Elements of a News Story

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News stories are structured differently from essays, poems or short stories. It’s useful to understand the pieces that make up a news story, and learn the terms we use to describe these elements.

HEADLINE: The headline is like an advertisement for the story. It attracts readers while telling them briefly what the story is about.

LEDE: All journalistic stories start with a lede (pronounced like “lead”). The lede is the first sentence or two of the story, and it leads the reader into the story, hooking his or her interest. If you don’t get your reader interested, they’ll skip right over your story and read another instead.
There are many different types of ledes – straight, anecdotal, historical, and the list goes on. Usually, the lede is the fact, moment or tidbit that you find most interesting about your story. We say “Don’t bury the lede,” meaning, don’t hold out on your reader by saving your most interesting information until halfway into the story – hit us with your best shot up front. Think about what facts have the most “news value.”
Journalists use the image of an “inverted,” or upside-down, pyramid to remind themselves that the
most important and newsworthy information should always be at the top of a story, and the rest of the information goes in order of most important to least important.

NUT GRAF: The nut graf is the main point or the “nut” of the story. “Graf” is short for “paragraph.” It should tell you all the basic information about your story.

The Five W’s and H – Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
WHO? Who are the main characters of the story? Who is the story about?
WHAT? What happened? What is the story about?
WHERE? Where does the action of the story take place?
WHEN? When did the story take place?
WHY? Why did this happen?
HOW? How did this happen? What were the factors that led to this event?
And one more:
SO WHAT? Why should the reader care about what happened?

QUOTES: Quotes are an important way to bring the voices of your characters into the story, to bring them to life for your reader. The best quotes express emotion, give the reader a sense of the person’s voice or character, or add color. Don’t quote basic information, like “I live on Adelphi.” Instead, just tell us where he lives outside of a quote, and use a stronger quote from him instead.
Quotes, enclosed in quote marks (“ ”) must be exactly what your interview subject said, as transcribed in your notes immediately or from a recording. If you didn’t take down exactly what a person said, don’t try to reconstruct the quote later – paraphrase instead.

PARAPHRASE. When paraphrasing, don’t use quote marks. Paraphrasing is a good way to summarize what a person said if they took a long time to say it, or if the way they said it is difficult to quote (because it needs context, or was a partial sentence, for example). It’s also a good way to convey information that would make for a bland quote – “I live on Adelphi,” for example.

KICKER: The kicker is the last line of the story. Often, it is a quote. It can be snappy, funny, moving, forward-looking. It “kicks” the reader out of the story.