A How-To Guide: Writing News Through a Pandemic.
First time conducting a news story? Amidst a pandemic? Let me be your agony aunt.
The coronavirus has undoubtedly transformed life from what we once knew it as. We’ve been advised to stay at home, keep our distance from loved ones and the future feels very uncertain. So, why attempt a to write a news story in a time like this?
A simple answer: news is even more relevant now than it ever has been before. The fast pace, high pressured environment of being a journalist was something I indulged myself within when completing a university assignment. As an undergraduate, this was the first time I had written a news story and I knew that the task of reporting from home was something I was going to have to make myself familiar with. By sharing both my newsgathering and writing top tips, I hope that the idea of writing a news story through a pandemic can become somewhat less daunting.
- Fake it until you make it!
Confidence is key. Being a journalist requires talking to people, and lots of them. Approaching strangers and initiating a conversation can be nerve-wracking but like anything, practise makes perfect. I find that making a rough script in my notes before interviewing helps. The last thing you want is a deer in the headlights scenario.
2. Nag, nag, nag.
People aren’t always on a strict time schedule like you may be, so the emails you send may be pushed to the back of their inbox. I find that sending follow up emails always help give a gentle push that contacts sometimes need to respond. However, some people aren’t always keen to get involved, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the response you were hoping for.
3. Social media is your friend
In a time where face masks are required and a 2m distance is mandatory, utilize the internet! Social media is the perfect way of engaging with people without having to worry about the restrictions of the pandemic. Taking to local community groups on Facebook is one example that helped increase the newsworthiness of my articles.
Journalism is a race against time. You want to ensure that your story is published in time so that it is relevant to your readers. If your story is no longer relevant, it won’t make the headlines (no pressure).
5. Know your target audience
Knowing your audience is a key component when writing a news story, you want it to interest your readers. Focus on your audience and try not to go off-topic. Try collating clear objectives before mapping out your story.
6. The infamous ‘inverted pyramid’
The ideal way of backwards storytelling. When facing the task of constructing your news story, I find following the inverted pyramid diagram to be of use. It’s important to get your story across in as little words a possible- the aim of the game is to keep the reader engaged. Save all your knowledge of descriptive language for a novel, it isn’t needed here!
7. Legal and ethical issues
Abiding by the law and considering ethical issues will stop you finding yourself in trouble. The IPSO regulates the majority of the UK’s magazines and newspapers. Their code of practice underlines the rules and regulations regarding writing a news story.
Although there is a lot to take into consideration when conducting a news story, my biggest top tip is don’t lose the element of fun — a happy writer equals a happy reader.