Journalism 130: Prof. Craig: General Story Guidelines

General Story Guidelines

Each story assignment for Journalism 130 will have somewhat different parameters (subject matter, story length, etc.), but there are certain basic guidelines that you should follow for any story.   

  • The basic minimum word count is 500 words.  This will rise as the semester progresses, as you become more proficient at writing news stories, and as the complexities of the topics increase.
  • You will be required to conduct a minimum of three interviews.  By this I mean actual interviews with actual people, not secondhand quotes borrowed from online stories.  Ideally these are conducted in person, but Zoom interviews and phone interviews are also acceptable.  Try to reserve email and text contact for arranging interviews or for the occasional follow-up question. 
  • You will double-check spellings of names and other facts for accuracy.  Factual errors destroy your credibility, and names are the most basic fact you need to get right.  Any misspelled name will result in an automatic failing grade on the assignment.

  • You should do some additional research on the topic as part of the process.  In the digital age, there's no reason not to educate yourself a little on the subject of your story before you plunge into it.  Be careful, though, to make sure you're seeing multiple sides of the topic -- you don't want slanted research to lead to a biased story. 

  • You can quote from articles you find, but this material should be labeled in the text (as in, "According to a July 18, 2020 article in the New York Times...").  This should be used as supporting material, not the core of your story -- your own interviews should be at the center of your narrative.

  • When interviewing students, make sure to get their major and class standing (senior, junior, etc.).  If students attend a different school, be sure to get the name of that school and the location if it would not be obvious to our audience. 

  • When interviewing faculty and staff, be sure to get job titles correct.  Someone you might informally call "professor" in class might actually be an assistant professor, an associate professor or a lecturer.  You can check these by following this link. For others, try to get job titles, name of employer and where they live. 

  • Be sure to go over your story before turning it in.  A good practice to catch mistakes is to read your story out loud to yourself. 

  • If you have questions along the way, don't hesitate to email me at


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