In this era where the electronic media of all kinds are dominating audience attention, newspapers require contents beyond straight news reports that provide basic information, to attract and keep audience. Many newspapers now have online platforms to further extend their reach amidst the battle for the ‘soul’ of the audience in an internet age. The social media and regular broadcast media (radio and television) are giving newspapers very tough time in the market, requiring newspapers to step up the game. This is primarily why newspaper resort to feature articles to provide facts beyond the 5Ws and H elements of news (who, what why, when, where, How). Feature articles are more in-depth than traditional straight news reports. They go beyond providing the most important facts. Their main function is to provide a detailed description of a place, person, idea, or organization.
Nigerian newspapers carry a lot of feature stories (featurized reports) in other to keep their readers. This is because survival in the Nigerian media landscape, especially in the internet era can be tough. When reporters are inundated with breaking news from different sources on a daily basis, they struggle for a way to give all these stories attention in the limited pages of the newspaper. One basic way to solve this problem is to present the stories in an interpretative, in-depth essay format – the feature story.
The feature story has been described as an article that speaks to a topic that’s of interest to a target audience but isn’t dependent on being newsworthy right at the moment it’s sent. It is a timeless copy that presents rich content.
Here’s an interesting description of a feature article by Mark Nowlan, in an article posted on Entrepreneur; “A feature is an in-depth look at a topic, product or industry–it’s a complex story designed to be read at a leisurely pace. And a feature can benefit your company by linking your brand or product to a larger trend or industry focus while also showcasing you, the entrepreneur, as a thought-leader in your field. While a news release is designed to entice the reporter into finding out more information themselves, a feature’s designed to be used as is, or merely edited to fit the space available.”
Feature articles are not just written on political, crime, economic or any of those popular news categories that dominate Nigerian newspapers regularly. The feature story can be written on diverse topics such as health, home improvement, travel and technology. They can be used in special sections of newspapers–such as lifestyle, home, arts or technology–or in the weekend magazines. Every person who wants a thriving career in journalism or media-related disciplines (including advertising and public relations) ought to know how to write a good feature article. No matter the aspect of media you find yourself you would be required to write a feature article at some point.
A feature story is an interesting essay-type piece about people, places and events. It is a write-up that provides background to an issue or topic. It is a research-based article which provides in-depth information for audience enlightenment, entertainment and education.
Writing a feature piece is no child’s play. It requires knowledge of fact-gathering and presentation process relevant for writing an interesting piece that could keep the readers glued to the article from introduction to conclusion. You can write a good feature story if you follow the process provided here. Let’s discuss this briefly.
Select a good topic
The first thing you do is to get a good topic, not just any topic. You have to write on something that will appeal to your audience. So once you understand your audience you can always write to appeal to them. For instance, you shouldn’t just write on fraud in the national assembly just because you think it is topical. Your audience might be interested in reading about the how music celebrities choose their clothes for specific occasions. Always get a good, interesting topic to work on.
After deciding on the topic to work on you then choose the premise of argument you would project. Remember that a feature story is not an opinion article. So you present two sides of the coin with facts but project one premise or angle more, especially if you’re writing an argumentative piece. Your premise should be captured in a sentence. For instance, while writing on corruption in Nigeria, you could be arguing that corruption in Nigeria is growing because of government’s insincerity in the fight against this problem. You then use facts support this premise and build a good argumentative piece. You use information from interviews, published works, speeches, media reports, among others, to build your argument. Remember it is not an opinion article. Having a premise helps you write a coherent piece because you have a perspective you are focusing on. Don’t forget that this depends on the type of feature article you are writing. Some feature articles such as the news feature and how-to-do-it feature may not adopt this approach.
Do basic research
You can’t write a good piece without doing a bit of fact finding on the topic. Research provides you with rich information you will use to build your argument and write a convincing piece. You need to know how to do some sort of online or off line research on the topic you have chosen to work on.
Draft an outline
Some writers may not need this but as a beginner you may need to use an outline as a guide while writing. This ensures that you do not stray off the theme of the article. An outline consists of lines of thought used in building a good and coherent feature story. Each line of thought could either be used to develop a paragraph or two lines of thought could be used as reminder of what should be in a paragraph. This is left for you to decide. You could have an outline with broad lines of thought to remind you of what to write at any point. For instance, a feature article on Indecent dressing in Nigerian universities could have the following outline: 1. Introduction (use any lead to begin the work; here you could provide a brief explanation of what indecent dressing means, you could use an interesting anecdote to start or any other lead type to take off). 2. Ways students dress indecently. 3. What are possible reasons/motives for indecent dressing? 4. Implications of indecent dressing in the Universities/society. 5. Way out – what are possible options? A beginner could adopt this approach to keep on track while writing the feature story.
Write the article
After selecting a good topic, doing enough research to get information for the work, coming up with lines of thought in form of outline, you now write the article. Make sure your introduction is not dull. That is why you need to learn how to write leads or intro for good feature articles. If the introduction is boring people could leave the article without even finishing the first paragraph. Make it robust and intriguing. The introduction drags the reader into the work; he or she reads the body and gets concluding facts in the last paragraph. You can make your feature article robust and intriguing by using quotations and paraphrasing in some instances. This way you add life to the article, make it lively and captivating.
Read your work again
When you finish writing the feature story you don’t just submit it for publication. You read and re-read it for possible errors, omissions and necessary additions to make it richer. A poorly edited work is as good as dead. Errors murder the beauty of a feature story. As people wonder what you wrote due to poor sentence construction, numerous spelling errors and lack of relevant facts to back up postulations, they lose sight of the theme of the article. The message is then lost. That is why it is always advised that you read and re-read your work to address errors that could kill the beauty of a feature article. While re-reading the work you could notice that there is a fact or angle to the article you need to add to make it more exciting and intriguing. Don’t fail to read and read the work.
A beginner could follow these steps in order to write a good feature story. It may take a little time for such person to perfect in feature story writing but the more you write the more you master the skills and techniques of writing this type of article. One more advice – always read feature stories written by others. You will definitely learn a lot from them. Reading very good feature stories should be a part of your lifestyle if you want to excel in writing this type of article.