(Not So) Basic Journalism Skills: Writing for Deadlines

by - February 17, 2016

Deadlines don't wait for inspiration. - Charles Schultz

There are no truer words have ever been spoken, especially in this business. Deadlines are absolute. There is no wiggle room. You either make it or you don't. That being said, deadlines are probably one of the toughest things for fresh-out-of-school journalists to master, but it isn't a difficult skill to learn.

When you're first starting out, it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to write everything perfectly. There's nothing wrong with striving for perfection but it takes time and unless you start writing at 9 a.m. for a 5 p.m. deadline, time is something you probably don't have the luxury for. But don't worry - I've put together some tips to help both producers and reporters speed up your writing and meet your deadlines.

  • Remember the 5 W's - who, what, when, where, why (and how if applicable), especially when you're turning a press release or wire story into a story for air.
  • Summarize. In most cases, not every little detail has to be included in your story.
  • 1 line = 1 idea. Stick to that philosophy and not only will your writing speed up but it will also keep it nice and concise.

  • Know your story before you leave the station.
  • Outline your story. Having this skeleton to work with will speed up your writing process considerably.
  • Talk to your interviews before you question them, while you're setting up.
  • Take notes during your interview.


  • Make a to-do list. This is especially helpful for producers. It helps keep you organized. Plus, crossing things off the list feels pretty good (or maybe that's just me).
  • Time yourself. Set mini-deadlines, and most importantly meet them!

These are all tips that I follow on a daily basis to help me meet my deadlines. You can read more tips on writing for deadlines here, here and here. If you'd like to work on speeding up your writing outside of work, check out these news writing exercises.

I'll leave you all with this from journalism.about.com: 

"...newsrooms move fast. Deadlines are constant. And being a terrific writer won't matter much if you can't get your stories in on time."

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