Writing for Journalism Guide to Writing, Style, Format, and Investigation
You have an idea. Now what?1. Who does this story/news affect?2. What makes the idea newsworthy/timely/current?3. Who can you interview?4. Is this ethical?5. What pictures go with this story?
Others things to keep in mind while picking a topicTimeliness. The best stories are the ones that just happened, arehappening right now, or will be continuing to happen. Timeliness justmeans that we aren’t reporting on things that are not news, i.e.happened a while ago.Connection to readers. How does your topic pertain and relatedirectly to UIC students, parents, alumni, community, etc.? Forexample, if you really want to write a story about pigeons, you wouldneed to provide and work with what is known as a peg. The peg isthis “connection” to readers. For your pigeons story, you woulddiscuss the ways in which pigeons at University Hall bother studentswalking on campus. Your topic is pigeons, and your peg is studentsnear University Hall being bothered by them.
Types of Articles.Each category of article is written differently. News – news section Feature – such as ResLife Editorial– such as Op/Ed or Extinguisher Feature/Editorial – a column is a bit of both Sports – similar to news section
Important for Editorial, Column articlesThere are a couple important ideas to keep in mind when writingan article with your opinion throughout it, such as editorial orcolumn.Developing a personal voice. Your opinions are just asimportant as developing your own style of writing, your “voice” thatis specific to you. This will take time, but to really stand out as anopinion writer or columnist, you will hook readers and be able tohave regular readers by developing your “writing persona.”Professional yet creative/informal writing. It is not an easy lineto draw, but to get ideas across in a way that is tactful,professional, and well written and also personal and creative isthe best way earn respect from readers and your journalismpeers.
In every article… is the first sentence that News and Sports stories catches a reader’s attention, both use what is called a is often a summary, and is summary lead, meaning the single most important that all the most important part of your article, the lead. information from the story is in the lead. For every type of article, there are different types of Editorial, Feature, and leads that are generally used Column articles generally do and fit the format and style of not use summary leads, but the article style the best. use more creative leads since they are not straight news.
First we will start with News Story leads & style.News stories use a summary lead. For the summary lead,you must ask yourself:Who? What? When? Where? How?An important part of asking these questions of yourself isdeciding which parts are the most newsworthy.For example, if President Obama gets arrested, hisname is included in the headline. But, when “JohnSmith from Wrigleyville” gets arrested, his name is notnecessarily involved in the headline, but his charge willbe.
Organizing the Lead, Cont’dGenerally speaking, it is the “what” that is most important.For example, the “what” refers to what happens, such asan election, an arrest, an event, or anything that happenedor is currently happening.Next comes the “where” or the “who” depending onwhich is more important. For example, if a basketballgame was won, it is important to know that the UIC Girl’sbasketball team won it. Then would be “home” or “away”for the “where.”
News Story StyleNews stories are written using the Inverted Pyramid style. The lead, along with the all of the most important information following, goes in the first paragraph. The body paragraphs are composed of additional information, quotes, disclosures, etc. So, essentially, the inverted pyramid style is arranged in descending order of importance.
News Story Style Cont’dThe format and style of the inverted pyramid is used in every singlenews article across the world. It is the international standard formatfor news articles because it allows readers to get all of thenecessary information in the first paragraph, and if they choose toread on, they can get additional information about the story.Keep the concept of descending order of importance in mindwhen you decide which paragraphs should have which information.More important quotes go higher in the story, such as ones that aredirectly related or from primary sources. The same applies toadditional information.
Feature Leads & StyleFeature stories, such as ResLife and the Extinguisher, do not use thesummary lead. Instead feature stories use much more eye-catchingand creative leads because they are not “straight news.”Some different kinds of commonly used feature leads include… - Theanecdote lead. This would mean starting off your article with a shortnarrative or story, usually based on a person you are interviewing, tograb readers’ attention.-The Quote lead. This lead can encompass many different types ofquotes. While they are usually a very compelling quote from a relatedinterview, IF USED CORRECTLY, then a famous quote is appropriate.-The Question lead. This lead is literally a question being asked. Itcan be rhetorical, or part of a Q&A that was conducted during aninterview.Leads in these stories MUST be interesting. Get creative!
Feature StyleFeature story style is much more fluid than news story style. Basically,what this means is that you will follow (or break the rules of) a verybasic and easy to change format.The only real standards of this format to my knowledge meansfollowing journalism standards for writing, including.-Concise writing. This means you use “short and sweet” sentenceswithout getting too wordy. You can still be very creative as long as it isconcise.-Journalism-style paragraphs. Journalism paragraphs are short, nomore than a few sentences. The idea is that visually, this makes thestory easier to access for the reader. Every paragraph has a topicwhich is directly related to overall story topic.-Vocabulary. Typically in journalism, vocabulary must be at a 5thgrade reading level. If you would like to use “bigger words” ortechnical or occupation jargon, define the terms and explain theirmeaning.
Feature & General Style-Contractions. Typically in journalism, contractions are not usedunless they are from direct quotes. It just makes your writing soundmore professional when read - you can still have an informal toneand personal voice without using contractions.-Third Person Voice. It is important to be noted that no “I, me, we,us, our, my, etc.” is used in your articles unless they are columns.That is the only place the first person is used. This is because thefocus needs to be on the quality of your content and what messageyou are trying to get across, not necessarily your connection to it.
Editorial StyleEditorial style provides a great outline that is easy to follow and can bechanged at the discretion of the writer.State the problem/issue. This means you need to explain whatexactly what you are taking an opinion on.Provide evidence. In the body paragraphs, you are showing readerswhy you took the opinion you have, how you reached, and why theyshould believe the same. Essentially, this is where you informreaders.Who does this affect? This is important to add to your bodyparagraphs, as it helps the readers connect better to the story.Provide a solution. There is no point in complaining aboutsomething without suggesting what can or should be done. Thisneeds to be researched and thoroughly explained to be effective.