Feature writing – journalism

Recently, there has been a lot of press interest in our ed-venture around the UK. Our story appeared in a local Nottingham paper in September followed by some of the national papers soon afterwards. The Telegraph has been very supportive of our family stories in the past and have previously sent a couple of reporters to camp out in a local woods with us and scoot around the city. The focus this time was on our decision to up sticks and travel around the UK in a caravan, “road-schooling” the girls.

Annabel Venning, reporter for the Telegraph, travelled up to Birmingham (where we were staying for the Motorhome and Caravan Show) and spent the day with us at a local city farm. As well as learning about how a city farm is run and its successes and pitfalls, the girls also received a lesson in how write features from Annabel.

So what did Amy and Ella learn about feature writing while on a day out with Annabel Venning?

Lessons learned:

⦁ Feature articles are written in the past tense because they usually focus on events that have happened. Annabel Venning not only wrote features for two national newspapers but particularly enjoyed historical features. These required a lot of research prior to writing.

⦁ Getting started is sometimes the most difficult part of any written piece. When the girls asked for tips on how to get started, Annabel explained that feature articles plunge immediately into the action, in order to grip the reader from the very beginning. She illustrated this with a reference to a feature she had written about the tale of Moby Dick in which her feature began with a dramatic description of the whale attacking the ships.

⦁ Even though a feature article is a factual piece of writing, Annabel stressed the need for descriptive language. She explained to the girls that the writing should try to paint a picture for the reader and therefore the language had to be chosen for effect.

⦁ When asked to write a feature, Annabel has a word limit to stick to; this is mainly to do with the amount of physical space that the text will take up on the page. It is important to stick to a word limit otherwise you have the difficult job of having to cut it down or pad it out.

⦁ Another thing to stick to is deadlines. If deadlines aren’t met in the world of journalism then newspaper pages are left blank and jobs can be lost! This isn’t a worry for Amy and Ella but the pressure of time is important consideration.

⦁ Annabel explained that her role sometimes involves writing articles for others; this is called “ghost-writing”. As a ghost-writer she writes articles that are then credited to other people, such as celebrities. The process involves talking to the person to gain as much information as possible then writing the article as that person.

Amy and Ella both enjoy writing and were keen to get tips from an experienced journalist.