1. Admit that you have a deadline – It is just like AA, if you don’t admit that you have a problem, you will not be able to solve the problem. Once you admit to yourself that you have a deadline, and then you can start to plan steps to meet the deadline.
2. Google and Wikipedia are your first friends – Research your subject. Find out as much about it as you can on google and wikipedia. If that fails, then go to the next step.
3. Find the experts – You need to ask questions to the experts. If you are writing a story on the football team, you will need to interview the head coach and the star players, not the benchwarmers. The same is true of any story. Find the experts and the leaders.
4. What do you want to know? – You need to have a goal. What do you want to find out to tell your readers/viewers? Then write questions that focus on that goal.
5. Organize your information – As you gather information, you need to sort it into two piles: facts and quotes. Facts help you to write or tell the story; quotes or sound bites add depth and interest.
6. Keep the calendar in mind – Broadcasts air on a certain date, the yearbook comes out on a specific date. Even Internet content expires after a certain date. Keep that date in mind when you write.
7. Give yourself time – You can’t possibly research, interview, write, shoot, edit, rewrite, etc. all in one day. There just isn’t time. Plan to get something done each day of class and be prepared to stay after school at least one day a week in order to meet deadline. It takes 30 minutes to write one page of text. It takes 60 minutes to log and capture 1 hour of videotape. Remember time is your enemy, not your friend. You won’t be able to get it done at the last minute.
8. Write the beginning last, write your headline first – then jump to the middle of the story. It sounds backwards, but for many journalists it is easiest to write their standup or lead last – when they know the most.
9. First drafts are supposed to be bad. Don’t freak out about it, just get it done. Then edit, rewrite and edit again. Trying to make the first draft perfect only takes up valuable time you could have used rewriting. Perfection does not exist. Insisting on perfection is a form of mental illness.
10. End strong. Have a strong ending for your story, alternative copy or segment. A summary is NOT a strong conclusion. It is often best to end with a quote or a sound bite.
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