The 7 Key Presentation Elements of a News Story

I’ve been looking over a lot of news stories lately — as an award judge, as a grant recipient and a journalism professor — and I’m realizing there are a few items I want to see on every story. I may be unique in this. But, boy, gimme these and I’m a happy judge/editor/professor/reader:

1. A lead. The who, what, when where at minimum. Add the how and why if needed. One paragraph. No anecdotes.

2. Links from every relevant proper noun to a very brief reference card about the person or organization.

3. A timeline. How’d we get here? Where are we going?

4. A map.

5.  An FAQ. 

6. A search form. Backed by a relevant database.

7. A hosted, asynchronous discussion. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or article comments. Just make sure it’s truly hosted by a knowledgeable human being adept at using conversation to clarify and verify rather than merely amplify assertion.

Now, I know from watching site metrics and studying award patterns that these aren’t the seven elements that most people prefer. Maybe four.

1. A number — or the words “How to…” — in the headline.

2. Breaking News. Often of relatively small increment.

3. Photos.

4. Something to click.


How about you? What presentation elements do you find yourself seeking out? Are there elements you see showing up repeatedly in award-winning pieces or audience favorites?