This unit is about news writing. The emphasis is fundamentally prescriptive. The practical experience is to be gained from the exercises provided for your review. The unit first of all gives a brief overview of the available news structure in journalism practice. Then the common elements of the news content are explained before the types of lead are discussed.
After studying this unit, you should be able to:
- Identify the major structures of news writing
- Explain what they are and also the types of lead
- Describe how to write and analyse the lead of a story
- Write a simple news story
3.0 MAIN BODY
3.1 News Structure
- The Pyramid: The pyramid style is a kind of structure in which the least important idea is presented first to the most important and then followed by others in ascending order of importance. The shape itself is pyramidal.
- The Inverted Pyramid: This is the style mostly used by the journalist. It is known as the traditional form of news writing. Here, the most important fact is presented first and then gradually, other facts in decreasing levels of importance follows to the end. method originated during the American civil war days when This correspondents feared that all information may not be transmitted to the receiving stations before the unexpected strikes. The inverted pyramid is valuable today as it was then, because it:
- The Modified Inverted Pyramid: This style of structure is developed from both the pyramid and the inverted pyramid styles. It is characterised by the presentation of the climax of an event before unfolding sequentially from the beginning showing how the event led to the climax. i.e. the result is presented before the steps taken to reach the result are subsequently reached. The modified inverted pyramid looks like this:
3.2 Writing the News
Ordinarily, news writing begins from the time that a reporter sets out to gather facts. As the facts are gathered, the slants of news stories are also planned. Conventionally, news writing starts with the introduction. The introduction is technically called the Lead.
- The Lead: The lead is the first paragraph or two or any news report. It does not extend to the third paragraph. The lead usually gives or provides answers to the basic questions of 5 Ws and H. A good lead must: – Be appropriate for the story. – Make the reader want to read the rest of the story. – Should be kept short, brief and telegraphic. – Be based on the key features of the story.
The 5 Ws refer to WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and then the H – How. In most cases, not all the Ws are found in the lead. The who, what, when, where and why are common. The how is normally left for the body of the story. Here is an example of a lead.
Five students were shot dead, yesterday In a clash between two rival cult groups At university of Lagos main campus, reports
“The Campus Times”.
Analysis: Who: Five students
What: Were short dead
Where: University of Lagos main campus
Why: clash between cult groups.
The “HOW” is to be explained in the body of the story.
3.3 TYPES OF LEAD
There are many types of lead. The few notable ones are:
- Cartridge Lead: presents the gist of the event in the fewest possible words. It is usually abrupt and breath taking e.g. Awo is dead.
- Punch Lead: This is usually called the blind lead because it presents a non-specific angle of an event e.g. politics in Akwa Ibom House of Assembly took a new sour today.
- The Crowded Lead: This type of lead emphasizes many aspects of an event instead of concentrating on one. This usually occurs when several aspects/angles (who, what, when, where, why) are of equal importance.
- The Astonisher Lead: This has to do with the kind of introduction that uses superlative expressions to break the news e.g. For the first time in its history, the Co-operative Development Bank of Nigeria declared a profit 700 billion naira last year.
- The Shirt-Tail Lead: This is a lead that is broken into two sentences expressing two related ideas. It is common to build up such ideas with the use of link words as “in another development…”
- Summary Lead: This type summarises the whole story and gives details later. It is brief and deals with only the key points of the story, e.g. a bank clerk returning home from work last night was robbed of N10,000.00 and his handset while attempting to board a city bust at Ojuelegba bus stop.
- Effect Lead: This focuses on the effect/consequences of an event. Leads that emphasise the effect on readers of an event powerful human angle, e.g. you may have to pay more for bus rides have a as a result of the increases in the prices of petroleum announced by the Federal Government yesterday. products
Self Assessment Exercises 2.1
- Search through your national daily, identify and photocopy examples of the leads mentioned in this unit.
- Write a lead, for each of the mentioned types, using the recent matriculation ceremony in your campus.
The teaching of the lead is so emphasised in this study because it is the “window” of a news story. It should therefore aim not only presenting the gist of the story but also at gaining the attention of the at
You have learnt in this unit that:
- Writing news requires the knowledge of its structure. This means the ways news reports are arranged or presented.
- Three main structures are common in writing news stories. They are pyramidal structure from least important item to the most important; inverted pyramid – from the most important to the least important news item and, modified inverted pyramid
- Presentation of the most important item followed by the least important and gradually leading to the penultimate important item of the news.
- In writing new, there must be a lead. A lead is the paragraph of the news story. It basically summarizes the high points opening of the event by answering questions energize by the 5Ws – who, what, when, where and why.
6.0 TUTOR MARKED ASSIGNMENT
Choose one of the three structures of news writing and prepare a news copy of a recent news event in your campus, for publication in a national Daily. Your copy should not be more than two and a half pages, typewritten or typeset on an A4 paper.