Chapter 5 – Story Structure

Arranging and developing your news story format is another key to good story-telling. Below are some time-tested formats for structuring a news story.

  • You must use writing techniques that promise great things to come and then fulfill that promise
  • Treat sources as characters, capture tension and tell the events in chronological order

Alternative story forms:

  • Chronology
  • News narrative
  • Focus structure
  • Service journalism formats


  • Use for those that have complications or tension and a resolution worth waiting for
  • Look for a key moment
  • Jot down a time lie
  • Outline the story:
  1. The lead
  2. The nut: nut paragraph gives the theme of the story and summarizes the key facts
  3. To Be Sure paragraph gives opposing points of views
  4. Ending needs to be strong

News Narrative: news with narrative emphasis: when the news is less important than the story

  1. Open story with an interesting scene or twist that teases the story
  2. Follow with a traditional news lead
  3. Then brief paragraphs that add whatever is needed to understand the story summarized in traditional lead
  4. Then transition back to the beginning to tell the story in chronological order
  5. May use other tools like: scenes, dialogue, anecdotes and foreshadowing
  • Use Focus Structure
  • Tells the story of an individual to represent a bigger population
  • “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”—Joseph Stalin

The Lead

You write articles about diseases; you write stories about people. Focus on the people, not the event. Once you finish the opening, you must finish the “setup” of the story.

Transition and Nut Paragraph

  • Construct a transition that explicitly make the connection to the nut/theme paragraph


  • Can be done in a single line, or over several paragraphs
  • What can you promise the reader?

So what?

  • Tells readers explicitly whey they should care

To be sure.

  • Writers must acknowledge that there are two or more sides to a story
  • Writing the Body

Think of readers as anxious to do something else

  • Mix exposition (the facts) with narrations (the story line)
  • Writing the Ending: Tie-back: a reference to something that appears at or near the beginning of the story

Service journalism

  • “News you can use”
  • “Refrigerator journalism”