How Journalists at Two Newspapers View Good Writing and Writing Coaches

By Coulson, David C.; Gaziano, Cecilie | Journalism Quarterly, Summer 1989 | Go to article overview

How Journalists at Two Newspapers View Good Writing and Writing Coaches


Coulson, David C., Gaziano, Cecilie, Journalism Quarterly


Coaches considered most effective in one-on-one work with reporters.

As newspaper circulation lagged behind population growth in the mid-1970s, editors began focusing on good writing as a way to compete with television. Today newspapers across the country are sponsoring writing seminars and hiring writing coaches.

Writing coaches have had an impact1 as editors have begun to recognize the need for them.2 Improving writing quality is "the rightful province" of editors at all levels, but time and organizational pressures restrict their effectiveness.3

Writing coaches fill the void. They help strengthen the skills of young reporters and also assist older hands who know the mechanics of good writing but routinely settle for "bromides and dull sentences."4

Research focusing on the techniques used by writing coaches found one-on-one discussions of writing problems to be most effective. The coaches said other methods-such as seminars, workshops and newsletters-supplemented working individually with reporters.5

Reporters' most serious writing problems, according to coaches, are procrastination, failure to adequately organize and conceptualize their stories and failure to rewrite. Coaches contend writing improvement programs benefit good writers more than average or poor writers and that one person can significantly improve writing.6

Such findings suggest the need to examine the writing coach concept from the perspective of journalists. The goals of this study were to investigate how editors and reporters view writing coaches and to identify factors that affect those views. The research questions that guided the analysis were:

1) What are journalists' attitudes toward good writing and writing coaches?

2) How does the newsroom environment affect journalists' attitudes toward good writing and writing coaches?

3) Are writing coaches perceived differently by journalists with different attitudes and backgrounds?

4) If journalists' attitudes toward writing coaches are favorable, what functions do they prefer coaches to perform?

Method

This study was conceived during the first author's stint a few years ago as a researcher and writing coach for two metropolitan newspapers-which we will fictitiously name the Morning Phoenix and the Evening Eagle.

Questionnaires were distributed to journalists at the two papers during the first week of July 1986. Completed questionnaires were mailed to the investigators by the first week of August. Nine open-ended questions were coded; the co-efficient of inter-rater reliability was .93.7

One hundred-four journalists at the Phoenix were eligible for the survey, and 62 took part, a 60% completion rate. Sixty-three of 85 eligible journalists at the Eagle participated, a 74% completion rate. The total was 125 respondents for an overall completion rate of 66%. Half those responding were from the Phoenix, and half were from the Eagle.

Respondents were all full-time newsroom personnel-reporters, editors, copy editors and columnists-involved in preparation of news. They worked for two large dailies8 under the same ownership in the same city. The papers did not employ internal writing coaches but on occasion brought in outside coaches.

Journalists in this survey are a population, not a sample. Therefore, statistical analysis, which assumes randomly sampled ' data, is not appropriate. Such analysis, however, can be legitimately applied to determine if there are actual differences among subgroups. This was done in this study.9

Findings

The majority of those responding were reporters, which had the effect of overrepresenting their perspective. All but eight of the editors represented in the survey (excluding copy editors) held management-level positions.

Length of employment was similar at the Morning Phoenix and the Evening Eagle. About one-third of the respondents were relative newcomers to the newspapers and another third were long-time employees. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How Journalists at Two Newspapers View Good Writing and Writing Coaches
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.