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Writing news

When writing news stories it’s important to be concise – and also to catch people’s attention. You can achieve this picking your stories carefully and using some simple writing techniques. Be quick about turnaround: the more up-to-date story is the more interesting it is.

There are a few well-worn journalistic techniques you can apply to your local Scout writing.

Before you start writing, ask yourself two things:

What is my story about?

How am I going to tell my story?

Use the inverted pyramid

Put all the important facts at the beginning of your article – intro should be its engaging, enticing shop window: contain a nugget of your entire story’s information. Aim for 30 words at the most and when you’re writing it imagine that if someone reads it should give the reader all the bare bones of the story. The bulk of your article should simply be expanding – adding meat on the story. After the intro, the rest of the information should be presented in order of importance. At each step try to imagine what the reader would want to read next.

See your story as a series of answers

Your story must include answers to the Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Take, for instance, a story about a Scout Group breaking a world record. Who was it that broke the record? What record did they break – and where did it happen? What motivated them to break it (the why)? And by how much did they break the previous record?

Get a hook or angle

To make your story even more enticing, you need to give it extra depth and another reason for people to read it. That’s where a hook comes in. It makes your story more relevant to readers – and it can take various forms. Make it timely by hooking it onto an anniversary or time of year, or you could marry it in with a wider national trend. For example, you could tie a UK news item about the health benefits of volunteering – into a piece about a number of volunteer vacancies in your Group.

Add colour

Although you should avoid flowery language, keep your sentences tight and paragraphs short (aim for a wordcount of 500 maximum), you can add interest to your story with quality quotes, striking detail, descriptions and anecdotes. Make sure you include as much information about the people involved, and when you extract statements from them, ask them how they feel; the best kind of quotes capture energy and the speaker’s turn of phrase. When it comes down to it, all news stories are based on how people are affected.

Have a call to action

In your final paragraph tie up the loose ends; add all the requisite but sometimes boring factual information so readers know where to go if they want to read more. So, if your story is about the launch of an appeal to rebuild your headquarters; make sure you tell people what they can do to help and include contact information. You want people to feel galvanised, inspired and informed at the end of your story.