First up, everyone needs to look at their story topic and consider:
Is it news?
News is new information. It's stuff that isn't already known. You need to make sure that new information is the focus, or angle, of your story. If you're writing about something that people already know about, try and find a fresh way of looking at it - look at the impact your news is having on your local community, or write about a person who is directly involved with/affected by your topic.
Writing your intro
Once you've decided what your most important piece of new information is, you have your angle. With that in mind, ask yourself the following questions:
Write the answers on a piece of paper.
Again, ask yourself: what is the most interesting/important fact among those six pieces of information? Then construct a sentence, beginning with the most important/interesting point, and including all six pieces of information.
That's your introduction!
From that point, structure your story in order of importance. Where a recount follows the clock, a news story follows the order of importance.
Some important points
Your ABC of journalism is:
A - ACCURACY The number one rule of reporting. You must be entirely sure whatever you write is accurate. People are going to read it and believe it and 100 years from now what you've written will still be there. You are recording history.
B - BALANCE Part of being accurate is telling all sides to a story. If you're only telling one side you're presenting opinion and not news.
C - CREDIBILITY People need to know where you got your facts from so they can decide whether or not they want to trust them. They need to know your facts are believable, or credible. Your main form of research will probably be interviews. Make sure you interview EXPs - people who are experts or experienced on the subject. They are credible sources of information.
● use I, WE or OUR. How can a story where the writer uses the words 'I, we or our' be balanced? These words should alert you to the fact that the information you're about to present is the opinion of one person, or one group of people. Instead, be objective. Be the fly on the wall, writing about what is going on. Write about things as if you're an observer, not living through them. Only use I, WE or OUR if they are part of direct quotes from your EXPs.
● start your stories with a question. Stick to the basic introduction formula above and you can't go wrong.
● use a conclusion. A conclusion is a final paragraph where you summarise all the important parts of your argument and make a final statement, adding your own opinion. Conclusions belong in essays, not news stories. It is not your job to argue a point of view, or sum up with your opinion. A news story just runs out when you run out of important information.
● use lots of quotes. People love reading what other people say, and nobody can say things better than our EXPs. So quote your sources often.
● look for an interesting, fresh angle. Again, people love reading about other people - their ideas, their lives, their communities. This is called giving a story a human face.
● look outside your school for story ideas. Tens of thousands of people will read your paper, from Gosford to Ballina to Dubbo. Think about story ideas that would be interesting to everyone - other primary students to politicians. They are all going to read your work.
● be mindful of your publication date. Something you are writing about may have happened between submission and publication. You’ll need to either write as though it has happened or send through updates to the competition co-ordinator.
● remember, it’s news. Tell the reader something they don’t already know.
Coming up with story ideas
The first, and often the hardest, thing to come up with are the topics for your stories. They need to be interesting for the Herald audience and relevant to your community.
The biggest mistake that schools make is to just write about events that are happening within their school. This may be suitable for the school newsletter, but it isn’t of much importance to the greater Herald readership.
The best place to start is to look at what is happening in your community – there is always something going on.
Here are some ideas to help you come up with potential stories:
Is there a new development proposed/being built/something getting demolished?
Is there an ongoing problem in your suburb/town – roads, service providers (health, police, teachers), lacking facilities or infrastructure?
Is there a regular event that happens in your area – general meetings, fairs, expos, sports meets, a historical event?
Have any studies been done and the results released, maybe be banks, medical research, environmental and religious groups – perhaps it has implications on your area
Events on community noticeboards – protests, fun groups, health clubs, general lectures
Is someone in the community achieving something worthwhile – in the fields of sport, culture, art, music, education, their work?
Have there been any crimes, donations, accidents, unexpected deaths or announcements?
Talk to the local newsagent or shopkeeper, or people around town, they often will lead you to a story.
Great story ideas from last year:
The building of a new bridge to alleviate traffic congestions
The lack of rural GPs
Anniversaries of churches, schools and other buildings
A local knitting group suppling clothes and goods to those in need and soldiers
Local fairs, markets and fetes
Vandalism of school property
Students representing their school on a national level
Repair work to Les Darcy’s grave, upgrades to the local police station
A town that ran out of petrol and another that lost all ATM services
A new memorial that opened – also surf club, skate park and expressway
A literacy program using dogs for therapy
The impact of a new bottle shop on a town with health problems, the after-effects of a bush-bashing accident