What is a newspaper article?

Whether you read a hard (paper) copy or use online sources, it’s important to keep informed of current events and newsworthy people.

If you are at high school, the curriculum says that you must be able to write a news article.

Note that a news article may be a feature. For example, it may be about a person or a current ongoing issue, rather than about the latest events like an election or a disaster.

A news article:

  • tells a general audience about something important or of interest that is current (happening now) or relevant to today
  • must use clear, fairly simple, non-figurative language, in short paragraphs, so that it is easy to read and understand
  • should be factual and unbiased (not favour one side), not a personal opinion.
  • What are some of the features of a news article?

  • It has a very short headline or title that grabs the attention of the reader but appealing to our emotion, or being very interesting or making us wonder what is happening in more detail.
  • It may have a sub title that expands on the headline.
  • The first paragraph contains the most important facts. Later paragraphs give more detail. However, a reader in a hurry should be able to understand what happened or what the issue is just by reading the first one or two paragraphs
  • These first paragraphs will say who did what, when, where, why, how and to what degree or extent.
  • The article should summarise what happened or tell about the person in a factual way. It should not slant the truth by, for example, using biased words or leaving out important information.
  • It should not include any opinions of the writer, unless it is clear that this is a personal opinion.
  • The aim is clarity and readability, so writing must be logical, clear and presented in short paragraphs. It must be succinct (short), not wordy.
  • Quoted comments from people use direct speech in inverted commas.
  • Reported speech must be clearly linked to the person as their opinion, like this: Mr Reddy said that he believed he had been unfairly accused of the crime.
  • It is written logically in well-ordered sentences and paragraphs.
  • If you are writing this for a school exam, you will need to write about 150 words.
  • In exams at senior phase you are usually marked out of 30 like this: Content, planning and format (18 marks); Language, style and editing (12 marks). These categories tell you what you need to think about, and for example, that you must show you have planned and edited properly.
  • The layout of a news article

  • There is always a very short headline in a big font size. The headline must be only 1–5/6 words and it must relate directly to the content of the article. It leaves out words like ‘the’, ‘a’ or ‘and’.
  • There is often a sub heading in a smaller font that gives more clues to the content.
  • The writer’s name is below this.
  • The first paragraph gives the main, most interesting points.
  • The following paragraphs present more detailed information.
  • Some paragraphs may give comment from important people, witnesses to what happened, or experts on the matter.
  • Examples of examination questions

    Here are some examples of questions, including some from past examinations:

  • Write an article about current road safety issues in your area.
  • Write a news article about efforts to combat crime in your area.
  • Write a news article about a newsmaker in your town.
  • Write a news article about a drought.
  • How to plan a news article

    It is very important to plan your news article, and then check it carefully.

    Plan your content like this:

  • Start thinking about a lively headline and subheading – jot down ideas
  • Plan what will go in the first two paragraphs using ‘who, what, when, where, why, how, and to what degree’.
  • Add another two or so paragraphs of details and comments from relevant people, if this is appropriate for your article.
  • Decide on an appropriate short closing paragraph.
  • Check your work for mistakes.
  • Should you choose a news report in an exam?

    Only choose this question if you can immediately think of at least three or four relevant points, and can invent or provide content about ‘who, what, when, where, why, how and to what degree’. You should also feel confident that you can write very logically and clearly in a simple, factual way, and understand the difference between fact and opinion.