Types of Newspaper Stories
"If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're misinformed,” wrote author Mark Twain. The word "newspaper" means exactly what it says -- news or information printed on paper and made widely available and accessible. Digital technology and corporate consolidation have turned the traditional newspaper into an endangered species. But the varied types of articles printed in newspapers manage to convey a wealth of information, so even when translated to digital form, they are still worth knowing.
Hard News Stories
The events of the day are still the heart of the newspaper. News about the local cat rescued from the tree, the shenanigans of elected officials in some national policy stand-off, or the global spread of a virulent disease are all news. Local, national and international news begins with a brief lead paragraph, followed by an inverted pyramid of information. The most important facts come first because readers scan news over coffee or on the train and may only have time to scan the headlines and read the first few paragraphs of articles. Articles must fit in the column inches available and editors cut from the bottom on deadline to squeeze them in. A news story should be factual, objective and impartial -- it should not contain personal opinion, incomplete information or errors. And news should meet a predetermined standard for what information is important enough to convey.
Analysis and Columns
Analyses are interpretive articles that examine the way an event might affect people or places. These are typically handled by subject-area experts who can bring in-depth knowledge to a topic. Analytic articles feature a wider spectrum of interviews and research to complement a top news story or explore a developing trend. Columns do something similar. Columnists are experts who write about subjects that engage them, freely expressing their own points of view in their own words. Most columns appear on a regular schedule -- generally once or twice weekly -- and observe a strict word count to facilitate layout of the opinion pages or the design of a specific section, such as arts or sports.
An editorial is an opinion about a news topic. It is written by the newspaper's editorial staff to urge readers to endorse a particular point of view or take some action. Editorials are not objective coverage and they are not news. They are brief, informed, reasoned arguments in favor of or against a position, idea or development. A paper may support legalizing medical marijuana or allowing drilling for energy resources on government land, for example. Editorials are often discussed among the papers' editors, with one editor assigned the job of writing the opinion. An editor may propose an idea based on news of the day or on their own expertise and interest. Less frequently, the paper's ownership requests an editorial with a specific point of view. Political endorsements during campaigns are editorials. The page following it is usually the opinion page, which contains regular and guest columns, as well as letters to the editor from the public.
Features -- Fun and Informative
Feature articles bridge the gap between entertaining story and straight information. This type of article is the fodder of the paper's interest sections and would almost never be found on the front page or in the news sections. Features appeal to reader interests and include personal profiles; histories behind events or places, explorations of traditions, hobbies or local commercial concerns, book and movie reviews and restaurant reviews. They may also include in-depth reporting on a news event that takes a personal angle and goes wide of straight, factual recounting -- a young mother's experience as a soldier in battle, for example, or a day-in-the-life of a politician during a legislative battle or filibuster. Features are longer than news stories and are written like magazine articles, often with several photos.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .