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Writing for Newspapers: The Ultimate Guide

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Writing for Newspapers is often considered difficult. Let’s break the stigma and read this article on how to write for newspapers, the easy way!

People always love their name in print. These days, there are many online media websites that help people get published too, like VICE, BuzzFeed, Arré, etc. However, the satisfaction of getting published in newspapers is unmatched.

The aim of this article is to break the ice and also break the stigma of the idea that writing for newspapers is difficult. It is in fact, an easy and smooth task, if you follow the steps carefully and imbibe discipline in practising this art everyday. 

By the end of this article, you’ll have concrete knowledge on writing for newspapers and how to go about your first story. 

Let’s take a look at the things we will discuss in this article:

What is News Writing?

News Writing is a term made up of two separate words – news and writing. The simple elaboration of this term is the act of writing for newspapers or journals. News Writing can also be termed as Journalism, where a person writes reports for a newspaper or a journal.

Types of News Writing

There are various types of News Writing, but let’s just discuss two in this article – Soft News and Hard News.

Hard News

According to YourDictionary, “‘Hard news’ focuses on hard facts, emphasising the ‘News’ and ‘Impact’ aspects of the story and generally downplaying ‘Context’ and ‘Emotion’. A good hard news story deals in provable facts and direct quotes. If it draws any conclusions, those conclusions must be deductive, provable from the facts provided in the story.

In a student newspaper, a hard news story might relay details regarding an upcoming fundraiser for band camp.”

As we can observe, Hard News focuses on strong reporting, which could leave people wondering and pondering. 

Soft News

According to YourDictionary again, “‘Soft news’ isn’t less important or less rigorous than ‘hard news’. It just focuses more on the ‘Context’ and ‘Emotion’ aspects of the story, deemphasising ‘News’ and ‘Impact’. Obviously, to be a news story at all, even the “softest” story must have some facts. Good soft news allows for more induction and reflection on the part of the writer, and prioritises presenting a story that connects with the reader.

Using a similar context as the hard news example above, a soft news story may discuss why band camp is so important to one student in particular.”

The Impact of Writing for Newspapers

When you write for newspapers, you directly spread awareness about your field of writing to a wide audience. 

If you write about everything lifestyle, you let people know about the many things about celebrities, songs, movies, or books that people usually don’t know or would like to know more about.

If you write ‘news’ in general, you apprise people about the things going on in the world around them, helping them become aware about their surroundings, the mishaps, the good news, and the happy things people should know about. 

As Positive News writes, “Another finding was that positive news stories lead to an increase in hope and optimism. This in turn made news consumers more likely to notice positivity and become more solutions-oriented, creating a ‘positive feedback loop’.

Participants in the study reported higher levels of what is known as ‘active coping’: being able to approach and engage with a problem rather than avoiding it. In a media landscape where many audiences avoid news because of an excess of negativity, caused by what Jackson refers to as a “negativity bias”, genuine positive news can engage audiences and empower them to respond to problems.”

How to Start Your Newspaper Writing Journey

Write for Your School/College Newspaper

A great way to dive into the pool of journalism and news writing is writing for your school or college newspaper. If you’re still a student, it’s easier for you to begin your newspaper writing career.

You now must be wondering how school or college newspapers work. Generally, there is an editorial press or an editorial team that works on the campus newspaper. Get in touch with the concerned people, and you can become a part of the editorial team.

The easiest content you can write is an account about a star student or a star faculty member in your school/college. For this, you need to research their profiles and interview them to gather information. Other things you can write are book reviews or insightful features where you can educate people about a specific topic.

Otherwise, campus newspapers revolve around the ongoing things within the campus. A great college newspaper is the DU Beat which is run by the students of Delhi University.

Writing for Newspapers: The Ultimate Guide

We know how taxing it can be to write something and try to look for newspapers who will accept your pitch or proposal. And that is exactly why we’re here, so you can sit back, and have writers.noticebard.com do all the talking and explaining!

Writing for Newspapers: The Ultimate Guide

Let’s take a look at this Ultimate Guide for Writing for Newspapers!

Step #1: Read the Newspaper Daily

As important as it is to research the topic you’re writing about, it is also of prime importance to go through the daily newspapers each day in the morning. The reason we mention ‘morning’ is because that’s when most of our mind functions and grasps knowledge the best. 

Skimming through the pages of especially the columns you specialise writing in will help you get a hang of the writing style that newspapers accept and approve. You understand how to frame your lead, how to summarise the story, how to go about explaining things in detail so they don’t sound boring, and even how to end your article. But don’t ‘skim through the pages’ for real. Instead, study them deeply and know that you’re doing this to learn about the art of writing for newspapers.

Step #2: Structure an Outline for Your Story 

Before you get your hands dirty with all the writing and enjoying every second of it (because we know how exciting this can be!), you need to establish a structure. That is exactly how we write our articles on writers.noticebard.com. We prepare a structure for it – the table of contents, the ultimate area of discussion, the points for whatever goes into the article, the summary, basically everything!

You can build your story afterwards based on your outline. Just open a Google Doc, bifurcate the stanzas according to where you think the important points should be included in the article, and then start writing your story finally.

As Times of India says it, “The best way to structure a newspaper article is to first write an outline. Review your research and notes. Then jot down the ideas for the following six sections. Remember, this is just a foundation on which you can build your story.”

Another great reason why you should first prepare an outline for your story is that you won’t forget to include important details this way. Let’s say you want to talk about the background of that girl who lost her mother in a road accident in a news story or you want to talk about the ingredients that go into the chocolate cinnamon rolls in your food account for the lifestyle column of the newspaper, you will always remember to include those details if you’re first preparing a structure.

Preparing a structure or an outline for your idea is basically like preparing notes and scribbling in your diary. This is a great practice that simply helps you remember things.

Step #3: Interview People, Gather Sources, Research

At writers.noticebard.com, we try to interview people for the pieces we write as much as possible. There are many advantages to this. The more sources you quote, the more credible your information will be, considering it contains the opinions of not just one writer or reporter, but of various sources. Try to do this as much as you can.

When it comes to researching various things, don’t use non-reliant sources or websites which don’t give enough information or that which you doubt even the slightest. Quote newsworthy and valuable information, but don’t make things too clickbaity too. While it’s best to keep your take brief and simple with minimal flowery language, it’s also important to gather to-the-point information while gathering quotes from your interview pieces, or conducting research.

Writer’s Digest says, “Thoroughly research the interviewee, learn everything you can about them and how they fit into the topic you’re covering. Know beforehand how this person’s knowledge, story, or viewpoint will contribute to the piece. From your research you should already have a sense of what they’ll say, just make sure you tailor your questions accordingly to get the desired response.”

When you know who you’re going to approach, it makes it easier for you to make conversation and break the ice. Make sure you add only those elements of the interview which add value to the piece, and that you don’t paste everything in your story just for the sake of putting it there.

Step #4: Prepare the Headline for Your Article

Think of a great way you could use your headline to pitch your story to the newspaper editors. The headline works like magic if you are proposing your idea to somebody. It briefly tells the reader about what you’re going to talk about, but softly also teases the reader since it doesn’t give everything away and always seeks more attention from the reader. 

Times of India says, “This is a brief, noticeable statement about the incident. The title of your article should be attractive and up to the point.”

Here, ‘Everest is Conquered’ is the headline
Image taken from here

North Dakota State University also smartly points out, “Even if it happened in the past, we emphasise present tense, perhaps because in the media business we want to emphasise NOW, not old stuff that already happened. It sounds more fresh to write “Mayor supports zoning proposal” than “Mayor supported zoning proposal at meeting.” 

A standard head in active voice, then, could be something like “Twins win 2 in opener.” “President supports tax cut bill.” “Senator vows to fight sugar proposal.” You can use passive voice, perhaps because it fits the space better, but it’s not as lively: “Tax cut bill supported.””

Important advice. Let’s keep this in mind!

Step #5: Don’t Forget Your Byline

The byline comes straight after you mention your headline. This part of the proposal states your full name and lets the readers know you.

This is an example of a byline
Image taken from here

Step #6: Take the Lead!

The lead or as some people call it, lede, is one of the most important elements of your newspaper story. It briefly summarises the whole article and is the most captivating opening to what you’ve written for your readers.

The College of Liberal Arts at Purdue Online Writing Lab says, “Before writing a lead, decide which aspect of the story – who, what, when, where, why, how – is most important. You should emphasise those aspects in your lead. Wait to explain less important aspects until the second or third sentence.”

There are various types of leads, out of which, summary lead is the most traditional and widely used type of lead, which covers all the 5 Ws and Hs – who, what, when, where, why, and how, and also does this in a very short sentence.

The lead or the lede is the first impression of your article on your readers, after of course, the headline. So be careful with it!

Step #7: Craft Your Storyline

Quoting Times of India again, “Once you set the stage with a good lead, follow a well-written story that includes facts from your research and quotes from people you interviewed. Detail any events in chronological order. Use active voice – not passive voice – when possible and write in clear, short, direct sentences.”

Your story basically forms the entire piece. It makes or breaks your effort when it comes to turning your outline into a storyline. Take your time with it, don’t go with your first instinct, edit, go back, edit again, until you finally have something you’re proud of sharing with millions of people out there.

Step #8: Final Steps Before Pitching

Once you’re done preparing your story and putting it fresh on the table, there are some final steps that will help you be absolutely sure that you’re ready to pitch your piece. First, read your article aloud to yourself to spot tiny mistakes. This is the best way to catch yourself red-handed!

Then, show it to people you trust, like friends and family, and take honest feedback/reviews from them for how you wrote and prepared your article. A layman will always give you the best advice for a newspaper article, considering they’re the ones who are going to read it at the end of the day.

Try to also take feedback from literary people who are experienced in this field. Afterall, even if the layman is going to read your piece finally, you still need some expert advice to strictly examine your performance. 

Step #9: Submit Your Pitch

It’s time to finally submit your pitch to the editors of various newspapers. All the best!

Writing for Newspapers is no rocket science. All it takes is some knowledge of the correct technique used in writing your story. Editors are friendly and just like us, so never hesitate in reaching out to anybody whenever you’re stuck.

Let’s summarise our article on Writing for Newspapers: The Ultimate Guide, in these 9 steps:

A Summary of Writing for Newspapers: The Ultimate Guide
  • Step #1: Read the Newspaper Daily
  • Step #2: Structure an Outline for Your Story 
  • Step #3: Interview People, Gather Sources, Research
  • Step #4: Prepare the Headline for Your Article
  • Step #5: Don’t Forget Your Byline
  • Step #6: Take the Lead!
  • Step #7: Craft Your Storyline
  • Step #8: Final Steps Before Pitching
  • Step #9: Submit Your Pitch

Happy Writing and Pitching!

Image taken from here.

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