News Report Narrative Structure, Info Aggregation
Part 5 of Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher Report. Click here for more information and to download all of Playbook for free.
Once a News Report’s story angle has been evaluated, editors look at the piece’s narrative structure and effectiveness in information aggregation.
The key to telling an interesting story is conflict. Remember that great movie you saw where all the characters were happy and got along with each other and nothing happened to prevent them from enjoying their lives?
Of course you don’t. It doesn’t exist. Every good story has conflict.
Narrative structure refers to the story identifying and describing a central conflict. That means some problem created, exacerbated, reduced or resolved by the story’s principal events. A News Report should substantively describe the central conflict in the reported story.
A “substantive description” of the central conflict identifies the conflict’s origin, development and outcome. That could be a potential outcome, rather than an actual one, if the conflict hasn’t been resolved yet.
A story with good narrative structure will also meaningfully illuminate the central conflict with analysis of the choices, actions and attitudes of the central figures involved in the story. Central figures are people or organizations who have caused or are reacting to the central conflict.
So what do we mean by “meaningfully illuminate”? Analysis that demonstrates a causal link between the central conflict and the central figures. That is, does the story show that the actions of those people caused the conflict, or vice versa?
Information aggregation is a measure of how well the writer has contextualized the story with quotes or paraphrases from the people involved in it—where “involvement” can mean either playing a role in the events or being a close observer.
The story should contain at least one quoted statement from a central figure, either from the writer’s own interviews, a third-party interview or press conference, or the central figure’s social media feeds, such as Twitter.
The piece should also include at least one reference to third-party analysis of the reported news item—either in agreement or by way of critique.
The reason we want to see this reference is that no pundit’s voice—even yours!—is ever more than one among many in digital media. You shouldn’t act like you’re the first and only person to comment on a situation or topic, because, almost certainly, you’re not. A better approach is: Here’s what I think, here’s what other people think, here’s why they’re wrong and I’m right. The act of “aggregation” gives readers a more complete sense of prevailing commentary on the subject.
Here are a couple of examples of stories that scored well with evaluators in both narrative structure and information aggregation:
Losing Cowboys’ Play-Calling Duties Is the Worst Thing for Jason Garrett: The central conflict’s origin is the Cowboys being near the bottom of the league in rushing. Writer Chris Trapasso develops the conflict by describing Bill Callahan’s hiring and the blow to Garrett’s ego and job security that might represent. The conflict hasn’t been resolved yet. It will depend on whether Callahan can get the job done, and whether Garrett can live with the new situation either way.
For information aggregation, Trapasso presents quotes from central figure Jerry Jones, who hired Callahan, as well as analysis from ESPN’s Tim Kavanagh.
Arsenal Transfer News: Yaya Sanogo Confirms Desire to Join Gunners over Summer: Your turn. Can you identify what author Dan Talintyre did to score well on these two metrics?
Next post: Argumentative Articles: Thesis, Rhetorical Structure, Factual Evidence
Previous post: News Report: Story angle
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Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher Report Writers is an 18-part series outlining the metrics and criteria of B/R’s objective Writer Evaluation system. The system complements the subjective assessments made by members of our Editorial Team, which means that a solid evaluation is a necessary but not sufficient condition of success with B/R. You can find more information and download the full Playbook for free at this link.
Playbook Table of Contents:
Three story types
News Report Story Angle
News Report Narrative Structure, Information Aggregation
Argumentative Articles: Thesis, Rhetorical Structure, Factual Evidence
Ranked Lists: Ranking Logic
Ranked Lists: Topic, List Composition
Attribution and Hyperlinks
Sentence and Paragraph Structure
B/R Style and Formatting
Common Mistakes: General
Common Mistakes: Three Article Types