How to Write a Feature Story for TV News
A feature story for TV news can be more difficult to write than a hard news story. There are rules that govern hard news coverage, but feature stories are all about the reporter's storytelling ability. A "feature" is a story with limited hard news value that is still worthy of being featured on television. Examples of this type of story are festivals, parades and "good news" human-interest stories.
Ask yourself why someone would care about the feature story. It is not enough that you or your co-workers find it interesting. The reporter must make the viewers care. Look for a theme that will appeal to most people. This could be a struggle against adversity, selfless work for a good cause, or something really funny or unique.
Think about your pictures first. Visuals are more important in a feature story than a TV news story. A news story can be driven by facts, but a feature story must have compelling pictures, or there is no reason to show it. Consider the pictures you have and can get, then build the rest of the story around them.
Interview people with the pictures in mind. Ask your interviewees specific questions that relate to your visuals and encourage them to reference the pictures. Make your interviews dynamic and active. Talk to the subjects while walking around an environment that has significance to the story. Interviews with people like festival cooks, animal handlers and cheerleaders always make for good TV.
Let the feature story tell itself. Walking and talking with an interview subject often works well in a feature story. Allowing him to talk while showing compelling video over his words is also a great device. Use plenty of natural sound in a feature story. Watching and listening to people going about their lives tells a great story without the reporter doing a thing.
Craft your feature story to build curiosity. Fill in the gaps by leading the viewers gently through the story. Use as few words as possible. Introduce the main subjects of the feature story, get viewers to care about them, present the challenges they face, then reveal the resolution or what is left to be done. The reporter's job is to get the audience engrossed in the story.
Kent Ninomiya is a veteran journalist with over 23 years experience as a television news anchor, reporter and managing editor. He traveled to more than 100 countries on all seven continents, including Antarctica. Ninomiya holds a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences with emphasis in history, political science and mass communications from the University of California at Berkeley.