This entry discusses the two types of newsroom – the newsroom that is part of a magazine or website and the newsroom that is run by a company in order to provide relevant news to the press regarding that business’ operations. Both kinds will follow many similar guidelines in the way they structure, assemble and proof their content. This is all discussed in this post to help you get the right story out in the right way.
A newsroom is an area in any newspaper or broadcasting office where news gets processed. Here, that news gets prepared and researched. The typical example of a newsroom is the office of a publication or a website, where journalists will perform research, make calls and type up their stories. They will then be submitted to editors, who will check the writing and grammar. The content is then ‘laid out’ on the page and a headline is chosen to grab attention. Editors will also review photographs, maps and other imagery and decide where it will appear in the magazine or on the site – whether this is front-page news or smaller news. Copy editors who perform these duties work together at what is called a copy desk, normally supervised by a copy desk chief, night editor or news editor.
However, although this is the conventional definition of the term newsroom, the phrase has also been appropriated for broader use. In particular, it is now used commonly in public relations to refer to a center where news is created for the media. This is essentially turning the whole concept on its head, where now the newsroom is where new news is actually generated with the intention of releasing it to the media – to the actual news rooms!
In some cases in PR, a newsroom might be a physical room where the internal PR department discusses news and creates press releases and the like. However, in other cases, it can refer to a website or a portal of sorts where journalists can check in in order to get the latest news from that company. This type of ‘newsroom’ may include a press kit with images, information etc. as well.
A newsroom for a website can also be used to attract visitors to a website and in this regard it might even be considered one and the same with a blog. This is a place where a company can put forward its version of events and ensure that its audience will discover the official ‘company line’ on news etc.
In both scenarios, there are some similarities between the approach.
When I was a writer for a magazine I was constantly being corrected by my editor. This was something that was necessary of course – to keep a consistent editorial style throughout the magazine, and it’s not like I resented it. However, at the same time that doesn’t mean that I necessarily loved it, and it was still a bit disheartening having much of what I wrote re-phrased.
This is one reason that many people will end up creating their own media outlet – starting a blog or running a business – as that way they get to call the shots.
But that still doesn’t mean it’s okay to just cut lose and write however you want – you still need to adhere to basic grammar rules, and you still need to ensure that you are mostly consistent throughout your website – otherwise it will look like you have some kind of split personality disorder, or it will just look unprofessional. So here we will look at how to decide upon and maintain your editorial guidelines and your take on grammar.
You might think that writing is something you know how to do by now, and that you have a pretty good handle on grammar. But have you considered every situation? For instance, if you are making a list of bullet points with little sentences behind them like this:
• Bullet points – deciding on the kinds of bullet points you are going to use
Do you use a full stop at the end of that sentence? Well the answer is in fact that there isn’t an official answer to this question and that it’s really up to you to decide what you are going to do – as long as you are consistent across the board. However there is a more commonly accepted method which is to use a full stop only if you exceed more than one sentence. So, if your bullet point stretches over more than one sentence, then you put a full stop at the end of the first one and then the second one. If it’s only a few words, then you should omit the full stop.
Likewise, do you write numbers as ‘123’ or as ‘one two three’? Again that’s up to you, but note that the most common solution is to use written numbers up to the number ten; 11 upwards are written as digits.
Another question – can you start your sentences with an ‘and’? Once again this is up to you – the official answer is no, but if your site is a more colloquial one with a chattier ‘voice’ then this might be one you decide to allow.
So, it really doesn’t matter what you make your guidelines, as long as you actually think about them and set some in stone. Write them down and that way you can refer to them each time you write anything yourself, and you can also refer guest writers to them if they want to contribute.
That said, if you are going to be running a newsroom, either from the perspective of PR or from the perspective of the press, then you may wish to consider following the Associated Press style guidelines. These are designed specifically for the press to write more consistent and coherent content for press releases and articles. This helps to clear up confusion and while you aren’t required to follow it, it can often be a good idea if you want to ensure your content will appear professional.
You will find more statistics at Statista
A news room will live and die by its content and this is truer in the digital age than ever before. Think about the last website you went to and why you went there – the chances are that you went there to read content. Unless you were watching a video, playing a game or using a web 2.0 tool, then chances are you were reading and this will account for the vast majority of what you do online. Now think about how long you spent on the website – chances are that you will have stayed longer on the sites where the content was useful, relevant and entertaining. If the content was poorly written and badly worded, then you’ll probably have left within the first minute of getting there. On top of that you will only have bothered to share or recommend the writing if it was good. The writing is even what brought you to the website in the first place, as chances are you got there by Google.
Suffice to say that the quality and quantity of your articles is pretty important if you want people to get anything out of your site. But how do you go about writing articles that people will enjoy and that will be a success in Google? This is the plight faced by newsrooms in the digital age and it also applies to public relations newsrooms trying to get word out about new initiatives, products and more.
If you want to bring the biggest number of people to your site, then you want to write for the broadest possible audience. What that means is that you don’t want to write articles that are heavy with jargon, or that are worded strangely. Try to write as you would talk to someone – make it friendly and easy to understand and throw in a few jokes in there too. If you aren’t sure whether you’ve done it right, try reading the articles back to yourself out loud or getting someone to read them to you. If they flow nicely then you’re on to a winner.
That said, this does depend a lot on the intended use for your content. If you are creating a ‘newsroom’ for your business that will be put out to the general public, or if you run a news site, then your content should be designed this way.
Stuffing your articles with keywords isn’t worth it in any way shape or form and there are countless arguments as to why you shouldn’t do this. First of all, it is a strategy that won’t bring you positive results in the long term. What you have to remember is that Google’s only loyalty is to its visitors and users and its number one aim is to provide them with good content that they will want to read. In other words then every time they improve their algorithm, they will be looking for ways to weed out those sites that abuse the system more and more. Next you need to think about the quality of your traffic – using heavy handed SEO you might be able to get people to your site, but if they are put off by your repeated use of the same phrases and they leave right away… what was the point?
SEO is completely unnecessary for a newsroom sharing press releases, but for a website sharing content with its audience, SEO becomes very important for reputation management. It just needs to be handled subtly.
Use a Hook
You need to write articles that are going to grab attention and keep it. Make sure that your titles turn heads, and that you have something to say in your article. This is partly why advice articles are so good, but if you’re going for something more editorial in nature try to ensure that it is in some way memorable to make it stand out among the competition. Remember that your titles are in effect headlines, and you need to use these to get clicks when your site is listed in the search results.
And of course, for real newsrooms the titles are headlines. In the digital age the headline has changed somewhat though in the face of ‘clickbait’ titles. Techniques can be used in order to make your titles more clickable and actionable – which include using curiosity to pique the interest of your audience.
Break it Down
Lastly, remember that people on the web are in a rush. They don’t want to spend hours reading blocks of text, so find ways to break your articles up with multiple headings, bullet points or even just images.
For providing news to press, breaking content up into readable and convenient chunks is a very useful way to ensure that they can use this as a reference to report on in an easy manner.
Alsop very important is to include facts and figures. Again, make these clear and set them apart from the rest.
Finally, you should tie all this together with the right content.
In real newsrooms and public relations alike, this often follows a structure that is known as the upside down pyramid. The upside down pyramid is intended to present the most important information first and center: the what, where, why, who. This is then followed by the important details and then any other general background information.