Writing Across Platforms

Accuracy, conciseness, and fairness are all at the core of what constitutes good journalistic writing. However, truly good writing is about more than just being correct. It is about connecting with and engaging your audience, providing a voice for your subjects, and illuminating issues and topics in ways that effectively respond to the interests and needs of readers.

At the same time, in the digital age even writers must consider the platforms on which their work will appear. Multimedia writers are increasingly expected to write for a number of media, news outlets, and story types. And although print and online stories are often similarly structured, writers must be able to think beyond the traditional long-form story. More than ever, writers must be adept at many different types of writing to be successful in the multimedia world.

Multimedia writers are often required to cover a single story that will appear on multiple platforms. And although many print publications simply republish stories from their print edition on their Web sites, in some cases stories are reformatted to better suit online reading styles. A multimedia writer may also be asked to contribute to video and audio scripts, captions, narrations for animations, or explainers for information graphics. However, regardless of the platform, format, or story structure, good writing is at the core of good journalism.

Topics Covered

News reading trends
Today’s readers tend to scan pages to find areas of interest, zero in on headlines, skim copy for key words and phrases, and click to interact and navigate a site. Media writers must be realistic about their audiences’ reading habits and structure content in a way that helps pull samplers and scanners into stories they might not otherwise read.

Crafting news stories
The first step to mastering journalistic writing is understanding how to craft a basic news story. Although the multimedia age has added a number of tools and responsibilities to our plates, basic newswriting is still the foundation for journalistic storytelling.

Writing basic leads
The lead, a story’s first sentence or two, is the most important structural element of a news story. Good leads get to the point. They answer core news questions: who, what, when, where, why, and/or how. And they help readers understand a story’s significance.

Crafting stories for the Web
One of the most important things to master when writing for the Web, is crafting informative, concise headlines, summaries, and hyperlinks to longer versions of a story. Likewise, getting to the point early in your story and writing in short, easy to digest paragraphs is also important.

Writing for information graphics
Different types of graphics call for different writing styles. However, regardless of type or platform, all of the written components for an information graphic should be tight, direct, active, and easy to understand.

Writing captions
Strong captions contain more than just a subject’s name or description of the scene. A well- written caption adds value to the image instead of describing its contents.

Writing scripts
The narrative of an audio script creates an instant, and perhaps more personal, connection between writer and audience. Precision, short words, active voice, and pointed writing is most important for pieces that will not be read, but rather, heard.