When looking for your CONTROLLING CONCEPT… Consider moving up (and down) theLevels of Abstraction
Level Four: AbstractionsExamples: life, beauty, love, time, success, power, happiness, faith, hope, charity, evil, good. Or honesty, truth, wealth, liberty, danger? What else?
Level Three: Noun classes (broad group names with little specification).Examples: People, men, women, young people, everybody, nobody, industry, we, goals, things, television.
Level Two: Noun categories (more definite groups).Examples: teen-agers, middle-class, clothing industry, parents, college campus, newborn child, TV comedies, house plants.
Level One: Specific, identifiable nouns.Examples: Levi 501 jeans, my blue, three bedroom house on Hollis Street, Parks and Recreation, Bud commercials, African violets, Tina's newborn sister, Mina.
So your staff is discussing coverage of Homecoming or Prom… WHAT COULD BE A CONTROLLING CONCEPT THAT PROVIDES YOU MORE DEPTH AND BREADTH?
Homecoming and Prom are Level Two Abstractions, don’t you think? So for our special coverage we need to move UP the ladder for a controlling concept…
At level four, isn’t Homecoming really about… Spirit? Community? Voyage & Return? What else…?
When you decide to do in-depth coverage of some issue at your school… say the stress of high stakes testing and associated classes… Self-worth? Values? Choices? Happiness (pursuit of)?
Once you have established your controlling concept, begin moving back down the ladder of abstraction to find the actual stories you will tell. The kid with six AP classes on her schedule… Research on how high school can affect your future…
The trend toward using private tutors to supplement regular instruction… High achievers are “self-medicating” in large numbers… Why do some opt out of the “race”? What else…?
If you wanted to start planning a Level Four coverage controlling concept for February… what could you do with LOVE? And if the first four boxes include things like “how to ask someone out,” and “the most romantic phrases of all time,” and “how pets provide unconditional love…”
What coverage ideas (down the ladder) can we come up with that take readers into areas they just didn’t expect? Is one student’s “love” for his iPod past the first four boxes? How about another person’s intense spirituality? What else…?
reTHINKis about making use of a cool new grid… about choosing fonts wisely… about mixing long- and short-form reporting… and much more. But what will really make you stand out is the content you bring your audience that they just never saw coming.
Just remember: Our actual coverage is focused on Level One – as specific and detailed as we can get it. The CONTROLLING CONCEPT just provides the links among coverage areas our audience may not have considered as related.