HNN Interns: How to Write a News Story


From time to time you may be called upon to write a news story for HNN, as opposed to an essay or blog post. This is a much more formal style of writing that can be a little confusing to neophytes.

Here are some simple guidelines:

  • The style should be objective. Do not insert your own opinion. Do not use the personal pronoun (i.e. avoid using I).
  • Attempt to interview everybody you name in the story. Everybody! Even if they are incidental to the main narrative. If you cannot get hold of them let the editor know. What we want to avoid is having somebody step forward to complain after the article has been published that they were never given the chance to offer a defense or explanation.
  • Do not share a draft of your article with anybody you interview. Giving even a good source the chance to review your article is forbidden in journalism. It gives sources too great an opportunity to control the writing of the piece. Standard practice is for you to interview people and then write the piece. If you need clarification about a point recontact your source and confirm the details you are vague about.
  • When you are interviewing people do not offer your own opinion. Just ask your questions. You are not friends with your sources. You are a reporter doing a story. Of course, you can offer sympathy in appropriate circumstances. But at all times you have to retain the stand of an objective observer. You are an outsider looking in.
  • If someone you have written about complains to you directly about your story, contact the editor immediately and fill him in on the details.
  • Use anecdotes to try to liven pieces up. But always keep in mind that your top priority is to tell your story clearly and concisely.