profit investigative reporters are limited in their ability to do quality reporting, as they need more resources. New models like Pro Publica intend to execute the work of journalism in the public interest, which is essential for democracy. Democracy entails access to information and it is believed that it cannot survive without press/media that are free to report all matters of public concern – without facing any political censorship and economic pressures. In fact, according to Bernstein, an investigative journalist who did the majority of the most important news reporting on the Watergate scandal leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, : “News organizations that deploy resources to really gather information are essential to a functioning democracy. It just doesn’t work if people do not know.”

Lastly, the crisis of the traditional newspapers implies the need of a revision and a change of philosophy in order to be up to date with the current trends and demands of the public. However, that philosophy should in no way, shape, or form resemble that of Sam Zell— a business magnate who brought about the biggest bankruptcy in history, that of the Tribune Company, after witnessing the creation of a hostile workplace and a drastic raise in bonuses to the executives. As for New York Times, they seem to be well on their way with nearly 60 active blogs with topics including politics, science and technology, sports, entertainment, education and families. Traditional media has had competition from newer media for years and survived. We can only believe that the same will be true as we move into the future. Otherwise, lets hope that convergence will unite traditional and modern and stop the era of  media decay.


Bender, J., Davenport, L., Drager, M., Fedler, F. (2011) Reporting for Digital Media. Oxford University Press.

Page One- Inside the NY Times. (2011). [Movie].

Print newspaper revenue 1950-2011. News Paper Association of America. [Picture}.

Wikipedia, Tribune Media. (2012). Retrieved on January 26th, 2015.