Hard news and feature stories tend to be very different from one another regarding the ways in which they are written and reported. We’re going to learn today how to differentiate between the two and encourage you to think about different ways to tell stories. Then, we’ll go through the structure of a feature story, learning how to write all the different parts.
So, what is a news feature? It is different from hard news or breaking news in that it usually not as structured and rhythmic. However, that does not mean they are necessarily less serious in tone, though they can be. Feature stories do not typically use inverted pyramid format to go from most important to least important, and unlike hard news, which are usually focused on crime, crashes, or breaking government news, features can be on any topic. For example, a story on a person getting arrested for a robbery would be considered a hard news story, written briefly and in inverted pyramid. But a story about robberies increasing in an area due to rising poverty rates would be a more substantial news feature, requiring a lot more reporting and organized, interesting writing. For more explanation of the differences between hard news and feature stories, refresh your memory by going back over pages 16 & 17 in chapter 1.
While news features can really be on any topic, here are some that you would commonly see written in a feature format rather than hard news…
The primary purposes of a feature story are to inform and compel readers. Your news feature should make the reader care about the topic and understand completely its impact on him or her personally. To accomplish these goals, your features should answer four questions in detail…
Let’s take a look at the basic structure for news features. Typically, they will include…Your book does an excellent job explaining news features in detail in chapter 8, story organization, which walks you through all of the elements of and techniques for writing a news feature. It also provides great examples of each element you see here.
Let’s begin with the feature lede…
There are five types of feature ledes you can use…I have sent you a handout giving examples and explanations of each of these feature ledes. Please take a look at it now. Also, be sure to review the pages in chapter 7 that I assigned you, pp. 134-148, for more examples of these ledes and their use.
Your feature ledes should still be one sentence, but you can have a longer lede in using other paragraphs. Look at the example here. “Josie Stone thought she was prepared” is just one simple line, conveying mystery and piquing the reader’s interest. Next, the lede in gives some more information…
When writing a feature lede, there are a few things you should NEVER do…
Next, let’s move onto nut graphs. The nut graph is the most important part of the story because it conveys the main point of the story and tells the reader why he or she should care. They are sort of like summary ledes in that way, as they may include many of the 5 w’s: who, what, when, where, and why. Depending on how you structure your story, the nut graph usually appears in the second to fifth graph. It is typically one to two sentences (as all of your paragraphs should be), though more detail might make it so that your nut graph needs an additional paragraph of explanation. In some cases, you might still use a summary lede for a news feature. In those cases, your nut graph and lede may, in fact, be the same thing. The fortunate thing about news features is that you have more of a chance to be creative and tell the story in interesting ways.
If you remember nothing else about nut graphs, remember it should accomplish these two things…
Let’s look back at this example. (read) You’ll note that we find out what the story is truly about. It is not actually about the hurricane, as that has passed. The story is actually about the government helping people recover after the hurricane. This is a key point – you can give some background in the lede and nut graph, but ultimately, your nut graph should tell the reader what the rest of the story will be about. Also, this nut graph illustrates to readers why they should care. If they were affected by the hurricane, they may soon receive some help. Those who do are likely to read on.
Your lead quote is going to be the first quote of the story, typically just above or just below the nut graf…
Take a look at this quote.. (read) Note that it conveys real emotion from the source that sounds much better than anything the reporter could have paraphrased on his or her own.
We have already talked a bit about transitions before…
When providing background information in a story, it should only be included if it helps tell or explain the story...
You will use quotes throughout the rest of your story to convey emotion and add context. You want to try to gather quotes that really summarize a source’s point of view on the topic. Here is an example of a good and bad quote…
One of the best ways to conclude a story is with a good summary quote…
Let’s go over some tips for writing good news features…
To help you practice for your assignment you will receive tomorrow, please open the practice prompt I provided for you. For five extra credit points, please complete it and send it to me by 5 p.m. tomorrow. We will go over it in tomorrow’s lecture, so please complete it before you view the lecture. If your story looks too much like my examples tomorrow, I will not award you the extra credit points…
Lecture 5: Feature writing
News features Jennifer Coxhttp://cmat240summer.wordpress.com
objectives• Begin to differentiate between hard news & feature writing• Encourage you to think about different methods for telling stories• Learn to write feature ledes and stories
What’s a feature?• Different from breaking news, hard news• Not necessarily less serious• Don’t always use inverted pyramid• Tend to feature different topics: • Hard news: crime, crashes, government • Hard news: robbery of a local store • Features: ANYTHING! • Feature: robberies on the rise in Salisbury
Common topics• Lifestyle (food, home, garden, fashion, pets)• Health (trends, medicine, fitness)• Science & technology (studies, trends, new products)• Entertainment (celebrities, music, art, movies, theater)• Environment• Education
purposeMain goals: inform & compel readersFeatures should answer these questions in detail: • Why did this happen or why is this happening? • How will it affect readers? • How did this come about? • What happens next?
Feature skeleton• Feature lede• Lead quote• Nut graph• Transitions• Background information• Descriptive quotes• Closing (either an summary end quote or more information)
Feature ledes• Also called soft, narrative or delayed ledes• Sometimes used to convey a less serious/direct tone• Can be more catchy and creative• Sometimes use non-verbal descriptions• Set the tone of the story• May include a hint of mystery• Should lead the reader in to the nut graph and lead quote
ExampleLede Josie Stone thought she was prepared.Lede-in But when Hurricane Ivan plowed through South Florida and her backyard, she saw the error of her ways. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Stone, 20, of Sunrise. “I thought the walls might tumble in on me at any minute.” Stone, like many South Floridians, lost her home during the aggressive hurricane that swept through the area Monday night. Now, government officials are setting out to help those in need.
Lede no-nos!• Don’t lead with a quote• Don’t lead with a question • What happens when a fire station shuts down?• Don’t use 2nd person • Your taxes may soon increase compliments of a new bill being debated by legislators.• Don’t use clichés • It’s that time of the year again…• Don’t use good news/bad news ledes • The good news: teachers won’t lose their jobs. The bad news: tuition is on the rise.
Nut graphs• The MOST IMPORTANT part of the story!• Convey the point of the story• Sort of like summary ledes• Usually found somewhere in the 2nd-5th graph • 1-2 sentences • In some cases, they are more than one graph• May be the lede (depending on the story)
Nut graph tips • Tell me what this story is about • Tell me why I should care• Write the nut graph first• Every sentence should relate back to your nut graph• Numbers often equal impact • The storm damage cost residents $40,000.
Example Josie Stone thought she was prepared. But when Hurricane Ivan plowed through South Florida and her backyard, she saw the error of her ways. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Stone, 20, of Sunrise. “I thought the walls might tumble in on me at any minute.” Stone, like many South Floridians, lost her home during theNut graph aggressive hurricane that swept through the area Monday night. Now, government officials are setting out to help those in need.
Lead quote• Usually located right before or after the nut graf• Should describe a key source’s feelings about the topic• Must convey real emotion, not just details• Should set the tone of the story
Example Josie Stone thought she was prepared. But when Hurricane Ivan plowed through South Florida and her backyard, she saw the error of her ways.Lead quote “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Stone, 20, of Sunrise. “I thought the walls might tumble in on me at any minute.” Stone, like many South Floridians, lost her home to the aggressive hurricane that swept through the area Monday night. Now, government officials are setting out to help those in need.
transitions• Used to move smoothly from point to point• Block similar points/ideas together• Quotes often help transition: “It was a nightmare,” Adams said. Police began their search after receiving an anonymous tip Wednesday night.• Use transition phrases to move to background info: • (use this to move into sequential storytelling) In recent years, officers stepped up their enforcement as the crime rates ballooned.
Background info• Use background info to help tell the story• Tell the story sequentially to keep it organized• If your lede begins in the middle of the story, start from the beginning after your nut graf/lead quote• Use layman’s terms to keep things simple
quotes• Should always relay source’s feelings/emotions about the topic• Should summarize source’s point of view “When that tree came through the roof, I didn’t even think,”Jones said. “I just grabbed my kids and ran.” “The tree came through the roof at about 9 p.m.,” Jonessaid. “It caused about $1,000 worth of damage to our house.”
endings• Use a summary quote to end “At the end of the day, we learned our lesson about trying to surf during a hurricane,” Jackson said. “We won’t do it again.”• Give future information Commissioners will meet again Tuesday to decide whether to approve the bridge proposal.• Give contact information For more information, visit the Putnam County website at www.putnamcounty.gov, or contact Kristy Smith at 904- 434-9009.
Tips for writing features• Stay focused – don’t bounce around between topics• Be a storyteller – tell the tale you would like to read• If it doesn’t interest you, it won’t interest the reader• Vary the pace – follow long sentences with short, punchy ones• Use simple sentences to convey complex info
Extra credit/practice • Due by 5 p.m. Tuesday (before you view lecture) • Two parts: • Write three feature ledes • Select one and write a 4-5 paragraph story • Include: • Feature lede • Nut graph • Quote • Contact information
announcements• Extra credit practice due by 5 p.m. tomorrow• Read chapter 6, Interviewing Techniques• AP style quiz available tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.