Writing and Editing a News Story
A written news story starts with a lead. This first paragraph must grab people’s attention, encourage them to keep reading and either convey or foreshadow the main point or points of the story. This form differs from an essay or research paper, which presumes a reader will finish the entire piece. As a result, essays or papers may build to a finish.
With a news story, the audience can stop at any time and often will. In most cases, you are communicating with people who are not from your discipline and are not a captive audience, so your story needs to captivate them.
You can use examples and anecdotes that help the reader or viewer understand the concepts that are part of your news.
Keep your paragraphs short.
Make sure you are accurate. Check your spelling, your statistics, your facts and the names and titles of organizations, institutions or people you include. If you are writing a story with a specific publication in mind, pay attention to the type, tone and length of the stories that interest the editors and reporters. If they have already published a story on your subject, they may want more — or they may have done all they plan to do.
After you pull together a draft, take time to edit. Seek editing input from others, as they will see things you miss and can provide valuable feedback.
The University Communications team and College Communications Director are responsible for external media relations, so seek their help with those aspects.
- If you are approached by a reporter, ask the reporter’s deadline for the story. Determine if you can be available within the time frame and understand that they also may email or call you later with follow-up questions.
- It is fine to ask the reporter what topic they want to cover with you and what type of questions they want to ask. If the topic is not in your field of expertise, and you do not feel comfortable talking on that subject, you certainly can decline. In that case, please let us know, so we can help the reporter find another expert.
- It is also appropriate to tell the reporter you are unavailable to talk immediately. This allows you time to think through points that may be important to make, to make your notes and to check facts. You should consult with the College Communications Director and University Communications – media relations.
- Keep in mind that reporters are usually working within the span of hours, and sometimes minutes.
- You will have a few minutes — and perhaps just seconds — to make your points during the interview. Therefore, make the most important points first, then fill in brief explanations or details as needed.
- Long-winded and complicated comments can cause confusion or lead to the reporter summarizing your points rather than using your own words, which can lead to inaccuracies because the reporter most likely is not an expert in your field.
- Be ready with brief analogies or examples to help explain complex or abstract concepts. You can sometimes give the example first, then connect it to the main idea or concept. This helps the reporter and the audience by giving them a familiar framework by which to understand the possibly unfamiliar or complex concept.
- If you do not know the answer to a question, simply say that is not your area of expertise. If you are asked a question that makes you uncomfortable or if you are unsure of the answer, it is best not to say “no comment.” Instead, you can say something like “That is not an area I can address, but I can talk about….” and move on to something related that is a point you wish to make and on which you are an expert.
- Remember to avoid giving the impression you speak for the University, the College or other official UNC Charlotte entities.
And, remember, we are here to help you in any way you need!