Reading the Think Like an Editor reading on quotes resonated a lot with me. Much of what we do at WUFT-FM involves getting sound interviews to give our stories life, depth and credibility. Yes, we could say in our own words what a source tells us and save a lot of time and effort in the process, but having a source’s perspective makes the cast easier for listeners to digest and understand. Sound quotes mark a story as unique and significant. When listeners hear the voice of the mayor, a state senator or the sheriff, they perk up because they know it must be an important story.
I’ve come across the experience of trying to decide how to handle a story that could become questionable. We have a rule at the station that political stories about public policies or laws need to show both sides of the issue. That usually means getting the Republican and Democrat sides of the story. But, especially recently, we’ve run into the issue of whether the Tea Party side of the story should be included. For example, we covered Gov. Rick Scott’s unveiling of his new budget this week. Of course, we knew we had to call the Republican and Democratic chairmen of Alachua County, but there was an issue of whether it would be beneficial to interview the local Tea Party about their viewpoint. The issue was especially significant given that Scott announced his budget at a large Tea Party rally in Eustis. In the end, we interviewed all three sides and wrote two separate stories rather than try to cram all the information into one.
One thing I gathered from the last weeks’ readings is the importance of accessibility in journalism. Whether it’s writing headlines, coming up with a good nut graph or using effective quotes, reporters and editors must remember that they write stories with the intent that they will be read. If readers can’t connect with a story, then it’s not very likely that they’ll get beyond the first paragraph. Every aspect of a story is equally important because each one plays a part in moving the reader to the end of a story. The headline grabs the reader’s attention, the nut graph gets them beyond the first paragraph and the quotes guide them from graph to graph through to the end.