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Writing News Story. Gong Haihua. Bureau of International Cooperation. American professors funded by the Fulbright Scholar Program. Why me?. MA of International News Reporting and Writing, the China School of Journalism, affiliated to the Xinhua News Agency.

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Writing News Story

Gong Haihua

Bureau of International Cooperation

American professors funded by the Fulbright Scholar Program

Why me?

  • MA of International News Reporting and Writing, the China School of Journalism, affiliated to the Xinhua News Agency
  • The First Charles Wang Awards for Journalism Students, selected by the MOE
  • Over ten-month internship in Xinhua, including the 2000 Sydney Olympics

Hard news, newspapers and online news

  • News reporter, writer and editor
  • News in Chinese editing into English one

The Nature of News

The Lead

Story Structure

The Writer’s Art


Components of the story

The Nature of News

  • Accurate
  • Proper attributed
  • Complete
  • Balance and fair
  • Objective
  • Brief and focused
  • Well-written

To begin with the ABCs- accuracy, brevity and clarity.


The Nature of News

“ When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, it’s news.”

– John B. Bogart, editor of the New York Sun

“News is truth that matters.”

– Gerry Goldstein, the Providence Journal

“A news sense is really a sense of what is important, what is vital, what has color and life – what people are interested in. that’s journalism.”

– Burton Rascoe, the Chicago Tribune


News Values

The Nature of News

  • Timeliness
  • Impact, consequence or importance
  • Proximity to the people involved
  • Conflict
  • The unusual nature of the event
  • Currency
  • Necessity

At least ¾ of all stories fall into the categories of impact or importance and the unusual.


The Lead

The hardest part of all to write. Once you have written your lead, you have 90 percent of the story.

“Every journalist who has ever struggled with a lead knows why it can take so much effort. It is as important to him as to the reader. Writing it concentrates the mind wonderfully, forcing him to decide what in the story is important, what he wants to emphasize, and can eventually give the shape to the rest of the story as he writes it.”

- Henry Fairlie, a news reporter


The Lead

China's world sports champions go in for auction to help poor.

China's Olympic champion Liu Xiang breaks own record at charity auction.

Hurdler Liu Xiang auctioned his sports shoes bearing his signature on Sunday with some other Chinese world sports champions at a grand charity party to aid the schooling of rural migrant labor's children.

China's Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang's track shoes fetched 200,000 yuan (25,000 U.S. dollars) at a charity gala auction in Beijing on Sunday, breaking his own record made at a similar event two weeks ago.


The Lead

The lead sentence usually contains one idea and follows the subject-verb-object sentences structure for clarity. It should not exceed 35 words.

Usually contains five W’s and an H.


The Lead

The best lead always attracts the readers to go on with the reading while gives readers the main points of the story.

China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) Wednesday ordered health authority of southwest Sichuan Province to thoroughly investigate a food poisoning case occurred last Saturday.

China's food safety watchdog has ordered health authorities to investigate the food poisoning of almost 400 people at a wedding in Sichuan Province at the weekend.


The Lead

In an effort to prevent abuse of judicial power and fight corruption, China's Supreme People's Court issued a new regulation Wednesday to list a great number of restrictions against court staff, ranging from taking bribery to committing adultery with litigants. (Xinhua)

China has tightened its rules governing law court officials after a former senior judge received a life sentence for corruption, warning staff not to leave the country without approval or have sex with litigants. (Reuters)


The Lead

How Reporters Think Leads?

  • Questions to ask in search for suitable leads:
  • Whatwas unique or the most important or unusual thing that happened?
  • Who was involved – who did it or who said it?

The Lead

  • Then, to seek words and a form that will give shape to the responses:
  • Is there a colorful word or dramatic phrase I can work into the lead?
  • What is the subject, and what verb will best move the reader into the story?
ways of composing a lead
Ways of composing a lead:

The Lead

  • Immediate-identification leads – who, sometimes widely recognized name(s)
  • Mayor John Jones, or Carpenter John Jones
  • Delayed-identification leads – who is less important, usually little name recognition name(s)
      • but with important or interesting position, occupation, title or achievements
      • when the lead is to wordy
ways of composing a lead1
Ways of composing a lead:

The Lead

  • Summary leads – several important elements rather than a single specific action

The City Council replaced the city’s 75-year-old municipal code with a revised version Tuesday night.

  • Multiple-element leads – more than one theme of the lead (seldom used)

A flash fire that swept through a landmark downtown hotel Saturday killed at least 12 persons, injured 60 more and forced scores of residents to leap from windows and the roof in near-zero cold.

ways of composing a lead2
Ways of composing a lead:

The Lead

  • Leads with flair – novelty, unusual

Thirty suspected drug dealers, including a couple about to be married, were arrested at a wedding Friday night.

The wedding guest including drug suspects, the social coordinator was a narcotics agent, the justice of the peace was police chief, and 52 officers were party crashers.

For the unsuspecting bride and groom, the ceremony Friday night was truly unforgettable – a sting operation set up by state and local police that led to 30 arrests.


News Structure

The Inverted Pyramid

The standard and traditional structure of a news story.

Important elements at the beginning, less important at the end.

To meet the requirements of editing, cut the bottom without losing any key information.


News Structure

The Wall Street Journal Story Formula

Anecdote: Begin with an example

Explicit statement of theme: The lead (less than 6 para)

Statement of the significance of the theme:

Why should I be reading this?

Details:Proof, elaboration of the theme

Answer to reader’s questions:Why is this happening? What’s being done?


News Structure

How to continue with the follow-up?

  • Introduce additional important information you were not able to include in the lead.
  • If possible, indicate the significance or so-what factor.
  • Elaborate on the information presented in the lead.
  • Continue introducing new information in the order in which you have ranked it by importance.
  • Develop the ideas in the same order in which you have introduced them.
  • Generally, use only one new idea in each paragraph.

Take yourself as the first reader of your story.


News Structure


Major theme

Background information

Explanation of lead

Additional explanation of lead

Supporting facts, quotes, incidents,

illustrations and anecdotes

Secondary themes

Further supporting facts


News Structure

The creator of China's largest pornographic website was sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday.

Judges at the Taiyuan Intermediate People's Court handed down the sentence to Chen Hui and ordered the confiscation of 100,000 yuan (12,500 U.S. dollars).

Additional info & elaboration. Basically no quotations in this kind of elaboration.


News Structure

Thieves Get 36 Batteries

Thieves who entered a Charlotte auto parts store stole 36 Delco batteries, police were today yesterday.

Crowell Erskine, 49, manager of the Piedmont Auto Exchange at 410 Atando Ave., told officers the stores was broken into between 5 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. Wednesday by thieves knocking a hole in the rear wall of the one-story brick building.

Erskine said the batteries were valued at $539.18.

-- The Charlotte Observer

Further explanation

– how, when, where, and attribution


A Case Study

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – Pregnant womenworking at video display terminals less than 20 hours a week face no increased risk of miscarriages, according to the preliminary results of a University of Michigan survey.

More research is needed to determine whether pregnant women who work more than 20 hours have a higher rate of problem pregnancies, scientists said Tuesday.




Further explanation of the lead, stating the limitation of research.



A Case Study

The university studied 728 state employees in Michigan, and results were released Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Las Vegas.

“These findings should relieve the concern for many women who currently use VDTs at their jobs,” said Professor William J. Butler, who teamed with Professor Kelley Ann Brix, on the study paid for by the March of Dimes.


Direct quote

Always check names


A Case Study

Support for the first paragraph; partial answer to how research was conducted

Of 697 pregnancies reported by part-time employees, there were 145 miscarriages – about what would be expected, the study said.

But of the 120 pregnancies reported by women working more than 20 hours per week, 26 resulted in miscarriages, about 5 percent more than expected, the study showed.

The study looked at the women from the years 1980 to 1985.

Support for the second paragraph

Why is not answered






The Writer’s Art

  • A well-written story:
  • Makes its point clearly.
  • Engages the reader with human-interest material, quotations, incidents and examples.
  • Guides the reader with a pace and a style appropriate to the event or personality being described.
  • Leaves the reader satisfied that the story is complete and is truthful.

The Writer’s Art


Flame from the boilers have died away.

Three experts have been sent by the Ministry of Health to look into the outbreak in Shangcheng County of Henan Friday.

The three-day forum started Wednesday was jointly organized by (the) Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Being his second since assuming office in December last year, Chui delivered the 2011 policy address at the SAR's Legislative Assembly.

Chui delivered the 2011 policy address, his second since assuming office in December last year, at the SAR's Legislative Assembly.



The Writer’s Art


Sentence Length





The Writer’s Art

Transitional expressions:

Additives: again, also, and, finally, furthermore, in addition, next, thus, so, moreover, as well…

Contrasts: but, however, nevertheless, instead, on the other hand, otherwise, yet, nonetheless, farther…

Comparisons: likewise, similarly…

Place: adjacent to, beyond, here, near, opposite…

Time: afterwards, in the meantime, later, meanwhile, soon…


  • Clarity:
  • Pronouns
  • Key words and ideas
  • Transitional expressions
  • Parallel structure

The Writer’s Art

Show, do not tell:

I don’t tell; I don’t explain. I show; I let my characters talk for me.-- Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Not only a maxim in newsrooms, but one basic rule of good writing

Good writers let the words and the actions of their subjects do the work: (A child killed by a sniper)

The grief-stricken parents wept during the funeral.

The parents wept quietly. Mrs Franklin leaned against her husband for support.


The Writer’s Art

  • More guides about “show, don’t tell”
  • Put good quotes and human interests up high
  • Put relevant illustrations or anecdotes up high
  • Use concrete nouns and colorful action verbs
  • Avoid too much adjectives and adverbs
  • Avoid judgments and inferences. Let the facts talk.
  • Write simply, clearly, honestly and quickly

The Writer’s Art

  • Accuracy of language:
  • Use words with referents: No vague terms
          • e.g. progress, freedom, patriotism, big business, militant, radical
  • Euphemisms: describe the real, not blunt, blur or distort it
    • e.g. taxes – revenue enhancement
    • unemployment – negative advancement
    • senior citizens, sight deprived
    • Always said: as neutral as possible
        • Consult your dictionary before use affirmed, asserted, contended, declared, disclosed, pointed out, shouted, stated or whispered.
  • Facts first, words second
  • Spelling

Personal Suggestion

  • Read, read while write
    • Good story attracts your reader including yourself
    • Check your grammar and spelling
  • Sober mind
  • Critical thinking
  • Write to the point (words and facts)
  • Practice makes perfect