Writing Hard News Articles

Writing hard news articles, especially for newspapers, is unique because they are written to be cut.

What does that mean?

It means that they have to be able to have entire paragraphs removed to allow the text to fit in its allotted space in the newspaper.

To accomplish this requires the use of the inverted pyramid article style.

inverted pyramid

As you can see above, in the inverted pyramid, you put the most important information at the top.

It begins with the lead.

From the lead, you launch directly into the meat of the story. In this second section, you give all of the details you alluded to in the lead of the article. Answer the six questions at the heart of journalism.

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?
In the next paragraph, provide details that are of less importance. For example, if you are reporting on a bank robbery, and you've already answered the six questions above, you might include information about how much money was stolen. You might also have quotes from people who were there.
When writing hard news, this trend toward the unimportant continues to the end of the article. To test whether the article is an inverted pyramid, take out the last paragraph and see if the article still makes sense. If so, cut the next and try again.

Do this until you are certain the first one or two paragraphs can stand alone without leaving out any of the facts.

When you are sure your article can stand cutting, you will know you have achieved a inverted pyramid.

To practice:

  1. Find longer pieces in your local newspaper and study how they are put together.
  2. Identify the answers to the six questions above.
  3. Note the lessening importance of the information provided as you near the end of the article.
Think about an event you were part of and try crafting your own short piece about it using these guidelines.

Keep in mind that it takes time to develop these skills. Whether you are writing for the newspaper, national magazines or your professors.

Never give up.

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