How to Write a News/Feature/Culture/Opinion
The Crossover, a Champlain College publication, showcases four different types of journalistic stories: news, features, culture, and opinion. These four pieces are distinct, and it’s important to know the differences between them and how to increase your skills in each type of story.
One of the most important parts of writing a news story is to keep it objective. Because you’re labeling it as a news piece, people are expecting all of the information to be accurate. As soon as you place any opinions into a news piece, it becomes biased and potentially inaccurate. The Crossover often includes stories about relevant happenings on campus, within our local community, or even at a national level. The goal of a news piece is to inform people about what’s going on around them, while keeping your own thoughts on the situation out of the story. Injecting opinion, even subtle shades of opinion, into a news story is known as “editorializing.” Too much editorializing and a news piece should not be called a news piece. A strong example of this type of a news story is, “Center for Community and Social Justice Arises at Champlain College.”
Features are stories that include in-depth research, careful planning, and human interest. Often, people classify features as “soft news,” meaning they may not be as pressing as news stories but are still relevant and present different perspectives on specific topics. News stories typically address the basic questions about an event, such as who, what where, when, why and how, whereas features take a wider and deeper view or an event, offering a fuller context. Features sometimes draw relevance from a connection to a trend or news event (sometimes referred to as a “news peg,” of the answer to the question of ‘why publish a story about this now?’ See “So what?” in this resource on pitching stories.) Editors often require features to be longer than news stories. A great feature example is, “Amy Coney Barrett was elected to the Supreme Court. What does this mean?”
You don’t see culture pieces in every news publication, but they definitely play a big role in The Crossover because it is the most popular story section. It allows for reporting on local happenings, as well as stories like reviews and listicles (a piece of writing executed in the form of a list, such as “16 Times Actors Were Intentionally Caught By Surprise For The Sake Of Getting A Great Scene” from Buzzfeed.) Champlain students enjoy this section because it allows them to get a wide range of thoughts from students, and it allows them to engage with student events and affairs. Two solid culture examples are posted on The Crossover site: “A Professor’s-Eye View on Fall 2020” and “Six Music Videos Made During Quarantine.”
Opinion pieces express the views of the person writing them. When writing an opinion piece, it’s important to keep in mind that your argument will be stronger if it is backed up by research and other opinions. Even if those opinions are different than yours, it’s good to have a counter-argument to show why your argument is correct. Opinion pieces often stir up other commentaries and arguments, so it’s important to provide accurate supporting information. An exemplary opinion piece is: “Attending College From My Bed.” The Crossover’s most debated and commented-on opinion piece is: “Why It’s Not Okay to Be White.”
It’s important to understand what any publication is looking for before you submit a story. Pitching a story to an editor is a great way to gauge the kind of information the publication is looking for. It can also be a great way to ask questions and find new information about the publication and its mission.