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Elements of a news article


headline is text above a newspaper article, indicating its topic. The headline catches the attention of the reader and relates well to the topic. Modern headlines are typically written in an abbreviated style omitting many elements of a complete sentence and almost always including a non-copular verb.

Mainstream media are influenced by issues of objective importance when deciding to report a story and its headline, but also on its newsworthiness, especially when it is competing with other media outlets. Editors and journalists often have an ideology about the kinds of news stories and topics they choose to cover. Topics and issues that are considered dramatic and tragic, are considered to have a “primary” news value. Hence, crime, particularly violent crime, are considered “intrinsically newsworthy,” which led to the slogan, “If it bleeds, it leads,” as reflected in the headlines.[1] While some newspapers, such as tabloids, try to incorporate a large amount of sensationalism to attract readers. They gravitate to stories about scandals, crime and violence, likewise guided by the principle “If it bleeds, it leads.”[2] Former Vice President Al Gore offered his own explanation during a speech in 2005:

The coverage of political campaigns focuses on the “horse race” and little else. And the well-known axiom that guides most local television news is “if it bleeds, it leads.” To which some disheartened journalists add, “If it thinks, it stinks”[3]


A subordinate headline, known as a subhead, is a standard feature of news texts. In online news, subheads are also occasionally found on article web pages. In some cases, there are two subheads. Many online articles also have a captioned photo under the subhead. The headline, subheads, and captions provide multiple levels of summaries of the article that reformulate the same information and also gradually develop the story by introducing some new information.[4]


byline gives the name and often the position of the writer, along with the date.


The objective of the lead (sometimes spelled lede to distinguish it from the soft metal) sentence is to capture the attention of the reader and summarize the main ideas of the story. This opening line is meant to attract the reader to the article’s content. The lead also establishes the subject, sets the tone, and guides readers into the article.[5]

In a news story, the introductory paragraph includes the most important facts, and it also answers the questions: whowhatwherewhenwhy and how. In a featured story, the author may choose to open in any number of ways, often using a narrative hook, possibly one of the following:[6] an anecdote, a shocking or startling statement, a generalization, pure information, a description, a quote, a question or a comparison.

Body or running text

For the news story, details and elaboration are evident in the body or running text of the news story and flow smoothly from the lead. Quotes are used to add interest and support to the story. Most news stories are structured using what is called an inverted pyramid. The angle (also called a hook or peg) is usually the most newsworthy aspect of the story and is specifically highlighted and elaborated upon.[7]

A featured article will follow a format appropriate for its type. Structures for featured articles may include, but are not limited to:[5]

  • chronological – where the article may be a narrative of some sort;
  • cause and effect – where the reasons and results of an event or process are examined;
  • classification – where items in an article are grouped to help aid understanding;
  • compare and contrast – where two or more items are examined side by side to show similarities and differences;
  • list – a simple item-by-item run-down of pieces of information
  • question and answer – such as an interview with a celebrity or rebel

The average length of a news article can be anywhere between 200 and 800 words, averaging around 500 words. With less than that, it is difficult to create a story, but with more than that, it becomes difficult to put new and fresh information into the piece. The article must constantly be catching the reader’s attention.


The conclusion, or in news terms, “the shirttail”, is a brief addendum at the end of a news article that sums up everything within the article. It might include a final quote, a descriptive scene, a play on the title or lead, a summary statement, or someones the writer’s personal opinions regarding the article. The goal of this “shirttail” is to be attention-grabbing and readdress the important content within the article.

Characteristics of well-written news articles

The article is usually on a well-defined topic or topics that are related in some way, such as a factual account of a newsworthy event. The writer of a well-written article is seen as objective and showing all sides to an issue. The sources for a news story should be identified and reliable. The technique of show, don’t tell is applied.

Other types of news

  • newspaper, paper – a daily or weekly publication on folded sheets; contains news and articles and advertisements
  • personal – a short newspaper article about a particular person or group
  • sidebar – a short news story presenting sidelights on a major story


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