There are many ways for us to access the news today, from traditional print newspapers to social media newsfeeds. Of course, some sources are more reliable than others.
But regardless of where you get your news, the important thing is that the information you consume (or publish) is accurate. Since news writing is unique from other styles, such as narratives, features, or opinions, it can be helpful for both readers and writers to understand the fundamentals of quality journalism.
What Is News Writing?
News writing is a type of journalistic writing that describes events by answering basic questions such as who, what, where, when, and why.
News writing often requires some investigation on the part of the writer, which can include obtaining quotes or data to make the article as accurate and thorough as possible. This type of writing is usually objective and expository, reporting and explaining the facts of an event rather than providing an opinion or analysis.
How Is News Written?
To practice quality news writing, follow these 5 steps.
1. Stay consistent with news values.
The first thing you should do before starting a piece of news writing is consider how the topic fits in with the 6 key news values.
These values help journalists determine how newsworthy a story is, as well as which information should be included in the lede and article as a whole.
These are the 6 news values reporters should consider before sitting down to write an article:
- Timeliness: When did the event you’re writing about happen? In news writing, recent events carry higher value than less recent ones. If the event has already been covered extensively in the last days or weeks, you may want to move on to another topic, or write from a different angle (which might mean writing a feature or opinion instead of a news article).
- Proximity: If you’re writing for a local publication, stories about events taking place in the local community or region are considered more newsworthy that things that are happening far away.
- Prominence: Often, stories pertaining to famous, prominent people and those in the public eye carry a higher news value than stories about ordinary citizens.
- Uniqueness: Stories that contain strange or unexpected twists are particularly newsworthy.
- Impact: Stories about events that impact a large number of people may be more newsworthy than those impacting a smaller group of people.
- Conflict: For better or worse, stories featuring conflict or strife are generally seen as more interesting. (That’s where we get the old adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.”)
Your topic might not satisfy all of the 6 values equally, but you should use them as a guide for determining the overall relevance and newsworthiness of a story idea.
2. Practice thorough and ethical reporting.
Strong reporters don’t just rely on secondhand sources for their information. Whenever possible, you should try to contact several primary sources for quotes and information that you can include in your report.
Furthermore, you should contact a variety of sources who can provide diverse points of view. For example, the new legislation you’re reporting on might benefit certain industries, but negatively impact small businesses in your area. You should try to represent both sides in your reporting.
Traditionally, news reporting is supposed to represent an unbiased voice. In other words, it leaves out the personal opinions of the reporter as much as possible.
Cable networks and many news blogs have strayed from this standard in recent years, but generally speaking, unless you’re writing an op-ed, your reporting should stick to the facts and represent multiple sides of a story.
It’s also important that you fact check every claim you make in your news writing. Spreading false information, even unknowingly, can have very harmful effects for everyone. Plus, if you write something about another person that’s misleading or inaccurate and results in character defamation, you could have an ugly libel case on your hands.
You should also attribute all information that you report to a source. Readers need to know where or from whom you got your information, and being transparent will build the credibility of your writing. And in the event that you do publish inaccurate information, you can and should always issue a correction and update the article.
3. Follow the inverted pyramid.
News stories are typically written using a structure known as the “inverted pyramid.” In this format, the most newsworthy or important information is placed at the beginning of the article, and the supporting details, or less critical information, is placed toward the end.
Below are the 3 key elements of the inverted pyramid structure:
- Lead: Start with the most important facts. In journalism, this usually includes the 5 W’s and 1 H, meaning you should answer the questions of who, what, where, when, why, and how.
- Body: The “body” is what follows the lead. It contains the crucial info, including the “meat” or controversy of your story, evidence, background, quotes, and other details that support, dispute, or expand the topic.
- Tail: The “tail” contains extra info that might be interesting or related to the main topic. It can also be a concluding paragraph that contains an assessment by the journalist.
4. Write a strong lede.
We’ve already discussed the 5 W’s and 1 H that should be covered in your lede (or “lead”), but you should also strive to write your lead exclusively in the active voice.
This means you should avoid all forms of the verb “to be.” (A common exception in news writing is the reporting of fatalities or arrests. In other words, it’s okay to say someone was killed, or was arrested.)
You also have several options when it comes to starting your lede. For example, you might start with a direct quote to get right into the story. Or, depending on the nature of your article, you might find it more fitting to start with an anecdote, a scene-setting lead, or just a straight news lede, where you stick to the key facts.
The following is an example of a straight news lede:
A fire broke out around 3:50 a.m. on Sycamore Avenue Wednesday morning, destroying 12 properties and leaving 20 people without homes. Police are investigating the possibility of arson.
Let’s see how this lead addresses the 5 W’s and 1 H:
What: a fire that destroyed 12 homes
Who: 20 residents who were impacted
Where: Sycamore Avenue
When: Wednesday morning at 3:50 a.m.
Why: The motive is unknown, but police are considering arson.
How: Also not clear, but arson is a strong possibility.
5. Read more news writing.
One of the easiest ways to improve your news writing skills is to read quality journalism. Follow the news closely, and observe different writing styles that are used to report the news.
Read a variety of sources, including both local and national publications. Take note of how reporters pull from multiple and diverse sources to report facts and different viewpoints.
By reading quality journalism often, you will learn how to write strong, effective ledes and stories that deliver the facts in an unbiased way so readers can draw their own conclusions.
What Are the 5 Parts of a Newspaper Article?
A typical newspaper article contains 5 key elements:
- Headline (and sometimes subhead): The headline appears at the top of the article and indicates its main subject. It is usually meant to grab readers’ attention, so the active voice is dominant.
- Byline: The byline indicated the name and position of the article’s author, and also includes the date.
- Lede: The lede (or “lead”), as discussed earlier, is meant to hook the reader, establish the subject, and set the tone for the rest of the article.
- Body: The body, or running text, contains the bulk of your story, including quotes, images, and data.
- Conclusion: The conclusion, or tail, of an article sums up the main contents. It might include a final quote, or an indication of what’s happening next.
Why Is News Writing Important?
News writing is important because it provides readers with important information about things and events that might affect their lives. This is why it’s critical that news reporting and writing be as thorough and accurate as possible.
Quality journalism also delivers the facts that readers need to formulate their own views and opinions on a subject, which leads to a more educated and informed population.
Practice Different Types of Writing
If you want to improve your writing skills, one effective strategy is to practice different writing types and styles. For example, try your hand at fiction or writing about nature.
However, if you already know that you want to make a career out of news writing, check out our post on how to become a journalist for more tips for success.
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
- Sports Writing: Types, Examples, and Tips for Better Reporting
- Exploring Nature Writing: Examples and Tips for Writing About the Wild
- How to Write an Op-Ed: 8 Tips for Writing and Pitching Your Opinion Articles
- How to Become a Journalist: 6 Tips for Aspiring Reporters
As a blog writer for TCK Publishing, Kaelyn loves crafting fun and helpful content for writers, readers, and creative minds alike. She has a degree in International Affairs with a minor in Italian Studies, but her true passion has always been writing. Working from home allows her to do even more of the things she loves, like traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.