Feature Writing

They’re the stories that run alongside news but don’t really feel like news – the human-interest stories that have less traditional leads and structures. Feature articles are to news writing what figure skating is to ice hockey: less aggressive, less straightforward, often more lyrical and elegant.


How can your recognize a feature story?

  • Timeliness may not be a factor. If a story could have run today, last week, next week, odds are it’s a feature.
  • Traditional news values may not be present. There’s probably no pressing need for an audience to learn specific information. Instead, features are likely to be more like storytelling – something you read for pure enjoyment.
  • The structure is probably nontraditional. Rather than revealing all essential details right up front, a feature may drag you in with a teaser first paragraph, then lead you along with strategically placed bits of detail throughout. Some features won’t answer the pressing question – whatever that might be – until the very last paragraph. You’ll rarely see inverted pyramid structure here.

Take a look: Pulitzer Prize-winning features

Many of these stories, chosen as best for a specific year, are news features — a feature or human interest story related to a news event. My favorite is Julia Keller’s 2005 series about a small town wiped out by a tornado. The storytelling is masterful, but only possible  because of truly excellent reporting.  That’s a theme you’ll see throughout the stories we discuss: great feature writing requires great material.

In this workshop, we’ll look at several types of feature stories, analyze the characteristics and evaluate effectiveness. You’ll learn the basics of writing nontraditional leads, and we’ll also discuss how to get your students started with basic feature writing.

Our schedule:

Day One: Feature writing – what is it, how does it work and is this really journalism?

Day Two: Leads – the basics of alternative leads and nut graphs

Day Three: Story types: A look at specific feature genres

Day Four: In-depth analysis – if you got that once-in-a-lifetime story opportunity, how would you handle it?

Online conference: We’ll discuss teaching tips and problems/opportunities for students live online Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. EDT. You will receive an email invitation Monday with instructions on how to join the conversation.



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