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The structure of a news story

The structure of a news story

  1. 1. The structure of a news story BY ANNA SHORINA CHUVASH STATE UNIVERSITY
  2. 2. “I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short- term weapon.” – Tom Stoppard
  3. 3. Story structure You have several options when it comes to the structure of your story. You can choose a chronological order, where you present the key events in your story as they occurred. It is more likely, though, that you will use one of the three traditional news forms:  the inverted pyramid,  the narrative  or the hourglass.
  4. 4. The inverted Pyramid The most popular structure for news stories is the inverted pyramid. In the inverted pyramid, the information is arranged in descending order of importance.
  5. 5. The most important material is placed at the beginning of the story, and less important material follows. Succeeding paragraphs explain and support the lead.
  6. 6. On the other side… But the inverted pyramid has big disadvantages. Although it delivers the most important news first, it does not encourage good writing.
  7. 7. Many times stories do not have an ending crafted by the writer; they simply end. There is no suspense. Reporters tend to lose interest, time and energy. Writing in the second half of the story is casual at best, and poor at worst.
  8. 8. One alternative to the inverted pyramid is narration or story telling. Narration uses scenes, anecdotes and dialogue to build to a climax. People are prominent in the story, and they are responsible for the action. The story has a beginning, middle and end. Quotations sound like real speech. The words and actions of the characters reveal motives.
  9. 9. Why is it popular? The inverted pyramid is popular because it still serves readers well. It tells them quickly what they want to know. It also serves the reporter by forcing her to sharpen her news judgment, to identify and rank the most important elements of the story.
  10. 10. How to Structure News Stories There are a few basic rules for writing and structuring any news story. If you’re accustomed to other types of writing – such as fiction – these rules may seem odd at first. But the format is easy to pick up, and there are very practical reasons why reporters have followed this format for decades.
  11. 11. The inverted pyramid has faults, but its strengths are: It tells the reader quickly what happened. It forces the reporter to identify key elements in the story.
  12. 12. An Example Let’s say you’re writing a story about a fire in which two people are killed and their house is burned down. In your reporting you’ve gathered a lot of details including the victims’ names, the address of their home, what time the blaze broke out, etc.
  13. 13. Obviously the most important information is the fact that two people died in the fire. That’s what you want at the top of your story.
  14. 14. Other details – the names of the deceased, the address of their home, when the fire occurred – should certainly be included. But they should be placed lower down in the story, not at the very top.
  15. 15. And the least important information - things like what the weather was like at the time, or the color of the home - should be at the very bottom of the story.
  16. 16. The Story Follows The Lede The other important aspect of structuring a news article is making sure the story follows logically from the lede. The lede (that’s how journalists spell it) is the first paragraph of any news story. It’s also the most important.
  17. 17. So if the lede of your story focuses on the fact that two people were killed in the house fire, the paragraphs that immediately follow the lede should elaborate on that fact. You wouldn't want the second or third paragraph of the story to discuss the weather at the time of the fire.
  18. 18. A Little History The inverted pyramid format turns traditional storytelling on its head. In a short story or novel, the most important moment – the climax - typically comes near the very end. But in newswriting the most important moment is right at the start in the lede.
  19. 19. The format was developed during the Civil War. Newspaper correspondents covering that war’s great battles relied on telegraph machines to transmit their stories back to their newspapers’ offices.
  20. 20. But often saboteurs would cut the telegraph lines, so reporters learned to transmit the most important information – Gen. Lee defeated at Gettysburg, for instance – at the very start of the transmission to make sure it got through successfully. The newswriting format developed then has served reporters well ever since.
  21. 21. Telling the Story: Narrative Structure Telling a story that touches the heart is better achieved with narrative structure. Narrative structure has the same basic structure as a book; a beginning, middle and end. The story focuses on the people involved and offers the opportunity for dialogue and action.
  22. 22. Narrative style This format works better with feature articles that provide the time and space for character and story development.
  23. 23. The hourglass
  24. 24. Combining Facts and Storytelling: The Hourglass Structure Hourglass structure involves both the pyramid structure and the narrative structure of news writing. The first part of the article focuses on the facts of the story and compliments the facts by giving a narrative version in the second part. This story structure is well suited to news items that require a chronological narrative such as crime articles.
  25. 25. One of the strengths of hourglass organization is that it offers the reporter greater flexibility for some types of articles. As you can see by the graphic on your left, the typical hourglass article begins like an inverted pyramid article, and winds down the less important facts. At that point the reporter departs from the inverted pyramid approach and incorporates some sort of transitional paragraph. This paragraph is called the "turn."
  26. 26. Then the reporter builds up from less important facts to most important facts. Many times the second half of the article is an interview transcript, eyewitness report or 911 transcript. Most articles organized this way have a conclusion which circles back to the lead in a similar fashion to essay style.
  27. 27. Hourglass Style Basics 1.Begin with a summary lead. 2.Build your story from there with facts organized from most important to least. 3.About the middle of the article, build in a, "turn," the transitional paragraph. 4.Organize the second half of the article from least important to most important facts. 5.Use active voice colorful verbs throughout the article. 6.Build in a conclusion. The conclusion can circle back to the original lead.
  28. 28. Thank you for watching!
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