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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds By now, you have a general story idea that you want to develop. At this point, it’s still a very broad one and not very specific. So what you need to do next is narrow it down and start getting specific about the things that you know about that story and the things that you need to find out. To do this, you need to answer five basic questions called the five Ws. These are who, what, when, where, and why. All right, so we’re going to apply this to our chaos that’s going on in Glasgow that you heard about already. So talking about the chaos in Glasgow and Scotland, let’s apply the five Ws and see how that works.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds All right, so in this case we’re going to start with the what question because that in this case is more relevant and more important. What is going on? So you have power cuts. You have traffic chaos. And you have health systems failing. So those three items are the answer to your what question. Who is doing that? We don’t know that. Who is that affecting? It’s affecting hospitals and doctors. It’s affecting patients. It’s affecting the general public and commuters. The next question that you need to answer is when. When is that happening? It’s basically happening now. So you can just put the answer now. And where is it happening? It’s happening in Glasgow and outside of Glasgow.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds So you can just put Glasgow and Scotland as your answer here. Why is this happening? This is the big question actually. Why, you don’t know the answer to that question. So laying all this out and all these answers out shows you that this is the main question that you need to answer. Why is this happening? As you start writing your story on the power cuts and the outages that are happening in Glasgow, you would also need to start introducing additional layers of information. So you would start with the five Ws, and then you would delve further into the story and providing some additional colour and some additional expertise and more details.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds At that point already, you start to describe how all this is happening. So you’ll describe in specifics how the power outages are happening, how they’re affecting people, how the traffic lights are going out. To do this, you would include eyewitnesses and victims, so personal accounts of people who are affected or who have been there and witnessed what you’re trying to describe. And you would include their opinions. You could also include anecdotes from them, so actual stories that they can tell you related to the outages. It’s also a good idea to talk to experts. So those experts could be doctors, general practitioners who are affected by the health failures in their systems.

Skip to 3 minutes and 17 seconds You could be talking also maybe to some experts that can explain the whole power outage problem. And maybe those could be experts from the city council that actually could tell you how the power grid in the city functions and maybe could predict of what may happen next. You could also talk to PR people, public relations officials, representing the police or the fire and rescue or additional hospitals in the area or the city council.

The 5Ws of journalism

When starting to research a story idea, you need to begin with the basic questions, which are the 5Ws: who, what, when, where, why.

After you’ve gathered the basic facts, you need to go deeper into the details of the story, gather opinions of people involved in it or who are bystanders or otherwise affected. You can also gather anecdotes about what happened to these people. You may need expert analysis if the issue is more complicated.

Do you think the 5Ws cover everything? After watching the video, post your thoughts in the comments area.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to Journalism

University of Strathclyde