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Basic Public Affairs Specialist Course

Feature Writing

Basic Public Affairs Specialist Course Feature Writing Introduction to features Telling stories is a natural form
Basic Public Affairs Specialist Course Feature Writing Introduction to features Telling stories is a natural form

Introduction to features

Telling stories is a natural form of communication. Every day we tell stories about ourselves and others. This is a normal exchange of information, opinions and ideas. In a nutshell, that’s what a feature is – a story.

But how does a feature story differ from a news story? There are a couple of things that make feature stories different.

Feature stories are organized in a

different way. As you’ve already learned,

a news story is organized in an inverted

pyramid. A news story is written in a rigid, formulaic form. The lead must be a single sentence that includes the who, what, when and where. The lead is followed by

a single sentence bridge. The body of the

news story is written strictly in descending

order of importance. There is no need for

a conclusion. The primary purpose of a

news story is to quickly inform readers about a newsworthy event.

On the other hand, a feature story

is more fluid. It resembles a short story

that has a distinct beginning, middle and end. Whereas news stories are designed

for people who scan a newspaper to get information quickly, feature stories must be read completely to make sense. When

it comes to editing a feature story, editors

must carefully remove sections throughout the entire story, rather than just cut from the bottom up.

A feature is also different because it can be about virtually any subject in which humans might be interested. News stories are limited to newsworthy subjects.

Feature stories were born from gossip pages published in the 1820s known as “Penny Press Papers.” As the working and middle class grew in America, the appetite for information grew too. The standard daily newspapers cost about 6 cents each. Penny papers became a cheap alternative to the dailies. Instead of dry, political stories like those found in the dailies, the penny papers relied on entertainment, gossip and sensationalism. Soon, the penny papers were outselling the traditional dailies.

As time passed, serious journalists eventually started to write stories in the same fashion as their penny paper counterparts while maintaining the high journalism standards traditionally found in the dailies. Today, the feature story must be able to entertain readers while reporting the facts accurately. As a public affairs practitioner, it’s your job to tell informative and entertaining stories about your installation’s people and mission. Writing features that capture a reader’s attention is a challenge, but over the next three weeks, and throughout the feature-writing portion of the course, you will learn to write feature stories using description, quotations and narration.

Writing Principles

Feature Writing

Purpose of features

Feature stories are a major part of military publications. Most stories, even those with news pegs, are best written as feature stories. Features can boost morale, set examples, explain complicated subjects and topics, and inform readers about topics not in the news.

Although many features are designed to inform readers, most are written to entertain readers through the use of fiction-writing techniques, such as scene setting, narration and figurative language.

Even in feature writing, especially for newspapers, the rules of accuracy, brevity and clarity still apply. Feature writing adds interpretation, but writers should not ediorialize events or subjects.

Feature-writing

assignments

Each writing assignment in this course is in a sequence designed to introduce you to progressively new formats or structures.

You will start with writing a practice feature of your own choosing, which will prepare you to write three graded and recorded features.

Features 1

News features are similar to straight news stories in that they have a news peg and include important W’s and H. News features must have a sense of immediacy.

• They are different from straight news because they use feature writing styles and techniques.

• News features are especially popular in afternoon dailies or military weeklies to present the facts in a more interesting format.

• News features put the reader at the scene of a news event by narrating the event or showing, in words, what went on.

Features 2

Human-interest features require primary and secondary source interviews. They may also include the use of research and observation as information-gathering techniques.

• Human interest is the broadest feature category.

Writing Principles

Feature Writing

• These features are written to inform, educate or entertain the reader.

• The news peg is replaced with reader interest. This means there is no sense of immediacy. Human- interest features are considered evergreen.

Features 3

A personality feature focuses on an interesting person and a single aspect of that person’s life. It can have a sense of immediacy or not.

It

focuses on an interesting

person and gives the writer the opportunity to use techniques, such as quotes, anecdotes, description and transitions.

Research and observation can play

a key role in information gathering.

News feature

News feature A base parade is an event with news value. A news feature must have

A base parade is an event with news value. A news feature must have a sense of immediacy.

news value. A news feature must have a sense of immediacy. I am an expert. I

I am an expert. I attended the parade.

a sense of immediacy. I am an expert. I attended the parade. I am an expert.

I am an expert. I coordinated the parade.

Human interest feature

an expert. I coordinated the parade. Human interest feature Improve your travel photos by following these

Improve your travel photos by following these simple tips. Human interest features have no sense of immediacy.

tips. Human interest features have no sense of immediacy. I am an expert. I teach photography.

I am an expert. I teach photography.

no sense of immediacy. I am an expert. I teach photography. I am an expert. I

I am an expert. I take pictures when I travel.

Personality feature

expert. I take pictures when I travel. Personality feature Baseball is my passion. This is a

Baseball is my passion. This is a story just about me. A personality feature is about one person and one aspect of that person’s life.

I’m a good secondary source because I play baseball with him.

about one person and one aspect of that person’s life. I’m a good secondary source because

For each of your stories you must interview at least two sources, or subject-matter experts.

Writing Principles

Feature Writing

Plagiarism and cheating policies

DINFOS enforces a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism, copyright infringement, fabrication and cheating per the school’s policy and procedure manual. Additionally, students must complete all assignments and exercises as original work. Students may use appropriate facts, ideas or news events, quotes, copyrighted or credited material as long as appropriate attribution is provided.

Plagiarism means passing off someone else’s writings or creative effort as one’s own. It is the wrongful act of copying and assuming authorship of phrases, sentences, forms, plots or arrangements that someone else has originated. This includes work of other students, printed works and works posted on the Internet. Plagiarism may be avoided by crediting the author or creative source in writing. Restating or repeating facts, news, historical, or scientific data is not plagiarism; taking an author’s account, treatment or version and using it word for word without attribution is plagiarism. A copyright is not a precondition to determining plagiarism.

Copyright is the exclusive right of possession given an individual by law to protect literary, musical or artistic work. Copyright violation may be avoided by obtaining permission from the author to use his material. The courts have recognized certain limited uses of copyright material as “fair use.” This means that in some circumstances, copyrighted materials may be used without obtaining permission. The incidents and facts embodied in news items cannot be subject to copyright protection. However, the literary aspects, form, style and language, of a news story are entitled to protection.

Fabrication means to make up in order to deceive. Representing falsehoods as facts, establishing quotes or making attributions to nonexistent sources, and creating the illusion of a factual basis for a claim are not allowed.

Cheating includes, but is not limited to, copying another student’s answers on examinations and quizzes; using another student’s negatives, photographs, tapes or film as one’s own; or the giving of any of the above to someone else to use.

Basic Public Affairs Specialist Course

Feature Writing

Basic Public Affairs Specialist Course Feature Writing Conclusion A large part of your duty as a
Basic Public Affairs Specialist Course Feature Writing Conclusion A large part of your duty as a

Conclusion

A large part of your duty as a public affairs practitioner is spreading the word about your people and mission. One of the best ways to meet this goal is to write feature stories. This lecture is just the first peek into the feature-writing training you will receive over the next several weeks. It will be your responsibility to put that training to use in the feature stories you will write here and the countless features you will write throughout your career.

Writing Principles

Feature Writing

References

Hay, V. (1990). The essential feature. Columbia University Press

Williamson, D. (1975). Feature writing for newspapers. Hastings House Publishers, New York

Ruehlmann, W. (1978). Stalking the feature story. Writers Digest Books

Itule, B., & Anderson, D. (2002). News writing and reporting for today’s media (6th ed.). The McGraw-Hill Companies

Alexander, L. (1975). Beyond the facts: A guide to the art of feature writing. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, TX

Patterson, B. (1986). Write to be read: A practical guide to feature writing. Iowa State Press

Harrower, T. (2005). The newspaper designer’s handbook. The McGraw-Hill Companies. *I could locate only 1997 and 2001 editions

Rich, C. (1999). Writing and reporting news: A coaching method. Wadsworth Publishing, Florence, KY.

Harrigan, J. & Dunlap, K. (2003). The editorial eye. Bedford/St. Martins, New York, New York

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DINFOS Policies and Procedures Manual (2008)

Feature writing handbook (2008)