How to Write a Feature Story

A newspaper, or any news-delivering source, has a vastly selection of stories. How does one organize them all? The answer is that they are split into sections. For example, heavy news such as international or political stories can be found in the news section; any stories that revolve around the topic of sports can be found in the sports section, naturally. The art section is similar except this part of the paper is responsible for stories that are involved in the arts. The feature section, however, is different. When compared to the other newspaper section, the feature story section is unique.

The feature section of the newspaper is not …by the topic of the articles but rather by how the article is written. This section is distinguished by the quality of the writing instead. “Ask most people what a feature story is, and they’ll say something soft and puffy, written for the arts or fashion section of the newspaper or website. But in fact, features can be about any subject, from the fluffiest lifestyle piece to the toughest investigative report,” (About).

According to Entrepreneur, feature articles are articles “that speaks to a topic that’s of interest to a target audience but isn’t dependent on being newsworthy right at the moment it’s sent. That type of article is called a feature. A feature is an in-depth look at a topic, product or industry–it’s a complex story designed to be read at a leisurely pace. And a feature can benefit your company by linking your brand or product to a larger trend or industry focus while also showcasing you, the entrepreneur, as a thought-leader in your field. While a news release is designed to entice the reporter into finding out more information themselves, a feature’s designed to be used as is, or merely edited to fit the space available.” Despite this, certain topics are more likely to make this section then others. For example analysis and opinion on current issues, profiles of, or interviews with well known-people, humorous reflections, personal experience or anecdotes, online articles, background information on local, national or international events, magazine articles, human interest stories, background information and personal opinion on your interests (HubPages!).

When one is about to undertake the task of writing a feature article, regardless whether its for a newspaper or online source of news or something else entirely, there are a number of steps one must consider. Before even starting to write, a topic must be decided. As stated before, it is recommend to choose something that will draw the audience’s attention; so something current and interesting to a large section of people is ideal. It is also recommended that one choose something unique. While every topic is worthy of reporting, there a few of them that are constantly being talked about; such as global warming. That is interesting but overdone. Choose something that is different but still interesting enough to report, research, and write an article on it.

Research, which is always going to be step in writing any newspaper article, will be the next step. Student Voices from the New York Times claims that in order to properly research for a feature article one must interview. These interviews must be filled with asking good questions, in-depth details, listening well, keeping an opinion mind, and be willing and ready to probe for anecdotes. Using other sources of research are greatly recommended.

The next step is to devise a headline. “The headline is the most vital part of your feature. Treat the headline as if it were a summary of the article. Ask yourself, why is this story important? What about it will it grab readers’ interest? A good headline answers those questions by telling the reader something new, different or useful–in 20 words or less. Keep the wording simple, and avoid superlatives and emotive language. Also, avoid using a brand or client name in the headline unless it’s very well known. Instead, focus on what’s most interesting about your topic.” (Entrepreneur). The lead is a brief yet detailed paragraph or two that are only a mere 2 to three sentences that which provides a extension of the headline. This gives the reader a stronger idea of what the article is about and helps the reader determine whether or not they want to continue reading the article. It follows the headline. This is important, as most readers don’t have the time or patience to read the whole article.

The body of the article is the bulk of the written piece. This is when the writer complies all the research and puts it all into a single written piece. When writing the body, there are a few things that the reporter must keep in mind. For example “because a feature should be written from a journalistic perspective, you should emphasize information over outright promotion. Ideally, a feature editor won’t change the story at all and will use it when it’s needed as part of a theme or to fill space,” (Entrepreneur). It is advised to focus on the human element as well. This is what separates the feature section from the others and why the reader even picked it up in the first place. It should be embraced.

As for writing the article, Entrepreneur states that a reporter should start with an expansion on the lead; this means that feature articles start with the bare essential details because if the article has sections that need to be cut, then at least the concept of the story was still understood.

As the article expands, provide more details. Using quotations is an excellent way to do this. They lend authority to the article, introduce an export, and further the story. They also introduce personal feelings, comments, and opinions. Naturally, this is where the reporter would use superlatives without sounding false. Quotes should also be written in a conversational manner. Quotes are a useful tool as people are more likely to pay attention if there are more than just stated facts.

The amount of detail added to the article should develop the story further and hold the interest of the reader. This is where all the extra information should be placed. This adds strength to the article but if the reader stops reading, then they are only missing the icing on the cake. Photos are helpful in explaining the story and can draw the attention to the article in the first place. Adding one can determine the difference between the article getting published or it being rejected.

The feature article is a unique story among the other newspaper sections. While certain topics are more likely to get chosen, the quality of how it is written is what makes it for it really is. It is different but special and should be treated as such.

 

 

References

http://journalism.about.com/od/writing/a/whatarefeatures.htm

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/166662

http://similarsam.hubpages.com/hub/feature-article

https://www.nytimes.com/learning/students/writing/voices.html

http://freelancewritingsolutions.com/how-to-write-a-feature-article/

How to Write Strong Headlines

Upon first opening a newspaper, the first thing that catches the eye, other than the picture if there is one, is the story’s headline. The headline is the “title” of the article. It is usually found near the top of the article and in a larger font than the story, although not always. It is a one-sentence summarization of the story that readers use to determine whether or not the article is of interest and/or importance to them. As a result, it is the headline that determines whether the article will be read or if the article will be completely ignored in favor of one of the other stories. “The importance of headlines cannot be understated. For many editors, can seem like added burdens; the stories are what really count. Headlines are far too often written last (often quickly and under deadline pressure),” (Columbia). Contrary to this claim, writing a strong headline is imperative to any journalist (or any provider of news).

Writing a headline is a step in the article process that either receives a quantity of attention or barely any. In disregard to the journalist’s opinion of its importance, the headline must be written and there are a number of little ’tips’ to ensure the headline is the best it could be. For example, Columbia.edu states that when writing a headline one should highlight intrigue, contrast or conflict within central theme, and to use key words. They continue to advise to avoid lazy writing; to not settle for the first attempt. Seeking the input of others and listen to those who object is another piece of advice they had stated.

When writing a headline, Columbia continues to on the subject and states that the headline must be correct (in fact and implication), must connect to ordinary readers (be easily understood), must attract attention (using interesting, active words), and must set (or match) tone of the article. They also advise to “Never allow cute, creative headlines to blind you to the need for accuracy. Be alert to headlines that have unintended meanings.”

There are other Headline Rules, according to Radford. For example, “Headlines should tell something – Don’t write non-heads… Conjunctions, prepositions and modifiers should not be placed at the end of a line. Don’t split modifiers…Don’t modify modifiers…Headlines should usually have a verb; if not, it should be a better head without it…Fill out the count. Don’t leave trapped white space…Cutting can improve most stories.”

If the story is a news or feature article, then Columbia states that when writing a headline one include keywords from the article and the journalist should be quick but not to hurry; “don’t allow the goal of “pushing pages” before deadline to short-circuit the need to write accurate, clear, tasteful headlines. Remember: readers start here.”

If the article is news, “Play it straight, summarize the news.” If the article is feature, “Be creative. Tease, flirt, hint – but don’t give away lead. Use freshened clichés, creative puns, twists of ad slogans, well-known sayings,” (Columbia).

When verbs are going to be included in it, the headline should be written in active action verbs. Short verbs are better. Connotations should be examined as well as the context for unintended messages. If no verbs are going to be used, “use creative, attractive hammers of one to three words,” (Columbia).

According to G.S Virdi (Ten Secretes of Writing Effective Headlines), the TACT test is one way to ensure an effective headline. Go through The Taste-Attractiveness-Clarity-Truth Test and make sure each category is YES. Is it in good taste, would it offend anyone in anyway? Does it attract the reader’s attention? Does it communicate clearly, quickly? Is it accurate, true? If there is a single NO, then re-write the headline.

Columbia.edu’s page on how to write a strong headline had a list of Do-and-Don’ts. For example, “Make the headline easy to read. The key purpose of the head: to communicate…Don’t mislead reader…Don’t exaggerate; maintain neutrality…Remember the rules of grammar and use them…Don’t begin with a verb …Use present tense to indicate past…Don’t use present tense to indicate future unless necessary; add time element for clarity….Don’t use said, when you mean said to be…Don’t use feel, believes or thinks…Avoid slang unless relevant to feature story and headline. These tips are only few of a vast list.

Writing a headline is a unavoidable part of writing a story. Some newspaper journalists don’t have to write their headlines while other papers require it. Some find it annoying while others find it as a chance to be clever and witty. Regardless of whether or not one enjoys writing it, the headline is one of the first things the eye is drawn to and as a result, one of the most important parts of the whole article.

 

 

 

 

Sources

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/journalism/isaacs/client_edit/Headlines.html

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1WxqY_OljcCHXwIUymxC6UwKqjDuY1mOw6uX5QSj52Q/embed?slide=id.i67

http://www.radford.edu/~wkovarik/class/design/328/328.headlines.html

Shattered Glass Review

Shattered Glass is a film that’s based on a true event. Hayden Christensen plays college student, Stephen Glass, interning or at least working part-time at a high class magazine called the New Republic. Glass has a real talent for writing; unfortunately, he tends to lean more towards fiction then fact. The main premise of the film is the fact that he writes articles for this prestige magazine that are untrue. “He handed us fiction and we printed them as fact because we found them interesting.”

He provides fake stories that are printed as fact. The story delves into how he got away with such a con and how it all fell apart in the end.

I empathize with Glass in the beginning. He is working on a piece that he hopes to get published in the Times magazine. He’s afraid it isn’t good enough despite the praise he gets from his fellow journalists who read and review it for him. As a writer myself, I am aware of the fear that your work will not please everyone. It is a cruel reality of writing anything. However, if you can’t please the right people, then the piece won’t get anywhere.

Throughout the film, Glass’s personality reveals itself through his actions and his interactions with other people. In my opinion, the analysis of Glass and his interactions are the vocal point of the film.

When the New Republic editor is replaced with another one, Chuck, Glass and everyone else treat him with disdain. They valued their previous boss and seeing him replaced with someone else didn’t sit well. Upon first viewing, I wondered if there was a father-son bond between Glass and the previous editor. From the way he acted and the way Glass went to him when he was falling apart due to his con starting to fail later in the film seems to imply that Glass saw him as a parental figure. However, one gets a sense of brownnosing or genuine regret when he then goes to Chuck to apologize for their behavior. Is he a brownnoser or someone who feels genuine regret? Unfortunately, time and time again he displays brownnosing traits more than anything else.

He also shows traits of being a people-pleaser by being extremely complementary of other people, past the point of being merely polite and dismissing himself in times where people would disagree and think he’s the best guy anywhere. His habit of always apologizing or asking child-like questions such as, “Are you mad at me?” or “Did I do something wrong?” also displays his people-pleasing personality. It’s as if he can’t stand being thought as anything less than the little perfect puppy that would cry if kicked and needs to be protected.

In addition to brownnosing and being a people-pleaser, Glass seems to crave attention. This could be the primary reason he concocted his fake stories. Fiction is always much more interesting than reality so he came up with stories that would stand out and receive praise from his adult colleagues. This desire could also stem from having a low self-esteem. Being 24 and a college student with a real job yet still living under the thumb of his parents could be responsible.

Stephen Glass almost single-handily destroyed a professional magazine through his lies. His con, while brilliantly set up and defended (except for a few instances), was knocked down by excellent work and through Chuck and others through research and catching the holes in Glass’s con. They caught the threads and pulled the whole thing apart. Truly magnificent on their part.

Shattered Glass is a film perfect for analysis on the main character as well as being amazed on the rigorous fact-checking news sources must undergo and will undergo if there is the slightest doubt in the reporters’ claims. Lies may hide for some time but sooner or later they will shatter like glass.

 

 

Feature Story

Being Scared: Is it a heart-pounding Trick or a delightful Treat?

Scene: Its 1960 and a lovely young woman with blond hair is in a bathroom. The music is calm and causal. She causally disrobes and steps into the shower. The camera cuts to different angles of her scrubbing her arms and neck. The camera cuts once more and, from beyond the curtain, the viewer can see the bathroom door slowly open. The woman, however, doesn’t notice. A faint outline of an old lady with her hair in a bun can be seen entering the room and walking towards the shower. And then with a knife in her hand, the curtain is sharply pulled back. The woman turns around and screams. The music cuts to the violin being sharply strung as the old lady slashes and stabs her with a knife. She slashes and slashes until the young woman falls over dead, her screams dying with her. The camera fades out while the viewer watches as blood is washed down the drain.

Psycho (1960) is ranked amongst one of the greatest films of all time, according to IMDB. It has been called one of Hollywood’s finest slasher movies of its time and has since then redefined the horror genre. Despite decades having passed since its release and cinema’s evolution, its fame is still as strong as ever and manages to continue frightening viewers to this day (that is, when it isn’t be used as a parody due to its vast fame).

Ever since horror films first hit the silver screen, certain people have flocked to theaters to witness these frightening films; whether the fear is from the gore or from a more psychological perspective. However, other people do not share their appetite for horror and thus choose to avoid those films. But why? Why do only certain people enjoy the concept of being scared while others find no such pleasure?

While humans generally know that the things they witness on the big screen are only fiction, their brain and body didn’t get the memo. These images are enough for the body to push the body into a flight or fight response. It gives the body a shot of adrenalin that courses through their system and blood in a sudden jolt. The breathing rate will quicken as well as the movement of their eyelids and pupils. Their heart rate is at its peak, pounding and trying to keep up with the body’s demand for energy, and probably feels as if it’s about to burst through their chest similar to a baby Xenomorph XX121.

This reaction is a biological threat assessment that has existed in humans ever since their conception.

“The flight or fight response is a theory that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system…If a stimulus is perceived as a threat, a more intense and prolonged discharge of the locus ceruleus activates the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. The activation of the sympathetic nervous system leads to the release of norepinephrine from nerve endings acting on the heart, blood vessels, respiratory centers, and other sites. The ensuing physiological changes constitute a major part of the acute stress response. The other major player in the acute stress response is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis,” (Psychologist World).

The people that enjoy these films all share a common thread. They enjoy this. The sense of being in a life or death situation, or at least their body believes it is, in a non-dangerous way is delightful to them. Dr. Craig A. Sullivan says, “People like to be scared! They get that adrenaline rush when there is no real danger to worry about!”

Horror activities have always been held in the human imagination. Humans “are enticed by the sheer mysterious characteristics of stories that involve characters and activities of superhuman or horror proportions. This is something which is synced with the general psyche of the human brain that whatever is not really in the confines of their materialistic realization is bound to tickle their imaginative node and become an entertaining piece for them. This is a pretty common trend amongst people and can be traced back to time immemorial when the artists used to recreate some gory scenes and the audience was left in a state of awe and virtual fear. Horror movies is a genre that is very well established because of the fact that people like to watch scenes that are right out from their nightmares. People with appetite for this genre express exaltation when they are able to look at people flying across halls and discretely dangerous looking characters shredding through human flesh and bones,” (Pukish).

However, as stated earlier, other people may not share such an appetite. Instead of delight and pleasure from the thrill of the film, these people get the opposite. They get no thrill from the fear and instead get the fear by itself. When their body kicks into the flight-or-flight response, it is not enjoyable. These movie-goers do not find pleasure in the thrill of those films. Despite knowing that the film is nothing more than a work of fiction, it leaves them with an unwelcome sense of paranoia that the man with a chainsaw is just outside their door.

Cynthia Griffith, a non-horror fan, says, “I don’t know why I don’t like horror movies. But, I guess some people don’t because it gives them an unwanted paranoia. They feel like they can’t take a shower in a motel or even in their own house then. They can’t relax!”

Perhaps another reason is because the knowledge that some horror movies are based on real life or that similar fates can befall in real life can weaken their suspension of disbelief. Murder, even the most gruesome, can happen outside of a camera’s shot. It can be real. And it doesn’t stop just because someone yells, “Cut!” It can happen and it can happen to them. That would really take the buzz off and replace it with genuine fear.

Some have no reason why they don’t like horror films. They don’t like them because they don’t like them. It is as simple as that. Or they have some personal reason that is unique to them and to them alone.

The horror genre is only one among many genres a movie can fall under. It is all perception on whether someone will enjoy them or not. Perhaps they love the thrill (hence why some of those films are called ‘thrillers’) while others do not. The reasons can vary depending on the individual person. All that matters is that there are countless movies for all tastes to enjoy.

 

Sources

http://www.pukish.com/body-reactions-when-watching-horror-movies/

http://www.psychologistworld.com/stress/fightflight.php

http://www.imdb.com/list/ls055592025/

 

 

Editing for Facts and Grammar

Whenever someone writes a story / article for any news-giving source, one must be absolutely sure that everything is correct. After the piece is written, it undergoes an editing process. Everything is checked and re-checked until it can be said with the upmost certainty that this piece is correct. From the facts to the grammar, nothing can be wrong. Newspapers and professional magazines in particular live by this code most fiercely ( It would appear the New Republic scandal involving Stephen Glass did nothing but reinforce this firm belief).

Before a piece is considered suitable to be published, it is editing for authenticity. The grammar is simple to check with the grammar check in a word document. For example, if a one word has a red squiggly line underneath it, then the word is spelled wrong. This is quickly fixed (unless the spelling is so off that the computer doesn’t have any words in its dictionary that closely resembles the misspelled word). If there is a green squiggly line under a whole selection or words, then there is a sentence fragment. If the squiggly line is blue, then there is something like a dash or a comma missing from the word.

However, according to grammar.ccc.edu, “Grammar checkers are available on many word processors. They are far less reliable than spellcheckers, but they are becoming quite sophisticated. Some grammar checkers are quite good at pointing out potential problems and even suggesting possible solutions. Don’t be bullied by your grammar checker, though. The computer can easily catch extra-long sentences and alert you to the fact that a particular sentence is really long. It’s quite possible, though, that you need a really long sentence at that point, and if the sentence is well built (i.e., not a run-on sentence), let it stand. If there are several sentences that the computer judges to be extra-long, however, that’s probably an indication of a serious problem and some of those sentences might be better off broken into smaller units of thought.”

If the paper is handwritten, it is during this stage when the piece is typed and “polished up” so it sounds better. This is done through inserting better vocabulary, making sure the sentences flow more smoothly with each other, and / or ensure the right form is used such as possessive form. Commas being its right place and not being over-used are another grammar correcting concept one must keep in mind when editing one’s written piece. “The real keystone to good writing in any format is proper grammar. While grammar may refer to a very specific set of structural ideas for a linguist, to the average person it is a wide ranging term that is used to describe the varied ‘rules’ of the written word. On the surface level, this can include such simple items like correct spelling and proper usage of punctuation,” (Grant Pearsall). If said piece follows the rules of grammar, then little editing must be done for this part of the process but if the piece did not, expect a lot of red ink on the paper.

Fact-checking is more perilous than grammar-checking. The use of credibility is very important. “CREDIBILITY is the tie that binds all types of journalism across all media. Reporting the news is a type of public service– curating the facts from a day’s events and reporting them in an easy to consume fashion allows the public to stay informed on their world. But this credibility can be jeopardized when mistakes are allowed into the copy. These errors can range from innocent grammatical mistakes, outright factual inaccuracy, or interpreting data in a way that misrepresents the facts. Big or small, the result of making these mistakes are pinholes in the hull of credibility; If too many appear the ship will sink,” (Grant Pearsall).Make sure the sources for the piece’s facts are accurate, not bias, and current.

Whenever someone writes a story / article for any news-giving source, one must be absolutely sure that everything is correct. The grammar and the facts are the two most likely concepts to get scrutinized. After the piece is written, it undergoes a heavy editing process. Depending on the publishing the source, the more heavy the editing process will be. Everything is checked and re-checked until it can be said with the upmost certainty that this piece is correct. From the facts to the grammar, nothing can be wrong. Newspapers and professional magazines in particular live by this code most fiercely.

 

Sources

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/composition/editing.htm

https://granttpearsall.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/editing-for-facts-and-grammar/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/15/AR2010011502419.html