News Reporting and Writing Soft News & Features Gerry Doyle “Soft news” and features Basically, any type of story that is not hard news. A story about an interesting subject that you come upon, either by accident, or because you specifically went out looking for it. The story is about something the general public would be interested in knowing about. Hard news v. soft news Hard news usually deals with serious topics: war, murder, fire, a protest or a speech. Soft news and features: lighter, less urgent and less somber topics: How to buy a cat; a profile of a clown. But features can also be hard-hitting: consider “Snow Fall” Timely and timeless A timely feature is related to the hard news of the day, but looks at that news from another angle. A timeless feature can stand on its own and run at any time. The marks of a feature Features can be “soft news” – less urgent events that are not as swiftly reported. More time for research, interviews and observations. Focus, writing tone and story structure are all different from news stories. Requires a different type of lead. The marks of a feature Feature stories still have to get the reader interested enough to read through the rest of the story. The “nut graf ”: a paragraph or paragraphs that explain the point of the story. The “nut graf ” serves the same purpose as the lead in a hard news story. The Ken Wells Theory “There are only two kinds of [feature] stories: the ‘no [email protected]#&’ story and the ‘holy [email protected]#&’ story.” The “no [email protected]#&” feature Tells readers something they already know. Spouts conventional wisdom. Belabors the obvious: -- There’s violence and drug-related crime in the inner cities of the United States. The “Holy [email protected]#&” feature Surprises. Teaches. Might even vex or disturb. But it never bores. Gang members who have been shot get tricked-out wheelchairs with gold wheels and custom spokes. Feature topics Lifestyles: issues and trends that affect our minds (goals, jobs, families, relationships) and bodies (trends in fashion and fitness). Feature topics Health: Your audience wants advice on improving their health. This includes dieting tips, exercise advice and medical news. Feature topics Science and technology: These cover technology, the environment, computer gadgets. Feature topics Entertainment: What people do for fun – movies, concerts, theater, art galleries, books, recordings, computer games, restaurants, beer festivals. Feature topics Food: Advice on how to buy it, cook it and even grow it. Feature topics Home and garden: How to dig it, weed it, build it, repair, redecorate and rewire it. Types of stories The personality profile: A portrait in words about someone worth reading about. People want to know how newsmakers think, talk, act and look. Profiles can also be about places. Human-interest story: When you have a tale to tell about people. The situation can be tragic, funny, odd or inspirational. Types of stories Color story: In this case, “color” means flavor or mood. Focus is on events: parades, strikes, festivals, funerals, rallies and even disasters. Interview participants and report on the sights and sounds. Behind-the-scenes: A story where you take your audience “behind the curtain” of some event or ongoing news story. Types of stories Trend story: Keep audience plugged in to the people, places, things and ideas affecting our culture. The latest, hottest, coolest, oddest. Reaction story: A sampling of opinions to big news. Experts, victims, “ordinary” people are interviewed. Types of stories Flashback: Commemorative stories – the 15th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China; the fifth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake. How-to: Teach the audience how to do something: invest money, lose weight, win big at a Macau casino. Types of stories Consumer guide: A public service category. Where to buy the cheapest shoes, the best dim sum. Almost everything we do, buy or eat can be rated. Personal narrative: Written in first person, which is rarely practiced. But if you have a powerful experience, personal narrative is an effective tool to use. Types of stories Memoir: Someone’s trip down memory lane. Explanatory: Also called an analysis. Writer seeks to explain the issues or answer questions raised by some news event. Or, explain how something works. Types of stories Participatory: The reporter takes part in something. Historical: The reporter takes the reader back to some important event or person. Seasonal: Stories that work in certain types of the year. Types of stories Adventure: Someone’s unique trip, voyage or expedition, or encounter with nature. Travel: Stories about interesting places that we might want to visit. Types of stories Occupational: Describing how a person performs their job. Backgrounder: Through research and interviews you focus on an issue or event. You explain how it happened, why it matters and what comes next. Summing up The reporter still has to answer the who, what, when, where, why and how. But additionally, you are putting a human dimension in your story. And you add context – a way of making your story important and relevant to your audience. Summing up Incite emotions: joy, curiosity, sadness, anger or other emotions. And remember, good feature stories have strong themes – the essential idea of what the story is about. Good features help your audience think, see, hear and feel. Homework Read: “English Language News Writing,” Pages 115-125.