Write Better: Tools for Building Stronger Stories
with Alex Martin
Offered in partnership with The Wall Street Journal
Monday, November 18, 2019

Writing is a process that demands discipline and starts long before you touch the keyboard. This master class will take a holistic approach from idea generation to reporting to composition to editing. We will also spend time on the writer/editor relationship, learning how the right questions from an editor early in the process can make for better stories. With the help of real-life examples and simple writing exercises, participants will learn how to focus from the start and to explain the choices they make. While designed for journalists, these exercises are easily transferable to all writing.

Alex Martin is the global writing chief of The Wall Street Journal, responsible for the writing standards at the world’s preeminent source for business, financial, and economic news. Previously, he served as a deputy managing editor, overseeing at various times the newspaper’s front page, its global enterprise reporting, its national and corporate coverage, and its digital news-editing desk. He supervised a series of stories on Medicare fraud that won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. He previously worked at Newsday in a number of positions and helped lead Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the crash of TWA Flight 800. He is a member of the Manship School of Mass Communications Hall of Fame.



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Photos by Pat Swain.


“Enlightening, insightful, unique. To be connected with such an expert, in such a small setting, was powerful.”
Brian Palacios, Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics


Assigned readings:


Buttry, Steve. “Tips on Verifying Facts and Ensuring Accuracy,” The Buttry Diary (blog), October 28, 2010.
Caro, Robert A. “Robert A. Caro on the Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives.” The New Yorker, January 21, 2019.
Forelle, Charles. “Writing Tightly: Sentences and Words,” n.d.
Geisler, Jill. “Talk, Listen and Learn to Be a Better Coach.” Poynter, September 8, 2008.
Mann, Ted, and Thomas Gryta. “GE Powered the American Century—Then It Burned Out.” Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2018. sec. Business.
McCoy, Charles. “Heartbreaking Fight Unfolds in Hospital for Valdez Otters.” Wall Street Journal, April 20, 1989.
McCrummen, Stephanie. “I Doubt That You Know Me…Newsday, March 10, 2002.
Mencher, Melvin. “The Lead.” In Melvin Mencher’s News Reporting and Writing, 12th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2011.
Scanlan, Chip. “A Love Fest on Narrative Elements: The Theme.” Nieman Reports, March 15, 2002.
Scanlan, Chip. “The Coaching Way.” Poynter, May 14, 2003.
Scanlan, Chip. “‘Writing Is All about Rewriting, Which Means You’ve Got to Get Something Down.’” Nieman Reports, March 15, 2002.
Talese, Gay. “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” Esquire, May 14, 2016.
Trillin, Calvin. “Covering the Cops.” The New Yorker, February 10, 1986.


Master Class Fellows