BASICS OF NEWS REPORTING AND WRITING #3: How To Write The Lead And Body Of A News Story
In the first segment of this series, we briefly examined the most important criteria for determining news worthiness and tips for news gathering.
In the second segment, we began to study how to write a news story, with a focus on the headline. You should peruse those episodes by clicking on their titles below, if you haven’t done so, before going through this one. And be sure to do the exercises too.
HOW TO WRITE A NEWS STORY Contd.
News stories are written in the inverted pyramid order. This means that the most important information is presented first, followed by the second most important, down to the least important or minor details.
HOW TO WRITE A LEAD
A lead is the first paragraph of a news story. It is traditionally written in summary style, meaning that it encapsulates the story or gives the most important aspect of it.
A well-written lead once condensed gives you the headline for your story, which means that if your headline and lead are saying different things, your story is wrong.
Just as we stated with headlines, always avoid label leads. A label lead identifies the event without revealing what happened or was said at the event.
HOW TO WRITE THE BODY OF THE STORY
Right after the lead, there is need to provide the context within which what was put in the lead occurred. This is because it is often impossible to compress the answers to the 5Ws and H (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) into the lead.
The 5Ws and H are called news elements – they are the questions you need to answer to write a complete story.
Therefore, the most important of the news elements are addressed in the lead and the rest (as many as are available) are provided in the second paragraph called the bridge.
Check the first two paragraphs of the matric story for illustration.
The bridge is followed up by an explanation of the information in the lead. Once again, if what you have in the third paragraph is not shedding light on what you reported in the lead, your story is probably going amiss.
Furthermore, you must exhaust the explanation of what you put in the lead before presenting other parts of the story. This may take several paragraphs.
And the other parts should be brought into the story according to their level of importance.
Do not jump from one to the other and back again as this may confuse the reader.
You may, however, need to add background material and other explanatory information at various points in the story to ease comprehension as the story on demands by the UNN community for new notes shows.
Looking at the matric. Story that we have been referring to throughout this series, the headline and lead focused on the most salient thing the VC said.
The bridge explained the circumstances under which he said it.
The next five paragraphs elaborated on what the VC said.
Note that the story is not written in a chronological manner, nor does it contain everything that happened at the event.
The dean of the faculty who spoke on behalf of the VC is introduced along the way, followed by the faculty officer and the guest from the Students’ Disciplinary Committee and finally the students.
This, in brief, is how a news story is written. We shall break this topic more in future, by God’s grace, but we wanted to arm you with the basics you need to start reporting news in a fairly standard manner.
1. Mention the sort of things that should be excluded when writing a news story of an important event.
2. Compose a news story from the passage below. It’s from a Twitter thread posted on Feb. 19, 2023 by Nasir A. El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State.
Title: NIGERIA UPDATE: ABC of Currency Redesign vs. XYZ of Cash Confiscation Explained:
Currency redesign was approved by the President and announced. Currency recoloring resulted.
Currency swap was envisaged by s.20(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act as approved by PMB. Swap means I take N100,000 to the bank in old notes & I receive N100,000 immediately in new notes. No more, no less.
During implementation of the cash swap, the CBN withdrew over N2 trillion from circulation but printed only N400 billion, so in effect, currency confiscation was then unilaterally and unlawfully implemented by the CBN. Trade and exchange have collapsed. Human suffering, impoverishment and economic contraction resulted.
The policy objective was derailed into a deliberate national fiasco to sabotage the elections in the name of preventing vote-buying. All efforts to get CBN to implement what was lawfully approved failed.
Some State Governments had no choice but to approach the Supreme Court for adjudication. The APC as a party and the Progressive Governors Forum are unanimous that policy implementation must be reviewed, and full compliance of the subsisting ruling of the Supreme Court be observed until final judgment on the suit instituted by the State Governments.
3. Compose a proper headline for the story.
(Get as much help as you can with the exercise.)
We covered a lot of ground in this series and it was intentional. We want you to have the confidence you need to start practising journalism. There’s so much more to learn but these basics can help you begin the journey with the belief that you can do it.
Keep working on the assignments and remember that our training continues with a longer series on News Writing specifically.
Share The Record UNN stories widely as getting a by-line on an online medium becomes much more valuable when you get hundreds or thousands of eyeballs on your story, rather than recording just a few reads.
Ask your questions in the Comments below. Sending you much love and hugs! Ciao!
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