1. Research your topic.
To begin writing a news article, you need to research the topic you will be writing about extensively. In order to have a credible, well written, well-structured article, you have to know the topic well.
- If you’ve ever written a research paper you understand the work that goes into learning about your topic. The first phase of writing a news article or editorial is pretty similar.
- Begin by asking yourself the “5 W’s” (sometimes “6 W’s”).
- Who – who was involved?
- What – what happened?
- Where – where did it happen?
- Why – why did it happen?
- When – when did it happen?
- How – how did it happen?
2. Compile all your facts.
- Once you can clearly answer the “5 W’s”, jot down a list of all the pertinent facts and information that needs to be included in the article. Organize your facts into three groups:
- 1) those that need to be included in the article.
- 2) those that are interesting but not vital.
- 3) those that are related but not important to the purpose of the article.
- This fact list will help prevent you from leaving out any relevant information about the topic or story, and will also help you write a clean, succinct article.
- Be as specific as possible when writing down all of these facts. You can always trim down unnecessary information later, but it’s easier to cut down than it is to have to beef up an article.
- It’s okay at this point to have holes in your information – if you don’t have a pertinent fact, write down the question and highlight it so you won’t forget to find it out
- Now that you have your facts, if your editor has not already assigned the type of article, decide what kind of article you’re writing. Ask yourself whether this is an opinion article, an unbiased and straightforward relaying of information, or something in between.
3. Create an article outline.
Your outline, and subsequently your article, should be structured like an inverted triangle. The inverted triangle allows you to build your story so that the most important information is at the top.
- If you’ve ever heard the term “burying the lead”, that is in reference to the structure of your article. The “lead” is the first sentence of the article – the one you “lead” with. Not “burying the lead” simply means that you should not make your readers read several paragraphs before they get to the point of your article.
- Whatever forum you’re writing for, be it print or for the web, a lot of readers don’t make it to the end of the article. When writing a news article, you should focus on giving your readers what they want as soon as possible.
- Write above the fold. The fold comes from newspapers where there’s a crease because the page gets folded in half. If you look at a newspaper all the top stories are placed above the fold. The same goes for writing online. The virtual fold is the bottom of your screen before you have to scroll down. Put the best information at the top to engage your readers and encourage them to keep reading.
4. Know your audience.
- Ask yourself the “5 W’s” again, but this time in relation to your audience.
- Questions like what is the average age you are writing for, where is this audience, local or national, why is this audience reading your article, and what does your audience want out of your article will inform you on how to write.
- Once you know who you are writing for you can format an outline that will get the best information to the right audience as quickly as possible.