Skills for journalists in print and digital media.

Five Stages of a Story: Part 3

leave a comment »

There are techniques reporters and editors can apply to the tasks of the Idea and Organize stage. Most are critical thinking approaches to help focus the idea. Consider:

IDEA stage

Story mapping: Map the story idea as a web. Lay out all aspects of the idea. Select the most important part of the “map” as the focus of the story and the reporting to come.

Central question: Identify the central question at the heart of your story idea. Then set out to answer that question.

Premise: Frame your idea as premise (rather than a fact) and set out to prove or disprove the premise. Remain open-minded as the reporting progresses.

Point of view: Write your topic or question in the middle of a circle. Around the circle list all the people with a connection to the story. Decide which person’s point of view might be the best way to report and tell the story.

Reader questions: Ask five questions a reader would ask about the topic. Set out to answer those five questions.

Five whys: Ask “why” five times. Each “why” should take you deeper into the topic and closer to the central question or central premise.


Story mapping: Re-map the story with all the information accumulated through reporting. If using a specific point of view, re-map the story with the selected point of view at the center.

Theme statement: In a sentence or two, express the central point of your story, the heart of your story. This can be the answer to your central question or a restatement of the central premise. Use the theme statement to help determine what material stays in the story, what is left out.

Jot outline: List key points in the order they will appear in the story. Consider story focus, length and packaging.

Story forms: Select a story form that will help shape the story. Consider inverted pyramid, block, wine glass or layer cake forms. (See related post on Story Forms.)


Written by mroberts8

October 17, 2009 at 12:10 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: