Beyond the Lead News writing not only addresses the structure of your sentences but also the structure of the entire story. The structure of a news story presents information in a specific way, using the factors of relative importance, the audience and the tone of the story.
Structuring the News Story The basic structure for a news story for print and the Web is often called the “inverted pyramid.” The emphasis is on the most newsworthy items in your reporting. The story trails off with less important facts.
Structuring the News Story Another way to think of the news story is to think of the inverted pyramid as having four elements: 1. The lead 2. Facts that support, explain and amplify the lead 3. Historical background and current context 4. Secondary material
Part 1: The Lead 1. The lead: The first paragraph, usually one or at most two sentences. Only the most important facts of the story belong in the lead.
A hard news lead is meant to perform two functions: 1. To tell in a few words what has happened. 2. To grab the reader’s interest and prompt him to read further. Part 1: The Lead
The lead contains some or all of the five W’s: who, what when, where and why? It might include attribution. The lead will sometimes put the event into context. Part 1: The Lead
Part 2: Expanding the Lead 2. Facts that support, explain and amplify the lead: The section that follows the lead can be one, two or many paragraphs long. It should contain all the major facts of the story. It should show that the lead is accurate by providing supporting material.
Part 2: Expanding the Lead More on Part 2: It should explain any facts that the lead does not completely explain. If the lead is based on what someone has said, it is important to include a quote by that person, showing that the statement was really made.
Part 3: Background & Context Sometimes it is necessary to explain what took place before the news event, to show how the situation arrived at its current state. This is the background to the story.
Part 3: Background & Context Sometimes other factors are at work that will have an effect on the news event. This is the context in which the event is taking place, and it is often necessary to describe these factors in order for readers to understand the situation fully.
Part 3: Background & Context Background and context can appear anywhere in a story where they are necessary for full understanding.
Part 4: Secondary Material These are facts that can help to build a complete picture of a situation, but which are of secondary importance. They may be left out of the story entirely without harming the story’s completeness.
What if we start a story with the most important information and end with key information? Works well with feature stories Narration and storytelling Bad for hard news—why? Are there other ways to organize a story?
Example Top: John Smith is building an airplane in his back yard. Middle: Why is he building the airplane? (his background, history, friends, etc.) End: John Smith flew away, never to be seen again. “The Hourglass”
Leave “breadcrumbs” or “nuggets” if important and interesting information throughout story Think of it as telling a story in the order that the events occur. What if we spread information evenly?
Example Top: John Smith and his friends are preparing for a ski trip. Middle: They go out on the mountain, where they have skied many times before. Middle: There is a catastrophic avalanche, and many of them die. End: Their friends are left to pick up the pieces. (“Snow fall,” New York Times: fall/) “The Kebab”
Read New York Times’ “Snow fall” series Read handout on Inverted Pyramid Read “Newswriting Basics” All three will be posted on the course blog by the end of the day. Assignments: