Writing a newspaper article is different from writing a story. Newspaper articles require a different writing style. The most obvious difference is that in a newspaper article, all the important information is written in the opening paragraph. This includes answers to the questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. Newspaper articles are written in this particular and unique structure because for the major part, most people don’t bother reading a newspaper article in its entirety. They will not read the article all the way through so whatever important information or message you want to communicate, you have to fit it at the very beginning.
So what’s the purpose of a newspaper article?
Newspaper articles are articles on newsworthy topics, maybe an event or issue that will interest the mass. News articles about an event or issue aim to provide the reader of the article with all the facts pertaining to the news including answers to the questions who, what, where, when, why and how. Newspaper articles also commonly include statements, comments and opinions from experts or people involved in the news.
The different types of newspaper articles
Newsworthy topics vary in genre according to the target audience of the different newspapers. Therefore, while a national newspaper will normally aim to cover and report on national issues including finance, war and politics, newsworthy topics for a local community newspaper would usually be events that took place or will take place in the area. Local newspapers, in general, tend to favor emotional stories as newsworthy topics.
With that said, in addition to the different types of newsworthy topics, newspaper articles also differ in terms of how big the stories are. A major news article is likely to make it to the front page complete with a big headline and a very descriptive and moving visual component. These major stories often span several pages in addition to the front page with smaller related background stories. Newspaper articles about lesser stories are placed based on their importance or under different categories (world news, sports, finance).
Format and structure of a newspaper article
The format and structure of a newspaper article should take the shape of an inverted triangle. The important details are placed at the top of the article, the least important information at the bottom. Equally important, each paragraph in a news article should be kept as independent as possible. This is because paragraphs are often cut to fit in pictures and advertisements.
In general, a typical news article has 5 parts:
1. The headline
This is a relatively short but attention-grabbing statement about the news. Here you are going to have to be witty.
2. The Byline
This establishes who is reporting the news. So basically this covers who the author is.
3. The lead paragraph
The lead paragraph is going to contain all the most important pieces of data and information including crystal clear answers to the questions who, what, when, where, why and how. It is important to find answers to all of these questions and write them in the lead paragraph.
4. The explanation
Following the lead paragraph, the next paragraph will describe the news in a little more detail. Here, you will need to decide what other facts and information your reader would like to read about. Basically, you should have enough data about your story to be able to answer all possible questions that your readers might have about your news after reading the headline of the article and the lead paragraph. This section of the news article is also going to contain any quotes you may want to include in the article.
5. Additional information
This section is going to contain all the least important pieces of information. Basically, when writing this part, remember that if it happens that this section is omitted or shortened because say the news article is too long, it should not compromise any information you wrote in the above paragraphs. This section could for instance discuss a similar event.
Language features of a news article
The headline of a news article should serve the dual purpose of being informative and attention-grabbing. For this purpose, you can use any of the following:
- Short phrases
- Incomplete sentences
- Figurative language
- Aim for a clear and concise writing style.
- A news article is always written in 3rd person.
- You can use either an active or passive voice. This will depend on the focus of the article.
- Stay factual. Your writing should be accurate.
- A news article should include quotes, opinions, statements and observations from experts on the topic and people involved in the story.
- People in the story should be given labels, for example, “the Minister, Mr. Brown” so readers can identify them straight away.
- Avoid things such as racist, sexist or religious jargons.
- A news article should be balanced. Don’t be biased. Support both sides of the story.
The visuals of the news article
In a news article, the headline should use a size, font and color suitable to attract the reader’s attention. In general, the size of the headline is chosen relative to how big the news is with more important stories and events having bigger and bolder headlines.
In addition to the headline, a newspaper article should have the appropriate supporting pictures, graphs, graphics, maps and illustrations. These add interest and color for the readers.
Writing a newspaper article is no walk in the garden. It requires a set of skills that not many of us possess. It’s one thing to write a story and another to write about a story in the form of a news article. This guide should largely help you get started with writing news article but in addition to theoretical information and guidelines, you are also going to have to study a few newspaper article samples. These samples will serve to consolidate the theory you’ve just gone through.
Hint: In the sample news articles you study identify the different components that should be present in a good newspaper article so the headline, byline, lead paragraph and explanation. Also pay attention to the language specifics.