3 Types of Stories Journalists Write

By Hume Johnson, PhD

Knowing the kind of stories journalists write is pretty useful if you wish to contribute information on behalf of an organization or client to the media or you are asked to provide answers to a reporter. News stories usually fall under 3 distinct categories: 1) Breaking News, 2) Feature stories and 3), Commentary.

BREAKING NEWS

These are news reports that are based on events transpiring in the moment, or treats with issues of ongoing concern. Wire services such as the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters provide reporters with ongoing information, some of which may be incomplete if the story is developing or complex. The reporter is not sitting on his or her laurels with breaking news. They are trying to obtain information from sources close to the situation such ad eyewitnesses, experts or Government authorities. It is not unusual for reporters to juggle sources in trying to validate the information coming in from the field as they put together breaking news stories. Breaking news have tight deadlines, the time at which their stories must be filed for publication or broadcast. Reporters must work fast to complete their submission.

FEATURE STORIES

Unlike breaking news, feature stories are not time-bound. They allow for greater depth or development. These can be profiles, exposes, new product announcements etc. Features stories are great for organizations,  public relations practitioners or anyone wishing to find a way to reach key publics. These stories of course have deadlines but usually reporters have more time to complete story for submission. For broadcast media, the time may be shorter as reporters may be rushing to complete several features. These require editing of footage, interviews; include narration etc which is more demanding than a feature story for a print publication.

COMMENTARY

The commentary is usually linked to news story, say a breaking news piece to provide some context. Commentaries from news folks are a relatively new phenomenon. They are  often reserved for senior reporters who have covered a particular beat or field for many years and have developed some expertise in the area. I feel obliged to say that commentaries are not the same as columns. On many contexts such as in the United States, columns are usually written by journalists who no longer cover a subject on a day to day basis. In other countries, columns are reserve for opinion writers, some of who are prominent members of the society or former journalists. Columns are featured regularly and may command a large following.

Ps: Journalist publish these stories in different outlets such as Daily papers, weekly publications, television, radio and Internet news sites. It is helpful to become familiar with the news schedules of these platforms when you need to convey information or when asked to respond about an issue involving your organization.

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Dr. Hume Johnson teaches public relations at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island. This piece was supported by information from the book ‘A Guide to Media Relations’ by Irv Schenkler and Tony Herling.

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