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Be a Walk Journalist

Your mission:

You’re a reporter, looking for the in-depth story of what happens on this walk. We asked experienced journalists for tips on how to ask questions, listen, and observe. Follow this guide to write a report that will make people feel like they were there, walking with you!

What you’ll do: Observe what happens on the walk, and write things down (or record your observations on your phone). Before, during, and after the walk, conduct some quick interviews with your fellow walkers.

Before the Walk: Things to think about

•  Check in with the walk leader and/or city organizer to find out what kind of report they want. Long or short? Do they want a blogpost, or do they need information for their own post-event reporting? See the end of this guide for pointers on how to submit reports of different lengths and formats.

•   Collect information in whatever way is easiest for you. You might want to bring a notebook to jot down notes as you go, or use a sound recording app on your phone to record your own observations and your brief interviews with other people.

•   If you’re going to submit a story to be posted on a blog or on social media, you will need some images to go with it. If there is a Jane’s Walk volunteer photographer on the walk, you can ask them to send you some photos afterwards. If not, try to take 4 or 5 photos during the walk. Try to get pictures of anything you’re going to write about a lot in your story

During the Walk: What to look for and record

•   Be curious and be specific. Good reporting comes from being observant.

•   What kind of impression does this neighbourhood make on you? Is it

a place you’d like to live in
a place where you don’t feel at home
a place that
a lot of tourists come to
a place where you’d spend a romantic evening with a date
a place where people only come to work
a relaxing place
an exciting place
 

•   Now, what specifically makes you say “yes” or “no” to any of these questions? What details about the place or people are making you feel that way?

•   Pay attention to what the walk leader is saying, and also to how people respond. Are there parts of the walk that everyone seems fascinated by, and other parts where the walkers seem to lose interest? How do you know -- what is it about their behaviour that tips you off?

•   Listen as you walk. Try to overhear bits of the conversation around you. Notice how much people are talking, and what they’re talking about. Is it easy to hear each other and the walk leader, or is there a lot of noise? What kind of noise?

•   Make it your goal to write down or record as many details as you can, even if they don’t seem important. There’s a dog wearing a plaid jacket? The guy behind you asks his girlfriend if this street reminds her of Chicago? The walk leader makes a joke about how many frozen yogurt places there are on this street, and most people laugh? Collect all these observations! You can sort them out later.

How to interview people

•   Ask a few people, during or after the walk, for brief interviews. When you approach them, instead of saying “Can I ask a few questions?”, tell them how long it will take: “Hey, do you have five minutes to answer some questions about the walk?” Don’t make it sound like a big deal, keep it short, and make it easy and fun.

•   Explain why you’re asking: tell them you’re a Jane’s Walk volunteer and you’re writing a story to be posted online, and/or gathering information to help the organizers.

•   When you ask a question, don’t prompt people or “help” them to answer. Just let them answer their own way. Give them time to think of an answer; don’t be afraid of silence. (If they seem stuck, you can say, “It’s OK, take your time!”)

•   Ask “yes or no” questions, and then follow up with “Why?” For example: “Did you find the walk entertaining?...Why?”

•   Try to ask open-ended questions, without an obvious answer

•   If you get a really good interview with someone, ask them if they’ll let you take their picture to go along with your story.

•   Some interview questions you could try:

•  Why did you choose to come on this walk? What were you expecting or hoping for?
•  How did you feel about [the walk, or some specific highlight or topic]?
•  Why did you feel that way?
•  What did you learn on the walk?
•  What is one thing the walk left you curious about?
•  What did you want to know more about, or see more of? Why?
•  Have you been to this part of the city before?
•  When was the first time you came here?
•  How has it changed over time? 

After the walk: How to write and submit a report

Review Your material:

•   Go through all the details you collected, and your interview notes.

•   Pick out the highlights, and also look for patterns: Maybe you noticed there was a lot of traffic noise, and then two other people mentioned it in interviews, for example.

•   Some of the minor details you noticed might come in handy: If someone you interviewed talked about how much they love to walk their dog down this street, add that you saw that dog wearing the plaid jacket!

Write your report:

What kind of report you write will depend on how much material you were able to gather, what the organizers asked you for, and how much you like to write! Your options:

•   Some short observations that would make good tweets or Facebook posts. Keep these down to two or three sentences. (A tweet is only 140 characters long, but you can get around this by saving a short block of text as an image and tweeting that.)

•   A blogpost about the walk. For this, you can write up to about a page and a half. (Shorter is fine!) If you’re not sure how to structure your blog post, try this: Start with a couple of sentences explaining what the walk was about and where it happened. Then, write two or three paragraphs, each focusing on a different thing. One paragraph might be about a topic the walk leader touched on, one might summarize what people said to you in interviews, and one might describe the neighbourhood using the best details you gathered, for example. Wrap it up with a couple of concluding sentences about what you and others thought of the walk overall.

•   The organizers might ask you to send them a long report, containing all the material you gathered, in narrative or point form. This kind of detailed information can be really helpful in preparing post-event reports about how the festival went, for their funders, stakeholders, etc. Remember that if you are submitting something to be posted online, you’ll need to include some photos to go with it.

Submit your report:

•   Talk to your walk leader and/or City Organizer to find out how they would like you to submit your report.

Please also e-mail your finished report to the Jane’s Walk Project Office via stories@janeswalk.org! We love getting reports from walks around the world, and sharing them on our blog, social media feeds, and in the Jane’s Walk Annual, our yearly compilation of global walk stories.

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Guide prepared by Nadia Halim and Irsida Sheshi, with thanks to David Topping and Dylan C. Robertson This guide was produced by the Jane’s Walk Project Office. For more information about Jane’s Walk, or to find a walk near you, visit janeswalk.org. You can contact us at info@janeswalk.org.