Know your topic, think about your audience

Journalistic Training

Photo: Hapsara Mahardhika
Achmad Supardi presented how to do a reporting (left); the trainees are all-ages.

Not all information can be qualified as news. News are information that have news values. These values are novelty (newly happen or newly known to public), significance (to public, at least to the audience of the news outlet), impact (to public), magnitude (usually related to number or scope, hence journalists deal with questions like how many people died because of an earthquake? How many suburbs were flooded in the recent flood?), conflict (be it to include individuals, governments, states, corporations, and other actors), uniqueness and/or bizarreness, human interest, and prominence (well, star power does exist).

News values will determine whether a news is worth publishing, be it immediately or later, or not at all. So, how to determine whether an event is significant enough to report?

“Think about your audience. Is it significant for your audience?” Achmad Supardi, the trainer for the Journalistic Training at IMCQ, said.

Besides the news values, there is another quality distinguishes news item from the mere information: verification. News item is a verified information.

The second session of the training on Sunday, 14 October 2018 was about reporting. “Reporting is the activity of searching, verifying and disseminating or publishing news item(s),” said Achmad.

There are 6 steps in reporting, namely developing ideas; deciding on what event or issue that we want to attend or write; doing preliminary research about the event/issue; do the actual reporting; writing; and finally, publishing the story.

“When we do the reporting, make sure that we use also our eyes. Observe. Don’t rely only on what people say. Verify all the data that you get and interview the correct news sources,” said Achmad, a former journalist with Surabaya Post daily.

There are four levels of news sources. First, primary news sources (victim, perpetrator, and witness of an event). Second, authoritative news sources (anyone eligible to comment on an event/issue because of their legal or structural position related to the event/issue). Third, competent news sources (a person who is eligible to comment on an issue/event because of his/her expertise on the matter). Fourth, the general public (vox populi) who is eligible to comment on any issue related to their well-being or interest.

The ideas for news story can be originated from scheduled agenda (the anniversary of a city, a presidential campaign period, a sporting event); press conference; press release; news report from media (including our competitor); and of course our own agenda.

Before “going to the field”, journalist needs to do a preliminary investigation and make up his/her mind about what to seek, who to ask/confirm (and how to contact them), how to go there, and what angle best to present the story.

Usually, interview is always one important method of gaining information about an event/issue. Before doing an interview, we need to know better our news source (including his/her temper), understand the topic, prepare 2 to 3 key questions, and get the equipment ready.

During an interview, it is important to be punctual, dress accordingly, ice-break the conversation. “Don’t forget to probe any answers. Don’t be easily satisfied with the answers that we get,” said Achmad who is now teaching at the Communication Department, President University, Cikarang, Indonesia.

Before concluding the interview, check the materials. Is all fine? Do make an agreement to contact the source should new development surfaces.

One final step before disseminating a news story is, of course, to write it. Here we need to utilize the journalistic language which has these following characteristics: direct, concise, treat people (including the news sources) equally, avoid jargons or technical terms, coherent, use foreign and/or local languages only when we need it, and write in such a way that do not presume the audience as dumb or know everything. (Hapsara Mahardhika)

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