Presentation on theme: "THE INVERTED PYRAMID Creating a News Story. The Inverted Pyramid Journalists dont want their stories told from the beginning of a news event. –They focus."— Presentation transcript:
THE INVERTED PYRAMID Creating a News Story
The Inverted Pyramid Journalists dont want their stories told from the beginning of a news event. –They focus on the end result, and then may go back to the beginning. –They like giving away the ending. –They are more interested in the outcome. News writing is about the only form of writing in which you start with the climax. This story form is widely known as the inverted pyramid.
The Inverted Pyramid Ledes are mini-inverted pyramids as well. –You analyzed the who-what-when-where elements –Find the elements that are the most important or compelling. –You assign value to a few facts In the Inverted Pyramid, you will have to weigh the news value of whole sentences and paragraphs. The rest of the story should support and elaborate on the lede and also provide the information that didnt make the cut up top.
Some history … How we got here
Some history Until the early 1900s, newspaper writing was more akin to literary prose. They wrote dispatches -- not stories. In 1869, a reporter for the New York Herald, Henry Morton Stanley, was sent to Africa in search of a missionary named Dr. David Livingstone. Stanleys story began thusly: Only two months gone and what a change in my feelings! But two months ago, what a peevish, fretful soul was mine! What a hopeless prospect presented itself before your correspondent! Stanleys story continues on and on and ends like this: Dr. Livingstone, I presume? And he says, Yes. How many readers today would have kept reading long enough to find those two famous lines?
Some history In this style of writing, the significance of a story – the nut graph – could be anywhere. Of course, in those days, that kind of writing style was greatly assisted by the multiple headlines accompanying the story. With 5 to 10 headlines telling the reader what happened, the writer could feel free to take liberties with their style. The Chicago Tribune used 15 decks on its report about Mrs. OLeary and her famous cow in the Great Fire of Many stories started in one column and just continued to the next column – there were no jump pages.
Some history The first newspaper photograph was printed in 1880, but photos didnt become commonly used until the early 1900s. The advent of photos, changes in newspaper space requirements and the changing lifestyles of the early 20th century brought forth the need for a new type of writing style – one that got to the point more quickly. Thus, was born the inverted pyramid style. And like so many trends in this business, it was copied and recopied until it became a tradition and the norm.
The Inverted Pyramid The inverted pyramid style has been around for more than 100 years and is still going strong. It is still widely used in newspapers and wire services. It is the style of choice on many, if not most, online news sites, including the Chronicle, because many Web surfers have itchy mouse fingers -- its even easier to click a mouse than turn a page. Heres a visual on what an inverted pyramid story might look like (from handout) …
The inverted pyramid: what it is The inverted pyramid has a news summary lead that rests atop a series of paragraphs arranged in descending order of importance. This movement from greater to lesser information can be demonstrated in a geometric shape – the pyramid. Well talk about other geometric story shapes later. After the news summary lede, the subsequent information and quotes provide background and explanation, present facts and color, explore other issues, clarify conflict, speculate on cause and effect. The average newspaper reader spends about minutes a day with the paper. Thats not a lot of time -- especially when you have taken hours to write your story.
The inverted pyramid: Advantages 1. Offers quick reading 2. Features less repetition 3. Offers easier editing (easier to cut and paste) 4. Offers faster headline preparation 5. Easier to add to a story (as well as cut it) 6. Allows for faster writing of a story (can do it in your head, from a phone booth even) 7. Offers a quick organizing tool
Inverted Pyramid: Disadvantages 1. This style doesnt always encourage readers to continue to the end of a story because the important elements come first. 2. Its backward; you give away the punchline at the top. 3. Can be somewhat formulaic; it gives more value to substance rather than style. 4. Theres less allowance for creativity.
PBS film Going to war with the inverted pyramid
How to do it News writing is not like writing a theme for English class. –Theres no thesis sentence (well, there IS a nut graph) –Theres no conclusion. The inverted pyramid is designed to help reporters put information in logical order. It forces the reporter to rank, in order of importance, the information to be presented. Just as there is a mental checklist for writing a lede, there is also a checklist for writing the rest of an inverted pyramid story:
The IP Checklist The lede or lede device that directs the reader to the nut graph. Introduce the additional important information that you were unable to put in the lede. This may be where the reporter introduces the who, the why, the how and the what else happened material. If possible, indicate the significance, or the so-what factor
The IP Checklist Elaborate on the information presented in the lede. –Give background on the issues, subjects, chronology of events, clarify conflict, etc. –Include information from all sides of an issue for fairness and balance. (If you have a GOP proposal, for example, get the Democratic response -- and vice versa.) Continue introducing new information in the order you have ranked it. Dont forget the what happens next angle if its significant.
The IP Checklist Develop the ideas in the order that you introduced them. Avoid skipping around. –Use direct and indirect quotes for color and explanation. –You may have mini-inverted pyramids or blocs of related material within your story. (GOP view, followed by several explanations and quotes; then the Democratic view, followed by several explanations and quotes.)
The IP Checklist Try to use the one idea - one paragraph method. In newspapers and magazines that feature narrower column widths, the paragraphs are only one or two sentences. –The use of frequent paragraph breaks makes the typography less gray and is less formidable to the reader. –Type on the Internet is often narrow as well – so they can put all those ads on the side of the story.
A short exercise Assemble these paragraphs into an inverted pyramid story. The dateline is Austin. Simply arrange by the appropriate letter: A. David Bailey, homeland security division chief for the Austin Fire Department, said nine workers from the mailroom where the letter was processed were quarantined until tests could determine whether the powder was toxic. B. The mailroom is in the State Insurance Building. C. Gov. Rick Perry's office said the letter came from a prison inmate but provided no other details. The substance was sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services for testing. D. Bailey said none of the workers became ill. E. Authorities evacuated a state office building on Wednesday after a suspicious powder was found in a letter sent to the governor's office.
A short exercise: How it ran (e, a, c, d, b) AUSTIN Authorities evacuated a state office building on Wednesday after a suspicious powder was found in a letter sent to the governor's office. David Bailey, homeland security division chief for the Austin Fire Department, said nine workers from the mailroom where the letter was processed were quarantined until tests could determine whether the powder was toxic. Gov. Rick Perry's office said the letter came from a prison inmate but provided no other details. The substance was sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services for testing. Bailey said none of the workers became ill. The mailroom is in the State Insurance Building.
Organizational options Use subheads as a way to introduce key transition points Be aware of what material is being used in graphics or other display elements; there may be no need to repeat the information Indicate optional or MUST material Are some elements best told in bullet form? (In other action, the council: ….. ) If so, use parallel construction. Is some information important or different enough to be broken out into a sidebar? (Analysis, a lot of reaction, quotes, chronology, background, etc.)
Transition Transition gives signposts to the reader, lets them know where you are going and when you are switching gears. Since most news-story paragraphs are only a sentence or two, a story will often contain a series, or even multiple series, of related paragraphs. Certain transition words help string those graphs together, like stringing beads. When the topic or subject changes, news writers need to provide good transition so that the text flows smoothly.
Transition Hints Transition words that link: also, in addition, additionally, moreover, furthermore Transition words that compare: in the same way, likewise, similarly, as well as Transitions that contrast: although, but, however, nevertheless, on the other hand, on the contrary Transitions that create emphasis: clearly, indeed, surely, truly, certainly
Transition Hints Transitions that show cause and effect: as a result, consequently, therefore Transitions that show a relationship in time: afterward, later, then, while, next, previously, during, since, before Transitions that sum up: finally, in conclusion, in short, thus, to sum up
How to end Some writers feel a compulsion to make their last graph some sort of happy ending (They may have lost today, but the Cougars will try again next week…). Resist the urge. In general, when the storys over, stop. Many news writers find useful or creative ways to divert from the strict inverted pyramid style – they put a good quote at the end to serve as a closer or maybe they save a juicy fact or observation thats low on the importance scale.
How to end: Example Check this nice touch as an end graph to a story on the commissioning ceremony for the submarine USS Texas: The veterans, crew, families and other guests enjoyed a light lunch after the ceremony under a giant pavilion. They were served sodas, chip, and – of course – submarine sandwiches.
How to end Another possible option is to use the whats next angle as a closer. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it faces stronger opposition. A vote there is expected Thursday. These techniques are fine, but if you are going to put something vital at the end, then you better warn your copy editors because they often look at the end of a story to make their first cuts.
How to end: Just FYI Where did that 30 come from? By the way, do you know why print journalists used to end their stories with a 30? Some say it was because an XXX symbol was used at the end of early stories or was used at the end of telegraphed articles and it evolved into 30. Some say it was a signal to the hot-lead Linotype operators to mark the end of a line or to insert 30 points of leading, or space, before the beginning of the next headline on a page. The most popular theory is that 30 originated during the Civil War, when many stories were transmitted by telegraph -- a 30 was a telegraphers shorthand for end.
Very Helpful Links, Handouts Poynter writing tips 1907&sid=2 The Secret of Writing well and quickly How to Write a Short Story Pros and Cons of the Inverted Pyramid Inverted Pyramid in Cyberspace
Next class Review the ledes you wrote Practice stories – (Luna, Cremeen) Exercise for Grade