How To Cover Breaking News

Journalists typically aren't given a couple weeks to write a story. News can happen at any time, and often a reporter will be expected to cover breaking news, such as a fire or bank robbery, and immediately write a story. The slideshow below offers tips on covering breaking news. 

Suggested Learning Activity:
Few people have an understanding or appreciation for what it takes to work in public safety. Most of us deal with police officers only when we get a traffic ticket. Journalists, in particular, tend to have an adversarial relationship. Their quest for information can often conflict with the need for secrecy in police investigations. In order to gain a better perspective, try examining first-hand what it’s like to work in public safety by doing a “ride-along” with a public safety official – sort of like the TV show “Cops,” except you’ll actually be there with the police officers and not just watching them from the comfort of your living room couch. In the process, hopefully, you’ll gain some insight into public safety, a topic frequently assigned to young professional journalists.
Here are the instructions: Shadow or “ride along” with any uniformed public safety official, including police, firefighters, EMTs, military police, Coast Guard and federal agents (FBI, ATF, DHS, USCIS, etc.). You are responsible for contacting officials and arranging the ride-along . Many departments are very accommodating and some even have formal programs to handle such requests. Explain that you are doing this as part of a school assignment. You should spend at least two hours watching the public safety official at work. This means, actually going out into the field with him/her – not just watching someone play Tetris on their laptop during a quiet period. Afterward, write a reflection paper that is at least 400 words long about your experience. Things you may address include but are not limited to: What did you observe? What did you learn? What surprised you? What did you like? What didn’t you like? Anything else you’d like to add? Your paper need not be in journalistic form, but it should be written in a clear, grammatically-correct and interesting way.


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