Tune up your eyes & ears

By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach

I used to assign rookie reporters to interview mayors and police chiefs and others who might be newsworthy. 

Before they left, we discussed issues that might make a news story and their questions that needed answers.

When they returned, I asked the reporters what they heard the mayor say, chapter and verse.

“Don’t look at your notes,” I told them. “Tell me what you heard as you recall it. Tell it as you would tell your family a story.”

When they had satisfied me that they had a story worth writing, they went to their desks without their notes. They were learning three things:

  1. Ask good questions and shut up to listen.

  2. Listen not only with your ears but your eyes, too. Take in details of how speakers act and are dressed plus what’s in the room. 

  3. Develop your memory to filter out the extraneous and use only words they said that are pertinent and our readers would be interested in.

After the reporters wrote their stories, they received their notes and were told to compare what they wrote with their notes to make sure:

  1. Direct quotes, facts and figures were accurate.

  2. All important points that our readers would want or need to know were included.

You do not have to be a journalist to tune up your eyes and ears. It works for all of us. 

Next: Your active listening skills.

Looking for holiday gifts for your more talented editors and reporters?  For less than $10 each, consider giving them copies of writing coach Jerry Bellune’s The Art of Compelling Writing, at Amazon.com.

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