The ABCs of News Writing

The ABCs of news writing are Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity.

The first and most important is accuracy.

A story can be creative and compelling, but if it contains errors, it is worthless.
Actually, it is worse than worthless; a false news story undercuts the public trust necessary for the survival of a free press. Keep in mind that the First Amendment specifically protects the press from government control so that the public can receive accurate and unbiased information.

The public needs unbiased information to make intelligent choices in the voting booth. This is critical to the process of democracy in our country. If the public loses faith in the accuracy and fairness of the press, loss of faith in democracy will soon follow.

Always check numbers, spellings of names, who said what, and the other basic facts of any story. A reporter's job is to find out what is going on, then write a story that's interesting and informative. Accuracy always comes first.

Second is brevity.

Each word in your story should do a job. If not, take it out. Get to the point. Say it just once. Don't be redundant. Don't say "8 a.m. in the morning," since 8 a.m. is in the morning. Just say 8 a.m. Or say 8 in the morning. Remember the inverted pyramid style of writing. Put the most important fact in the lead. Hook the reader's attention. Explain the lead and then go on to the next most important fact in the second inverted pyramid. And then the next. Lead up to an interesting finish. Don't just stop writing when you run out of information.

Clarity starts before you write.

Clarity starts with complete, competent reporting. You should understand your subject so completely that your story leaves it crystal-clear in the reader's mind. Your story should leave no questions unanswered.

Avoid jargon. Explain anything that wouldn't be obvious to the average person. The more information you gather, the more you have to sift through to determine what belongs in the lead.

The more you know, the harder it is to tell it quick and make it simple. It's only easy if you don't know what you're talking about. No one said good reporting is easy.