How to Write Faster on a Newsroom Deadline

5 Ways to Write Faster When Reporting the News

A picture of a reporter taking notes
All reporters know how to write, but learning how to write faster will pay off when you're faced with a time crunch.. Photo © DreamPictures / Getty Images
How to write faster on a newsroom deadline is the skill that news reporters must master in order to advance in their careers. Miss too many deadlines and you'll be writing a media resume as you head to the unemployment line.

Plan Your News Story

As you're leaving the newsroom to cover a story, use the time in the car to plan what you want to say. Sure, you're not even on the scene of the huge fire, news conference or ribbon cutting, but you already know something about the story or else you wouldn't be going.

Try to get the focus of your story down to one sentence.

That will be the basis for writing the lead, whether you're trying to come up with something for a TV news anchor to say or you're trying to write headlines for the web.

Think about the Visuals

Shooting great video used to only apply to television news. Today, newspaper reporters and web journalists are often required to bring back video to go with their stories.

That's why you should think about what viewers or readers will see along with your words. Considering what will make the most compelling visual images will help you get started with your writing. One of the top 10 tips for TV newswriting is to write to your video -- that is, to say something about what viewers are seeing, rather than going off on an unrelated tangent.

Conduct Focused Interviews

If you're in a rush while on the scene of a news story, you can save time when conducting interviews if you know what you want to ask and stick to that.
Otherwise, you'll easily fall victim to a rambling interview that you won't have time to review or use in your story.

These TV interview tips can apply to all media. Get the facts quickly, ask the necessary follow-ups and stop. Develop the self-discipline to know when an interview is over so that you'll save precious writing time.

Conducting an interview in a combative news situation presents its own challenges that can eat into your time. But even then, the same planning beforehand will pay off because you'll know exactly what you must get out of the interview and can cut it off before it veers off into an unwanted direction.

Produce a Focused Story

You already thought of your lead sentence, so now comes writing the rest of your story. Some basic writing tricks can help you write faster.

Think in groups of threes -- the three points your interview made, the three parts of the issue you're covering, the three reasons why your story matters to people at home. These items construct the backbone for your story. Then you write to fill in the gaps. Check out these specific tips on writing crime stories, writing political stories or writing retail business stories.

No matter what type of deadline you face, avoid making critical errors in your writing. Your boss would undoubtedly rather have you miss a deadline than be hit with a lawsuit because of your rushed reporting.

Avoid the Obstacles That Will Slow You Down

Some aspects of news gathering and writing can put you at a standstill. Plan for these issues so that you can avoid them.

One is forgetting to get all the information you need at the scene, meeting or interview location. You return to your desk and suddenly remember a key question you forgot to ask. Often that happens as you start writing a sentence then realize you can't finish it because an important fact is missing.

Working fast doesn't mean to get yourself into such a frenzy that you miss steps. It's far easier to ask a police investigator on the scene what type of gun was used in a robbery than to try to make phone calls later, only to find out the investigator went to lunch and your deadline is just minutes away.

Take a few minutes before you leave the location of your story to ask yourself if you have everything you need. Make a mental checklist, or even a written one, so that you can mark off all of the essential elements you have to have -- video, interviews and fact-verification.

Prepare for the Follow-Ups

Writing faster usually means leaving out related, but unnecessary parts of the story. Many of those parts would make for excellent follow-up stories for the coming days.

Knowing that you can always report on these aspects of the story in the future makes it easier to leave them out of your initial report. It'll be easier to fight the temptation to simply dump every bit of information into the computer and then face a struggle of getting it all organized.

The parts of your story that need further investigation or confirmation can often wait for when you have time. As long as you can accurately report the basic facts, you can publish a story.

Writing faster news stories will be a skill that you'll constantly work on throughout your career. Sometimes you have an entire day to develop a perfectly-executed news story, sometimes you have only minutes. Be ready for both situations and you'll have success.

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