• Breaking news as feature?
• What budget numbers really mean.
Adding a personal angle to a story has become standard in a lot of the reporting we see, particularly when it comes to writing features. It is rare to see that personal touch however, when it comes to breaking news. Inquirer staff writer Jacqueline Urgo managed to accomplish this with her article on the sinking of the Lady Mary-a fishing vessel-off the coast of Cape May, N.J. on Tuesday.
I was working at the Fox29 news desk when this story broke Tuesday morning, and was involved in the rush to obtain as much information as quickly as possible. It’s one thing to rush down with a camera and get live sound and video from people on the scene. You see their faces; the despair resonates without words. It’s more difficult to package a personal angle for print while working to obtain the facts from a still unfolding event.
I battled with the concept of whether the personal angle-mentioning the fiancé of one of the missing men not knowing “what [she’s] going to do,” for example-is relevant or even ethical at the early stages of reporting.
The Wednesday article was the first opportunity for the Inquirer (philly.com excluded) to report the story, and I questioned if it should have been written as a straight news story. Is a personal angle to breaking news involving human tragedy warranted?
Before I read this article my vote would have been “no.” Then it occurred to me the people directly involved in this tragedy were apparently willing to speak, and Urgo was brave enough to engage them by stepping into their immediate hell. Because of the bravery displayed by friends and family at the scene and the courage Urgo showed to listen, the personal angle is warranted.
Urgo managed to add a personal touch to the article while providing the pertinent and available factual information.
This Philadelphia Inquirer article is another explaining the extensive fallout from the nation’s economy, detailing Mayor Nutter’s budget for the city. Patrick Kerkstra and Jennifer Lin write on what city programs and services that will be cut, according to the budget, including 250 city positions, and what programs will be protected, including the city’s libraries and recreational centers.
While the article’s only source is Mayor Nutter, this article works. The goal seems to be just to give information to readers about what the mayor is proposing, and Kerkstra and Lin do a good job in detailing each area of the mayor’s budget. They include figures that help readers navigate the mayor’s fiscal plans, like including that the budget is $3.84 million, but that the cuts he’s proposing only total $300 million. Compared to a deficit of $1.4 billion, this may not be enough.
The writers also include context regarding how the cuts will affect people. For example, the budget is supposed to eliminate pay increases for the next five years, eliminating $180 million that was set aside for the raises. Kerkstra and Lin write that this could present a problem for the mayor, as unions will be renewing contracts this spring and summer. With detailed information and context like this, readers are better able to understand just how the mayor’s proposed budget will affect them if city council approves it.