Everyone Should Be a Reporter

These days we use a lot of euphemisms for “write.” We synthesize. We encapsulate. We muse. We storytell. We chronicle. We channel. We create. We produce. Call it what you like. In the end, we’re all writing. But what we’re not all doing is reporting—that is, reporting in the classic sense of challenging what we believe we know, asking questions, and gathering fresh information and perspective to add to our writing.

Image source: defense.gov/WeekInPhotos/

Image source: defense.gov/WeekInPhotos/

For a lot of writing tasks, it’s easy to skip the reporting step and draw on the knowledge that’s already sitting on a shelf inside your brain—your personal experiences, your well-established points of view, your “expertise.” But most writing projects can benefit when you add some aspect of reporting to your writing process. Adding a reporting step can help make your content more engaging, more authoritative, more informative, and more persuasive.

Those who strive to be better writers should strive to be better reporters, better gatherers of information. Here are some tactics. …

Talk to the Man on the Street: Ask a stranger (or a colleague) what he thinks about a topic or what experiences he has had. Consider or incorporate that additional perspective as you write.

Fact-Check Yourself: Confirm your own knowledge of things. Information changes. Your knowledge of a situation or a topic might lack the latest facts. Look things up, using the most reputable source you can find. Fact-check even the things that you believe are tried-and-true facts. You know—things like the four(?) tastes that the human tongue can experience … or when the planet(?) Pluto was discovered.

Add Authority: Seek data or comments that bring credibility to what you’re writing—credibility beyond your own voice and your own expertise. Interview or cite an expert other than yourself.

Seek Differing Views: Take some time to hear or read about opinions or perspectives that don’t match your own. If you’re writing a persuasive piece, be aware of views that differ from yours so that you can address them in your final product. If you’re toeing the objective line (like a traditional reporter), inject varied voices and viewpoints into your writing and let your readers do some thinking/opinion forming on their own.

Get on the Scene: Visit a location that relates to what you’re writing about. Observe. Ask questions. Take notes. It’s not enough to read what others say life is like for recipients of public assistance. Go down to the public-assistance office and see what goes on. Talk to the people there—i.e., interview them.

Keep Reading: Seek material that comes from “the source” or as close to the source as you can get. If you plan to reference an article in your writing and that article references a scientific study, for example, you should endeavor to find that study and read it yourself. Reading from the source will help you verify what others have written, and reading from the source can provide you with additional information that will make your writing more powerful.


Copyright © 2014 by L. Scott Tillett, lstillett.wordpress.com. All rights reserved.


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