The Five Ws are Just the Beginning

Thorough reporting is essential to writing a complete news article, so don’t forget to ask the five Ws and how.

Who? Who did what to whom? Who was or who will be involved?

What? What did they do or what do they plan to do?

Why? Why did they do it or why are they planning to do this?

When? When did it happen or when will it occur? Be specific. If it is something that will happen over time, give the starting and end dates. If it is a one-day event, give the specific time and the date. If it already happened, the time and date should be readily available.

Where? Where did they do it or where will it happen? Again, be specific. Your readers will want more than your city or town. They’ll want the address or general location.

How? How did it or how will it happen?

Let’s say you are covering a government entity’s construction project. You’ll need to ask: Who is doing the construction? What are they building? Why are they building it? When will the construction happen? Where will the construction take place? And finally, how much will the project cost?

Don’t stop there. While the answers to these questions are crucial, they often don’t answer all the inquiries your readers may have. And sometimes the answers you receive generate additional questions you need to ask.

In this example, you asked about the cost of the project. But you also need to ask how the project will be funded and how many people will be employed.

When you are done asking your questions, ask your source if there is any supplemental information he or she would like to add. You might be surprised to learn they are using new, innovative techniques your readers will want to know about.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists,” which can be purchased as an e-book at

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About The Author

NACJ trainer

Susan Carson Cormier is a co-founder of the National Association of Citizen Journalists and co-author of the "Handbook for Citizen Journalists." As the head coach at the NACJ, Cormier is in charge of training citizen journalists the basics in how to report and write news, sports and feature stories.

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08 2011

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