Thousands of possible stories disappear each day because they fail to make it through this first stage of the production process, let's try to make sure that yours don't.
If you decide that there is a story, you then need to think through which part or parts of it are of potential interest.
This affects how should you tell the story, what angle you should take and the main points you should try to get across. Perhaps even more importantly, what you can leave out. There is almost never enough time or space for all your material. Something usually has to go, and it's as well to start thinking about this sooner rather than later. There are as many ways to write a story as there are people prepared to do it. Some will be better than others, some may even be dreadful, but they will all be different.
Despite what you may hear about the objectivity of news, you as the writer cannot help being subjective because you are applying your own judgement and values. The important thing is that your judgement is not just a personal preference. It is guided and based on journalistic principles. If you are knocked down by a car and break a leg, a limited number of people will be interested - your family and friends, of course, your employer, your insurance company, and just about nobody else.
The incident is unlikely to make a news item. If the president of your country is involved in a road accident, that is front-page news and maybe even the lead item in broadcast news bulletins. The different responses to these two events are a matter of judgement, of news judgement.
A range of considerations comes into play every time you have to decide if a story is newsworthy or not. Here are some of them:. Is it reliable, trustworthy, independent, honest, believable? If you have doubts, can you carry out checks? Does it fit my output? If you are writing for a sports magazine, you will probably not be too interested in finance, crime, science, international trade or health, unless there is a sports angle. What interest is there likely to be in what the individuals in the story are doing?
If it's a choice between you and the president, you lose every time. Will this story appeal to many of my readers, viewers, or listeners? There's not much point in carrying serious financial news in a celebrity-centred popular newspaper. How unusual is this event or development? Something unexpected is more likely to make the news than a routine happening. Is this story new or has it been published before? If so, by whom?
Will it have been widely circulated, or will most people be learning about it for the first time? Even if the story is not recent, and the event many years old, it can still be worth running if the information has only just come to light. Have we just had too many stories on this subject? Let's look for something else before we lose our audience through boredom? A cricket report or commentary can assume knowledge of the rules of cricket; an article for a motoring magazine can assume the reader knows what a supercar is.
But some specialist publications set out to educate - computer magazines are a good example - and while interest can be assumed, knowledge of how to use specific pieces of software cannot.
So understand the intentions of the publication you write for, or if you are a freelance you seek to sell to. The market sector in which the newspaper is located is also relevant to how you write. You will find longer sentences and paragraphs and sometimes longer words in the more serious newspapers selling relatively small numbers of copies than in mass-selling newspapers with circulations 10 times as big.
The reader of the Guardian will tend to be better educated and to have a larger vocabulary than the reader of the Sun. But do not, as a writer, show off your extensive vocabulary. It is never better, wherever you are writing, to prefer the less familiar word - "wordy" is always better than "prolix".
Nobody is impressed by the use of a word they do not understand or would not use in everyday speech. The danger of talking down to the audience - assuming vocabulary as well as knowledge - is that it insults readers, makes them feel inadequate.
And that turns them off and, worse, turns them away. They do not read on, and you have not communicated with them. The best writing for popular journalism is some of the best writing in journalism, and is hard to do. It is readily understandable, instantly readable and, if it is done well, makes you want to read on. Space is always the most precious commodity in a newspaper. Long words and sentences take up more space. Self-indulgent writing pleases nobody except perhaps the writer. Stephen King, who has sold more novels than most, reflected on his craft in On Writing, and drew a similar message: This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes.
The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed. So the overriding message in journalistic writing is: One of the greatest editors and journalists is Harold Evans, who has written one of the best books on journalistic writing, Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers.
He summed it up thus: We must be able to put it across. Meaning must be unmistakable, and it must also be succinct. Readers have not the time and newspapers have not the space for elaborate reiteration.
This imposes decisive requirements. In protecting the reader from incomprehension and boredom, the text editor has to insist on language which is specific, emphatic and concise.
Every word must be understood by the ordinary reader, every sentence must be clear at one glance, and every story must say something about people. There must never be a doubt about its relevance to our daily life. There must be no abstractions. Below are a series of tips for keeping things simple and encouraging the reader to read it.
They are addressed at news writing, but most apply to all forms of journalistic writing. This is the start of the story, the opening paragraph. The traditional news introductory paragraph, still the dominant form, has two related purposes: The structure is known as the "inverted pyramid" and dates back to the days of hot metal when words on their way on to paper passed through a stage of being slugs of lead.
It was always easier and faster to cut a story from the bottom, using a pair of tweezers. News stories always have to be cut because reporters write them too long, and the imperfect theory was that a well structured story could always be cut from the bottom so that in extremis do not use - see later if the intro was the only paragraph left it still made sense.
The good intro depends on your judgment and decisiveness. It declares why the story is being published, what is the newest, most interesting, most important, most significant, most attention-grabbing aspect of the story.
It is not a summary of everything yet to come. The best intro will contain a maximum of two or three facts, maybe only one. In a popular tabloid it will consist of one sentence, probably no more than 25 words. The worst intro will be uncertain of what the story is all about and will contain several ideas. The best intro will demand that you read on.
The worst will make it likely that you will move on. A poorly written intro might confuse, mislead or simply bore the reader - a well-written intro will encourage the reader to stay with you on the strength of the information and angle you have started with.
Once you've got the intro right, the second paragraph will be the most important you write. Holding the reader's interest does not stop until he or she has read to the end. You have already planned your structure, the hierarchy of information.
After the intro you are amplifying the story, adding new, if subordinate, information, providing detail, explanation and quotes. And doing all this so that the story reads smoothly and seamlessly. News stories are about providing information, and there is nothing more frustrating for the reader than finishing a story with unanswered questions still hanging. Journalism students are taught about the five Ws: They are a useful tool to check you have covered all the bases, though not all will always apply.
It is always difficult to detach yourself from your own prose when you read it through, but try. Try to put yourself in the place of the reader coming cold to the story, interested in it and asking the questions that will make it clear. Have you dealt with them? The subeditor, or text editor, will soon tell you if you haven't.
There is always a problem over how much knowledge to assume, particularly with a running story of which today's is another episode. You cannot always start from the beginning for the benefit of reader recently arrived from Mars, but you can include sufficient to ensure it is not meaningless. It is a matter of judgement. Always prefer the active tense in news writing, and particularly in intros.
The active tense is faster and more immediate; it also uses fewer words. Long quotes bring a story grinding to a halt, particularly if they are from politicians, particularly local politicians, bureaucrats or bores. Short, incisive, direct quotes change the pace of a story, add colour and character, illustrate bald facts, and introduce personal experience.
Journalists paraphrase speeches and reports to focus on the main points, and to make them shorter and more comprehensible. It is a vital skill, as is using indirect quotation. But a quote will add a different tone of voice, inject emotion or passion, answer the question "what was it like? The direct quote provides actuality. And sometimes the quote has to be there to provide the precision, when the actual words used are crucial, and sometimes the story itself.
Never use a word other than "said" when attributing a quote. Affirmed, opined, exclaimed, interjected, asserted, declared, are all tacky synonyms which do nothing to help the flow of the story.
Standfirsts are a useful exercise in focusing your writing Standfirsts are short (1 or 2 sentence) summaries of the complete text. Newspaper convention dictates that they are .
Tips for Writing in a Newspaper By YourDictionary If you are going to write a news story, then you will need some tips for writing in a newspaper. By the time you finish this article, you will be able to write a clear, easy-to-read, and informational story.
Oct 20, · When writing a news article, interviewing people and getting a first hand source on your topic can be invaluable. And while reaching out to people and asking for an interview may seem daunting, it can greatly 86%(91). Writing a Newspaper Article. Teach students to turn their research and interviews into vibrant, interesting stories. Here a few good tips for turning in a quality story to your editor/teacher. Read the story at least one time for comprehension. You want to make sure your writing tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Also, check.
How to Write Interesting Newspaper Articles. To learn how to write interesting magazine or newspaper articles, you need to study how news writers do it. These tips are inspired by a newspaper article by Vancouver Sun reporter, Peter McKnight. For more writing tips. Journalists write to be read, not to have their stories be ignored. Six tips for writing news stories that will grab a reader's attention.