How Not to Write News Stories
Writing news stories is never as simple as the stories we see in the newspapers seem to be. Journalists need to hunt down the information that is presented in the story first, and then they need to present the story in such a way as to keep the readers’ attention while relaying information in an impartial manner. As such, it is very easy to slip and make errors when writing a news story, especially if it’s a story you are particularly excited about. Below, we have gathered some of the mistakes you might make, and besides, the writing tips below can be applied to any writing, not just news stories.
1. Treating it like fiction
One of the biggest mistakes a journalist can make is to relay information that is blatantly incorrect. You should always relay the truth, and stay away from dramatizing a story to make it more interesting. Yes, we know that this is something that can and has happened in journalism before, which is why it’s termed yellow journalism, however, fictionalizing your news reporting stories might give you an unfavorable reputation and your credibility as a journalist might suffer.
2. Thinking it’s poetry
People that read the newspapers want the story, not the writing. So, keep the purple prose and the complicated, flowery sentences for that novel you’ve been working on (although, even in that case, keep it light) and relay your news stories using writing that’s precise, not overly simple and not overly complicated either. Make sure that every sentence starts with a subject, is followed by a verb and ends with an object. You want the people who are reading your story to enjoy it, remember it, and read it whole, and not abandon reading the story after the first sentence.
3. Creating a blog post
One would think this one would be self-explanatory, and that it never happened in journalism, but you would be surprised at how many news stories are riddled with the writer’s personal opinion. In some extreme cases, the news article even features a parallel between the event that the news article covers and a past experience of the writer. More often than not, your own experience, no matter close it relates to the news story, is not actually relevant to the story, and has no consequence whatsoever, and thus, there is no need for it to be there. Once again, save the experience for a proper blog post, or not write the news article story at all. The importance of being objective also needs to be mentioned again – often, the public’s opinion can be swayed via the journalist’s personal opinion, and as such, it should be saved for a column or a blog post.
4. People and events
When it comes to covering a story, you need to discover two things – what has happened and who is involved in it. Then, you need to figure out how to present that story in an interesting manner. This is where people and events come through. Sometimes, the people are the limelight, and other times, what has actually happened is so exotic that the person it happened to falls into the background. Your story needs to begin with the most interesting aspect of the story, which is what you need to focus on in order to grab the readers’ attention. Otherwise, if you start with the time, date and the weather, you will lose attention, and chances are the readers will not finish reading your story.
5. Being passive
Even when the focus is on the actual event, instead of the people who were involved in it, you still need to stray away from using the passive voice in news articles. With the passive voice, active verbs lose their punch, but if you write your news story using active voice and action verbs, instead of be, was and were, you will write an attention-grabbing story that will be relayed by readers for times to come. Action verbs, on the other hand, allow you to be descriptive and informative at the same time, which makes them necessary in any story. It goes without saying that if you need a verb and an adverb to describe an action, you need to look for the action verb that will eliminate the need of using an adverb. Using active verbs will also ensure your story is shorter, but has a great impact on the readers.
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