HOW TO COVER A COUNCIL MEETING
- Get The Agenda:
- Get a copy of the meeting’s program before attending it.
- You can do this by visiting their website, or calling or visiting your local town hall
- Knowing what they will discuss will help you make better notes and you’ll be less confused.
2. Pre-meeting Reporting:
- When you have the program, find out about the topics they are going to talk about in the meeting
- Check the website of your local paper to see if they’ve written about any of the issues coming up in the meeting e.g if the Hull Daily Mail has covered something on the program, you want to get a fresh angle so as not to copy them.
3. Find Your Focus:
- Pick a few issues on the program you want to focus on: look for the ones that seem newsworthy, controversial or just interesting.
- If you’re not sure what’s newsworthy, ask yourself “What issue on the program will affect the most people in my community?” The more people affected by something, the more newsworthy it is.
4. Planning Meetings:
- Many good stories are in the weekly list of planning applications
- You can find a list of newsworthy, interesting stories
5. Report, Report, Report:
- Interview members of the council to get quotes and more information.
- If there’s a controversial issue, interview local residents on both sides as far as the issue is concerned
6. Identifying Councillors:
- Get pictures of the members of the council, as well as their phone numbers and email addresses
7. Get Phone Numbers & E-mail Addresses:
- Get the phone numbers & email addresses of everyone you interview
- This will help if you need more information, need to ask another question, or need more quotes
- Confidential things are those that the court or central govt. has said shouldn’t go public
- Get legal advice before adding confidential things to your stories!
9. Parish/Town Councils:
- A constant source of stories for local papers
- They are less formal and are usually the starting point of issues that become big stories
10. Understand What Happened:
- Never leave a meeting without understanding what happened
- You can’t write about something you don’t understand
11. Get Rid Of Jargon:
- Make it easy for your readers to understand what you’re writing about
- Use simple words e.g instead of copious, say many.