How to Write a News Report
By Paul M. J. Suchecki, eHow Member
By its definition news is immediate. Facts unfold as you gather them. You want
to be accurate rather than sensational, telling the truth not opinion, no matter
how strong your beliefs are. I’ve written for newspapers and television, both
very different animals. Here are some pointers:
First collect your facts. Ask the classic questions: Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. As a
story progresses you might have to run with information before every scrap of news is in, but your
audience or readers have come to expect that you acknowledge these points even if what you
know now is deficient. If after a bad accident you don’t know the cause include that information.
Start with a strong lead. Hook your viewers or readers with the most intriguing aspect of a story
up front, otherwise they won’t bother reading the rest of it. I recently wrote and produced an Earth
Day television package on solar power. Since sun power itself, is no longer news, I reminded
viewers that it was Earth Day, then asked if they would be interested in free electricity. It was a
good hook in days of rising energy costs.
Newspaper articles usually employ the classic inverted pyramid style where all of the five W’s and
H that I mentioned earlier are handled in a single paragraph long sentence. In contrast, television
news is more conversational. There the lead is usually delivered on camera prior to going to
video, which is a major part of the story.
Shun the passive voice. Use simple declarative sentences with a lot of vivid action verbs. Eschew
words like “eschew.” Don’t try to impress people with how intelligent you are. Write simply and
actively as if you’re trying to reach a best friend and tell her the latest that happened today. Don’t
write, “Paris Hilton was taken into custody.” Write “Sheriff deputies took a sobbing Paris Hilton
back to jail.” Remember to eliminate needless words.
Find the telling detail. In the example above, it was the word “sobbing.”
Be conversational without being ungrammatical. Makes sure that you write in sentences and not
in phrases with gerunds that go nowhere. Don’t get lazy. Use adverbs when appropriate. “Whom”
is a perfectly good word. It’s the objective, not the pretentious form of the pronoun “who.” Know
what the subjunctive is and use it. It’s right to write “If I were a rich man…” not “If I was homeward
bound.” Please check to make sure that your subjects and verbs agree. Dependent clauses can
easily throw this match off. It’s “A group of people protests for better wages,” because “group” not
“people” is the subject. If we in the media don’t use good grammar, who will?
Study good examples. Here are a few of my own favorite leads:
1. “A horrific bombing in Baghdad has renewed fears of a civil war in Iraq."
2. “Hurricane Katrina has strengthened over the Gulf of Mexico and is now packing winds of 160
miles per hour.”
3. “Our eye on the universe has gone blind,” is how I opened a story on the Hubble Space
When you watch news or read it in the newspaper, note which stories grab you and
emulate their style.