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News writing — building an article from scraps

Article by Nazvi Careem

A trained news writer needs only scraps of information to write a solid 400-word plus article. In fact, they could probably knock that article out in less than 30 minutes.

Quite often, all they need is just one item to start bashing away on their computers. You have probably noticed that many newspaper stories are focused on one particular piece of news.

It may be a single fact, a quote or an incident but it would be enough to spawn many more words. That’s the skill of news writing in its essence. Sure, journalists would love to have a bucket full of material to write from.

The reality, however, is that on some days they are fishing around for an iota’s piece of news.

Suppose you are chasing a story on a major bike builder’s new motorcycle. You know nothing about it except one piece of information – this spanking new model is to be unveiled in two weeks time.

This is where their news writing skills will come to the fore. To write this article, you would have to come up with a few other things.

Common sense – there’s no need to exaggerate. If this is the only information you have, stay with it, don’t blow it out of proportion and it will work for you.

Background – this is an important part of the article. You may need a little research, which will be available from a number of resources online. Indeed, you may know all about it already.

Speculation – you are allowed to speculate on how people would react to this news. Without being too specific, you can have a general idea of whether or not this product is exciting the market or not.

Now, you are ready to write, and the first few sentences could look something like this.

Motorcycle fans around the country are counting down to the big day when industry giant Big Wheels unveils its latest model.

There had been much speculation by motorcycle fans and retailers as to when the newest two-wheeler was to be showcased to the public. The company revealed that the model, the name of which has yet to be revealed, will be out in two weeks time.

Bike fans have been waiting for more than one year for Big Wheels to develop the motorcycle, which the company hopes will surpass all previous models in terms of performance and style.

That’s almost 100 words already in five minutes. All you need to do from now on is to provide more and more background.

All issues have background information. In the case of Big Wheels, it could be company history, past models, rival models. The list could go on and you could set them out in bullet format.

See if you can adapt this news writing style to informational articles. Generally, articles require at least three supporting themes, which you would normally use as bullet points.

But you can still write an informative article with just one point. Study the issue and look for speculative possibilities and background and you will find ideas and extra advice pouring in from a bit of research and your own knowledge.

You don’t even need other people’s reactions. Just expand on your own feelings.

About the Author

Nazvi Careem is an experienced journalist, writer and writing coach who has written for several newspapers, magazines and global news agencies such as Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. To suscribe to his free newsletter and receive writing tips, and more, check out his website dedicated to news writing.

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