Are you posting a story on your website or blog? You may want an illustration — what newspaper editors sometimes call “art” — to accompany it. If you’ve shot a photo or you work at a news agency and can use something from a staff photographer, then great. If not, what do you do?
The intersection of knowledge and narrative, of informed journalism, is the heart of what the Journalist’s Resource project continues to explore. In the short essay below, Nicholas Lemann, a professor and dean emeritus at the Columbia Journalism School and a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker, articulates a method for journalism that integrates knowledge while preserving the art of storytelling. We reprint it here with his permission:
The Associated Press was founded more than 150 years ago and now has thousands of employees working in more than a hundred countries for a readership that numbers in the millions. AP style is designed to address the challenges of the organization’s large size and readership. It had to be easy for reporters and editors to use and also produce stories that are clear and concise.
Far from being recent acquaintances, mass journalism and high technology have long been inseparable companions. When the London Times installed the first steam-powered presses in 1814, they not only quadrupled the speed of page production, they also vastly increased the paper’s reach and power. Later advances such as cameras, telegraphs and telephones — to say nothing of computers large and small — only deepened the relationship between the press and technology.
The Internet is an endlessly rich world of sites, pages and posts — until it all ends with a click and a “404 page not found” error message. While the hyperlink was conceived in the 1960s, it came into its own with the HTML protocol in 1991, and there’s no doubt that the first broken link soon followed.
The writing term style refers to a set of rules that help ensure that your stories are as clear, consistent and understandable as possible. There are a number of style guides available for journalists, the two most prominent of which are The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style.
If The Associated Press Stylebook was created specifically for journalists, the target audience of The Chicago Manual of Style is much broader — all writing and writers. While one can debate the merits of Chicago versus AP style, Chicago’s strength is its breadth and depth.
Many people don’t read business news, and for good reason. There’s nothing more boring than a story that uses a bunch of numbers in the lead without explaining what’s actually going on. But business news writing doesn’t have to be boring, or laden with numbers.
Acronyms are words formed from the initial letters of a multiword term. These can be names of organizations (NATO), nations (USA), and phrases (FAQ). While acronyms are highly efficient, care needs to be taken when using them. Too many, the AP Style Guide warns, produces “alphabet soup.”