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Journalistic Writing

WRITING COLUMNS:Column and a news report, Purpose, Audience

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LECTURE 38
WRITING COLUMNS
What is a column?
"The heart of journalism may be news reporting, and the soul of journalism the editorial page, but the
personality of journalism is the column." Sam Riley a former columnist.
"What should a columnist write about?" What's on his heart? What has provoked him or her to outrage or the
small, day-to-day, real-life dramas of ordinary folk? Should the columnist's goal be to inform, to persuade, to
entertain? I'd say some of all.
A column is written weekly, monthly or bi-monthly, and must be focused on one particular topic. You have to
be consistent in what you write, maintain the same tone of voice, and stay focused on the issue at hand. A
column can last from three to four months, to ten or maybe even twenty.
What differentiates a column from other forms of journalism is that it meets each of the following criteria:
·  It is a regular feature in a publication
·
It is personality-driven by the author
·
It explicitly contains an opinion or point of view
There are two main types of analytical writing in newspapers: editorials and opinion columns. Opinion columns
are often found on the page opposite the editorial page. The page is usually labeled "Opinions" or "Comment."
Opinion columns may be found elsewhere in the newspaper as well, especially on the page preceding the
editorial page. Opinion columns are usually labeled as such, to separate them from news reports.
Column and a news report:
The main difference between a column and news reports is that opinion columns are subjective rather than
objective. This means that they express an opinion or make an argument. A news report, for example, might
list various mistakes that a politician has committed. It would not however, go on to state that because of these
mistakes the politician should resign. An opinion column, however, may do exactly this.
When reading an opinion column, it is helpful to imagine that the writer is engaged in a debate with his or her
readers. The writer is trying to persuade you or convince you that a certain point of view is the correct one.
There are, however, important differences between editorials and opinion columns.
Column and an editorial:
Personal columns differ from editorials in that editorial is a voice, policy and ideology of the newspaper
whereas a column is a view point of the columnist himself. This view point of the columnist may come in clash
with the newspaper or the editorial's stance at times. Only columnist is responsible for his words whereas the
whole newspaper is responsible is for the words which appear in editorials.
HOW TO WRITE A COLUMN?
Before writing a column, think about purpose, audience, content and structure.
Purpose
Why are you writing? Is it to inform the community about an event? Does the paper's editor, the community
or co-workers want it? Are you entertaining, informing or educating? Do you seek an identity or exposure?
Audience
Whom are you trying to reach? Who are you reaching? Decide on your audience. Write in their language, at
their level, about things the audience needs to know or wants to know.
Content
What will your column discuss? How will you discuss it? Answering why and how will help determine what.
Remember, columns should be based on facts and should be accurate.
Names are crucial in a personal column. Personal columns may be informal; yet accuracy and sourcing material
counts.
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Structure
How will your message get to your audience? There are other types of columns besides the personal column,
too. Some of these cover specific topics or types of information. They can be "question and answer," "new
ideas," "how-to-do-it" pieces or "calendars." Personal columns often have departments. These departments
help you to write your column. Departments can be "coming events," applications, notes or some of the
categories suggested for the non-personal columns.
Before writing, decide on the purpose, content, audience and structure. Personal columns should have many
local names. They also use words like: "I," "we" or "you."
DO'S AND DON'TS OF COLUMN WRITING:
When writing a column, do
·  Give the reader timely, helpful information.
·
Develop a structure and keep it. Write on a regular schedule.
·
Write simple and short sentences and paragraphs.
·
In personal columns, use local names and places.
·
Let others speak for you by use of quotes and references.
·
Learn the difference between a column and a news story.
When writing a column, don't
·  Use technical or complex words.
·
Talk in jargon or unfamiliar terms.
·
Talk about one topic constantly.
·
Include too much detail or material. You should be stimulating interest, not exhausting a subject.
·
Refer to yourself as a third person (this author, your reporter) or quote yourself (Jimmy Jones said).
Instead use mine.
Skills to be a good Columnist:
Ability to thinking
Strong Observation skills
Avid reading
Ability to use narration and humor (Humor in writing takes many forms: satire, parody, irony,
lampoon and just plain nonsense.)
"So long as there's a bit of a laugh going, things are all right. As soon as this infernal seriousness, like a greasy sea,
heaves up, everything is lost." D. H. Lawrence
Tools for Beginning:
Epigraph/quotation: (Quote an authority that you either agree or disagree with and use it as a starting point
to build into your thesis statement. Quote a famous saying, or truism to orient the reader to your topic.)
Example:" Jon Peters, President of Marine land Park, argues that, `captivity for the whales is the best thing for them. Our
habitat pool is just like the Pacific Ocean: our killer whales can't even tell the difference. They're very happy here.'"
Concession: (If you're writing a persuasive piece, you might consider beginning with a concession--that is, by
beginning with an acknowledgement of part of your opponent's argument as being valid. Remember that a
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concession is not a form of weakness. In fact a concession is strength as it finds common ground with your
opponent and establishes your ethical appeal: you are a reasonable person willing to listen to/acknowledge that
there are more sides to an issue than yours.)
Example: "I think you're quite right; gun control legislation in Canada needs to be tightened to prevent us from becoming as
violent as our neighbors to the south. However, I don't think your proposal goes far enough. We need also to..."
Narrative / hypothetical example: (Use a personal story or a "what if" scenario to help your reader to
visualize the topic.)
Example: "When I was seven years old, I remember being at the Marine land park in Niagara Falls, wondering how such a big
whale could be happy in such a small pool."
Example: "If we don't introduce tougher restrictions on assault weapons, our city streets will become a war zone for gangs, drug
deals, and drive-by shootings, much like our southern neighbors."
Question or a set of questions: (A question or a series of questions can be very effective in orienting your
reader and outlining the issues you plan to discuss in your text.)
Example:" What is the average life span of a whale in captivity compared to a whale in the wild?"
Striking fact or statistic (Use a striking fact to engage your audience's interest Cite a startling statistic from a
reliable authority.)
Example: "According to a 1999 Statistics Canada poll, 93% of Canadians would support legislation to ban assault weapons."
Paradox: (Begin with a statement that seems absurd, but may be true.)
Example: If writing a paper on disciplining children in the home, you might begin by arguing that "Parents must be cruel to be
kind." At a first glance, this may seem to endorse child abuse. However, a more detailed discussion in your paper might reveal your
belief that in order to help children grow into responsible adults, rules in a household must be followed. You're not necessarily
endorsing physical punishment: instead, you might be endorsing grounding the child.
Background information: (Introduce relevant background information to orient your reader to the topic.
Keep such material focused and condensed, particularly for shorter papers. If you're writing a persuasive piece,
it's a good idea to use background material that leans toward your position.)
Example: You might, for instance, provide background on the Water world Marine Park, highlighting the shortcomings of its
pool habitats, or detailing the number of fines it has had to pay for its inappropriate treatment of the animals.
Analogy: (You might employ a striking comparison to make a point or introduce your reader to an unfamiliar
topic. Usually, you draw a comparison to something common in order to explain something uncommon or
unfamiliar.)
Example: "A habitat at Marine land Water Park is a cell not unlike what you'd find at the Kingston Penitentiary, or at the
Kent Correctional facility. The difference, of course, is that every inmate at Water world has been wrongfully persecuted and
incarcerated. The inmates are serving life sentences without having committed any crimes."
Definition (not from a dictionary): (Using a definition can be very effective in efforts to clarify difficult
terms or in an effort to orient your reader to a particular topic or your angle on a particular topic. Avoid using
dictionary definitions--especially of common terms--because your reader will likely know what they mean, or
can easily access such definitions themselves. You might, however, cite a dictionary definition and then go on
either to dispute the definition, or expand upon it within the context of your paper. Definitions from
authoritative texts can be very helpful when writing persuasive texts.)
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Example: When arguing for or against the use of physical discipline of children in the home, for instance, you might cite the
Criminal Code of Canada definitions of the terms "child abuse" and "corporal punishment."
Humor: (You might use a humorous example or personal anecdote to establish your topic and engage your
reader. Remember that humor can be an effective tool only if it is funny and appropriate to the audience and
the writing context.)
"Columns sell newspapers." Shahida Imran
Signed columns give you the opportunity to speak out.
The style can be formal or informal, depending on the subject. The column can focus on any subject--sports,
social issues, daily lives, religion, and observations. The column should be written so that the reader can "hear"
the writer thinking. The columnist's voice should be so powerful that readers can hear the writer talking to
them.
What should a column do?
·
Highlight creative expression of opinion.
·
Reflect the personality of the author.
·
Showcase superior writing ability and distinctive style.
·
Express the viewpoint of one writer rather than a newspaper. (Any approach--persuasion, praise,
explanation, entertainment--can work)
·
Build on careful, thorough reporting that incorporates purposeful interviews and documented
observations.
·
Focus on subjects that appeal to many readers.
·
Present new insights in a lively manner that shows the writer's conviction.
·
Provide commentary that stimulates readers to think, to evaluate, to act, and to see everyday life from a
new perspective ranging from the serious to the humorous.
·
Use an original title that defines the slant or the type of content. Good titles often play on the writer's
name or reflect the writer's skills. Also the "live" headlines must follow appropriate styles. By lines are
essential, and photos of the writer are appropriate.
·
Appear regularly in a newspaper on the same page.
·
To establish an appropriate identity and to distinguish the column from other articles, the column title
should use typography and graphics to complement the publication design. A column, however, should
never be confused with a regular feature in the paper.
HOW SHOULD A COLUMN BE WRITTEN?
·  A simple way is to follow the pattern of the editorial.
·
A better way is to make the viewpoint come alive by showing rather than telling. Use colourful nouns and
action verbs.
·
The issue, not the writer or the writer's experiences, should be the focal point of the column.
·
The message of the columnist dictates the form of the writing.
·
First person is permissible but not required--and always it should be used in a subdued manner.
·
Rather than argue a specific viewpoint, often a column achieves a more powerful effect by using a creative
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style, such as the following:
Narrative story Fictional dialogue Witty comment Critical Review
Editorial slant any freeform structure that fits subject
·
A column contains a consistent tone, such as the following:
Thoughtful (stimulating) Analytical (serious) Conversational Confidential
Reportorial Critical Satirical
TIPS ON COLUMN WRITING
·  Write the way you talk. But don't discard good English usage and grammar by being friendly and
informal.
·
Try to uncover a "lead" or opening that will catch the interest of your readers.
·
Use a variety of material, not just one subject.
·
Write about people. Keep heavy subject matter to a minimum. When using subject matter, try to tell
the story through the experiences of local people.
·
Write simply. Avoid technical or difficult words, long sentences, long paragraphs.
·
Don't weigh your column down with too much detail. Try to stimulate interest in a subject, but don't
exhaust the subject.
·
Jot down ideas, names, figures, impressions, etc., in a note pad while visiting farms and homes. This
provides the very best column material.
·
Be timely. Keep up with the effect of weather conditions, seasons, etc., pointing out the significance of
these conditions locally.
·
Remember the people you're talking to and give them information that will benefit them in a way they
can understand.
·
Always get your column to the editor on schedule. Remember, the editor is holding space for it.
BECOMING A COLUMNIST:
Columns are a great way to share information and ideas, promote your business and philosophy, and have
some fun in the process. But that's just part of their appeal. They also help you develop your "voice" and
writing muscle, so you can move more confidently toward equally ambitious projects, be they articles or books.
How do you create--and market--a winning column that attracts a loyal following? Read on!
1.
Understand
the
genre
Shorter than most newspaper and magazine articles, columns generally run between 350 and 1,000 words.
Their writing is tight, light, and bright, and their subject area, like their format, is predictable (e.g., personal
development, politics, parenting, gardening). The columns themselves, however, are unpredictable, meaning
fresh. Readers know they'll be getting new information and insights with each instalment, and so they return
for more.
2.
Learn
from
the
masters
Follow the work of three to five established columnists over a several-week period. Or, go to your local library
or bookstore for the collected works of favourite columnists. Read actively to discover key tricks of the trade.
Study how columnists organize their work, open and close their pieces, interweave quotes and statistics.
Observe how each has a "voice," or style, that is as distinctive as a fingerprint. Note what you like and don't
like--and why.
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3.
Determine
your
goals.
As mentioned, columns can be great vehicles for promoting your service or cause. But they'll only get you
where you want to go if you know where you're going. Accordingly, take a few moments to determine where
you want to be one, two, or three years or more from now. In what ways can a column support your efforts,
further your goals, and keep you on track?
4.
Question
yourself.
Articles are distinct units; when they're done, they're done. Not so columns; finish one and another dozen or
two are waiting in the wings to be written. Your audience and editor literally await your next instalment, and so
you must deliver, be it daily, weekly, or monthly. So here's the key question you must ask and answer: Do you
have what it takes to produce a column over time, given your busy schedule and competing priorities?
5.
Serve
others.
The successful column has a dedicated readership. These folks take time out of their busy schedules because
they need something from you, be it information, insight, or entertainment. As a columnist, it's your job to give
them all they want--and more. And you do this by identifying the many ways you can be of service to them.
The greater your willingness to serve their specific and individual needs, the greater your column's relevancy
and popularity
6.
Attract
the
right
reader.
Different strokes for different folks--and different columns as well. That's because all columns appeal to
somewhat narrow (though not necessarily small) groups of individuals. To attract the right group for you,
pinpoint their key characteristics. For example, what's their age and sex, their educational and economic level
their political and spiritual beliefs? Where do they live and work? The more specific you can be, the greater
your ability to "talk your reader's talk," not just in terms of subject matter but word choice
7.
Play
with
format.
Columns may be short, but they've got lots of room for creativity. Anything goes ... as long as it works for
readers and is replicate. Play with several formats before zeroing in on one. Study what other columnists have
done (see No. 2 above), and use their work as a template. Or create a wholly new format tailored precisely to
your audience and message. The key is to experiment and to have your content and format mesh seamlessly.
8.
Develop
your
prototypes.
Once you determine your format, write five to seven sample columns. This serves two purposes. First, you will
get your feet wet, shake out all bugs, and polish your writing style. (The more distinctive the style, the more
unique the column) Second, you will create a representative sample of your work, which you can then market
or launch; editors, after all, want to see a column's treatment over time, not just a single column.
9.
Choose
your
marketing
approach.
Columns can be marketed in a number of different ways. You can distribute your work through syndicates, for
example, which are companies that serve as your sales/marketing/PR teams in one and which take a cut of the
proceeds. Or you can self-syndicate your work by going directly to individual newspapers, magazines, or Web
sites. You also can launch your column via your own e-mail or snail mail newsletter, or Web site. (There are
pros and cons to each of these approaches, as discussed in the WriteDirections.com teleclass "Become a
Columnist"; some, like working through syndicates, are more of a long shot than, say, self-syndication.)
10.
Be
patient.
Columns take time to develop, so if you're looking for quick results, look elsewhere. Like a fine wine, they tend
to get better with time. Their scope deepens, their writing improves, their audience builds. These things take
time and patience; however, if you're truly willing to make the investment, the payoffs can be enormous.
AN EXAMPLE
The first steps to column writing are remembering why you are writing and your audience. In the sample
column, "Helpful Hints," the columnist has a general homemaker audience in mind.
The style is light with personal pronouns (I, you, your) liberally included. The lead sentence clues the reader to
the column's tone. The rest should continue to develop this tone.
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Notice the entire name is given the first time. After that, it is only a first-name basis. Sentences are short and so
are paragraphs. Credit is given when the columnist is quoting another source.
One topic has been given primary emphasis. Shorter topics follow this lead topic. That means this column can
be shortened by cutting paragraphs from the bottom up, just like a news story.
Jamie
Shanen
Area  home  economist
MU  Extension  center Helpful Hints
Macon, MO 63552
If your bottom's bare, it's time to "beef up" your home freezer.
I'm talking about your freezer bottom. In fact, you should keep that freezer at least one-third full to be
economical.
Anyway, bare bottom or not, this is a good time to buy beef. Mason Good, who operates Good Meat
Storage and Packing, says prices are lowest on beef in the winter, generally between November and
January. Mason said most of the county's farmers and cattle producers generally sell off their stock in the
fall that means there's more beef available to drive prices down.
While talking with Mason, Judith Ann Johnson, 335 Peabody Lane, came over. Judy said she found what
Mason said was true.
A few weeks ago she and her husband Tom decided to buy a side of beef. After checking around and
talking with some of the University food scientists, they discovered mid-January was the best time for
them to buy. So they did.
I asked Harold Lamar about what to look for in beef. You may remember Harold. He came over to
Macon from the University last spring and talked about pork and beef. Harold told me about a couple of
good booklets you can get from the MU Extension center here in Macon.
If you are going to buy a side, think about your family size and eating habits. They may prefer steaks and
ground instead of roasts. Out of a 300-pound side you'll get 225 pounds. The forequarter will give you
about 118, while the hindquarter will yield about 100.
Good quality is important too. Our local people have good reputations, but what about elsewhere? Don't
buy from people you don't know.
Your meat should have two USDA stamps. Check to see if there is a round one for wholesomeness and a
shield for quality inspections. Grading is optional with the processor both Mason and Harold said.
A lot of people asked me about aging meat. Yesterday, Maude Grady, Oak Ridge Retirement Center, asked
about some meat that's been in her freezer nine months. Aging helps meat develop flavor and become
tender, but only ribs, and loins of high-quality beef and lamb are aged. If Maude had purchased "aged"
meat, it is questionable whether she got her money's worth. After meat has been frozen six months -- it's
already been aged enough.
Source: http://www.writedirections.com/becomecolumnist.html
XXX
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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