An Overview: The Characteristics of News Writing

Marie Hardin
Assistant Professor of Journalism
University of West Georgia

Overall objective: Students should understand the basic characteristics of news writing, in contrast with composition writing.


  • Students will be familiar with the idea of “objectivity” in news.
  • Students will understand what it means to write in third person, as opposed to first person.
  • Students will understand that news stories do not contain the opinion of the writer, but instead contain the opinions of people whom the writer interviews.
  • Students will notice other differences between news and composition writing, such as a different story structure and shorter paragraphs and sentence lengths.

Materials: Copies of news stories

Activities (30 minutes):

  • Introduction: What is news? (What is news at your school?) Why do we have news?
  • How should news be presented? What is news composed of?
    • Facts
    • Anecdotes
    • Quotes/Opinions
  • What if your English teacher asked you to write an essay about the upcoming high school football season? What would you write? How would you structure the essay? Where would you get your information?
  • How would a news story be different?
    • Where would you get the facts?
    • What would the main point of the story be?
  • Let’s look at this news story.
    • a. Copy the first two paragraphs.
      • What information did you get?
      • How long were the paragraphs?
      • Do we have any opinion?
      • Is it written in first person, second person, or third person? (what do those terms mean?)
      • How does it end? How is it different than an essay?
    • What is the main point of the story?
    • Circle all the sources the writer used in this story to get his information. Where do news writers get their information?
    • Do you see the writer’s opinion? Whose opinions do you get?

Assessment (20 minutes):

  • Have students look through hand-out stories; examine them. Have them circle:
    • A sentence written in the third person.
    • A quote from someone.
    • Do you notice anything about quotes and paragraphs?
    • Which paragraph on the page has the fewest number of sentences? How many does it have?
    • Which paragraph on the page has the most number of sentences? How many does it have?
    • Can you find a sentence written in first person by the writer?
    • Can you find the opinion of the writer anywhere?
    • What about the way stories end?
  • Have students write: One thing I learned today about news writing. Have them share with the class.