Covering Hard News


• A news story is a timely story about an issue, event , person or topic that many people are interested in.

• A news story is designed to inform the reader of something in a crisp, concise, easily-read manner.

• Each paragraph should develop a single thought and one-sentence paragraphs should often be used.

• Generally, keep sentences short, but vary their lengths..

• Check and re-check your facts.

• Always use both a person’s first and second names in the first reference and be absolutely sure of the spelling.

• Where possible, try to use quotes and be sure they are near the top of the story.

• Never use “I” or “we” in a hard news story. Those words belong in columns.

• Be fair and accurate and don’t let your own views creep into the story.

Only columnists and editorials writers are supposed to give opinions.

• Avoid the trap of starting almost every sentence with “The”.

• Avoid clichés like the plague. (Think about that for a moment!)

• Don’t start writing until you’re sure you understand the situation and if you’re

doubt, go back to the source and check.

• Don’t use big words when shorter words will do just as well.


What are some of the things you have to know in order to successfully write a hard news story? Here are some helpful suggestions:

The Inverted Pyramid

The vast majority of hard news stories are written in the inverted pyramid style.
Explanatory passages and the less important facts are added in declining order of importance.  There are two reasons for this.

Sometimes stories have to be cut, often just before deadline, to fit the available space and this style of hard news writing ensures that if any facts are deleted they will be the least important ones.

Also, not everyone has the time nor the interest to read every word in every story. So, if the main facts are in the headline and the first part of the story (the lead, or in journalist terms, the lede), people can be quite well informed without reading right to the end of the news item.

Those Famous 5Ws

The first couple of sentences in a news story are called the lead, or in newspaper jargon, the lede.

There are many forms of news ledes, but the most common is the 5Ws, or summary lede. It is so named because it summarizes the story. It is by far the best approach for student reporters.

Here is a typical news story lede:

“A Garden City man was killed Tuesday when the car he was driving skidded off an icy road and hit a concrete bridge foundation, three miles east of Hempstead.

Now search out those 5Ws:

W h o ?
A Garden City man

was killed

W h e n ?
T u e s d a y

W h e r e ?
three miles east of Hempstead

W h y ?
his car skidded of an icy road


Excerpt from Citizen Journalism Learning Blog

Here are some example ledes. The first set is taken from recent headlines. These ledes are from hard news stories, they are very straightforward, and they make sure to include the essential information:

  • “Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans held by rebels in Colombia have been rescued by the Colombian military.” –From BBC News, which puts its ledes in boldface.
  • “A Palestinian man has driven a bulldozer into a bus and several cars in Jerusalem, killing three people, before being shot dead.” –From BBC News
  • “A 19-year-old man suspected of killing a Prince George’s County police officer was strangled in the county jail two days after his arrest, the state medical examiner’s office concluded yesterday.” –From the Washington Post

The next example is also from a straight news story, but it is a little more catchy and imaginative, if less informative:

  • “Jason Lezak broke his American record in the 100-meter freestyle on Wednesday, then lost it before he could catch his breath.” –From the New York Times

The last examples are from features, and they are examples of ledes with little information, but which are written with the intention of getting the reader hooked:

  • “The best burrito in town is Chinese.” –From a food review I wrote.
  • “Black black black, black, black black, black black, dead.” –From an art feature I wrote.

In summary, the two aspects of a good lede are:

  1. The essential information. If the reader only reads the lede, he or she should usually be able to understand the story on its most basic level.
  2. The hook. Ideally the lede is also interesting enough to get the reader hooked so that he or she wants to read on, hopefully until the end of the article.