Nine Astoundingly Beneficial Tips on Being a World-Class Journalist – Part 2

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Jon Henley is a journalist working for the Guardian; last week our very own – slightly younger and less wise – Jon went to Knowle West Media Centre to hear him give a talk about using social media for The Bristol Cable

Last time I gave you some pointers from a lovely conversation I had with Kieran Yates; this time it’s some straightforward advice from another Guardian writer, Jon Henley, who seems to be quite the expert at using social media to aid his journalism. Check out what he had to say below:

1. If you have a Twitter or Facebook account then you effectively a publisher.

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It’s that simple. Scary, right?

2. You should acknowledge that there are people out there who know a lot more than you do.

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Instead of pretending like you know everything, find the people who can tell you about your subject matter properly, and credit them for their help. It’ll make your piece way more authentic and you’ll probably have some very proud helpers by the end of it (unless you really screw it up – no pressure).

3. Your readers aren’t stupid, nor are they just readers.

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They are fact-checkers, contributors and they even share your stuff. Treat them nicely, and most of all make sure you:

4. Verify everything.

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If you’re presenting facts then you better have the evidence to back it up, otherwise when people call you out on it – and they won’t hesitate to do so – you’ll crumble and die.

5. If you do make a mistake, apologise.

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Don’t try to hide it, it’s way better to admit your mistakes and rectify whatever rubbish you’ve been spewing than try and sweep it all under this big metaphorical rug everyone keeps talking about.

6. Maintain your credibility.

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See 4 and 5. Basically: don’t be an idiot, ok?

7. Be blatant when you ask for help.

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It shows you’re honest and that you want other people involved, and then they’re more likely to do so. Everybody wins.

8. Sort your attitude out.

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Once you grasp the idea that you are a human, you’re going to be reporting on something that will inevitably involve other humans, and it will be read by humans, then you can approach your projects with the mind-set of a really good human. Also:

9. Think about the form of your work.

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To avoid rambling, weird and hugely inconclusive points such as number 8, you might want to consider which medium will suit your story best. If you want to talk about lots of facts, numbers or complicated things that might need a second glance, then presenting it to your audience as text means they can do it at their own pace. If you want to do emotion, go for visuals.

These points have been taken from a talk at Knowle West Media Center organised by The Bristol Cable. Jon Henley was a foreign correspondent for The Guardian and is now a feature-writer. Check out his interactive Firestorm project, and find him on Twitter at @JonHenley

The Bristol Cable is a collective of young people in Bristol redefining how they see local media though a democratic approach to working. They offer a variety of free workshops and talks, and can be found on Twitter at @TheBristolCable. Their website is www.thebristolcable.org

Got any more tips to add? Tweet me at @rifemag

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