2Table of Contents Features Generating Story Ideas Feature Style Features Story StructureProfilesEnterprise ProjectsInvestigative ReportsPackage PlanningShort-form AlternativesEditorials and ColumnsReviews
31. Features Common feature categories Lifestyles Health Goals, relationships, families, fashion, fitness.HealthScience and TechnologyNOT research papersEntertainmentFoodHomes and gardens
4Hard News and Soft News Hard News Soft News Serious, timely news events.Soft NewsLighter, less urgent, less somber topics.Some stories could be either depending on the writer’s approach to the story and how the readers will view it.
5Popular Types Personality Profiles Human-Interest Story Combines quotes, facts and descriptions to reveal your subject’s true nature.Human-Interest StoryUnleash your story-telling skills to set the scene, describe the characters, capture the mood and get readers to laugh, cry or tell their friends about a story that is tragic, funny, odd or inspirational.
6Popular Types Cont. Color Story “Color” means flavor or mood. It’s the type of piece you write when you’re asked to attend an event – a parade, a strike, a funeral, a disaster – and convey the experience by interviewing and describing.Backgrounder – Also called Analysis PieceThrough research and interviews, you focus on an issue or event in the news, explaining how it happened, why it matters, and what is next.
7Popular Types Cont. Trend Story Reaction Piece Keeps readers plugged in to the people, places, things and ideas affecting today’s culture – the latest/hottest/coolest/oddest – from fads and fashions to lifestyles and entertainment.Reaction PieceWhen a dramatic event happens, a reaction piece provides a sampling of opinions from experts, victims, and ordinary folks.
8Popular Types Cont. Flashback How-To Commemorative stories usually run on the anniversary of an historic event combining facts, photos and interviews to explain why it was important then, and why it still matters.How-ToThis popular interactive format teaches readers how to do something. It often works best presented as an easy-to- follow checklist, diagram, or step-by- step sequence of tips.
9Popular Types Cont. Consumer Guide Personal Narrative Almost everything we do, buy or eat can be rated in a way that advises readers what is good, bad and ugly.Personal NarrativeEditors usually discourage stories written in the first person, but if you have a gripping tale to tell, writing a personal narrative may be the best way to re-create the drama.
102. Generating Story Ideas Where to Find FEATURE Story IdeasYour publication’s archiveYour competitorsTV, magazines, newspapers, websitesNews releasesReader suggestionsBrainstorming
11Is it Good? Where did your idea come from? Is the idea original? Reporting ideas are better than random ideas.Is the idea original?Find a new angle.Does the idea surprise you?If not, will it surprise your readers?Does the idea have movement to it?Change, motion, direction…Is there a STORY there?Is there tension?Is the story true?Do YOU like the story?
12Turning an Idea into a Story See if it’s been doneFocus your angleTalk to your editorDo your researchWrite the storyPlan the packageRefer to handout for more details.
133. Feature Style New Journalism is… Realistic dialogue;Vivid reconstruction of actual scenes that wereviewed through the eyes and minds of the characters, whilerecording everyday details that contained the most symbolic resonance.Feature writers rely on literary techniques you won’t find in standard news stories.
14Syntax and PhrasingNews stories have simple declarative sentences that contain just facts.Feature stories can use slang and contractions, can phrase for dramatic effect, and can even use fragments.Ten seconds. Count it: One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Ten seconds was roughly how long it lasted. Nobody had a stopwatch, nothing can be proven definitively, but that’s the consensus. The tornado that swooped through Utica at 6:09 p.m. took some 10 seconds to do what it did. Ten seconds is barely a flicker. It’s a long, deep breath. It’s no time at all. It’s an eternity.Story by Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
15Voice and Tense News Stories – Past Tense Feature Stories – Often in PresentFeatures stories often use 2nd person to put you into the story.Behold the fat man. Go ahead. Everybody does. He doesn’t mind, honestly. That’s how he makes his living. Walk right up to him. Stand and stare…. Don’t be shy. Ask him a question.“What’s your name?”“T.J. Albert Jackson. Better known as Fat Albert.”“How much do you weigh?”“Eight hundred and ninety-one pounds.”“Gawd! How many meals you eat a day?”“Three.”“What – three cows?”Story by David Finkel, St. Petersburg Times
16Detail and Description News stories feel like they are written in a newsroom.Features have a you-are-there immediacy through carefully detailing people’s actions and appearance.He’s in the back seat of the family Volvo, headed to school. His mom and dad are talking up front, but he’s not listening. He is still waking up. His light blond hair is uncombed as usual; a micro-pebble of sleep dust clings to the lashes of his right eye. Through headphones, a man is singing into his brain.
17Other Dramatic Techniques Features can’t fabricate facts, but you can present them in dramatic ways, borrowing techniques from traditional story telling. For example:Tell stories chronologicallyInterior monologuesPlease, God. Don’t let it be kids.That was Edgcomb’s single thought, the one that kept pace with his racing heart as he ran toward Milestone: Please, God, no kids. Please. Please.He’d been a firefighter for 25 years, he was a powerful, well-built man, a natural leader, and nobody would call Dave Edgcomb weak, no sir. He carried an air of can-do confidence.But right now he was, in his thoughts, on his knees.Please, God, just don’t let it be kids.He knew it was bad, real bad, and he knew he could handle anything – but not kids. No dead kids.Story by Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
18Helpful Tips Write tightly Vary sentence structure Keep it shortVary sentence structureMatch your treatment to your topicSerious topic = serious toneDon’t overdo itAvoid first person storiesStay objectiveDon’t cheerlead, ridicule or editorializeFind your voiceRead
194. Features Story Structure Standard Story StructuresShort-From AlternativesRefer to handout for details.
205. Profiles Profiles are biographical, but are more than the 5 W’s. A good profile reveals feelings, exposes attitudes, and captures habits and mannerisms.A profile shout be informative and entertaining.
21Researching and Writing Ask for your subject’s supportInterview and observeThis is not a one time stepFind your focusWhat is the most interesting angle for this story?Follow up with further interviews and research.Structure your story.Begin with an appealing lead, a solid nut graf and a fitting finish.Avoid fact-choked chronologies, rambling monologues and meaningless anecdotes.Be fair to your subject and kind to your readers.
22Three ways To Make it Better Capture detailsUse all of your senses, but only write the details that matter.Re-Create ScenesCan be what you observe, or the subject’s past.Add Quotes and DialogueNeed quotes by and about the subject.Record dialogue you hear, or from stories you are told.Avoid using yourself in the dialogue.
236. Enterprise ProjectsEnterprise projects give readers a chance to meet colorful characters, to confront complex controversies to explore the why, the how and the what happens next.Enterprise projects often become special sections or multipart series that take weeks, even months to research.
24People and IssuesEnterprise projects focus on people or issues.People – An in-depth profile of a newsworthy person, family or group, often selected to represent a broader social concern or trend.If I Die – Focuses on one dying child – a 12- year-old cancer victim – while addressing how our culture deals with dying children.Issues – A detailed look at a controversy or problem, exploring what it means and what lies ahead.Why Do We Speed? - Focuses on an increase in speeding and the results.
25Advice on Enterprise Stories ReportingStart with a thesisDo your researchReport, report, reportStay organizedLook for universal connectionsKeep a running list of questions and things to doTalk to your editorCooperate with design teamWritingWrite from the first ideaWrite after each interviewRewrite each timePlan your endingSave often, print a lotDon’t be afraid to editSeek outside inputEnjoy the process
26Enterprise Examples If I Die - http://www.poynterextra.org/IfIDie/ Read the story. Be sure to read all 4 parts.Why Do We Speed? - / cover-speed_x.htmRead the story. Be sure to read all of the parts and view the graphic from the first page.Because everyone else does Because we're sure we won't crash Because we think we have a good excuse Because we think we have a right to Because no one's gonna stop us
277. Investigative Reporting Derek Zoolander: Do you understand that the world does not revolve around you and your do whatever it takes, ruin as many people's lives, so long as you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied along the way, just so long so you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way?
28What is Investigative Reporting? It is the reporting, through one’s own work product and initiative, matters of importance which some persons or organizations wish to keep secret. The three basic elements are:The investigation is the work of the reporter, not some other investigation.The subject of the story has reasonable importance to the readers.Others are attempting to hide these matters from the public
29Advice for Investigative Reporters Be skeptical……but remain objectiveFocus tightlyCast a wide netStay within legal boundsAnything illegal or unethical could be used to blackmail you, or discredit your story.Work the Web
319. Short-Form Alternatives Fast-Facts BobWho, what, why, when, where concisely.Bio BoxBiographical information, usually used to supplement a profile story.ChecklistListStep-By-Step GuideQuizDiagram
32Short-Form Alternatives cont. Factual Index – Also called “Harper’s Index”Setup and punchlineQuote CollectionTimelineRefer to handout for specific details.
3310. Editorials and Columns Editorials, columns and reviews are the place to express opinions that should not be found in other articles.Editorials and columns are often in a separate section of the paper called the “op-ed” page.
34EditorialswordsComments on current events, criticizes or praises officials, endorses political candidates, or explains why issues matter to readers.Editorials are usually unsigned, thus appearing to represent the opinion of the entire paper.
35Advice for Writing Editorials Keep it tightKeep it relevantTake a standAttack issues, not personalitiesDon’t be a bullyControl your angerWrite a strong lead and solid finish
36Editorial Cartoon Combines art and commentary Cartoon about current eventsOften makes fun of public officials or current events
37Columns Similar to editorials, but they are signed. The opinions in a column are solely those of the writer.Successful columnists have a following of readers.Some columnists sell their columns to national syndicates that distribute them worldwide.Can be on any topic or issue, from sports, to music, to gossip, to anything.
38Advice for Writing Columns Develop a distinctive voiceBase your opinions on facts – and present those factsDo your own reportingChoose worthy topicsAvoid jumping on a bandwagonAlways have a backup column
39How do you Know it is a Column? Column logosHeadline Font – Different from standard headline.An initial cap.This is an initial cap. It signals the start of an opinion column. It is not a standard news story.
4011. Reviews Movies Music Television Theater Other performances (dance, comedians, etc.)BooksArtFoodGamesTechnologyCarsConsumer Goods (lawn mowers, refrigerators)Travel AdviceBusiness Advice
41How to Write Reviews Structure your review LeadStorylineWhat’s GoodWhat’s BadSummaryBalance reporting and opinionKnow your stuffBe aware of biases and adjust your reviewsEschew pomposityDon’t…Be cruelRuin surprisesAdd unnecessary phrases (I think...)Write negative reviews of ammeter or children productionsGet personal. Criticize the performance, not person.Take it personal when people disagree.
42Section Review You should know: what features are; what the most common feature topics and formats are;how to come up with ideas for feature stories;how to tell if your feature idea is a good one and how to turn it into a story;how the style of feature writing differs from news writing;what story structures work well for features;how to research and write biographical profiles;how to write special stories and series that explore people and issues in greater depth (enterprise projects);how to do investigative reporting, and what to watch out for;how teamwork can help turn stories into appealing packages through package planning;how to condense material using short-form alternatives, such as bios, checklists, timelines and diagrams; andhow to write editorials, columns and reviews.
43Section Outline THE WORLD OF FEATURES Common categories Personalizing the news with stories that educate and entertain. Feature stories often focus on issues that are less timely and more personal: trends, relationships, entertainment.They include topics, treatments, styles and structures you won't find in standard news stories.Hard news vs. soft news: What do these terms mean?Common categoriesLifestylesHealthScience and technologyEntertainmentFoodHomes and gardensPopular Types of Feature StoriesPersonality profileHuman-interest storyColor storyBackgrounderTrend storyReaction pieceFlashbackHow-toConsumer guidePersonal narrative
44Section Outline Cont. GENERATING STORY IDEAS There are great stories everywhere, just waiting to be discovered. The four best angles: How to save time....How to save money....How to be loved....How to make money.Where to Find Those Great (But Elusive) Story IdeasStart compiling a list: Look for ideas everywhere; then jot them down.Organize your ideas by topic (people, places, trends) or by treatment (profiles, photo stories, how-to guides).The best places to look for ideas:your publication's archivesyour competitorsTV, magazines, newspapers, Web sitesnews releasesreader suggestionsbrainstormingHow to Tell if Your Idea is a Good OneEight ways to assess a story idea before you try selling it to an editor.You Think You've Got a Good Idea? Here's How to Turn It into a Story:See if it's been done.Focus your angle.Talk to your editor.Do your research.Plan the package.Write the story.
45Section Outline Cont. FEATURE STYLE Advice and Suggestions Some stories require a livelier, looser, more literary voice."The New Journalism" pioneered by Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson and Gay Talese in the 1960s. Reporters began borrowing literary techniques from novelists.Today, feature writers still rely on literary techniques you won't find in standard news stories.Advice and SuggestionsHelpful tips for successful feature writingUsing syntax and phrasingUsing voice and tenseUsing detail and descriptionUsing other dramatic techniquesFEATURE STORY STRUCTURESStandard Story StructuresUsing traditional text to convey information.The inverted pyramid is rarely used in feature stories. While it's an efficient way to organize facts in a news story, it is NOT an engaging way to organize ideas in a feature.Short-Form Story StructuresUsing colorful, creative layouts that are easy to produce and appeal to readers' short attention spans.Suggestions for using a more visual approach.
46Section Outline Cont. WRITING PROFILES Profiles are more than a who-what-when-where-why rehash of facts.A good profile:reveals feelings;exposes attitudes;captures habits and mannerisms; andentertains as well as informs.How to Research and Write Successful ProfilesSolicit your subject's support.Interview and observe.Find your focus.Follow up with further interviews and research.Structure your story.Advice and SuggestionsTips on working with photographers.Ways to paint a better portrait: capturing details, re-creating scenes, and adding quotes and dialogue.Checklist of questions to ask yourself when reporting and writing profiles.
47Section Outline Cont. ENTERPRISE PROJECTS Advice and Suggestions Special stories that allow reporters to reach beyond the routine.Most provide in-depth examination of people and issues.They are creative, ambitious and unique.They often become special sections or multi-part series.Advice and SuggestionsHow do I find time for enterprise?Expert advice on reporting and writing enterprise stories.INVESTIGATIVE REPORTINGIn a free society, some journalists do more than just explain—they expose.What Is Investigative Reporting? Three Basic Elements:that the investigation be the work of the reporter, not a report of an investigation made by someone else;that the subject involves something of reasonable importance; andthat others are attempting to hide these matters from the public.Digging up dirt: Advice for investigative reporters.
48Section Outline Cont. PACKAGE PLANNING SHORT-FORM ALTERNATIVES Using teamwork and working with the editor, photographer and designer to turn stories into appealing packages.SHORT-FORM ALTERNATIVESAlternatives to narrative textCondensing data for readers with short attention spansShort-form formats:fast-fact boxbio boxchecklistlistquizstep-by-step guidefactual indexdiagramtimelinequote collectionWRITING EDITORIALS AND COLUMNSIn editorials, columns and reviews, the writer's opinions aren't just allowed, they're encouraged. They're essential.Advice and SuggestionsEditorials: where publications take a standColumns: where the options are endlessWriting commentary: Advice for columnists
49Section Outline Cont. WRITING REVIEWS Advice and Suggestions Readers need your expert guidance to find the best performances and products.Distinction between "critic" and "reviewer."Advice and SuggestionsUsing graphic extras that make reviews more reader-friendly.How to write criticism that gets good reviews.