How to use The News Manual Online

The News Manual’ was written as a practical guide to journalism. It is full of advice, examples, hints and explanation. Although you can read it through from beginning to end, it is just as valuable being with you as you work, ready for the moment you need to solve a problem, check a matter of style or plan how to tackle a new assignment.

The structure of the manual

Chapter previews: Each chapter begins with a short outline of what will follow. These previews are in bold type. You can skim through these outlines if you are looking for a particular topic.

Chapter layout: The chapters are structured so that topics are covered in a logical order. Headings are set at several levels to guide you through sections and sub-sections of information.

We use bold type to introduce new and important words and ideas.
We use italics for titles, foreign words and for special stress.
We use blue type for examples of news writing and red for any raw materials upon which the examples are based, e.g. notes.

Summaries: Each chapter ends with a short section summarising the principles and advice contained in it. Use this as a quick reference and also as a reminder of the essential things to remember about each skill or assignment.

Indexes: There are two types if index you can use. There are index boxes on the right hand side of each page to help you find information in a hurry, either within the page itself or elsewhere on the site. Important terms are also linked to other references in the text and in some cases hovering the mouse curser over a word will reveal a short explanation. There is also a central A-Z index of words and phrases. This can be quickly accessed by clicking The Manuals tab or by clicking on the front page image of each of the three manuals, then click on the red Index symbol.

For those of you interested in media law in Australia, there is a separate index to this section, accessible through the front page or within the special section itself. Click on the green-and-gold 'OzIndex' symbol.

Beginning journalists

Beginning journalists are advised to read each chapter completely, then use them for reference. But more than this: you should also use this guide as a practical tool for any new assignment. Follow these steps:

  1. As soon as you are given a task, read the chapter relevant to that assignment, so that you understand clearly what you should do. For example, before you go out to report on a football match, read through Chapter 31: Sport.
  2. When you return to the newsroom to write your story - and before you start typing - refer to the chapter again, particularly to any section on writing.
  3. Before you hand in your copy, read the summary section at the end of the chapter, to make sure that you have not missed anything important.
  4. Finally, talk the assignment over with your editor or another senior journalist to see where you could have made improvements. Use the chapter again for guidance on the areas to discuss.
  5. If you discover that your skills are weak in any area, read the relevant chapter and practise the skill. For example, if you found problems writing an intro for your sports story, read Chapter 4: Writing the intro, then practise writing intros.

Teachers and trainers

Use this as a course resource. It is structured so that chapters follow a logical sequence, from basic skills through advanced techniques to discussions on ethics and the law.
It will be helpful if you also build up files of local examples to illustrate each chapter for your own students or trainees. It will help if you classify your examples chapter-by-chapter, in the same sequence as this manual.

Adapt this guide to your circumstances

‘The News Manual’ is particularly useful for journalists for whom English is not a first language, especially those in developing countries. But our advice cannot be applied equally in every country. Perhaps your resources are different or your political system does not allow you to do certain of the things we advise. You must adapt our instructions to your special circumstances. Whenever you read anything in this manual, ask yourself: "How does this apply to my country? How can I do this?"

This manual should be a useful aid to journalists at all levels, but it is only an aid. The best way to learn journalism is to do it - with this manual as a guide.

Gender neutrality

Finally, we have tried where possible to make the text and the examples gender neutral, which means not favouring one sex over the other or enforcing stereotypes. In today’s world journalists are just as likely to be women as men. Unhappily, English often requires that the personal pronoun is either masculine (he, his etc) or feminine (she, hers etc), and the use of “they” can be confusing. This manual differs from your writing as a journalist in that the personal pronouns you use will be determined by the gender of the people about whom you are writing, whereas we have no such pretext. While we try to follow the conventions of gender neutral language where possible without sacrificing clarity, we hope you will accept the legal convention that unless otherwise stated, the personal pronoun “he” should be read to mean both masculine and feminine – and we apologise in advance to all our female colleagues.

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