How can I write a news story that sticks to the facts and is both interesting to read and useful for the reader? This is the question facing all reporters, both beginners and seasoned veterans.

These instructions are primarily intended for inexperienced and beginning writers but cover style for all news reporters and analysts. In keeping with our stylistic choice to include all the facts first and tack the discussion on at the end (see #6), let’s start with the step by step recommendations on how to write a news story for UP/News Report and finish with a note on philosophy.

  1. What are facts? The traditional 5W’s of journalism are “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and sometimes How.” Mostly, the 5 W’s are facts. But one isn’t. “Why,” when it refers to motive, is not a fact. Motive requires knowing what is in the mind of someone. This is not possible. So be very careful with “why,” as most of the time when you read a news story the “why” that is offered is not fact but speculative opinion. When someone claims a certain motive, that is news. But you cannot tell if their claim is truthful because the only way to know motives is to read minds or travel into the future to see if their actions will be consistent with their claimed motives.
  2. Assemble the facts as best you can. Properly structured google searches help. Memeorandum helps. Lexis and Nexis really help if you have access to them. Ann Coulter has built a career on properly structured Lexis/Nexis searches. Put the facts in chronological order. Chronology does not establish causation, but it sure can disprove false claims of causation, which are extremely common in conventional news sources.
  3. Facts in hand, arranged chronologically, it is time to write. Start at the beginning. Recount the facts through the end. Do not fill gaps in the story with speculation. Don’t make excuses for gaps either, as that weakens the impact of the story. When done, stop.
  4. Write the “lede.” This is an introductory sentence that includes as many of the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, how) as are known. Make this the first sentence of the article.
  5. Locate a photograph or illustration for the story. The software behind UP/News Report requires pictures for proper indexing of news stories. Use the photo media button to upload the picture, size it, and set it for Right Align. If you caption it, which you should usually do if only to credit the source, locate it after the lede so the caption doesn’t appear on the front page of the site.
  6. If you have speculation or analysis to offer on the story, write a final section of the story for speculation or analysis. This is where you can offer up speculation on motives, on the answers to gaps and mysteries in the story, and on future developments and implications. Label this section either Speculation or Analysis as appropriate, by putting the label in a paragraph by itself, in bold, without punctuation. Be careful, for the quality of your analysis reflects on your future credibility.
  7. Link to related stories. We recommend linking to related stories on memeorandum.com if the story concerns a current event. Other sites that play nice with trackbacks are useful, including hotair.com and theothermccain.com. The preferred content for links is the text of the original headline, as that makes it easier to find our site on the internet. Second best is a paraphrase. Using “click here” or similar can damage our online reputation, so try not to do that.
  8. If your account confers the ability to schedule the publication of the story, do so. If you can only submit stories for editorial oversight, do that. An editor should edit and publish your story within half a day. Please do not be insulted or offended if editors make changes to your wording or sentence structure. They will do their best not to make changes in the factual or analytic substance. If you believe you have been wronged contact the editor through the Contact Us button and we’ll hash it out.

Stylistic Tidbits

Use your preferred manual of style with these adjustments.

Headlines: Use active verbs. Keep them short as possible but clear and not misleading. Capitalization may be sentence style or you may use title case. It is permissible to use puns, irony and jokes in headlines, but keep them in good taste.

Names: In politics, the title of the political office-holder is capitalized. The title may be abbreviated unless it would be unclear to a general audience. For instance, President can be abbreviated to Pres., but White House Social Secretary should not be abbreviated to WHSS, unless it it being used multiple times in the same story and is introduced in parentheses after the first usage of the full title. The political party of the office-holder should be included in parentheses after the initial mention of their name (one character), unless it is redundant [e.g. “leader of the Democratic Party Pres. Barack Obama (D)” is going too far] and if they represent a state or other locality the post office abbreviation of their state or locality should be used after the party. For instance:

  • Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)
  • Pres. Barack Obama (D-US)
  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-NYC)

Slang: Don’t use it unless quoting someone.

Obscenity & Profanity: These are called “fighting words” for a reason. Don’t use them unless quoting someone. There is usually not a reason to quote fighting words in whole even then. If they are necessary for the story to make sense, replace with the initial letter and dashes. For example: “This is a big f—ing deal!”

Run-on Sentences: Break them up into smaller sentences. There is no reason to use semi-colons in news writing. Break up complex sentences into smaller sentences. Use bulleted lists instead of colon and semi-colon or comma delineated list constructions. We are a website and do not need to conserve column inches.

Sentence Fragments: Headlines are often sentence fragments. Much of news writing is telegraphic in style and sentence fragments usually work. As long as the meaning is clear you may use sentence fragments.

Point of View & Tense: Write in the third person past tense with a limited viewpoint when reporting facts that have happened. The writer is not omniscient and should not be part of the facts of the story. When writing speculation and analysis sections you have more freedom to insert yourself into the story.

Identify Sources: When a fact is reported, identify the source of the fact in the story. Identify people by name wherever possible. Do not use “people say” or similar statements of social proof in reporting. Such social proof techniques are propaganda, not reporting. Discount anonymous sources, because what they say is no better than a rumor. When using polls link to the complete polling design, questions, and tabulated results if possible. Polls are notoriously easy to slant by the way the questions are worded, the order in which questions are asked, and by selecting a biased sample. Be skeptical when it comes to polls and other things “people say.” Finally, when summarizing a published news article name the reporter who wrote the story. By doing this, you will start to recognize the dependable sources and so will our readers.

Multimedia
You can easily embed multimedia formats in UP/News Report using Shortcodes. They allow you to easily and safely embed media from other places in your site. Available shortcodes are:

Philosophy

We are positioning UP/News Report as a source of actionable intelligence for our audience. We are aiming at a general audience of US citizens. We will focus on news stories of national and international impact, with the goal of removing spin from the typically left-biased stories available on TV, in newspapers, progressive blogs and political websites, and coming from progressive-dominated bureaus such as Reuters and the AP.

Being human we do have a point of view, or bias. Read Plato’s The Cave for a good description of why. At UP/News Report our bias is to be unabashed in our love of freedom, free markets, God and tradition. In comparison to the other side’s full throated advocacy for government regulation of every aspect of our lives, monopolies and command economies, atheism, and abortion we believe our point of view, and our honest bias, will bring their audience to us.

Now let’s seek and report the truth!

First the Facts

This article is cross-posted from UP/News Report “News Writing Basics

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Twitter: @beaglescout

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