Writing the News

How to write a news story for Newswire21

All Newswire21 news stories include five basic parts that should appear in the first portion of the story. A story may build on those parts by adding details, quotations and examples – or it may simply stop after providing those basic elements. But it cannot be published unless it includes those basic parts.

Part 1: The “lede” is the first paragraph. It includes the who, what, where, when and why of the story.

A panel of experts (who) reported on Tuesday (when) that the Acme Middle School (where) must close permanently (what) because of earthquake damage (why.)

Part 2: The second paragraph should add detail.

The panel of three geologists and two school administrators found that cracks in the foundation damaged the structural integrity of the entire building. Another strong quake could cause the school to collapse, the panel said.

Part 3: An expert source, usually in the form of a quote.

“We simply cannot take the chance of a tragedy of that proportion. And we cannot repair the damage that has already occurred,” said Susan Smith, a budget analyst who works for the California Department of Education.

Part 4: An explanation of the importance of the news to the community.

The report raises questions of where the school’s 800 students will attend class on a permanent basis. They are currently crowded into classrooms in other schools, and school district officials say they lack funds to build a new school.

Part 5: Ensure balance by presenting differing viewpoints.

To be sure, not all panelists agreed. John Jones, a private geologist with a background in construction, said he believed the school could be repaired at a reasonable cost. “Such repairs would minimize the potential of collapse,” he said.

Note: These elements may vary slightly in their order and style, particularly when stories are about community activities, sports, culture or other lighter matters. But writers should always strive to answer “the 5 Ws,” provide different points of view, provide context, add detail, and include a notable quotation of key participants.

If you have trouble with these elements in your story, consult with your editor.

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