Note: The following is archived material, and will not be updated. It may not account for changes in the law that have taken place since publication.
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The simplicity in news writing is often overlooked and it’s often considered to better to be the first to post the story, rather than get everything right.
This week is a bit more of an interactive session, focussing on the skills needed to produce easy to read and digestible news reports.
It’s your first day as a news reporter for the Atlantis Evening Post. On the screens on the wall, you see a story breaking:
In reporting on breaking news, you’ll never get everything right all the time, or the facts change as you report them. In the example above, the student died.
A student death rocks any university community and reporting on death has to be sensitive but informative. “Tributes paid to…” are always a good way to focus a story – the reaction from family and friends who are normally more than willing to give quotes to let people know what their son/daughter/friend was like.
Writing headlines can be tricky. Too long and the reader will lose interest – too short and you’re not giving enough information away to tease the reader into the article. Fragment grammar is strongly suggested as writing a whole sentence can lessen the impact of the headline. It needs to be punchy, include the most important facts and convey what the story is about. A word of warning, be sure that a headline isn’t defamatory. It’s not a defence to clarify it in the article (read more: bane & antidote defamation)
Has to summarise the main points, be less than 20 words and ideally under 140 characters, so you could tweet it. They have to be sharp and snappy but conform to regular sentence structure and grammar rules. For a student death, leading with tributes is often a good way to report on it, leading with the students name, age and any suitable or relevant details.
HAVE A GO
Now it’s your turn. Based on the information in the video news report and using the information that she later died, write a headline and first paragraph/tweet and we’ll be giving away some prizes at the end of News in November for the best submissions.