A news article is fresh – it deals with an event that has recently occurred. It describes the events objectively, using photos, verbal descriptions, eyewitness accounts and statements from those involved.
A news article must be precise and clear. There is no room for irony, subtleness or elaborated language. It brings the news to the reader unbiased, broadly covered and fast.
Journalists are often faced with tough choices as to what to focus on in an article and who to interview. There is not room to cover every angle of an issue in one text. You have to be selective, and to select means to give someone or something attention. You have to decide what to leave out. This is always a tough challenge for a journalist.
It is however easy to write a news article if you cover a simple chain of events that no-one disputes. You just refer to what, when, where, who, how and why. Can you spot these various pieces of information below?
- "A 17 year-old girl broke her arm playing handball Monday evening at 8 P.M. The incident occurred as she collided with a fellow player heading back to defend her goal. This was the final match of the Billham handball cup."
- (WHO) A 17 year-old girl
- (WHAT) broke her arm
- (HOW) playing handball
- (WHEN) Monday evening at 8 P.M The incident occurred as
- (WHY) she collided with a fellow player heading back to defend her goal. This was the final match of the
- (WHERE) Billham handball cup.
Having said that it is easy to write a news article, we have to add that it will all depend on what you cover. Drawing a line is not difficult, painting a horse is. The complexity of various pieces of news to cover may vary just as much - from a small injury to an international conference about a disputed topic - like how to fight terrorism.
The challenge is to use words that precisely describe what took place, and to let various involved governments and organizations come with a statement to air their views and concerns. As a journalist, you are obliged to get an unbiased and nuanced coverage of the events. However, in some cases we don’t agree about what has actually happened, and there is a limit as to how many statements we can add to an article. Therefore, journalists are sometimes criticized for not covering an issue in a fair manner.
We will stick with simple news scenarios in the following, but nevertheless, keep in mind always to use a precise, objective language when you write news articles.
- Write a newspaper article about the following incident: A car has slid off the road, leaving a boy in the backseat slightly injured. Make up the rest of the details and get a statement from a police officer at the scene.
Arrange a press conference where the headmaster of your school announces that the school will introduce school uniforms from next year on. (A teacher or a student has to play this part and prepare some facts on the matter - like type of uniform, pricing, disciplinary actions etc. The rest of the class are journalists and may ask questions.)
Following the press conference, all the students write a news article on the topic. Add pictures from the Internet, and format the text like in a real newspaper by using columns, bold text, large heading etc.
Before you arrange this press conference, you may want to discuss the topic of school uniforms in class.