• Organizing the way you write journalism
articles is as important as organizing the way
you tell any story. Readers won't tolerate a
confusing story. They want a story that reads
clearly and naturally.
• Keep in mind that readers also have short
attention spans. You need to hook them into
your story from the beginning and hold their
interest until the end, or else they'll stop
reading. So, organizing your journalism stories
in a chronological way (e.g. First this
happened and then this happened...) seldom
Getting Ready to Write
• Good reporters write their stories as soon as
possible after they've conducted their
interviews. It's best to write while the
information is still fresh in your mind. Before
you sit down to write, follow these steps to
organize your notes and thoughts.
Post-Interview /Pre-writing Steps
1. Rewrite your interview and research notes so they're complete
and make sense to you.
2. Categorize the info in your notes under each of the 5 W's and H
or under other topic headings that emerge.
3. Prioritize. Which facts are most newsworthy? Which quotes are
most interesting? Consider numbering your facts in order of
importance and putting stars next to the best quotes.
4. Which quotes correspond to which facts? Match them up.
5. Write a statement of one or two sentences that explains your
story. Imagine you're telling a friend about it. This statement will
guide you as you write your lead and the rest of your story. Make
sure your statement explains your angle.
Choosing a Structure
• The inverted pyramid is the most common way
journalists organize their stories. But it's not
always the best way.
• Hard, breaking news stories (like the ones you'll
be writing on your exams in this class) are usually
best written in the inverted pyramid format.
• In this format, the most important information
comes first. In each successive paragraph, the
information is a little less important.
• "An example of a regular pyramid story might be
an old-fashioned mystery where the reader is
introduced to more and more important clues as
he or she reads on," says Rich Cameron, a
journalism professor at Cerritos College in
California. "It is only after collecting all of those
clues that the reader can finally begin to solve
the mystery. With an inverted pyramid story we
give away the solution (or in our case a summary)
at the very beginning. The rest of the story
contains less and less important information until
we just stop.”
Inverted Pyramid in a Nutshell
• Begin with the lead: a sentence, less than 30
words, that summarizes the most important
information of the story. Imagine that you have
only 20 seconds to tell someone what happened --
what would you say? That's your lead paragraph.
• Next comes important but no absolutely necessary
• Then, keep adding and organizing paragraphs in
order of relevance and importance until the least
relevant and least interesting info is at the
• A close cousin of the inverted pyramid is the "Martini
• It works like this: You begin with an inverted pyramid
summary of the story's most important facts. This is
usually just a few short paragraphs. Once that's done,
you shift into a chronological order of what happened.
Then detail what happened step by step.
• If possible, end with a kicker (a surprise twist or strong
closing quote). This approach works well for crime
Not Always Suitable
• Sometimes these aforementioned formats
aren't the best way to tell your story. Imagine
the story of Goldilocks in the inverted pyramid
The three bears lived happily ever after once upon a
time before Goldilocks ate all their porridge and
broke Baby Bear's chair.
• In the Kabob format, the story begins with an
anecdote about a specific person.
Immediately after this, be sure to include a
nut graph -- a paragraph that summarizes the
story idea and the who, what, when, where,
why and how. After this, then story broadens
into a general discussion of the topic. It ends
by returning to that specific person again and
concluding with another anecdote or quote.
• "Think of it as arranging meat and veggies on
a shish kabob skewer," explains Tim Harrower,
a journalist at The (Portland) Oregonian and
author of our textbook. "Start with a juicy red
tomato -- an anecdote. Follow with a nut
graph. Then add meat -- chunk after chunk
after chunk -- until you reach the end, where
you reprise with another tomato -- a final
quote or anecdote."
• Beyond this, there are many other ways a
story can be organized. There is no simple,
one-size-fits-all solution for organizing stories.
Every story unfolds in a different way. But
there's nothing random about good writing.
Every story needs a beginning, middle and
• Your story must logically flow from one idea
or paragraph to the next. Otherwise, it will
sound choppy if you discuss one idea and then
switch to a completely different idea … unless
you use a transition.
Scott said Obama plans on honoring 25 Adelphi students
who performed more than 200 hours of community service
“I bet those students never thought the President of the
United States would honor them for their community
service,” Scott said.
Senior Darryl Butler, one of the seniors who will be
honored, volunteered more than 300 hours at the Garden
City Food Bank last year.
“I learned so much working there,” Butler said. “I am
excited the President is honoring us, but my real reward is
helping people in our community.”
• If you need to switch ideas or “change gears”
in a story, then use a transition to indicate
• A transition may be a factual statement, a
direct quote, an indirect quote, etc.
• Transitions usually are prefaced with words
After all, Also, And, Finally, In addition, Additionally,
However, But, Otherwise, Then, Subsequently,
Therefore, Likewise, For example, For instance,
Conversely, On the other hand, In the meantime,
Furthermore, Together With, Consequently, As a
result, In other words, Before, Next (week, month,
year, etc.), First, etc.
President Barack Obama will speak on Friday to Adelphi
University students about getting involved in community
“Seniors will learn a lot about duty and commitment
when they hear President Obama,” Adelphi President Robert
Scott said. “We are so excited that he agreed to come.”
President Obama said he believes community service is
“extremely valuable lesson” for every college student to
(NEW IDEA & TRANSITION) In addition to speaking about
community service, Obama plans to talk to students about
the importance of voting.
In short (that’s a transition)
• As you move from the beginning or your story
to the end and from one paragraph to the
next paragraph, be sure to include transitions.
Transitions are words or phrases which keep
the story flowing smoothly and let the reader
know you are either talking about the same
thing as before or you have changed subjects.
• Journalism is not free-writing. Before you start
typing up your story, sit down and jot down
the highlights. Organize your ideas. Create an
outline. If you get stuck, try carving your story
up into broad sections, such as:
I. The Problem
II. What it means
III. What happens next
• Email Professor Mark Grabowski: