Covering a speech
Tips for covering speeches and meetings
To cover speeches, reporters should:
1. Research the speaker and topic.
2. Get advance copies of
3. Find a seat at the end of an aisle.
4. Estimate the size of the audience, if appropriate.
5. Monitor the crowd’s mood.
6. Use a recorder when possible.
To write a speech story:
1. Start with a compelling lead, usually the most newsworthy point in the speech.
2. Include the speaker’s name and a small amount of background.
3. Highlight the speaker’s key points.
4. Convey the speech’s tone.
5. Beware of false statements by the speaker.
Avoid topic leads in speech stories. It’s not important that the speaker talked
about a certain topic. What’s newsworthy is what the speaker said about the topic.
Other essentials in a speech story include:
1. Relevant credentials of the speaker.
2. The reason for the speech.
3. Who sponsored it.
4. The time, day and location.
6. Comments from those attending.
7. Responses to allegations or remarks.
8. The speaker’s fee, especially if it is exorbitant.
To cover meetings, reporters:
1. Start with research. Clarify, condense and concentrate on the meeting.
2. Encourage readers to attend by writing advances or including a
3. Arrive early.
4. Dress appropriately.
5. Hang around after the meeting to get explanatory comments from sources who made decisions or comments during the meeting.
Reporters must choose what’s important during the meeting and cut through the bureaucratic language to
write what happened.
What happened is the news. Simply stating a meeting was conducted is not news.
Meeting stories should include:
1. The group or agency’s name, location and length of meeting.
2. Topics of debate.
3. Important decisions made and how they will affect the reading/viewing audience.
4. Interesting, compelling quotes.
6. Crowd size, if appropriate.
7. The atmosphere of the meeting. Tense, confrontational, informational, etc.
8. Graphics to illustrate the decision.
9. Any unusual events that occurred.
10. What happens next.
Consider personalizing meeting stories by writing about the issues and the people involved.
Don’t take sides.
Remember, What happens – the action taken – at the meeting is the story, not that a meeting was conducted. Avoid jargon.
President Bush’s speech to the joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, nine days after the 9/11 attacks. How would you have covered it?