Guerilla Journalism Ethics: Professionalism and Indymedia


A discussion on ethics guerilla journalists should consider when interviewing, writing, and producing news.
Arizona IMC, NYC IMC / Indypendent

audio of this workshop (recorded by SteeV)

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Pocketbook for Indymedia Journalists

Useful hints, skills, techniques and resources for the Independent Reporter

indymedia.org

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Resources for Getting Info
everybody is a witness, everybody is a journalist

BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Do your background research. Never go into a story or interview cold. Use your library & lexis-nexis to find past articles, search the internet, ask friends, or whatever to educate yourself before diving in. Knowing the background will help you gain respect while doing your interviews and research. Background research also includes obtaining police reports, FOIA requests, etc.

STORY ANGLES: Find an exclusive, unique way to cover the story - usually it\x92s the angle the corporate media is avoiding or doesn\x92t know about. Interesting angles draw in your audience because it provides answers to questions that they haven\x92t thought of before.

WRITING FOR YOUR AUDIENCE: Indymedia users (web, print, radio or TV) are hungry for information. They know there is more to it than what the corporate media provides. They want a glance inside the movement, they want to hear new voices. They want what the corporate media can\x92t or won\x92t give them. Ideally, the audience should be everyone, so keep in mind that people other than fellow activists will be viewing your stories and may not be familiar with everything that is going on in a movement, or language used within the movement.

OBJECTIVITY: There\x92s one important thing to note on objectivity: it doesn\x92t exit. Indymedia isn\x92t an objective source of information, we\x92re just more honest about our biases than the corporate media. Write to tell truths, not to be \x93objective.\x94

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Techniques for Solid News Writing

LEADING IT OFF: Every story needs an awesome lead. Leads should be catchy by exposing a unique circumstance or aspect to the story. It should be something enticing that perks the audience\x92s inter est and makes them want the whole story

SHAPING THE STORY: The most common news writing template is the inverted pyramid, but there are many models for building the rest of your story. Here is where you can be creative. But remember, most people won\x92t read an entire article, so always rank the importance of all the story\x92s key points and produce your final story with that in mind. You can use different writing styles like timelines, compare/contrast, narratives, features, etc...

END WITH THE HEAD: Unless you started writing with a killer headline in mind, usually you will write your headlines last after you\x92ve finished the story. This allows you to look at your story as a whole and sum it up with a concise (and perhaps witty) headline.

ADDING FACTS & QUOTES: Like cooking a perfect curry, facts and quotes should be diligently sprinkled into your story \x97always with their sour ce identified (unless doing so would cause undue harm). Just because someone said something doesn\x92t mean it needs to be quoted, especially if you can paraphrase it and make it clearer. Pick out concise, interesting, passionate and well-worded sentences to use as quotes in your story. You should also back up statements with facts and stats\x97but make sure they don\x92t weigh down the story.

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10 Tips for Interviewing

1. Be prepared, be on time and be polite. Acting professional and courteous will make your source more comfortable.

2. Set the rules of the interview right up front. Be sure your subject understands the story you are working on. Additionally, the interviewee must understand that everything they say is \x93on the record.\x94

3. Ask open-ended tough questions, avoid yes/no answers. Ask questations that will make your source give more information.

4. Be observant! Observe details of the place and of your interviewing partner; this can add color to your story.

5. Arrange your questions appropriately. Don\x92t start with tough questions that may make your source feel immediately uncomfortable and/or end the interview early.

6. Listen but don\x92t be afraid to interrupt when you don\x92t understand! The \x93dumb is better\x94 approach often forces your source to explain information, issues and concepts clearly and simply.

7. Silence is golden. Remain silent after asking tough questions to make your source feel uncomfortable, this may encourage her/him to share more information.

8. Keep the interview on track. Don\x92t let your source get off track, waste time or lead you astray from the information you seek.

9. Before your leave: Ask your source if there is anything that you might have forgotten to ask; get a contact number or e-mail address and a good time to call with follow-up questions; always ask for other sources; and thank your source for spending time talking with you before you leave.

10. Review your notes right after the interview. Don\x92t put off writing out notes from your interview. You will likely forget a lot of details if you wait until later .

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Resources for Getting Info

FOIA Requests - The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) enables the public to examine documents and records of all departments, agencies and offi ces within the Executive Branch of the federal government.

FACA Requests - Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), mandates that meetings of special federal task forces be open to the public.

Sunshine Act (GITSA) - Government in the Sunshine Act requires that any federal Executive Branch commission, committee or other \x93collegial\x94 body make its decisions in public meetings. This includes the SEC, the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission.

Police Reports - You can request police reports by visiting or calling the police station.

Court Documents - You can request transcripts from most court proceedings by contacting the court house.

Public Meetings - All public meetings are open to the media. Object loudly if you are not allowed in a public meeting.

Useful Sites:

Indymedia Documents- docs.indymedia.org
Radical Reference- www.radicalreference.info
Society of Professional Journalists- www.spj.org
Pjct for Excellence in Journalism- www.journalism.org
International Center for Journalists- www.icfj.org
Resources for Journalists- www.powerreporting.com
Reporters Committee for Freedom of Press - www.rcfp.org


-- AaronCouch - 15 Feb 2005
-- BradleY - 14 Mar 2005 -- added text for "Pocketbook for Indymedia Journalists"
Topic revision: r6 - 14 Mar 2005, BradleY
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