So let’s be clear…
There’s no simple, droolproof, one-size-fits-all solution for organizing news material. Every story will unfold in a different way. Still, there’s nothing random about good writing. Every story needs a beginning, middle and end. You can’t just toss facts together into a news salad and expect readers to swallow it. If you want them to digest what you’re saying, you’ve got to organize each story’s overall structure. Here are some recipes.
WRITING THE STORY: Remember…
Keep PARAGRAPHS SHORT
- Short punchy grafs are easier for readers to absorb. One sentence paragraphs are acceptable in journalism.
Shoot for ONE IDEA PER SENTENCE
- Don’t make it complicated. The most important information belongs early in the sentence (NEWSFIRST).
TRANSITION between grafs
- Guide the reader through your facts using these helper transitions:
- However, in addition, meanwhile, last month, on a related issue, but, instead, finally
- Example: Teachers gave out $10,700 to students in the form of rewards and bribes in September. In addition, parents applauded the practice in the face of rising course costs. However, Nelson banned the practice Oct. 3, claiming it created an artificial academic environment.
Organizing Your Story: The Most Common Shapes
You may think news writing is a freestyle, seat of the pants, spur of the moment, sit down and just bang it out kind of thing.
Wrong. Write that way and your stories become clumsy, rambling jumbles of random facts and quotes.
Readers hate chaos. Confuse them and you’ll lose them.
So think before you write. Organize your ideas. Plan your story, whether by sketching a quick outline, visualizing a mental image or brainstorming with an editor- whatever helps you draw a road map for your story to follow.
If you get stuck, try carving your story’s structure into broad sections, such as
- The Problem
- How It Got This Way
- Where We Go From Here
Or try something like this:
- Look: This Person Has a Problem
- Uh-oh. The Problem Is Everywhere
- What the Experts Say
- What the Future Holds
- What It All Means for That Person We Met at the Start of the Story
That structure, it turns out, is quite popular with journalists, especially feature writers at the Wall Street Journal. To save time and effort, many crafty reporters automatically pour their stories into that tried-and-true shape (just like they pour breaking news into the inverted pyramid).
Yes, we know: Every story is unique. Still, if it helps you structure materiel by visualizing physical shapes and outlines, then consider the above options.