Friday, April 20, 2007

Reporting and writing the feature story

The latest from Poynter's seminar on sports writing, courtesy of NASCAR beat writer Dustin Long:

Michelle Hiskey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution talked at a session titled "The craft of reporting and writing the sports feature story.''

First off, don't worry that this is about sports feature story. It can work for any type of story or any type of feature.

She mentioned how disciplined writers do stories that, hopefully, move people.

Think of your pre-story routine as like the same pre-shot routine a Tiger Woods goes through. Tiger thinks of his shot, figures out what club he'll use and how he'll strike the ball. Think of your stories in detail before you do them (or strike the ball in Tiger's case)

What makes a profile? It's a story of a person with something at stake doing something that reveals their character.

You want to look for movement -- they're doing something.

You want to look for a moment. Think of your stories as photos.

She showed a simple shot of boxer Muhammad Ali. It was a standard head and shoulder shot. No action. Nothing exciting. That's like a one-source story that doesn't go very deep. It's just there. How many times have we seen pictures in papers that were not that exciting.

The next photo she showed was Ali up against the ropes in a fight. You saw action. You could see his face. You could see his expression to being hit. You could see the other boxer hitting him.
Well, that's like a second-level feature where your story is richer in detail, in digging deeper into a subject or issue.