5 Essential Tips for Producing Great News Features

Learn how to write a news feature story

Journalist holding microphone

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A news feature is a kind of story that focuses on a hard news topic. It combines a feature writing style with hard news reporting. Here are a few tips to help you learn how to write a news feature story.

Find a Topic That's Doable

News features typically try to shed light on problems in our society, but many people doing news features for the first time try to tackle topics that are just too large. They want to write about crime or poverty or injustice, but entire books—indeed, hundreds of books—can and have been written about subjects so broad.

What you need to do is find a narrow, focused topic that can be covered reasonably well in the space of a 1,000–1,500-word news feature.

If you want to write about crime, focus on one particular neighborhood or even a specific housing complex, and narrow it down to one type of crime. Poverty? Pick a particular kind, whether it's homelessness or single mothers who can't feed their kids. And again, narrow your scope to your community or a neighborhood.

Find Real People

News features tackle important topics, but they're still like any other kind of feature—they're people stories. That means you have to have real people in your stories who will bring the topic to life.

So if you're going to write about homeless people, you'll need to interview as many as you can. If you're writing about a drug epidemic in your community, you'll need to interview addicts, cops, and counselors.

In other words, find people who are on the front lines of the issue you're writing about and let them tell their stories.

Get Plenty of Facts and Stats

News features need people, but they also need to be rooted in facts. For example, if your story claims there is a methamphetamine epidemic in your community, you need to support that with arrest statistics from police, treatment numbers from drug counselors, and so on.

Likewise, if you think homelessness is on the rise, you'll need numbers to back that up. Some evidence can be anecdotal; a cop saying he's seeing more homeless people on the streets is a good quote. But in the end, there's no substitute for hard data.

Get the Expert View

At some point, every news feature needs an expert's point of view. So if you're writing about crime, don't just talk to a patrol cop—interview a criminologist. And if you're writing about a drug epidemic, interview someone who's studied the drugs involved and their spread. Experts lend news features authority and credibility.

Get the Big Picture

It's crucial to have a local focus for a news feature, but it's also good to give a broader perspective as well. Incorporate large-scale stats that are relevant to your topic, like how the issue exists on a national level. What is the homeless crisis like across the country? Have there been similar drug epidemics in other communities? This "big picture" kind of reporting validates your story and shows that it is a piece of a larger puzzle.

The federal government keeps track of tons of data, so look to the websites for various agencies to find the statistics you need.