Chapter 3 - Article types
Article types are the different genres of text that journalistic writers use to convey their message. Article types can be placed on a continuum between two extremes: fact-based articles and literary articles.
All genres fall somewhere along this continuum (see above) although all genres contain some elements of both of these extremes. As we move right towards the literary extreme, the writer’s voice may be heard more in the text and the article can explicitly argue a point.
Thus article types serve as guides both to the reader and the writer. The reader expects different things from a news item than from a column, and the writer works according to the requirement of the genre in question.
Article types are also a tool for an editor to commission an article from a writer: a detailed article type description serves as a guideline to writing.
See example of a possible brief for a news story in the right column.
Established media may have detailed article types that are well-known “trademarks” of the media and evoke a sense of familiarity and brand recognition from the reader.
Typical journalistic article types you would encounter in the European adult education context include:
- News: the aim is to impart objective, checked (and rechecked from at least another impartial source) information on a topical event.
- Phenomenon/Feature: the aim is togive more in-depth information on a topical trend/ phenomenon. The writer may develop an own viewpoint to the matter but gives the floor to opposing views by e.g. interviewing two opposing opinions.
- Reportage is a journalist’s account of a phenomenon/event with the journalist somehow participating in the described event, e.g. a conference or an adult education class. The aim is to give the reader the feeling of “being there” with the writer.
- Interview: the aim is to cover a certain topic through a particular person’s (the interviewee) viewpoint or expertise. The interviewee may be an expert or an “everyman”, for example a learner. Remember that a one-person interview always presents matters from one viewpoint – the interviewees’ (or actually two, because the interviewer’s choice of questions reflects his/her viewpoint). The interviewee is often also unlikely to say anything critical of their own actions or the organization they represent. This is particularly true when interviewing politicians or civil servants. You can always improve an interview by introducing more interviewees, preferably from opposing viewpoints or ask an objective party for a commentary.
- The interview (as a method of inquiry) should not be confused with a portrait. This is a story type that introduces a particular person to the reader, often including elements of his/her life story, values, work etc.
- Popularisation of research. Many adult education professionals are in touch with new research publications and other events in academia. Many may be researchers themselves. If you are asked to write about research to a journalistic media, bear in mind that your reader is not academic. You need to forget the conventions of academic writing. You must “translate” the content of a particular piece of research to the greater public. The most straightforward way to do this might be interviewing the researcher and asking him/her about the most interesting results of a particular research, what new information this brings to the field and how might this new knowledge affect the practice of adult education. You will then write an article based on this information. Note that you might not even use one sentence from the academic research paper you are covering in the finished article. Do not assume that the reader has previous knowledge of the topic, remember to explain central concepts and avoid jargon.
- The how-to article is a genre which aims to explicitly educate or help the reader in some issue. It presents a problem and then suggests a very concrete solution to it. Sharing of good practices is very important in the European adult education field, and although good practices may feature in any article genre, there is always a “how-to” element involved when writing about them. (more of this in the special info box on writing about projects)
- Personal commentary is contentsuchas columns and blogs. In this genre you can freely express your own ideas, experience and personality, often also humour!
Articles about projects
Almost everyone working in the adult education sector today has sometime been involved with project work. To write such articles is a special challenge. It is very important that any author is aware that a project article must be completely different from a project report.
More about articles about projects
Rules of thumb
Some general rules of thumb when you are writing in any of these genres for online publications:
- write concisely
- keep it as short as possible
- use subtitles
- insert links where relevant
- catch the reader’s attention with catchy headlines and text beginnings.
length: 500-800 words
illustration: photo related to the news event, a person
elements: catchy title (not exceeding 50 letters!), intro, text, subtitles
aim: Provides information and/or commentary from an AE angle on a topical event, phenomenon, trend (something that is happening right now or something passed but which still has impact). “Inverted pyramid”-structure. Start with what has happened, why you are telling the story. Make sure you answer basic questions: What, where, how and most importantly why. Put background information to the end of the story. National or European scope but national events must be relevant for the European reader.