Stalking the wily news feature
A brief guide to conceiving,
reporting, organizing and writing
a work of enterprise journal...
What is a news feature?
• Not breaking news
What is a news feature?
• Not breaking news
• Not merely a human-interest story
What is a news feature?
• Not breaking news
• Not merely a human-interest story
• Generated by reporter and editor
What is a news feature?
•
•
•
•

Not breaking news
Not merely a human-interest story
Generated by reporter and editor
Free...
Is it a newspaper
or magazine story?
• Lines have blurred — “magazine” story can
appear in a newspaper
Is it a newspaper
or magazine story?
• Lines have blurred — “magazine” story can
appear in a newspaper
• Medium-length fea...
Is it a newspaper
or magazine story?
• Lines have blurred — “magazine” story can
appear in a newspaper
• Medium-length fea...
Is it a newspaper
or magazine story?
• Lines have blurred — “magazine” story can
appear in a newspaper
• Medium-length fea...
Getting ideas
• Reading — newspapers, magazines, books,
Internet
Getting ideas
• Reading — newspapers, magazines, books,
Internet
• Talking — friends, family, colleagues,
sources
Getting ideas
• Reading — newspapers, magazines, books,
Internet
• Talking — friends, family, colleagues,
sources
• Paying...
Is there a story?
• Pre-reporting
Is there a story?
• Pre-reporting
• Google, LexisNexis, etc.
– What can you learn?
– Who else has written about this?
Is there a story?
• Pre-reporting
• Google, LexisNexis, etc.
– What can you learn?
– Who else has written about this?

• S...
Theme sentence
• A sentence (or two) explaining precisely
what your story is
Theme sentence
• A sentence (or two) explaining precisely
what your story is
• A guide to your reporting — cut it out,
pas...
Theme sentence
• A sentence (or two) explaining precisely
what your story is
• A guide to your reporting — cut it out,
pas...
Theme sentence
• A sentence (or two) explaining precisely
what your story is
• A guide to your reporting — cut it out,
pas...
Theme sentence
• A sentence (or two) explaining precisely
what your story is
• A guide to your reporting — cut it out,
pas...
The nut graf
• Usually the third or fourth paragraph
The nut graf
• Usually the third or fourth paragraph
• It places the anecdotal lede in context by
answering three question...
The nut graf
• Usually the third or fourth paragraph
• It places the anecdotal lede in context by
answering three question...
The nut graf
• Usually the third or fourth paragraph
• It places the anecdotal lede in context by
answering three question...
The nut graf
• Usually the third or fourth paragraph
• It places the anecdotal lede in context by
answering three question...
Whom should you interview?
• Horizontal diversity
– Variety of viewpoints — fair and neutral
Whom should you interview?
• Horizontal diversity
– Variety of viewpoints — fair and neutral

• Vertical diversity
– Varie...
Blundell’s six key concepts
• History
Blundell’s six key concepts
• History
• Scope
Blundell’s six key concepts
• History
• Scope
• Reasons
Blundell’s six key concepts
•
•
•
•

History
Scope
Reasons
Impacts
Blundell’s six key concepts
•
•
•
•
•

History
Scope
Reasons
Impacts
Countermoves
Blundell’s six key concepts
•
•
•
•
•
•

History
Scope
Reasons
Impacts
Countermoves
Futures
Organizing and writing
• Step one — read through your material
quickly
Organizing and writing
• Step one — read through your material
quickly
• Step two — re-read slowly, organizing it as
you p...
Organizing and writing
• Step one — read through your material
quickly
• Step two — re-read slowly, organizing it as
you p...
Organizing and writing
• Step one — read through your material
quickly
• Step two — re-read slowly, organizing it as
you p...
Organizing and writing
• Step one — read through your material
quickly
• Step two — re-read slowly, organizing it as
you p...
A generic news-feature outline
• Part one
– Lede
A generic news-feature outline
• Part one
– Lede
– Nut graf
A generic news-feature outline
• Part one
– Lede
– Nut graf
– Support for nut graf
A generic news-feature outline
• Part one
–
–
–
–

Lede
Nut graf
Support for nut graf
Quote and/or setup for next part
A generic news-feature outline
• Part two
– Secondary lede
A generic news-feature outline
• Part two
– Secondary lede
– Explication and narrative
A generic news-feature outline
• Part two
– Secondary lede
– Explication and narrative
– Flesh out all or some of the six ...
A generic news-feature outline
• Part three
– Can be short
A generic news-feature outline
• Part three
– Can be short
– “Circling back”
A generic news-feature outline
• Part three
– Can be short
– “Circling back”
• Quote from person you opened with
A generic news-feature outline
• Part three
– Can be short
– “Circling back”
• Quote from person you opened with
• Quote f...
A generic news-feature outline
• Part three
– Can be short
– “Circling back”
• Quote from person you opened with
• Quote f...
Too formulaic?
• Not as much as it seems, especially after
you’ve done it a few times
Too formulaic?
• Not as much as it seems, especially after
you’ve done it a few times
• Not the only way to write a news f...
Too formulaic?
• Not as much as it seems, especially after
you’ve done it a few times
• Not the only way to write a news f...
Reading for journalists
• William E. Blundell, “The Art and Craft of
Feature Writing” (much of this slideshow is
based on ...
Reading for journalists
• William E. Blundell, “The Art and Craft of
Feature Writing”
• William K. Zinsser, “On Writing We...
Reading for journalists
• William E. Blundell, “The Art and Craft of
Feature Writing”
• William K. Zinsser, “On Writing We...
Reading for journalists
• William E. Blundell, “The Art and Craft of
Feature Writing”
• William K. Zinsser, “On Writing We...
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Stalking the wily news feature

  1. 1. Stalking the wily news feature A brief guide to conceiving, reporting, organizing and writing a work of enterprise journalism
  2. 2. What is a news feature? • Not breaking news
  3. 3. What is a news feature? • Not breaking news • Not merely a human-interest story
  4. 4. What is a news feature? • Not breaking news • Not merely a human-interest story • Generated by reporter and editor
  5. 5. What is a news feature? • • • • Not breaking news Not merely a human-interest story Generated by reporter and editor Freedom to define what the story is
  6. 6. Is it a newspaper or magazine story? • Lines have blurred — “magazine” story can appear in a newspaper
  7. 7. Is it a newspaper or magazine story? • Lines have blurred — “magazine” story can appear in a newspaper • Medium-length feature — 1,500 to 2,500 words
  8. 8. Is it a newspaper or magazine story? • Lines have blurred — “magazine” story can appear in a newspaper • Medium-length feature — 1,500 to 2,500 words • News story — 700 to 1,200 words
  9. 9. Is it a newspaper or magazine story? • Lines have blurred — “magazine” story can appear in a newspaper • Medium-length feature — 1,500 to 2,500 words • News story — 700 to 1,200 words • Longer magazine story — 3,000 to 10,000 words
  10. 10. Getting ideas • Reading — newspapers, magazines, books, Internet
  11. 11. Getting ideas • Reading — newspapers, magazines, books, Internet • Talking — friends, family, colleagues, sources
  12. 12. Getting ideas • Reading — newspapers, magazines, books, Internet • Talking — friends, family, colleagues, sources • Paying attention — carry a notebook!
  13. 13. Is there a story? • Pre-reporting
  14. 14. Is there a story? • Pre-reporting • Google, LexisNexis, etc. – What can you learn? – Who else has written about this?
  15. 15. Is there a story? • Pre-reporting • Google, LexisNexis, etc. – What can you learn? – Who else has written about this? • Short interviews to refine story and see if sources will be available
  16. 16. Theme sentence • A sentence (or two) explaining precisely what your story is
  17. 17. Theme sentence • A sentence (or two) explaining precisely what your story is • A guide to your reporting — cut it out, paste it on the wall in front of you
  18. 18. Theme sentence • A sentence (or two) explaining precisely what your story is • A guide to your reporting — cut it out, paste it on the wall in front of you • Could form basis of your lede or nut
  19. 19. Theme sentence • A sentence (or two) explaining precisely what your story is • A guide to your reporting — cut it out, paste it on the wall in front of you • Could form basis of your lede or nut • Could serve as your pitch
  20. 20. Theme sentence • A sentence (or two) explaining precisely what your story is • A guide to your reporting — cut it out, paste it on the wall in front of you • Could form basis of your lede or nut • Could serve as your pitch • You might have to change it
  21. 21. The nut graf • Usually the third or fourth paragraph
  22. 22. The nut graf • Usually the third or fourth paragraph • It places the anecdotal lede in context by answering three questions
  23. 23. The nut graf • Usually the third or fourth paragraph • It places the anecdotal lede in context by answering three questions • What is the story about?
  24. 24. The nut graf • Usually the third or fourth paragraph • It places the anecdotal lede in context by answering three questions • What is the story about? • Where is the story going?
  25. 25. The nut graf • Usually the third or fourth paragraph • It places the anecdotal lede in context by answering three questions • What is the story about? • Where is the story going? • Why should the reader keep reading?
  26. 26. Whom should you interview? • Horizontal diversity – Variety of viewpoints — fair and neutral
  27. 27. Whom should you interview? • Horizontal diversity – Variety of viewpoints — fair and neutral • Vertical diversity – Variety of sources — key players, expert observers and ordinary people
  28. 28. Blundell’s six key concepts • History
  29. 29. Blundell’s six key concepts • History • Scope
  30. 30. Blundell’s six key concepts • History • Scope • Reasons
  31. 31. Blundell’s six key concepts • • • • History Scope Reasons Impacts
  32. 32. Blundell’s six key concepts • • • • • History Scope Reasons Impacts Countermoves
  33. 33. Blundell’s six key concepts • • • • • • History Scope Reasons Impacts Countermoves Futures
  34. 34. Organizing and writing • Step one — read through your material quickly
  35. 35. Organizing and writing • Step one — read through your material quickly • Step two — re-read slowly, organizing it as you prepare to write
  36. 36. Organizing and writing • Step one — read through your material quickly • Step two — re-read slowly, organizing it as you prepare to write • Keep related material together
  37. 37. Organizing and writing • Step one — read through your material quickly • Step two — re-read slowly, organizing it as you prepare to write • Keep related material together • Try not to bring sources back for an encore
  38. 38. Organizing and writing • Step one — read through your material quickly • Step two — re-read slowly, organizing it as you prepare to write • Keep related material together • Try not to bring sources back for an encore • Aim for a memorable ending
  39. 39. A generic news-feature outline • Part one – Lede
  40. 40. A generic news-feature outline • Part one – Lede – Nut graf
  41. 41. A generic news-feature outline • Part one – Lede – Nut graf – Support for nut graf
  42. 42. A generic news-feature outline • Part one – – – – Lede Nut graf Support for nut graf Quote and/or setup for next part
  43. 43. A generic news-feature outline • Part two – Secondary lede
  44. 44. A generic news-feature outline • Part two – Secondary lede – Explication and narrative
  45. 45. A generic news-feature outline • Part two – Secondary lede – Explication and narrative – Flesh out all or some of the six key concepts • History, scope, reasons, impacts, countermoves, futures
  46. 46. A generic news-feature outline • Part three – Can be short
  47. 47. A generic news-feature outline • Part three – Can be short – “Circling back”
  48. 48. A generic news-feature outline • Part three – Can be short – “Circling back” • Quote from person you opened with
  49. 49. A generic news-feature outline • Part three – Can be short – “Circling back” • Quote from person you opened with • Quote from another, similar person
  50. 50. A generic news-feature outline • Part three – Can be short – “Circling back” • Quote from person you opened with • Quote from another, similar person • Your own attempt to sum up
  51. 51. Too formulaic? • Not as much as it seems, especially after you’ve done it a few times
  52. 52. Too formulaic? • Not as much as it seems, especially after you’ve done it a few times • Not the only way to write a news feature, but simple and effective
  53. 53. Too formulaic? • Not as much as it seems, especially after you’ve done it a few times • Not the only way to write a news feature, but simple and effective • Sometimes editors want something different
  54. 54. Reading for journalists • William E. Blundell, “The Art and Craft of Feature Writing” (much of this slideshow is based on his ideas)
  55. 55. Reading for journalists • William E. Blundell, “The Art and Craft of Feature Writing” • William K. Zinsser, “On Writing Well”
  56. 56. Reading for journalists • William E. Blundell, “The Art and Craft of Feature Writing” • William K. Zinsser, “On Writing Well” • Strunk and White, “The Elements of Style”
  57. 57. Reading for journalists • William E. Blundell, “The Art and Craft of Feature Writing” • William K. Zinsser, “On Writing Well” • Strunk and White, “The Elements of Style” • Anywhere good news features are published
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