Revelation: “The craft, the art, of storytelling” within News Writing

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Finally, some clear rules on what to do and what not to do when writing a news article.  I think there was a lot of really valuable information crammed into these two chapters (and notice while there was a lot of information, Cappon practiced what he preached, he got straight to the point and concisely and clearly told and showed what his points were).  Instead of just one quote, I’m going to be using two, because I just think that Cappon worded things so well that any attempt on my part to reword it would be inefficient. 

The first quote I want to highlight is, “Writing is the art of second thought” (5).  I think this is important to remember, because journalists do work on strict deadlines.  They don’t have weeks to research, write, and review their article.  However, it is important for journalists not to use this as an excuse.  Yes, they do have deadlines, but they still need to revise their works.    

The second quote, I want to emphasize is, “You must write to readers, not at them, in language attuned to their lives and everyday experience—language plain but not dull, terse yet relaxed, standard English that’s correct but neither stilted, nor high-flown.  There may be easier ways to make a living, but then, what’s more satisfying than the craft, the art, of storytelling, which is what we do when at our best?” (6)  Cappon stresses that it is important to consider the audience, he recommends that we right in simple language that is easily understood in a concise manner.  However, even more significant to me in this quote is the label which he gives news writing, “the craft, the art, of storytelling.”  I’m not going to deny it, when I write, I like to have a thesis, and I like to argue my side.  The persuasion is half the fun to me.  When I thought about news writing, I saw it as a void—just facts, no fun.  The idea did not exactly inspire me with excitement.  However, Cappon’s word choice helps me to look at news writing in a different light.  News writing can be a form of storytelling, sure it’s not storytelling in the sense that you can just make something up and say whatever you like, but journalism doesn’t have to absent of creativity and it doesn’t have to be boring.  It is telling a story, just like any other form of writing, and it’s up to you to make it appealing within the constraints which are inherent in all types of writing. 

Read more on Cappon’s chapter 1 and 2.

4 Comments

I agree with Cappon that newswriting is storytelling when it's at its best. There are many news stories that aren't really "stories" so much as they are disjointed listings of facts. On the other hand, you don't want to get so caught up in telling a story that you over-simplify the situation or exaggerate things to get a dramatic effect. It seems like it's a pretty difficult balance to attain, because almost nothing that happens in real-life happens in a way that automatically lends itself to a straightforward, chronological story. You need to be able to find the story in it, while still appreciating the complexity of what happened as well. It's a form of writing that I often take for granted because it's so prevalent and so often not well-done, but I don't always appreciate how hard it is.

Wendy Scott said:

I toatlly agree with your post. I mean the information giving in the 2nd Chapter wa alot to take in. I had to take a break and come back to it. The different words to you. the modifiers, and Who's Who? I think it help me justify my writing and think alot more as I am writing.
I think your right about the deadlines to the should revise. It may be late but as a reader I would want well edit information bonestly.

I'm glad you found Cappon's chapter useful. It's not hard to find lists and lists of rules about writing, but until you've actually tried to write in the style of a news article, much of this advice will just seem like random rules. Now that you understand the power of good quotations, and you've experienced the difference between writing for your English professor and writing for the general reader, I think you're ready for some of this more specific advice. The book is actually aimed, at least in part, at practicing journalists who want to improve their writing skills, so there are going to be some information-dense chapters that assume some prior knowledge.

Wendy, please feel free to use your blog, or comments posted on peer blogs. as a way to ask questions about anything you'd like to learn more about.

Josie Rush said:

I definitely agree that, "well, I had a deadline" is not an excuse for shoddy workmanship. Also, the difference between writing *to* and writing *at* is so important, I was glad Cappon went over ways to do this in journalism. Sometimes when the main purpose of writing is to inform, it's easy to forget that people are going to have to read what you're writing, and stay awake while doing it.

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