Tomorrow’s newspaper in California is a very different beast! With the increasing availability of instant news and information 24/7, the ‘news’ part of newspapers is rapidly morphing. If I want to know who did what when or what today’s big issue is, whether that be globally, nationally or locally, I have a seemingly unlimited choice of instant news services from which to choose. Even my old mobile phone grants me immediate internet access, meaning keeping up with the Jones’s has never been easier.
So why do we still have newspapers in California ? Everyone knows that circulation is plummeting, but a few of us die-hards believe there will always be print. Why? Because it is comfortable. The Y-Gens are still buying their magazines and books because they also enjoy that relaxing slump on the couch with a drink, snacks and an engaging read. The operative word here of course is engaging!
When writing a feature story, one of the first things you must consider is the target audience. Is it for the general public or is it for a specific group of readers? If you are writing for the readers of a lifestyle magazine or for the lifestyle section in the newspaper, for example, you would need to consider whether you should write from the view of a third person or second?
Most feature stories are written from the third person. Exceptions where the second person is used instead is when the story is about 'what you should get', say, for an occasion or a festive season. Seldom is the first person used for feature writing except when the author is the narrating his or her own experience.
Take for example the first paragraph of a feature story on entrepreneurship written in the third person:
- John lost his job two years ago due to the economy downturn. Believing it to be only temporary, he actively seeks employment while upgrading his skills through short-term courses. Today, he is still unemployed. Now at the age of 41, he is forced to consider self-employment and entrepreneurship but is hesitant because he has been an employee his entire working life.
If this first paragraph is written in the second person, it would read:
- You have been an employee your entire working life. Two years ago, you lost your job due to the economy downturn. Believing the downturn to be only temporary, you actively seek employment while upgrading your skills through short-term courses. Today, you are still unemployed.
As you can read from the two approaches, the third person's voice draws the readers into the story better than the second person because there is no need for personal involvement in the story unless it is a call to action. It works fine to use the second person if you are writing for a lifestyle magazine showcasing shopping goods, but not quite fine for a news feature story that aims to convey a message containing facts and advices.
When writing for a news feature story, four components should be considered: anecdotes, quotes, facts, and statements of theme.
An anecdote in a news feature story should be written from a third person as the narrator. The purpose of this is to use content 'pull' to attract readers to a sense of reading a novel or a storybook. For a feature story to be successful, at least one anecdote should be included to help readers visualize the 'reality' of a situation or the life of the person being told in the anecdote.
A feature should also include facts and quotes for angles of human interest. Facts may be research finding that quantify the content of the story, official statistical figures, or actual events witnessed by people:
- According to official figures from the manpower department, unemployment is now at 4.5 percent.
Quotes are actual account of events by witnesses or spoken comments of people interviewed. Quotes can be direct or indirect. For a feature story to be credible and interesting, both direct and indirect quotes are necessary.
A direct quote is the actual spoken words by persons interviewed:
- "I have been an employee my entire working life," said John Doe, 41, a retrenched worker.
An indirect quote is a paraphrased or rephrased writing of actual words spoken by persons interviewed:
- John Doe, 41, said he has been an employee his entire working life.
Statements of theme are sentences that links original theme of the story to various parts of the feature. This is especially useful when there are multiple sections or story points that need to be expanded in different areas of the feature. The objective of statements of theme is to draw the readers back to the main theme of the story.
The feature story is usually written with each paragraph pulling the readers forward to read on to the point of closure or a conclusion or instructions to proceed further. It is usual to end the story by drawing the readers' attention back to the points being told at the lead paragraph, but with added knowledge on the subject.
The invention of printing is an epoch making achievement in the history of human civilization. The modern age owes three fourths of its progress to printing. It has brought many blessings in its train and one of these is the newspaper which has deeply and widely influenced modern life in many ways.
A newspaper at first was nothing more than a paper which gave news. In its infancy, it had no other aim. But as it developed, it began to be used for various other purposes and served several ends. Today, it has become a tremendous force for good and evil in the world. It not only continues, as before, to give news but also comments on them, criticizes the people and the government, deals with social, political, industrial and religious questions, reviews books and periodicals, ventilates grievances and does many other things, In fact there is hardly any public activity of man which does not come within the purview of the modern newspaper. The press, of course, has now become an organ of public opinion.
But unfortunately, sometimes the press is stifled. It is prevented from carrying out its legitimate work either by the unfitness of those who manage it or by the unnecessary interference of the powers that be. It is sometimes seen that passion and not reason guides its action. A wrong cause is championed, truth is suppressed and morbid tastes are pandered by it. Dangerous as these evils are, a greater danger comes from the attempt of some irresponsible government to gag or subsidies newspapers. Often, without sufficient cause, newspapers are gagged simply because they had the guts of criticizing plainly the unjust action of government.
But when it runs or is allowed to run in a normal and rational course, a newspaper is a great public educator. More than what can be done in schools and colleges is done by it. It supplies necessary information on the burning topics of the day, tackles the principal social and political problem of a country, criticizes books and brings to light the epoch making discoveries and inventions. It benefits every class of people. But it is not only a public educator and fearless critic of a government, it is also a great social reformer. It is in the columns of the newspapers that social abuse, are ruthlessly exposed and criticized and attention of the public is drawn to the inherent evils of some customs and practices.
The press is also an effective check on the vagaries of men in power. So it is a great mentor and stands against the misuse of power and the miscarriage of justice. It brings all the questions of the day before the bar of public opinion to be approved or condemned by it, in this way it serves the nation. The press is also a very great force in the field of politics. It teaches citizens their rights and responsibilities and make them fit for citizenship. It educates public opinion and teaches people how to vote, what taxes to pay and for what purposes, it explains the significance' of the municipal laws and bylaws comments on the proceeding of the legislative council and other public' bodies and helps men to develop their civic sense.
The press is a public organ, the voice of the people and therefore the freedom of the press means the freedom of the people. In a country where there is no free press the people may be independent, but they are not free in the true sense of the word. The press in self defense, if not for any higher motive has ever the champion of political freedom. Whenever a newspaper lights for the freedom of the press, it indirectly fights for the freedom of the people. The test of a country's freedom is determined by the amount of freedom its press enjoys. To stifle the press is to stifle the nation. Milton said "as good almost kill a man as kill a good book", and the remark is also applicable to the newspapers.
Newspapers also wield a tremendous influence to break down barriers between nations and help in forming themselves into a great brotherhood of nations. It knits up the different parts of a vast continent and teaches them to feel for one another. But it not only fosters international feelings, it teaches us to embrace the whole world as out kith and kin. A sense of fraternity is fostered by the spread of knowledge through the columns of the newspaper.
As a cheap and public educator, holding up the torch in the midst of darkness, as a trenchant and impartial critic of public administration of law and justice, as a social reformer patiently reforming the abuses of a society, as the champion of freedom in a country, as the destroyer of the barriers which separate man from man, nations from nations, and lastly as a pointer to the prospect of universal liberty, equality and fraternity, the newspaper in modern times has come to exercise a tremendous influence on the public and private life of man. There is no end to its potentiality for good if it can steer clear of greed, partiality, meanness and arrogance.
That is why, it is appropriately called the 'Forth Estate'.
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