Some stories tell themselves. Other topics require a little more work. In fact, writing about a story (event) is much easier than just a topic. Still, there are times when even a news item doesn’t exactly jump with excitement. So how do you make a news story or other article interesting when the topic doesn’t seem that interesting? Below is my shot at explaining my process.
Expanding on stories
Sometimes you’ve got a one-sentence news item: So-and-So died, Company X bought Company Y, New Product A will be released tomorrow. Assuming that you’re not writing for Twitter and that your publication expects more than 140 characters but less than 250-500 words. How do you fill in that blank space? This can be particularly challenging if, at first glance, the main point of the story can be or is summarized in the first line (as journalism teaches).
The bulk of a news article below that opening main point is used to provide context for the story. In the first instance–the death of Famous So-and-So–one needs to explain why this individual’s passing warrants the attention of your publication’s readers beyond a standard blurb in the obituary section. What was the decedent’s connection to the reader’s community or interests? Were the circumstances of their death mysterious, unexpected, or expected? Is there a “human interest” angle, such as the individual’s charity work or sterling reputation? How were those demonstrated? And so forth.
This could be a simple business story, from one company buying another to a single company opening a new location or line of business. Where does the “angle” come in? Why should someone care beyond the headline or opening sentence/paragraph? Again, you’re looking to meet the readers’ interests. Is the business new to the readers’ community? Will the business activity result in more jobs for the area? Fewer jobs? Was there some controversy about one company or another? You can capture a hint of some of this in your headline, but again the content beneath your opening line is going to be where you provide the rest of the story.
New product announcement
The day after a new product/service announcement is easy because you can talk about what the new item is, what its features are, and how it differs from what the company has done before or what’s on the market now. But what about the day before an announcement? How do you cough up 200-300 words on something you know nothing about? Again, your best bet is providing context for the announcement: What has the company been known for up to now? Has this announcement been highly anticipated? Have there been any hints or (reliable) leaks about what the product might be? If the company has made product announcements before, what has been the reception and ultimate product outcome?
And of course all of these stories can be expanded by adding quotations from the people involved, relevant statistics, or informed explanations about what comes next. The goal, of course, is not to make stuff up–get the content you need to fill in the blanks. The creative part comes from deciding which blanks would be most interesting to your readers to fill.