Working in media is both exciting and challenging, and no two days are the same. Although the rise of new publishing platforms means the journalism world is evolving at a rapid pace, we still rely on it to inform, educate and entertain us, influencing the way people look at the world and encouraging them to change their views for the better. However, media writing has developed into a number of styles and forms, which is why we’re going to take a closer look at the different types of media writing below.
The different types of media writing
News writing is a particular style of prose that is used to report on the basic facts of a particular event. Whether for newspaper publication or broadcasting, it answers the five Ws in the first few sentences or lines. This structure, which focuses on the who, what, when, where, why and how, is also known as the inverted pyramid (the most important information is communicated first).
News writing is both precise and direct, so it’s rare you’ll find any jargon – it’s a very formal style. As a rule of thumb, news writers won’t use long words or phrases when short ones will do, nor will they use the same word more than once in a sentence or paragraph if it can be avoided.
Feature writing presents newsworthy events through a narrative, but it differs from news writing in the respect that it relies on creativity and an element of subjectivity to emotionally connect with readers. Its purpose is to entertain, which is why it covers a lot of ‘soft’ news – think art, entertainment, sport and lifestyle.
Feature stories also build on news that has already been reported, aiming to humanise the person behind the story while offering more depth and insight. Examples of features include profiles, spot features and live-in stories. Spot features run alongside breaking news events, so are often produced to a tight deadline, whereas live-in stories are more in-depth, providing a closer look at a particular place that readers wouldn’t usually experience. Reporters spend a lot of time at the places they’re writing about, which can include A&E departments, hospices, police stations and homeless shelters.
Reviews are a staple of media and journalism, and the aim is to offer an opinion or recommendation to readers. Unlike news writing, you can be subjective and adopt a more informal tone; creating a good rapport with your audience is essential if they’re going to take your views into consideration.
More specifically, the role of a reviewer is to inform, describe, analyse and advise, covering almost any topic, product or event. Some common examples include TV shows, films, restaurants, concerts, books and products. The Guardian newspaper is renowned for its reviews, covering everything from stage and culture to TV and radio.
A column is a recurring article or piece most commonly found in newspapers and magazines, and the writer is free to express their own opinion in the space allocated to them. What separates a column from news pieces and reviews is that it is typically written by the same journalist on the same theme or subject each time, making it a regular feature in popular tabloids and broadsheets.
There are many different types of columns, including advice, fashion, food, gossip, sport and music. Good columnists write the way they talk without sacrificing good grammar and English usage. While it’s important to be informal and friendly, columnists don’t have a lot of space to communicate what they want to say, so it’s best to avoid jargon and including too much material or detail. Victoria Coren Mitchell and Mariella Fostrup were voted two of the most popular columnists in 2019.
Investigative writing often uncovers political corruption, serious crimes or corporate wrongdoing, so it requires a writer to spend many months researching and planning their story before publication. Due to the sensitive nature of investigative journalism, it’s important for writers to maintain high standards of accuracy at all times, with any claims backed up by evidence they have verified themselves.
Investigative writers will usually receive tips about stories, and will spend time developing hypotheses and planning additional research before deciding to investigate them fully. An excellent example of investigative writing is the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer prize-winning story covering the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston’s sex abuse scandal.
Online news consumption around the world is growing exponentially, and while the basic principles of writing apply, including accurate reporting, fact-checking, and proper grammar and spelling, it requires writers to craft copy that best suits this medium.
Concise and clear writing is particularly important in the digital space, mainly because internet users want information fast and in an easily-digestible manner. However, headlines also need to be considered carefully. Why? Because straightforward headlines work better online than indirect headlines, and they will not be picked up by search engines at all if they don’t include any keywords.
“Sports writing is a form of journalism or creative nonfiction in which a sporting event, individual athlete, or sports-related issue serves as the dominant subject.”
– Richard Nordquist
Described perfectly by Richard Nordquist, this type of writing has increased in importance as sport has grown in power, wealth and influence. Although sportswriters don’t cover the ‘serious’ topics explored by investigative or news writers, they are an essential element of any media organisation. Some sportswriters specialise in one particular sport, while others cover matches and events within any given area.
A great example of sports writing is David Foster Wallace’s article about Roger Federer in The New York Times.
An editorial is an article, usually opinion-based, that is written by a senior member of a publication’s editorial staff. Although it can be about any topic, it usually covers an issue within society and is backed up by evidence and facts to build credibility. Many writers find editorials difficult to master, but having passion or knowledge about a certain subject often makes it much easier.
Francis P. Church’s reply to 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon’s question about Santa in The Sun of New York is considered one of the most famous editorials of all time. In 1897, she asked “Is there a Santa Claus?”, to which Church replied, “Yes, Virginia…”
We’ve only touched on the main types of media writing above, and there are many more examples of excellent writing to explore online. If you want to put your writing skills to good use, or you’re looking for quality content for your business, check out Copify today.