Make your own newspaper
Every reporter has their own way of approaching a news story. But they all follow a simple rule: tell readers the important facts right at the beginning so that they can decide whether they want to read on for more details.
People who read newspapers expect instant news, so stories about current events need to be told in what's known as the inverted pyramid form, beginning with the most important information and ending with the least important. The four key elements of a news article are headline, lead, body and end.
Most readers flip through the newspaper to see if there's anything they want to read, so the headline, or title, of your story is your chance to catch their eye. The headline should also let the reader know at a glance what the story is about. Headlines should be short and snappy and written in the present tense using active verbs. So instead of 'Drowning dog is saved by teenage boy' (passive), write 'Teenage boy saves drowning dog' (active).
The lead, or beginning, of any article should not only grab the reader's attention, but also draw him into the story. In a news story, the lead should have urgency and answer the questions Who, What, Where, When, Why and How (known as the 5Ws and the H) within the first two paragraphs. In contrast, a feature story answers these questions in the body of the article. Here's an example of a news lead that summarises the most important elements of the story:
Who: Students from St Paul's School
What: helped man booths
Where: outside City Hall
Why: to help tsunami victims
How: by collecting donations from passers-by.
Another way to lead into a news story is with a quote or a description. Here are some examples:
1. The crowd cheered when Billy Tang scored the winning goal for the Raiders at the inter-school football match today, qualifying them for the finals.
2. 'I'm so happy because I've always wanted to be a pop star,' said Kitty Lee today as she held up a signed recording contract with Backbeat Tunes.
Once you have a lead, writing the rest of the story should be straightforward. Simply elaborate on the information given in the lead, either chronologically or in order of importance. Try to use short, concise sentences and write in the third person. The body should pull together quotes, facts and examples in a way that is clearly and immediately understandable. Tell the story and leave out your opinion.
Unlike a feature article, a news story does not need a conclusion, so end it as soon as you have provided background information about the facts and details reported in the lead. Ask yourself if you have answered all the questions a reader might ask. If the answer is 'yes', summarise the story with a sentence or two that will make the reader think about what you have written.
Remember that as a news reporter your job is to find and report the news as quickly as possible. Stories are all around you.
Talk to your principal, teachers and coaches. Find out what students are talking about. Look at the school calendar and check out the notice boards.
Make a list of possible stories. Then write one of them.