COM 110 Chapter 3: "Newswriting Basics"

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JUST THE FACTS
- You must be factual
- Assembling your stories with the best facts you can find
- Respect the integrity of facts
- Communicate without inserting your own opinion
- The facts tell the story and let readers form their own opinions
- In journalism, usually maximum facts with minimum opinion
- Emotions can be conveyed, but there is a grey area in how they can be
THE FIVE W’S
- Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How)
- “The facts, the color, the facts
- Description and flavor
- WHO: provides an outlet for asking questions about strangers
- focus on personality, legacy
- WHAT: the stuff the news is about (events, ideas, projects, problems)
- Monitor and explain stuff that matters most to readers
- Substance
- WHEN: when events happened, when they will happen, how long they’ll last
- Timeliness is essential
- Fresh and immediate
- WHERE: the closer the event, the more relevant it will be to readers
- Potential need to provide visuals with broader topics
- WHY: reporting the news, then explaining it
- Why should we care?
- Makes news meaningful
- HOW: detailed explanation
- Teaching, elaborating
THE INVERTED PYRAMID
- Getting right to the point in a story
- Writing got tighter over time
- The five W’s incorporated in the opening grafs
- Summarize first, explain later
- Stacking facts
- Chronologically: things are resolved at the end
- Inverted Pyramid: helps readers scan news quickly and efficiently (breaking
news)
- Main advantages
- Condenses info efficiently so readers can grasp facts quickly
- Allows editors to trim stories from the bottom, since details in the text become
gradually less essential
- Cutting is necessary
- Potential problems
- It gets repetitive
- It doesn’t always organize story material logically or engagingly
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- DON’T LET YOUR WRITING FALL INTO A FORMULAIC RUT
- Leads are crucially important
- Readers are in a hurry and they want facts now
WRITING BASIC NEWS LEADS
- The essence of journalism: key facts summarized in a concise way
- Many options
- Don’t “bury the lead”
- What you think is the lead is buried down paragraphs into the story
- Leading with the WHO
- “Three passengers were injured Friday when lightning struck their private plane,
plunging them into the river behind Mudflap Airport.”
- Emphasizes “who” (three passengers)
- Conveys key facts without being wordy
- Leading with the WHAT
- “A bolt of lightning struck a private plane as it landed at Mudflap Airport Friday,
causing a crash that injured three passengers.”
- Using the strongest “what” to start
- Active voice
- Leading with the WHEN
- Must have timing as a significant factor, crucially
- Leading with the WHERE
- More significant than other W’s
- Potential geographic detail in farther locations
- Leading with the WHY
- What caused event
- “What” leads can be good “why” leads
BEYOND THE BASIC NEWS LEAD
- Not mandatory that every story begins with a summary of key facts
- Need leads that are factual and concise
- May need livelier and snappier creative leads that astonish and intrigue
- “A Hicksville man has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering his
girlfriend” DULL
- “Lincoln Mabry Jr. so loved Becky Kerr that he beat her in the face with a
pistol barrel and shot her to death.” Horribly cynical but attention-
grabbing
- “Zingers”
- (page 45 for more in-depth details Inside Reporting by Harrower 3rd Edition)
- Be concise
- Subject-verb-object
- Most leads are normally one sentence
- Fewer than 30 words
- Be accurate
- Facts and spelling right
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