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Journalism Workshop for Young Salesians in Chennai

By Alexander Christopher SDB
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Chennai, Aug. 14. A two-day workshop on news writing, editing and reporting was held on 10-11 August for the correspondents of Bosco Information Service (BIS) of the Chennai Province. The programme, in which nine young Salesians participated, was held in the high-tech SIGA Communication Lab in Chennai and was led by Fr. Louis Kumpiluvelil, the BIS Coordinator of the Province, and Fr. P. T. Joseph, the webmaster of Don Bosco India website.  
The workshop started on August 10 evening with Fr. P. T. Joseph giving the participants a ''guided tour'' of the donboscoindia website. Besides demonstrating the working of the site, he also highlighted its many interesting and valuable features, including the vast database on the confreres, houses and provinces of India.

The next day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fr. Louis, backed by his nearly 50 years of experience in journalism, took the participants step by step through the nitty-gritty of news writing and editing, following the well-established method of the '5Ws and one H', namely: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. The focus was on writing the 'lead' or the opening paragraph of the story and crafting a smart and attention-grabbing headline which require both language skills and creativity.  

The lead paragraph, said Fr Louis, sets the tone and mood for the rest of the story. It tells the reader who did what, where, when, why and how in a few lines that summarise the story and hooks the reader, making him/her want to read more. The headline, instead, quickly draws the reader's attention and kindles interest and captivates. It should be eye-catching, believable, easy to read, brief and accurate.

The well-known ''inverted pyramid'' style of presenting the news was another interesting lesson learned. The inverted pyramid principle says you should put your most fundamental facts on top of the story, in the lead paragraph, followed by the next most important point, and so on, in diminishing order of importance. Busy people expect writers to get to the important point quickly, or they'll find something else to read. The good writer therefore writes every sentence with one purpose — to make the reader read the next sentence.

The theory was followed by a vigorous practice session in the afternoon. The participants were divided into groups of three and each group asked to prepare a news story, which was projected on the screen and critically analysed and edited by the entire group. The exercise sharpened the participants' skills in writing the lead and creating headlines.
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BIS is the information service of the Salesians of Don Bosco in South Asia.
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