A news brief is exactly what it sounds like: a brief news story. It traditionally appears in a print newspaper, but can also appear in digital editions of a newspaper, on a news website or other online news source, or it can be read on a radio or TV news program. While standard news articles can be 300 to 700 words long, a news brief should ideally be 100 words or fewer, broken into two or three paragraphs. Its purpose is to communicate news thoroughly, but quickly and succinctly.
The Five Ws (and H)
A news brief should answer the Five Ws and H: who, what, when, where, why and how. For example, if a brief is announcing the grand opening of a new supermarket, it should include what the supermarket is, who is opening it and who is invited, where it is opening, when the grand opening will take place, why the store's opening matters, and how the grand opening will happen. The Five Ws and H should be addressed in the brief's introduction, as close to the top of the story as possible.
Inverted Pyramid Structure
The structure known as the inverted pyramid is used in most news writing, and the brief is no exception, although in the brief the pyramid is necessarily more compact than in a longer story. If you imagine a pyramid turned upside down, that is the model for how your news brief should present its information: the most important information at the very beginning, and less important details -- those that provide extra information but are not critical -- closer to the end. When a brief is written according to this structure and the newspaper printing it is short on space, the end of the brief may be cut and key information can remain.
The Nut Graph
A "nut graph" contains further information and details to support the brief's main message. In these paragraphs, think about why the topic of the news brief may be relevant or interesting, and provide quotes from sources, statistics or other types of supporting evidence to highlight the importance of what the brief is communicating. Keep overall word count in mind -- the nut graph should not put the brief's word count at more than 100 words.
News Brief Topic Examples
A reporter might choose to write a news brief instead of a longer news story when he needs to announce something quickly and all information is not yet available. A news brief may also be a simple announcement of a community event or opportunity; for instance, if your town is starting a recycling program, a news brief could announce what the program is; who is organizing it, how and why; when it will begin and where it will take place.
- The Washington Post: New Associated Press Guidelines: Keep it Brief
- Purdue University: Online Writing Lab: The Inverted Pyramid Structure
- Purdue University: Online Writing Lab: Writing Press Releases
- Reuters: Handbook of Journalism: Reporting and Writing Basics
- The News Manual: Chapter 3: The Shape of the News Story
- Media Helping Media: Writing a News Story in Simple Steps
- Media Helping Media: Writing the Intro in Simple Steps
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