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Writing the news story exercise

Instructions

If you have successfully completed Exercise 1 on intro writing, you are now able to go ahead and write the rest
of the story from the information below. Remember to list your key points, put them in order of priority then
write in the system of the inverted pyramid. Again, assume that all these events happened within the area
served by your newspaper, radio or television station.

Although there is no single right answer, we provide a link to suggest news stories to check after you have done
the exercise.

Story 1

Dr Michael Kai is a scientist with the Papua New Guinea Department of Primary Industry. He has been working for ten years
on a project to breed larger pigs. One of his pigs, an adult male, has been weighed at 350 kgs. This is the heaviest pig ever
to have been bred in Papua New Guinea. Mr Kai hopes to use this animal to breed other very large pigs.

Story 2

A school bus ran off City Road in Suva, narrowly missed an electricity pole and came to rest in a garden. Most of the bus
windows were smashed. There were more than 30 children on the bus. They were going to Martyr School. It was a 36-seater
bus. All the children escaped serious injury. Some of them jumped out of the bus and grazed themselves. Eye-witnesses said
the children were helped from the bus screaming and shouting and in a state of panic. This happened this morning.

Story 3

In July last year, Mr Sione Tuanuku went to work for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in
Nuku`alofa, cleaning out the dog pound and caring for the dogs. Yesterday he was sacked by the manager of the dog pound,
Mrs Anita Chan. She said that he had mistreated one of the dogs.

Mr Tuanuku said: "The dogs always barked at me and sometimes they tried to bite me. I didn't like it. Yesterday I got fed up
with one dog that tried to bite me, so I bit the dog in the leg to teach it a lesson. Now I have been dismissed from my job."

Story 4

Mr John Erikub and his wife, Laura, were driving to their home in Majuro yesterday afternoon, after shopping in Uliga. Mr and
Mrs Erikub were in the front of their Toyota pick-up. Their three children were travelling in the back - Paul, aged nine;
Rachel, aged seven; and Miriam, aged three.

Driving past the cemetery, they met a truck travelling in the opposite direction. This was a semi-trailer belonging to Pacific
Earthmoving Inc, carrying a 12-ton bulldozer. The truck was driven by Mr Lewis Kili, who comes from Jaluit Atoll. The pick-up
ran out of control and collided head-on with the semi-trailer.

Police and ambulance were sent for. Mr and Mrs Erikub and their two elder children died instantly. Miriam was taken to
hospital with serious injuries and died later. The pick-up was a write-off. The semi-trailer suffered only minor damage. Mr Kili
was also taken to hospital and treated for shock, but was later allowed home.

Police have interviewed Mr Kili. They say they are unlikely to charge him with any offence.

Analyze the following leads from The New York Times to understand how journalists
use who, what, where, when, why and how to in building their leads. Not all elements may be present in
every lead.

Example: Several dozen people were injured on Saturday in a crash involving two San Francisco light-rail trains at the
West Portal Station, the authorities said.

Who? Several dozen people


What? were injured … in a crash involving two San Francisco
light-rail trains
Where? at the West Portal Station
When? on Saturday
Why? not apparent
How? not apparent
A. Federal transportation safety officials are investigating an incident involving a United Airlines flight on its way from
Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles that was forced to land in Denver on Tuesday because of turbulence. (July 22,
2010)

Who?

What?

Where?

When?

Why?

How?

B. B. Fears that a fire had erupted inside the Statue of Liberty on Wednesday led several hundred visitors to flee its crown,
observation deck, pedestal and base, officials said. (July 21, 2010)
Who? (The grammatical subject of the sentence – even if it’s not a person)
What?
Where?
When?
Why?
How?

C. C. The Chicago City Council on Friday approved what city officials say is the strictest handgun ordinance in the United
States. (July 3, 2010)
Who?
What?
Where?
When?
Why?
How?

D. D. A proposal to create four large-scale marijuana factories in Oakland has touched off a turf war in the lucrative market
for medicinal marijuana. (July 18, 2010)
Who? (The grammatical subject of the sentence – even if it’s not a person)
What?
Where?
When?
Why?
How?

Write a lead based on the following set of facts:

Who? Single mother Jane Thomas and her three children — Clive, 7; Mary, 4; Henry, 1
What? escaped a four-alarm fire
Where? in their apartment at 232 E. Oak Ave. in Palletown, NJ
When? Thursday morning. Fire officials got the 911 call at 3 a.m. and arrived on the scene at 3:06 a.m.
Why? “Looks like faulty wiring caused the fire,” said Veronika Smith, Palletown fire chief.
How? Smith credited the presence of working smoke alarms with the family’s safe exit from the building. “By the
time we got there, they were already downstairs and safe.”
Write a lead based on the following set of facts:
Who? Two men
What? robbed a jewelry story
Where? Royal Gems, at 55 West 47th Street, in the heart of Manhattan’s diamond district
When? Saturday, March 13
Why? No information
How? The men carried pistols, police said, adding that the men bound three employees and a customer and
stole gems and money. The police also said that no one was injured in the holdup.

Write a lead based on the following set of facts:


Who? New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
What? said he likely will seek to pass a ban on smoking at city parks and beaches
Where? not clear
When? Tuesday
Why? Mr. Bloomberg said the ban made sense because it would cut the health risks of secondhand smoke and
reduce littering by smokers. “We’re talking about banning smoking on beaches and in parks, and it’s
partially because you can breathe the air,” Mr. Bloomberg said when he was asked about a ban. “It’s in
the open air, but the air wafts in your direction. But it is also because people take their cigarette butts and
the packages and just throw them away. … When you ask people in our parks and beaches … they say
they just don’t want smokers there.”
How? The mayor reportedly had been surprised and unprepared when the city’s health commissioner had first
proposed the idea

Answers to writing the news story exercise

Here are suggested answers for the news story writing exercise. These are not the only way news stories could
have been written from the information you were given, and your stories may be correct even if they differ from
ours in some details. Compare your stories with the following suggested answers, to see if you can improve
what you have written.

Story 1

A government scientist has produced the biggest pig ever to have been bred in Papua New Guinea.
The adult male pig weighs 350 kgs.
It is the result of a ten-year breeding project by the Department of Primary Industry.
Scientist Dr Michael Kai hopes to use the animal to breed other very large pigs.

Notice how, even though the information was about a pig, we have included people by talking about the scientist who bred
the big pig. Also, see how we have limited the story to a maximum of two concepts (ideas) per sentence.

Story 2
More than 30 children escaped serious injury when a school bus crashed in Suva today.
The 36-seater bus, which was carrying children to Veiuto School, ran off Queen Elizabeth Drive.
It narrowly missed an electricity pole and came to rest with most of its windows smashed in a garden.
Eye-witnesses said the children were helped from the bus screaming and shouting and in a state of panic.
Although none of the children was seriously hurt, some of them were grazed jumping out of the bus.

Notice how we started with the most important key point - the children. We told our audience that the children had narrowly
missed serious injury in a crash. Because a lot of people might want to know who the children were, in the second paragraph
we gave them details of the school they attended. Finally we told the story in chronological order, the order in which the
event happened.

Story 3

A cleaner at the Nuku'alofa dog pound has been sacked for biting one of the animals in his charge.
Mr Sione Tuanuku was an assistant at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals pound.
He said he had bitten one of the dogs to teach it a lesson.
"The dogs always barked at me and sometimes they tried to bite me," Mr Tuanuku said. "I didn't like it.
"I got fed up with one dog that tried to bite me, so I bit the dog in the leg to teach it a lesson."
Mr Tuanuku had worked at the RSPCA pound since last year.
Manager Mrs Anita Chan confirmed that she had sacked Mr Tuanuku for mistreating one of the dogs.

As we said in the Writing the intro exercise, this is the classic "man bites dog" story, with the added human angle of Mr
Tuanuku's sacking. Notice that we kept the title of the RSPCA out of the intro, and gave it almost a whole sentence to itself
because it is so long and complicated that it might otherwise have confused our readers or listeners. We later used the
abbreviation, for those people who only know it as the RSPCA. We used Mr Tuanuku's quotes in full because they were so
lively.

Story 4

A Majuro couple and their three children died when their pick-up collided head-on with a semi-trailer.
Mr John Erikub, his wife, Laura, and their three children were driving home yesterday afternoon after shopping in Uliga.
Their Toyota pick-up was passing the cemetery when it ran out of control and collided with the semi-trailer.
Mr and Mrs Erikub, their son Paul, aged nine, and daughter Rachel, aged seven, died instantly. Their youngest daughter,
Miriam, aged three, died later in hospital.
All three children had been riding in the back of the pick-up.
The semi-trailer, which was carrying a 12-ton bulldozer, belonged to Pacific Earthmoving Inc.
Driver Mr Lewis Kili, who comes from Jaluit Atoll, suffered only minor injuries. He was treated in hospital for shock, but later
allowed home.
Police have interviewed Mr Kili and say they are unlikely to charge him with any offence.
The semi-trailer was slightly damaged, but the pick-up was a write-off.

Notice how again we focused on the human tragedy and put the damage to the vehicles at the bottom of the story. Although
we named the family in the second paragraph, we did not give the names of all the children until the fourth paragraph, to
avoid overloading any sentences, especially those early in the story. There were lots of details, but notice how we spread
them throughout the story, again to prevent overloading.

^^back to the top

Analyze the following leads from The New York Times to understand how journalists
use who, what, where, when, why and how to in building their leads. Not all elements may be present in
every lead.

Example: Several dozen people were injured on Saturday in a crash involving two San Francisco light-rail trains at the
West Portal Station, the authorities said.

Who? Several dozen people


What? were injured … in a crash involving two San Francisco
light-rail trains
Where? at the West Portal Station
When? on Saturday
Why? not apparent
How? not apparent
A. Federal transportation safety officials are investigating an incident involving a United Airlines flight on its way from
Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles that was forced to land in Denver on Tuesday because of turbulence. (July 22,
2010)

Who?

What?

Where?

When?

Why?

How?

B. B. Fears that a fire had erupted inside the Statue of Liberty on Wednesday led several hundred visitors to flee its crown,
observation deck, pedestal and base, officials said. (July 21, 2010)
Who? (The grammatical subject of the sentence – even if it’s not a person)
What?
Where?
When?
Why?
How?

C. C. The Chicago City Council on Friday approved what city officials say is the strictest handgun ordinance in the United
States. (July 3, 2010)
Who?
What?
Where?
When?
Why?
How?

D. D. A proposal to create four large-scale marijuana factories in Oakland has touched off a turf war in the lucrative market
for medicinal marijuana. (July 18, 2010)
Who? (The grammatical subject of the sentence – even if it’s not a person)
What?
Where?
When?
Why?
How?

Write a lead based on the following set of facts:

Who? Single mother Jane Thomas and her three children — Clive, 7; Mary, 4; Henry, 1
What? escaped a four-alarm fire
Where? in their apartment at 232 E. Oak Ave. in Palletown, NJ
When? Thursday morning. Fire officials got the 911 call at 3 a.m. and arrived on the scene at 3:06 a.m.
Why? “Looks like faulty wiring caused the fire,” said Veronika Smith, Palletown fire chief.
How? Smith credited the presence of working smoke alarms with the family’s safe exit from the building. “By the
time we got there, they were already downstairs and safe.”
Write a lead based on the following set of facts:
Who? Two men
What? robbed a jewelry story
Where? Royal Gems, at 55 West 47th Street, in the heart of Manhattan’s diamond district
When? Saturday, March 13
Why? No information
How? The men carried pistols, police said, adding that the men bound three employees and a customer and
stole gems and money. The police also said that no one was injured in the holdup.

Write a lead based on the following set of facts:


Who? New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
What? said he likely will seek to pass a ban on smoking at city parks and beaches
Where? not clear
When? Tuesday
Why? Mr. Bloomberg said the ban made sense because it would cut the health risks of secondhand smoke and
reduce littering by smokers. “We’re talking about banning smoking on beaches and in parks, and it’s
partially because you can breathe the air,” Mr. Bloomberg said when he was asked about a ban. “It’s in
the open air, but the air wafts in your direction. But it is also because people take their cigarette butts and
the packages and just throw them away. … When you ask people in our parks and beaches … they say
they just don’t want smokers there.”
How? The mayor reportedly had been surprised and unprepared when the city’s health commissioner had first
proposed the idea

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