Eric Townsend’s Reporting Tips

Eric Townsend, news director in Elon University’s University Relations office, has worked for American Journalism Review and the Greensboro News & Record, experiences that have provided him with opportunities to learn strategies that  lead to success as a reporter.

He visited a reporting class on Monday and shared some thoughtful advice.

1. Read good journalism

“You can’t be a good reporter or a good writer unless you know what good reporting and writing looks like,” he said.

2. Don’t assume that longer is better.

“Sometimes shorter is better and oftentimes shorter is harder,” Townsend said.“Writing long simply means that there’s more of the story their not going to see. Ninety percent of readers don’t get to the end of the story. Fifty percent of the readers don’t go to the second half of the story.”

3. You don’t have to use every source you interview.

It is important that, as a reporter, you preface this at the beginning of an interview. You don’t have to use a source simply because you interviewed him or her.

4. The public record is not the story in and of itself.

“I think young reporters get too focused on the record itself but don’t go out and talk with people involved,” Townsend said.

It is important to complete original reporting. Yes, an event took place, but there is more of a story to be found as digging is done.

5. The best stories come from talking with people.

“There are a lot of stories going on around here that you’ll enjoy writing, if only for the reason that nobody knows about it,” he said. “I would make the case the best stories are the ones you find on your own.”


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