Assorted tips from a longtime writer

By Bob Batz

March 12, 2014

How do I write a newspaper story?

That’s the question most wannabe writers ask as soon as they sit down at their computers or typewriters in hopes of putting all the right words in all the right places.

One thing to remember is to have fun doing it.

The thought behind that is if you don’t have any fun writing it, there’s a real good chance your readers won’t have any fun reading what you wrote.

I cranked out my first newspaper story for my high school newspaper in 1956 and I have a sneaky feeling it wasn’t a real good story but the newspaper published it and the groundwork was laid for my career.

The first rule of thumb- no make that MY first rule of thumb- is to keep it short and keep it simple.

That’s especially important if your goal is to catch reader’s eyes right at the beginning.

The shortest and best lead – the opening paragraph of a story - I ever wrote (in my opinion) topped a piece about a women’s knitting club that met once a week to … well … knit.

My two-word first paragraph was “Knit Happens.”

My editor liked the lead. So did quite a few readers because they sent me notes to tell me so.

When I was a young reporter at a daily newspaper in Flint, Michigan many, many moons ago my editor who we called “Mac” took me aside one day to tell me my lead on a recent story was much too long and far too complicated.

Mac was one tough cookie when it came to leads on feature stories.

“Batz,” he shouted at the top of his lungs across the newsroom, “Get over here!”

Then he proceeded to tell me the lead on my story was too long.

“The next time you write a lead on a story think of K.I.S.S.”

which stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid!” he said.

Then, after a lengthy pause, he added “Don’t challenge your readers. Just keep your stories tight (short), right (correct) and tonight (on deadline).”

Bob Batz is an area resident and guest columnist. Contact Bob at bbatz@woh.rr.com.