Letter from the Editor: Five Tips for Writing Feature Stories

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We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
–Ernest Hemingway

So I am officially the Editor-in-Chief for the college newspaper in the fall, which will be my last semester at PSC.  I will graduate with an A.S., and, because I want to go farther, an A.A. (as I am so done with math).

If there’s one thing that the class from hell (i.e., Statistics) forced me to do, it was learn superior organization, which will come in handy when overseeing each issue.

Being a confirmed introvert, the idea of being a leader of anything is intimidating, but I tell myself, “I can do this.  They’re just people.”

I am very excited about this opportunity.  I wasn’t going to go for it, but let’s just say my adviser made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

*

Since my post about tips for writing college feature stories (https://sarahleastories.com/2017/02/04/feature-story-ideas-for-a-college-newspaper/) has, by a landslide, been my most popular post, I thought I’d share a few other things that have helped me not just become better but more prolific:

  • Be aware—not only of what is going on around you but also the people around you—pay attention to quirks, distinctive tattoos, and even cars with a bunch of crazy bumper stickers.  For example, on the first day of my ENC1102 class, my professor asked everyone to write something true and something untrue about themselves; the rest of the class was supposed to guess which was true and which was false.  Remember the true things that are interesting, and reach out to those students.
  • If you’re in online classes, and there is a “Get To Know You” discussion forum, read all the bios, but, as Troy Moon (a former columnist for The Pensacola News Journal) said, “Everyone has a story, but not all of them are interesting.”  
  • Craft your interview questions in such a way that you won’t get a yes or no answer, and do not use direct quotes like, “It was great.”  That’s so boring and generic, it’s paraphrasable.  Ask great questions, get good quotes.  
  • An easy way to gather quotes (speaking from an introvert’s point-of-view) is to cover events where people are speaking.  This way, you don’t even have to ask questions.  When I covered Carl Hiaasen, columnist for The Miami-Herald, I recorded his entire talk on my phone and got excellent (and accurate) quotes.  
  • Read other college newspapers in-depth, because all I’m doing is telling you how it’s done—they’re showing you.

My ultimate goal for our publication is to get more student names and faces in every issue, because, as Diane Varsi (as Allison MacKenzie) said in the 1957 movie, Peyton Place: “It was nice to come back to a place where the names in the newspaper meant something to you.”

That embodies the very idea of “community,” and The Corsair is a community college newspaper.

Updated 12/27/2019

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