In news writing certain techniques are adopted in ensuring that the account of an event being given by a journalist is not just well written but contains the basic facts any good news story should have. One of such techniques is to ask specific questions while giving account of an event. Answers to these questions provide the basic ingredients that form the primary structure and content of a well written story. These questions are referred to as the news writing elements. They come in form of five key questions – who, what, when, where, why, and how (5ws and H). This is an approach up-coming journalists, including anyone who wants to learn how to write a news story should adopt in order to provide a meaningful account of an event.
First, what is news? It is an account of current happening. News is Information not previously known to someone. It is an account of current event written by a journalist and reported through a mass medium – print or electronic. News is a report of a recent and important event of interest to the public. You use news elements as a guide in ensuring that the most basic facts or ingredients are included in the story.
Meaning of News Elements
These are essential or characteristic components of a news story.
They are the ingredients of news.
The news values are captured in the elements as basic facts.
The 5Ws and H in news writing.
They are also called reporter’s key questions.
They are the questions you ask as you write news so as to ensure the story is complete and professional.
The 5 Ws and H are the critical tools in journalism used in writing news stories. They could be described as reporters’ key questions. They are the elements that make up a well-written news report. Although the term ‘news elements’ has been used widely to describe news values such as timeliness, impact, oddity, personality etc., the fact remains that these values are captured as elements in the 5 Ws and H. So what are these 5Ws and H which we describe as news elements here?
The term ‘News elements’ has also been used to describe news values (the elements of news worthiness – proximity, prominence, impact, oddity etc.) but these news values are captured as facts in the 5Ws and H which we call news elements here.
News writing elements (5Ws and H) are different from news worthiness elements (that is the news values – proximity, prominence, impact, oddity etc.).
5Ws and H
The 5Ws and H are: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Who– This refers to the person(s) involved in an event you are reporting.
What– This refers to the event that happened.
When– This refers to the time the event happened.
Where– This refers to the place the event happened.
Why– This refers to the reason behind the event.
How– This refers to how it happened.
Identifying News Elements in a Story
One way to learn how to adopt the news writing elements in writing a story is to first learn how to spot them in any report. Let’s attempt to spot the 5Ws and H in the reports below.
1. BREAKING: Lagos Discharges 49 Former COVID-19 Patients
The Lagos State Government has announced the discharge of 49 former COVID-19 patients.
According to a tweet by the state Ministry of Health on Wednesday, the discharged patients consisted of 28 female and 21 male, one of which was a Greek national.
The who: Lagos State Government
The what: discharge of 49 former COVID-19 patients
The where: Lagos State
The when: Wednesday
The why: The patients had recovered from COVID-19 disease
The how: They were discharged via a tweet
(Note that all the elements must not appear in the lead. If you park all the elements in the lead this will overload the lead and make it clumsy. You can see that the 5Ws and H were spread across two paragraphs.That’s a good way to write a good news report. Flow the elements across across two or even three paragraphs and make the story reader-friendly.)
2. Drug giant Pfizer says vaccine very close to trial phase
The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has said that a new coronavirus vaccine could be tested as early as next week.
Speaking on Tuesday during a press conference, Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla, said this was part of efforts made to fight the spread of Covid 19.
The who: Pfizer
The what: coronavirus vaccine could be tested as early as next week
The where: Not in the first two paragraphs which we used here
The when: Tuesday
The why: efforts made to fight the spread of Covid 19
The how: Through testing, the vaccine will be tested on people before it is certified
3. Gunmen kidnap Army Captain, three others in Ondo
Gunmen on Tuesday kidnapped four people along Kabba-Auga Akoko Expressway in Akoko North-East Local Government Area of Ondo State.
One of the victims, an officer in the Nigeria Army, identified as Captain D. Gana and the three others were said to be coming from Abuja when the incident happened.
According to a source, the hoodlums stopped the vehicle conveying the victims, on the expressway and dragged them into the bush to an unknown destination.
The source explained further that the hoodlums did not pick any item belonging to the victims from the vehicle but left the doors of the vehicle open after taking the victims away.
It was however gathered that the abductors had contacted the families of the victims, demanding N20m for the release of the four victims.
The who: Gunmen/Captain D. Gana and the three others (two groups of people could represent the who here)
The what: Four people were kidnapped
The where: along Kabba-Auga Akoko Expressway
The when: Tuesday
The why: The kidnappers wanted N20 million from victims’ families
The how: The hoodlums stopped the vehicle conveying the victims, on the expressway and dragged them into the bush to an unknown destination
Here’s a complete video on this lecture;