Car crash a post mortem
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Car crash: a post-mortem. Part 1: the lead. As a breaking news story, this is pretty straightforward. But do we simply want to say: Two cars collided at an intersection near Hong Kong University this morning. Topic lead alert!.

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Car crash: a post-mortem

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Car crash a post mortem

Car crash: a post-mortem


Part 1 the lead

Part 1: the lead

As a breaking news story, this is pretty straightforward. But do we simply want to say:

Two cars collided at an intersection near Hong Kong University this morning.


Topic lead alert

Topic lead alert!

Nope. That tells the reader little of interest. And what is the reader interested in? The human aspect.

Three people were injured in a two-car wreck at the intersection of Pokfulam and Sassoon Roads this morning, police said.


But wait there s more

But wait, there’s more

Why did the accident happen?

Three people were injured in a two-car wreck involving drunken driving at the intersection of Pokfulam and Sassoon Roads this morning, police said.


Still not done

Still not done

What is the context of this accident?

Three people were injured in a two-car wreck involving drunken driving at the accident-prone intersection of Pokfulam and Sassoon Roads this morning, police said.

(or: … at an accident-prone intersection near Hong Kong University …)


And finally

And finally…

Holy cow, it’s:


Car crash a post mortem

The movie star Jackie Chan and two others were injured in a two-car wreck involving drunken driving at the accident-prone intersection of Pokfulam and Sassoon Roads this morning, police said.


Part 2 supporting paragraphs

Part 2: supporting paragraphs

Use all pertinent information unless there is a reason not to.

  • Why use the names of everyone involved?


Car crash a post mortem

Three main reasons:

  • You never know when a person’s name might turn out to be VERY important later. What if the passenger in the Toyota was a high-ranking MTR official?

  • Readers, even subconsciously, are checking to see whether they knew someone involved.


Car crash a post mortem

3) It is part of the record of events—a record you are providing as a reporter. Make sure it is a complete picture.


Get it right

Get. It. Right.

This is your No. 1 job as a reporter. So…

  • Get quotes 100 percent correct. If you don’t trust your notes, paraphrase it.


Car crash a post mortem

  • Get names 100 percent correct. And unlike quotes, there is no “paraphrase”—if you can’t spell someone’s name, you can’t use it. (this is one reason to get a source’s contact information)

  • Side note: Remember that English family names come second—ask your source about their preference


Car crash a post mortem

  • And it’s not just people’s names you have to spell right. “Sasson” Road and Queen “Marry” Hospital are just as bad—and you can double-check the spelling with online sources or other resources.


Car crash a post mortem

  • Get facts 100 percent correct.

    How badly were people hurt?

    When did the wreck happen?

    Was there another wreck there a week before?

    Had the Toyota driver been charged yet?


It s ok to say what

It’s OK to say, “what?”

If you’re not clear on something, ask sources to repeat themselves. If it doesn’t make sense, ask for an explanation.

Never assume you know the answer.


Judge jury reporter

Judge, jury, reporter

Is this sentence fair?

The man behind the wheel of the Toyota was driving drunk and caused the accident by running a red light.


Car crash a post mortem

No.

It is missing what we need to include EVERY TIME we describe controversial, contentious, legally questionable or criminal actions: attribution.

The man behind the wheel of the Toyota was driving drunk and caused the accident by running a red light, police said.


Part 3 background

Part 3: background

  • As discussed earlier, the history of the intersection is important.

  • Some of you (bravo!) used online sources to get statistics for how many car accidents happened in Hong Kong annually.

    Which of these is important enough to include at or near the beginning of the story?


Part 4 color and remaining facts

Part 4: color and remaining facts

  • What questions were left outstanding? How about: “What were the conditions of the people in the hospital?”

  • Where would we go to get that information?


Car crash a post mortem

  • Also, the driver finished work at 6:30 a.m. The police didn’t have any more information about where he was going, but checking “newspaper clippings” would have provided some context as to why he might have been drinking in the morning


The big picture

The big picture

Remember: In a news story, the more important a fact is, the sooner it should appear.

Telling exactly how something happened—especially when it is a crime or accident—is very important.

Big names are also important—or at least attention-grabbing.

Some background is interesting but not important.

Keeping it simple is never a bad idea.


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