By Cheryl Bolen
TYPES OF ARTICLES
This announces an upcoming event with particular
emphasis on the 5 W's: Who, What, When, Where, Why? If you were writing
an advance for, say, a city council meeting, you would not write The
council will meet Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at 123 Main. You would try
to take the agenda item with the broadest appeal and use that in the lead.
Here's a professional advance lead: City
councilmen are expected to hike water bills at Tuesday night's council
meeting, set for 7 p.m. at 123 Main St.
THE NEWS STORY
A news story reports on an event which has already
occurred, again with emphasis on the 5 W's. Be sure to put the most
important thing that happened in the lead. A news story of a
baseball game, for example, should always start off with the final
result--the score, who beat whom, when, where and how. Never use
chronological order to artificially build suspense.
THE FEATURE STORY
Sometimes called the human interest story, the
feature is frequently a personality profile, but not always. It can be
historical or it can view a current problem or event from a historical
perspective. Since the best features are timely ones, the feature writer
should try to tie the story to a "news peg." For example, if
the Tenneco Marathon is coming up, write a profile of a local
runner. Or if a doll collection show is coming to your community,
profile a local collector. Remember, local newspapers want to run
stories about local people. There is a strong interest in localized
features on new trends. Some examples: Recycling efforts in your
community. (Give lots of facts and locations.) Programs in your
community for senior citizens. (Times and places) Gang activity in your
THE OP-ED PIECE
A guest editorial, often called op-ed (short for
opinion-editorial), appears in many publications. This usually deals
with a controversial subject in which the writer favors one side and
backs up his/her stand with a convincing argument documented with
supporting, factual evidence. Chances of publication are much greater if
you can localize the subject. Some sample topics: commuter rail from
Galveston to Houston, revamping the welfare system, gun control.
Trim all unnecessary words. This is a poor lead: The
Fan Club will be meeting at 7:00 PM on February 19th, 1994. Edited
for journalistic style, the sentence should read: The
Fan Club will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 19.
Most newspapers use a variation of the readily
available Associated Press Style Book. Some larger papers have
their own style books. These are but a few of the style rules common to
most journalistic style books:
When followed by a date, months are abbreviated,
except those five letters and less: March through July.
The year is rarely necessary in newspaper stories.
In writing times, omit the 00 which follows a colon
and lower case the a.m. and p.m., using periods.
Omit courtesy titles in front of names. Do not use
Mr., Miss, Mrs., Dr. (A few very old, traditional papers in the country
have continued to use Mrs. in front of a woman's surname in second and
Spell out numbers below 10; use numerals for all
numbers above nine.
After a person's full name is given once, just use
the surname in subsequent references.
Cheryl Bolen holds a journalism degree from the University of Texas,
where she was a staffer on the Daily Texan. She has written for a
variety of newspapers throughout Texas and served for 12 years,
non-consecutively, as news editor of the award-winning South
Belt-Ellington Leader. She has won writing awards from the Texas
Community Press Association and from the Houston Press Club.