Find the Wagon: Write Stories, Not Articles

As journalists we are taught that ledes and nut graphs contain five W’s and one H, but Rick Newkirk, sports copy editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal added a sixth W. According to Newkirk, journalists must answer “who, what, when, where, why and why does anyone care?”

He compared the final W to a wagon, and this wagon’s duty is to hold all the other W’s. The only problem is there are a million wagons and you need to find the right one. The consequence: readers will be led down the wrong path and lose interest.

Newkirk explained the 6 W’s in terms of the recent chilean miners story and then turned the world’s recent breaking news into a storybook tale.

Who= characters

What= plot

Where= setting

When= timeline of events

Why= the twists, turns, and events that drive the plot changes

We care because it is a human story and not because we have any direct connection to the chilean miners. Essentially, writing a human interest piece is little different than writing a fiction article. I believe a lecture on ethics should accompany that proclamation, but I’m sure another session will hammer that topic this week.

I thought Newkirk effectively blended traditional journalistic practices and values with current events. He divided the room into six groups and provided each group with a recent new story. I liked the participation and encouraged discussion among the journalistic students. It’s important to remember that we can learn through conversations with each other and not just professionals.

-Melissa Kansky


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