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Writing News Articles - The Right Angle

Aug 17, 2007
News writing doesn't have to be boring! If a writer can't learn to spice up the story with the right angle, readers will skip right past it - no matter how important the content.

Writing an interesting news piece isn't hard. You just have to learn how to approach it in a more interesting manner. Readers need to know what happened at last night's school board meeting, but is it necessary to bore them with a basic rundown of the agenda? Of course not! Even at the most mundane meeting, a good writer can find a unique angle or twist to highlight some aspect of what's being discussed. Just stay away from sensationalizing and editorializing in order to create a story. It may seem that that's what sells these days, but a true news journalist should always strive to get the story - the real story - and present it in a fair and factual manner.

Angles Are Everything:
What is an angle? It's an articles selling tool. It's what takes those boring who, what, where, when, and why facts of the story, and gives it a little extra pop! It's a new twist on an old idea. That doesn't mean that every story deserves (or can handle) an offbeat angle, but it does need to fresh and interesting.

While feature writing encouraging trying unique angles, using them in hard news can be a bit trickier. Solid news writing should be first and foremost factual, informative, and to the point. Readers need to know about that new "playground tax" discussed at the Board of Supervisors meeting, but, instead of presenting it as a sensationalistic piece on yet another burdening tax on local citizens, or a dry lowdown on how much this tax will cost homeowners, why not try a more interesting angle?

Find out why the Supervisors find it necessary to implement such an unusual tax. Visit the playgrounds in town and see their disrepair. Show your readers the safety concerns under question, and explain the cost of refurbishing the playgrounds in detail. Find out about communities that have closed their playgrounds. Did boredom cause an increase in vandalism? Offer some alternatives to the tax -- like community fix-up days or corporation and church-sponsored fundraisers.

Another angle you might like to try: interview doctors at a local emergency room to the results of the head injuries and broken bones caused by under-maintained playgrounds in your area. Interview a young child and their parents who have suffered a debilitating injury from a playground accident. Give your readers a chance to see the importance of this tax. If you find there isn't one after doing some research, than show that too! Prove your findings using lots of statistics and human interest.

How To Find The Right Angle:
Every story has at least a dozen angles. The writer's job is to find one that fits your readership and publication's style. Stuck for finding a way to make your next news story jump off the page? Try these tips for finding just the right angle:

-Observation is Everything. No matter what the subject, take the time to sit back and really observe what's happening around you. Not only will you find an interesting angle, you just might find the story everyone else is missing. Are all the reporters covering the school board meeting as a whole? Take one interesting little tidbit from the meeting and run with it. Maybe the school superintendent won't agree to attend the annual training seminar this summer he has for the past 20. Ask why? Maybe he's planning a unique family vacation that week - or maybe he's going to resign before the end of the school year and hasn't announced it yet. Be on the lookout for strange or unusual behavior. It may lead you down a more interesting story path.

-Keep An Open Mind. Don't overlook any possibility when looking for an article angle. After all, that messy eater you saw at the local community dinner may be all the inspiration you need to write an article on proper picnic etiquette.

-Write Down Everything. Keep meticulous notes. Don't worry so much about gathering facts and statistics you can gather later. First, concentrate on gathering images and bits of conversations that will be lost and forgotten once the meeting or event is over. Those are the real gems to bring your article to life. Save them.

-Let Your Subject Captivate You. Really listen during an interview. Feel what your subject is feeling. Bring that personal aspect to your story. After all, if you can't get excited about your subject matter, how can you expect your reader to?

What makes a good news writer? Most readers agree it's the ability to find new ways to tell old stories. There will always be a new tax on the table, or a controversy in the courthouse. Learn to take those bland and ordinary facts and turn them into interesting articles readers will want to read.
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