The story of The News Manual

The News Manual was first published as a three-volume book with assistance from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and was aimed initially at journalists working in developing countries. It was designed to be a straightforward, no-nonsense guide and for many years it has been a standard text in newsrooms across the Asia-Pacific region.

It was born out of a fruitless search, back in 1985, for the right textbook for our journalism students at the University of Papua New Guinea. For a variety of reasons, the existing books did not seem to meet the needs which we saw at the time so we wrote our own.

The job was much bigger, and took much longer, than we had expected - more than five years.

On publication by Poroman Press in 1991, the three-volume The News Manual received very encouraging reviews by our fellow journalism practitioners and, despite a limited print run, was adopted as a set text in numerous journalism and media training programs throughout the Pacific region. Excerpts of those reviews can be found on the Reviews of The News Manual pages in the Resources section of this site.

It was always our intention to re-publish an updated edition but tragically, Peter Henshall died suddenly before this could be done and the book sat well-used but unchanged in newsrooms and on bookshelves throughout the Pacific for several years.

The online revolution - which was in its infancy when Peter died – has now made it possible to re-publish The News Manua’ in electronic form, making it instantly accessible throughout the world to anyone with a computer and Internet connection.

Journalism and the media have not stood still since 1995. Many technical advances have changed the face of how we produce newspapers, radio and television programs or online editions. Principal among these have been computers, recording technologies, communications devices and the Internet. While I have attempted to explain some of the basic processes in terms of modern technologies, these are not uniformly available all over the world – especially in many developing countries – and are changing even as we speak; the reader must interpret the advice of The News Manual in your technical circumstances.

So while I have updated the text and some of the advice for this Online edition, the core of The News Manual remains essentially unaltered since Peter and I first brought it together in the early 1990s. This is partly because even then we tried to give it a timeless quality but mainly because the essentials of good journalism remain consistent. Each new generation may adapt and refine the practices and apply them in modern contexts but the core principles remain. I hope in this revision I have remained faithful to those principles and to Peter’s legacy.

Who is The News Manual for?

The News Manual was conceived as a guide for journalism students and for use by working journalists and by others in the media, such as non-news broadcasters, information officers and advertisers.

We originally aimed it at people for whom English was not a first language, and especially at people living and working in developing and less developed countries. After the first edition was published in hard copy in 1991 reaction from journalists and educators in Britain and Australia was so encouraging that this updated online edition is offered to anyone seeking a straightforward, no-nonsense journalism guide written in plain English.

Since we both came from and lived in Commonwealth countries it was not surprising that The News Manual has a Commonwealth bias. This will be especially obvious to any readers living and working in countries outside the Commonwealth.

There are many assumptions throughout the book about the way language is used, about political and economic institutions, and especially about the law, which may not be true for non-Commonwealth countries. We apologise for this, but must accept that no book can be everything to all people.

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Advantages

One of the main advantages of The News Manual, we hoped, was that it was written in clear English which could be understood by everyone including second language users. When it was necessary to use specialist words, we have tried to define them. The grammar should be reasonably plain and simple.

We also tried to place all examples within a cultural context which was not exclusively Western. This was not always easy. Many of the most powerful examples of news stories are hard news, and the best ones are disasters. There is nothing culturally distinctive about these. However, we hoped that the settings within which these examples occur, and the assumptions about the resources available to the journalists to cover the story, would be recognisable to all our readers as being realistic.

The News Manual does not assume that the readers are already very aware of the news media. Journalism guides written for readers in developed Western countries can assume that all the readers will be familiar with the news in newspapers and magazines, on radio and television. People in developed Western countries grow up in a society where the news media are all around.

We do not expect our readers to have grown up in this way. We try to aim the text at readers who may have grown up in quiet villages, or small townships, where there was little exposure to news media. We hope that those readers who did grow up in a media-rich place will forgive us if we sometimes over-simplify things. We also wanted to be simple in the advice we offered, telling the reader how to do something, step by step.

The News Manual covered all the main news media - newspapers (which include magazines), radio and television. Traditionally there were many ways in which these media were very different, but the basics still apply to them all. Since this is a basic guide, it seemed to us appropriate to include them all. In any case, there are many countries where the same newsroom produces news for all the media. For any journalist working in such a newsroom, it should be helpful to have one book to cover all the media. Increasingly, of course, the Online world and new technologies mean the old distinctions between print and broadcasting are disappearing; many broadcasters now publish transcripts on their Web sites and many newspapers today include audio and video in their Online editions.

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Our opinion

There are some parts of The News Manual where we take a firm stand on matters which are open to various opinions. We make no apology for this.

The purpose of this guide is to get journalists started, and to build up their professional skills. It never  seemed to us to be helpful at such an early stage to introduce many different possibilities; it was more likely to confuse readers than to enrich them.

So The News Manual gives clear advice and instructions, even when we know that other experienced journalists or teachers of journalism may disagree.

For example, we have always taken a firm stand on the question of bias and objectivity, telling the journalist to be fair. Many other teachers of journalism say that objectivity is not possible, and therefore favour what is called advocacy journalism. This guide is not aimed at advocacy journalism, though much of its advice will be useful to advocacy journalists.

You do not have to agree with us. Read other books on journalism, too, consider the various different points of view, and then decide for yourself.

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What we do not cover

The News Manual is an introductory guide to basic reporting. It does not cover advanced areas such as newsroom management, copy tasting, sub-editing, page design and layout or the technical aspects of radio, television and the Internet. If you want information and advice in these areas, you must go to specialist guides, some of which appear on our Links pages.

And while we discuss the ways journalists work in societies, this guide does not cover media theory or considerations of the relationship between the media and society. It is not that kind of book either.

This is a practical book for practical people working in the news media.

Examples

All the examples in this guide are placed in Pacific Island states. This is partly because Peter and I were familiar with this part of the world, and partly because very few other books even today base their examples in the Pacific.

We hope that readers in Asia, Africa or the Caribbean may find enough in these examples which is familiar for them to be of more use than examples based in North America or Europe. And we hope that readers in industrialised societies will enjoy in the examples glimpses of other rich and fascinating cultures.

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Acknowledgements – 1991 Edition

We were indebted to many people who were extremely helpful over the years that we were preparing the first edition of The News Manual. It is impossible to name them all, but our gratitude is deep.

Dr Pat Gunning, Fr Bill Houghton, Dr Owen Jessop, Ms Mary McCormick, Dr Otto Nekitel and Mr Wolfgang Ziegler gave specialist advice on several chapters.

UNESCO provided financial assistance which made publication possible. In particular, Alan Hancock and Carlos Arnaldo of UNESCO's Communications Division made helpful comments on many of the draft chapters and Jim Bentley, UNESCO's Regional Communications Adviser for the Pacific, gave help and encouragement.

While many people checked drafts for us and made helpful suggestions, the final decision was our own. We are therefore responsible for whatever errors still remain.

The early chapters contained much material based on handouts which were at the University of Papua New Guinea when we arrived there. We were not always able to identify the source of this material, and apologise for any unintentional use of other people's material without credit. We acknowledge our debt to the late Ross Stevens and to Alan Chatterton, our predecessors at the University, who prepared so much of the material which we later adapted.

Several groups of people had this material tried out on them, while it was developed and improved. We are grateful to several intakes of journalism students at the University of Papua New Guinea, journalists on courses at the Special Broadcasting Service in Australia, and participants at UNESCO Pacjourn courses for their unknowing help in this way.

Daisy Abakuki typed, and made coffee and ran errands and was always cheerful, for which we were thankful.

And we were eternally indebted to our wives, and children, for putting up with long absences during the preparation of the book.

Peter Henshall and David Ingram
1991

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Acknowledgements – Online Edition

Peter Henshall died not long after The News Manual was first published. He lived to see it well received by journalists, students and media educators in the Asia-Pacific region, but his dream was to re-publish one day to a wider audience. This edition goes some way towards fulfilling that dream.

In the intervening years many journalists, educators and media executives have encouraged me to re-publish The News Manual and have helped to refine the content. They include Olya Booyar, Anne Edwards, Jillian Hocking and Diane Willman, to name a few. I am grateful to them and others for keeping our dream alive. Another deserving mention is Professor David Robie, who also for a time headed the journalism program at UPNG and is now Director of the Pacific Media Centre at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.

I am, of course, especially grateful to Peter’s wife Felicity and their children Abi and Jamie who have wholeheartedly supported this endeavour, and to my wife, Adrienne Ingram, and to my special friends and colleagues who shared my faith. And finally to Peter himself whose idea it was to produce The News Manual in the first place and who drove it through an often turbulent production and printing process in PNG. He was one of the world’s great journalism educators, taken from us at the height of his powers. This online edition is my responsibility but his legacy.

David Ingram
2012

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