How to Report a News Event
If you know of or witnessed a newsworthy event this How To will tell you how to write it up using an accepted, classic form known as the inverted pyramid format and submit your story for publication.
Using your notebook write down everything you know about the event. Always get your six best friends-who, what, when, where, why and how. Get as many details as you can and write down everything, even what you think you'll remember. I can not stress this enough-take copious notes.
If you think of any information that seems to be missing from your notes, try to find it out. Ask questions of the people involved or any witnesses. Being a reporter is a lot of investigative work and the little details can make the difference between a page six blurb and a half front-page story.
Make your notes a list and reorganize them in order of importance, from most important to least important. Eliminate any redundant notes and combine them where possible. Two notes reading, "Hit by a car," "15 year old was driving," and "Foot run over," could be reduced by eliminating the first one-that information is given in the other two-and combing the other two into "15 year old driver ran over a pedestrian's foot."
One popular form of writing taught to journalists is called the inverted pyramid format. This style is accomplished by imagined a triangle, point down. This triangle is your news item. At the top of the triangle-the wide base-is the most important information in the story. That is the first paragraph. When someone reads that first paragraph they should understand the facts of the event and the focus of the article, as well as whether or not they want to continue reading. Who, What, When, Where, How and Why should be included in this first paragraph, or "lead."
Continuing down the upside-down triangle, the next section of your story will add more relevant details about the event. These details should help people get a deeper understanding of the event, as well as keeping them interested.
The next section of the article can have more details of interest to wrap up the story followed by relevant statistics, contact information or related information.
After you've written your article, checked the facts and made sure it's not rife with typos you can submit it to the newspapers for publication. Pick up copies of the papers you want to submit it to, find the masthead-that's the list of editorial personnel-and email the article to an editor that covers the subject of your article or follow their submission guidelines. If they don't list their email address call the office and ask to whom you should submit articles.
Only submit the article to one newspaper at a time. The waiting is the hardest part and, if the article is time sensitive, you may want to include in your submission a time limit. You can say, "Please respond by [this date] if you are interested." That's a gamble, but it does cover you if you need to submit your story elsewhere. Once you have a relationship with an editor the submission process will become much easier.
- Your lead should be completely factual and no-frills, but as interesting as possible.
- Newspapers like dense writing when reporting the news. Fill your article with fact, no opinion of yours.
- Active, tense writing makes for good reading and is more likely to get you printed.
- Take pictures! A good picture can sell a story, and also proves you're not just making it up.