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Nonfiction
Primarily Journalism
By Eliott Fields
April, 2006, 16:14

Who, What, Where, When, and Why are the fundamentals but you need a hook.
E
ach and every month IN's Writer's Life Journalism section presents the finest in journalistic educational information using a variety of writers, with varied levels of experience. All of this is free of charge and online for your reading pleasure and enlightenment.

When requested to write a newspaper article a journalist will immediately revert to the 5 Ws. This always reminds me of the Canadian television news show W5, which leads me to procrastinate by thinking about all of the great special news broadcasts that this production company has put into the air waves. Talking about procrastination - I'm a master at it.

The 5 Ws: Who, What, Where, When, and Why are the fundamentals that need to be followed in order to present solid coverage of any topic. Answer those questions in the first paragraph if possible - preferably in the first sentence.

If a journalist can work in a hook for the reader, that's all the better. Catch the reader's attention and hold it all the way to the end of the article. This is accomplished by being funny or witty, making a surprise comment or a provocative statement from the very beginning, such as the confession that I'm a master procrastinator.

Examine the first two paragraphs of this article and you'll see I did just that. I covered:

Who: Inkwell Newswatch

What: Journalism education

Where: Online

When: Monthly

Why: For your reading pleasure and enlightenment

Hook: Distraction and the claim that I'm a procrastinator

The Meat of the Matter

The middle paragraphs, which I'm about to write, need to provide the meat of the article.

Journalism is one of the toughest professions in which to achieve success. Whether it's in television broadcast, print, radio, or the Internet, it's a hard slog to make it anywhere near the top. There are assignments, unless a journalist freelances and that's not recommended first day out; there is living out of a suitcase, encountering disease, and even death - around a journalist and sometimes directed at him.

To be involved in the trade, wear a brave heart to tough it out while experiencing a war zone or a hurricane, and maintain an objective view about it. Be street smart and have a solid, reliable gut instinct. Persevere and be dedicated. And on top of all of that, possess the ability to sniff out facts and develop relationships with trusted sources.

A journalist should always be objective - or so it's generally accepted - never stating their own opinions about the content of a report. However, successful journalism often can be accomplished by the journalist actually being involved in the news. One of the most infamous journalists of our time, and the supposed inventor of this "let's include my opinion in the news" concept, was Hunter S. Thompson. Under usual circumstances though it is best to use other people's opinions and quote them.

Take notes, write quotes, use active verbs and tell the interesting bits first. Journalists live by that credo.

Let's Wrap This Up

So that's the meat of the matter; and now to the closing paragraph. A news journalist can't leave the reader in suspense and - for blessing's sake - no experienced journalist in their right mind closes with words like "In conclusion..." or "To finish off this story..." because it's an absolutely boring start to a closing paragraph.

The best way to close out an article is with a catchy phrase or, like I did below, an informative quote that pertains to the topic at hand.

"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism." - Hunter S. Thompson
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Eliott Fields is a University of Toronto English student learning the writing ropes and struggling with completing his first book, Trevor Milstone and the Underground Adventure. email: jmaccount@canada.com



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