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How to Write a News Story
Newspaper article outline, how to write a news story in 15 steps.
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The Purdue Owl : Journalism and Journalistic Writing: Introduction
From Scholastic: Writing a newspaper article
I. Lead sentence
Grab and hook your reader right away.
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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- Last Updated: Mar 3, 2023 4:50 PM
- URL: https://libguides.southernct.edu/journalism
How to Write a News Story
Writing a news story can be intimidating, especially when you’re first starting out in the business of journalistic writing. Where do you begin? How do your phrase your sentences? How do you conduct interviews? How do you avoid committing the holy grail of all sins – telling a lie?
There are plenty of dos and don’ts in journalism. But, when it comes to actually crafting a story, you need to focus on the task at hand. Rather than worrying about what you might be doing wrong, you need to focus on what you should be doing right.
To help you, I’ve made a list of seven steps. At the end of the day, these steps are going to lead you to writing a quality, 4.0 article.
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1. Choose a Recent, Newsworthy Event or Topic
There are a few points that we need to discuss when it comes to this step. The first of which is, of course, knowing when something is newsworthy and when something is not.
A newsworthy story is anything happening in your community that might interest readers. It should be unique, active, and impactful. For example, covering a business (if it isn’t new or offering any particular changes) isn’t particularly newsworthy, especially if it’s always been there. But covering a new business in the area is absolutely newsworthy, and will bring the company to the attention of your readers.
Second, we need to talk about recent events. It doesn’t do a newspaper any good to cover an event that happened a week ago. The community has already moved on. They’re talking about something else. You need to focus on the here and now, especially if you’re writing a news story. What stories can you break to the public before anyone else has the chance? Remember, you aren’t writing a feature story . You need to do something that’s happening now.
And, finally, we need to touch on the idea of “locality”. If you’re writing for a small, community newspaper, you need to focus your coverage on that community. Of course, you can touch on countrywide or worldwide events, but those stories need to take a backseat to what’s going on in your area. If you cover statewide news, the same situation applies. You should only be covering worldwide events if they have an impact on your particular audience.
With that being said, let’s talk about interviews.
2. Conduct Timely, In-Person Interviews with Witnesses
The hardest part about writing a news story is getting interviews with the right people. If there was a robbery at a local grocery store, you’d need to talk to the store manager and, if possible, the cashier or employee involved. You should not ask a family that shops at the store frequently (unless they were witnesses) or a random community member. These interviews are cop-outs; gimmicks that keeps you from asking for hard answers from key witnesses. And, as always, these interviews need to happen as soon as possible (all the while giving the interviewees time to deal with the problem/event that faces them).
3. Establish the “Four Main Ws”
Within your first paragraph, you need to establish the “who”, “what”, “when”, and “where” of your piece. The “why” and “how” can wait until the following paragraphs. Remember, a journalism piece should look like a pyramid. The most important information goes at the top. The rest is spread throughout the remaining column space.
4. Construct Your Piece
Now that you have the materials that you need to continue, start putting your piece together. Start with the necessary information, and let the rest trickle down. You’ll start to get a feeling for this process as you continue to write journalistically.
5. Insert Quotations
Some writers choose to add quotations as they write. Others decide to add their quotations at specific points in the story, after it’s already been developed. Either way, place your quotes and be sure to identify key people in the story by their full name, occupation, and age.
6. Research Additional Facts and Figures
When your story is nearly done, utilize Google and find additional interesting facts and figures that will make your piece stand out from the pack. Remember, you will nearly always be competing with another news source, and you’ll both be trying to feed your information to the same audience. Add that extra touch. You’re going to need it.
7. Read your Article out Loud Before Publication
I always suggest that writers read their articles out loud before submitting to their professor or editor. It helps with sentence structure, phrasing, and the overall flow of your story.
With that being said, venture forth and find a story. And don’t worry too much about making connections – after you’ve written a couple dozen news stories, the information will come to you.
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How to Write a News Article
Last Updated: February 28, 2023 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Gerald Posner . Gerald Posner is an Author & Journalist based in Miami, Florida. With over 35 years of experience, he specializes in investigative journalism, nonfiction books, and editorials. He holds a law degree from UC College of the Law, San Francisco, and a BA in Political Science from the University of California-Berkeley. He’s the author of thirteen books, including several New York Times bestsellers, the winner of the Florida Book Award for General Nonfiction, and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. He was also shortlisted for the Best Business Book of 2020 by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 74 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 2,123,896 times.
Writing a news article is different from writing other articles or informative pieces because news articles present information in a specific way. It's important to be able to convey all the relevant information in a limited word count and give the facts to your target audience concisely. Knowing how to write a news article can help a career in journalism , develop your writing skills and help you convey information clearly and concisely.
Things You Should Know
- Outline your article with all the facts and interview quotes you’ve gathered. Decide what your point of view on the topic is before you start writing.
- Your first sentence is the most important one—craft an attention-getter that clearly states the most important information.
- Proofread for accurate information, consistent style and tone, and proper formatting.
Planning Your Article
- If you’ve ever written a research paper you understand the work that goes into learning about your topic. The first phase of writing a news article or editorial is pretty similar.
- Who - who was involved?
- What - what happened?
- Where - where did it happen?
- Why - why did it happen?
- When - when did it happen?
- How - how did it happen?
- 1) those that need to be included in the article.
- 2) those that are interesting but not vital.
- 3) those that are related but not important to the purpose of the article.
- This fact list will help prevent you from leaving out any relevant information about the topic or story, and will also help you write a clean, succinct article.
- Be as specific as possible when writing down all of these facts. You can always trim down unnecessary information later, but it’s easier to cut down than it is to have to beef up an article.
- It’s okay at this point to have holes in your information – if you don’t have a pertinent fact, write down the question and highlight it so you won’t forget to find it out
- Now that you have your facts, if your editor has not already assigned the type of article, decide what kind of article you’re writing. Ask yourself whether this is an opinion article, an unbiased and straightforward relaying of information, or something in between.
- If you’ve ever heard the term “burying the lead”, that is in reference to the structure of your article.  X Research source The “lead” is the first sentence of the article – the one you “lead” with. Not "burying the lead" simply means that you should not make your readers read several paragraphs before they get to the point of your article.
- Whatever forum you’re writing for, be it print or for the web, a lot of readers don’t make it to the end of the article. When writing a news article, you should focus on giving your readers what they want as soon as possible.
- Write above the fold. The fold comes from newspapers where there’s a crease because the page gets folded in half. If you look at a newspaper all the top stories are placed above the fold. The same goes for writing online. The virtual fold is the bottom of your screen before you have to scroll down. Put the best information at the top to engage your readers and encourage them to keep reading.
- Ask yourself the “5 W's” again, but this time in relation to your audience.
- Questions like what is the average age you are writing for, where is this audience, local or national, why is this audience reading your article, and what does your audience want out of your article will inform you on how to write.
- Once you know who you are writing for you can format an outline that will get the best information to the right audience as quickly as possible.
- Even if you are covering a popular story or topic that others are writing about, look for an angle that will make this one yours.
- Do you have a personal experience that relates to your topic? Maybe you know someone who is an expert that you can interview .
- People usually like to talk about personal experiences, especially if it will be featured somewhere, like your news article. Reach out through a phone call, email, or even social media and ask someone if you can interview them.
- When you do interview people you need to follow a few rules: identify yourself as a reporter. Keep an open mind . Stay objective. While you are encouraged to ask questions and listen to anecdotes, you are not there to judge.
- Record and write down important information from the interview, and be transparent with what you are doing and why you are doing this interview.
Writing Your News Article
- Your lead should be one sentence and should simply, but completely, state the topic of the article.
- Remember when you had to write essays for school? Your lead is like your thesis statement.
- Let your readers know what your news article is about, why it’s important, and what the rest of the article will contain.
- These details are important, because they are the focal point of the article that fully informs the reader.
- If you are writing an opinion piece , this is where you will state what your opinion is as well.
- This additional information helps round out the article and can help you transition to new points as you move along.
- If you have an opinion, this is where you will identify the opposing views and the people who hold them.
- A good news article will outline facts and information. A great news article will allow readers to engage on an emotional level.
- To engage your readers, you should provide enough information that anyone reading your news article can make an informed opinion, even if it contrasts with yours.
- This also applies to a news article where you the author don’t state your opinion but present it as an unbiased piece of information. Your readers should still be able to learn enough about your topic to form an opinion.
- Make sure your news article is complete and finished by giving it a good concluding sentence. This is often a restatement of the leading statement (thesis) or a statement indicating potential future developments relating to the article topic.
- Read other news articles for ideas on how to best accomplish this. Or, watch news stations or shows. See how a news anchor will wrap up a story and sign off, then try to emulate that.
Proofing Your Article
- Be sure to double check all the facts in your news article before you submit it, including names, dates, and contact information or addresses. Writing accurately is one of the best ways to establish yourself as a competent news article writer.
- If your news article is meant to convey direct facts, not the opinions of its writer, ensure you’ve kept your writing unbiased and objective. Avoid any language that is overly positive or negative or statements that could be construed as support or criticism.
- If your article is meant to be more in the style of interpretive journalism then check to make sure that you have given deep enough explanations of the larger story and offered multiple viewpoints throughout.
- When quoting someone, write down exactly what was said inside quotations and immediately cite the reference with the person’s proper title. Formal titles should be capitalized and appear before a person’s name. Ex: “Mayor John Smith”.  X Research source
- Always write out numbers one through nine, but use numerals for numbers 10 and up.
- When writing a news article, be sure to only include one space after a period, not two.  X Research source
- You shouldn’t submit any news article for publication without first letting someone take a look at it. An extra pair of eyes can double check your facts and the information to ensure that what you have written is accurate.
- If you are writing a news article for school or your own personal website, then have a friend take a look at it and give you notes. Sometimes you may get notes that you want to defend or don’t agree with it. But these should be listened to. Remember, with so many news articles getting published every minute you need to ensure that your widest possible audience can easily digest the information you have provided.
- Start with research and ask the “5. Asking these questions will help you create an outline and a narrative to your article. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Interview people, and remember to be polite and honest about what you are writing. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Put the most important information at the beginning of your article. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
You Might Also Like
Thanks for reading our article! If you'd like to learn more about writing an article, check out our in-depth interview with Gerald Posner .
- ↑ http://www.dailywritingtips.com/say-what/
- ↑ https://www.addthis.com/blog/2014/10/30/dont-bury-the-lead-when-you-write-content-strategy/#.VeQR-dNViko
- ↑ http://grammarist.com/usage/lead-lede/
- ↑ https://www.nytimes.com/learning/students/writing/voices.html
- ↑ http://www.gonzo.org/articles/lit/esstwo.html
- ↑ http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/culture-and-media/s07-02-different-styles-and-models-of.html
- ↑ http://www.apstylebook.com/?ref=google&gclid=CMqM4qrb_a4CFUZN4AodwTZO1w
- ↑ http://business.tutsplus.com/articles/11-ap-style-guide-rules-that-are-easy-to-mess-up--fsw-27489
- ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/735/02/
About This Article
To write a news article, open with a strong leading sentence that states what the article is about and why it’s important. Try to answer the questions who, what, where, when, and why as early in the article as possible. Once you’ve given the reader the most important facts, you can include any additional information to help round out the article, such as opposing views or contact information. Finish with a strong concluding sentence, such as an invitation to learn more or a statement indicating future developments. For tips on researching your article, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How to Write a News Article
News articles report on current events that are relevant to the readership of a publication. These current events might take place locally, nationally, or internationally.
News writing is a skill that’s used worldwide, but this writing format—with its unique rules and structure—differs from other forms of writing . Understanding how to write a news story correctly can ensure you’re performing your journalistic duty to your audience.
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What is a news article?
A news article is a writing format that provides concise and factual information to a reader. News stories typically report on current affairs that are noteworthy—including legislation, announcements, education, discoveries or research, election results, public health, sports, and the arts.
Unlike blog and opinion posts, a strong news article doesn’t include personal opinion, speculation, or bias. Additionally, the diction and syntax should be accessible to any reader, even if they’re not deeply familiar with the topic. News stories, therefore, don’t contain jargon that you might find in a research paper or essay.
What are the rules for writing a news article?
Whether you’re learning how to write a short news story for a school assignment or want to showcase a variety of clips in your writing portfolio , the rules of news writing hold true.
There are three types of news articles:
- Local: reports on current events of a specific area or community. For example, “College Football Team Welcomes Legendary NFL Coach” or “School District Announces New Grading Policy.”
- National: reports on current affairs within a particular country. For example, “NASA’s James Webb Telescope Captures Surreal Images of the Cosmos.”
- International: reports on social issues or current affairs of one or more countries abroad. For example, “UK’s Record Heat Wave Expected to Continue Next Week.”
Regardless of the type of news article you’re writing, it should always include the facts of the story, a catchy but informative headline, a summary of events in paragraph form, and interview quotes from expert sources or of public sentiment about the event. News stories are typically written from a third-person point of view while avoiding opinion, speculation, or an informal tone.
How is a news article structured?
While many news stories are concise and straightforward, long-form or deeply investigated pieces may comprise thousands of words. On the shorter side, news articles can be about 500 words.
When it comes to how to structure a news article, use an inverted pyramid. Organizing your content this way allows you to thoughtfully structure paragraphs :
- Begin with the most important and timely information
- Follow those facts with supporting details
- Conclude with some less important—but relevant—details, interview quotes, and a summary
The first paragraph of a news article should begin with a topic sentence that concisely describes the main point of the story. Placing this sentence at the beginning of a news article hooks the reader immediately so the lede isn’t buried.
At a traditional newspaper, this practice is described as “writing above the fold,” which alludes to the biggest, most pressing news being visible at the top of a folded newspaper.
How to write a news article
There are a handful of steps to practice when writing a news story. Here’s how to approach it.
1 Gathering information
Source the five Ws about your news topic: who, what, where, when, and why. Lock down a keen understanding of the timeline of events so you can correctly summarize the incident or news to your reader. The key is to position yourself as a credible and reliable source of information by doing your due diligence as a fact gatherer.
2 Interviewing subjects
Consider who you want to interview for the new article. For example, you might choose to interview primary sources , such as a person who is directly involved in the story.
Alternatively, secondary sources might offer your readers insight from people close to or affected by the topic who have unique perspectives. This might be an expert who can offer technical commentary or analysis, or an everyday person who can share an anecdote about how the topic affected them.
When interviewing sources, always disclose that you’re a reporter and the topic that you’re writing on.
Draft an outline for your news article, keeping the inverted-pyramid structure in mind. Consider your potential readership and publication to ensure that your writing meets the audience’s expectations in terms of complexity.
For example, if this news article is for a general news publication, your readership might include a wider audience compared to a news article for a specialized publication or community.
Brainstorm a snappy headline that concisely informs readers of the news topic while seizing their interest. Gather the most important points from your research and pool them into their respective pyramid “buckets.” These buckets should be based on their order of importance.
Get to writing! The paragraphs in a news article should be short, to the point, and written in a formal tone. Make sure that any statements or opinions are attributed to a credible source that you’ve vetted.
Reread your first draft aloud. In addition to looking for obvious typos or grammar mistakes , listen for awkward transitions and jarring tense or perspective shifts. Also, consider whether your first draft successfully conveys the purpose of your news story.
Rework your writing as needed and repeat this step. Don’t forget to proofread your work.
Strong news stories are built on facts. If any statement or information is shaky or unsupported, the entire work is compromised. Before publishing a news article, double-check that all the information you’ve gathered from the beginning is accurate, and validate the information that your interview sources provided, too.
How to write a news article FAQs
What is a news article .
A news article informs readers within a community of current events that are relevant to them. It typically revolves around a topic of interest within a publication’s readership, whether the information is about local, national, or international events.
News articles are structured like an inverted pyramid. The most important or crucial information is always presented to the reader up front, followed by additional story details. A news article concludes with less important supporting information or a summation of the reporting.
The general rules for writing a news article involve accuracy and integrity. Report on the details of a story in a factual, unbiased, and straightforward way. When writing a news article, do not editorialize or sensationalize the information, and keep your content free of your opinion.
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News Writing Fundamentals
One of the most fundamental differences between journalism and other forms of writing is the way journalists obtain the information they write about. Journalists obtain information through a variety of reporting techniques, which can include interviewing sources, looking through government documents, researching old articles, and observing events firsthand.
Good news writing begins with good, accurate reporting. Journalists perform a public service for citizens by presenting truthful facts in honest, straight-forward articles.
Journalists commonly use six values to determine how newsworthy a story or elements of a story are. Knowing the news values can help a journalist make many decisions, including:
What information to give first in a news article, and in the lede
Which articles to display on a newspaper’s front page
What questions to ask in an interview
The six news values are:
Timeliness- Recent events have a higher news value than less recent ones.
Proximity- Stories taking place in one’s hometown or community are more newsworthy than those taking place far away.
Prominence- Famous people and those in the public eye have a higher news value than ordinary citizens.
Uniqueness/oddity- A story with a bizarre twist or strange occurrences. “Man bites dog” instead of “dog bites man.”
Impact- Stories that impact a large number of people may be more newsworthy than those impacting a smaller number of people.
Conflict- “If it bleeds, it leads.” Stories with strife, whether it’s actual violence or not, are more interesting.
The newsworthiness of a story is determined by a balance of these six values. There is no set formula to decide how newsworthy a story is, but in general, the more of these six values a story meets, the more newsworthy it is.
Libel is defined as the published defamation of a person’s character based on misleading or inaccurate facts. Newspaper reporters can often run into issues of libel because it is their job to write truthful articles about people that might not always be flattering.
Even though we live in a country with a free press, journalists cannot write anything they want. Reporters do not have the right to state something about a person that could damage their reputation and that is untruthful.
One of the easiest ways to protect oneself from libel is to make sure to always do accurate reporting and to attribute all information in an article. If you write something about someone that you’re unsure about, just ask yourself if it’s true, and how you know it’s true. Rumors, gossip, and information you received from an anonymous or unreliable source are all dangerous to report, and they could run you the risk of a libel case.
The lede (or lead) of a news article is the first sentence, usually written as one paragraph, that tells the most important information of the story. When writing a lede, it is helpful to use the “tell a friend” strategy. Imagine you had to sum up to a friend, in one sentence, what your story is about. How would you sum up quickly what happened? A story’s lede answers the “Five W’s” in a specific order: Who? What? When? Where? Why?
The Atlanta Police Department will hold a memorial service Wednesday at Holy Christ Church in Buckhead for fallen officer Lt. James Montgomery.
WHO: The Atlanta Police Department WHAT: will hold a memorial service WHEN: Wednesday WHERE: Holy Christ Church in Buckhead WHY: for fallen officer Lt. James Montgomery
Gwinnett County Public Schools was awarded $250,000 early Wednesday as a finalist for what’s considered the Nobel Prize of public education.
A man beat an Army reservist in front of a Morrow Cracker Barrel, yelling racial slurs at her as he kicked her in the head, Morrow police said.
Examples courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
News articles are written in a structure known as the “inverted pyramid.” In the inverted pyramid format, the most newsworthy information goes at the beginning of the story and the least newsworthy information goes at the end.
After you have written your story’s lede, order the information that follows in terms of most important to least important. There is NO formal conclusion in a journalism article the way there is in an essay or analysis paper.
ALL information in a news article MUST be attributed to the source where the reporter got his/her information. The reporter must indicate in his/her article where material was obtained from – from an interview, court documents, the Census, a Web site, etc. Direct quotes and paraphrasing can be used to attribute information obtained in an interview with a source.
According to a police report, the suspect threatened the cashier with a gun before running away with the money.
In a 500-page government report, investigators reported evidence that the army had committed crimes against humanity.
The first time a source is introduced in an article, you should use that source’s full name and title. After this initial reference, use the last name only.
“The swine flu vaccine is an incredible advance in modern medicine,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
When attributing a direct quote, always use the verb “said” and never any other verbs such as “explained,” “whispered,” etc. It is also more common to use the format “XXX said” instead of “said XXX.”
“The housing crisis is growing out of control,” Bernanke said.
Even when information from a source is not used in a direct quote and is paraphrased instead, it still must be attributed to that source.
Bernanke said the recession is probably over. The recession will most likely begin to recede in six to eight months, Bernanke said.
How to Write a News Story
Here's something very few people realise: Writing news stories isn't particularly difficult. It does take practice and not everyone will be an expert but if you follow the guidelines below you should be able to create effective news items without too much stress.
The Five "W"s and the "H"
This is the crux of all news - you need to know five things:
Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
Any good news story provides answers to each of these questions. You must drill these into your brain and they must become second nature.
For example, if you wish to cover a story about a local sports team entering a competition you will need to answer these questions:
- Who is the team? Who is the coach? Who are the prominent players? Who are the supporters?
- What sport do they play? What is the competition?
- Where is the competition? Where is the team normally based?
- When is the competition? How long have they been preparing? Are there any other important time factors?
- Why are they entering this particular competition? If it's relevant, why does the team exist at all?
- How are they going to enter the competition? Do they need to fundraise? How much training and preparation is required? What will they need to do to win?
The Inverted Pyramid
This refers to the style of journalism which places the most important facts at the beginning and works "down" from there. Ideally, the first paragraph should contain enough information to give the reader a good overview of the entire story. The rest of the article explains and expands on the beginning.
A good approach is to assume that the story might be cut off at any point due to space limitations. Does the story work if the editor only decides to include the first two paragraphs? If not, re-arrange it so that it does.
The same principle can apply to any type of medium.
- It's About People News stories are all about how people are affected. In your sports story, you might spend some time focusing on one or more individuals, or on how the team morale is doing, or how the supporters are feeling.
- Have an Angle Most stories can be presented using a particular angle or "slant". This is a standard technique and isn't necessarily bad - it can help make the purpose of the story clear and give it focus. Examples of angles you could use for your sports story: "Team Tackles National Competition" "Big Ask for First-Year Coach" "Local Team in Need of Funds"
- Keep it Objective You are completely impartial. If there is more than one side to the story, cover them all. Don't use "I" and "me" unless you are quoting someone. Speaking of quoting...
- Quote People For example: "We're really excited about this competition," says coach Bob Dobalina, "It's the highest target we've ever set ourselves".
- Don't Get Flowery Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Don't use lots of heavily descriptive language. When you've finished, go through the entire story and try to remove any words which aren't completely necessary.
Related pages: Writing a Press Release | What Makes a Story Newsworthy?
How to Write a News Story
News story components.
A typical department news story is between 250-500 words, and includes a concise headline, a lead paragraph, the body copy, and a conclusion or end quote, as well as a high-quality image. Longer pieces also should include subheadings. Links to related articles or additional information are always welcome, when incorporated properly.
Before You Begin – Gather Information
Your news story must answer the following:
- “Who cares?” (Is there value in the information you are providing, and who is the target audience?)
NOTE: The primary target audience for the Davidson College website is current and prospective students and their families.
Getting Started – The Lead
Most – if not all – of the above facts should be addressed in your lead, though some of the lesser details could follow in subsequent paragraphs. Your lead should be short – no more than 1-2 sentences, and no more than about 40 words.
(To give you an idea of the length, the above paragraph ^^ is 45 words.)
Types of Leads
There are three main types of leads:
- Summary, in which you summarize many of the facts listed above in a concise manner.
- Anecdotal, in which you tell a quick story or describe a scenario that is directly related to the story.
- Question, in which you draw the reader in by asking a question that relates to the content (and that you answer early on in the piece – do not leave them hanging).
Never begin a piece with a quote, though you may include a quote as early as your second paragraph.
Once you have your lead, the following paragraphs should provide more details. Generally, your body copy should:
- Flow nicely
- Use concise sentences
- Use active voice
- Avoid unnecessary words (such as “very unique” or “afternoons from 3-5 p.m.”)
- Include strong transitional sentences
- Include quotes when you can, and insert them on their own lines
Refer to the college’s online style guide if you have questions about college style or need clarification. The college primarily follows the Associated Press style, with a few differences that are unique to Davidson.
Writing for the Web
In addition to high-quality writing, your piece should incorporate some “best practices” for writing for the Web specifically. These include:
- Piece should be scanable/easy to pick out information. Reference our Writing for the Web guide.
- Use subheads to break up long blocks of text
- Break up different thoughts into new paragraphs
- Use bulleted lists when possible for emphasis and ‘scanability’
- Use hyperlinks when useful – think user-friendly, navigation. Note: do not add words like “click here.” Instead, assign the link to existing words in your sentence that are descriptive, i.e. it will be clear where visitors will go if they click the link
- Include images–always at least one. The web is a visual space and images grab attention and help tell a story.
Your news story should not:
- Summarize all of a person’s credentials. Instead, when writing about a new faculty member or guest speaker, include highlights and consider a link to their CV or personal/professional web page
- Simply list award recipients. Find ways to make that sort of content more interesting; introduce the award, give background about the award and why it is awarded, and consider including professional headshots and blurbs about each recipient or a group shot with a caption
- Use the news section as an archive for all department activity. News stories should be compelling and interesting.
Writing a Headline
Headlines should be about 45 characters and should entice the reader to click and read more. Try to avoid cumbersome, academic headlines. Focus on action words and the most interesting details. You can shorten headlines by:
- Removing the word “Davidson.” (since the piece is on our website, it’s assumed that “students” would be Davidson students, or a professor would be a Davidson professor, etc.)
- Abbreviating words like Professor (Prof.) or Department (Dept.) [Note: this is not the style to use for the written content, with the exception of Prof., which can be used for second and subsequent mentions of a Professor]
- For currency, using “K” for thousand, and “M” for million. Ex: “$25K grant,” “$1M grant” [Note: this is not the style to use for the written content]
- For ordinal numbers, using “first,” “third,” etc.
Importance of Images
Ideally, you want every news item to have at least one accompanying image. This is best practice for Web news content, and it also adds a visual component to your piece.
Here are some tips for getting good, useable images:
- Plan ahead. Whenever possible, select someone ahead of time who will be responsible for taking and submitting photos from the event/trip/activity.
- Get a diverse mix of photos. Don’t just take posed, group shots, and “grip and grin” photos.
- Check for good lighting, and frame your photos well. Don’t be afraid to ask people to move to a better location, or direct them in small ways.
- Get a range of shots: close ups, medium shots, and wide-angle shots. For the web we generally try to shoot photos at wide angle and crop the photos using Photoshop.
- Be aware of surroundings – look for anything that would be a distraction in the background, including bright lights or windows, dark locations without enough light, logo t-shirts (e.g., students wearing clothing from another college or university), room clutter or a messy location, flags or banners,
Whenever possible, candid photos are preferable to staged shots. Examples:
- Students working in a lab, or a class discussion on the green, rather than a posed group shot of the whole class looking at the camera.
- A professor talking with a student, rather than a headshot of the professor.
- An “action shot” from an event (e.g., the speaker talking with students or faculty instead of a podium shot).
- If a headshot is the most appropriate choice for a specific piece, it must be well-lit, well-framed, and professional (appropriate attire, no pets or food or other “accessories”).
NOTE: Always fact-check, and run your piece by your department chair or director prior to submitting it as news copy. The copy you submit through workflow should be the final version. Digital staff will check for adherence to the style guide and best writing practices as outlined above, but should not be expected to fact-check or fix excessive grammatical or stylistic errors.
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- 26 Writing Newspaper Stories
Clip an interesting news story, human-interest story, and letter to the editor from a local newspaper and bring them in to read to your class. After each article, lead a discussion:
What is this story about?
What makes this story interesting?
Is the writer trying to explain something, to share something interesting, or to convince us?
Then have volunteers read the two paragraphs on page 126, explaining the difference between the three types of stories. Help students know that they can write any of those types of stories in this chapter.
Think About It
“A nonfiction writer is a storyteller who has taken an oath to tell the truth.”
State Standards Covered in This Chapter
LAFS Covered in This Chapter
Lafs.3.ri.1.1, lafs.3.ri.1.2, lafs.3.ri.2.5, lafs.3.ri.2.6, lafs.3.w.1.2, lafs.3.w.3.7, lafs.3.w.2.4, lafs.3.w.2.5, lafs.3.w.2.6, lafs.3.w.1.1, teks covered in this chapter, 110.5.b.6.b, 110.5.b.9.d, 110.5.b.9.d.i, 110.5.b.9.d.ii, 110.5.b.12.b, 110.5.b.11.b.i, 110.5.b.11.b.ii, 110.5.b.11.a, 110.5.b.11.c, 110.5.b.11.d, 110.5.b.11.e, 110.5.b.12.c, page 127 from write on track, sample news story.
Have a volunteer read each paragraph of the sample news story. Afterward, return to point out the headline, byline, lead, body, and closing, explaining each. Let students know that their own news stories will have all of these same parts but focus on a different topic.
If you would like students to write human-interest stories or letters to the editor instead of news stories, read through pages 130–131.
Related Resource Tags
Click to view a list of tags that tie into other resources on our site
Page 128 from Write on Track
Writing a news story.
Help students brainstorm important events in their school or community. If they have trouble, prompt them with questions:
- What big announcements happened this week at school?
- What interesting things have you noticed in the city?
- What is everybody talking about?
- What are you most excited about that is going to happen?
After students choose topics to write about, lead them through the three ways to collect information. Also, make sure they understand the 5 W's: who? what? when? where? and why?
Asking and Answering the 5 W's and H Questions
Teach students to collect key details.
Page 129 from Write on Track
Writing, revising, and editing.
After students have interviewed, observed, and read about their topics to answer the 5 W's, they are ready to write their news stories.
Present the tip and example for creating a lead. Then have them write their leads. Next, show them the tips and examples for writing the main part and the ending. Have them create these parts as well.
Afterward, have students revise their work by underlining answers to each of the 5 W's questions. If they cannot find an answer, have them add it. If the answer they find is not clear, have them rework it.
Finally, have students check the spellings of all names in their news stories. Then publish student stories together in a classroom newspaper.
Page 130 from Write on Track
Help students understand that newspapers and Web sites feature different types of stories. Human-interest stories focus on topics that touch people's emotions.
Have volunteers read each paragraph in the sample story. Then lead a discussion of the story, using the side notes to prompt questions: "What make the lead catchy?" "Give some examples of interesting details." "What makes the ending fun?"
Page 131 from Write on Track
Letter to the editor.
Help students know that some "stories" in newspapers and Web sites are actually trying to persuade them to agree with a position or take action for a cause. Editorials are persuasive articles written by the editors. Letters to the editor are persuasive articles written by readers.
Have volunteers read the example letter to the editor. Show how the student starts by expressing an opinion, then gives the main facts, and ends with a call to action.
If you have students write letters to the editor of a local paper, have them use the same basic format.
- 01 Understanding Writing
- 02 One Writer's Process
- 03 Qualities of Writing
- 04 Selecting a Topic
- 05 Collecting Details
- 06 Writing a First Draft
- 07 Revising and Editing
- 08 Publishing Your Writing
- 09 Writing Basic Sentences
- 10 Combining Sentences
- 11 Writing Paragraphs
- 12 Understanding Text Structures
- 13 Writing in Journals and Logs
- 14 Writing Lists
- 15 Making Albums
- 16 Writing Notes and Emails
- 17 Writing Friendly Letters
- 18 Writing Personal Narratives
- 19 Writing Family Stories
- 20 Writing Realistic Stories
- 21 Writing Time-Travel Fantasies
- 22 Writing Tall Tales
- 23 Writing Alphabet Books
- 24 How-To Writing
- 25 Writing Information Essays
- 27 Writing Persuasive Essays
- 28 Writing Opinion Letters
- 29 Writing Book Reviews
- 30 Making Bookmarks
- 31 Writing Classroom Reports
- 32 Writing Summaries
- 33 Writing Photo Essays
- 34 Writing Free-Verse Poetry
- 35 Traditional and Playful Poetry
- 36 Writing Plays
- 37 Using the Library
- 38 Using Technology
- 39 Reading to Understand Fiction
- 40 Reading to Understand Nonfiction
- 41 Reading Graphics
- 42 Reading New Words
- 43 Building Vocabulary Skills
- 44 Using Prefixes, Suffixes, Roots
- 45 Becoming a Better Speller
- 46 Viewing to Learn
- 47 Giving Speeches
- 48 Performing Poems
- 49 Telling Stories
- 50 Learning to Interview
- 51 Listening to Learn
- 52 Using Graphic Organizers
- 53 Thinking Clearly
- 54 Thinking Creatively
- 55 Completing Assignments
- 56 Working in Groups
- 57 Taking Tests
- 58 Proofreader's Guide
- 59 Student Almanac
How to write a good online news story
Good advice about the text, images, links and format of news on the University's website.
- The headline of a story will turn up in many places online, often alone. It should therefore explain what the story is about.
- A poor headline: "A great guy!" A good headline: "Rector awarded Royal order".
- The best headlines are often sentences with a subject, verb and object. This will also make the story more searchable in Google.
2. Introductory paragraph
- One or two short sentences that expand on the title.
- As a rule of thumb, the introductory paragraph should contain no more than 25 words.
- A story should be around 300 words or 2,500-3,000 characters with spaces.
- An informative story answers the questions what, where, when, who, why and how.
- Start with the most important points.
- Use short paragraphs.
- Use bullet points where this is helpful.
- Use subsidiary headings unless the story is not very short. Use two or more (never just one) subsidiary headings, and make sure to not start the body of the article with a subsidiary heading
- Subsidiary heading: highlight the text of the subsidiary heading using "Heading 3".
- Fact boxes: highlight the text that is to be the heading of the fact box using "Heading 3".
- Double line break before the subsidiary heading.
- Fill in the "title" when you put in links.
5. Using quotes in the text
- In the news context, "quote" means a statement from a person.
- - Use quotation marks to signal that something is a quote, says the Communication division.
- Quotes are best used to comment on the body of the text or to express opinions, not to communicate general information.
- Quotes should be brief and edited.
6. Images and captions
- The image must be relevant and illustrate the story.
- Avoid using photo montages with text, as this makes it difficult to use the story in other areas of uib.no.
- Find images on Fotoweb or Colourbox. Read more here: http://bit.ly/profiluib
- Captions are often read in online news stories, and these should be one or two sentences
- Captions name the persons in the picture, and may explain the situation depicted.
- Credit the photographer and copyright holder.
7. Using links in the text
- Link to the employee page of the main person in the story the first time she is mentioned in the text.
- Use common sense to determine which links should be included.
8. Fact box
- The fact box contains background information for the story.
- By putting denser information there, you can make the story easier to read.
- A fact box may for instance be used if it is necessary to mention all participants in a project.
- Use bullet points.
For help and advising, contact the Communication division .
How to Write a News Story in 15 Steps · 1. Select a newsworthy story. · 2. Think about your goals and objectives in writing the story. · 3. Find
How to Write a News Story · 1. Choose a Recent, Newsworthy Event or Topic · 2. Conduct Timely, In-Person Interviews with Witnesses · 3. Establish the “Four Main Ws
Writing Your News Article ... Start with the lead. Begin with a strong leading sentence. News articles begin with a leading sentence that is meant to grab a
The general rules for writing a news article involve accuracy and integrity. Report on the details of a story in a factual, unbiased, and
News articles are written in a structure known as the “inverted pyramid.” In the inverted pyramid format, the most newsworthy information goes at the beginning
Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Don't use lots of heavily descriptive language. When you've finished, go through the entire story and try to remove
A typical department news story is between 250-500 words, and includes a concise headline, a lead paragraph, the body copy, and a conclusion or end quote
Start-Up Activity Clip an interesting news story, human-interest story, and letter to the editor from a local newspaper and bring them in to read to your
A story should be around 300 words or 2,500-3,000 characters with spaces. · An informative story answers the questions what, where, when, who, why and how.
During this lesson students will: *Work cooperatively. *Research and write stories. *Learn valuable writing tips. *Write a newspaper story. *Edit articles. *Add