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Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

Defining Journalism

Whether you watched the news this morning, read the newspaper today, or saw news stories on the internet, you have been consuming journalism. Journalism is collecting and presenting information. Journalists, the people that do the collecting and presenting, rely on different story formats to present information. Breaking news stories, features, investigative reports, editorials, and reviews are all types of journalism.

The Type of Story

Imagine that you are a journalist working for a newspaper. As we go through each of these five types of stories, imagine that you just received an assignment from your editor for this kind of story.

Breaking News

You have just been assigned a breaking-news story. This type of story reports the most current, up-to-date news or information on a subject. Breaking news stories often interrupt the other scheduled stories because journalists are trying to provide information that is needed and of high interest to the public. If you were a journalist writing a breaking news story, you would focus on the bare-bone facts: who, what, where, when and why. For example, if you were covering an earthquake in China, you would probably report the following information:

BEIJING, China — A 6.5 earthquake hit Beijing at 6:00 AM today. So far, 6,000 people have been injured and 500 people have been killed, but new victims are still being found in the wreckage.

Feature Stories

Now imagine that you are a journalist writing a feature story. Unlike a breaking news story which is very time-sensitive, feature stories are not necessarily tied to particular events, but focus more on activities and people. Even though feature stories contain facts, they are frequently more narrative-based than breaking-news stories.

If you were a journalist writing a feature story, you might start with description or an anecdote. When journalists write features, they often use a hook, a type of opening that grabs a reader’s attention. You put the meat of the story, all of the facts that you have researched and any supporting evidence in the body of the story. The conclusion of the feature story offers a solid ending that makes the reader feel like the story is resolved.

Because a feature story contains more personal information, it is important that you try to present a balanced, unbiased account. Journalists try to include perspectives from all sides of the issue and to gather as much information as possible before they write the story. The following example is one way to start a feature story:

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — As a student at the University of Utah, there are many clubs that you can get involved in: clubs for chess enthusiasts, Utah democrats, Chinese majors, and many more. For Rachel Chase, however, University of Utah students clubs lacked one thing: women. ‘Most of the clubs are started, run, and attended by men,’ Chase says.

Investigative Reports

Journalists write investigative reports to present in-depth coverage of a topic. Investigative reports can require several months of research and interviews with a wide range of sources. If you were writing this kind of story, you would again include different points of view and different opinions. Investigative reports usually provide a clear presentation of facts, focusing on who, what, where and when. These types of stories typically include statistics, quotations, and other primary and secondary data.

Some investigative reports offer explanations and recommendations for the types of issues and questions raised in the report.


An editorial is an opinion piece. If you were writing an editorial, you would start with a description of the issue or controversy that you are discussing. You would present opposing views of the subject. You then present your own opinion, support it with facts and ideas, and then conclude with recommendations based on your facts.


A review is a journalist’s assessment of something such as a product, book, movie, or current event. Reviews contain information and a certain amount of personal opinion from the journalist who is writing from an informed perspective. Film and theater reviews are written by experts in the arts while reviews of new technology are written by tech-savvy journalists. Reviews are often targeted towards a specific audience. For example:

Sophocles’s play Oedipus Rex is a tragic and heartbreaking illustration of the fundamental human attraction to the parent of the opposite sex. While other critics have seen the play as more of a representation of the competition human beings feel with the parent of the same sex, it is clear from Sophocles’s portrayal of Jocasta that she is, in fact, the focus of the play.

Lesson Summary

This lesson has discussed journalism, the collecting and presenting of information to the public. We have reviewed the types of stories common in journalism and explored the characteristics of breaking news, feature stories, investigative reports, editorials, and reviews.

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