Taylor and Francis Group is part of the Academic Publishing Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.


Chapter 6: Building the Spot Single Story

Click on the tabs below to view the content for each section.


John Yemma, editor of the Christian Science Monitor and csmonitor.com, explains some of the thinking behind the writing and presentation of the Monitor’s work online and in print.

David Clark Scott, online director for the Christian Science Monitor, points out similarities and differences in terms of a good print versus online story.

Kate Gardiner, a social media consultant who has worked with a range of media from Al Jazeera to the Washington Post, comments on writing and storytelling with social media.


  1. Find 2–3 national or state news stories reported in different media (online/mobile, print, and broadcast) and compare and contrast the leads. Identify the differences and similarities. Identify the type of lead used. Identify if and how the story included elaboration, support, SOTs, or quotes that illuminate or explain.
  2. Attend and cover the spot news event you researched in Chapter 4 and try to write one lead that could work in print, online, and on air. Then, rework the single lead to meet style requirements that are different for print, online, and on air.
  3. Use a national speech or statewide speech that is available via video and have students watch it live to choose 2–3 soundbites/quotes from the speech during the presentation. Craft a broadcast story that aims to follow the lead-support-explain story building plan. Make sure the broadcast story has an end or wrap-up.
  4. With press release information, write a news story using different media such as two tweets, one :25 broadcast reader, and one 200–300 word short text story. (Do this over the course of 2–3 class meetings.)
  5. Use the elements gathered at an event covered by using a smartphone or a FlipCam-type device only. If usable photos have been collected, write a 200–300 spot news story that will be accompanied by one photo. Remember the lead-support-explain story building plan.
  6. Update your beat/topic reporting book with a list of three topics that appear to have drawn considerable interest or discussion. Begin to think of how you would narrow the topic into stories that might require more time and reporting. Make sure you research each topic in terms of news stories that appeared within the last 1–2 years. This is the beginning of your effort to transfer your spot news reporting knowledge into more in-depth multimedia projects.


Links to stories or websites mentioned

Pope John Paul II beatification report (CNN)

Pope John Paul II beatification report (CBS)

Pope John Paul II beatification report (AP)

Osama Bin Laden death report (NBC)

Osama Bin Laden death report (Daily Show)

Links to articles or websites on journalistic writing

Scan and analysis of best practices in digital journalism in and outside US public broadcasting

What one revision can teach us about the elements of English

What newspaper writers can learn from TV

Branching out can leave verbs out on a limb

Breathe life into hedlines and cutlines

Newscoach Lessons: Want to stand out? Write well

Is Twitter writing, or is it speech?

“Like,” “share” and “recommend”: How the warring verbs of social media will influence the news’ future

Writing for the web

Ask Chip: Says vs. said.

Brain science for writers: Active verbs move nerve cells, too

How to write for the web

Digital publishing guidelines

Christian Science Monitor’s John Yemma on the difference between online and print writing [video]

Schmidle defends sourcing in New Yorker’s “Getting bin Laden” story, while narrative editors suggest improvements


Bittermann, J. (2011, May 1). Pope John Paul II declared “blessed.” Retrieved May 9, 2011, from cnn.com: http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/05/02/jb.john.paul.II.beatification.cnn?iref=allsearch.

Chu, H. (2011, May 2). Benedict beatifies Pope John Paul II. Los Angeles Times, p. A5.

Donadio, R. (2011, May 2). Ceremony honoring John Paul II draws huge crowd. New York Times, p. A9.

Dunlap, K. (2011, April 22). When breaking news confuses: Citizens may be as undecided as the Pulitzer board. Retrieved May 3, 2011, from poynter.org: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/top-stories/129113/when-breaking-news-confuses-citizens-may-be-as-dissatisfied-as-the-pulitzer-board/.

Geisler, J. (2011, May 5). 8 essential skills for anchors (& any journalist) covering breaking news. Retrieved May 5, 2011, from poynter.org: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/118945/8-essential-skills-for-anchors-any-journalist-covering-breaking-news/.

Kiesow, D. (2011, February 14). Poynter Institute Multimedia Fellow. (J. Kolodzy, Interviewer).

Murphy, R. G. (2011, May 2). Bin Laden’s death creates generational news moment, demonstrates digital shift. Retrieved May 2, 2011 from rtdna.org.

NBC Nightly News. (2011, May 2). Retrieved June 17, 2011, from www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/ns/nightly_news: http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/mission-accomplished-the-end-of-bin-laden/6q65wjh?q=nbc+nightly+news+%2b+may+2%2c+2011&FROM=LKVR5>1=LKVR5&FORM=LKVR31.

Pizzey, A. (2011, May 1). Pope John Paul II beatified. Retrieved May 9, 2011, from cbsnews.com: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7364566n&tag=mncol;lst;1.

To Kill a Mockingturd. (2011, May 2). Retrieved June 17, 2011, from thedailyshow.com: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-may-2-2011/to-kill-a-mockingturd.

Winfield, N. (2011, May 2). Pope beatifies John Paul II before 1.5M faithful. Associated Press.