One of the essentials of becoming a journalist is writing a newspaper report. When writing the said report in the newspaper, it is essential that your report must be able to answer these following questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. But aside from these questions, the most important one remains to be: so what? The question “so what” refers to the impact of the said news report and how it affects the general public in any way. For instance, Cable News Network (CNN) reports that North Korea and US representatives will meet in Finland.
So what will this meeting mean to the American citizens? What about to the North Koreans or even the South Koreans? Who are the participants going to be? Will the concept of peace talks between the two countries push through? Is it going to be successful? And if ever it does, does that mean that North Korea is planning to go for denuclearization? These are the kinds of questions that the journalist needs to ask for the curious public to know and find out as they read about it.
According to the book The Elements of Journalism written by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their book, they stated that the first two principles of journalism would be to the truth and to its citizens. You may or may not be taking up journalism or any of its related courses, but it is important for you to know how actual journalists gather the news. You may also see news article outline example.
Normally, it would be the assignments editor or the desk editor that would give you the occasion or incident that you would need to write about. Other styles of journalism are better for things like profiles, advice articles, and opinion pieces. But there are times that they would not be around to hand you your assignment for the day. So what would you then? You may also see Interview Report Examples.
a. The first thing you can do is to ask around for story ideas, especially government officials and public relations representatives.
b. Take a copy of today’s newspaper and check for an interesting news article that piques your interest, or maybe you can scan the news to see what is already happening. This could lead to you finding other story ideas that are related.
c. Check for any updates in social media to find out about the local events that might be occurring soon.
d. Attend city council meetings to find out if there are any local issues happening in your area. For instance, you can sit in with the regional health department and listen to the seminars or any health advisories given by the doctors on a certain disease.
e. If you are assigned to cover as a court reporter, sit in on trials at the courthouse and see if anything interesting happens that you could report on.
Journalists are not office people. Let’s get that straight. They do not get their news by sitting in the office, browsing through social media just waiting for it to happen. The journalist has to go out and get his or her hands dirty (figuratively, and not literally nor morally). Once you find out what you want to write about, conduct some field work. It might take minutes, or it might even take hours, but regardless, you still need to go out there. It will be difficult to write about something that you are not present at. You may also see How to Write a Report.
a. Write down everything you see and everything that takes place.
b. Record and take notes of any speeches that occur at events. Make sure to get the names, position and contact details of the speaker in case you might have further questions or clarifications that need answering.
Who your interview will depend on what you are reporting on. But take note that you cannot interview just anyone. For instance, if your report will be about the effects of marijuana in the body, interviewing just any doctor would not suffice. You would need to interview a specialist whose field and research lies on these illegal drugs. You would want to get a broad range of quotes for your report, so try to interview an array of people.
Good people to interview are event coordinators, lawyers, police, business owners, volunteers, participants, and witnesses. If you need to find people to schedule interviews with them, use the internet to find contact information or gather contact information about them in the field. You can also interview people directly at the scene, depending on your news report topic.
a. If the story is controversial or political, make sure to get multiple points of view from different sides of the issue. In journalism, only getting two sides is considered “armageddon”, meaning it only represents a good and evil side.
b. Prepare a sample list of questions. But do not always stick with them. Ask more questions should the need arise to make your report as comprehensive as possible, making your story newsworthy.
c. Think of an interview as a conversation. Do not be too casual, and do not be too demanding as well. It is important to speak to someone with authority. You may also see Report Outline Examples.
d. Record the interview. But as you record the interview, make sure that you take down notes as well in the interview and jot the specific time frame as to when the answer was given so that you would not have to listen to the whole interview for that specific comment.
e. Make sure to get the full names (spelled correctly) of anyone you interviewed. Try to get their contact details as well so that you can ask them for further questions or clarifications.
This would probably be the most tiring of step of them all, but you gotta do it anyway. Every word, every pause, every sentence. Take note of them all. So that it would be easier on your part to find all the necessary quotes required for the story. In case if a certain quote needs clarification, best contact the source so that he or she can verify that.
Research, research, research. If you do not know something and would like to find out about it, Google it. Almost everything can be found on the Internet now. One important thing about conducting research is that you can add additional information about that certain topic which can make your story more substantial and newsworthy. You may also see Recommendation Report Examples.
There are elements that need to be considered when one writes a news report. In the book “The Daily Miracle: An Introduction to Journalism”, Conley and Lamble (2006) present these eight updated elements of news as the basis in determining newsworthiness for news stories that are being published namely: impact, conflict, timeliness, proximity, prominence, currency, human interest and unusual.
1. Impact. According to the proponents, an impact is equivalent to newsworthiness. This value not only represents a story’s importance to society but also mirrors a greater significance of the decisions one makes in his or her life.
2. Conflict. When one thinks about conflict stories, the first thing that would pop in mind would be issues surrounding murder, crimes of any scale, terrorist attacks, even political clashes and war between nations. Conflict-based stories usually entice interest to the general public. You may also see Progress Report writing.
3. Timeliness. This is the quality that pertains to “being news”. Currency and timeliness are both similar news values since they relate to the significance of the ‘when’ element.
4. Proximity. This value is particularly associated with the ‘where’ element of the story. Sometimes, proximity-based stories involving ethnic and cultural differences would result in gaps among the minorities and community at large. A national story can also be considered a local news story if the story is framed in a local context. You may also see Short Report
5. Prominence. This value most often associated with people who are highly recognizable locally, nationally and even internationally that the common public takes an interest in their solo lives as well. However, prominence is more associated with credibility than with position.
6. Currency. Also known as the concept of “now”, currency not only relates to controversy, trends but also towards lifestyle and technology. But in determining news value through currency leaning on a more serious light, the media must be able to assess on whether the strength and relevance of the new conditions being added to the ongoing story incite intellectual discussion. You may also see Business Report.
7. Human interest. One thing that comes to mind when human interest is mentioned is a feature or ‘soft’ stories in newspapers; though it can be said that all news stories possess a human interest to a certain degree. Human interest stories can range from humorous to tragic incidents to the basic necessities that are sometimes taken for granted like food clothes, and shelter, to rising social issues. It is these types of news that can sometimes ‘give a human face’ to the issue that can sometimes bring out the best of a person’s good heart and nature. You may also see Formal Report.
8. Unusual. And finally, there is the news value of the unusual which from the word itself, dictates that the story is simply out of the ordinary; not to mention it conflicts with existing practices and contradicts current trends as well.
Writing the news takes practice and skill that requires you to gather the necessary information that the public needs to be aware of. Most, if not all journalists follow a specific format called the inverted pyramid wherein the most important information is written first all the way down to the least important information. Remember that in news writing, a sentence is equivalent to a paragraph, so it is important to only place one thought per sentence in order for the article not to become too wordy in one paragraph. The inverted pyramid consists of four parts:
1. Lead. This opening paragraph is considered most essential part of a news report that can be written in one to two sentences or 27 words to be exact. A good lead manages to grab the audience’s interests and must answer the question: “So what?” The lead gives readers the most important information in a clear, concise and interesting manner. It also establishes the voice and direction of an article. You may also see Performance Report Examples
2. Context or Contrast or Controversy or Conflict. Context is defined as the parts of a discourse that surround a word (or in this case, an event). What parts do you think the audience already knows and what do you think is new they would need to know? Contrast presents the readers with opposites of the said issue.
3. Quote. Quotes add substantial basis to the said issue at hand, and it is one way to prove that the reporter is not lying and that the source has really said it. Quotes are also written to give the people a voice that allows them to be heard by society.
4. Core. The core is the final part of your news outline wherein all other supporting details that the journalist would want to include is going to be written there.
You may also see writing entertainment news outline to give you another idea on how the ‘soft’ news can be written. Writing the news is never easy. It is challenging and tough. There are days that the source will not answer your questions, or the story itself is bigger than it seems that you are not able to submit the story on time. It’s OK. Just remember to do what you can in your situation and be persistent!