10 Important Steps for Producing a Quality News Story

How to Write Stories That Shine

Do you want to produce your first news story, but aren't sure where to begin or what to do along the way? Creating a news story is actually a series of tasks that involve both reporting and writing. Here are the things you'll need to accomplish to produce quality work that's ready for publication.

Woman With Her Arms Crossed Being Interview and Photographed by Journalists
The courthouse is a good place to find interesting stories. Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images

Journalism isn't about writing essays or fiction -- you can't create stories from your imagination. You have to find newsworthy topics worth reporting. Check out the places where news often happens -- your city hall, police precinct or courthouse. Attend a city council or school board meeting. Want to cover sports? High school football and basketball games can be exciting and provide great experience for the aspiring sportswriter. Or interview your city's merchants for their take on the state of the economy. More »

An Al Jazeera TV crew conducts an interview in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
An Al Jazeera TV crew conducts an interview in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Getty Images

Now that you've decided what to write about, you need to hit the streets (or the phone or your email) and start interviewing sources. Do some research about those you plan to interview, prepare some questions and make sure you're equipped with a reporter's notepad, pen, and pencil. Remember that the best interviews are more like conversations. Put your source at ease, and you'll get more revealing information. More »

Journalists in Tiananmen Square
Journalists reporting in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. Getty Images

Good, clean news-writing is important, but all the writing skills in the world can't replace thorough, solid reporting. Good reporting means answering all the questions a reader might have and then some. It also means double-checking the information you get to make sure it's accurate. And don't forget to check the spelling of your source's name. It's Murphy's Law  -- just when you assume your source's name is spelled John Smith, it'll be Jon Smythe. More »

Jeff Marks
Jeff Marks, of WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia, speaks at a service to commemorate the lives of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, who were killed during a live TV broadcast in Moneta, Virginia. Powerful quotes from his speech would elevate a news story covering the event. Getty Images

You might fill your notebook with quotes from interviews, but when you write your story you'll only be able to use a fraction of what you've gathered. Not all quotes are created equal -- some are compelling, and others just fall flat. Pick the quotes that grab your attention and expand the story, and chances are they'll grab your reader's attention as well. More »

Typing
Report the facts objectively, not how you see them through your own lens. Getty Images

Hard news stories are not the place to for opinion-spewing. Even if you have strong feelings about the issue you're covering, you must learn to set those feelings aside and become a dispassionate observer who does objective reporting. Remember, a news story isn't about what you think -- it's about what your sources have to say. More »

A Writer
Writing a great lede deserves serious attention.

So you've done your reporting and are ready to write. But the most interesting story in the world isn't worth much if no one reads it, and if you don't write a knock-their-socks-off lede, chances are no one will give your story a second glance. To craft a great lede, think about what makes your story unique and what you find interesting about it. Then find a way to convey that interest to your readers. More »

News Room
Editors can sometimes give guidance on the structure of a story.

Crafting a great lede is the first order of business, but you still have to write the rest of the story. Newswriting is based on the idea of conveying as much information as possible, as quickly, efficiently and clearly as possible. The inverted pyramid format means you put the most important information at the top of your story, the least important at the bottom. More »

Journalists
Get the attribution right on your quotes. Michael Bradley/Getty Images

It's important in news stories to be absolutely clear about where the information comes from. Attributing the information in your story makes it more credible and builds trust with your readers. Whenever possible, use on-the-record attribution. More »

AP Stylebook
The AP Stylebook is the Bible of print journalism.

Now you've reported and written a terrific story. But all that hard work will be for nothing if you send your editor a story filled with Associated Press style errors. AP style is the gold standard for print journalism usage in the U.S., which is why you need to learn it. Get used to checking your AP Stylebook whenever you write a story. Pretty soon, you'll have some of the most common style points down cold. More »

You've finished your article and sent it to your editor, who praises it profusely. Then she says, "OK, we'll need a follow-up story." Developing a follow-up can be tricky at first, but there are some simple methods that can help you along. For instance, think about the causes and consequences of the story you're covering. Doing so is bound to produce at least a few good follow-up ideas. More »