Thursday, September 27, 2007

Writing on Deadline

It's rarely easy, but you will get better with practice.

Preparing -- even for a few minutes -- helps tremendously. Otherwise, get in the habit of thinking of a simple lede or headline as you report. You'll tweak it as new information comes in, but the process gets you ready to write.

One trick that works for me is to write a bare bones version of the story without looking at my notes. I'll flesh out the details and add quotes from my notes on the second run-though. That way I don't get bogged down in details at the start.

Here's some other advice on deadline writing from the pros.

Monday, September 24, 2007

This Week: Council, Taxes, Election

We'll be covering tonight's Missoula City Council meeting. The story deadline is midnight. You're on your own as far a prepping for the assignment, but you know the drill by now. Don't go tonight without an idea or two for the story. Bring questions to class.

No beat story this week, but I want you to start digging into the City Council candidate you'll be be assigned to cover today. We'll draw for candidates and teams.

We'll be talking about the property tax in today's class. Here's some official literature on the subject from the Montana Department of Revenue, which administers taxation. The tax, which provides money for cities, counties and schools, is collected at the county.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Let's Hear it for Hillview Way

Barring any surprises, it's the public's night to tell the City Council what it thinks of the a $3.3 million plan to rebuild Hillview Way, a twisty, dangerous road serving Missoula's South Hills. Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller gave you a good look at the project last week, so you should be well prepared. She followed up with another good piece Monday.

If that's not enough, here's a map of the project and a fact sheet produced by the city's Public Works Department.

Take good notes so you can give readers a sense of the debate. It's hard to say if the council will vote on this after the hearing. If it does, you'll want to build your story on the decision and reaction. If it doesn't, then give readers a sense of the hearing (without getting lost in the process.)

You might even draft a few grafs of background ahead of time.

Your other assignment this week: A story from your beat.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Assignments for the Week of Sept. 9

Here's what's due this week:

  1. A story from Monday's Missoula City Council meeting. Deadline: Midnight Monday.
  2. A story from your beat. Deadline: If you've got breaking news, the story is due by midnight of the day it happens. News features are due no later than noon Friday.

Local government reporters: There's a city primary election Tuesday. See me after class for details.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Covering City Hall: Preparation is the Key

The action starts at 7 p.m. Monday night at the weekly Missoula City Council meeting. Get there (140 W. Pine St.) early and grab a seat where you can see who's talking. Before you go:
  • Read the agenda and follow the links on issues you think might be newsworthy.
  • Read Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller's story in Sunday's paper about "roundabouts."
  • Go to the paper's archive link and click on advanced search. Look for any other articles on "roundabouts" over the last 12 months. (Hint: You'll have to change the search dates.) You should find an earlier story about the Miller Creek Road project.

You should also take a look at Keila's Monday story about a controversial plan to rebuild Hillview Way, a dangerous road that curves through Missoula's southern hills. The story anticipates a public hearing on the project scheduled for Monday the 17th. Good beat reporting like this gives people a chance to participate in the process.