The Art of Writing News Stories
Prof. Alfredo Ascanio takes a look inside composition of an article
Published 2009-03-24 10:34 (KST)
This is a story about how to write a good story. Someone has said that we must consider headlines, captions, titles and pictures almost as important as the article itself, because these things constitute the front door and show window which catches the eye and interest of the persons to whom you want to sell the ideas in your article.
Why Learn to Write?
Why learn to write? That sounds like a foolish question, but before passing it by too lightly, think it over. It does not mean penmanship, nor does it mean simply the casting of words, phrases, and sentences into paragraphs. But it does mean this: Can you write effectively? Can you influence another person through writing or speaking?
The average person believes that writing for a publication is a mysterious sort of thing. People are born writers, it is said. Some individuals show more aptitude for it than others, but nearly everyone with a working knowledge of English can accomplish something.
What Interests People?
Newspaper editors, when they decline an article, tend to do so because they do not mean anything to the majority of readers. Now, all experts agree on one point, and that is that humans are first and foremost interested in themselves. This is natural. It is only a corollary to the law of self-preservation. People like to take the side of a hero in a play, sit on the edge of their chairs, and hope with all their might that he will get what he wants! Great, simple ideas, greatly, yet simply, expressed, can be made to reach into every mind.
What Is an Idea?
An idea results in the reader following your instructions. An idea makes the person in the story an interesting character. And an idea is largely unique -- something new or striking that comes right up and slaps the reader in the face. The result is that people begin to talk about these stories, and the more they discuss them, the more famous the stories become.
Finding Your Story
Subjects for newspaper articles are found in every city and town, and even in the open country. But how we to discover them? The "nose for news" is the first requisite of a good newspaper reporter. That lies at the basis of the news story and the newspaper article. The subject must be something unique and novel, or perhaps something of outstanding interest.
Sources of Material
In your own town, community and state there are undoubtedly subjects of every degree of importance, from those that are of purely limited in scope and have a place in only the nearby metropolitan newspaper or perhaps an online newspaper, to those that are perfectly suitable for a national or international publication. How are you to find them? First of all, provide yourself with a notebook. The minute you see or think of an idea, get it into the notebook. Do not let it get away.
At this point it is advisable for you to begin to acquire some familiarity with newspapers, e.g. OhmyNews. Of course you will not read these cover to cover. Rather, you will try to get the feeling, tone, or atmosphere of this publication. Observe what kind of material is published and the way in which it is written. In the course of a week you will become familiar with this online newspaper. This will enable you to plan your articles for this particular publication.
Suppose you have secured a tip for an article. What do you do next? In the first place it is advisable to make some preliminary inquiries to ascertain just how good a "story" you have. But here comes an important point. When gathering your material, remember what kind of article you are planning to write. Is it one that deals with things that are unique, new, and unusual, out of the ordinary? Then ask plenty of questions to bring out all of those points and make the matter plain. Is it a "how-to" article? Then find the outstanding accomplishments of the individual with plenty of human interest elements.
Remember the five "W's": Who, what, why, when, and where, and also how. The point to emphasize here is how this particular thing differs from everything else. For example, in an information-laden article you emphasize the how. Put some emphasis on the reason. The subject must be worthwhile. It must be a big and unusual enough story to command the reader's attention and interest.
Catching the Reader's Attention
The first task of any writer is to secure the reader's attention. His second task is to arouse the reader's interest, and his third task is to hold that interest throughout the article. And, very importantly, the writer must remember that the same things that catch the reader's attention when he opens a newspaper are naturally those things that catch the editor's attention when he sifts through article ideas in his morning mail.
There are four ways by which this reader attention is secured: (1) by the title of the article; (2) by the photographs or images accompanying it; (3) by the reputation of the author; (4) by the beginning of the article, or the lead, as it is called. If the reader's attention is not secured, all is lost.
The Topic Title
The titles of most popular article are short and consequently easily remembered. And the important thing to remember in connection with the article title is to make it attractive enough that the casual reader will want to read the article. Psychologists assert that not more than five units can be comprehended in a single act of attention.
The beginning of the article must be sufficiently interesting to compel the reader to keep on reading. His interest must be fed the minute it is caught. If the lead is not interesting, you must expect the reader to turn the page and pass to some other article that holds more promise.
The test of a good lead for an article is this: Do you find yourself unconsciously going ahead with an article once you have read the first few paragraphs? If you do, undoubtedly that article has a good beginning. The lead gives the reader an idea as to what the article is about. A lead may often strike the "angle" of the article. One might say that the average length of a lead would be around 5 percent of the length of the article itself (for an article of about 1,200 words).
Alfredo Ascanio is a professor of economics at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela.
Other articles by reporter Alfredo Ascanio
NOTA para los CURIOSOS
Este artículo lo pueden ver publicado en el periódico digital de COREA DEL SUR que se llama OhmyNews. Lo que pasa es que hace años yo me inscribí en ese diario como un REPORTERO CIUDADANO y una vez al mes envío a ese periódico mis artículos, unos económicos ,otros políticos y a veces, como este escrito, con un tema de las ciencias sociales. En seguida le voy a colocar el enlace o link de ese diario asiático para que lo conozcan y vean la interesante imagen que utilizaron para animar mi escrito. Entren por favor en :