A beginning writer recently asked about the difference between writing stories and writing the news.
With stories, the writer almost always starts at the beginning, expands on the story line and then winds up with an end. This format gives readers the enjoyment of becoming engaged in the story, becoming attached to the characters and the outcome.
A news story is just the opposite. In fact, reading a news story is like reading the end of the book first.
When you read a news story, you learn what happened in the first paragraph or two. You don’t have to dig through paragraph after paragraph of explanation to find that key information.
The first paragraph – or lead – summarizes the key items people want to know about a news event. The second and third paragraphs support the lead and provide additional answers, such as the how and why, and maybe even a quote. Succeeding paragraphs contain information that is secondary and can be listed in order of decreasing importance.
The information is organized this way so that it is easy for readers to understand the news quickly. It hits them head on, making it more convenient for them to quickly understand what happened and decide if they want to continue reading the article.
Readers who want just the basic facts without all the details can find it in those first few paragraphs and stop reading. Readers who want more details can keep reading to the end.
Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).