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First Five Graphs

The four things every good news story should have in the first five paragraphs

Andrew Oppmann

on 6 April 2011

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Transcript of First Five Graphs

First Five Graphs The four things you should find in the first five paragraphs of a news story Good Reporting
Telling the news accurately and with fairness and balance.

Describing the context of the story, the impact on readers and the future consequences. Describing the news with clarity, brevity and vigor.

Finding the right people to quote and using the precise words that convey meaning and understanding. Good Writing Consulting with reporters before they report and write so there are no surprises when the story is completed. Good Editing To report and write so that readers understand in the first five paragraphs what the news is and what it means to them. Why do this? The News.
The Impact.
The Context.
The Human Dimension. The Elements  What is it?
Newest information.
Basic facts: who, what, when, where, why, how.
 Most relevant information. The News It answers:
What happened and why did it happen?
What's the REAL story?
What's the reaction? The News How to get it
Talk first: The reporter and editor should discuss the story idea and approach.
Determine and use "best source" for each piece of the story.
Look at topic from all sides for balance.
Report until you become an expert. The News Identify the hook -- what's interesting, what will people talk about? The News Answer these questions:
What's unique?
Why are you writing this today?
What is creating the news?
Link related materials.
Identify the voices of people involved in the subject. The News Answers to critical questions:
What does situation mean?
What should reader do?
What's the fallout?
What does this information change?
Who is affected?
Who benefits; who suffers?
Why is this interesting? What is it?
The media's
advantage. The Impact How to get it
Report thoroughly.  Determine who will experience the impact. 
Explore emotions, coping needs, foreshadowing. 
Go to the point of the impact.
Look beyond the obvious; explore the ripple effect.
Identify layers of impact. The Impact How to get it
Look for all types of impact, positive and negative.
Sort through the hype to reach the genuine impact. Verify what officials say; don't take their word for granted.
Leave time for reporting impact.
Use words that convey impact. The Impact What is it?
General perspective that frames background on the news.
Historical perspective.
The relationship to things around the news.
A frame of reference. It answers:
What's normal?
What's surprising?
What does the news mean to individual reader?
How is it dealt with elsewhere? Context How to get it
Find out what is relevant.
Find out what is useful.
Define why you are writing this story this particular day.
Get clear explanations to assure that you understand -- and can explain to the readers -- the context. Context Answer these questions: 
What is the history of this?
Looking ahead, this will ....?
Likely opponents, proponents The Human Dimension What is it?
Human voice that takes the story from abstract to reality.
Amplifying/illustrating impact.
Personal details that contribute to understanding the story. Compelling elements of:
Tension, drama, conflict;
Hope, triumph, humor;
Horror, outrage, irony;
Surprise, suspense, etc.
Color, texture. The
Dimension Andrew Oppmann
Twitter: @aoppmann
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