Writer's Handbook: Waseca Jr. High Newspaper

- Writing -

There are some things you will need to learn about writing for a newspaper. The first thing to understand about newspaper writing is that it is not like writing an essay or story for English class. The rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation still apply, of course. But there are a number of things that are different about how a news story is written.

First of all, a news story is written in what is called the inverted pyramid style. The picture the previous page shows how this works. In a news story you always start with the most important facts. Less important facts are written closer to the end of the story. You tell all of the most essential information about the story right away in the first 2 or 3 paragraphs. These first paragraphs are called the lead.

The lead is the most important part of any news story. Your readers will read the lead in order to decide whether to read the rest of the story. If the lead is boring or confusing, your readers will not read the rest of the story. In the lead, you need to present the basic facts of the story: the 5 W's and an H. The 5 W's are What, Who, When, Where, and Why; and the H is How. All of this information about a news story should be found in the lead.

Another aspect of news writing that may be different from how you are used to writing is that news stories should have short sentences and paragraphs. Paragraphs in a news story will be 2 - 3 sentences, at the most. Each paragraph should contain only one main thought.

When writing news stories, never use first person point of view. First person is when you use "I" or "we." You should use the third person point of view, where you use the pronouns "he", "she", and "they." Also, news articles should be written in the past tense if the story is about an event that already happened, or the future tense if it is a story about something that is going to happen. You should never use the present tense in a news article. Opinion and features articles, however, can use first person and present tense, as they are not bound by the same rules as news articles.

Finally, it is important to remember that news should be an accurate and impartial reporting of a story the way that it happened. "Impartial" means that you must not put your opinions into the story. Opinions are for the opinion page only. When writing the news, stick with the facts.

- Interviewing -

Most of the information that you get for a story will come from interviews. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning and conducting an interview:

1. As soon as you are assigned a story, do some research into the background of that story so you can go into the interview already informed.

2. Prepare questions before the interview. This will help the interview go smoothly and will assure that you get the information you need for your story.

3. Set up an appointment for your interview, and be on time for that appointment. Be courteous during the interview, but also be relaxed and make the interview as informal as possible.

4. Take notes during the interview! As a reporter you are expected to be as accurate as possible with anything you write. Don't just trust your memory. Make sure you get some quotes that you can use for your story. Write down quotes word for word in your notes.

5. Write the story right after the interview while everything is still fresh in your mind.

6. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have your story ready in time for your deadline!

Click here to return to the newspaper journalist page.