The big cheese, one slice at a time

One of my weaknesses is story focus.

I read, read, read. I think, examine, reflect.

I want to cover it all, and yet, each article can only be a deli-thin slice of a gigantic wheel of cheese.

Poynter has six questions to help journalists report and write better, more satisfying articles for themselves and the public. The questions relate to the focus of a story: where it’s going, new ground it can break and how it can connect to the universal themes readers are familiar with.

• How would you tell the story to a friend? Cut the jargon.

• What would the headline be? This story is about ____.

• What surprised you? Predictable is boring.

• Are there unanswered questions? Grab a shovel pen and fill the holes.

• How can this be new? Whether it’s words, pictures or video, break the box.

• Can this offer wisdom? Find the age-old theme, but keep it fresh.

As with any weakness, it’s not enough to acknowledge it. Grab your sandpaper and smooth the edges, whittling the problem down to something less noticeable or even nonexistent.

These questions are important, no matter how well you write or where you work.

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