Wednesday, 29 March 2017

News Writing: five W's and one 'H'


Human beings are curious by nature. They are airways looking for new things fresh information about anything and everything that interests them. Most media of mass communication have by and large been instrumental in satisfying the curiosities of human beings. Newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television and several other mass media have been endeavoring to gather information and disseminate that information to the people looking for such information.
The most important need that these mass media fulfill is of providing news latest news from the place one is located, news of the region, news of the nation, country and of course of the world. Thus the news is the most important input that anyone is looking from a mass medium. But, what is meant by news? What constitutes news? We shall discuss about this and related things in this lesson.


News is the major ingredient of most mass media. Newspapers, radio, and news channels depend on news to a great extent. So do many magazines and many lnternet portals. The fact that so many media provide news shows the importance of news. Here we shall learn about how news is written. We shall also focus on other news related write-ups. The content of this lesson shall be presented as follows:  
  • Definitions of News
  • Characteristics of News
  • Writing News
  • Structure of News Story Analysis
  • Backgrounder
  • Structure of Backgrounder
  • Difference between news analysis and background


Generally speaking, News is anything that is new. News is a report of an event that has just taken place. News is a detailed account that provides information or description. It could also include depiction, delineation, statement, and narration of a development event, or occurrence. The event is usually recent fresh or not known earlier.
According to George Hough of the University of Georgia U S. A. News is both a product and point of view. As a product, news is gathered processed, packaged. Newspapers, news services, news magazines, radio, television and cable station' and networks then present news to their respective audiences.
News is something that at a particular moment happens to attract and hold the interest of the reader, or listener. A news story is a fair, accurate, concise, balanced account of a current event that is of interest to a majority of people. The trouble with news is that it does not remain newsworthy for long.
Several newspapers, editors, news reporters’ eminent journalists and many media educators have attempted to define news, but these definitions have not always met the test of the time. Some of these are:
  • News is anything out of the ordinary.
  • News is anything published in a newspaper, which interests a large number of people.
  • News is what newspaper people make
  • Good news is not news
  • News is anything a big shot said.
  • News and truth is not the same thing
  • The function of news is to signal an event.
  • News is any recent, up to date information of an event received from North, East, West and South (news)

The legendary American newspaper baron, Joseph Pulitzer, had his own definition of news. He once said that:
News should be: Original, Distinctive, Romantic, Thrilling; Unique, Curious, Quaint, Humorous, Odd, and Apt-to-be talked about.
A former managing editor of the New York Times, Turner Cateledge, described news as:
“Anything you can find out today that you didn't now before.”
In modern times, news-persons and media personalities are likely to define news in terms of what people, readers, listeners, viewers want to know.
Despite the several efforts to define the “newsworthiness” news still remains undefined. Perhaps, it is not amenable to a precise, pithy, definition or an easy explanation. But news has certain ingredients. Usually; the following are considered reliable ingredients or characteristics of news:
  • Timelines
  • Proximity
  • Prominence
  • Consequence
  • Human interest
  • Unusual events like mysteries,
  • Conflict,
  • Tragedies.

The following are different categories of news: novelty, personal impact money, crime, sex, magnitude, religion, disaster, humour, the underdog, science, entertainment, weather, food, minorities, fashion.


It is necessary to know that the purpose of news writing is to impart information. It has been stated that today’s news is tomorrow’s history. Therefore, it is imperative that news writing is done with a view to providing information that is correct, objective, fair, balanced, accurate, precise, and to the point. However, news writing is a skilled craft. Good reporters learn the craft and take it to the level of an art.
It cab be acquired by dint of hard work, dedication, understanding, sustained and prolonged practice over a period of time. For being successful, one has to have a nose for news, besides being equipped with qualities of head and heart. In order to do effective news writing, one should be particularly skilled and discriminative at keenly observing, hearing and seeing things events, and people, keeping notes and making mental record finding information sources. It also involves asking-relevant questions; checking, counter-checking, crosschecking, and double-checking information. It requires the capability of fairly and impartially analyzing and interpreting information so collected.
For news writing, one has to inculcate a strict discipline of writing in the required style, with a View to conveying maximum information using minimum words.
Ordinarily, a complete news item, when written professionally, should answer the following six questions:
WHO - is or are involved?
WHEN-did the event take place?
WHERE -did the event take place?
WHY -did it take place?
WHAT -did actually take place? and
HOW -did it take place?

News Writing five W's and one 'H'
five W's and one 'H'
These questions are known, as the five W’s and one H. These questions are the heart and soul of a well and properly written news item. Again, a news item will have a wide impact if it Interests people directly;
Makes interesting reading; is a clear statement of facts of an event? Concerns what people are interested about; and
Is an event that affects reader’s life?
Example of a News Story: Here is an example of the introduction of a fairly well written news story:
"A 25 years old woman, Mrs. Sarla Choudhaiy from Jaipur died of an accident at gun shot by Delhi Policeman in a crowded Connaught Place shop this evening. Her husband, Rajesh and mother-in-law Mrs. Rani Chowdhary were with her when the accident took place. She was selecting kitchenware for her new/y wedded daughter who lives in Delhi. The policeman, Ram Narain, has been arrested and is in custody. Mrs. Sarla Chowdhary’s body has been sent for post-modem in RLM hospital“.
Here’s another example of a good news item:
"KANPUR, March 17--In a bizarre incident a two-and a-half-year old girl was brutally murdered today allegedly by three children while playing under a tree in a village here, Police said. The boys, eged between three and four, allegedly stoned the toddler, then brought a kitchen knife from the house to stab her and disposed the body in a nearby drain in Hathipur village on Sunday evening, SSP MA, Ganapathy said.
The children during interrogation narrated the incident in an innocent manner, he said. But though the act of beating and stoning seems to be unintentional, criminal intent could not be ruled out as they tried to dispose of the body, Mr. Ganapathy said. No case has been registered against the three as under section 82 of the Indian Penal Code, crime committed by a child under seven years of age is not considered a crime, he said, but added that police was investigating the incident. The children belonging to poor families said they were fond of watching action movies and had learnt to stab from films.
 The Inspector-General of Police Mr L. P Mishra, said the police had arrested them after registering a case of murder. The children did not hesitate to confess their act before the police. They also told police that they had seen such things happening in movies. He said this was probably the only incident of its kind in the country.


The technique and style of writing a news item is generally called the “inverted pyramid”. Although over the years several innovations and changes in news writing styles and techniques have taken place, most news stories still follow the inverted pyramid design, style and techniques. The inverted pyramid structure of news means that the news will. begin with the most important information. This is known as the”lead". Lead is also”called "intro" or introduction as it introduces the news story
Lead could be of several types:
Name Lead: When the person(s) mentioned in the news is/are important.
Quotation Lead: When what one says is crucial for the news item.
Short Lead: Conveys the most important part of the news in three/four words ‘Nehru is dead’.
Negative Lead: No possibility exists of any survivors in the train accident that occurred yesterday.
Suspended Interest Lead: When three is no particular focus in the story yet it deserved to be told. It is also known as a "Featurised lead".
Question Lead: The first sentence raise important questions, e.g. who is responsible for the mess Delhi roads?
Direct Quotation Lead: when the first paragraph begins with a quotation from a speech or statement made by a V.l.P.
Contrast Lead: A lead, which compares the two different situations to bring out the focus. For example: What marks the easy-going attitude of the government servants is hard to comprehend when one looks at pending case in courts.
Then, there are other leads such as:
Descriptive lead
Parody lead
Chronological lead, and
Staccato lead (stop and start lead)
After the lead, the subsequent parts would be developed in logical order to support the lead. That is, the second most important fact comes next, then the third, and fourth and so on. Normally, the story is written in short paragraphs. Each sentences of not more than two-dozen words, and each paragraph of not more than two or three sentences. Though the inverted pyramid structure is applicable to hard news but is not applicable to soft news featurised news and sometimes even for sports news.
  1. First paragraph: Most Important point
  2. Second Para: The second important point
  3. Third Para: The next important point
  4. Fourth Para: The next important point
  5. Fifth Para: The next important point

Examples of Lead or Introduction:
As stated earlier, the news story is structured in such a manner that the "lead“contains the focal print of the event. This is known as the "Summary lead”, also the five Ws and one H.
For Example:
The Hisar police yesterday discovered the body of a Delhi student, Ramesh 21, on the city main market square"
Here’s another example:
A Chandigarh trader, Ram Chand, 33 was killed on Monday morning when the Delhi-bound Punjab Roadways bus overturned on the outskirts of Kamal.
The lead normally should answer all or as many of the six (five Ws and one H) questions. The lead could emphasize one of the We if the person killed Is a minister, the lead could highlights "who"; if the accident took place in a busy market place, ”where" could be stressed; it the mishap occurred due to the carelessness of the driver ‘why’ and ‘how‘ could be underlined; it the number of deaths or loss of properties is very high “what" could be the lead and it time is crucial "when” would be the lead of the story automatically.
In addition, in the news stories pertaining to ordinary happenings, the reporter will have to decide which of the “Ws" is to be highlighted.
For example:
A devasting tire occurred on Monday night at the Rajpath slum in Delhi burning down 120 thatched huts (jhuggies). No loss of life was reported.
Yet another lead of an ordinary event: .
Hisar, Jan. 5, Two eight-year-old boys, Anil and Sunil, were kidnapped on Saturday from the Local DAV School playground where they were playing yesterday afternoon.


News Analysis is that type of writing in which the writer explains the significance and importance of a particular development or event. News stories are written on the basis of facts gathered from the spot or collected from several other sources. You would have seen” that most news events are forgotten after they appear in newspapers.
But there are certain news events, which are of great importance in several ways. Besides, there are many issues on which if a particular development takes place, several avenues open up for further reporting.
For example Prime Minister Vajpayee’s bus journey to Lahore is said to be an important break-through in normalizing relations between India and g Pakistan. As is well known there are numerous bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, which are waiting for solution. 80, this visit of India’s Prime Minister is believed to be of great importance. A Write-up or, news analysis of this event will explain to the reader the entire plethora of problems that could be tackled or the whole gamut of the pending matters between the two countries which could be sorted out by the goodwill that will flow from the Prime Minister’s bus journey.
Again, issues relating women’s empowerment with the passage or Women‘s Reservation Bill, or American President’s visit to India the 1998 nuclear test at Pokharn can be taken up for in-depth analysis.


A news analysis is generally done as follows: general introduction relating the news development, when and how it happened; why and due to what reasons it took place; putting it in proper prospective. Explaining the significance with historical perspective, quoting facts and figures, giving names; quotes, data and events, which led to the present development. Then, forecasting the possible future developments, the reasons of these developments, persons behind these developments, and the ultimate solution or the final shape of things to come as a result of the new turn of events. The writer generally does this write-up keeping in View the policy of the newspaper or magazine. However, often, these types of write-ups are done in an objective manner.


As the newspapers strive to provide all kinds of information on all possible subjects of current interest. There are some issues, which remain in the news and are current for years. A backgrounder is meant to provide information on a subject in a chronological order. This enables the reader to put an issue in a proper perspective and to adequately comprehend the subject in the light of current development. Generally, a backgrounder traces the subject from the date when it first attracted the news media’s attention. For example, if the President’s rule is imposed in a particular state due to bad law and order problems the backgrounder will give the complete details when & have state came under Presidents rule. in the international perspective if there Is a coup in any country due to civil strife or some other reason the backgrounder will a explain the history of that nation, when earlier such exigencies took place. It will also explain the reasons for the current and the previous such emergencies and their results. Details about the life of the person who is responsible for the present situation will also be given. In case of earthquakes, floods or famines also, the backgrounders provide in a chronological order the “earlier such happenings with lists of human lives lost, financial losses, and properties other related losses.


For writing a backgrounder of a particular problem, one will have to first explain the current development on it and then trace the earlier such events. This would be done in a logical and historical chronological: order giving date month and year of each related happening. Also, other details such as loses of human lives, properties etc. will have to be given. In addition, how did the situation return to normal “will also need to be given? These could be explained by giving charts, pictures or by other such visual materials.
The backgrounder is written in a simple language without indulging into fine points of prose. The purpose is to inform the reader about the historical and chronological information about the fresh developments of the happenings


While the write-up on news analysis explains the significance, the cause and effect of an issue the backgrounder goes to the history and chronology of the event. A news analysis writer could express his/her opinion criticize, applaud or condemn the development; a backgrounder does not do' so. The backgrounder is an unbiased straightforward, simple historical explanation of the Issue or subject. While a backgrounder has to contain extensive facts and figures statistics, tables and graphs and pictures the news analysis need not in m to do that In such a comprehensive manner. In news analysis only such facts and figures as are necessary to explain the significance of the event or issue or the development.