How to simplify routine stories

New moleskine CC photo credit BertopEvery newsroom is stressed to the max these days, with too few people producing news on more platforms than ever. How can you free up time for enterprise reporting or multimedia projects? By saving time on the routine stories.

Simple templates can speed up the collection of basic information on the kinds of stories that pop up every day. And standard forms can cut the time it takes to file routine requests. Here are a few checklists, adapted from News in a New Century by Jerry Lanson and Barbara Fought, and some links to get you started:


  • Location and time of incident
  • Nature of crime and how it occurred
  • Deaths, injuries, property loss, damages
  • Weapons or materials used in crime
  • Status of investigation; name, phone, email of officer in charge
  • Arrests, arraignment, bail information
  • Description or name of suspect
  • Relationship between criminal and victim
  • Crime and safety factors (unlocked door, high crime neighborhood, alarm system, etc.)


  • Location and time of accident
  • Names, ages, addresses of dead or injured; nature of injuries; where taken
  • Number and type of vehicles involved; damages to cars and property
  • How accident occurred
  • Contributing factors (alcohol, speeding, road hazards, seatbelts, equipment malfunction, etc.)
  • Police/emergency responding and response time
  • How long to clean up
  • Lead investigator: name, rank, organization, phone number, email
  • Arrests or citations issued
  • Traffic affected: how and for how long


  • Location
  • Time/source of first call; number of alarms
  • Origin of fire, how spread, when controlled
  • Names, ages, addresses of dead or injured; nature of injuries; where taken
  • Type of structure; owner’s name
  • Damage estimate; insurance information
  • Fire units responding (# firefighters, equipment) and response time
  • Contributing factors (code violation, smoke alarm, sprinkler, combustibles, wind, rain, etc.)
  • Rescue stories/heroes; if criminal, any arrests/suspects (see Crime Story)
  • Status of investigation; name, phone, email of officer in charge
  • Traffic affected: how and for how long

FOIA REQUESTS: To file a request for state or local government records or documents, you need to know the open records law that applies in your state. The Student Press Law Center makes it easy by providing a “Fully Automated, Fill-in-the-Blanks State Open Records Law Request Letter Generator.” Just follow the directions, fill in the required information, and presto: your letter is ready to print and send.If you’re filing a request for federal records or documents, use this letter generator provided by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

CAMERAS IN THE COURTROOM: Most courts require a written request for permission to photograph, record or broadcast judicial proceedings. The form on this page is used by the Court of Appeals of the 9th Circuit of California, and may provide you with a template to work from if your own court system does not have a similar form.

SourcedFrom Sourced from: NewsLab