There are many different types of articles in journalism; IWPR generally commissions four major styles:
Each article style merits a different approach, so it is absolutely essential that writer and editor agree beforehand what type of article is intended. The style of article should be expressly stated in the commissioning brief.
The real goal is transparency: readers must be able to tell exactly what kind of piece they are reading.
IWPR is not a news agency, but from time to time, we do run straight news pieces. These are fully factual accounts, loaded with detail and devoid of personal opinion.
In theory, straight news articles should be the most straightforward to write: one simply reports the words and deeds of others in a direct way. In reality, however, it is often difficult to detach oneself from a story so completely, and the variety of facts leads to issues over article structure.
Also, the sheer number of facts will necessarily lead both author and editor to make subjective decisions over which facts to keep and which to eliminate, thus destroying the very foundation of objectivity. For this reason alone, many believe that completely objective reporting is impossible.
With this in mind, IWPR's pure news pieces are few and short.
The news analysis article is the dominant style at IWPR. News analysis articles have a direction, but they relate that direction from a factual basis, and they aim to be both informative and balanced.
Because this style is so central to our work, it is worth itemising essential elements and important characteristicsof the news analysis piece:
A basic, one-page outline of a news analysis article has been created in several languages:
A feature is an evocative piece; it tells a story with colour and well-written images. Features make the point by bringing the reader right to the location of the story, as if the reader were looking through the journalist's eyes.
For this reason, the lead of a feature is the key element. The feature lead should capture the mood, create an image and appeal to the imagination. It must instantly transport the reader to the location.
Look at this example:
It may seem like a schoolkid's dream. In spring and autumn, the local authorities call on all pupils and students to put down their books and pens and then close down the classrooms.
"We're off cotton picking," chant the kids as they ride off in trucks to the fields at seven in the morning for their 11-hour, unpaid day. The jubilant reaction to being let off school palls as the harvest drags on into the winter months.
Here is a second example:
In the first week of May, four homosexuals were beaten up outside an Almaty gay club. Police arriving at the scene did nothing to stop the fighting. Instead, they joined the attackers. The incident is anything but unique. Beatings of gay men are as commonplace in Kazakstan as police intervention or protection is non-existent.
"I was battered, but I cannot take the attackers to court - I am an outcast and a pervert as far as the police are concerned," complained Andrei, who is bisexual.
The lead grabs you and brings you right into the piece.
Feature writing is more creative than other forms. The author sets the tone of a feature to fit the mood of the story.
A typical ending to a feature is to return to the scene created at the beginning of the piece, in the lead.
An opinion/comment piece is not simply a rant. Good opinion/comment pieces have something important to say and are well-written. This is not the place simply to write what you feel; it is the place to develop a convincing argument that can stand up to informed criticism.
An opinion/comment piece can be formal or informal, depending on the subject matter, but in every case, the reader should clearly understand she is listening to the writer's voice. Each piece should:
In addition, opinion/comment pieces should be consistent in tone. Whether thoughtful, analytical, conversational, critical, reportorial or satirical, choose a voice, and stick with it. More than one mood will distract the reader.
For more on article styles, see the article styles and structures training module outline: