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How to Write a Journalistic Article: Tips for Students

How to Write a Journalistic Article: Tips for Students

Writing for a newspaper, magazine or online publication is different than writing a standard essay. Research and organization are just as necessary, but throw out that introduction/body/conclusion form you’re used to. Journalism is front-loaded. You need to get your point out early and follow it with details. If you save all your juicy information for a climax at the end, your reader will get bored and turn the page first.

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Journalistic Construction

Journalism uses an “inverted pyramid” style. Picture your article in the shape of a triangle widest at the top with the point on the bottom. This is how your story should be built. Your first line should be the most important. If the reader is scanning through the paper and reads only the first line, he should get a good idea of your article’s content. You need to hook the reader from the beginning else he will quickly move to something more exciting. Nobody reads every word of a newspaper or magazine. On the web, attention spans are even shorter.

Follow your first line with solid details. Expand your point. Imagine your reader’s questions and answer them. Continue to follow the inverted pyramid. Rank your information in order of importance and put the best stuff first.

Finish with the least necessary information. Include background most readers will know but some may not, such as related news from last week. Show how this story is relevant to other stories. Add some odd facts or statistics associated with your article.

Not only does the inverted pyramid style grab your reader by placing the meat first, it makes it easier for your editor. Squeezing all the articles and ads into a limited space sometimes requires an editor to cut your submission. If you built it right, the editor can easily clip the bottom from your article without losing the point.

Just the Facts

Journalist desk

For most publications, you should keep your opinions out of it. Use solid, backed-up facts to prove what you think. Use choice quotes from reputable sources to add color and authenticity, but don’t overdo it. Use statistics to amplify your point, but realize you can find a number to prove almost anything. Interview people. Do your own research. If you hear or see it once, double-check it. Hear or see it three times, it might be true.

And know for certain that just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. Look in at least three places to see if they agree with each other. I once read something online about a product. I thought was false. I looked someplace else that listed the same falsehood. Then I looked to the manufacturer’s website to find I was right all along. My first source probably looked at the second source, thought it was true, and spread the wrong facts.

Know that readers will try to poke holes in your article, so read it critically. Think about how you would rebut your own writing and counter that argument.

Giant Headlines Attack the Page!

Your headline is the most important set of words in your article. It will get you read or ignored. Be strong. Be specific. Use important terms. Summarize your article with a great handful of words.

Lead off with the big names in your article. Don’t say: “President Visits Midwestern City”. Rather use: “Obama Visits Minneapolis”. While you’re at it, use a great verb like “entertains” or “storms”. Be sure to use to the best, most compact, descriptive words you can.

Superlatives grasp attention. Use them if you can. Say “Easiest Pie Crust” rather than “Pie Crust Recipe”. It’s a simple way, I mean the simplest way to catch a reader’s eye.

How To articles and lists are the most popular publications on the web. Simply changing from “Building a Birdhouse” to “How To Build a Birdhouse” or “Top 10 Birdhousing Tips” will make your writing stand out to readers and search engines.

Style Guides

There are multiple schools of journalistic writing. You may be asked to use AP, Chicago, MLA, APA or another format. Each is a standardization of how to cite sources, use contractions, write numerals, capitalize, format headlines and more. Each style has its own handbook available online or at your library. Purdue Online Writing Lab is a great resource for style guides and other writing tips. Getting all the details right my be maddening, but you don’t want to be marked down or rejected because you didn’t punctuate your bibliography correctly or you italicized something you shouldn’t have.

  • Write a paragraph using a statistic to prove something is true. Then use another statistic to prove it is false.
  • Interview a classmate and write an article about one fascinating aspect.
  • Take a classmate’s article and read only the first half. Discuss with your classmate if the article still delivers its message.
  • How to Write Great Headlines -
  • Purdue Owl -
  • Photo by Beth Rankin from Kent, OH, USA (What I Did on My Spring Break) [CC-BY-2.0 ( )], via Wikimedia Commons

how to write a good journalistic article

The elements of journalism

In their book The Elements of Journalism , Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel identify the essential principles and practices of journalism.

Here are 10 elements common to good journalism, drawn from the book.

Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth

Good decision-making depends on people having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense, but in a capacity that is more down to earth.

“All truths – even the laws of science – are subject to revision, but we operate by them in the meantime because they are necessary and they work,” Kovach and Rosenstiel write in the book. Journalism, they continue, thus seeks “a practical and functional form of truth.” It is not the truth in the absolute or philosophical or scientific sense but rather a pursuit of “the truths by which we can operate on a day-to-day basis.”

This “journalistic truth” is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. Then journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, subject to further investigation.

Journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods so audiences can make their own assessment of the information. Even in a world of expanding voices, “getting it right” is the foundation upon which everything else is built – context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The larger truth, over time, emerges from this forum.

As citizens encounter an ever-greater flow of data, they have more need – not less – for suppliers of information dedicated to finding and verifying the news and putting it in context.

Its first loyalty is to citizens

The publisher of journalism – whether a media corporation answering to advertisers and shareholders or a blogger with his own personal beliefs and priorities — must show an ultimate allegiance to citizens. They must strive to put the public interest – and the truth – above their own self-interest or assumptions.

A commitment to citizens is an implied covenant with the audience and a foundation of the journalistic business model – journalism provided “without fear or favor” is perceived to be more valuable than content from other information sources.

Commitment to citizens also means journalism should seek to present a representative picture of constituent groups in society. Ignoring certain citizens has the effect of disenfranchising them.

The theory underlying the modern news industry has been the belief that credibility builds a broad and loyal audience and that economic success follows in turn. In that regard, the business people in a news organization also must nurture – not exploit – their allegiance to the audience ahead of other considerations.

Technology may change but trust – when earned and nurtured – will endure.

Its essence is a discipline of verification

Journalists rely on a professional discipline for verifying information.

While there is no standardized code as such, every journalist uses certain methods to assess and test information to “get it right.”

Being impartial or neutral is not a core principle of journalism. Because the journalist must make decisions, he or she is not and cannot be objective. But journalistic methods are objective.

When the concept of objectivity originally evolved, it did not imply that journalists were free of bias. It called, rather, for a consistent method of testing information – a transparent approach to evidence – precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of the work. The method is objective, not the journalist.

Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment, all signal such standards. This discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other forms of communication such as propaganda, advertising, fiction, or entertainment.

Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover

Independence is a cornerstone of reliability.

On one level, it means not becoming seduced by sources, intimidated by power, or compromised by self-interest. On a deeper level it speaks to an independence of spirit and an open-mindedness and intellectual curiosity that helps the journalist see beyond his or her own class or economic status, race, ethnicity, religion, gender or ego.

Journalistic independence, write Kovach and Rosenstiel, is not neutrality. While editorialists and commentators are not neutral, the source of their credibility is still their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform – not their devotion to a certain group or outcome. In our independence, however, journalists must avoid straying into arrogance, elitism, isolation or nihilism.

It must serve as an independent monitor of power

Journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens. It may also offer voice to the voiceless. Being an independent monitor of power means “watching over the powerful few in society on behalf of the many to guard against tyranny,” Kovach and Rosenstiel write.

The earliest journalists firmly established as a core principle their responsibility to examine unseen corners of society. “ ”

The watchdog role is often misunderstood, even by journalists, to mean “afflict the comfortable.” While upsetting the applecart may certainly be a result of watchdog journalism, the concept as introduced in the mid-1600s was far less combative. Rather, it sought to redefine the role of the journalist from a passive stenographer to more a curious observer who would “search out and discover the news.”

The watchdog role also means more than simply monitoring government. “The earliest journalists,” write Kovach and Rosenstiel, “firmly established as a core principle their responsibility to examine unseen corners of society. The world they chronicled captured the imagination of a largely uninformed society, creating an immediate and enthusiastic popular following.”

Finally, the purpose of the watchdog extends beyond simply making the management and execution of power transparent, to making known and understood the effects of that power. This includes reporting on successes as well as failures.

Journalists have an obligation to protect this watchdog freedom by not demeaning it in frivolous use or exploiting it for commercial gain.

It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise

The news media are common carriers of public discussion, and this responsibility forms a basis for special privileges that news and information providers receive from democratic societies.

These privileges can involve subsidies for distribution or research and development (lower postal rates for print, use of public spectrum by broadcasters, development and management of the Internet) to laws protecting content and free speech (copyright, libel, and shield laws).

These privileges, however, are not pre-ordained or perpetual. Rather, they are conferred because of the need for an abundant supply of information. They are predicated on the assumption that journalism – because of its principles and practices – will supply a steady stream of higher quality content that citizens and government will use to make better decisions.

Traditionally, this covenant has been between news organizations and government. The new forms of digital media, however, place a responsibility on everyone who “publishes” content – whether for profit or for personal satisfaction – in the public domain.

The raw material cast into the marketplace of ideas sustains civic dialogue and serves society best when it consists of verified information rather than just prejudice and supposition.

Journalism should also attempt to fairly represent varied viewpoints and interests in society and to place them in context rather than highlight only the conflicting fringes of debate. Accuracy and truthfulness also require that the public discussion not neglect points of common ground or instances where problems are not just identified but also solved.

Journalism, then, is more than providing an outlet for discussion or adding one’s voice to the conversation. Journalism carries with it a responsibility to improve the quality of debate by providing verified information and intellectual rigor. A forum without regard for facts fails to inform and degrades rather than improves the quality and effectiveness of citizen decision-making.

It must strive to keep the significant interesting and relevant

Journalism is storytelling with a purpose. It should do more than gather an audience or catalogue the important. It must balance what readers know they want with what they cannot anticipate but need.

Writing coaches Roy Peter Clark and Chip Scanlan describe effective newswriting as the intersection of civic clarity, the information citizens need to function, and literary grace, which is the reporter’s storytelling skill set. In other words, part of the journalist’s responsibility is providing information in such a way people will be inclined to listen. Journalists must thus strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.

Quality is measured both by how much a work engages its audience and enlightens it. This means journalists must continually ask what information has the most value to citizens and in what form people are most likely to assimilate it. While journalism should reach beyond such topics as government and public safety, journalism overwhelmed by trivia and false significance trivializes civic dialogue and ultimately public policy.

It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional

Journalism is our modern cartography. It creates a map for citizens to navigate society.

As with any map, its value depends on a completeness and proportionality in which the significant is given greater visibility than the trivial.

Keeping news in proportion is a cornerstone of truthfulness. Inflating events for sensation, neglecting others, stereotyping, or being disproportionately negative all make a less reliable map. The most comprehensive maps include all affected communities, not just those with attractive demographics. The most complete stories take into account diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Though proportion and comprehensiveness are subjective, their ambiguity does not lessen their significance.

Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience

Doing journalism, whether as a professional writing for a news organization or as an online contributor in the public space, involves one’s moral compass and demands a personal sense of ethics and responsibility.

Because “news” is important, those who provide news have a responsibility to voice their personal conscience out loud and allow others to do so as well. They must be willing to question their own work and to differ with the work of others if fairness and accuracy demand they do so.

News organizations do well to nurture this independence by encouraging individuals to speak their minds. Conversation and debate stimulate the intellectual diversity of minds and voices necessary to understand and accurately cover an increasingly diverse society. Having a diverse newsroom does little if those different voices are not spoken or heard.

It’s also a matter of self-interest. Employees encouraged to raise their hands may “save the boss from himself” or protect the news organization’s reputation by pointing out errors, flagging important omissions, questioning misguided assumptions, or even revealing wrongdoing.

Having a sense of ethics is perhaps most important for the individual journalist or online contributor.

Increasingly, those who produce “the news” work in isolation, whether from a newsroom cubicle, the scene of a story, or their home office. They may file directly to the public without the safety net of editing, a second set of eyes, or the collaboration of others. While crowdsourcing by the audience may catch and correct errors or misinformation, the reputation of the author and the quality of public dialogue are nevertheless damaged.

Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news

The average person now, more than ever, works like a journalist.

Writing a blog entry, commenting on a social media site, sending a tweet, or “liking” a picture or post, likely involves a shorthand version of the journalistic process. One comes across information, decides whether or not it’s believable, assesses its strength and weaknesses, determines if it has value to others, decides what to ignore and what to pass on, chooses the best way to share it, and then hits the “send” button.

Though this process may take only a few moments, it’s essentially what reporters do.

Two things, however, separate this journalistic-like process from an end product that is “journalism.” The first is motive and intent. The purpose of journalism is to give people the information they need to make better decisions about their lives and society. The second difference is that journalism involves the conscious, systematic application of a discipline of verification to produce a “functional truth,” as opposed to something that is merely interesting or informative. Yet while the process is critical, it’s the end product – the “story” – by which journalism is ultimately judged.

Today, when the world is awash in information and news is available any time everywhere, a new relationship is being formed between the suppliers of journalism and the people who consume it.

The new journalist is no longer a gatekeeper who decides what the public should and should not know. The individual is now his or her own circulation manager and editor. To be relevant, journalists must now verify information the consumer already has or is likely to find and then help them make sense of what it means and how they might use it.

Thus, write Kovach and Rosenstiel, “The first task of the new journalist/sense maker is to verify what information is reliable and then order it so people can grasp it efficiently.” A part of this new journalistic responsibility is “to provide citizens with the tools they need to extract knowledge for themselves from the undifferentiated flood or rumor, propaganda, gossip, fact, assertion, and allegation the communications system now produces.”

This guide, like many of the others in API’s Journalism Essentials section, is largely based on the research and teachings of the Committee of Concerned Journalists — a consortium of reporters, editors, producers, publishers, owners and academics that for 10 years facilitated a discussion among thousands of journalists about what they did, how they did it, and why it was important. The author, Walter Dean, was CCJ training director, and former API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel who previously co-chaired the committee.

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How To Write Like a Journalist (And Why It Matters in Marketing) [Infographic]

The importance of good journalism can’t be overstated. Journalism is an art: It’s not just telling a story, it’s about helping the reader read it through to the end. Perhaps above all, it should produce positive results in society. To quote Andrew Vacss: “Journalism is what maintains democracy. It’s the force for progressive social change.”

A free, democratic society is impossible without accurate and ethical journalism. But the qualities that make up this art can be extended to many other forms of writing — notably marketing — in a big way.

How’s that? Read on to find out more.

Infographic 4 tips for journalistic writing in marketing

What Is the Journalistic Approach?

Thanks to the internet, content creation has become a decentralized affair, where virtually anyone can publish their thoughts online. While this has created new opportunities for independent writers and businesses, it’s also introduced a crisis of credibility.

Some bloggers and writers are a little too loose with the facts, allowing their own values and perspectives to color their reporting. This can not only damage their reputation with discerning readers, but it can also reflect poorly on the businesses that employ them.

Additionally, some journalists are more interested in agreeing with their audience, misrepresenting the facts and reporting only what their readers want to hear in an openly biased fashion. It might make for good ratings, but it makes for lousy — and often misleading — journalism.

The journalistic approach emphasizes objectivity, ethics and accuracy. Journalists strive to leave their biases at the door in favor of in-depth research, credible citations and a healthy dose of big-picture storytelling. By digging deeper into breaking news stories, events and hard data, journalists add valuable context to the articles they write.

This attention to detail and adherence to ethical standards is what differentiates journalism from other writing professions; it’s also what gives journalists an edge in the content marketing world.

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Journalism’s Place in Content Marketing

While most people associate journalists with hard news coverage, they actually work in a variety of professional arenas. Journalists craft well-researched content for businesses, nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations looking to form a connection with online and offline audiences.

They also can make for awesome content marketers. But what, exactly, makes journalists well-suited to content marketing roles?

  • First, journalists understand how to collect and organize information into a compelling story. Most have experience interviewing experts on a broad range of subjects, which helps them understand which questions to ask and when additional citations may be needed. This ensures every piece of content is relevant, timely and backed by credible sources.
  • Journalism skills are also incredibly useful in the planning phase — over the course of their research, journalists can stumble upon new angles and ideas that can help differentiate their content from the competition. This is particularly impactful when writing for niche or crowded industries, where every topic has been covered ad nauseum.
  • The most obvious advantage of bringing on a journalist is that their writing skills have been sharpened through years of content creation. Spelling, grammar and syntax mistakes are rare, especially if they have an editor to review their finished work. Additionally, while some employers worry that journalists may be too used to writing in a particular style (one void of personality and character quirks), this couldn’t be further from the truth.
  • Journalists are, by nature, adaptable. Their writing style is often dictated by the project at hand, allowing them to switch between the casual voice of bloggers and the tight prose of news reporters. This range is essential to content marketers, as some assets may require a lighter, more approachable tone than others.

Armed with this versatility, journalists are able to craft compelling stories across mediums. They write for blogs, social media, email marketing , websites and much more. And while the journalistic style is best suited to longer-form content, it does have a place on Twitter and Facebook.

Take this tweet from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as an example:

Workers’ safety and health matter. NIOSH research found that long-haul truck drivers have a higher risk for obesity, which can lead to heart disease and other health problems. View four actions to stay healthy: #HeartMonth #OurHearts — NIOSH (@NIOSH) February 17, 2023

This short piece of content provides specific information backed by a credible source and is written in a very straightforward style. Readers are also provided with a direct citation, allowing them to follow up on claims made within the tweet.

Now let’s look at an article by Microsoft on how remote work is becoming the norm . Here’s an excerpt:

“We’ve been on the cusp of the shift to hybrid work for more than a year, with false starts attributed to a pandemic that had other ideas. Now, we’re at a long-awaited inflection point: the lived experience of hybrid work. Already, hybrid work is up seven points year-over-year (to 38%), and 53% of people are likely to consider transitioning to hybrid in the year ahead.”

The writing style is markedly professional, cites its sources and presents a credible case for the hybrid work environment.

Both examples illustrate how journalistic writing can be adapted to different mediums and audiences, even when companies have something to sell. But learning how to write like a journalist is about more than just presentation.

Learning How To Write Like a Journalist: Top Skills and Qualities

Whether you’re looking to build a career as a news reporter or break into the content marketing space, journalism skills can provide the foundation you need to create compelling stories. Although writing for blog posts, press releases and other genres is notably different, the creative process behind these projects tends to overlap.

Here are some of the most important skills and qualities needed to write like a journalist:

Fact-Finding Expertise

Conducting in-depth research is essential to both journalism and content marketing, as it helps writers understand the nuances hidden in the weeds. Journalists should know how to search for relevant information and data, where to look for credible citations and how to differentiate between primary and secondary sources.

For example, rather than linking out to a Forbes’ article that covers a new study or survey, journalists will hunt down the original source . This helps prevent other writers’ perceptions and styles from polluting the articles journalists are creating, leading to more authentic and original content.

Of course, knowing what data is relevant to a particular story is key. It’s no good if readers are distracted by irrelevant information, as they’ll lose interest the instant you stray from the point you’re trying to make.

Over time, journalists develop a keen eye for storytelling that makes it easier to locate relevant information and perspectives. Without this reflex, content marketers can end up producing content that isn’t actually useful to the intended audience.

Tech Savviness

The internet may have introduced new complexities into journalistic writing, but it’s also helped make it easier to collect background information on a near-infinite number of topics. Today’s journalists understand how to leverage search engines, industry resources and content libraries to add substance to their blog posts. They also understand how to write in different mediums, whether they’re working in print or digital.

Search engine optimization (SEO) also plays an essential role in online content creation. Without the right keywords and headlines, even the most compelling articles will be virtually invisible. Of course, journalists don’t write for search algorithms: They write for human beings — the most SEO-optimized content in the world is pointless if people aren’t reading and understanding it.

Balancing SEO and compelling storytelling is one of the hardest writing skills to master, even for experienced professionals. But with practice and passion, writers can produce engaging content that is interesting, informative and easy to find.

Ethical Standards

We’ve been emphasizing the importance of journalism adhering to a strict set of ethical guidelines to guide reporting. While every organization has its own ethical guidelines, there are overarching rules that most writers follow. According to the Society of Professional Journalists, these standards include things like:

  • Taking responsibility for the accuracy of your work.
  • Verifying information prior to publication.
  • Providing context to not misrepresent or oversimplify a story.
  • Offering direct access to sources and citations.
  • Avoiding plagiarism and the distortion of facts.

Although some of the SPJ’s rules aren’t as relevant to content marketing, it’s crucial to strive for clarity and consistency whenever possible. Relying on ambiguity to smooth over inconsistencies can do more harm than good, especially when companies are trying to position themselves as thought leaders in their respective industries.

Versatile Writing Skills

When working in a content marketing role, journalists create all kinds of promotional materials that serve different purposes. To ensure these assets deliver on customer needs and expectations, content marketers must be able to adjust their writing styles on a whim.

For example, white papers are often technical in nature, requiring a lot of fact-finding and expert interviews to create a truly effective asset. In contrast, blog posts tend to be more conversational, and generally don’t call for as much hard data or thought leadership. Landing pages are meant to sell a product or service and will sound much more promotional than either white papers or blogs. Social media is even more restrictive, with writers working within a set character limit.

A journalist’s ability to tailor their writing style to these mediums — and the audiences they appeal to — is essential to the success of any digital marketing resource.

In addition to the written word, many content marketing journalists craft promotional videos, radio scripts and other multi-media assets that call for a bit of stylistic flair. Journalists embrace these challenges, trusting in their writing skills and their ability to tackle complex topics under tight deadlines.

Time Management

Much like news reporters, journalists in the content marketing industry must contend with strict deadlines and production cycles. To stay one step ahead, content marketers must efficiently organize their time and creative energy. Equal weight should be given to research and content creation, especially when a blog post or press release directly supports the launch of a new product or service.

Journalists rarely work in a vacuum. The content they create often fits into a wider marketing plan that must be coordinated with other departments and stakeholders. If a new product is ready to go, but supporting information isn’t ready, customers may not see the value in that offering.

Content marketers with journalism experience help keep everything on schedule, even when surprises and complexities pop up along the way.

Leveling Up: Essential Tips for Writing Like a Journalist

Even with the above skills and characteristics, some writers still struggle to craft compelling stories that deliver tangible ROI. The issue is that both online and offline audiences have shifting preferences and wandering attention spans that can be difficult to capture.

Some content marketing journalists tackle this challenge by making their writing more approachable, while others prioritize the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) perspective. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to content creation, there are a few best practices and writing tips that can help bridge the gap.

Here are a few tips that can help content markers incorporate the journalistic writing style into their work:

1. Never Clickbait Your Audience

Headlines serve a creative and practical function within online content, helping attract readers and summarize the blog posts they come across. While a catchy headline can pull customers to a company website, it’s important to deliver on readers’ expectations.

The practice of “clickbaiting,” a form of false advertising, seeks to game the system by using provocative headlines to generate buzz and readership. In many cases, these misleading headlines are used to get internet users from Google’s search results page to a specific end destination, often for the purpose of making a sale.

Over time, digital natives have become quite adept at spotting clickbait. Companies that rely on this deceptive marketing tactic will soon find diminishing returns, with audiences knowing a particular source is clickbait when they see it. A brand only gets one chance to establish their reputation as trustworthy, and such tactics can do irreparable damage to their public image, which is why honesty is always the best policy.

2. Avoid Burying the Lede

Another common shortcoming of online content is the tendency to bury the lede, forcing readers to dig through content looking for specific information. The “lede” of a news article or blog post is the reason why the audience is reading it in the first place: It’s the core aspect of the story that they expect to find with as little effort as possible.

Waiting too long to introduce the main topic or point can drive customers away. The more effort they have to exert searching for answers, the less likely they’ll be to continue browsing the website. Since the goal is to keep visitors engaged with the content, journalists strive for brevity and get straight to the point whenever possible.

3. Consider the Needs of Different Readers

Every piece of content should serve a specific purpose, speak to a particular audience and provide full context for the topic at hand. Of course, every audience demographic has different priorities and interests, so it’s important to tailor content accordingly.

For example, consumers might read through an article on smart technology to understand how it all works or estimate the cost of a new gadget. Business leaders could come to the same article looking to improve the efficiency of their operations or find answers about pressing security risks.

Understanding these goals, and allowing them to influence the final product, is essential to forming actionable content that can help attract the right type of customers. This typically involves a lot of market research, customer profiling and style development, which is where a journalist can come in handy.

4. Understand Standardized Writing Styles

Most journalists working as news reporters adhere to style guidelines outlined by The Associated Press Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style. These rules cover everything from punctuation usage to source attribution and help set a gold standard for journalistic writing.

While content marketers aren’t necessarily bound by these style guidelines, it’s important to understand how they can influence the writing process. For example, AP style does not call for the Oxford comma, eschews the capitalization of common nouns and requires all numbers between one through nine to be spelled out. While the average reader might not be able to pick out these nuances, other writers surely will.

Depending on the situation, content marketers may be asked to produce blog posts in AP style. Having a strong understanding of these rules can streamline the content creation process and simplify quality assurance. When every blog post follows the same writing style, organizations can introduce a level of consistency that will help them stand out from the competition.

Much like journalism itself, finding the right content writer can feel like being trapped in a maze with infinite solutions. But don’t be discouraged, the perfect fit for your company could be waiting just around the corner. Journalism that follows a strict code of ethics and quality standards might be vital for a free society, but it’s also just as crucial to content marketing.

Editor’s Note: Updated March 2023.

how to write a good journalistic article

By Kyle Covino

how to write a good journalistic article

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How to write and structure a journal article

Sharing your research data  can be hugely  beneficial to your career , as well as to the scholarly community and wider society. But before you do so, there are some important ethical considerations to remember.

What are the rules and guidance you should follow, when you begin to think about how to write and structure a journal article? Ruth First Prize winner Steven Rogers, PhD said the first thing is to be passionate about what you write.

Steven Nabieu Rogers, Ruth First Prize winner.

Let’s go through some of the best advice that will help you pinpoint the features of a journal article, and how to structure it into a compelling research paper.

Planning for your article

When planning to write your article, make sure it has a central message that you want to get across. This could be a novel aspect of methodology that you have in your PhD study, a new theory, or an interesting modification you have made to theory or a novel set of findings.

2018 NARST Award winner Marissa Rollnick advised that you should decide what this central focus is, then create a paper outline bearing in mind the need to:

Isolate a manageable size

Create a coherent story/argument

Make the argument self-standing

Target the journal readership

Change the writing conventions from that used in your thesis

Vector illustration of 4 puzzle pieces, three are shades of blue, one is pink.

Get familiar with the journal you want to submit to

It is a good idea to choose your target journal before you start to write your paper. Then you can tailor your writing to the journal’s requirements and readership, to increase your chances of acceptance.

When selecting your journal think about audience, purposes, what to write about and why. Decide the kind of article to write. Is it a report, position paper, critique or review? What makes your argument or research interesting? How might the paper add value to the field?

If you need more guidance on how to choose a journal,  here is our guide to narrow your focus.

how to write a good journalistic article

Once you’ve chosen your target journal, take the time to read a selection of articles already published – particularly focus on those that are relevant to your own research.

This can help you get an understanding of what the editors may be looking for, then you can guide your writing efforts.

The  Think. Check. Submit.  initiative provides tools to help you evaluate whether the journal you’re planning to send your work to is trustworthy.

The journal’s  aims and scope  is also an important resource to refer back to as you write your paper – use it to make sure your article aligns with what the journal is trying to accomplish.

Keep your message focused

The next thing you need to consider when writing your article is your target audience. Are you writing for a more general audience or is your audience experts in the same field as you? The journal you have chosen will give you more information on the type of audience that will read your work.

When you know your audience, focus on your main message to keep the attention of your readers. A lack of focus is a common problem and can get in the way of effective communication.

how to write a good journalistic article

Stick to the point. The strongest journal articles usually have one point to make. They make that point powerfully, back it up with evidence, and position it within the field.

How to format and structure a journal article

The format and structure of a journal article is just as important as the content itself, it helps to clearly guide the reader through.

How do I format a journal article?

Individual journals will have their own specific formatting requirements, which you can find in the  instructions for authors.

You can save time on formatting by downloading a template from our  library of templates  to apply to your article text. These templates are accepted by many of our journals. Also, a large number of our journals now offer  format-free submission,  which allows you to submit your paper without formatting your manuscript to meet that journal’s specific requirements.

General structure for writing an academic journal article

The title of your article is one of the first indicators readers will get of your research and concepts. It should be concise, accurate, and informative. You should include your most relevant keywords in your title, but avoid including abbreviations and formulae.

Keywords are an essential part of producing a journal article. When writing a journal article you must select keywords that you would like your article to rank for.

Keywords help potential readers to discover your article when conducting research using search engines.

The purpose of your abstract is to express the key points of your research, clearly and concisely. An abstract must always be well considered, as it is the primary element of your work that readers will come across.

An abstract should be a short paragraph (around 300 words) that summarizes the findings of your journal article. Ordinarily an abstract will be comprised of:

What your research is about

What methods have been used

What your main findings are


Acknowledgements can appear to be a small aspect of your journal article, however it is still important. This is where you acknowledge the individuals who do not qualify for co-authorship, but contributed to your article intellectually, financially, or in some other manner.

When you acknowledge someone in your academic texts, it gives you more integrity as a writer as it shows that you are not claiming other academic’s ideas as your own intellectual property. It can also aid your readers in their own research journeys.

how to write a good journalistic article


An introduction is a pivotal part of the article writing process. An introduction not only introduces your topic and your stance on the topic, but it also (situates/contextualizes) your argument in the broader academic field.

The main body is where your main arguments and your evidence are located. Each paragraph will encapsulate a different notion and there will be clear linking between each paragraph.

Your conclusion should be an interpretation of your results, where you summarize all of the concepts that you introduced in the main body of the text in order of most to least important. No new concepts are to be introduced in this section.

References and citations

References and citations should be well balanced, current and relevant. Although every field is different, you should aim to cite references that are not more than 10 years old if possible. The studies you cite should be strongly related to your research question.

Clarity is key

Make your writing accessible by using clear language. Writing that is easy to read, is easier to understand too.

You may want to write for a global audience – to have your research reach the widest readership. Make sure you write in a way that will be understood by any reader regardless of their field or whether English is their first language.

Write your journal article with confidence, to give your reader certainty in your research. Make sure that you’ve described your methodology and approach; whilst it may seem obvious to you, it may not to your reader. And don’t forget to explain acronyms when they first appear.

how to write a good journalistic article

Engage your audience. Go back to thinking about your audience; are they experts in your field who will easily follow technical language, or are they a lay audience who need the ideas presented in a simpler way?

Be aware of other literature in your field, and reference it

Make sure to tell your reader how your article relates to key work that’s already published. This doesn’t mean you have to review every piece of previous relevant literature, but show how you are building on previous work to avoid accidental plagiarism.

how to write a good journalistic article

When you reference something, fully understand its relevance to your research so you can make it clear for your reader. Keep in mind that recent references highlight awareness of all the current developments in the literature that you are building on. This doesn’t mean you can’t include older references, just make sure it is clear why you’ve chosen to.

How old can my references be?

Your literature review should take into consideration the current state of the literature.

There is no specific timeline to consider. But note that your subject area may be a factor. Your colleagues may also be able to guide your decision.

Researcher’s view

Grasian Mkodzongi, Ruth First Prize Winner

Top tips to get you started

Communicate your unique point of view to stand out. You may be building on a concept already in existence, but you still need to have something new to say. Make sure you say it convincingly, and fully understand and reference what has gone before.

Editor’s view

Professor Len Barton, Founding Editor of Disability and Society

Be original

Now you know the features of a journal article and how to construct it. This video is an extra resource to use with this guide to help you know what to think about before you write your journal article.

Expert help for your manuscript

Taylor & Francis Editing Services  offers a full range of pre-submission manuscript preparation services to help you improve the quality of your manuscript and submit with confidence.

Related resources

How to write your title and abstract

Journal manuscript layout guide

Improve the quality of English of your article

How to edit your paper

how to write a good journalistic article

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  • Education and Communications

How to Write a News Article

Last Updated: August 28, 2023 References

This article was co-authored by Gerald Posner . Gerald Posner is an Author & Journalist based in Miami, Florida. With over 35 years of experience, he specializes in investigative journalism, nonfiction books, and editorials. He holds a law degree from UC College of the Law, San Francisco, and a BA in Political Science from the University of California-Berkeley. He’s the author of thirteen books, including several New York Times bestsellers, the winner of the Florida Book Award for General Nonfiction, and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. He was also shortlisted for the Best Business Book of 2020 by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 2,243,203 times.

Writing a news article is different from writing other articles or informative pieces because news articles present information in a specific way. It's important to be able to convey all the relevant information in a limited word count and give the facts to your target audience concisely. Knowing how to write a news article can help a career in journalism , develop your writing skills and help you convey information clearly and concisely.

Things You Should Know

  • Outline your article with all the facts and interview quotes you’ve gathered. Decide what your point of view on the topic is before you start writing.
  • Your first sentence is the most important one—craft an attention-getter that clearly states the most important information.
  • Proofread for accurate information, consistent style and tone, and proper formatting.

Sample Articles

how to write a good journalistic article

Planning Your Article

Image titled Write a News Article Step 1

  • If you’ve ever written a research paper you understand the work that goes into learning about your topic. The first phase of writing a news article or editorial is pretty similar.
  • Who - who was involved?
  • What - what happened?
  • Where - where did it happen?
  • Why - why did it happen?
  • When - when did it happen?
  • How - how did it happen?

Image titled Write a News Article Step 2

  • 1) those that need to be included in the article.
  • 2) those that are interesting but not vital.
  • 3) those that are related but not important to the purpose of the article.
  • This fact list will help prevent you from leaving out any relevant information about the topic or story, and will also help you write a clean, succinct article.
  • Be as specific as possible when writing down all of these facts. You can always trim down unnecessary information later, but it’s easier to cut down than it is to have to beef up an article.
  • It’s okay at this point to have holes in your information – if you don’t have a pertinent fact, write down the question and highlight it so you won’t forget to find it out
  • Now that you have your facts, if your editor has not already assigned the type of article, decide what kind of article you’re writing. Ask yourself whether this is an opinion article, an unbiased and straightforward relaying of information, or something in between. [2] X Research source

Image titled Write a News Article Step 3

  • If you’ve ever heard the term “burying the lead”, that is in reference to the structure of your article. [4] X Research source The “lead” is the first sentence of the article – the one you “lead” with. Not "burying the lead" simply means that you should not make your readers read several paragraphs before they get to the point of your article.
  • Whatever forum you’re writing for, be it print or for the web, a lot of readers don’t make it to the end of the article. When writing a news article, you should focus on giving your readers what they want as soon as possible.
  • Write above the fold. The fold comes from newspapers where there’s a crease because the page gets folded in half. If you look at a newspaper all the top stories are placed above the fold. The same goes for writing online. The virtual fold is the bottom of your screen before you have to scroll down. Put the best information at the top to engage your readers and encourage them to keep reading.

Image titled Write a News Article Step 4

  • Ask yourself the “5 W's” again, but this time in relation to your audience.
  • Questions like what is the average age you are writing for, where is this audience, local or national, why is this audience reading your article, and what does your audience want out of your article will inform you on how to write.
  • Once you know who you are writing for you can format an outline that will get the best information to the right audience as quickly as possible.

Image titled Write a News Article Step 5

  • Even if you are covering a popular story or topic that others are writing about, look for an angle that will make this one yours.
  • Do you have a personal experience that relates to your topic? Maybe you know someone who is an expert that you can interview .

Image titled Write a News Article Step 6

  • People usually like to talk about personal experiences, especially if it will be featured somewhere, like your news article. Reach out through a phone call, email, or even social media and ask someone if you can interview them.
  • When you do interview people you need to follow a few rules: identify yourself as a reporter. Keep an open mind . Stay objective. While you are encouraged to ask questions and listen to anecdotes, you are not there to judge.
  • Record and write down important information from the interview, and be transparent with what you are doing and why you are doing this interview.

Writing Your News Article

Image titled Write a News Article Step 7

  • Your lead should be one sentence and should simply, but completely, state the topic of the article.
  • Remember when you had to write essays for school? Your lead is like your thesis statement.
  • Let your readers know what your news article is about, why it’s important, and what the rest of the article will contain.

Image titled Write a News Article Step 8

  • These details are important, because they are the focal point of the article that fully informs the reader.
  • If you are writing an opinion piece , this is where you will state what your opinion is as well.

Image titled Write a News Article Step 9

  • This additional information helps round out the article and can help you transition to new points as you move along.
  • If you have an opinion, this is where you will identify the opposing views and the people who hold them.
  • A good news article will outline facts and information. A great news article will allow readers to engage on an emotional level.
  • To engage your readers, you should provide enough information that anyone reading your news article can make an informed opinion, even if it contrasts with yours.
  • This also applies to a news article where you the author don’t state your opinion but present it as an unbiased piece of information. Your readers should still be able to learn enough about your topic to form an opinion.

Image titled Write a News Article Step 10

  • Make sure your news article is complete and finished by giving it a good concluding sentence. This is often a restatement of the leading statement (thesis) or a statement indicating potential future developments relating to the article topic.
  • Read other news articles for ideas on how to best accomplish this. Or, watch news stations or shows. See how a news anchor will wrap up a story and sign off, then try to emulate that.

Proofing Your Article

Image titled Write a News Article Step 11

  • Be sure to double check all the facts in your news article before you submit it, including names, dates, and contact information or addresses. Writing accurately is one of the best ways to establish yourself as a competent news article writer.

Image titled Write a News Article Step 12

  • If your news article is meant to convey direct facts, not the opinions of its writer, ensure you’ve kept your writing unbiased and objective. Avoid any language that is overly positive or negative or statements that could be construed as support or criticism.
  • If your article is meant to be more in the style of interpretive journalism then check to make sure that you have given deep enough explanations of the larger story and offered multiple viewpoints throughout.

Image titled Write a News Article Step 13

  • When quoting someone, write down exactly what was said inside quotations and immediately cite the reference with the person’s proper title. Formal titles should be capitalized and appear before a person’s name. Ex: “Mayor John Smith”.
  • Always write out numbers one through nine, but use numerals for numbers 10 and up.
  • When writing a news article, be sure to only include one space after a period, not two. [12] X Research source

Image titled Write a News Article Step 14

  • You shouldn’t submit any news article for publication without first letting someone take a look at it. An extra pair of eyes can double check your facts and the information to ensure that what you have written is accurate.
  • If you are writing a news article for school or your own personal website, then have a friend take a look at it and give you notes. Sometimes you may get notes that you want to defend or don’t agree with it. But these should be listened to. Remember, with so many news articles getting published every minute you need to ensure that your widest possible audience can easily digest the information you have provided.

Expert Q&A

Gerald Posner

  • Start with research and ask the “5. Asking these questions will help you create an outline and a narrative to your article. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Interview people, and remember to be polite and honest about what you are writing. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Put the most important information at the beginning of your article. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write a good journalistic article

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Expert Interview

how to write a good journalistic article

Thanks for reading our article! If you'd like to learn more about writing an article, check out our in-depth interview with Gerald Posner .

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About This Article

Gerald Posner

To write a news article, open with a strong leading sentence that states what the article is about and why it’s important. Try to answer the questions who, what, where, when, and why as early in the article as possible. Once you’ve given the reader the most important facts, you can include any additional information to help round out the article, such as opposing views or contact information. Finish with a strong concluding sentence, such as an invitation to learn more or a statement indicating future developments. For tips on researching your article, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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News writing

You've gathered the information, done the reporting. You've interviewed all the people involved, the eye witnesses to the explosion, the police, etc, etc. And now you have to write the story. You have pages in your notebook of facts, observations, quotes. You may have some agency copy, some material from other media. The first thing to do is stop and think. Do not start writing until you have a plan. Read through all your notes, marking the most important pieces of information and the quotes you want to use. The information you have gathered will not have entered your notebook in order of importance. You need to decide what is more important, what is less important, to establish a hierarchy of pieces of information. And this is where you must think about your audience. Not necessarily what interests you most, but what will interest them. It may not be the same thing, and this is where knowing, having a feeling for, understanding your audience is so important. As you stare at the blank screen try to imagine the reader.

It depends on the publication you are writing for, of course. You can assume more knowledge if you are writing for a specialist publication, or a specialist section of a newspaper. A cricket report or commentary can assume knowledge of the rules of cricket; an article for a motoring magazine can assume the reader knows what a supercar is. But some specialist publications set out to educate - computer magazines are a good example - and while interest can be assumed, knowledge of how to use specific pieces of software cannot. So understand the intentions of the publication you write for, or if you are a freelance you seek to sell to.

The market sector in which the newspaper is located is also relevant to how you write. You will find longer sentences and paragraphs and sometimes longer words in the more serious newspapers selling relatively small numbers of copies than in mass-selling newspapers with circulations 10 times as big. The reader of the Guardian will tend to be better educated and to have a larger vocabulary than the reader of the Sun. But do not, as a writer, show off your extensive vocabulary. It is never better, wherever you are writing, to prefer the less familiar word - "wordy" is always better than "prolix". Nobody is impressed by the use of a word they do not understand or would not use in everyday speech. The danger of talking down to the audience - assuming vocabulary as well as knowledge - is that it insults readers, makes them feel inadequate. And that turns them off and, worse, turns them away. They do not read on, and you have not communicated with them. The best writing for popular journalism is some of the best writing in journalism, and is hard to do. It is readily understandable, instantly readable and, if it is done well, makes you want to read on. Space is always the most precious commodity in a newspaper. Long words and sentences take up more space. Self-indulgent writing pleases nobody except perhaps the writer.

Stephen King, who has sold more novels than most, reflected on his craft in On Writing, and drew a similar message: "One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed."

So the overriding message in journalistic writing is: Keep It Simple. One of the greatest editors and journalists is Harold Evans, who has written one of the best books on journalistic writing, Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers. He summed it up thus: "It is not enough to get the news. We must be able to put it across. Meaning must be unmistakable, and it must also be succinct. Readers have not the time and newspapers have not the space for elaborate reiteration. This imposes decisive requirements. In protecting the reader from incomprehension and boredom, the text editor has to insist on language which is specific, emphatic and concise. Every word must be understood by the ordinary reader, every sentence must be clear at one glance, and every story must say something about people. There must never be a doubt about its relevance to our daily life. There must be no abstractions."

Below are a series of tips for keeping things simple and encouraging the reader to read it. They are addressed at news writing, but most apply to all forms of journalistic writing.

This is the start of the story, the opening paragraph. The traditional news introductory paragraph, still the dominant form, has two related purposes: to engage the reader instantly and to summarise what the story is all about. The structure is known as the "inverted pyramid" and dates back to the days of hot metal when words on their way on to paper passed through a stage of being slugs of lead. It was always easier and faster to cut a story from the bottom, using a pair of tweezers. News stories always have to be cut because reporters write them too long, and the (imperfect) theory was that a well structured story could always be cut from the bottom so that in extremis (do not use - see later) if the intro was the only paragraph left it still made sense. The good intro depends on your judgment and decisiveness. It declares why the story is being published, what is the newest, most interesting, most important, most significant, most attention-grabbing aspect of the story. It is not a summary of everything yet to come. The best intro will contain a maximum of two or three facts, maybe only one. In a popular tabloid it will consist of one sentence, probably no more than 25 words. The worst intro will be uncertain of what the story is all about and will contain several ideas. The best intro will demand that you read on. The worst will make it likely that you will move on.

As Tony Harcup puts it in his Journalism, Principles and Practice: "The intro is crucial because it sets the tone for what follows. A poorly written intro might confuse, mislead or simply bore the reader - a well-written intro will encourage the reader to stay with you on the strength of the information and angle you have started with."

Rest of the story

Once you've got the intro right, the second paragraph will be the most important you write. And so on. Holding the reader's interest does not stop until he or she has read to the end. You have already planned your structure, the hierarchy of information. After the intro you are amplifying the story, adding new, if subordinate, information, providing detail, explanation and quotes. And doing all this so that the story reads smoothly and seamlessly. News stories are about providing information, and there is nothing more frustrating for the reader than finishing a story with unanswered questions still hanging. Journalism students are taught about the five Ws: who, what, when, where and why. They are a useful tool to check you have covered all the bases, though not all will always apply. It is always difficult to detach yourself from your own prose when you read it through, but try. Try to put yourself in the place of the reader coming cold to the story, interested in it and asking the questions that will make it clear. Have you dealt with them? The subeditor, or text editor, will soon tell you if you haven't. There is always a problem over how much knowledge to assume, particularly with a running story of which today's is another episode. You cannot always start from the beginning for the benefit of reader recently arrived from Mars, but you can include sufficient to ensure it is not meaningless. It is a matter of judgement.

Active not passive

Always prefer the active tense in news writing, and particularly in intros. The active tense is faster and more immediate; it also uses fewer words. "Arsenal were beaten by Manchester United last night ... " is slower than "Manchester United beat Arsenal ... ", and if it is a London newspaper "Arsenal lost to Manchester United ... " is still preferable.

Positive even if it is negative

Not: "The government has decided not to introduce the planned tax increase on petrol and diesel this autumn." But: "The government has abandoned plans to raise fuel taxes this autumn." News is more engaging if it describes something that is happening, rather than something that is not.

Long quotes bring a story grinding to a halt, particularly if they are from politicians, particularly local politicians, bureaucrats or bores. Short, incisive, direct quotes change the pace of a story, add colour and character, illustrate bald facts, and introduce personal experience. Journalists paraphrase speeches and reports to focus on the main points, and to make them shorter and more comprehensible. It is a vital skill, as is using indirect quotation. But a quote will add a different tone of voice, inject emotion or passion, answer the question "what was it like?", "how did you feel?", "what are you going to do next?", "what actually happened." Usually the reporter was not there and is gathering the information after the event. The direct quote provides actuality. And sometimes the quote has to be there to provide the precision, when the actual words used are crucial, and sometimes the story itself.

Never use a word other than "said" when attributing a quote. Affirmed, opined, exclaimed, interjected, asserted, declared, are all tacky synonyms which do nothing to help the flow of the story. When people speak they "say". On rare occasions it might be relevant to the story if they shout or scream; in which case break the rule.


Language used in letters from bank managers, council officers, utilities and read from their notebooks by police officers giving evidence in court should always be avoided. People do not "proceed"; they walk. Police do not "apprehend"; they stop or arrest or detain. "At this point in time" is now.

George Orwell, in his essay Politics and the English Language, converts a passage from Ecclesiastes and turns it into officialese to make the point. Original: "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, not the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." Orwell's rewrite: "Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."

Keith Waterhouse, the veteran Daily Mail and Daily Mirror columnist wrote an irresistible book on journalistic writing called Newspaper Style. It was in fact an adaptation of the Mirror style book he had been commissioned to write. In it he warns of the dangers of adjectives thus: "Adjectives should not be allowed in newspapers unless they have something to say. An adjective should not raise questions in the reader's mind, it should answer them. Angry informs. Tall invites the question, how tall? The well-worn phrase: his expensive tastes ran to fast cars simply whets the appetite for examples of the expensive tastes and the makes and engine capacity of the fast cars."

This test should be applied to all adjectives used in journalistic writing. If they add relevantly to the information being provided, they can stay. If not, strike them. Too many writers believe adjectives add colour and style. Vague or general ones add nothing. "Use specific words (red and blue)," says Waterhouse, "not general ones (brightly coloured)."

Jargon, abbreviations, acronyms and know-all foreign phrases

All of us who work in organisations, professions, specific industries or bureaucracies are surrounded by jargon. We may regard it as shorthand to speed communication because we share the understanding of what it means, but, whether intentional or not, it is a protective shield that excludes those not in the know. That is the effect it has when used in newspaper writing. Those in the know understand; the rest do not. Anything readers do not understand makes them feel left out rather than included and turns them against the story. They may well stop reading. Medical, scientific and economic terms are a case in point. Avoid them or explain them. Price/earnings ratios and capitalisation mean nothing to the general reader. It is the same with abbreviations and acronyms. Today's students have no idea what CBI stands for; they are more likely to know FoI. A few could expand Nato, fewer the TUC. Many of the terms, although still in use, are generational. They need to be spelt out or explained, or another reader is lost. Just as long words speak down to those with a smaller vocabulary - and there is always a simpler, and less space consuming, alternative - so well-used Latin expressions mean nothing to those who have not learned that language, apart from lawyers who have had to mug up. Pro bono, inter alia and in extremis have no place in newspapers, and usually mean the writer is showing off.

Puns and cliches

Headline writers love puns and phrases from 60s pop lyrics and editors frequently have to restrain their use. They sit even less easily in copy, where only readers over 55 can identify. Again, the danger is excluding readers. Worst of all is the extended metaphor or pun. Like this (real) one: "Kingsbridge Silver Band has hit a high note with National Lottery chiefs to the tune of nearly £52,000. Tired old instruments struck a chord with the lottery board, which has drummed up enough cash for a complete new set, giving the band plenty to trumpet about." Yes, really.


The printed word has done more to save the apostrophe than the whole of the teaching profession. Given the pace of newspaper and magazine production it is extraordinary that so few errors in spelling or punctuation appear, a tribute to the subeditors who prepare copy for publication. From advertising (shockingly, sometimes intentionally) to the greengrocer's board we are bombarded with mis- (and missing) punctuation, yet it is invariably correct in print, though seldom when it emerges from the home printer. If in doubt, and most people are, consult Lynne Truss (Eats, Shoots and Leaves). Often.

Exercise: acronyms

What do the following acronyms stand for? If you don't know instantly, then you can be sure there will be plenty of readers who don't. So do not use them without explanation.

Defra, Asbo, OECD, SEO; CBI; ISA; Fifa; PCT; Sats; FTSE

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Anti-Social Behaviour Order; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; Search Engine Optimisation; Confederation of British Industry; Individual Savings Account; Fédération Internationale de Football Association; Primary Care Trust; Standard Assessment Tests; Financial Times Stock Exchange (used to describe stock market indices such as FTSE 100).

Exercise: plain English

Rewrite the following two paragraphs in plain English suitable for publication in a newspaper or magazine. Remove unnecessary words, passive verbs, repetition, cliche, jargon and pompous or pretentious expression. Jot down some questions the story fails to answer.

"Joseph Foster and his sibling Kate were advancing cheerfully along Wesley Street when they were in minor collision with an HGV which unexpectedly mounted the pavement. It transpired later, when the multi-coloured Volvo truck driver who was transporting a container containing motor parts to Oxford was being interviewed by a local radio reporter, that the lorry veered to avoid a police car speeding towards him on the wrong side of the road. The spokesman at police headquarters told a different story.

"But it was the children's lucky day as they escaped shocked but unscathed. A hospital spokesman at nearby Eddington hospital, run by the Barton NHS Foundation Trust, said the two children were lucky not to have been seriously injured. 'As it was,' declared Andrew Brown, 'they were examined in A and E and allowed to go home. Unfortunately Kate's buggy was beyond repair.'"

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How to Write a Lead

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These resources provide an overview of journalistic writing with explanations of the most important and most often used elements of journalism and the Associated Press style. This resource, revised according to The Associated Press Stylebook 2012 , offers examples for the general format of AP style. For more information, please consult The Associated Press Stylebook 2012 , 47 th edition.


The lead, or opening paragraph, is the most important part of a news story. With so many sources of information – newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and the internet – audiences simply are not willing to read beyond the first paragraph (and even sentence) of a story unless it grabs their interest. A good lead does just that. It gives readers the most important information in a clear, concise and interesting manner. It also establishes the voice and direction of an article.

Tips for Writing a Lead

  • The Five W’s and H: Before writing a lead, decide which aspect of the story – who, what, when, where, why, how – is most important. You should emphasize those aspects in your lead. Wait to explain less important aspects until the second or third sentence.
  • Conflict: Good stories have conflict. So do many good leads.
  • Specificity: Though you are essentially summarizing information in most leads, try to be specific as possible. If your lead is too broad, it won’t be informative or interesting.
  • Brevity: Readers want to know why the story matters to them and they won’t wait long for the answer. Leads are often one sentence, sometimes two. Generally, they are 25 to 30 words and should rarely be more than 40. This is somewhat arbitrary, but it’s important – especially for young journalists – to learn how to deliver information concisely. See the OWL’s page on concise writing for specific tips. The Paramedic Method is also good for writing concisely.
  • Active sentences: Strong verbs will make your lead lively and interesting. Passive constructions, on the other hand, can sound dull and leave out important information, such as the person or thing that caused the action. Incomplete reporting is often a source of passive leads .
  • Audience and context: Take into account what your reader already knows. Remember that in today’s media culture, most readers become aware of breaking news as it happens. If you’re writing for a print publication the next day, your lead should do more than merely regurgitate yesterday’s news.
  • Honesty: A lead is an implicit promise to your readers. You must be able to deliver what you promise in your lead.

What to Avoid

  • Flowery language: Many beginning writers make the mistake of overusing adverbs and adjectives in their leads. Concentrate instead on using strong verbs and nouns.
  • Unnecessary words or phrases: Watch out for unintentional redundancy. For example, 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, or very unique. You can’t afford to waste space in a news story, especially in the lead. Avoid clutter and cut right to the heart of the story.
  • Formulaic leads: Because a lot of news writing is done on deadline, the temptation to write tired leads is strong. Resist it. Readers want information, but they also want to be entertained. Your lead must sound genuine, not merely mechanical.
  • It: Most editors frown on leads that begin with the word it because it is not precise and disorients the reader.

Types of Leads

Summary lead: This is perhaps the most traditional lead in news writing. It is often used for breaking news. A story about a city council vote might use this “just the facts” approach. Straight news leads tend to provide answers to the most important three or four of the Five W’s and H. Historically this type of lead has been used to convey who, what, when and where. But in today’s fast-paced media atmosphere, a straightforward recitation of who, what, when and where can sound stale by the time a newspaper hits the stands. Some newspapers are adjusting to this reality by posting breaking news online as it happens and filling the print edition with more evaluative and analytical stories focused on why and how. Leads should reflect this.

Anecdotal lead: Sometimes, beginning a story with a quick anecdote can draw in readers. The anecdote must be interesting and must closely illustrate the article’s broader point. If you use this approach, specificity and concrete detail are essential and the broader significance of the anecdote should be explained within the first few sentences following the lead.

Other types of leads: A large number of other approaches exist, and writers should not feel boxed in by formulas. That said, beginning writers can abuse certain kinds of leads. These include leads that begin with a question or direct quotation and those that make a direct appeal using the word you. While such leads might be appropriate in some circumstances, use them sparsely and cautiously.

Summary lead:

County administrator faces ouster

By Tony Cook for The Cincinnati Post, Jan. 14, 2005

Commentary: This lead addresses the traditional who, what and when. If this information had been reported on TV or radio the day before, this lead might not be a good one for the print edition of the newspaper; however, if the reporter had an exclusive or posted this information online as soon as it became available, then this lead would make sense. Note that it is brief (15 words) and uses an active sentence construction.

Lobbyists flout disclosure rules in talks with commissioners

By Tony Cook and Michael Mishak for the Las Vegas Sun, July 13, 2008

Commentary: This lead is more representative of the less timely, more analytical approach that some newspapers are taking in their print editions. It covers who, what and when, but also why it matters to readers. Again, it uses active verbs, it is specific (170 occasions) and it is brief (35 words).

Anecdotal lead:

Tri-staters tell stories of the devastating tsunami

By Tony Cook for The Cincinnati Post, Jan. 8, 2005

Commentary: This article is a local angle on the devastating tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in 2005. As a result of the massive death toll and worldwide impact, most readers would have been inundated with basic information about the tsunami. Given that context, this lead uses an unexpected image to capture the reader’s attention and prepare them for a new take on the tsunami. Again, it is brief (23 words).

Question lead:

Same lobbyist for courts, shorter term, more money

By Tony Cook for the Las Vegas Sun, June 29, 2008

Commentary: Question leads can be useful in grabbing attention, but they are rarely as effective as other types of leads in terms of clearly and concisely providing the main point of a story. In this case, the second paragraph must carry a lot of the weight that would normally be handled in the lead.

The Secret to Writing Great Headlines for Your News Stories

Learn to write proper news story headlines

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You've edited a news story for grammar , AP Style , content, and so on, and are laying it out on the page or preparing to press "Upload." Now comes one of the most interesting, challenging, and important parts of the editing process: writing a headline.

Writing great news story headlines is an art. You can bang out the most interesting article ever written, but if it doesn't have an attention-grabbing headline, it's likely to be passed over. Whether you're at a newspaper, news website, or blog, a great headline (or "hed") will always get more eyeballs on your copy.

A Challenging Endeavor

The challenge is to write a headline that's compelling, catchy, and detailed while using as few words as possible. Headlines, after all, have to fit the space they're given on the page.

In newspapers, headline size is determined by three parameters: the width (defined by the number of columns the hed will have), the depth (whether it gets one line or two, called "single deck" or "double deck," respectively), and the font size. Headlines can run anywhere from something small—like 18 point—all the way up to banner front-page heds that can be 72 points or bigger.

So, if your hed is designated as a 28-point, three-column double-decker, you know that it will be in a 28-point font, running across three columns, and with two lines. That means you'll have a lot more room to work with than if you were given a larger font or only one line.

Unlike newspaper pages, stories on websites have fewer restrictions since space is less of a consideration. Still, no one wants to read a headline that goes on forever, and website headlines need to be just as catchy as ones in print. Plus, headline writers for websites must consider search engine optimization, or SEO, to try to get more people to view their content.

Guidelines for Writing News Headlines

Be accurate.

This is most important. A headline should entice readers, but it shouldn't oversell or distort what the story is about. Always stay true to the spirit and meaning of the article.

Keep It Short

This seems obvious; headlines are by nature short. But when space limitations aren't a consideration (as on a blog, for instance), writers sometimes get verbose with their heds. Shorter is better.

Fill the Space

If you're writing a headline to fill a specific space in a newspaper, avoid leaving too much empty space at the end of the head. This is called "white space" and it should be minimized.

Don't Repeat the Lede

The headline, like the lede , should focus on the main point of the story. However, if the hed and the lede are too similar, the lede will become redundant. Try to use different wording in the headline.

Headlines aren't the place to be obscure; a direct, straightforward headline gets your point across more effectively than something overly creative.

Use the Active Voice

Remember the subject-verb-object formula for news writing? That's also the best model for headlines. Start with your subject, write in the active voice , and your headline will convey more information using fewer words.

Write in Present Tense

Even if most news stories are written in the past tense, headlines should almost always use the present tense.

Avoid Bad Breaks

A bad break is when a hed with more than one line splits a prepositional phrase , an adjective and noun, an adverb and verb, or a proper noun . For example:

Obama hosts White House dinner

Obviously, "White House" should not be split between the two lines. Here's a better way to do it:

Obama hosts dinner at the White House

Make Your Headline Appropriate to the Story

A humorous headline may work with a lighthearted story, but it most definitely wouldn't be appropriate for an article about someone being murdered. The tone of the headline should match the tone of the story.

Know Where to Capitalize

Always capitalize the first word of the headline and any proper nouns. Don't capitalize every word unless that's the style of your particular publication.

  • How to Write a News Article That's Effective
  • How to Write Feature Stories
  • Learn to Write News Stories
  • Make Fancy Headings With CSS
  • 10 Important Steps for Producing a Quality News Story
  • Tips for Writing Broadcast News Copy
  • How to Avoid Burying the Lede of Your News Story
  • Six Tips for Writing News Stories That Will Grab a Reader
  • Writing a Lead or Lede to an Article
  • Learn What a Feature Story Is
  • Avoid the Common Mistakes That Beginning Reporters Make
  • How to Find Blogs You'll Enjoy
  • These Are Frequently Used Journalism Terms You Need to Know
  • What Are Contractions?
  • 14 Ways to Write Better in High School
  • 5 Key Ingredients for Great Feature Stories

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How To Write Like A Journalist: 8 Simple Steps

Journalists write in a style that tells the news in an easy-to-read and efficient manner; learn how to write like a journalist in our guide. 

You must know how to use specific writing techniques to write like a journalist. These techniques ensure that articles are engaging, easy to read, and have all the essential facts. Knowing the ins and outs of journalistic writing is helpful to add to your writing skills, even if you never write a news story. It is a writing style that allows you to distribute information efficiently while adding a specific structure to your penmanship.

All-in-all, knowing how to write like a journalist can make you a better writer, improve your social media copywriting skills, and even improve your content marketing techniques. If you are working as a journalist, or have aspirations to be a news writing whiz, then having journalistic writing skills is not just a helpful tool but an essential one.

Step 1. Write Economically

Step 2. remember not to bury the ledee, step 3. know the five ws, step 4. remember the basics, step 5. gather more information than you need, step 6. learn from others, step 7. double-check all information is present, step 8. work creatively within the structure, faqs about how to write like a journalist.

When studying at Cardiff University’s acclaimed School of Journalism, Media and Culture, the author of an article had an eagle-eyed professor. He would take a red pen and cross out every unnecessary word when marking work.

There were times when articles looked more like red sketch drawings because of all the markups. As frustrating as this was, this professor knew what he was doing. He had taught some of the best journalists in the world and had done the same to them. But, in doing so, he demonstrated that you would need to write economically to write like a journalist.

There are many reasons for this, but the key ones are as follows:

  • When you are writing a story, you are often against a deadline. Thus, you should be able to get the key points of the news onto the page as quickly as possible.
  • Unlike bloggers, when writing a news article, you do not have an unlimited word count. This is especially true if you are writing for a newspaper or magazine.
  • Unnecessary words and sentences can bury the lede, leaving the reader unsure of the story’s key details and supporting details.
  • Being economical doesn’t just mean getting rid of unnecessary words. It is also written in short sentences that are easy to read.

To summarize, your sentences should be short and snappy, while your paragraphs should be formatted so the information within each paragraph is related. Not only will this make your work more readable, but it will also make your editor’s job easier if they need to cut your word count down.

You also need to know the inverted pyramid writing style when writing as a journalist. This involves structuring your articles so that the most important details are near the start.

It has become the predominant format of writing used within journalism and technical writing. That is because it gets all the important information across to the reader in short sentences that are easy to understand.

From there, you order the information of the story based on the order of importance. This prevents the most interesting information to the reader from being lost within a sea of background information. It also helps create a compelling story with which the reader is engaged from the beginning.

This New York Times article about the investigation into  President Trump  is an ideal example of the structure in use. It starts with the most relevant details, working its way down to detail the story’s background information. You might also be interested in learning how to write an article critique .

Five Ws

When filling out the details of a story, most journalists know that they should aim to fill in the five Ws. That is the ‘where, what, when who and why. All journalistic writing has its basis in the five Ws. Likewise, virtually all storytelling has its basis in those tenets.

If you are a news reporter collecting facts that will later be disseminated into a story, you need to search for the answers to the five Ws concerning your story. Consider this ‘Instagram owner Meta fined €405m over handling of teens’ data’ news article as an example.

The opening paragraph reads: “Instagram owner Meta has been fined €405m (£349m) by the Irish data watchdog for letting teenagers set up accounts that publicly displayed their phone numbers and email addresses.”

The where is ‘Ireland’, the what is ‘a fine for Meta’, the why is ‘because of its policies around teenagers’, and the who is ‘Meta and the Irish data watchdog’. They then cover the When in the next paragraph, which reads: “The Data Protection Commission confirmed the penalty after a two-year investigation into potential breaches of the European Union’s general data protection regulation (GDPR).”

This is a perfect example of journalistic writing, and that is because it covers both the inverted pyramid and the five Ws.

When aiming to write like a journalist, you shouldn’t forget the basic writing tips you picked up from high school. After all, good journalistic writing is just good writing using a few extra tools.

At the same time, when trying to write well within a newsroom, you shouldn’t forget the basics of journalism either. For instance, the correct attribution of quotes and fact-checking should be carried out in news writing.

To write like a journalist, you must have the utmost respect for the truth. You should also stick to and use your news organization’s stylebook. For instance, you might write in a newsroom that uses the  AP style  or the  New York Times stylebook. You must know the chosen style of the publisher you work for. If you don’t, check in with the editor and find out.

One common mistake rookie journalists make is not collecting enough information for a good story. Once they get a line on the ‘where, why, when, who, and where, they think their job is done.

However, if you are thinking like a newshound, you will know that you need to delve into the ‘five Ws’ of the five Ws. Ultimately, this will make your job of writing like a journalist easier, and it will also allow you to dig deeper into stories.

For instance, you may know the where – but why was it there, when did it happen before, who led to it being there and why was it there?

Likewise, you might know the who – but who exactly are they, what brought them to that place, when they arrived, etc. In investigative journalism, having too much information is far more beneficial than having too little.

This might not seem like a writing tip. However, suppose you are sitting down at your keyboard with a shortage of information. In that case, you will realize that writing like a journalist is only accessible if you have a journalist’s information.

To write and think like a journalist, you should also be an avid reader and consumer of media, including social media copywriting, news articles, and technical writing, journalists are constantly learning from others in the field.

Successful journalists have an undying curiosity and often consume copious amounts of social media, podcasts, documentaries, and other forms of non-fiction. All-in-all, our point is that if you are to think like a journalist, you should be a curious consumer of art, media, and much, much more. Journalists want to learn about the world, which is one way they do that. So, naturally, this influences their writing greatly.

How to write like a journalist? Double-check all information is present

When writing as a journalist, you should know that a key portion of your job is distributing relevant information. Therefore, you should do your best to ensure that all the relevant information within a story is covered.

Journalists can’t simply type a question into a search engine and regurgitate the first piece of info they find. Instead, they need to do quality research through a variety of mediums. This can be mentioned if a certain piece of information is unavailable but relevant to the story.

An example would be if a winning lottery ticket were lost, but the holder didn’t know when they lost it. Here, you could write: “It is not clear exactly when the winning ticket was lost, but the holder claims that they had it when leaving the store.”

Like any form of writing, you can also be creative when writing like a journalist. But, of course, certain types of articles have more scope for this.

For instance, you must use your creativity when developing  newspaper column ideas  or deciding to do a feature article.

However, all writing is creative, as you have to be creative to put words to paper. Therefore, you shouldn’t be afraid to exercise creativity when writing a journalistic article.

What qualifications do I need to be a journalist?

There are excellent journalism schools where prospective reporters leave with degrees relating to the profession. However, not all journalists have qualifications, with some reporters coming from other professions or being trained to do the job by the media organization.

What are the types of journalism?

There are many different types of journalism. Here are just a few: investigative journalism, broadcast journalism, sports journalism, business journalism, and entertainment journalism.

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how to write a good journalistic article

Cian Murray is an experienced writer and editor, who graduated from Cardiff University’s esteemed School of Journalism, Media and Culture. His work has been featured in both local and national media, and he has also produced content for multinational brands and agencies.

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Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.

A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.

A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.

When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.

Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.

Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.  

Descriptive thesis (not arguable)  

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)  

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim  

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim  

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis  

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
  • Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt
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Opinion Ukraine’s counteroffensive might yet surprise critics

David Petraeus, a retired U.S. Army general, was commander of the troop surge in Iraq, U.S. Central Command and NATO/U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. Frederick W. Kagan is senior fellow and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

The rapid Ukrainian breakthrough and advance that many hoped for has not occurred. Media coverage has grown gloomier in recent weeks on the back of fragmentary journalistic accounts from the front and reported intelligence assessments from Western analysts. The news has not been great. The fight against Russia has proved to be bloody and slow — a very hard slog.

But observers would be wise to temper their pessimism. War does not proceed in a linear fashion. Defenders can hold for a long time and then suddenly break, allowing an attacker to make rapid gains before the defense solidifies further to the rear. The Ukrainians aim to generate exactly this effect — and there is reason to think they can. Ukraine’s offensive push is far from over. In fact, it is still in the early stages — just 10 weeks into what is likely to last at least four more months.

Penetrating a modern defense in depth such as the Russians established in southern Ukraine is a tall order for any military. The U.S. military has done it twice in modern memory, both times against Iraq. In 1991, after pummeling the Iraqi forces for 39 days from the air, a U.S.-led coalition of 650,000 troops penetrated and outflanked Iraqi defenses, crushing the Iraqi military in 100 hours. In 2003, a smaller U.S.-led force destroyed a badly degraded Iraqi military within a few weeks.

Ukraine has none of the advantages the United States had in those operations. In both Iraq-related cases, coalition forces benefited from air supremacy, while Ukrainian aircraft cannot operate over Russian lines and cannot prevent Russian aircraft and helicopters from hitting their own advancing troops. And Ukraine has been given too few armored breaching systems.

The Russians have also fought much better than the Iraqis did — and better than many analysts expected given Russia’s unimpressive performance until then in the war. Russian forces have prepared extensive defenses in depth, consisting of wide, deep belts of skillfully laid mines, antitank ditches and other obstacles. Soldiers equipped with drones are directing substantial artillery fire against any Ukrainian units that try to get through. More broadly, the Russian army has adopted an elastic defense , in which its troops initially fall back and then counterattack once the Ukrainian forces take losses and begin to tire.

All of these factors make the Ukrainian counteroffensive exceedingly hard. But as one of us had occasion to observe during the tough early months of the 2007 surge in Iraq, hard is not hopeless.

Ukrainian forces are advancing in two key areas — in central Zaporizhzhia Oblast near Robotyne on the road to Tokmak and Melitopol, and in eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast south of Velyka Novosylka on a line toward Berdyansk. The Ukrainians appear to have penetrated at least the forward-most belt of Russian mines and defenses in both areas, and their advance in the Robotyne area appears to be accelerating. They have also taken back some significant ground around Bakhmut, which is the only town Russia was able to capture during its own costly offensive last winter.

how to write a good journalistic article

Ukrainian advance

Russian advance

Russian occupied territory


Ukrainians appear to have penetrated Russian mines and defenses in this area.

Illegally annexed by

Russia in 2014

Sources: Institute for the Study of War and

AEI’s Critical Threats Project. Areas of control as

of Aug. 22.

how to write a good journalistic article

Sources: Institute for the Study of War and AEI’s Critical

Threats Project. Areas of Russian control as of Aug. 22.

how to write a good journalistic article

Ukrainian forces have taken back some ground around Bakhmut.

Sea of Azov

Sources: Institute for the Study of War and AEI’s Critical Threats Project.

Areas of Russian control as of Aug. 22.

how to write a good journalistic article

Sources: Institute for the Study of War and AEI’s Critical Threats Project. Areas of Russian control as of Aug. 22.

Ukraine’s incremental gains are part of a larger effort that British Chief of Defense Staff Adm. Tony Radakin termed “starve, stretch and strike.” Ukrainian forces are stretching Russian defenses by attacking at multiple points along the 600-mile front. They are also attriting assets in Russian-occupied territory, taking out artillery units, headquarters and reserve force staging areas, as well as targeting key supply depots and routes to make it more difficult for Russia to sustain its defense. To put it simply, Ukraine is applying pressure on their opponent until something breaks, at which point they will commit their reserves and strike.

Russian front-line forces are likely tired, if not exhausted. Some have been defending since at least the start of the counteroffensive on June 4, and many of them have been in place for much longer than that. Fresh units have not been rotated in. It is also unclear how heavily mined or manned Russia’s secondary defensive lines are, but there is good reason to doubt that the Russians have large numbers of high-quality soldiers holding them. Most important, Russia lacks large operational reserves. This means that any Ukrainian breach of existing lines will be difficult to quickly plug.

This is what Ukraine is banking on. A small breach could yield relatively sudden and rapid gains. If those materialize, panic among Russian forces could multiply Ukraine’s opportunities for maintaining its momentum.

An aspirational theory of victory is no guarantee of success. The Russians have clearly adapted to the realities of this phase of the war, and while they face serious challenges, it would be foolish to write them off.

But it would be similarly foolish to write off this “summer” counteroffensive — a fight that is likely to continue through the fall and into the winter. Ukrainians know they are fighting for their very survival , and the country’s total mobilization across all sectors of society is a testament to their will and determination.

For Western observers, it is important to keep this big picture in mind when following Ukraine’s grueling fight. And policymakers should not wring their hands about the counteroffensive not yielding quick gains. This will be a long war, and we need Ukraine to prevail.

Ukraine needs long-range precision-strike capabilities such as the U.S. Army’s Tactical Missile System ( ATACMS ). It needs cluster munitions for its rockets, not just its artillery rounds. It needs more ammunition to sustain the offensive. And it needs the accelerated delivery of F-16s. In truth, Ukraine needed these capabilities months ago.

The United States’ provision of more than $44 billion in arms, ammunition and assistance has been hugely impressive. But we must do more, and we must do it with a greater sense of urgency. The time to act is now.

What to know about Ukraine’s counteroffensive

The latest: The Ukrainian military has launched a long-anticipated counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces , opening a crucial phase in the war aimed at restoring Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and preserving Western support in its fight against Moscow.

The fight: Ukrainian troops have intensified their attacks on the front line in the southeast region, according to multiple individuals in the country’s armed forces, in a significant push toward Russian-occupied territory.

The front line: The Washington Post has mapped out the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces .

How you can help: Here are ways those in the United States can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war . Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video .

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Guest Essay

There’s a Good Chance Trump Will Be Found ‘Willfully Blind’

how to write a good journalistic article

By Burt Neuborne

Mr. Neuborne is a professor emeritus at New York University Law School, where he was the founding legal director of the Brennan Center for Justice.

More than a decade ago, a divided Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Alvarez that an elected member of a district water board in California could not be prosecuted criminally for lying to an audience about winning the Medal of Honor. The court ruled that efforts to criminalize mere lying, without linking the lie to an attempt to gain a material advantage, posed an unacceptable threat to robust exercise of First Amendment rights.

Given that decision, Jack Smith, the special prosecutor investigating former President Donald Trump, was right in concluding that Mr. Trump has a First Amendment right to lie to the general public.

So, where’s the legal beef in the indictment arising from the events that culminated in the storming of the Capitol brought by Mr. Smith against Mr. Trump? It’s in the fact that Mr. Smith isn’t merely charging the former president with lying; he is contending that Mr. Trump lied to gain an unlawful benefit — a second term in office after voters showed him the exit. That kind of speech-related behavior falls comfortably within what the justices call “categorical exceptions” to the First Amendment like true threats, incitements, obscenity, depictions of child sexual abuse, fighting words, libel, fraud and speech incident to criminal conduct.

As the court put it in 1949 in the case of Giboney v. Empire Storage and Ice Co. , “It rarely has been suggested that the constitutional freedom for speech and press extends its immunity to speech or writing used as an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal statute.”

That is why Mr. Smith will most likely seek to prove that the former president was engaged in “speech incident to criminal conduct” when he and his co-conspirators lied to state legislators, state election officials, gullible supporters, Justice Department lawyers and Vice President Mike Pence in an illegal effort to prevent Joe Biden from succeeding him as president. Since Mr. Trump is charged with, among other crimes, conspiracy to defraud the United States and to deprive people of the right to have their votes counted, Mr. Smith would clearly be right in arguing that the Alvarez decision doesn’t apply.

Characterizing Mr. Trump’s words as “speech incident to criminal conduct” would neatly solve Mr. Smith’s First Amendment problem but at a substantial cost to the prosecution. To win a conviction, the government must persuade 12 jurors to peer inside Mr. Trump’s head and find beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew he was lying when he claimed to be the winner of the 2020 election. If Mr. Trump actually believed his false assertions, his speech was not “incident to criminal conduct.”

How can Mr. Smith persuade 12 jurors that no reasonable doubt exists that Mr. Trump knew he was lying? The prosecution will, no doubt, barrage the jury with reams of testimony showing that he was repeatedly told by every reputable adviser and administration official that no credible evidence of widespread electoral fraud existed and that Mr. Pence had no choice but to certify Mr. Biden as the winner.

But there also will probably be evidence that fervent supporters of Mr. Trump’s efforts fed his narcissism with bizarre false tales of result-changing electoral fraud and frivolous legal theories justifying interference with Mr. Biden’s certification as president-elect. Those supporters could include Rudy Giuliani; Sidney Powell , a lawyer and purveyor of wild conspiracy theories; Jeffrey Clark , the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division, who apparently plotted with Mr. Trump to unseat the acting attorney general and take control of the department; and John Eastman , the lawyer who hatched the plan that Mr. Pence refused to follow to keep Mr. Trump in power.

Maybe Mr. Trump himself will swear to his good faith belief that he won. With all that conflicting testimony, how is a conscientious juror to decide for sure what was really going on inside his head?

The answer lies in the Supreme Court’s doctrine of willful blindness. A dozen years ago, in the case of Global-Tech Appliances v. SEB , Justice Samuel Alito, writing for all but one justice, ruled that proof of willful blindness is the legal equivalent of proving guilty knowledge.

As Justice Alito explained it, “Many criminal statutes require proof that a defendant acted knowingly or willfully, and courts applying the doctrine of willful blindness hold that defendants cannot escape the reach of these statutes by deliberately shielding themselves from clear evidence of critical facts that are strongly suggested by the circumstances.”

In other words, when a defendant, like Mr. Trump, is on notice of the potential likelihood of an inconvenient fact (Mr. Biden’s legitimate victory) and closes his eyes to overwhelming evidence of that fact, the willfully blind defendant is just as guilty as if he actually knew the fact. While this argument is not a slam dunk, there’s an excellent chance that 12 jurors will find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mr. Trump hid from the truth by adopting willful blindness.

Burt Neuborne is a professor emeritus at New York University Law School, where he was the founding legal director of the Brennan Center for Justice. He was the national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1981 to 1986.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram .

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Putin has dashed global hopes for reviving the Ukraine grain deal. This is why it matters

FILE - In this photo provided by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting, in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Vladimir Putin on Monday, Sept, 4, 2023 in a bid to persuade the Russian leader to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow broke off from in July. (Turkish Presidency via AP, File)

FILE - A tractor collects straw on a field in a private farm in Zhurivka, Kyiv region, Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Vladimir Putin on Monday, Sept, 4, 2023 in a bid to persuade the Russian leader to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow broke off from in July. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

FILE - United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, shakes hands with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, during his visit to the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Vladimir Putin on Monday, Sept, 4, 2023 in a bid to persuade the Russian leader to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow broke off from in July. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

FILE - A farmer holds wheat in a granary on a private farm in Zhurivka, Kyiv region, Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Vladimir Putin on Monday, Sept, 4, 2023 in a bid to persuade the Russian leader to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow broke off from in July. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, meets Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, right, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. Russia handed over a list of actions that the West would have to take in order for Ukraine’s Black Sea exports to resume. (Maxim Shemetov/ Pool Photo via AP, File)

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talk to each other during their meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Vladimir Putin on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023 in a bid to persuade the Russian leader to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow broke off from in July. (Vladimir Smirnov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

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ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Vladimir Putin on Monday, hoping to persuade the Russian leader to rejoin a deal allowing Ukraine to safely export grain. Moscow withdrew from the agreement in July. But Putin made it clear that the initiative would not be restored right now.

Here’s what’s at stake:


Putin poured cold water over hopes for a revival of the grain initiative, saying the West must first meet its demands on facilitating Russian agricultural exports.

The West has dismissed those complaints before and said there is nothing stopping those exports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting at Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Monday, Sept. 4, 2023. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)


The Kremlin refused to renew the grain agreement when it expired in July, claiming that a parallel deal promising to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertilizer had not been honored.

Moscow complained that restrictions on shipping and insurance hampered its agricultural trade, even though it has shipped record amounts of wheat since last year. Some companies have been wary of doing business with Russia because of sanctions, though Western countries have made assurances that Russian food and fertilizer exports are exempt.

The original deal — brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 — allowed nearly 33 million metric tons (36 million tons) of grain and other commodities to leave three Ukrainian ports safely despite Russia’s war .


Putin and Erdogan — both authoritarian leaders who have been in power for more than two decades — are said to have fostered a close rapport in the wake of a failed coup against Erdogan in 2016, when Putin was the first major leader to offer his support.

The Turkish president has maintained those close ties during the 18-month war. Turkey hasn’t joined Western sanctions against Russia following its invasion, emerging as a main trading partner and logistical hub for Russia’s overseas trade.

At the same time, NATO member Turkey has also supported Ukraine, sending arms, meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and backing Kyiv’s bid to join the Western alliance.

Since Putin withdrew from the initiative, Erdogan has repeatedly pledged to renew arrangements that helped avoid a food crisis in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other goods that developing nations rely on.


Traditional rivals, Turkey and Russia have been on opposing sides in conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. Despite that, relations between the countries in fields such as energy, defense, diplomacy, tourism and trade have flourished.

But since Erdogan’s reelection in May , Putin has faced domestic challenges that may make him appear a less reliable partner, most notably following the short-lived armed rebellion by late mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in June.

Erdogan angered Moscow in July when he allowed five Ukrainian commanders to return home. The soldiers had been captured by Russia and handed over to Turkey on condition they remain there for the duration of the war.


Erdogan said Turkey and the United Nations had prepared a new package of proposals.

“We believe that we will reach a solution that will meet the expectations in a short time,” Erdogan said following Monday’s talks in Russian resort of Sochi.

Putin also held out hope the deal could be renewed — if its demands were met.

But earlier, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock lashed out, saying Putin’s “game with the grain agreement is cynical.”

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres recently sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “concrete proposals” aimed at getting Russian exports to global markets and allowing the resumption of the Black Sea initiative. But Lavrov said Moscow was not satisfied with the letter.

Morton reported from London. Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

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Mother of murdered new hampshire journalist james foley reflects on former gov. bill richardson's legacy.

Richardson devoted himself to helping American hostages overseas

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Stay up to speed on all the latest local and national political news.

After former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson died Friday , there's been an incredible outpouring after his death, including in New Hampshire.

"It's a huge loss for our country and for our community, who works with other U.S. Nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained,” said Diane Foley, mother of kidnapped and murdered journalist James Foley.

Helping Americans wrongfully detained abroad is a mission Diane Foley is deeply connected with. It’s a mission she's committed to continuing even as she mourns the loss of fellow advocate Richardson.

"Very heroic man, a true patriot,” Diane Foley said.

After a long career as a governor, congressman, and as a U.N. Ambassador, Richardson devoted himself to helping American hostages overseas.

He started the nonprofit the Richardson Center for Global Engagement.

"Just a man of extraordinary moral courage and commitment to innocent Americans without any,” Diane Foley said. “You know, he's always done this work totally as a volunteer, never wanting any compensation from any of the families or people he's freed."

Foley is the mother of New Hampshire journalist James Foley , who was kidnapped and killed by Islamic militants in Syria back in 2014.

Her foundation in her son's memory has worked with the Richardson Center before. She said she hopes all of Richardson’s work will continue.

"His enduring legacy is his heroic leadership,” Diane Foley said.

Richardson was 75.

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