By Serena Tartaglia
Room 100 in Marieb Hall is your typical collegiate lecture hall, and the students who filled its seats hushed when a local reporter stepped through its doors at 5:30 p.m. on Oct 14.
Ernest Hooper is the assistant sports editor at the Tampa Bay Times. He has been with the Tampa Bay Times since 1992.
Hooper gave a presentation on “Navigating the Media Maze.” He began his presentation a few hundred years in the past.
“Newspapers are the world’s first history book,” he said. “A 21st century communicator must be versatile, but it still boils down to good writing.”
So, how does one become a good writer? Hooper has five pieces of advice to public relations and journalism majors: Tell the story as if you are telling it to your friends, grab your audience at the beginning, paint a picture, employ a narrative (or, in layman’s terms, tell a story), write with all five senses and keep a journal.
“It’ll help you untangle emotional collisions inside your head and heart,” Hooper says.
Your second step is to make a connection. Think of your audience and have the right mindset. Next, pay attention to transitions, and use them well. A good writer must create touch-points, or emotional anchors to the story, such as mentioning things with which readers are familiar. Hooper, for instance, wrote an article about his grandmother, who President Obama mentioned in his 2008 victory speech, and included that she loves Pepperidge Farm cookies.
In your content, include anecdotes, triumphs and successes. In your second paragraph, known to journalists as “the nut graph,” meaning the story in a nutshell, include why the audience should care about your article. Include empirical evidence and supportive data. Use details, and inject your article with local flavor. Remind your readers of your story’s impact, or why they should be interested.
Near the end of the presentation, Hooper told the audience four things they must do: be a media consumer, envision your coverage of a story, write a good release and reflect understanding. He also told the audience to make personal connections; if you’re going to pitch a story to a journalist, meet them, if possible, before you pitch. Send emails that reflect consumption, help other journalists when possible and use social networks to reach out to your audience.
“Every community needs a good newspaper, but be intellectually honest. We need more people to seek information, rather than confirmation,” Hooper said. And with that, his presentation ended. He received thunderous applause.