How to Write a Newspaper Report
Students of higher classes are often asked to write a newspaper report on an important current incident, natural disaster or accident. Writing a newspaper report is different from other writing exercises because newspaper reports – or news articles, so to speak – present information in a specific way. A planned understanding of the task is the primary prerequisite. Next, a student must understand how or in what manner the relevant information can be presented to the targeted readers. The skill can be easily developed by some knowledge and practice. Knowing how to write newspaper articles surely develops your writing skill, enables you to convey some information precisely and attractively, and also prepares you for a career in journalism, if you choose to be one in future.
What is a newspaper report?
Not everything that is written by journalists or columnists in a newspaper is a report. To be most precise, a report is a piece of news presented in a written or oral form. For our present purpose we are concerned only with the printed version of news reporting. Now, there are three pertinent aspects of this task.
- The relevant bits (facts) of the information
- The sequence and manner of presentation
- The readership i.e. for whom the report is to be written
The Information Bits
Facts are the backbone of your news article and collecting those facts are the primary job of the reporter. Presenting those facts is the main job. However, a mere collection of facts may be very confusing unless you have a guideline and a plan. You can group them into three categories: (a) basic facts that are vital for the news; (b) interesting bits of information that are related to the news but not vital; and finally (c) facts related to the news but irrelevant for your present purpose. (However, if the facts are provided as part (points) of a writing task, you have to bracket out the third category, and consider all facts as relevant. Moreover, you must not exclude any point.)
What are the vital facts?
Since a ‘news’ is an event that is out of the ordinary, reporting is, therefore, responsible to inform the public about the event and its impact. Hence, facts are presented according to the order of their importance. The most vital bits of information – mentioned in category (a) - are presented first, and supporting details - mentioned in category (b) - later on, in descending order of their importance.
Now, what are the vital facts of information? How can you get sure that all of them are included in your reporting? An easy way of ensuring that all important facts are included in a news story is to check whether the 5 Ws and one H questions (often called 6 Ws) have been answered:
- Who - who was involved?
- What - what happened?
- Where - where did it happen?
- Why - why did it happen?
- When - when did it happen?
- How - how did it happen?
A news article that answers all of these questions is supposed to have all the vital facts of information.
The sequence and manner of presentation
Many a reader does not read a news article till the end. There is no compulsion. They will hold on, as long as they find it interesting, and stop reading at any length, as soon as they lose interest. When writing a news article, you should focus on giving your readers what they want as soon as possible. Give the vital information at the beginning, and the rest, usually the supporting details, in declining order of importance. Simultaneously, keep the reader engaged and encourage him to continue reading.
However, there should be no unnecessary details, no decorative language that distracts the reader’s attention and focus from the main news.
It is very important to know who you are preparing the report for, unless it is some kind of classroom exercise. You must decide the voice, tone and type of information in accordance with the nature of your audience. The six vital questions must be put in perspective of your audience. What is the average age group of your readership? Is it a local, national or international audience? What interests them? – All these questions are vitally important to set the tone, style of your writing. Basing on your prospective audience, decide how you can supply the best information in the quickest possible manner.