News writing training – 4 elements to start your own area news outlet

News writing is a skill that anyone with a reasonable grasp of the language can master. The problem is; what do you do with that skill once to attain it?

The obvious answer is to seek out professional news organizations to publish your work and pay you for your efforts. However, for those just starting out on a freelance writing career, this is not always practical.

It takes time to build up contacts in the publishing industry. You need to show editors that you can write news according to acceptable news writing standards as well as having a body of work they can refer to.

One way is to start your own online newsletter with stories about what is happening in your area. Remember John Boy and his own newspaper in “The Waltons”?

Simply register a website and start posting news articles on a regular basis. What constitutes news would be entirely up to you. You could limit it to family affairs (Eldest son grounded for a week after breaking curfew), your neighborhood (Dog owners urged to clean up after their pets) or expand it to the wider area.

Of course, the bigger the issue, the more credence it would have with the professional journalists you are trying to impress.

The main thing is to get into the practice of writing news and going through the process of delivering news on a regular basis. You could update it daily, weekly or even monthly. Here are four items you could consider as regular sections in your news website.

Lead story – this is the main story of the day, week or month. It is equivalent to the front-page lead of a major newspaper, except the news is to do with your area. It may be a big gathering, a political event, a crime or somebody from your neighborhood performing a major feat.

Briefs columns – this is a popular feature of all magazines and online news outlets. These are columns with clever titles containing several short articles that can draw a loyal following. It could be gossip, tips, brief news, humor, diary or anything that is interesting and can be sustained in every issue.

Profiles – this could also be a regular feature in your news website. You could choose anyone you would like to interview for each issue. It could be the local headmaster, the police chief or area sports star. Human-interest stories are always popular and profiles of ordinary people will enhance your website.

Opinion – you could have one or more strong opinion columns. You could write it yourself or invite someone of relative influence to give his or her views on issues affecting your area.

Your news website could be as serious or as fun as you want it to be. Its main function, though, is to help you practice your news writing skills, which involves a standard formula that all journalists use. This is important when you learn how to write like a journalist because editors expect proper news writing structure when they accept articles. You never know, one of your stories, if it is big or interesting enough, could be picked up by one of the major daily newspapers.