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Journalistic Writing

BROADCAST AND WEB NEWS WRITING:WRITE CONCISELY, BROADCAST STYLE

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LECTURE 42
BROADCAST AND WEB NEWS WRITING
"Writing is hard work- it's only easy for those who haven't learned to write."
Writing broadcast news can be divided into two story types. Both types are based on the time it takes to
present the information to your targeted audience.
News Features are stories between 3 and 7 minutes long about things that have happened in the past. The
ideas and pictures for feature news stories are usually planned out on a storyboard. Writing news feature
storyboards involves explaining how the audio (sounds) and the shots, (visual details) will present the
researched background facts and information.
Breaking news and daily announcements are stories that are happening today or in the near future. Breaking
news and daily announcements are usually written into a teleprompter to be read on-air by announcers. Writing
breaking news and daily announcements involves presenting information in short stories between 15 seconds
and 1 minute long. Sources of information may be limited. The information can be incomplete or possible
inaccurate. Usually, you have a very short time to contact sources to confirm or correct information. A rule-of-
thumb that advertising writers use to estimate a story's time is that at a normal speaking pace, 65 words
equal 30 seconds.
Whether you are writing news features, breaking news or daily announcements, the following are basic rules to
follow:
1. WRITE CONVERSATIONALLY: Tell a story without being boring. Say it as though you were telling
your best friend or your Mom or Dad with enthusiasm.
2. WRITE CONCISELY: Use short sentences. Use one idea per sentence. Avoid words you don't need.
3. SIMPLIFY COMPLICATED IDEAS: Present straight-forward facts in a way that does not talk down to
people. Remember, they will only hear the information once, so it is important that what they hear is easy
to understand.
4. RESEARCH & VERIFY ALL INFORMATION: Know what you are talking about. Check the facts.
Get first hand information, not second hand opinion. Research will tell you which way your story will go in
finding the truth. Be objective; there are always two sides to a story.
5. AVOID NEWSPAPER CONSTRUCTION IN YOUR WRITING: The viewer "hears" your story.
They can not read your script. Don't use terms like, "In the Headlines" - "Front Page News" or
"Cover Story" Newspaper words: "vie" "nab" "bust" "laud" "grill" "foe" "woe" "fray" "hike"-
for raise or increase "ink"-for signs "pact" "opt" "eye"-for watch "blast" "rap" "hit"-for criticize
"slay, slew, or slain" "youth" -for young person "former, latter, or respectively" or "Accord" -for
contract or agreement. Viewers want to hear you speak naturally- like they do in every-day conversations.
Don't start or end stories with prefabricated phrases -(headlines) "It's Official" "It Shouldn't Come As
a Surprise" "It Had to Happen Eventually"
6. DON'T SCARE THE VIEWERS: Why would you start a story with "This story is very complicated and
confusing?" Viewers don't want to know about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby!
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7. DON'T GIVE ORDERS: "Listen Up" or "Attention" Just tell the information- don't tell them what to
do with it...
8. DON'T BURY A STRONG VERB IN A NOUN: Say, "a bomb exploded" not "a bomb explosion"
Use "VIGOROUS VERBS" for Go Power!
9. DON'T START A STORY WITH: "As expected" or "In a surprise move" People don't want the
expected or like feeling as though they don't know what's going on. Phrases like "A new development"
or "Making the news" are redundant. Why else would it be on the news?
10. DON'T CHARACTERIZE THE NEWS AS GOOD, BAD, INTERESTING, OR SHOCKING:
Let the viewers decide what good, bad, shocking, etc is. What is good for one person might be bad for
another.
11. DON'T START A LEAD SENTENCE WITH A PARTICIPLE PHRASE (ING-WORD) OR A
DEPENDENT CLAUSE: We don't say, "Needing new shoes, I will buy a new pair tomorrow."
The best pattern for a broadcast lead sentence is SUBJECT-VERB-OBJECT (S-V-O) - "I bought new
shoes." Don't start a story with a quotation. The viewers don't know if the words are yours or someone
else's. Always put the source before the quote, it sounds more natural. "Assistant Principal Brown said,
"blah, blah, blah." Don't start a lead sentence with a question. They sound like a quiz show or
commercial. Viewers want answers and information- not questions.
12. DON'T START A STORY WITH "THERE IS"- "THERE ARE" OR "IT IS": "Is" and "are" are
not "action verbs." They are "linking verbs" as are "have" "seen" "feel" and "become". Is-Are-
Was-Were- and Will Be are weak verbs. What viewers hear first is crucial, if they are going to keep
listening and watching.
13. DON'T START A LEAD SENTENCE WITH THE NAME OF AN UNKNOWN OR
UNFAMILIAR PERSON: If the name means nothing to the viewers, they won't keep listening. Use a
title or label before the name- "Seattle newspaper photographer..." "Tacoma mayor..."
"President..." And don't use personal pronouns (he or she) to start a story.
14. DON'T WRITE A FIRST SENTENCE WITH "YESTERDAY" OR "CONTINUES": Yesterday
is "old news." The word "continues" tells viewers that "nothing is new." If something is ongoing, find a
new angle to describe it. The word "Details" is a dirty word! It's like the fine print in a legal contract and
tells the viewer that, "there is more, but we can't really explain all that right now." Try to be positive
in your leads. Avoid using "no" or "not" in a first sentence. Change "did not remember" to "forgot."
"Did not pay attention" to "ignored" etc
15. DON'T START A STORY WITH "ANOTHER" "MORE" OR "ONCE AGAIN": These are
viewer/listener turn-off words. What they hear is "Old News" or "Just the Same Old Thing." Don't
try to cram too much information into a story. Give the viewer the "highly concentrated essence of the
story." Remember, the audience only gets to hear and see the piece once. (Who records the news on their
VCR so they can review it later? Not normal people!) People have difficulty processing a steady stream of
facts - (think of the teacher who just lectures.) Waste Words: "in order" "in the process" "literally"
"actually" "really" "suddenly" "gradually" "finally" "flatly" "personally" "officially"
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"miraculously" "local" "nearby" "area" "separate" "a total of" "then" "the fact that"
"meanwhile" "on a lighter note"
16. DON'T LOSE OR FAIL TO REACH THE VIEWERS: Talk "to" them, not "at" them. Don't make
factual errors! If you lose your credibility, you lose your audience. Learn to spell correctly and properly
pronounce names. If you are not sure about something, look it up or find someone who does know!
Writing is hard work. It's only easy for those who haven't learned to write. Confucius should have said,
"Easy writing equals hard listening. Hard writing equals easy listening!"
BROADCAST STYLE
The following is intended to work as a reference list for you to use while writing your stories. Please refer to
this guide while writing stories in lab. In this context, the phrase "broadcast style" refers to the actual look of
the written material in scripts which are intended to be read "on the air." It is to be assumed that your written
material will be used in an actual broadcast. Therefore you must pay attention to such elements as punctuation
and abbreviations. Most of these guidelines come from Wimer & Brix in their book "Radio and TV News
Editing and Writing." In some cases their suggestions have been altered.
General Rules:
Double space
Most stations today are double spacing their scripts. Your formatting steps will automatically double space your
scripts).
In the upper left corner of each page write the following:
(You can pencil this in after the script comes off the printer).
·  Reporter's name
·
One or two word slug
·
Date
·
Page Number
Place individual stories on separate pages.
Place ### marks at the end of each story.
Capitalization:
There has been a raging debate about which style is most suitable -- a mixture of upper and lower-case or all
upper-case. In the early years of broadcasting, the poor quality of the script appearance on a teleprompter
required the use of all upper-case letters. However, as Teleprompters have improved these rules, have largely
changed. It is argued that lower-case letters, with their ascenders and descenders, have varied shapes which
readers more easily pick up. When scripts are done entirely in upper-case, all the letters have the same block-
shape. For the purposes of this class your scripts should be upper and lower-case.
Abbreviations:
In general, do not use abbreviations.
Exceptions:
MR.
MRS.
MS.
DR.
ST.
LOUIS
ST.
PAUL
FT.
LAUDERDALE
(These are considered "common usage" and are preferred by most newscasters).
Exceptions:
F-B-I
Y-M-C-A
G-O-P
F-C-C
(These are well known and readily identifiable by their initials. Also, note that a hyphen is used between the
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letters when you want the newscaster to read each letter separately).
Abbreviations of names of some organizations are pronounced as a single word and do not require hyphens.
NATO SEATO
When referring to the United States, the abbreviation U-S may be used if it is used as an adjective.
YES: "HE WORKS FOR THE U-S INFORMATIONS AGENCY" OTHERWISE: "BOLIVIA WANTS
HELP FROM THE UNITED STATES"
Phonetic Spelling:
You must indicate how hard to pronounce words and names are pronounced. Type the phonetic spelling in
parenthesis after the name. Break down the phonetic spelling into syllables by using hyphens. Use all capital
letters in the syllable to be stressed, and lower case letters in the other syllables. Use phonetic spelling every
time
you
use
the
word
or
name,
not
just
the
first
time.
The following is an IPA guideline that can be used to spell out words phonetically.
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OR
YOU CAN FOLLOW THE FOLLOWING SYSTEM TO SPELL OUT DIFFICULT WORDS
PHONETICALLY
VOWELS
A
Use AY for long A in mate.
Use A for short A as in cat.
Use AI for nasal A as in air.
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Use AH for short A as in father.
Use AW for broad A as in talk.
E
Use EE for long E as in meet.
Use EH for short E as in get.
Use UH for hollow E as in the or le (French prefix).
Use AY for French long E with accent as in pathe.
Use IH for E as in pretty.
Use EW for EW as in few.
Use EYE for long I as in time.
Use EE for French long I as in machine.
Use IH for short I as in pity.
O
Use OH for long O as in note, or ough as in though.
Use AH for short O as in hot.
Use AW for broad O as in fought.
Use OO for O as in fool, or ough as in through.
Use U for O as in foot.
Use UH for ough as in trough.
Use OW for O as in how, or ough as in plough.
U
Use EW for long U as in mule.
Use OO for long U as in rule.
Use U for middle U as in put.
Use UH for short U as in shut, or hurt.
CONSONANTS
Use K for hard C as in cat.
Use S for soft C as in cease.
Use SH for soft CH as in machine.
Use CH for hard CH or TCH as in catch.
Use Z for hard S as in disease.
Use S for soft S as in sun.
Use G for hard G as in gang.
Use J for soft G as in general.
Punctuation:
The rules of punctuation in the English language do not hold for broadcast announcers.
Do not use the following marks on broadcast scripts:
: ; ( ) except for phonetics and nicknames
&$@%
The most common punctuation marks are commas and periods. Do not use colons or semi-colons.
The dash is used frequently as a substitute for other punctuation marks. (The dash is a double hyphen --).
The hyphen is used to indicate when letters are to be read as such. C-I-O, Y-M-C-A
The hyphen is also used to in telephone numbers and license plate numbers.
Don't use quotation marks. It is best to paraphrase or rephrase direct quotations. When direct quotes are to be
used you should use tell the audience that you are quoting
EXAMPLES:
WE QUOTE HIS EXACT WORDS-
HE SAID-AND WE QUOTE-
HE WENT ON TO SAY-
AS HE PUT IT-
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Numbers:
Avoid using lists of numbers.
Round off large and detailed numbers.
Use figures instead of writing out the numbers. The exceptions are one and eleven which should be written
out.
For numbers over 999, use a combination of spelling and figures.
EXAMPLES:
THERE ARE ELEVEN CHILDREN IN CLASS TODAY.
THERE ARE 15 CHILDREN IN CLASS TODAY.
THERE ARE 11-HUNDRED STUDENTS ENROLLED IN SCHOOL
NEW CENSUS FIGURES SHOW 25-THOUSAND-258 PERSONS LIVE IN HOMETOWN.
Exceptions:
Always write out a number if it begins a sentence.
Always spell out fractions.
EXAMPLES:
TWENTY-FIVE PERSONS ATTENDED THE MEETING
OFFICIALS SAY ONE-HALF OF THE MEMBERS WERE ABSENT
Don't use PM or AM Use THIS MORNING, THIS AFTERNOON, TONIGHT.
When using addresses, dates, and ordinals, use figures. Use st, nd, rd, th after figures to be read as ordinals.
Exceptions to this are first and eleventh. Always spell them out.
Avoid "PER" in news for the air. Write it:
17-CENTS A POUND
24-DOLLARS A DAY
60 MILES AN HOUR
BROADCAST NEWS ETHICS
In groups, come up with a brief statement which outlines your policy with regard to each of the following
legal/ethical concerns. What will your news organization's policies be? Talk it over and achieve some sort of
consensus.
1.) Advance Examination of Broadcasts:
Are there any circumstances under which a broadcast, or any part of it, may be seen or heard by outsiders
before it is aired? If so, what are the circumstances? Be very specific.
What about advertisers?
What about the police?
What about "outtakes"?...material which won't appear on the air.
2.) Coverage of Civil Disturbances:
It has been argued that coverage by the news media, and particularly television coverage, causes or intensifies
the very disturbances that are being covered; that people who seek publicity for their grievances will
deliberately create of intensify a disturbances so that they may "perform" before reporters, cameras, and
microphones; and that, consequently, minimizing or omitting coverage will minimize or eliminate civil
disturbances.
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What do you think of this assessment?
How can a television news organization do it's job and still address these concerns?
What specific steps can be taken to avoid inciting further disturbance?
What is your responsibility in obeying police orders regarding your presence at the scene?
If you disagree with an officer's orders, what should you do?
3.) Commercial Messages:
Should employees of your organization be allowed to participate in commercial messages? If not, why not? If
so, who and why?
4.) Interviewing Accident Victims and Their Relatives:
Under what circumstances, if any, should broadcast news employee's interview people who have been involved
in tragic or traumatic situations? How should such interviews be conducted? i.e. what sort of questions should
you ask and which ones would you avoid? What about funerals? Should you cover the funeral of a prominent
person or the funeral of a family member? If you decide to cover a funeral, how should it be handled?
5.) Limitations on Interviews as Requested by Interviewees:
Occasionally, potential interviewees seek to impose limitations on the manner in which the interview may be
conducted or used. What basic standards should such requests is measured against?
Would you agree to submit questions in advance?
Would you agree to refrain from asking specific questions?
Would you let the interviewee participate in the editing of the recorded material?
Would you make a commitment that a recorded interview, or portion of the interview, will be broadcast?
Would you agree to not edit any portion of the interview?
Finally, what if such requests are made....how would you handle it...would you fail to do the interview at all?
Oh, one more thing...if the interviewee wants to dictate that who will conduct the interview, what will you do?
What will your policy be on this matter?
6.) "Reaction Shots" and "Reverse Question Shots" on Interviews:
Reaction Shots:
Shots of a reporter shot out of natural time sequence are sometimes used to cover edits within an interview.
Will your station allow such a practice?
What are some of the concerns with regard to this practice?
If you decide to allow this practice...What specific precautions will you ask reporters and editors to take?
Reverse Question Shots:
Shots of a reporter re-asking a question out of natural time sequence which are used to get the question on tape
without needing two cameras at the interview site.
Will your stations allow such a practice?
What are some of the concerns with regard to this practice?
If you decide to allow this practice...What specific precautions will you ask reporters and photographers to
take?
If the interviewee has to leave before you get the re- ask shot...will you shoot it and use it anyway?
Should you be able to shoot the re-ask question at a different time and a different location?
7.) Outside Produced Broadcasts:
These are often news "packages" produced by people who are not a part of your news organization.
Should there ever be a time when you would accept for broadcast a package produced by an outside group?
If so, what conditions must be met by the outside producers?
What about the use of raw footage shot by an amateur with a home camcorder? What will your station's policy
be? How will such material be handled?
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8.) Sound:
Should sound effects be used to simulate natural sound?
What about "non-synchronous" natural sound (sound shot at the same scene and same general time, but not
the actual sound recorded with the shot being shown). Should the use of "non- synchronous" natural sound be
allowed? If so, under what limitations
9.) Staging:
In broadcast news the best situation is to photograph news as it happens. But, what about "staging" certain
events or occurrences? Will you allow staging under any circumstances?
If not, why and what sort of problems might you encounter?
Are there distinctions between "hard news" stories and "feature" stories with regard to staging certain
activities?
If you allow some staging, what sort of circumstances?
Suppose you are doing a feature story on a woodcarver who wasn't planning to do any carving today. If you ask
him or her to "carve" for your camera are you staging? If not, what makes this situation different?
In general, what will your policy be on "staging?"
10.) Gifts or Favors:
Employees must discharge their journalistic responsibilities with the appearance, as well as the fact, of complete
independence and integrity. Outright payment either for news coverage or a particular slant on a story is illegal.
Yet, there are other situations which fall into a gray area and are handled differently by different stations.
What will your station's policy be on the following?
*
Transportation provided by others. (Air or land)
*
A "free lunch".
*
Free concert or sport tickets.
*
Free lodging.
*
Free ski lift tickets or season passes.
Can you make a distinction between your activities as a reporter and your "personal" activities? (I.e. you may
argue that you accepted free sports tickets, not in your role as a reporter, but in a role not related to your
employment by the station).
What about "personal and intimate" relationships with those you might be asked to report on? How would you
handle this? (Could such activity be construed as a "gift" or "favor"?)
11.) Outside Activity: Controversial Issues:
This involves news employee who takes a position on a controversial issue. News employees have opinions and
want to act as socially responsible citizens of a free society. For the rest of the population that means being
involved in trying to influence an issue. It might mean joining a citizens group or mobilizing supporters for a
political candidate.
Can a news employee publicly take a position and still act as an objective journalist?
Should a news employee be allowed to work on political candidates behalf?
Should a news employee be allowed to work for a public interest group?
What will your stations policy be? Be very specific.
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12.) Computer Simulation of News:
Advances in computer technology have now made it possible to create virtual cities to simulate fires,
explosions, accidents and other news. This allows the station to get "compelling" video before actual video
arrives from the scene (if it arrives at all). A company called "Earth Watch" has primarily sold such systems for
weather broadcasts to allow so-called "fly-through" weather simulations. However, their new product ("Reality
3-D") now permits such advanced graphics to fly-into (helicopter perspective) breaking news anywhere on
earth via a virtual environment. The company has shown examples of the technology in Atlanta, Minneapolis
and Washington, D.C.
What do you think of the use of this new technology?
What potential problems do you see in using simulations to illustrate news?
13.) Plane Crashes:
Before reporting the fact that a plane has crashed, what information should first be ascertained?
WEB NEWS WRITING
The Difference between Paper and Online Presentation
In print, your document forms a whole and the user is focused on the entire set of information. On the Web,
you need to split each document into multiple hyperlinked pages since users are not willing to read long
pages.
Users can enter a site at any page and move between pages as they chose, so make every page independent
and explain its topic without assumptions about the previous page seen by the user.
Link to background or explanatory information to help users, who do not have the necessary knowledge to
understand or use the page
Make the word count for the online version of a given topic about half the word count used when writing for
print: Users find it painful to read too much text on screens, and they read about 25 percent more slowly
from screens than from paper.
Users don't like to scroll through masses of text, so put the most important information at the top.
Web users are impatient and critical: They have not chosen your site because you are great but because they
have something they need to do. Write in the "news you can use" style to allow users to quickly find the
information
they
want.
Credibility is important on the Web where users connect to unknown servers at remote locations. You have to
work to earn the user's trust, which is rapidly lost if you use exaggerated claims or overly boastful language;
avoid "marketese" in favor of a more objective style.
A few hyperlinks to other sites with supporting information increase the credibility of your pages. If at all
possible, link quotes from magazine reviews and other articles to the source.
The Web is an informal and immediate medium, compared to print, so users appreciate a somewhat informal
writing style and small amounts of humor.
Do not use clever or cute headings since users rely on scanning to pick up the meaning of the text.
Limit the use of metaphors, particularly in headings: Users might take you literally.
Use simple sentence structures: Convoluted writing and complex words are even harder to understand
online.
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Puns do not work for international users; find some other way to be humorous.
Add bylines and other ways of communicating some of your personality. (This also increases credibility.)
The Web is a fluid medium: Update pages as time goes by to reflect all changes. Statistics, numbers, and
examples all need to be recent or credibility suffers.
For example: Before a conference, the page about the event might point to a registration form; afterward, point
to slides or presentation transcripts instead.
Source: http://www.mashell.com
English Studies, the University of Nottingham, UK
http://www.sun.com/980713/webwriting/wftw1.html
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Table of Contents:
  1. INTRODUCTION TO JOURNALISTIC WRITING:Practical, THINGS TO KNOW
  2. QUALITIES OF GOOD WRITERS
  3. QUALITIES OF GOOD WRITERS
  4. QUALITIES OF GOOD WRITING:Achieve appropriate readability:
  5. QUALITIES OF GOOD WRITING:Be concise, Be creative, Be correct
  6. THE PROCESS OF WRITING:INVENTION, WHEN YOU START TO WRITE
  7. THE PROCESS OF WRITING II:ORGANIZING, DRAFTING, REVISING
  8. ALL ABOUT WORDS:HOW WORDS ARE FORMED?:SUFFIXES
  9. DICTIONARY-A WRITER’S LANGUAGE TOOL:KINDS OF INFORMATION
  10. PARTS OF SPEECH:Noun Gender, Noun Plurals, Countable Nouns
  11. BASIC CLAUSE PATTERNS
  12. ACTIVE AND PASSSIVE VOICE
  13. MODIFIERS AND SENTENCE TYPES:COMPOUND SENTENCES
  14. REPORTED SPEECH:Indirect Questions, Direct commands
  15. GRAMMATICAL SENTENCE – ISSUES:SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT
  16. GRAMMATICAL SENTENCE – ISSUES II:SENTENCE FRAGMENTS
  17. EFFECTIVE SENTENCE:PARALLELISM, NEEDED WORDS, SHIFTS
  18. STYLE: GUIDELINE AND PITFALLS I:COLLOQUIAL VS FORMAL, CIRCUMLOCUTION
  19. STYLE: GUIDELINE AND PITFALLS II:AMBIGUITY, REDUNDANCY, EUPHEMISM:
  20. PARAGRAPH WRITING: TYPES AND TECHNIQUES:STRUCTURE
  21. PARAGRAPH WRITING: TYPES AND TECHNIQUES:Putting on Our Play
  22. ESSAY WRITING:VARIOUS STRATEGIES FOR ESSAYS, PROMPTS
  23. SIGNAL WORDS:Non word Emphasis Signals
  24. EXPOSITORY WRITING:LOGICAL FALLACIES, APPEAL TO EMOTION
  25. THE WRITING STYLES: REPORT and NARRATIVE WRITING, SHORT REPORTS
  26. THE WRITING STYLES: DESCRIPTIVE AND PERSUASIVE WRITINGS, Observation
  27. RESEARCH WRITING AND DOCUMNETING SOURCES:Handling Long Quotations
  28. Summary and Précis Writing:CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD SUMMARY
  29. Punctuation:THE PERIOD, THE COMMA, THE SEMICOLON, THE COLON
  30. MECHANICS:ABBREVIATIONS, NUMBERS, SPELLING, THE HYPHEN
  31. READING SKILLS FOR WRITERS:EDUCATED READING, STEPS
  32. PARTS OF A NEWSPAPER:Box-out, By-line, Caption, Exclusive, Feature
  33. THE LANGUAGE OF THE NEWSPAPERS II:BROADSHEET NEWSPAPER
  34. News Writing and Style I:WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A NEWSPAPER
  35. NEWS WRITING II:Accuracy, Clarity, Style, Qualities of Effective Leads
  36. EDITORIAL WRITING:WRITING AN EDITORIAL:STRUCTURING AN EDITORIAL
  37. WRITING FEATURES:GENERATING FEATURE STORY IDEAS
  38. WRITING COLUMNS:Column and a news report, Purpose, Audience
  39. WRITING ARTICLES FOR NEWSPAPERS:The Heading, The Lead
  40. WRITING ANALYSIS:purpose, scope, method, results, recommendations
  41. LETTERS TO EDITORS:Four important aspects about letters, Organizing letters
  42. BROADCAST AND WEB NEWS WRITING:WRITE CONCISELY, BROADCAST STYLE
  43. WRITING PRESS RELEASE, REVIEWS AND OBITUARIES:Summary of Content:
  44. THE ART OF INTERVIEWINGS
  45. FINAL THOUGHTS:Practical, Job-Related, Social, Stimulating, Therapeutic