Essential elements of a news story

Pyramid journalism graphic by David Brewer

Normally, when writing for a school project or business presentation, you assemble all the information, set it out, link it together, and reach your conclusion.

It’s an upside down pyramid, with the conclusion at the bottom, and all the supporting arguments and information above.

News writing is the opposite.

You start with the essence of the story, for example, let’s imagine the following headline which reads….“The price of cotton has fallen by 15 per cent”.

You then add extra information such as the impact on producers, the textile industry, the economy, consumer prices, employment, etc.

Details such as whether it expected, what is being done about it, is it a short- or long-term, how are people reacting to the news are then added.

A reader or listener can stop after the headline and summary knowing the basic facts.

The person who wants to know more can continue for added information.

The structure of the story is a pyramid.

The headline is at the top, and more information is added according to its relevance and newsworthiness.

At the base of the pyramid, those fascinated by the story will find background information.

Those who are not that interested will have moved on to another news item.

It’s a simple but effective technique that relies entirely on how well focused you are.

You, the journalist, must decide what the top line is, what comes second, third, and so on.

And you must alway keep in mind that you risk losing your audience if you get too bogged down in detail and offer too much of one kind of information at the expense of other aspects of the story.

In the next lesson we look at the six questions that journalists should ask. What, Why, When, How, Where, and Who.


The text for this lesson was written by John Allen a former executive editor of BBC News. The text is from Media Helping Media and is reproduced under the terms of Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. The graphic at the top is by David Brewer released via Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0