Finding Focus and Writing a Nut-graph

Finding focus

This is one of the key things you’ll need to do for each and every assignment, be it a one-day, one-week or you major story or project. Finding focus and then writing that focus into a clear concise nut-graph is essentially about identifying and clarifying exactly what it is you want to explore and communicate to your audience with your story and reporting. No single article can cover all angles of a story or issue, so be sure to pick a viable and accessible focus. To find focus, you’ll first need to do plenty of research or pre-reporting online, over the phone, and if possible on foot.

Writing things down should help you to formulate your ideas clearly and concisely. Your focus may change as you report, so refine and adapt it as you go along as necessary, but don’t wait until the end of your reporting to find and write your focus — this will lead to unfocused, incoherent reporting.

Nut graph

Once you have done plenty of research and reporting on your story, and you have identified and settled on a sharp focus. You should translate that focus into a clear, concise written nut graph. This is going to help you with your edit. If you know what it is you want to say, you’ll know which sound bytes, footage, quotes, information and data etc to use - and which to leave out. It will also help you with the narrative structure. Remember no single story can cover an entire issue, you’ll have gathered a lot of research and material, now it’s your job to find the key points and turn that into a story that will inform and engage your audience. A nut graph will help you to avoid the trap of condensing down all your research and findings into a ‘multimedia encyclopedia’, it’ll help you to select and prioritise information.

I have collected a few of the best links I can find on the web. Read them and make sure you write a nut graph for each and every story you do. You might use the text form of the nut graph in your story, or maybe you find a quote or sound byte that delivers the nut graph.

Questions to help you find focus:

What is your story?

Why is it interesting or important (even better if it’s both!)

Why tell this story NOW? What’s the timely hook, the trend the movement, is something new or fresh?

Are things getting better or worse — or staying the same?

Why is the trend interesting / important?

Is anything being done — why / why not?

Who is on the front lines of your story? — which communities? Which organisations?

EVIDENCE — what’s the evidence to back up your ideas? Facts / evidence from credible sources.

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