7 Reporting Tips Every Journalist Needs Right Now

7 Reporting Tips Every Journalist Needs Right Now

Ej Dickson’s July Twitter thread prompts the best in reporting pro-tips

Mary Firestone
Manager, Meetings & Member Services, PNA

Last month, Rolling Stone reporter Ej Dickson posed a question to her followers: “Journalists: what is the best reporting advice you’ve gotten during your career?”
What followed was a massive response with more than 2,000 shares and 1,000 comments. In an interview with the Journalism Institute at the National Press Club related to the thread, Dickson said she was inspired to create the thread because it was a tool she herself would have loved to have seen as a resource when she was just starting out in the industry. “I wondered why there weren’t more resources for aspiring or new journalists to learn more about the field and how to be good at their jobs,” said Dickson.

The outpouring created a wide swath of journalism pro-tips, and here are seven key takeaways that will immediately serve your journalistic needs.

Work on your craft.

Sharpen your writing skills. This might mean going back to basics and seeking advice or review from former colleagues or professors. When receiving literary criticism, try to discern the difference between constructive advice and empty, unproductive attacks. Remember things as simple as using active voice versus passive can make a huge difference in the response to a story.

Soledad O’Brien @soldedadobrien

Know the difference between a topic and a story.

A story is a topic with an angle. If the story doesn’t have an angle, it is just a topic. And while it is key to determine the facts and truth in any situation and report on them as accurately as possible, the angle of the story remains crucial to the overall quality of the article.

Jenny Roers @jennyrogersDC

Record interviews on more than one device.

This can be a combination of written, audio and/or visual recording. Multiple recording measures will not just protect against lost information, they will provide additional source material to review later, and you can sometimes find more details or previously overlooked aspects in your later review of these different types of recordings.

Alexis Benveniste @apbenven

Don’t fill the silence.

When you are interviewing someone do not feel the need to fill the conversation. Leave pauses. It prompts sources to say more – and often times, interesting and unexpected things.

Sarah Todd @SarahLizChar

Always ask “Who else should I talk to?” as the interview wraps up.

Open-ended, fact finding questions at the end of your interviews can provide you with new sources and information that might not have been shared otherwise. Other great phrases to use include: “What didn’t I ask that I should have?” or “Is there anything else I should know?” Remember to request the contact information for every interviewee and ask if it is OK for you to contact them with any additional questions you might have.

Mary Emily O’Hara @MaryEmilyOHara

Don’t just report on the communities you serve but engage/give back to those areas as well (i.e. community service).

Engaging with and developing your relationship with the communities you report on and serve can be an incredibly helpful step for any journalist. It will not only increase your understanding of the different organizations and individuals in the community, it will foster trust and comfort of those community members in you. The next time you need to ask for tips or information, they will be far more likely to assist you.

Shakari S Briggs @ShakariSBriggs

Call up past sources to check in with them even if you don’t “need” them for a particular story you’re working on.

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tips for interviewing and relationship building, and can serve a journalist well to be able to put an “ear to the ground” to have an early indication of a future topic for a story, or be aware of new things happening in the community they report on.

Elisabeth Buchwald @BuchElisabeth