Page 1

Keeping the Focus Where It Belongs A Post-Sandy Citizen Journalist Handbook

Produced by The Citizens Campaign

Table of Contents Introduction...................................................................................................................1 Step One: Asking the Right Questions.............................................................................2 Step Two: Getting the Right Answers..............................................................................5 Based on presentations by Justin Auciello (Jersey Shore Hurricane News), Tracey Samuelson (WHYY/Newsworks), Joe Malinconico (Paterson Press) and supplemented by The Citizens Campaign Staff Step Three: Ideas into Action...........................................................................................9 Based on the presentation of Matt Krayton (Publitics PR)

Appendices A: Citizen Journalist Worksheet: How to Write a Feature Story.....................................15

Prepared by Tracey Samuelson of WHYY/Newsworks

B: Seven Tips for Writing Well.....................................................................................16

Prepared by Chris Satullo of WHYY/Newsworks

Ten Tips for Better Visuals......................................................................................16

Prepared by Lindsay Lazarski of WHYY/Newsworks

C: Informational Resources........................................................................................18

Prepared by Tracey Samuelson of WHYY/Newsworks & The Citizens Campaign

D: Index of The Citizens Campaign Citizen Journalism Materials..................................21 E: List of Citizen Journalism Conference Contributors and Participants........................22 F: New Jersey Recovery Fund Statement of Purpose...................................................23

Š Copyright 2014. The Citizens Campaign. All rights reserved.

INTRODUCTION As memories of Superstorm Sandy begin to fade and media attention inevitably turns elsewhere, whether or not the issue of better preparation for future storms and climate change adaptation remain front and center in the public square depends more and more on the work and continued involvement of citizen journalists. A relatively new, but growing phenomenon, citizen journalism aims to fill some of the gaps created by the broad decline of daily newspapers, which has created a dangerous void in the coverage of local government and politics. The media expert and citizen journalism advocate, Jay Rosen, calls it citizen journalism “when the people formerly known as the audience, employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another.� The new online tools now available enable interested citizens to publish their own stories, serve as the eyes and ears of their community and communicate to a broad audience. Maximizing this new potential, however, requires learning some of the skills of reporting as well as how to best use new technology to advance your objectives. Towards that end, this past fall, The Citizens Campaign organized three citizen journalism conferences in the shore regions hardest hit by Sandy. They were held at Ocean County College in Toms River, Monmouth University in West Long Branch and Middlesex County College in Edison. At these conferences, more than 200 aspiring citizen journalists interested in post-Sandy issues attended interactive sessions led by editors, radio and print reporters, publishers of online newspapers, experts in social media, and skilled photographers and videographers. The emphasis was on imparting practical information to assist citizen journalists in getting better at their craft and as a result, enabling them to more substantially impact the public discussion. The response by conference participants was overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. This handbook provides the main highlights and most important takeaways from the conferences. By doing so, it aims to serve as a handy guide for practicing citizen journalists as well as an enticement for people to begin doing this important work. Included are a series of questions to ask local officials, non-profit groups and residents; tips for how to cover a breaking news event; a blueprint for writing or producing a feature story; how to get started on an investigative piece; how to set up your own blog or online newspaper; and tips for getting a story published in an existing media outlet. The appendices contain tips to improve your newswriting skills and how to select great visuals. Given limited space, all the material from the conferences could not be included. Those who seek additional information from the conferences or who want to check out other materials on citizen journalism, should visit The Citizens Campaign website:. A complete guide to what is available on the site can be found at the end of the appendix.


STEP 1: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS In the aftermath of Sandy as we rebuild and prepare for future emergencies and storms, it is critical that we are asking the right questions. Once you have the question, you can hone in and get the answers you need. Below are a series of questions for citizen journalists to ask government officials, key non-profit groups and residents about future storm readiness, postSandy planning, and community resilience, among other important topics. These questions were put together with the assistance of South Orange Mayor Alex Torpey and other local government experts. It draws on research conducted by the RAND Corporation and others on key factors that contribute to communities better withstanding disasters and recovering quicker.

Emergency/Disaster Basics • Is your town’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) up to date and fully approved? These documents don’t provide an incredible amount of timely practical help, after all, who can look through a 400 page document during an emergency, but aside from codifying best practices and containing some truly important information, they are pre-qualifiers for a number of different grants and funding sources for emergency preparedness efforts. • When was the last time your town held either a tabletop or full scale exercise? Are community groups and other key stakeholders included in the exercises? • Does your municipality use GIS to keep track of storm related expenses and damages? (GIS stands for geographic information system). There are systems that can take zoning maps, and utility maps, etc and overlay data to show you what’s happening in an emergency, or to plan for capital, but to be able to use those things you have to have points of data geo-located. Storm drains, gaslights, streetlights and things of that nature, can be mapped electronically if newer technology is used to catalog where they are. • Is your town’s emergency communications plan redundant? Are there multiple ways of getting timely information out to residents? For example, South Orange does emergency phone notifications via text and voice to home and cell phones (as many as they can collect info for) email, social media, neighborhood groups, city website and radio plans. Is there a subscription service for people to sign up for “push notifications”? Some cominor services include: Nixle, Everbridge, United Alert. • Does your town have a non-emergency number that people can call during emergencies to get important information, but aren’t calling to report an emergency? • Who is the designated Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Coordinator? What is their background/training? • Are there regular meetings of your town’s Local Emergency Planning Council (LEPC)? 2

This is usually department heads of a municipal government and any local partners; for example in South Orange it always includes Seton Hall. • Does your town have a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program to assist your professional rescuers? How well trained and representative of the community is the CERT Team? • What methods/platforms does your town use to recall employees (police, fire, EMS, DPW, etc)? • Does your town conduct the appropriate after-action review of your response to any major emergency, drill, or even minor storm or emergency? Does this review include feedback from the community including key non-profits and churches? • Does your town have critical facilities and functions with redundant power supplies, including back-up generators? How often are the back-up generators tested? How long can they last? • Have you mapped out your response to the critical facilities in your jurisdiction, such as: chemical/industrial plants, gas stations, senior homes, hospitals, schools? • Has your town partnered with any other neighboring agencies, or the county/state/ federal government on any programs or policies in the area of emergency response? • Does your town have pre-existing arrangements with local media to provide information and updates? • Are families and individuals in your town encouraged and reminded to exercise responsibility in a disaster by having an individual family plan that identifies in advance where reunification will take place in the case of evacuation and by becoming first responders assisting neighbors?

Social Connectedness/Public-Private Partnerships • Research shows more socially connected communities with active and plugged in non-profit groups where people know their neighbors withstand storms better and recover quicker.


• Has your town built public/private partnerships for better emergency response, including using local houses of worship, schools, YMCA’s and Boys and Girls Clubs, among other organizations, as staging locations or shelters? • Does your town have community leaders (houses of worship, neighborhood associations, neighborhood watch, PTA/school groups, etc) signed up in the alert system and educated about where to find important information to pass along to their own communities? Are they encouraged to do regular education about emergency response to their members or constituencies? Do they? • Are community groups, interested citizens and other stakeholders proactively included in emergency response planning or recovery planning? If so, how and whom? • Are at-risk populations in your town, such as seniors and low income residents and the groups that serve them included in emergency planning and response efforts? If so how and whom? • Are their provisions made for communicating in all aspects of this area with nonEnglish speaking residents? • What is the level of community buy-in and awareness of emergency plans? (Ask key non-profit leaders and citizens) • Does your town have Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with any non-profits or community groups to assist in recovery services in the case of future storms? If not, has the town considered doing this

Post -Sandy Planning • Has your municipality applied or received a Post-Sandy Assistance Grant which funds the hiring of a certified planner to “address conditions created or exacerbated by the storm, identify approaches to rebuilding that will be more resistant to damage from future storm events and encourage sustainable economic growth”? If received, are town organizations and residents going to be included in this process? If so, how? • Is your municipality participating in any regional planning efforts? • Are their plans or discussions underway in your municipality to update the master plan and/or change any of the zoning requirements in anticipation for more intense future storms? • Are the ‘lessons of Sandy’ being factored into any redevelopment efforts? • Are the plans to upgrade vulnerable infrastructure in anticipation of future storms? • How are individuals as well as the town as a whole doing in accessing federal dollars 4

targeted for recovery and rebuilding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency? • How are people in your town, if eligible doing in accessing Community Development Block Grant Funds for Re-building from the following programs targeted to assist mainly to low and moderate income families.: The Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing (FRM), Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing - Public Housing Authority Set-Aside Program (FRM-PHA) and Sandy Special Needs Housing Fund (SSNHF)?

STEP 2: GETTING THE RIGHT ANSWERS COVERING A BREAKING NEWS EVENT If you have a smartphone or even just an oldfashioned notebook and pencil, you can report news anywhere at anytime. But there are certain rules that you should follow. If you are involved in a dynamic breaking news situation and want to begin reporting, follow these steps: 1. Do not interfere with authorities. As a citizen, even though you are empowered to report news just like professional journalist, you do not possess the proper credentials to enter active scenes involving police, fire, or EMS. Abide by orders given to you by police. 2. If you are in a safe and lawful location, take a few photos or videos of the scene and take some initial notes. What do you see? Who is around? Never publish a photo of a graphic scene, victim, license plate, etc. Be mindful that anyone can see your report. 3. Talk to people in the immediate area. What did they see? Keep yourself out of the story. Tell what others are thinking. Eyewitnesses always make the best sources in such situations. Get details on what transpired. Often, people will use general phrase to describe an event, such as, “It seemed like a disaster movie.” Ask them to describe exactly what they saw, heard, smelled, etc. Also, after you interview people, ask for their phone numbers. That always helps if other questions or issues arise later on. 4. Gather your thoughts. While producing your report, be sure to add only the necessary facts based on your observations. “Tell it like it is.” Be clear. Report what you’re seeing, but don’t assume what others may be thinking. Context is always important and appreciated by everyone who will see your reports. But you need to be brief. You can add information from eyewitness reports, but do not report hearsay, e.g. “My friend saw this…” Do not offer information that is unrelated to the situation at hand. During the early stages of a breaking news situation, it is nearly impossible to get official comments. Being a citizen journalist makes it much more difficult to speak with authorities. But as a citizen, you have the power to write a few sentences with each photo and video report. 5

5. File your report on various social media platforms. Again, be brief. And be as descriptive as possible. You do not need to produce a full report. You can publish successive “bursts” of reports. Adding media to text is a much more effective way to tell a story online than just text. If you make a mistake, correct it as soon as possible. 6. If you can stick around the scene, continue reporting if you’d like. Follow-up reporting is just as important as the initial story. However, by that time, it is likely that media outlets will already be on the story. But that shouldn’t discourage you from continuing reporting.

BASIC TOOLS FOR REAL-TIME REPORTING Your smartphone is your greatest asset. Keep it charged! Twitter ( – Not just a distribution platform for your reports, but the de facto source of breaking news worldwide. Consider using TweetDeck as your client, as it is a powerful application that allows you to organized multiple feeds and contains a sophisticated advanced searching mechanism. Facebook ( – Another valuable distribution platform, especially if you contribute to citizen journalist platforms based on Facebook like Jersey Shore Hurricane News. Storify ( – A search engine that facilitates real-time searching of various social media platforms that also allows you to organize and publish information that you collect. * Note: If you’re reporting on a weather event, do not put yourself in danger to get photos or videos. But the reporting steps are generally the same.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING This is a term that gets over-used. All reporting should involve some degree of investigation, even if it’s as simple as fact-checking. Reporters who don’t investigate might as well be stenographers. Of course, there are different levels to which reporters can take their investigations. On a daily story, the investigation could be as simple as asking for the resume of a new government appointee. On a multi-day, story, it might entail checking campaign finance records to see what contributions – if any – were made by a company that just received a lucrative government contract. On a long-range project, it might entail skimming through thousands of pages of court records and interviewing dozens of people. (Of course, citizen journalists generally won’t have the opportunity to do such long-range efforts.) Remember that investigative journalism can often be a thankless endeavor, something that’s time and energy-consuming, that will get powerful people annoyed with you. You 6

are going to hit many walls in your pursuits – but if you have the passion and determination you will find the answers, sometimes.

Get the Facts: Put together a library of key documents that will give you a foundation for research you’ll need to do on the government entities that you cover. Collect copies of the past several years’ budgets. Get a basic payroll report with all employees’ names, salaries, job titles, departments and hire dates. Get lists of the overtime payments made to each employee and each department for the past couple years. Get copies of all key officials’ resumes. How do you obtain these materials? Easy, ask the city or school board’s custodian of records for them. In some cases, especially regarding the payroll info, you may be asked to submit OPRA requests. But that’s just a speed bump.

OPRA & FOIA What’s OPRA? New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act provides the public (and reporters) a process for obtaining public documents, including everything from the expense report the mayor submitted while attending a conference in New Orleans to the email the school superintendent sent to principals about the district’s policy on holiday decorations. For federal records, it’s the Freedom of Information Act, which provides similar access to documents from the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other federal departments and agencies.

Interview the Elected & Government Officials in the Know: Sometimes you won’t find the information you need from a government record. The next best thing is to go talk to the elected officials, government employees, or other stakeholders involved.

Before interviewing anyone, get prepared: 1. Know who you are talking to: What is their role? What is their agency’s role? Knowing a person’s background and specific job responsibilities in advance will make sure you ask the right questions when you get your 5 minutes. Get a copy of their resume or bio in advance. (This may also can be obtained from OPRA). 2. Prepare a list of Questions: Knowing what questions you want to ask will make sure you don’t miss anything important and will help you stay focused. 3. Know the Facts: Before going into the interview have any documentation in front, you may want to reference it in case there is a questionable answer or you want to pinpoint an answer.


Conducting an Interview: 1. Record the Interview: First ask permission to record the interview (and record asking permission, and if they say no - turn off the device). Recording an interview will help ensure you don’t misquote anyone, and it frees up time to ask more questions since you won’t be writing everything down. Having a recording also serves as an insurance policy if you are accused of misquoting an official. If you are not given permission to take video or audio recordings, then take good, detailed notes. 2. Build Rapport: Use what you learned in your pre-interview research to build some sort of connection or common ground. It may be you both lost your home during Sandy, or you went to the same high school, or even as something as silly as liking the same sports team. Starting an interview on a friendly note sets a positive tone and will lead to a more fruitful interview. When interviewing a public official try to thank them or note a recent action, this will show the official you are informed and engaged. Something to the effect - thank you for voting for Sandy funding for our community center, or thank you for speaking in support of our homeowners, etc. 3. Maintain a No-Blame Approach: Don’t become argumentative, that is the quickest way to shut down the person you are interviewing or worse, will bring your interview to an end.

Attend Public Meetings Public meetings may seem boring – but in some towns they provide access to information that might not get made public otherwise, especially in places where the members governing body don’t all come from the same political circle. Officials engaged in a dispute with each other will often disclose information that has the makings of a good story. It might be a criticism of police department response times, or a skeptical comment on the validity of school violence reports. Always stay for the public portion. Some very good investigations of local government have started with complaints made by citizens at public meetings. If you can’t make the meeting - review the video recording or read the minutes. Every public meeting is recorded in some fashion. You can file an OPRA request for the meeting minutes or a copy of the video or audio recording if there is one. In the case of the State’s public hearings on Sandy Aid- you can request copies of testimony submitted in writing or at the hearing. Note: A local, county, or State governing body must conduct business in public – only a few items may be discussed in executive session. Executive Session exemption: Contracts, Personnel, land negotiations. The governing body must state specifically why they are going into closed session. Meetings of a political party caucus are also exempt. 8

EYEWITNESS REPORTS: If you are reporting on a something that has a physical location or a place that has been severely damaged, go see it in person. For example, if your municipality is considering purchasing a plot of land for the construction of a major retail mall it would be informative to see what is at that location and to report what else is there. Or, if money is awarded to a Sandy recovery project, you can go see in person whether the amount of money awarded matches the need for the community or the need for the project.

STEP 3: IDEAS INTO ACTION Start Your Own Blog or Online News Site KNOW YOUR ENDEAVOR & UNDERSTAND YOUR GOALS. The first step is to know your endeavor and understand your goals. Are you interested in blogging about a specific topic or community? Who are you trying to reach - similar minded folks or the community at large. Knowing what you want to write about and who your audience is from the onset will help inform how you set-up your blog.

How often will you publish? The beauty with starting your own blog is you are the boss and can set your own schedule. However, if you expect to build an audience, you need to set expectations up front. Decide what your goal is and try to stick with it, whether it’s publishing monthly, weekly, daily, or even hourly. For example, you could start a bi-monthly blog to cover development in your small town. You would have maybe two planning meetings per month to cover and a handful of major development proposals each year. But if you are interested in reporting breaking news and emergency alerts, you will need to be able to publish very frequently and in real time when an emergency strikes.

Are you planning on making this a business? The final question you need to ask yourself before starting is whether you intend to make this a business or a platform for revenue. This is a question only you can answer, but it is critical to know from the onset to ensure you build a successful site.

RULES OF THE ROAD Journalism is a Craft Journalism is not a rant on a message board or a press release issued by the mayor and city council. Journalism is a craft that requires deeper analysis and thought before publishing. Anyone


can publish content online, but to be a citizen journalist you need to apply the same lens to your work. Adhere to the basic principles of journalism: accuracy, thoroughness, fairness, independence, and objectivity.

Understand the Basics of IP (Intellectual Property) and Copyright Law Don’t steal other people’s published material - articles, photos, or videos - and claim them for your own. Your website should have your content. If you want to share news generated by another site, give a brief lead as to what the story is about, who the author is, and provide a hyperlink to the source. In the case of a video, most web platforms have the ability to embed YouTube videos, simply provide a brief description & give credit to the creator of the video. If you are looking for photos for your site, it is best to use pictures and videos made available via Creative Commons, this way you avoid getting into trouble.

Make Technical Decisions with an Eye Toward the Future. As your blog grows and you are looking to make major improvements or add features, take a moment to think about where you want to be in 6 months or a year. That $100 fix today might be unnecessary if you make a $500 upgrade in 3 months. To save stress and time and your money, have an eye on the future and where you want to go. In the same vein, be mindful of using short term fixes and how they might impact your blog’s long term growth and sustainability.

IT’S TIME TO GET NERDY! TECHY THINGS TO CONSIDER Think back to your original objectives as you decide on a publishing platform. There are hundreds of platforms for you to publish on - Blogger, Tumblr,, or even social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. If you search the web or ask a pro, they will most likely suggest you use WordPress. There are more than 60 million WordPress sites - this means you will have no trouble finding resources and developers. Seriously, we love WordPress. Setting up a blog in WordPress is pretty simple. They offer hundreds of design templates (“themes”) out of the box for free or at relatively low cost. Additionally, almost every web application - from Google Calendar, Eventbrite, Flickr, etc. has developed a WordPress plug ins. And, since it is so popular there are thousands of people who make it their job to know WordPress inside and out, meaning you should never have trouble finding tech support.

Choosing a Developer There is an art to choosing the right web developer. If you intend on leaving all tech matters to a developer, it is very important to consult with that developer before you get started. They may have their own preferences or skills that would impact the choices you make.


LAY THE FOUNDATION Choose a domain name You will want to choose a name that is relatively short, and easy to say & remember. For. example, would you pick: or You will also need to pay to have the site hosted, i.e. where your blog will “live”. It is recommended to purchase the domain name and web hosting from two separate companies. A quick web search will provide you with thousands of options for each.

Choose a CMS CMS is tech lingo for “Content Management System,” it is the fancy way of saying publishing platform. There are a variety of systems developed to manage workflow. Some examples: WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.

Choose your Design You can pick a template out of the box from WordPress or hire a developer to build a custom theme. When choosing a theme consider the following: • Do you plan to place ads on the site? Some themes come out of the box with ad space built in. • Make sure to pick a “responsive” or “mobile ready” design - this means your site will adjust when the reader is using a cell phone, iPad, or desktop computer • Think about the user experience and what you want them to read and take in. • What kind of content? Videos, blogs, photos? Different themes are better for different types of content.

Finding a Developer This is a really important step if you are trying to build a business or community organization website. It can be really hard to find affordable and good developers. One place to start looking is online - or Craigslist - try to find someone who is local so you can meet in person if needed to sketch out your vision. If you want someone skilled, look to see if they are on GitHub. If they have a GitHub profile, chances are they are serious and capable. Also ask for a list of references - what websites have they worked on and verify they did do the site. Attend Tech Meetups and network with people who are either looking for work or know people looking. Make sure they know your platform, i.e., if you’re using WordPress, make sure they know Wordpress or PHP coding. Or, if you are using Joomla, make sure they know Joomla. 11

MONETIZING YOUR BLOG Advertising Ad revenue will most likely be your main source of revenue for a for-profit venture. There are ad managers who manage ad inventory. Basically, you own the house, and they are the broker that finds renters. Two popular options are Google Double Click or Broadstreet Ads, which is specifically designed for independent news publishers.

Non-Profits-Grants There are a number of foundations and organizations that support non-profit news ventures or websites with a civic mission. You can get seed funding to start a site or grants to work on public service projects.

Sponsored Content “Advertorials” can bring in revenue from local businesses seeking promotional articles. They are perfectly fine as long as you make it clear it is sponsored content.

Crowd Funding Crowd Funding may be an option if you are launching a specific event or project. Crowdfunding allows you to build momentum to a big goal through small contributions. Some popular crowdfunding platforms are Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

CAPTURING ATTENTION There are free tools that can help you find an audience for your blog. is a web application that you can share your posts on and other blogs can pick it up. This way you don’t run into any IP or copyright troubles. Twitter and Facebook are a great way to promote your posts and find your readers. Offline Evangelizing means telling people about your site. If you are covering town meetings or events, tell people where your meeting recap will appear or where folks can find your photos & video. Measure your traffic. Use Google Analytics to see how many visitors you are getting and what are the most popular posts, then repeat what works. If people love Top 10 lists - post more Top 10 lists. Engage, Engage, Engage. Interact with your readers on social media or in the comments.


PLACE YOUR ARTICLES AND OPINIONS IN EXISTING MEDIA Outlined below are specific suggestions for ways to get your articles and ideas published in existing outlets

Submit an Opinion Piece Most newspapers welcome the submission of opinion pieces. They are an excellent way to communicate your views in a highly credible manner to community opinion leaders and elected and appointed government officials. Generally speaking, an opinion piece needs to be about 600 words; but it varies some depending on the outlet, so be sure to read the specific guidelines for the pieces, which are usually available on a newspaper’s web site. In addition some newspapers require exclusivity, which means that once it appears in that newspaper, you cannot publish it elsewhere. Others require that they be the first to publish your piece, but then you are free to send it out to other newspapers. And many newspapers will publish an opinion piece even if you are attempting to get it published in other papers at the same. If these requirements are not spelled out in the guidelines, e-mail or phone the opinion page editor and ask. The chances of your opinion piece being published will be boosted if you include a brief cover letter describing the piece and why you believe it should be published. Give your piece a headline and be sure to paste the piece into the email you send. Do not just send it as an attachment. Also, referring to a specific article published in that newspaper increases the odds of your piece being chosen. If you are not familiar with opinion pieces otherwise known as op-eds, because they usually appear on the page opposite/next to the Editorial Page, read ones published in the newspaper you are targeting to get an idea of what usually passes muster. In general, you are making an argument about an important problem or topic in the news, but backing up your opinion with facts and anecdotes that support your point of view.

Write a Letter to the Editor Generally speaking, a letter to the editor should be no more than 200 words, but again check the specific requirements of the newspaper to which you are planning to submit. Using an article published in that paper as a jumping off point for your letter will substantially increase the odds of it being published. For example, “I write to respond to Joe Jones Feb.10 article entitled ‘Flooding Funds Delayed’...“

Post a Comment Most online articles in newspapers or magazines, as well as many blog posts, provide readers with the opportunity to comment. Seize these opportunities by posting constructive fact based comments that highlight your point-of-view. 13

Call In to Talk Radio Only a small percentage of talk radio listeners call in. These shows are an opportunity to share your opinions and the factual information you have gathered with a ready-made audience. All you need to do is dial the number and give it a shot. Before calling, listen to the show several times so you can familiarize yourself with the host’s point of view and style. This will enable you to better communicate once you get on the air.

Become a Freelancer: Many online publications use freelancers as reporters. This can be an opportunity to do useful citizen journalism and get paid for it as well. If you are interested, approach the editor of your local publications and see if something can be arranged. It will be important to deliver what you promise and on the deadline given. That’s how you will be able to continue to get assignments.


APPENDIX A CITIZEN JOURNALIST WORKSHEET: HOW TO WRITE A FEATURE STORY Topic: What do you imagine the headline of your story might read?

The heart of the matter: Can you sum up your story in a few sentences? If you can’t, getting an editor on board is going to be hard and writing it is going to be even harder.

How it’s timely: Why are we talking about this?

How it’s fresh: How is your story or your angle different from what every other reporter is doing?

How it’s significant: Why do we care? Why should a reader or listener care?

Scene for opening anecdote: Whether you’re reporting for radio or web, it’s much more interesting (for you and your audience) if you have a scene, some action unfolding that you can attend or participate in. It gives your story a sense of place and characters. For fast-turn around stories or breaking news, it may not be possible to have a scene, but it’s worth trying for one.

For nut graf, the micro-macro connection: How will you branch out from your scene to the heart of the story?

The sub-topics: What are the related issues you want to include in the story or expand on in a web version of the story?

Visual content: What can you photograph?

Audio content: What can you hear?

Interactive possibilities: Are there charts, data, maps that might enhance the story? 15

APPENDIX B 7 Tips on Writing Well 1. WRITING IS SCARY; NEVER FORGET THAT, BUT NEVER LET THAT SCARE YOU. 2. DON’T LET ANYBODY ELSE SEE IT UNTIL YOU’VE READ IT ALOUD TO YOURSELF. 3. SHOW, DON’T TELL. 4. USE SIMPLE, POWERFUL WORDS, AND RESPECT THEIR POWER. 5. KILL THE LITTLE DARLINGS. (Even if a phrase or anecdote is well written and interesting, if it is off topic as much as you may like it, you need to delete it) 6. DON’T BE “PASSIVE” - GET ACTIVE. (Use the active voice) 7. TO WRITE WELL, READ, READ, READ PEOPLE WHO WRITE WELL READ From Chris Satullo, Vice President for news, WHYY/NewsWorks

10 TIPS FOR BETTER VISUALS 1) GET CLOSER Rather than using zoom, position yourself in a place where you can use the widest angle. This usually means moving closer to your subject. 2) TELL THE WHOLE STORY Just like the lead of your story, the visual should grab the viewer’s attention. Survey the scene and your surroundings. Choose a few different shots that could establish the story. Get the shot you can at the moment, any shot is better than no shot, then improve upon the shot you just took. 3) VARIETY OF SHOTS Take a variety of detail shots, mid-range shots, and wide shots. Vary the angles and perspective of your shots, offering a “bird’s eye” and/or “worm’s eye” view. 4) LAYERS Add depth to your images by using the background as well as the foreground of the frame. Think about what surrounding your subject is important to the story. Choose a background that tells part of the story. 5) CONTRAST Look for contrasts of light, color, subject matter, and focus that could make for a more interesting image. 16

6) COMPOSITION Take the time to compose your image. Look for leading lines, real or implied, that direct the viewer’s eye through the image. Observe the Rule of Thirds. Instead of placing your subject in the center of the frame try using one of the “Rule of Thirds” intersecting points. 7) PATTERNS Observe repetitive shapes, patterns, and graphic qualities. Try capturing a particular shape or pattern when composing your image. 8) CAPTURE DRAMA/ACTION Anticipate the action. Position yourself in a place where the action passes through your frame. Observe the pattern of action and behaviors happening around you, so you can decide how and when to take your image. Often actions and behaviors are repetitive, so if you don’t get the shot the first time, just wait for another moment, adjust accordingly and try again. 9) WORK THE EDGES Fill the frame or use the entire frame when composing your image. 10) FIND THE LIGHT Pay attention to the light around you. Is it natural light, full daylight, shade, or artificial light? Are the tones from the light on the warmer side or cooler side? How is the light falling on your subject? Position yourself with the light coming from behind you or change your position to properly light your subject. From Lindsay Lazarski of WHYY/NewsWorks


APPENDIX C INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES • Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) - State/Local and Federal Election Fundraising and Campaign spending • Department of Community Affairs- Municipal Budgets • Department of Education - School Budgets • IRS - Tax Records • Department of Banking & Insurance - Business Registration • Guidestar & IRS – i.e. , non-profit records • US Census - Population & Demographics • NJ State Comptroller “Sandy Transparency” • Asbury Park Press “Data Universe” - Public Employee Salary Information

Lexis-Nexis (aka “Academic Universe”) Requires expensive login. Keyword searchable, full-text downloads of thousands of newspapers, magazines, journals, and other publications worldwide. The Lexis side has legal documents, court decisions and the like. Your local library might have access and/or a librarian who can help with searching other databases, like Proquest Newspapers or Academic Search Premier (EBSCO).

Google Books One of the greatest secrets hidden in plain sight, this keyword searchable database of tens of millions of books includes free PDF downloads of millions of books published prior to 1930, including many heretofore rare and difficult to find volumes.

Publicly Traded Companies’ SEC Filings Every publicly-traded company has to file quarterly (8K) and annual (10K) reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. To see the types of things you can find:

Non-Profit Organizations’ IRS Form 990s Follow the money at any non-profit in the US, figure out who is on their board, what they pull in, how much they spend. Search and download for free at this link. (Note: that if you narrow the search by state or zip code, the database often doesn’t give you the correct hits.) 18

Investigations of Workplace Safety and Accidents Search any company to see what accident or safety violations are (or were) investigated by the US Occupations Safety & Health Administration. Free. Online back to 1974.

U.S. Lobbyists Database An often-revealing look at who is buying access to whom, who is on the take, and sometimes, some shocking hidden conflicts of interest. (Be patient when loading search results.)

Current House Oversight Committee Investigations Includes downloadable documents sorted by topic and investigation ranging from Enron and Iraq to Head Start and nursing homes.

Government Accounting Office Free, keyword-searchable database of thousands of GAO audits and reports of all manner of government programs and activities.

Campaign Contributions Find out who a person, organization -- or everyone in an entire zip code – has been giving money to, and how much. All political contributions over $200 recorded here. You can also see who the top contributors to various candidates were, corporate or otherwise.

Military Records Use this link for instructions to submit a request for a serviceperson’s military records by mail.

Real Estate/Property Records: (fee) Property Records: user=glou&passwd=data&srch_type=0&adv=0&out_type=0&district=0604 19

Other NJ State-Specific Data Other Sites Useful for Government Data: - Correlates all federal stats from various agencies - Census Data - Bureau of Labor Statistics

Federal Court Records Central database of federal court records, including bankruptcy. You have to register and pay a per-item fee to download the documents, but they’re inexpensive.

Websites Free and searchable. Contact info may be out of date. Some users are private. If not private, you can get a phone number and email. – NOT A CREDIBLE SOURCE FOR REPORTING Scroll to the bottom of an entry for links to sources that might be helpful From Tracy Samuelson, WHYY/NewsWorks and The Citizens Campaign


APPENDIX D Index of The Citizens Campaign Citizen Journalism Materials Go to . Webinars: Data Mapping How to Start a Blog Best Practices and Legal Rights to Accessing Police Records Understanding Municipal Budgets Books and Manuals: “Shining Light in Dark Spaces� Citizens Guide to the Media Data Mapping Tip Sheet Panel Discussion Videos: How to Understand and Report on School Budgets Understanding How the Political Parties Operate Candidates, Campaigns, and Contributions OPRA and The Sunshine Law Best Practices Shared Services and Consolidation Advanced Trainings: Environmental Citizen Journalism Investigative Reporting


APPENDIX E Speakers: Justin Auciello, Jersey Shore Hurricane News Deborah Galant, New Jersey News Commons Adam Glenn, Adapt NY Steve Johnson, Montclair State University Hank Kalet, NJ Spotlight Kenny Katzgrau, Broadstreet Ads Matt Krayton, Publitics Lindsay Lazarski, WHYY/Newsworks Joe Malinconico, Paterson Press Colleen O’Dea, NJ Spotlight Tracy Samuelson, WHYY/Newsworks Chris Satullo, WHYY/Newsworks Harris Sokoloff, Penn Project for Civic Engagement Steve Stirling, The Star-Ledger Mayor Alex Torpey, Village of South Orange Alan Tu, WHYY/Newsworks

Co-Sponsoring Organizations: Clean Ocean Action Creative New Jersey Jersey Shore Hurricane News Middlesex County College Monmouth University NJ News Commons NJ Spotlight Ocean County College Penn Project for Civic Engagement Sustainable Jersey WHYY



The New Jersey Recovery Fund Statement of Purpose The New Jersey Recovery Fund, hosted by the Community Foundation of New Jersey and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, is a joint effort between local and national foundations, New Jersey corporations, and individuals to support local nonprofit organizations working in communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Fund provides flexible financial support to organizations focused on ensuring that recovery and rebuilding decisions address the longterm needs of the state and local communities. Organizations supported by the Fund focus on engaging local residents in community-building and restoration projects, improving quality and access to information about recovery and rebuilding, using the arts to foster individual and community healing, and impacting critical policy decisions involving land use planning. The Fund supports projects with an emphasis on innovation, collaboration, resiliency and sustainability as New Jersey recovers from Hurricane Sandy.

The Citizens Campaign 450 Main Street, Metuchen, NJ 08840 Tel: (732) 548-9798 Fax: (732) 548-9298

Keeping the Focus Where it Belongs  

A Post-Sandy Citizen Journalist Handbook. Produced by The Citizens Campaign

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you