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Journalistic writing is, as you might expect, the style of writing used by journalists. It is therefore a term for the broad style of writing used by news media outlets to put together stories.

Every news media outlet has its own ‘house’ style, which is usually set out in guidelines. This describes grammar and style points to be used in that publication or website. However, there are some common factors and characteristics to all journalistic writing.

This page describes the five different types of journalistic writing. It also provides some tips for writing in journalistic style to help you develop your skills in this area.

The Purpose of Journalistic Writing

Journalistic writing has a very clear purpose: to attract readers to a website, broadcaster or print media. This allows the owners to make money, usually by selling advertising space.

Newspapers traditionally did not make most of their money by selling newspapers. Instead, their main income was actually from advertising. If you look back at an early copy of the London Times , for example (from the early 1900s), the whole front page was actually advertisements, not news.

The news and stories are only a ‘hook’ to bring in readers and keep advertisers happy.

Journalists therefore want to attract readers to their stories—and then keep them.

They are therefore very good at identifying good stories, but also telling the story in a way that hooks and keeps readers interested.

Types of Journalistic Writing

There are five main types of journalistic writing:

Investigative journalism aims to discover the truth about a topic, person, group or event . It may require detailed and in-depth exploration through interviews, research and analysis. The purpose of investigative journalism is to answer questions.

News journalism reports facts, as they emerge . It aims to provide people with objective information about current events, in straightforward terms.

Feature writing provides a deeper look at events, people or topics , and offer a new perspective. Like investigative journalism, it may seek to uncover new information, but is less about answering questions, and more about simply providing more information.

Columns are the personal opinions of the writer . They are designed to entertain and persuade readers, and sometimes to be controversial and generate discussion.

Reviews describe a subject in a factual way, and then provide a personal opinion on it . They are often about books or television programmes when published in news media.

The importance of objectivity

It should be clear from the list of types of journalistic writing that journalists are not forbidden from expressing their opinions.

However, it is important that any journalist is absolutely clear when they are expressing their opinion, and when they are reporting on facts.

Readers are generally seeking objective writing and reporting when they are reading news or investigative journalism, or features. The place for opinions is columns or reviews.

The Journalistic Writing Process

Journalists tend to follow a clear process in writing any article. This allows them to put together a compelling story, with all the necessary elements.

This process is:

1. Gather all necessary information

The first step is to gather all the information that you need to write the story.

You want to know all the facts, from as many angles as possible. Journalists often spend time ‘on site’ as part of this process, interviewing people to find out what has happened, and how events have affected them.

Ideally, you want to use primary sources: people who were actually there, and witnessed the events. Secondary sources (those who were told by others what happened) are very much second-best in journalism.

2. Verify all your sources

It is crucial to establish the value of your information—that is, whether it is true or not.

A question of individual ‘truth’

It has become common in internet writing to talk about ‘your truth’, or ‘his truth’.

There is a place for this in journalism. It recognises that the same events may be experienced and interpreted in different ways by different people.

However, journalists also need to recognise that there are always some objective facts associated with any story. They must take time to separate these objective facts from opinions or perceptions and interpretations of events.

3. Establish your angle

You then need to establish your story ‘angle’ or focus: the aspect that makes it newsworthy.

This will vary with different types of journalism, and for different news outlets. It may also need some thought to establish why people should care about your story.

4. Write a strong opening paragraph

Your opening paragraph tells readers why they should bother to read on.

It needs to summarise the five Ws of the story: who, what, why, when, and where.

5. Consider the headline

Journalists are not necessarily expected to come up with their own headlines. However, it helps to consider how a piece might be headlined.

Being able to summarise the piece in a few words is a very good way to ensure that you are clear about your story and angle.

6. Use the ‘inverted pyramid’ structure

Journalists use a very clear structure for their stories. They start with the most important information (the opening paragraph, above), then expand on that with more detail. Finally, the last section of the article provides more information for anyone who is interested.

This means that you can therefore glean the main elements of any news story from the first paragraph—and decide if you want to read on.

Why the Inverted Pyramid?

The inverted pyramid structure actually stems from print journalism.

If typesetters could not fit the whole story into the space available, they would simply cut off the last few sentences until the article fitted.

Journalists therefore started to write in a way that ensured that the important information would not be removed during this process!

7. Edit your work carefully

The final step in the journalistic writing process is to edit your work yourself before submitting it.

Newsrooms and media outlets generally employ professional editors to check all copy before submitting it. However, journalists also have a responsibility to check their work over before submission to make sure it makes sense.

Read your work over to check that you have written in plain English , and that your meaning is as clear as possible. This will save the sub-editors and editors from having to waste time contacting you for clarifications.

Journalistic Writing Style

As well as a very clear process, journalists also share a common style.

This is NOT the same as the style guidelines used for certain publications (see box), but describes common features of all journalistic writing.

The features of journalistic writing include:

Short sentences . Short sentences are much easier to read and understand than longer ones. Journalists therefore tend to keep their sentences to a line of print or less.

Active voice . The active voice (‘he did x’, rather than ‘x was done by him’) is action-focused, and shorter. It therefore keeps readers’ interest, and makes stories more direct and personal.

Quotes. Most news stories and journalistic writing will include quotes from individuals. This makes the story much more people-focused—which is more likely to keep readers interested. This is why many press releases try to provide quotes (and there is more about this in our page How to Write a Press Release ).

Style guidelines

Most news media have style guidelines. They may share these with other outlets (for example, by using the Associated Press guidelines), or they may have their own (such as the London Times style guide).

These guidelines explain the ‘house style’. This may include, for example, whether the outlet commonly uses an ‘Oxford comma’ or comma placed after the penultimate item in a list, and describe the use of capitals or italics for certain words or phrases.

It is important to be aware of these style guidelines if you are writing for a particular publication.

Journalistic writing is the style used by news outlets to tell factual stories. It uses some established conventions, many of which are driven by the constraints of printing. However, these also work well in internet writing as they grab and hold readers’ attention very effectively.

Continue to: Writing for the Internet Cliches to Avoid

See also: Creative Writing | Technical Writing Writing Effective Emails


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Journalism helps to explain the events that impact our lives and is developed in a number of forms and styles. Each journalistic form and style uses different techniques and writes for different purposes and audiences. There are five principal types of journalism: investigative, news, reviews, columns and feature writing.

What form of journalism are you interested in?


Investigative journalism aims to uncover the truth about a particular subject, person, or event. While investigative journalism is based on the basic principle underlying all journalism-verification and accurate presentation of facts-investigative reporters must often work with uncooperative or recalcitrant sources who do not wish to divulge information. Renowned investigative journalism, such as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s uncovering of the Watergate scandal, can upend major institutions significantly influence public life.

News journalism is straightforward. Facts are relayed without flourishes or interpretation. A typical news story often constitutes a headline with just enough explanation to orient the reader. News stories lack the depth of a feature story, or the questioning approach of an investigative story. Rather, they relay facts, events and information to society in a straightforward, accurate and unbiased manner.

Reviews are partly opinion and partly fact based. The review needs to accomplish two things: one, accurately describe or identify the subject being reviewed, and two, provide an intelligent and informed opinion of the subject, based on research and experience.

Columns are based primarily on the personality of the author, allowing him or her to write about subjects in a personal style. Column writers can take a humorous approach, or specialise in a particular subject area or topic. It’s important for columnists to develop their own voice that is recognisable by their readership. Columnists can interpret events or issues or write about their own personal experiences or thoughts. Columns are usually published weekly.

Feature Writing

Feature writing provides scope, depth, and interpretation of trends, events, topics or people. Features aim not only to thoroughly explore a topic by conducting interviews with numerous experts or the key people involved, but to offer a previously unseen perspective on an event, issue, or person. Feature writing commonly wins prestigious awards when it manages to achieve this goal. Features usually have the highest word count of all journalism types.

If you’re interested in pursuing any of these different forms of journalism, there are a number of journalism courses available. Journalism courses teach a wide variety of journalistic, ethical and research skills which form the foundation of all journalism. Writing courses will also help budding journalists improve their grasp of the written word. If you have a love of words, and a keen interest in the world around you, then journalism could be the career for you.

Which form of journalism interests you?

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Media guide

Journalism genres and article types.

types of journalistic writing news report article

In journalism, there are several different article or journalism types. Some of the best-known include news articles, interviews, features, reviews, columns and editorials.

A news article is the most important article type in journalism. Its purpose is to convey information by answering the questions of what, where, when, how, why and who as neutrally and objectively as possible. The purpose of news is to tell people what has happened.

The form of a news article is highly standardised and regularly referred to as a downward-facing triangle structure. The most important information is located at the beginning of the news article and, from there onwards, less and less important background information is provided. The style has become so standard, that the last chapter or chapters of a news article can be removed during the layout without it hampering the ease of understanding the article. The most important message in a news article is called a news lead. It is a brief, concise description of the article’s content.

The most important message in a news article is called a news lead.

In its simplest form, an interview can be in a question-answer format, where both the reporter’s questions and the interviewee’s answers are quoted directly.

A feature article is a longer article type than a news article. A feature should be fact-based, objective and accurate, but the genre also allows for more creative expression than a news article. While containing elements of news, feature writing provides scope, depth, and interpretation of trends, events, topics or people. It aims to humanise, add colour, educate, entertain and illuminate. Types of features can be, for example, news features on a topical phenomenon including the use of several independent sources, profiles and reportages.

A feature should be fact-based, objective and accurate, but the genre also allows more creative expression than a news article.

Columns, editorials and reviews are even more subjective article types than features. They can and usually do include openly personal opinions from the writer. Nevertheless, a good review not only presents the critic’s opinions, but the critic’s expertise is put into practice, for example to analyse a piece of art or culture and place it in a larger context or tradition. Likewise, a good column is not just a rant composed of the writer’s thoughts but a well justified argument on a topical issue.

Article types and genres: A Summary

Article types of journalism include

Journalism genres include

Reflection: Please come up with short descriptions of the concepts above. Can you name more article types or genres?

Keep Reading:

The journalistic work process ;  Data Journalism & Infographics Or go back to the beginning of this section: Journalism

This article was updated on January 8th 2020

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Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts

types of journalistic writing news report article

Journalism and Journalistic Writing: Introduction

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Journalism is the practice of gathering, recording, verifying, and reporting on information of public importance. Though these general duties have been historically consistent, the particulars of the journalistic process have evolved as the ways information is collected, disseminated, and consumed have changed. Things like the invention of the printing press in the 15 th century, the ratification of the First Amendment in 1791, the completion of the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1858,   the first televised presidential debates in 1960, and more have broadened the ways that journalists write (as well as the ways that their readers read). Today, journalists may perform a number of different roles. They still write traditional text-based pieces, but they may also film documentaries, record podcasts, create photo essays, help run 24-hour TV broadcasts, and keep the news at our fingertips via social media and the internet. Collectively, these various journalistic media help members of the public learn what is happening in the world so they may make informed decisions.

The most important difference between journalism and other forms of non-fiction writing is the idea of objectivity. Journalists are expected to keep an objective mindset at all times as they interview sources, research events, and write and report their stories. Their stories should not aim to persuade their readers but instead to inform. That is not to say you will never find an opinion in a newspaper—rather, journalists must be incredibly mindful of keeping subjectivity to pieces like editorials, columns, and other opinion-based content.

Similarly, journalists devote most of their efforts to working with primary sources, whereas a research paper or another non-fiction piece of writing might frequently consult an encyclopedia, a scholarly article, or another secondary or tertiary source. When a journalist is researching and writing their story, they will often interview a number of individuals—from politicians to the average citizen—to gain insight into what people have experienced, and the quotes journalists collect drive and shape their stories. 

The pages in this section aim to provide a brief overview of journalistic practices and standards, such as the ethics of collecting and reporting on information; writing conventions like the inverted pyramid and using Associated Press (AP) Style; and formatting and drafting journalistic content like press releases.

Journalism and Journalistic Writing

These resources provide an overview of journalistic writing with explanations of the most important and most often used elements of journalism and the Associated Press style. This resource, revised according to The Associated Press Stylebook 2012 , offers examples for the general format of AP style. For more information, please consult The Associated Press Stylebook 2012 , 47 th edition.

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How to Write a News Story

Newspaper article outline, how to write a news story in 15 steps.

The Purdue Owl : Journalism and Journalistic Writing: Introduction

From Scholastic: Writing a newspaper article

Article outline

I. Lead sentence

Grab and hook your reader right away.

II. Introduction

Which facts and figures will ground your story? You have to tell your readers where and when this story is happening.

III. Opening quotation 

What will give the reader a sense of the people involved and what they are thinking?

IV. Main body

What is at the heart of your story?

V. Closing quotation

Find something that sums the article up in a few words.

VI. Conclusion  (optional—the closing quote may do the job)

The following is an excerpt from The Elements of News Writing by James W. Kershner (Pearson, 2009).  This book is available for checkout at Buley Library (Call number PN 4775 .K37 2009, on the 3rd floor)

1.       Select a newsworthy story. Your goal is to give a timely account of a recent, interesting, and significant event or development.

2.       Think about your goals and objectives in writing the story. What will the readers want and need to know about the subject? How can you best tell the story?

3.       Find out who can provide the most accurate information about the subject and how to contact that person. Find out what other sources you can use to obtain relevant information.

4.       Do your homework. Do research so that you have a basic understanding of the situation before interviewing anyone about it. Check clips of stories already written on the subject.

5.       Prepare a list of questions to ask about the story.

6.       Arrange to get the needed information. This may mean scheduling an interview or locating the appropriate people to interview.

7.       Interview the source and take notes. Ask your prepared questions, plus other questions that come up in the course of the conversation. Ask the source to suggest other sources. Ask if you may call the source back for further questions later.

8.       Interview second and third sources, ask follow-up questions, and do further research until you have a understanding of the story.

9.       Ask yourself, “What’s the story?” and “What’s the point?” Be sure you have a clear focus in your mind before you start writing. Rough out a lead in your head.

10.   Make a written outline or plan of your story.

11.   Write your first draft following your plan, but changing it as necessary.

12.   Read through your first draft looking for content problems, holes, or weak spots, and revise it as necessary. Delete extra words, sentences, and paragraphs. Make every word count.

13.   Read your second draft aloud, listening for problems in logic or syntax.

14.   Copyedit your story, checking carefully for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and style problems.

15.   Deliver your finished story to the editor before deadline.

Kershner, J.W. (2009). The Elements of News Writing. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.


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