The basics of a news story in five bullet points and five minutes

I shared the rough curriculum I had established for working with a journalism club at a neighborhood school before my time there was cut short.

Just a week after I took a full-time job and told the club’s adviser that I’d have to take a bit of a sabbatical from my time there, I wanted to give a primer to have a conversation about the basics of journalism with her students.

In fewer than ten minutes, I tried to bottle an entire journalism degree into five bullet points. Clearly I missed plenty.

Below, see what I shared. Let me know what giant holes these high school kids will have in their foundation because of my failures!

  1. Who, Why, Where,What and When (and sometimes how) — Yes, cliche or not, those are the five questions every good news story strives to answer. See inverted pyramid!
  2. Lede (yes, we journos spell it that way) — The ‘topic sentence’ for you English teachers is the most important sentence of any story. It’s meant to draw the reader in (point to any number of print pubs that might be floating around in your school). There are two basic types: a feature (or soft lede) and a news (or hard) lede. Simply, a feature lede starts off with a story, and a news lede starts off with fact. They’re each important for relevant stories. Check any newspaper story, and you’ll be able to point out the difference.
  3. A quote high (high=early in the story) — I always tell kids that just like how you wish you could hear a different person’s voice in biology class, in news stories we try to break the text up with interesting quotes from other people. So, as soon as it is relevant, most good news stories have a direct quotation that says something interesting and comes from someone relevant from the story. So we need our kids to interview different people (not their friends) and write down exactly what they say.
  4. Nut graf — Usually the first thick graf (yes, we journos spell them that way) This is the core of why this story is important, and what the basic details are. Usually, the Who, Why, Where,What and When in its most condensed format. The important part of this for the kids is that we want to get up high why a story is relevant to the reader. It’s the take away the reader should get. (I just went to Philly.com and the top story was on the Sixers, I pulled it up and I see the nut graf, which  is “Tonight’s version of opportunity missed…” it gives me the importance of the story. (And note that it is, like most sports stories, a feature lede).
  5. Check facts, check facts, check facts — How do you spell that name, what is her title, where did this story come from and more.

I also directed her to Poynter’s recent list of 100 things a journalist must do.

Any big concepts I missed?