The Truth Told Well
Canadian Schools of Journalism
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Broadcast Journalism
Literary Journalism

Years ago, "journalistic writing" was simply considered "reporting". A reporter went out on the "beat" with a note pad and collected "just the facts". Once he had all his notes, he returned to the newsroom, typed up the story and went home to play with the kids. Today, however, with the new technologies and the re-shaping of mass communications in general, "journalism" is resisting any kind of bullet proof definition.

Journalism has been spread over an ever-widening plane and can be anything from a news reporter on a local newspaper to an anchorman on the TV network nightly news.

Today's reporter or "journalist" -- unlike yesterday's wise-cracking reporter -- is smarter, more polished and "slicker" than ever.

So how do you, the freelancer armed with very little but a word processor and an inquiring mind, squeeze yourself in amongst this conflagration of "Armani" suits? It may be difficult, but not quite as daunting as you think. In today's journalism, whether print or broadcast, "words" to make sense out of them. Contrary to popular belief, the "art of writing" is still "alive and well" and as essential to the news reporting process as ever.

Newspapers and magazines are in the business of communications, but many are also in the business of filling space. They need stories, fillers, anything that will fit their mandate and be worth reading. Which means there is an opening for you. How do you get a job as a freelancer or "stringer" with a newspaper or magazine? Even in this age of high tech communications, it still comes down to the old fashioned query letter -- which is the letter you send to an editor pitching your idea for an article or series of articles. The query letter is your first connection with an editor, a way of introducing yourself, so make sure it's written well and written to impress. Always remember to include an S.A.S.E.(Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) with your query letter. This ensures that you will receive your letter back (otherwise, if your idea is rejected, you won't hear a word about it). Make sure your idea fits in with the newspaper or magazine's format. For more info, see magazine writing or short stories.

When words are used well to communicate ideas and opinions, they still "rule the roost". In broadcast journalism, the simpler the better. Good broadcast journalists tune their ears to the words people use. They avoid the ones that most people have difficulty understanding. If you need proof, consider the famous broadcast journalists. In Canada, these were people like Pierre Berton and Charles Templeton (may they rest in peace). In the United States: Edward R. Morrow, Morley Saffer, Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings (ahem, born in Canada, by the way, although, sadly since passed away on foreign soil). These people excelled in the English language. They had a love affair with words.

The group was unanimous in electing the late Charles Kuralt as their favorite newsman (the group is, of course, partial to good writing). Read this excerpt from his "On the Road" Series: "I like America's screwball architecture, but it's being replaced everywhere by humorless glass and steel. This is a loss. The Interstate highways have done in all those hamburger stands that were shaped like hamburgers, remember them? A historian named Peter H. Smith shares my view. After a few years of commercial archaelogy, Mr. Smith says we ought to establish a museum of the American highways to preserve the alligator jawed gift shops before they're all replaced by carbon copy modular gas stations."

The text continues from there -- but can't you see the pictures in your mind, can't you hear Charles Kuralt rolling the words off his tongue in his soothing Southern drawl? If you love words, like Charles Kuralt did, and are able to sell yourself by finding a "unique" angle that will impress an editor, you're well on your way. A freelance writer is only as good as his/her ability to glean "stories" from the news fodder. A good freelance writer must be "accurate", able to recognize a good story, be able to sift through the facts, be crystal clear in his or her writing, versatile, have a pleasing personality, quick and be blessed with ingenuity. If that's you, keep reading.

One of our members at the Canadian Copywriter is a radio reporter. Here is his account of a typical news assignment:"

My shift starts at 6:00 a.m. sharp every day. I spend the first hour getting everything in order, then at 7:00 a.m., we meet to discuss the news stories of the day and the editor hands out assignments. A lot of people think a TV reporter has to take more equipment than a radio reporter but that's not the case. I take two smart phones because one might not work.

Within the broader context of journalism, there is yet another type of writing. This type of writing is called Literary Journalism which is a genre that was made famous by Truman Capote after the publication of his book In Cold Blood. Other writers in this category of "interpretive reporting" include people such as Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Norman Mailer and Gay Talese.

In order to produce effective literary journalism, a writer must achieve two objectives: journalistic credibility and artistic merit. Achieving one of these objectives can be difficult, but achieving both at the same time will be quite a trick. That's because the writer is dealing with material that is non-fictitious. He or she must do exhaustive research to make the story as credible as possible. It must not wander from the exact details and descriptions -- then the writer must stretch beyond the typical objectivity of a news reporter and use a literary point of view -- employing all the tricks of the trade such as characterization, extended dialogue, foreshadowing, flashbacks and symbolism. This type of writing is the toughest of all. If you're just starting out, it might be a good idea to stay away from this one -- until you've got a few years of seasoning under your belt. Leave it to the hard-core journalists who have "been there and seen that !"

Journalism is based on telling the truth. It is the "Truth Told Well". Unfortunately, however, we are living in an age where the truth is often bent to suit different agendas. These days, in the era of Donald Trump, there are things such as "alternative facts" that make us wonder if what we are hearing or seeing is really the truth. Lately, there have been stories of reporters who have put a spin on the truth to sensationalize and of C.E.O.'s and other notables such as Martha Stewart in the States and Conrad Black (the Canadian man with an ego that's bigger than Canada itself...and the man who shares Richard Nixon's belief that his intellectual "brilliance" had put him in a position that is over and above all men. Oh, by the way, are you enjoying the "quiet time" down there in Florida -- and cleaning toilets in your non-quiet-time hours. People like these people must be held accountable and it's up to you to do it!) in Canada who have been caught cheating to further their own cause. Don't get caught in this cycle. In the long run, it is you who will pay. The Most Important Asset for any Journalist is Honesty.

Be as transparent as possible about your reporting methods and motives:
Journalists must seek the truth. In doing so, they must also be truthful in how they seek the truth. They must be willing to reveal their sources or how they gathered knowledge in a particular area. By being transparent, you will feel better about yourself and your audience will feel respected.

Transparency and Dealing with Sources:
When you deal with your sources, you must also be transparent. Obviously journalists should not lie to or mislead their sources in the process of trying to tell the truth to their audiences. If you do this, you should expect the "true story" in return.

Originality: Rely on Your Own Reporting
Many times, reporters are put in a squeeze between the truth and sensationalism. Let's face it. Sensationalism sells papers. But, if you put the wrong slant on your story or rely on unsubstantiated sources to sell newspapers, you will hurt your reputation and eventually your newspaper won't sell too many copies.

Keep an Open Mind: Humility

Some journalists who succeed believe they have become omniscient. This is a mistake. It's much better to print what you know rather than what you don't know.

While we all respect Mark Twain's wit, it might be a good idea as a reporter not to put his colorful opinions into practice. It's just a feeling we get. However, we must point out that in these modern times, there are some news organizations who fully endorse Mark Twain's opinion -- the biggest offender, of course, is Fox News, This organization has thrown any notion of journalistic integrity to the wind. Our biggest fear is that the Fox News sense of journalistic integrity will take over and the trusted words of Walter Cronkite et al will all but soon disappear, but we suggest that you continue learning to be a good reporter anyway. Ed Note: If you go to this web site, please remember that it is only a parody of Fox News. It was created by a group of angry Canadians in answer to Fox News, who, in the Spring of 2009, ridiculed the efforts of the fighting Canadian men and women who have died valiantly in Afghanistan (and was created in an effort to retaliate against and ridicule FOX News, not the American people ((which is something that we, at the Canadian Copywriter, are loathe to do!)) To the majority of Americans out there, remember that we, Canadians, still respect and understand you and will continue to be your allies! We realize that most of you don't endorse Fox News, but will defend to your death its right to exist -- which is probably a good thing because these people have a "death grip" on ignorance with every utterance -- and they demonstrate to the world the complete nonsense of their right wing impartiality and stupidity. However, we still believe that irresponsible journalism and extremist thinking, which it seems that FOX News has now come to represent, demands a response from responsible, intelligent citizens everywhere throughout the world. We believe that no matter where you are from, or who you are, we have all become citizens of the world and it is our invested responsiblity to say NO to hatred, extremism, racism, mis-represenation, violence and jingoism everywhere, no matter what its source -- whether it's American, Canadian, Mexican, Chinese, Russian, or from anywhere! For more detailed and up-to-the-minute reports on the sheer idiocy of Fox News, go to or The Huffington Post. You'll get ample reason why you should no longer watch or listen to these screwballs.

A few years ago in Canada there was an infamous scandal unwravelling about sponsorship in the Quebec media. The Canadian government in its wisdom had decided to sponsor advertising that would encourage Quebeckers to stay within the union -- because, as you may know, there is still a sizeable percentage of Quebeckers who want to separate from Canada (fortunately, however, they are still in the minority). Millions of dollars were given to certain advertising agencies to book the air time and a lot of the money never got there -- instead winding up in the pockets of various ad agency and government people. In some cases, people stole up to ten million dollars a year! The public learned about this perplexing state of affairs through a lady by the name of Jacqueline Bedard, a lady who worked in the marketing department at Via Rail. She took it upon herself to question some of the enormous bills she was receiving from Via's Advertising Agency. Of course, when she started to sqawk, her efforts got her fired and the establishment dismissed her as just another "voice in wilderness". But then people began to look at the woman herself. She was an honest, hard-working citizen. She had no criminal record. Oh, and yes, she also happened to be an Olympic athlete. Oh, and yes, she also happened to win a Silver Medal in cross country skiing/shooting. Well, wait a second here. Let's slap our collective palms to our collective foreheads! "Maybe this gal ain't no Jane Doe with a big mouth, after all! Maybe this lady is telling the truth."The fact is that Ms. Bedard was anything but. When the real facts of the matter came to light, this was one of the biggest political patronage issues in Canadian history. Ms. Bedard was telling the awful, wicked truth and the "fat, greedy blimps" in positions of power began to dip their greedy heads (which started to roll in record numbers). The issue has sickened the Canadian public to the point where the current government almost toppled (missed by one vote) and Canada almost had another general election (jeez, that's all we ever have. Federal elections). What Ms. Bedard did is what every good journalist should do. Even when faced by powerful foes, they must question every move and hold a public official's (or anyone trusted to do the right thing) feet to the fire. They are the watchdogs of our society.
Joseph Pulitzer

In the latter years of the 19th century, Joseph Pulitzer was a famous American journalist. Hungarian-born, he was a passionate crusader against dishonest government. As the publisher of the New York World and St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspapers, he reshaped newspaper journalism and was the first to call for the training of journalists at the university level. When the time came to write his will, he made provision for the establishment of the Pulitzer Prizes as an incentive to excellence. His original idea was to grant just four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one for education, and four traveling scholarships. Prizes were to go to an American novel, an original American play performed in New York, a book on the history of the United States, an American biography, and a history of public service by the press. However, since the inception of the prizes in 1917,the Pulitzer Prize Board has increased the number of awards to 21 and introduced poetry, music, and photography as additional subjects. Although extra categories were added, the board has been rigorous in adhering to the spirit of the founder's intent.

Here are some tips on how you can be a better reporting watchdog.

Avoid Political Partisanship. You will cut off 50 percent of your effectiveness if you investigate only one political party or even lean toward investigating one party alone. When seeking facts and answers you must make a conscientious and determined effort to be equally aggressive, whether the officials involved are people you admire or people you distrust. You will do everyone a favor if you ask them tough, direct questions. It doesn't matter who it is. Everyone must be held accountable.
Know your subject whether it is a problem of city, county, province/state or federal government or whether it involves big labor or big business. If you are in a highly technical area or are dealing with a complicated fact situation, you may make unintentional mistakes simply because you did not understand what you heard.
Don't exaggerate or distort the facts of the law. Efforts to sensationalize will discredit your investigation in the long run.
Deal straight across the board with your sources and investigation subjects alike. Don't use tricks or pretense to catch people off guard. Don't use a false name or identity or impersonate a law enforcement officer. If you deal straight with the subjects of your investigation, it is quite likely that they will be your best sources of inside information at some time in the future.
Do not violate the law unless you are willing to take the consequences. Any time you violate the law to obtain information you develop a vulnerability that can destroy your credibility as well as the story you are pursuing.
Use direct evidence when writing a story that reflects adversely upon someone -- then give that person the opportunity to respond to the questions raised. Direct testimony is often unreliable, even when the witness has no personal interest, and the chances for error increase dramatically when a source is "once removed" from the event.
American University School of Communication Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunication Ball State University Department of Journalism
Baruch College, City University of New York Boston University College of Communication California State University at Chico Department of Journalism
Colorado State University Department of Journalism & Technical Communication Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Eastern Illinois University Journalism Department
Florida International University School of Journalism and Mass Communication George Washington University School of Communications Indiana University School of Journalism
Kansas State University, The A. Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication Lehigh University Department of Journalism and Communication
Lehhigh School Louisiana State University, The Manship School of Mass Communication Michigan State University School of Journalism
Middle Tennessee State University College of Mass Communication Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University New York University Department of Journalism
Northwestern University, The Medill School of Journalism Ohio University, E. W. Scripps School of Journalism Pennsylvania State University College of Communications
Rutgers, State University of New Jersey School of Communication St. Bonaventure University Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication San Francisco State University Department of Journalism
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, School of Journalism Syracuse University, Newhouse School of Public Communication Temple University School of Journalism
Troy State University School of Journalism
University of King's College
Concordia School of Journalism
Algonquin Times Online The
Journalism Program at Niagara College Université d'Ottawa, baccalauréat en journalisme.
Le SagaCité - Université d'Ottawa Ryerson School of Journalism
Carleton's School of Journalism Capital News Online
Carleton Internet Course
University of Western Ontario's Graduate Program University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Information and Media Studies.
University of Western Ontario's Online Paper University of Western Ontario's
Internet radio Fanshawe College
University of Regina's Journalism School
Mount Royal College
UBC Graduate Program UBC's survey of use of the Internet
Kwantlen University College Langara College journalism program
AJR Joblink for Journalists
ASNE Job Fairs Schedule
The Big TV Job List
Freelance Online Jobs Databse
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IRE Job Center
The Job's Top 80 Markets Listings
JobsPage - Your Link to Newspaper Careers
Journalism and Women Job Bank

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National Diversity Newspaper Job Bank
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Newspaper Association of America EmployLink
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