The art of reporting is the art of simplicity.
And as with the art of anything at all – it looks soooooo easy.
Which is what makes it an art.
Writing a news story is like writing a country music song – it’s deceptively complex.
And a fantastic skill to master if you’re willing to apply yourself to the task.
What is news?
News stories tell us something we didn’t know – that’s what news is: new.
So a news story isn’t necessarily long. It might only be a few pars (paragraphs). Or it might be much longer.
The 5 Ws
Regardless of how long your story is, it must answer five key points: who, what, where, when, why.
These are known far and wide as ‘the 5 Ws’.
Who, what, where, when, why.
Every story. Every time.
The first paragraph in any news story is called the ‘lead’.
The lead can be surprisingly hard to find.
Here’s a tip: you’ve just done a great interview. Imagine yourself racing home to tell your friend or partner about it – what’s the first thing you tell them?
The first thing that comes out of your mouth will be the news.
That news is your lead.
It’s the part of the story that gets your blood racing.
This is the news.
This is your lead.
The body of your story
The rest of your story must explain and justify your lead.
Remember, all claims must be substantiated and attributed – she said, he said.
Every sentence is a new paragraph.
Don’t waste them – every word must do a job and earn its place in your story.
Never use more than three quotes in a row.
Each series of quotes must be introduced by an explanation for the quotes to come.
The first quote must end with she said or he said.
News story example (find the ‘5 Ws’, note the lead, check out the quotes, what’s the news?)
CITIZEN JOURNALISTS – NO FIBS AND CSG
The campaign against coal seam gas mining along Australia’s eastern seaboard is the biggest grassroots movement to emerge in recent history.
And the nation’s newest media organisation – the No Fibs citizen journalist project – will focus its attention on reporting the campaign.
No Fibs’ founder, former Sydney Morning Herald journalist Margo Kingston, said the CSG movement had united communities like no other issue since the Vietnam War.
“For the first time in a very long time we have environmentalists lining up alongside farmers in a united cause, that crosses cultural, political and social divides,” she said.
“We are at a pivotal point for the future of both mining and the environment in this country.
“The decisions made now by our political representatives will decide once and for all whether and how mining rules our lives, and the costs we’re willing to wear for our land, our water and our communities.”
Ms Kingston said No Fibs was putting out a call for citizen journalists who were interested in reporting on the CSG campaign – which would be modeled on No Fibs’ coverage of the 2013 election campaign in the seat of Indi.
She said Cathy McGowan’s campaign in Indi had mobilised supporters from all political parties and social demographics (and successfully knocked out the Liberal Party’s Sophie Mirabella, who had held the seat for 12 years and was sitting on a 9% swing).
“These are exciting times and No Fibs intends to be there to report them,” she said.