Today it was a privilege to take part in an exclusive Facebook Live interview with Pete Richardson, a seasoned news reporter with a LOT to say about writing excellent news copy. His insights, (which can be found in our exclusive members group) outlined the unique nature of what it means to create a piece of news, as well as where a good story can be found and how it should be structured.
While the 30 minute interview covered a lot of ground, there were three points which I feel are worth sharing with you. These points will be of particular interest to those of you who are dabbling with the prospect of becoming freelance journalists but aren’t sure where to begin! They are:
1) News is not opinion
Pete defined news as follows: “An account of an activity, event, development, happening or result with no comment or opinion”. While you as the reporter might have an opinion on something, a news report is not the vehicle for delivering this opinion. It is a factual account of the whats, wheres, hows and whens. This is an interesting concept, isn’t it? It can be so tempting to add in the occasional adjective that might sway the reader to think a certain way about an event, yet this is not the purpose of reporting. As a personal task, you may wish to try and write a totally objective news piece on a local event and assess how easy or difficult you found it to write without injecting opinion.
2) News is everywhere
Stories are everywhere, you just need to tease them out. There are two primary methods for doing this. The traditional reporter’s way is to talk to people, take notes and keep an ear out for local happenings. And this is still an entirely valid way of finding stories. But with social media now at our fingertips, Facebook groups and even the public comments against existing social media based news reports can give you enough information on a topic to form a whole news piece. A keen reporter will always be on form and ready to take down a story if and when it emerges.
3) News must be relevant
“Pete Wins Cold Courgette Soup Competition” is a headline that came up quite a bit in our interview! And the reason for that is, some stories are more relevant to smaller, local news outlets, rather than, let’s say, The Sun. While it’s true that news is everywhere, you need to make sure the news you’re writing about is useful to the reader it’s targeted at. If you’ve got a story about a local pub closure or the outcome of a soup making competition, this can be sold to a local newspaper. If you have a celebrity scandal, you can certainly think a lot bigger!
There’s more of course… To view this incredibly useful video interview, you can sign up to the Learn Freelance Writing Membership Programme and gain access to the entire conversation it in our exclusive group!