Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.
2.4

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsOriginality, you must have complete originality. There's no point in rehashing old news. You must look for new angles at all times. At every story, the key aim is to be informative to the reader. You're also looking for something that has a bit of human interest to it. Obviously, if something affects you in a way and you see-- for example, if you're a mum of two and you're reading another story about a family, then that gives you a direct link to the story, and it makes you more attached to it and more likely to read it. What makes a good news story?

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsI think a good news story, the starting point, a lot of people would always say, is something that someone doesn't want you to know. It's got to be something that's eye-catching, something that really affects people's lives, and also is very, very important, a very important issue for people. I think there're two words to kick off, and that is basic human interest. You know, not every story has to be sensational or sexy. In the local newspaper world, it's more down to earth than it is the earth-shattering. You have to pack the story filled with facts. You need different voices. So you may want to quote a number of people, talk to a different group of people that have varying opinions.

Skip to 1 minute and 35 secondsYou want to make sure that it's very thorough in that respect. I'd also say that what you want to do with a news story, and some of the best news stories, are about unearthing new information.

Skip to 1 minute and 49 secondsNews is important because it's what affects our daily life. It's essentially without knowing what's going on in the world, we get no basis to make decisions. It's crucial. And it's also important to hold power to account as well. News is important primarily because it keeps people informed. They're informed about things they otherwise wouldn't know as they function in their daily lives. We keep them informed on the topics that matter most to them. And I also think that if you're good newspaper reader, you're reading us online, wherever you read us, it makes you a more informed citizen and probably a more proactive citizen. You're probably more likely to be more engaged in your community, care more.

Skip to 2 minutes and 29 secondsAnd the more knowledgeable you are, the more you have a chance to help us shape your future by, again, watchdog journalism, for example, holding people to account. News is really important. In this day and age of social media, there's so much rubbish out there that journalists must be authoritative and must get a new angle at all times. Just serious all the time. News can be entertainment, lifestyle. It can be a relief for people. It can be a leisurely thing, a relaxation thing, or it can be uplifting like sports.

Skip to 3 minutes and 7 secondsOK. So what should journalists look for? I mean, at the end of the day, you have to always start with the basics. If you get a news tip, then it's OK, what do we need to find out here, and where are good places to start? You always ask the stupid questions. You ask the obvious questions. You ask the tough questions. The facts of the story, but what's the background to the facts? And you'll not always get it given to you from the person you're interviewing, you really have to learn to dig and dig deep. One of the key things that we say here is that follow the facts.

Skip to 3 minutes and 43 secondsJust find out where the facts take you, and that's going to lead you to your story. But you got to work really hard at it and take any advice that your management team may have.

Skip to 3 minutes and 56 secondsA news story's easy to write. It's very, very difficult to write well, and it takes quite a lot of practice to get to a high standard. I feel, as a dinosaur of the industry, that you still have to have instinct. I feel I had an instinct to write.

Skip to 4 minutes and 18 secondsI would always say use 90% of your time on your introduction. The rest will follow. Structure. In terms of structure for a news story, you should really aim towards an eye-catching intro, an intro that will get people reading but also doesn't tell people everything about the story so that they read on. Beyond that, it then needs to flesh out the details of what's going on. Keep peoples' interest, introduce a few quotes with regards to people who are interested in the story. And give a bit of background as to what should be going on. The story of the five honest men who, of course, are who, why, what, where, when.

Skip to 4 minutes and 57 secondsAnd I think, in any story, if you follow those five honest principles you wont go far wrong. For a tabloid news story, we all know that you go for that hard-hitting introduction. The second paragraph kind of gives them a little bit more detail. And maybe the third paragraph, you're just throwing something else new. And then you go into all the quotes and the background and finish off on a nice line.

Skip to 5 minutes and 27 secondsIt's all in the news gathering. And unfortunately, there are some people who can gather the news, but maybe they're not so successful at actually writing it. In a strong story, you really need to include, basically, the details that matter most to people. The key things here are who, what, where, why, and when. Who's involved? Where has it taken place? When did it happen? And why is it happening? And what is going on? I think when you approach a story, you have to think, what is this story going to do for the reader? Is it going to shock them? Is it going to frighten them? Is it going to entertain them? But certainly, it should always be of interest.

Skip to 6 minutes and 21 secondsThe "so what" factor is the original bit. The emotion is crucial. Make sure that you create some kind of emotion in the reader. And then the next bit is basically five W's, who, what, where, when, why, and lots of quotes. The journalist needs to shut up and let the person talk. Something that I talk to my guys about is the four F's. Don't worry, there's no swear words in there. This is not entirely answering your question, but this is how I like people to attack a story. If something is breaking out in our community, then I want to be first. So we want to be that exclusivity.

Skip to 7 minutes and 4 secondsWe want to be on the scene first, and we want to be fast. So we want to be fast when we file. We want to hit all platforms, because we're very multimedia now. You want to hit it on social media. You want to hit it on the Twitter or the Facebook, the social media site. You want to get your web audience alerted. Then you want a quicker follow-up on web. Then you want your videos. Then you want your ScribbleLives, you name it. So that's two points. You're first, you're fast. You're fierce. So we want to give them details that are fierce. You're giving them the detail, the wow factor, if the story warrants it. And the F would be factual.

Skip to 7 minutes and 41 secondsObviously, facts and accuracy, that trumps all else. That is the most critical point.

Skip to 7 minutes and 50 secondsYou definitely need to check your story. Beyond the ethics of actually publishing the story that's inaccurate, you could actually land yourself in a lot of trouble. You definitely have to check your story. Because let's face it, more so nowadays - lots of stuff is based on rumours and gossip. I quite often have said to reporters down the decades, that's bus-stop stuff you're giving me-- what somebody might say at a bus stop or on a train, they'll have heard something. And I think, in this age of the tweets and the Facebooks, it's very easy for the allegations and the lies to grow arms and legs.

Skip to 8 minutes and 37 secondsIn this day and age with social media, it's probably easier to correct your story along the way. But make sure it's right.

Skip to 8 minutes and 49 secondsDon't be pushed around. Don't be soft-soaped. Because quite often, especially if you approach authority, who, of course, maybe want to hide the facts, you're going to dig deeper. One of the biggest things I look for, for example when I'm hiring, is passion. And it's not something that people really talk about. A lot of people talk about, oh, I've got a university degree, or I've had experience here. I mean, all those things are very, very important. I love when someone comes and says, I headed up my college newspaper. Fantastic. I've got a blog. I've got this. Great. But if you're not passionate-- I want to see that hunger. And I think that's something that has stood me well in my career.

Skip to 9 minutes and 35 secondsMy hunger has never subsided. I feel as excited about journalism today as I did many years ago when I started. You need to be determined, first of all, to get that first job in journalism. Writing a few CVs and just sending them off isn't going to do it these days. You need to continue to attempt to get a job. Once you're in that job, you then need to be determined to get a story, because there will be a lot of people who will try and put you off, threaten you with legal action, all sorts of things. You need to keep pushing. You need to have that determination to get stories and to build your career.

Skip to 10 minutes and 10 secondsDon't just download what you're given. Press officers, particularly in government and authority, and particularly, of course, for clients, they just want you to download the press release. And of course, what's one of the weaknesses of newspapers today, in my opinion? They're running press releases but not questioning press releases. It's absolutely ridiculous. I got a story this week about the fact that a council in Ayrshire were sending people, person or persons, to China. And of course, it was costing thousands of pounds. And when I asked, they said, oh, that's a Confucius programme.

Skip to 10 minutes and 56 secondsIf I had just accepted that I’d have written a story-- council spending thousands of pounds on a Confucius programme to promote Chinese-- of course, I wanted to know, well, how many times have you actually sent people? Was it the same person all the time? Was it different people? And it took me a week to get the answers. So don't just accept downloading and press releases. Perseverance is probably the next quality that I would look for in someone. It's so easy to want to give up. It's so easy not to want to work that 18th hour of the day.

Skip to 11 minutes and 34 secondsWhat I'm looking for is someone who wants to be the best, who wants to do these things, and wants to get to the bottom of a story. And if a question comes in the 11th hour and we say, oh, you haven't really got this, right, I'm going to go back. I'm going to get that for you. Because it makes sense, and it's the best thing we could offer our readers.

What is effective news writing?

What is effective news writing and how do journalists write stories?

In this section, you will hear directly from a number of experienced journalists.

The four people are serving editors or former editors and have worked in both national and local papers in careers spanning more than 40 years in the UK and Canada.

They will give their opinions on what what makes a strong news story and will offer an useful insight into industry standards.

And they will, crucially, advise on how to write them building on their own experiences.

While you watch, consider if there are common threads coming out from what they say. Post your thoughts in the comments area.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to Journalism

University of Strathclyde

Contact FutureLearn for Support