Kinds of News Articles

This article introduces students to the three main categories of news content:

  1. Basic news articles: They provide fact-based reporting on events currently in the news.
  2. Feature articles: They provide background information, details and/or insights into current news stories, past events or people, places or things.
  3. Opinion pieces (Editorials, op-eds, columns, letters to the editor): They provide a platform for people to express their opinions and give suggestions.

Other kinds of articles like advertorials, sponsored articles, reviews and obituaries are also introduced in this article.

1. News Article (Basic News Article)

The basic news article usually focuses on a recent event and simply tells the reader what happened—that is, the article mainly just reports the facts. The news story may fall under local news, provincial/state news, national news or international news, and the article answers many of the following questions:

  • What (happened)?
  • Who (was involved)?
  • When (did it happen)?
  • Where (did it happen)? 
  • How (did it happen)?
  • Why (did it happen?)

The answers to these ‘Wh+H‘ questions are normally given at the very beginning of the article. The rest of the article gives additional details, with the most important details put first and the least important ones appearing towards the end. This structure is used for two reasons:

  • Readers can get the main information by reading just the first part of the article;
  • Newspaper editors can easily trim the length of an article by cutting off the end of the article.

Here is an example of this kind of a basic news article: www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news/section/4/245047/Flights-on-the-radar-for-2,000-in-mentor-move

Example of the first part of a basic news article

 

Question 1: What are the answers for the six WH+H questions that can be found in the article ‘Flights on the radar for 2000 in mentor move‘? Note: not all of the six questions are answered. You can see the answer here: Answers: Different Kinds of News Articles: Question 1.

Basic news articles are based on fact and are not supposed to show the writer’s opinion; however, news editors and writers choose which facts to present and which people to quote, so even a fact-based article may not be objective. For example, if you read the above article about the government anti-poverty scheme, you will notice that the only people quoted are (1) a government official (who is, of course, very supportive of the scheme) and (2) a member of the Commission on Poverty (which is a government-led advisory body).

 

Question 2. In this article, who else could have been interviewed to get different points of view? You can see the answer here: Question 2 (answer).

2. Feature Article

A feature article is normally longer than a basic news article and it gives more detailed background information and context about people, places, things or events.

2.1 News Analysis

News analysis articles provide insights into events currently in the news. For example, during the last few years in Canada, there have been several incidents in which the remains of large number of indigenous children were found in unmarked graves on or near the grounds of residential schools. Each time a burial site was discovered, the discovery was reported in basic news articles (e.g., www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-remains-residential-school-interior-1.6085990). However, the overall scandal has also been reported in more detail and with much more background information in news analysis stories such as:

First part of the article
Screenshot of part of the article

2.2 Investigative Journalism

An investigative journalism article is a kind of feature article that describes the results of a long-term investigation carried out by the news organization’s own reporters. Investigative journalism is often featured in movies about the news industry—e.g., Zodiac, Spotlight, The Post and All the President’s Men—but it seems to be becoming less common in mainstream media.

Here is an example of an investigative journalism article from 2021: www.nbcnews.com/specials/bethesda-home-girls-stolen-babies/.

One of the most famous examples of investigative journalism is the reporting on the Watergate Scandal in 1972 and 1973 by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post.

 

Question 3. Why are investigative journalism articles are becoming less common? You can see the answer here: Question 3 (answer).

2.3 Profile

These are long articles that give insight into a person, place or organization. Profiles usually begin with something that will catch the reader’s attention, and the content often features interviews. Here is an example of a profile article from the SCMP Young Post: www.scmp.com/yp/discover/lifestyle/article/3190263/lessons-life-and-death-hong-kong-funeral-director

Headline of profile article

The beginning of the article is shown below. You can see how different it is from the beginning of a basic news article. Instead of answering the ‘Wh + H’ questions, it invites the reader to wonder why a funeral planner would be surprised by his own reaction to the death of a relative.

As a funeral planner, Chen Pui-hing is no stranger to death. Still, when his maternal grandfather recently passed away, his bereavement caught him off guard.

“It was a weird feeling,” the 29-year-old said. “But what worried me most was my mother. She was devastated.

I was trying to comfort her while she grieved.”

“Even adults feel like orphans when they lose their parents,” he said.

2.4 Listicle

A listicle is a feature article presented in the form of a list (e.g., ‘Top Ten Careers in 2022‘). These articles are often less serious and don’t go into great detail. Here is an example of a listicle: www.scmp.com/yp/discover/lifestyle/article/3190583/farewell-fear-not-here-are-4-cantonese-slang-phrases-saying

The beginning of a listicle

3. Opinion: Editorial, Op-ed, Column & Letter to the Editor

Editorials, Op-eds, Columns and Letters to Editor have one thing in common: they represent an opinion.

3.1 Editorial

In an editorial, one of the newspapers’ editors gives his/her own personal opinion about an issue. Here is an example of an editorial: www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news/section/17/244950/When-false-info-blows-away-the-facts. You can see it appears in the ‘Editorial’ section and that is is clearly identified as an editorial in the byline (the line that mentions the name of the writer).

Editorial headline

Although editorials represent opinions, the writer often avoids using the first-person pronouns (e.g., I, me my, mine).

Sometimes a news organization will publish an editorial that represents the official view of the media organization itself. For example, during an election a newspaper may decide to officially support one candidate and use an editorial to explain why. Here is an example of an official editorial in the Guardian: www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/28/the-guardian-view-on-asylum-challenges-dont-scapegoat-albanians

Example of an editorial representing the official stance of the news organization

There are three things to note in the above screenshot:

  • The headline states that the article represents the official point of view of the news organization (this kind of statement can also be in the main body of the article).
  • The writer is NOT named.
  • In this case, the editorial is located in the ‘News‘ section. Editorials, however, should probably be located in the ‘Opinions‘ section. This example shows that you cannot rely on the section heading alone to determine what kind of article you are reading

3.2 Op-ed

An op-ed (short ‘for opposite the editorial page’) is similar to an editorial, but it is written by someone who is not an editor at the news organization. Here is an example from CNN: edition.cnn.com/2022/08/28/opinions/zuckerberg-joe-rogan-podcast-remote-work-obeidallah

Example of an Opinion Piece

There are three things to note in the above screenshot:

  • The article is clearly in the ‘Opinions‘ section;
  • The fact that the article is an ‘opinion’ is shown in the byline (i.e., the line with the writer’s name).
  • There is a paragraph giving information about who the writer is and also stating that his opinions are his own (and may not reflect the point of view of the news organization).

3.3 Column

A newspaper or press agency may hire someone to write opinion-based articles regularly (e.g., once a week). This kind of regularly published series of articles is called a ‘column’ (this is because in newspapers, the articles would appear on the same column of the same page each week), and the writer is called a columnist.

3.4 Letter to Editor

These are written by members of the community. In a letter to the editor, the writer gives his/her opinion about a current issue or about an article (or editorial or letter) that was published in the newspaper or on the news organization’s website. Letters to the editor are put in their own section (e.g., www.scmp.com/comment/letters). Not all news publications include a ‘Letters to the Editor’ section.

Here is an example of a letter to the editor: www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/3189914/boosting-urban-farming-will-benefit-hong-kongs-food-security-and

The writer’s name (and often his/her place or residence) is given at the end of the article. For example, here is the end of the above article:

While maximising the use of limited land to produce more fresh food, urban farming can also cut the city’s carbon footprint and increase greenery within the concrete jungle. It is a win-win for Hongkongers and the environment.

Cora Yiu, Tai Koo Shing

4. Other Kinds of Content

The three main categories of articles covered so far—News Articles. Feature Articles & Opinion—account for the most of the content in a news publication, but there are also kinds of articles. I will introduce three of them here:

4.1 Advertorial & Sponsored Article

An advertorial or sponsored article is content that is paid for by advertiser—it is basically and advertisement that looks like an article. The difference between the two types is that an advertorial is written by the advertiser while a sponsored article is written by someone from the news organization. An advertorial or sponsored article looks like a normal article, but there is normally some text that identifies the content as being provided/sponsored/paid for.

 

Question 4. In the following screenshot of the top of a sponsored article in the SCMP, where is the information showing that the article has been paid for? You can see the answer here: Question 4.

Example of an advertorial or sponsored article

 

Question 5. Do you think that this article is an advertorial (i.e., the text is provided by Hong Kong Polytechnic University) or a sponsored article (i.e., the text is written by SCMP staff)? You can see the answer here: Question 5 (answer).

4.2 Review

Many news organizations post regular reviews of movies, music releases, concerts, theatrical productions and/or restaurants. Here is an example of a movie review: www.theguardian.com/film/2020/feb/09/parasite-review-bong-joon-ho-tragicomic-masterpiece

Screenshot of the beginning of the review of ‘Parasite’ in the Guardian

Reviews are very subjective.

4.3 Obituary

An obituary is an article published after someone’s death that tells what happened (like a basic news article), but also goes on to describe what made the person well-known and/or how the person should be remembered (like a feature article). Here is an example of an obituary: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/26/arts/music/26jackson.html

Screenshot of the beginning of the obituary for Michael Jackson in the New York Times

4.4 Other Sections

A newspaper or news website has many other sections, but many of the articles in the different sections still fall with the basic types of articles mentioned above. For example, after a football match, you may first read a basic new article describing what happened during the match (example: ‘Kane double helps Spurs hold off gritty Forest’: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/62621478); and a few hours later, a feature article may be published that gives further information and opinions about what happened during the match (example: ‘Tottenham’s belief growing & Forest looking ‘seriously’ scary’ https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/62709617).

Similarly in a travel section, you may find reviews, basic news reports and feature articles.


Conclusion

Knowing the characteristics of each kind of article can help you determine if an article you are reading:

  1. is mostly fact-based or mostly opinion,
  2. aiming to give you surface-level knowledge or a deeper understanding,
  3. is an actual news article or an advertisement made to look like a news article.

~ by longzijun

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