by Eric Ferreri

Ever grapple with how best to write about a panel discussion featuring two or more scholars? Here’s a format employed successfully at University Communications that we think is adaptable for communicators across the university, particularly when covering school, institute or departmental events featuring multiple speakers.

Our strategy sets aside the traditional, inverted-pyramid news story structure in favor of a quick-blast summary with a short, pithy introduction and quotations from each speaker. We’ve learned that doing this gives readers and journalists a fast, digestible idea of what’s being discussed. It’s tailored to the short-attention-span news consumer.

The story is divided into topics, so a reader can easily see what each speaker has to say on a given subject. This has been particularly popular among journalists we send this to; they often use the quotes verbatim in stories. Others seek the scholars out for follow-up stories. 

This isn’t the best structure for every story, but we’ve found it particularly effective when summarizing information quickly from multiple speakers. It does require good notetaking and/or transcription skills so be prepared with the right recording technology.

We’ve used this strategy effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which University Communications has hosted weekly media briefings featuring Duke experts on a variety of topics.

These briefings are held via Zoom, and to quickly report on and disseminate the discussions ourselves, we’ve turned to this very basic, very effective method of storytelling.

Here are a few examples:

Any questions? Drop me an email: