Do your homework

How can you avoid being suckered by sources or stampeded by the competition? Do your own homework. That’s the advice from Stuart Taylor of the National Journal. His book about the Duke lacrosse case, “Until Proven Innocent,” says the news media blew it. “Read the damn motions,” Taylor–who is also a lawyer–told American Journalism Review:

If you’re covering a case, don’t just wait for somebody to call a press conference. Read the documents…We should never take a prosecutor’s word as fact…Yes many defense lawyers will say almost anything to get their clients off most of the time, but don’t just ignore what they say. Look at what they’re telling you. And do they have the evidence to back it up?

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Use a voiceover, already

Why do so many news Web sites use full-screen text instead of voiceover narration for video and slide shows? Angela Grant, multimedia producer at the San Antonio Express-News, believes “producers are afraid of using voiceovers because they are ‘like TV.'” Her rant at NewsVideographer.com is right on the money. “For god’s sake,” she writes, “don’t let a fear of ‘being like TV’ stop you from telling your stories in the most effective means available.” Responses to her post raised other reasons producers avoid VOs: lack of audio skills, no quiet place to record, and not liking the sound of your own voice. My answers: learn, find one, and get used to it.

Natural sound matters

Natural sound makes stories come alive. It lets viewers experience something close to what it was like to witness a story in person. A story without nat sound is flat and dull. Want proof? Watch this video from former TV reporter Mark Poepsel, who now teaches at the University of Arizona: