ENGLISH FOR WRITERS AND JOURNALISTS
This course teaches delegates how write clearly, precisely and economically. It presents the key elements of good writing: everything from good grammar and syntax to avoiding cliches and bureaucratic language. It shows how to write strong, clear sentences and how to construct effective paragraphs. It recaps the standard rules of grammar and emphasises the importance of accurate punctuation and vocabulary. It shows writers the difference between good and bad writing - and teaches them how to analyse their own writing, the prerequisite to putting it right. Like all our courses, it is based on the delegates' writing levels. It will help those whose grasp of writing principles may be shaky, as well as those writing to an accomplished level who wish to improve their skills.
We have had excellent results in delivering this course both to journalists and to staff who are required to communicate internally and externally in their work. It is especially helpful for the "post-grammar" generation - those who never formally learned the basics of grammar, syntax and vocabulary.
An essential guide to the tools and techniques of proof reading, including the standard proof-reading and copy-editing marks, and such topics as keeping check lists and cutting and making lines. The course emphasises the importance of absolute accuracy in specialist and technical writing, and of maintaining the highest professional standards. Practical exercises reinforce these lessons through the day.
The one-day course also provides a reminder of the principles of Standard English. It can be delivered over half a day if it is combined with the one-day English for Writers course. Proof reading calls on many skills, not least a proficient level of basic English, and delegates who proof read to the highest standards need a sound grasp of grammar, syntax and punctuation.
Delegates learn how to write promotional and marketing material that is credible, persuasive, and catches a potential client's attention. The course combines elements from the writing and journalism courses to demonstrate how to create copy where every word is telling and effective. It outlines key presentational principles in producing a range of promotional material, both in print and for the new media, where the appearance of professionalism is paramount.
This course has provided effective training in marketing, public relations and publicity departments.Top of Page
WRITING PRESS RELEASES
A guide to how to write effective press releases, bearing in mind the needs of both the client for whom the release is written and the media to which it is directed. In an intensive and highly practical day, delegates learn the importance of news values in identifying the headline of their news release and the story it tells. The course explains how to grab the attention of busy editors and reporters, and what turns a release into good media copy, emphasising the need for clear, concise writing. Delegates will also learn how to target press releases and how to encourage follow-ups.
The course is especially useful for being taught by trainers who have worked on both sides of the fence - as writers of press releases, and as those who receive them. The importance of providing accurate background information and the impact of different forms of lay-out are part of the agenda.Top of Page
INTRODUCTION TO JOURNALISM/REPORTING SKILLS
This course introduces the principles of reporting and news gathering for delegates starting out in journalism. It covers such basic reporting topics as: research and collecting information; handling press conferences and finding stories in press releases; how to approach interviews; access and obstruction; cold-calling and door-stepping; building contacts and networks; an outline of journalistic regulations and media law. It also discusses theories of news values and looks at the opening steps in shaping and writing news reports.
This course is particularly useful for publications with writers from specialist backgrounds but little direct experience of journalism. It also helps non-journalists who may be considering a career move to journalism.Top of Page
NEWS WRITING - basic and advanced
Basic news writing covers the fundamental principles and techniques of news writing: how to craft the crucial first sentence, how to structure and prioritise the rest of the story. It stresses the importance of the six key questions reporters must answer - what, why, when, how, where, and who - and discusses the value of the pyramid structure. It is a heavily practical day, using writing exercises to reinforce the key points. It is especially useful in showing specialist writers how to find strong stories in their chosen territory, and will help all delegates become confident in making news judgements.
Advanced news writing takes delegates into the theory and practice of complex news structures, covering such topics as: stories with twin themes; event and significance ('what' and 'real what'); look-ahead leads; the use of chronology, or keeping 'when' straight; background and context; how to handle running stories; and questions of jargon, accessibility, and reach. It discusses how to handle different kinds of evidence and how to use the key terms of attribution. It looks at the role of the news feature and how the genre is defined.
The advanced course is suitable for experienced reporters as well as for sub-editors and editors seeking to extend their skills in handling contributors' stories. It draws on Peter Gillman's experience of writing lead stories and news features for the Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday and others.Top of Page
FEATURE WRITING - basic and advanced
The basic course presents the theory and practice of writing features from scratch. How do features differ from news? How do you write an attention-grabbing first sentence? How do you identify your story line, and how do you sustain it through your piece? The course equips trainees with the language to discuss feature writing, in particular the key elements of story and structure. It shows how to write an outline, how to use characters to tell stories, and how to obtain and use the best quotes. It encourages writers to try out different approaches to feature writing, and to develop and express their areas of expertise. Where appropriate, the course will include a critique of their current work and suggest ways of building on what they have achieved so far.
The advanced course reinforces the lessons of the basic course and moves on to more complex and ambitious structures. It looks at different forms of narrative, implicit and explicit structures, effective set-ups, and the importance of sign-posting an argument. It discusses significance and impact, hooks and pegs, and how to conceive and write the crucial nut graf. It shows how to obtain the most effective quotes and how to use the language of affect. It also looks at the briefing process, how to write outlines, how to deal with deadlines, the use of boxes, the visual element and how to keep your editor happy.
This course is often most effective when combined with a follow-up day, conducted either as a group or as one-on-one sessions, which considers features delegates have written since the course. As well as providing delegates with encouragement, this helps to reinforce the key principles imparted on the original course.Top of Page
INTERVIEWING - basic and advanced
The journalistic interview in theory and practice. The core of both courses is a role-playing interview with one of the trainers acting as interviewee. We analyse the interview to examine how trainees present themselves, their body-language, whether they have established a rapport with the interviewee, how they structure their questions, and how well they follow up the answers. The basic course stresses the importance of preparing for the interview and setting a coherent agenda. It also discusses the etiquette and conventions of interviewing, understanding terms such as on and off the record, whether to use a notebook or tape-recorder, and what to do when the recorder goes wrong.
The advanced course also involves a role-playing interview, but this time the delegates are likely to encounter problems: their interviewee may prove garrulous or taciturn, evasive or discursive, aggressive or rude. The course will show delegates how to deal with all these difficulties. It will also look at the dynamics of the interview, how to locate the interviewee's wave-length and hot spots, where it takes off and where it can go wrong. It compares face-to-face with telephone interviews and examines how the dynamics of a telephone interview may differ. It discusses the art of asking leading questions, when - and whether - to bluff, and what to say when the interviewee asks to see the interview before it is printed.
As always, these courses can be tailored to meet the needs and working practices of the delegates concerned. We have developed particular expertise in role-playing interviews on medical and pharmaceutical subjects.Top of Page
The course is for reporters and editors who want to move into the demanding and rewarding area of exposition and revelation. It covers developing contacts and networks; how to extract information from nervous sources; the art of asking leading questions; building information systematically, scrutinising gaps and contradictions; how to handle shortages of time and resource, and how to deal with external pressures.
It will update the ever-changing law on intrusion, privacy, copyright and qualified privilege, and will describe the new opportunities available under the recent Reynolds principles governing how journalists should conduct enquiries. It also examines the value of group journalism - are several heads better than one? It will help journalists to set the agendas in their specialist fields, enabling them to break important stories, win headlines, and improve the reputation of their publications for their authority and expertise.
Peter Gillman is ideally placed to deliver this course, with the combination of his long experience with the Sunday Times Insight team during the Harold Evans era, and the succession of major investigative features and books he has written since. He uses lessons and examples from his own work to illustrate the issues arising during the course.Top of Page
A technical and closely directed day concentrating on the basic skills of sub-editing and the range they cover: readability, accuracy, consistency, and journalistic flair. We show how to ensure that writers' material is concise and clear, with thoughts focused, sentences sharpened, ambiguities and redundancies removed, grammar and syntax sorted, and the structure and story-line sustained. The course covers the technical points that are likely to crop up under the heading of house style, from the form of dates and proper names to business and scientific terminology. It can cover both news and feature writing, and also offers a bridge into the more creative editorial processes involved in rewriting.Top of Page
An introduction to one of the most valuable - and least recognised - of an editor's skills: how to reshape a poorly written or badly structured article so that it becomes a coherent and persuasive piece of writing. The course gives delegates practical examples to work on and introduces the technical skill known as deconstruction: working out how a piece has gone wrong and how to put it right. It also examines the briefing process which is where the original problem may have arisen. The course is especially useful in plugging the gap that frequently exists between the roles of sub-editor and commissioning editor.Top of Page
INTRODUCTION TO MEDIA LAW
This course complements the course in investigative journalism, presenting an outline of the key elements of media law, covering libel and slander, confidence, copyright, intrusion and privacy. It is not possible to cover every nuance and facet of the law in a day and so the course is intended to present the basic principles of media law and alert journalists and editors to when they are moving into sensitive territory. where alarm bills should ring. It also covers the latest developments in the ever-changing state of the law. These include the impact of the new Reynolds principles and how they affect qualified privilege, and the latest state of play in the definition and implications of the European Human Rights Act and its effect on journalists' work.
A working knowledge of the minefield of media law is essential for everyone in the newspaper and magazine business. This course demonstrates the risks and pitfalls of the territory, giving delegates the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the current issues in media law.