Writing for the web: News19. September 2012 - 11:09 — Dejan Georgievski
As we noted last week, once you have answered the five questions (who, what, where, when and why), you have just written a news item. The direct answers to the five questions should suffice to inform the visitors of your website or portal about the basic and most important information about the reported event.
The news, as a reporting genre, is rarely found today in its most concise form. They are usually found in news agencies, while other traditional media mostly turned towards the report as a reporting genre.
One place where you can increasingly find text items that resemble the good old-fashioned news is Twitter. The form there is a necessity imposed by the requirements of the social networking site which restricts the number of characters that you can post and publish in one go.
We already showed here that a text can be shortened, with some care and work, to fit the 140 characters or less restriction imposed by Twitter. In addition, we can use the fact that Twitter (just as the majority of internet sites) presents the exact time and date of publication by default. Also, the 140 character limit is identical to the maximum length of an SMS message, which makes the text you adapted for Twitter also suitable for reporting over mobile phones.
The news as a gender also meets another important challenge of online publishing – the widely accepted view that people on internet don’t have time for lengthy articles and only glance over the text, focusing their attention only on things that may intrigue or interest them. To make that judgment, whether something is worthy of their interest, they rely on the short introduction, the teaser that should stir their imagination.
Although we may not be convinced about that claim which was certainly valid in the past, in the age of dial-up connections and technical limitations of 15 or 17 inch screens (19 inch monitors were a luxury that only designers and people who work on newspaper layout had to have), it may be prudent to avoid the risk and stick to that rule. You say what is important in concise answers to the five questions, and elaborate extensively for all those who will want to click the “read more” link.
Finally, the news as a genre suits the needs of civic organizations that run their own websites, which are often tragically neglected and updated only sporadically. We will discuss that matter next Thursday, in the next installment of this series.