Friday, 15 February 2013

Feature Fears

    Feature writing is something I have always found difficult. Writing news stories, however, seems so simple; write a short, summary lead of about 20-25 words, use decent quotes from a variety of sources, try not to include your opinion and always use the inverted pyramid structure. But features must include emotions and show the reader a story rather than just tell them through facts. 
    Roy Peter Clark's 30th of June article 'Reviving the Feature Story' expresses the importance of feature writing and what the future may hold for it. He states that, " Readers like stories, even news stories, written in feature style.” and how important features have been for expanding journalistic writing in general, especially because of a large readership behind human interest stories. He also explains that features must not be news stories but actually comment on something relevant and news worthy.

    As a journalist, when writing a news story I constantly have to restrain myself from allowing my own views, opinions and emotions to creep into my copy. But with a feature, you have the chance to sway your readers towards a particular view point through the way that you write your piece and the sources and quotations that you use. Clark emphasises several key characteristics of feature writing, including illuminating "...lives lived in our time." This gives writers the chance to try and connect with their readers on a personal level rather than providing them with a string of well-organised facts and quotations.
     Clark also highlights a complicating factor, "In the last 30 years, my time frame, news stories have been written with more feature elements, and many features are written right off the news. So the lines between news and features have blurred." But features provide journalists with a more extensive chance to capture their readers' attention and retain it and explore an issue or recent piece of news in depth. You can also give your reader more of an insight into who you are as a person and as a writer.

    According to Chip Scanlan in an article published in May 2003, the purpose of the 'Nut Graf' or summary lead of a feature is  to "...hook the reader, followed by alternating sections that amplify the story’s thesis and provide balance with evidence." Their content should include a justification of why the reader should care about the issue you're writing about, a lead that connects "... to the rest of the story." and some supporting material.  Scanlan also stresses the significance of never giving away the ending!

     It is interesting to note the different crossovers between various forms of writing- from creative writing, to news story writing to feature writing. Perhaps to be as good a journalist as possible, you have to have good knowledge and skill when it comes to all writing styles.

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