Tips on creating content for a news website


Advice for Writing the Message Online students on writing, interviewing and finding stories

Writing style

-Look at the module guide again and read through the assessment criteria

-Your website should have 6 news stories not 6 blog posts

-Look over the seminar slides on Writing for the Web to understand the style you need to write in and revisit the writing exercise we did in the seminar

-Intros should cover the basic who, what, where, when and then your story should explore why and how

-Read websites in order to understand the style and structure of your stories:

-You need to find a hook/angle for your stories:

  • This may simply be it is something ‘new’ (new shop, new line-up announced at a venue).
  • Or something that is new to your readers that they will be unaware of (profile of unusual university club, interview with an alternative student venue).
  •  It can also be a preview of a forthcoming event (preparations for Freshers 2014, Varsity training, interview with a band about to play a gig).
  • Or a follow-up of a national story with a local angle (latest research says students are coach potatoes, what do Hallam students and university experts think? Yellow is the new black, speak to fashion students and boutique shop owners).

Your stories may have a mixture of all of the above or other ‘new’ elements to them.

-You must include original content in your stories by way of interview. Ideally each story will have at least 2 people quoted who need to be experts or representatives. If you do a vox pop (e.g if you speak to the public/students to gather opinion) then 5 is a good number.

-Your news stories should be factual rather than opinionated and should avoid commentary in any way. Avoid phrases like ‘Meadowhall is a really great place for shopping’ ‘It is really horrible to see so many shops closing down’.

Where to find stories

-There is loads going on in Sheffield at the moment. Do you research and keep checking Blackboard announcements and the Facebook page as I will continue to put suggestions up there.

-You still have time to change your theme if you think you need to focus on something different. Run your new idea past your tutor before changing though.

-Look through the Sheffield Star newspaper and see if there are any stories you could follow up or explore in more details

-Check press releases from SHU media centre and the council – they are all online. Don’t copy them but they will tell you if there is an event coming up or people available to interview

-Some things you could base your website around:

Sheffield DocFest – international documentary film festival in June (lots of potential for preview stories and interviews)

Sheffield Adventure Film Festival – in April and SHU students are having their films screened (again lots of potential for interviews with organisers, SHU film-makers)

Varsity – lots and lots going on around SHU over the next few weeks, tonnes of people you can speak to

Student Elections interviews with candidates, student vox pops, union members

Sheffield Food Festival – lots of potential previews and interviews here

Tour De France – this is coming to Sheffield in the summer and is a MAJOR sporting event. SHU is an official partner of the event. Lots you could do on how the city is preparing for the event, how SHU is involved, what will be the short and long term economic benefit, how will it impact on the popularity of cycling etc.


-Look over the seminar slides on Developing a Story for ideas on who you should be speaking to and how to conduct interviews

-Make use of Sheffield Hallam University media centre, look at their press releases for story ideas and access their list of experts

-Don’t be afraid of contacting people. The worst thing that will happen is that they will say no. If they do, move onto another person.

-Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Have a list of possible people to contact in case they don’t all respond – always have a back up plan.

-Make use of media/press offices. They will be listed on an organisation’s website.

-Press offices you may want to contact include South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Hallam University, The University of Sheffield

-Always try to conduct interviews face-to-face, second choice on the phone and a very, very last resort via email

-Before you go to an interview write a list of all the questions you want to ask. Think about what you are trying to find out and what questions will help you get this information.

-Be honest about who you are and what you are doing the story for. Don’t be afraid to admit you are scared/nervous/unsure, this will make people warm to you and want to help you more.

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Ten reasons to move home

Amanda Howson from EFF press office and Lily Canter from Film Northants

This year Film Northants will be moving venue from Cineworld Cinemas in Sixfields, Northampton to the Errol Flynn Filmhouse (EFF) in the town centre.

Why the move? Well there were a number of factors (which were carefully considered by the committee over several months) which are explained below.

However it is important to stress that we did not fall out with Cineworld and indeed the door has been left open. As the festival expands and develops over the years it may consider using multiple venues one of which may be Cineworld again.

1. Each year we try to develop and expand the festival and it was felt that EFF and the adjacent Royal & Derngate would give us greater flexibility to do this.

2. Film Northants is fundamentally about independent talent in the county and EFF’s remit is to promote both independent film and community projects. It therefore seemed like a more natural home for the festival than a chain, multiplex cinema.

3. We were unsure whether the public would want to see the festival held at a smaller venue and whether film-makers would still prefer to see their films on the same screen as the latest blockbusters, so we consulted widely. The overwhelming response was that the public and film-makers thought an independent cinema was the best home for Film Northants.

4. Moving to EFF gave us more flexibility with the dates meaning we could host two awards nights – one for the Over 16s (September 2nd) and one for the Under 16s (September 1st). This means we will be able to cater for them separately rather than having the Under 16s ‘tacked on’ to the main adult event.

5. At EFF we are able to have greater control of the screen and include Q&As, talks and panels – expanding our offering.

6. We have acknowledged that there is a demand for screenings for local films in different categories and longer than 5 minutes in length. At the EFF we can hold out-of-competition screenings throughout the year (we hope to do them in April, June and August) whilst also raising money to help run the overall festival.

7. Last year we were unable to host the ceremony reception in the Cineworld bar area which restricted the amount of space we had and limited the catering. With the move to EFF we will be able to use both the cinema bar and space within the Royal & Derngate building giving us more flexibility.

8. The Northants Film Network, which Film Northants runs with Reelscape Films and Andy Cox Music, meets at the Royal & Derngate, so it makes sense for Film Northants to be based in the same location.

9. Working alongside EFF and Royal & Derngate enables us to work alongside their press team to help promote the festival in the local media but also on the EFF website, particularly our screening dates.

10.  The EFF is fast becoming the place for local film events, with a cult cinema night and a partnership with the University of Northampton film course amongst other events, so we want to part of this vibrant film community.

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Hunting for relevant literature

For early career researchers or postgraduates starting a PhD one of the first things to think about is where to find reading material.

A quick Google is unlikely to find robust, academic texts and instead may lead you to interesting but speculative blogs or research with an agenda.

It can also be difficult to dig out specific, peer-reviewed work, which is often behind a subscription wall, or to keep up to date with the latest research.

However there are a number of tips and tools that can help you immensely.

Read more here.

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Top tips for a great journalism CV

Getting your foot in the door is often the hardest part of job seeking – particularly for graduates. Having a strong CV that stands out from the rest is crucial and could be the difference between getting an interview and being dropped onto the ‘for recycling’ pile.

Here are some tips on creating a great journalism CV.

  • Keep it to a maximum of 2 pages
  • Tailor your CV to the job description
  • Use your course modules and assessments as examples of your skills
  • Don’t copy and paste
  • Don’t waffle – be concise
  • Make it your own thing
  • Include links to blogs/online work and where approach attach cuttings
  • Let your personality come through
  • Show your passion and enthusiasm
  • Change your privacy settings on Facebook
  • Use Twitter for professional use and don’t put anything on there you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see
  • Show how work experience has enhanced your skills, development, learning
  • Include relevant work experience high up and additional work experience lower down on CV
  • Make your interests interesting not bland, and be specific
  • Proof read and check and recheck your work
  • Spell names correctly
  • Use CV action/power/impact words

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Breaking the publishing barrier

As a PhD student my main focus was on getting the damn thing finished – as quickly as possible as far as I was concerned.

But whilst doing my fieldwork it became apparent that I had a lot of interesting and original data which may be of interest to others and perhaps I should think about getting it published.

However as a newspaper journalist, the world of academic publishing was initially a bizarre, unfathomable one to me. Nether-the-less with a good dose of trial and error I eventually began to master it.

Whether you are a PhD student, an early career researcher or a practitioner looking to develop a research profile, there are some simple steps you can take which should help you break down the academic publishing barrier.

Read my blog on to find out some top tips on publishing your academic work.

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Commuting my way to course leader

My office door at Sheffield Hallam University

Five years ago I had a full time job, pensionable salary and an integral role in the news room of a daily regional newspaper. Then I gave it all up. To become a student. Again.

Today, as I sit on my commuter train from Market Harborough to Sheffield, I am planning for revalidation, prepping a meeting with the external examiner and revamping an online journalism module. My role as course leader of the BA Journalism degree at Sheffield Hallam University is worlds apart from my job as features editor at the Northampton Chronicle & Echo. And perhaps surprisingly, it took less time to achieve a role of responsibility in academia than it did in the newsroom…

To read more click here.

Lily is a regular contributor to

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Expanding what you hear and c

The Rest being interviewed at the awards ceremony

The Rest being interviewed at the awards ceremony

There is no pussyfooting around it – Film Northants 2013 was the year of the C word. It was not something we ever anticipated but suddenly it was there and suddenly it was something we had to think about.

The film in question – which went on to win the Judges’ Choice award – was the stunning race relations short The Boy With The Thorn In His Side which tackled hatred and immigration head on. Filmmakers Alex Motlhabane and Lewis Levis (AKA The Rest) pulled no punches in their controversial short which was so naturalistic in style some viewers first mistook it for a documentary. The film included a torrid of abusive language, including the infamous c word (albeit in a blink and you’ll miss it moment) and a topical subject matter which responded to the brutal Woolwich killing of Drummer Lee Rigby.

As a committee we felt we had a responsibility to discuss the film, particularly since it attracted one complaint, but we were all in agreement that the film should be put forward to the judges as it did not breach any of the Film Northants entry rules. Indeed as my clean-mouthed 70-year-old mother commented “the film wouldn’t work without the strong language”.  At the judging panel there was debate over whether the film was provocative for the sake of it but on balance it was felt that the film was an exceptional showcase of acting, cinematography, narrative and originality. Furthermore the controversial content of the film was to its merit rather than its detriment.

Audience members viewing the Film Northants programme

Audience members viewing the Film Northants programme

The film was extremely well received at the awards night and attracted the attention of BAFTA nominated filmmaker David Morris who attended the event and spent time talking to The Rest. As a committee we feel proud of this film and stand by our decision to put it forward to the judging panel alongside 40 other impressive entries including Public Vote winner Paper Chase and runner-up The Break Up. Although there was no prize for third place in the public vote this position was taken up by the romantic short Fishing For…

What was particularly interesting this year was the cross-over between the Over 16s and Under 16s films which both contained zombies, gore and competent special effects. The Under 16s category continued to grow and in 2013 attracted 27 entries including the winner the Demon Dinner Lady and runner-up Night of the Living Ted. In total the 15 shortlisted films (nine Under 16s, six Over 16s) attracted more than 4,000 views between them and the Over 16s finalists received 1,636 individual votes from the public. The new website – launched in August – received thousands of unique users and more than 10,000 page views in its launch month.

Overall it was another successful year with a great range of entries and a vibrant awards night. The committee are currently taking stock of the year and looking at feedback. The festival will be in its seventh year in 2014 and there is a feeling that we need to develop the event to avoid becoming stagnant. We are currently floating around various ideas to turn the awards ceremony into a more traditional festival with multiple screenings, talks and activities with tickets on sale to the public. We will be consulting on this in the near future so please watch this space.

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