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Colour and Feature Writing
Transcript of Colour and Feature Writing
A different sort of reader.
They don't have to be 'soft'...
Different kinds of feature articles
The silly journalist
'Different angle' on hard news
Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9 a.m., in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call he had been expecting.
It was from Mazo Kawalchik, who is the foreman of the gravediggers at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where Pollard works for a living. "Polly, could you please be here by eleven o'clock this morning?" Kawalchik asked. "I guess you know what it's for."
Pollard did. He hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment so he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
When Pollard got to the row of yellow wooden garages where the cemetery equipment is stored, Kawalchik and John Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, were waiting for him.
"Sorry to pull you out like this on a Sunday," Metzler said. "Oh, don't say that," Pollard said. "Why, it's an honor for me to be here."
Pollard got behind the wheel of a machine called a reverse hoe. Gravedigging is not done with men and shovels at Arlington. The reverse hoe is a green machine with a yellow bucket that scoops the earth toward the operator, not away from it as a crane does. At the bottom of the hill in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pollard started the digging.
Leaves covered the grass. When the yellow teeth of the reverse hoe first bit into the ground, the leaves made a threshing sound which could be heard above the motor of the machine. When the bucket came up with its first scoop of dirt, Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, walked over and looked at it.
"That's nice soil," Metzler said.
"I'd like to save a little of it," Pollard said. "The machine made some tracks in the grass over here and I'd like to sort of fill them in and get some good grass growing there, I'd like to have everything, you know, nice."
James Winners, another gravedigger, nodded. He said he would fill a couple of carts with this extra-good soil and take it back to the garage and grow good turf on it.
"He was a good man," Pollard said.
"Yes, he was," Metzler said.
"Now they're going to come and put him right here in this grave I'm making up," Pollard said. "You know, it's an honor just for me to do this."
Pollard is forty-two. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.
Digging JFK grave was his honor
', Jimmy Breslin
Juxtaposition - man and the event
A new angle on a hard news story
Uses words sparingly
Structure which doesn't
reveal all straight away
Intro to climax
“Margaret Thatcher’s descents on the Conservative Party conference have always been like one of Mrs Rochester’s escapes from the attic.
“A day and night of mad havoc are finally brought to an end when she is again locked safely away.
“But this year she was threatening to burn down the Winter Gardens…”
- Andrew Rawnsley, ‘Storming of Winter Gardens is greeted with icy smiles’
Will the subject last 1,000 words?
Can you hide your igorance at that length?
Decide beforehand if it's going to be a feature.
Face to face - locations add colour.
‘Comment is free, but facts are sacred’
- C.P. Scott
News reporting isn't objective -
but try to maintain the illusion.
“Journalism intimidates because its currency appears to be irrefutable fact and the great myth about himself and his profession to which the journalist succumbs is that he is engaged mainly in the communication of objective fact.” (Wesker, 1977)
The General Goes Zapping Charlie Cong
Later that evening the General calls me to his office to tell me the prisoner had to have his arm amputated, and is now in the hands of the Vietnamese authorities, as regulations dictate. Before he went under he told the General's interpreters that he was part of a hardcore regular VC company whose mission was to mine Route 16, cut it up, and fire at helicopters.The General is magnanimous in his victory over my squeamish civilian worries.
"You see son, I saw rifles on that first pair of running men. Didn't tell you that at the time. And, by the way you musn't imagine there could have been ordinary farm folk in that house, when you're as old a veteran as I am you get to know about those things by instinct. I agree there was chickens for food with them, strung up on a pole. You didn't see anything bigger, like a pig or a cow didy, uh? Well then."
The General wasn't certain whether further troops would go to the farm-house that night to check who died, although patrols would be near there.It wasn’t safe moving along Route 16 at night, there was another big operation elsewhere the next day. Big Red One is always on the move." But when them VC come back harasin' that Route 16 why, we'll zapp them again. And when they come back after that we'll zapp them again."
"Wouldn't it be easier just to stay there all the time?"
“Why, son, we haven't enough troops as it is."
"The Koreans manage it."
"Yeah, but they've got a smaller area to protect. Why Big Red One ranges right over I mean up to the Cambodian Border. There ain't no place on that map we ain't been.
"I'll say perhaps your English generals wouldn't think my way of war is all that conventional, would they? Well, this is a new kind of war, flexible, quick moving. Us generals must be on the spot to direct our troops.The helicopter adds a new dimension to battle.
"There's no better way to fight than goin' out to shoot VCs. An' there's nothing I love better than killin' 'Cong. No, sir."."
Why write feature articles?
If you enjoy the writing more than thrill of breaking news.
If you enjoy researching more than being a 'sausage machine'.
Perks and freebies!
I walked along through villages and twelve collective farms. Everywhere was the cry, 'There is no bread. We are dying'. This cry came from every part of Russia, from the Volga, Siberia, White Russia, the North Caucasus, and Central Asia. I tramped through the black earth region because that was once the richest farmland in Russia and because the correspondents have been forbidden to go there to see for themselves what is happening.
'We are waiting for death' was my welcome, but see, we still, have our cattle fodder. Go farther south. There they have nothing. Many houses are empty of people already dead,' they cried.
- 29 March, 1933
Gareth Jones in the Ukraine
In the train a Communist denied to me that there was a famine. I flung a crust of bread which I had been eating from my own supply into a spittoon. A peasant fellow-passenger fished it out and ravenously ate it. I threw an orange peel into the spittoon and the peasant again grabbed it and devoured it. The Communist subsided. I stayed overnight in a village where there used to be two hundred oxen and where there now are six. The peasants were eating the cattle fodder and had only a month's supply left. They told me that many had already died of hunger. Two soldiers came to arrest a thief. They warned me against travel by night, as there were too many 'starving' desperate men.
Grab your reader's attention.
Vary the pace + tie the intro and climax together
Ask the editor for restrictions.
Write one feature article suitable for publication in a newspaper, magazine or on a news website.
The article must include
of two interviews, and be based on your own original ideas and research. The story must be researched and written within the time-span of this module.
approx. 1,000 words
- By Midnight, 24 April
- Nicholas Tomlin in Vietnam
The Story so Far
- How to write a Hard News article
- Intros, Drop Intros and Lively Intros
- What makes a good story
- How do you get a story
- Contacts and Interviews
How do Feature and Hard News Articles Differ?
Hard News Articles:
Short and snappy, 400-800 words
In depth, 1,000 words+
Hard News Articles:
Austere, stripped down language - delivers nothing but facts
Colourful and varied. The journalist's own distinct voice comes through
Hard News Articles:
The journalist gives the impression of being
The journalist can include herself if need be
'Nutgraph' more important
Hard News Article:
Breaking news - the pressing issues of the day
Needs a 'hook' - but can be a long-running issue investigated in more depth
Hard News Articles:
Often 'like us' - little time to get to know them
Personalities strong enough to carry 1,000+ words
Hard News Articles:
Support facts, and break the monotony exposition
Give them time and space to discuss how things affect their lives
Hard News Articles:
Serious matters' - Crime, politics, health etc.
Tend to be 'softer' - entertainment, music, fashion.
Choosing too big a subject
Writing an opinion piece
Including quotes from mates
Writing about places and things, not people