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Features

  • News stories with attitude
    • Have a news peg and a focus, usually featured in lead
    • Longer, with more detail and description
      • Human side of news along with facts, using quotes, vivid verbs and descriptive writing

  • Narrative: strong lead
      • Immediately back up lead.
        • How industrial production has affected wheat products, such as flour and bread.
        • Who the scientist is: Stephen Jones, director, Bread Lab, (later) Washington State University.

      A tall rectangular building juts out of a mountainside on a Norwegian island just 800 miles from the North Pole. Narrow and sharply edged, the facility cuts an intimidating figure against the barren Arctic background. But the gray building holds the key to the Earth's biodiversity.

      The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, built in 2008, stores more than 850,000 seed samples from nations all over the world. Extending nearly 500 feet into the mountain, it's intended to safeguard the planet's food supply and biodiversity in the event a doomsday catastrophe like nuclear war or crippling disease wipes out varieties of plants. Crop Trust, the company that runs the seed vault, says on its website that the vault is "the final backup”:

      ….

      But now, less than 10 years after the opening, officials are preparing to withdraw seeds for the first time. What apocalyptic event prompted the removal of some of humanity's food backups?

      The Syrian civil war.

      [followed by quote about not expecting this so early]

  • Features
    • Timely and answers the W’s fully.
      • Involves interpretation, style, imagery, description and emotional appeal
    • Still has a point summarized in a “nut graf” (engine paragraph).
    • More freedom in structure

  • Beyond IP
    • Narrative
    • Storytelling, often chronological
    • Strong lead
    • Central theme
    • Aim for the heart as much as the brain

    Bread is Broken

    Industrial production destroyed both the taste and the nutritional value of wheat. One scientist believes he can undo the damage.

    [Nut Graf] …The Bread Lab’s mission is to make regional grain farming viable once more, by creating entirely new kinds of wheat that unite the taste and wholesomeness of their ancestors with the robustness of their modern counterparts. …

    [Conclusion] ... ‘‘Our job at the Bread Lab is not to get all religious on 100-percent whole wheat.’’ Then he caught himself. ‘‘Although,’’ he continued in a quieter voice, ‘‘I guess we do.’’

    Ferris Jabr, New York Times Magazine, Oct. 29, 2015,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/magazine/bread-is-broken.html?emc=edit_th_20151101&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=70122391

  • Immediately back up lead
    • How industrial production has affected wheat products, such as flour and bread.
    • Who the scientist is: Stephen Jones, director, Bread Lab, (later) Washington State University.

  • Narrative (chronological)

  • Once upon a time, the government of the United States sought ways and means to achieve negotiated reductions in stockpiles of nuclear weapons through the verified destruction of such weapons.
    In 1965, US Ambassador to the United Nations Arthur J. Goldberg presented what was known as the "Transfer" proposal, under which the U.S. would transfer 60,000 kilograms of weapons grade uranium to nonweapons uses if the Soviet Union would transfer 40,000 kilograms.

    In order to assess whether nuclear weapons could be verifiably destroyed for this purpose without disclosing sensitive design information, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the Defense Department conducted a field test of the process in summer 1967.

    The 1967 Cloud Gap Field Test-34 was "an investigation of the demonstration of the destruction of nuclear weapons by visual observation, use of radiation detection equipment, inspection of X-ray plates of weapons, and laboratory analyses of the resulting fissionable material.”

    Today, Cloud Gap Field Test-34 is scarcely a footnote in the history of nuclear weapons and national security, a road not taken. Yet in its unusual dedication to the empirical testing of policy options, Cloud Gap may still have something to teach.

    Secrecy News, Sept. 7, 2005

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  • Other story structures
    • Eye-witness event
      • If journalist, then first person
      • If another witness, then extended interview
        • One exception to the general rule of not allowing a source to see the article before print

      The earth only shook for minutes, but what it unleashed would devastate this nation.

      I was touring the Kadena Air Force Base -- the largest in the Pacific, on this island in the country’s southwest -- when the earthquake hit.

      It struck at 2:46 p.m. on a beautiful, sunny Friday, with several strong aftershocks, one measuring a 7.4-magnitude about half an hour after the initial quake. People dove under desks in Tokyo high-rise office buildings or ran out to the street. Ceiling tiles shattered to the ground at subway stops. Cars toppled from bridges into the sea.

      Hagit Limor, Scripps-Howard News Service, March 11, 2011

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    Winter's Tale

    The muddy waters of Mosquito Lagoon cloaked the baby dolphin in invisibility.

    She was two months old, 68 pounds, a bottlenose dolphin in perfect miniature. Inches from the dark surface, she thrashed in a snare of rope that bent her like a horseshoe, mouth to tail. She was down to one instinct: Breathe. Again and again, she fought to the surface. She gasped. She went down again. The sea waited to swallow her.

    That was the end of one thing and the miraculous beginning of another.
    ...


      • Show people doing things (discerning eye)


      • In the lagoon, he could see a line of crab pot buoys, all tilted over with the wind. He looked again — something weird there.

        One buoy was tilted opposite, into the wind.

        He motored toward it. The lagoon was just a few feet deep, but the water had churned into a brown chop. He couldn't see whatever was pulling the buoy over.

        He heard before he saw: a heaving, desperate gasp.


      • Let them speak (discerning ear)


      • In Orlando, a guy named Kevin Carroll heard NPR's version on his car radio. He called David. He introduced himself as vice president of a national company that makes artificial limbs — Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics.

        "I can put a tail on your dolphin."


      • Underwrite: Let the action and dialogue carry the piece, and keep the piece moving.


      • ...
        The first time they put the tail on her, an audience of trainers and Hanger technicians hovered…. Winter kicked off her new tail, let it sink to the bottom of the pool, picked it up in her mouth and fetched it back to Abby.

        Abby put the tail on again.

        Winter fetched again.



    • Organize the piece based on your PLAN!
      • Central idea should have potential for drama, conflict, excitement and/or emotion.
      • Key points
        • Good quotes stating the point
        • Colorful illustrations, anecdotes and examples

        • At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Katrina peeked into a dolphin tank.

          "Did I just see a stub?"

          The dolphin was "a little girl" like her, an aquarium worker told her. She had lost her tail and nearly died when she entangled herself in rope from a crab pot. This girl dolphin was named Winter. She had a prosthesis of her own, a plastic tail, that helped her swim.

          Katrina crept to the tank's edge. Winter came to her. She stopped. She lifted her head. She made eye contact. She seemed to be speaking to Katrina:

          We're the same.

          For two years, it has been one child after another. They've showed up on prosthetic legs, or in wheelchairs, or sick from cancer, or hearing impaired, all hurting or struggling in some way.

          Sophie, 3, from Texas.
          Heath, 5, from Orlando.

          No one anticipated these kids when the aquarium launched a project to fit a baby dolphin with a prosthetic tail. But the list keeps growing.


    • Features: Structure
      • Introduction, body, conclusion
        • Best for chronological or narrative
        • Reinforce point of story in conclusion
        • Background
          • Don't bunch it
          • Weave throughout story

      • Topically
        • Most common; related topic by topic
      • General to specific
        • Good for something new or technical.
        • General background written so easily understood

      • Functionality
        • Tells what something does and relates it to a larger function.
      • Anecdotal, suspended interest, profile, Q & A.

      • Issue or trend feature
        • Lead—person or place affected by issue
        • Quote—person affected, about the issue
        • Nut Graf—what issue or trend is
        • Background—history, data
        • Development—quote different viewpoints
        • Scenelet—another person or place affected
        • Look Ahead—timetable or predictions
        • Kicker—quote or scenelet


    • Organizing the story
      • Identify all themes/points
        • Summarize in a few words, a sentence or two
      • Organize the points as you want them in the story
        • Try to find a natural order
        • Can change if organization does not flow

      • Put notes with themes
        • Mark high-quality notes for quotes or emphasis
      • Look for major theme that will serve as lead
        • Keep this theme clearly in mind throughout writing
        • Toss out material not relevant to this theme

    • Features: Characteristics
      • May have subheads to guide reader and help organize story.
      • More description of places, actions, people
        • Rely on nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs
      • Usually more quotations
      • Lead should draw in reader
      • Body should not disappoint
      • Conclusion should resonate
        • Avoid superfluous and/or unjustified conclusions

    Winter looked happy. She glided around the pool like a diva, flirting with her human admirers. But Dan was more concerned about how Katrina looked. He and Kevin didn't like the prosthesis she wore. The protective covering for her skin was missing. She had blisters. She complained it didn't fit right. Dan looked it over, frowning.

    "How about I make a new one for you?"

    In October, Katrina came to Dan's Sarasota lab for fittings. She stayed a week as he labored on a complicated design, intent on preventing those chronic fractures and blisters.

    He worked on it all week. He secretly borrowed Katrina's favorite T-shirt from her mom. He sewed it over the top of her new prosthesis.

    He unveiled it at the end of the week. It was pink and purple. The lettering was bordered by sea shells.

    It read: Winter.

    From "Winter’s tale: A dolphin in distress,"
    St. Petersburg Times
    , Dec. 7, 2008
    http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/article927462.ece


    • Profile
      • A type of feature that focuses on one person
        • Birth to present
        • Focus on specific aspect of life
        • Narrative: strong lead

        • Most of us don't enter upon our life's destiny at any neatly discernible time. Jane Goodall did.

          On the morning of July 14, 1960, she stepped onto a pebble beach along a remote stretch of the east shore of Lake Tanganyika. It was her first arrival at what was then called the Gombe Stream Game Reserve, … She had come to study chimpanzees. Or anyway, to try.

          Casual observers expected her to fail. One person, the paleontologist Louis Leakey, who had recruited her to the task up in Nairobi, believed she might succeed.

          Fifty years ago Louis Leakey sent her to study chimpanzees because he thought their behavior might cast light on human ancestors, his chosen subject. Jane ignored that part of the mandate and studied chimps for their own sake, their own interest, their own value.
          ...

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  • Feature conclusions
    • Summary
      • Summarize point, keying on impact, effects, outcome
    • Tie-back
      • Complete idea or scene planted in lead

    • ...

      While doing that, she created institutions and opportunities that have yielded richly in the work of other scientists, as well as a luminous personal example that has brought many young women and men into science and conservation. It's important to remember that the meaning of Gombe, after half a century, is bigger than Jane Goodall's life and work. But make no mistake: Her life and work have been very, very big.

      From: Being Jane Goodall: 50 Years at Gombe,
      National Geographic, October 2010


    • Wrap-up
      • Tie up loose ends, answer question or solve problem
    • Climax
      • Natural ending to chronological story
    • Unending ending
      • Key question unanswered, gets reader involved
    • Stinger
      • Surprise ending, jolts reader

As a writer I’ve been told certain things I can never forget. Here’s one.

In 1989 I went to Montgomery, Alabama, to write about Maya Lin’s newly dedicated memorial to the men and women and children who were killed during the civil rights movement.

Lin’s earlier Vietnam Memorial, in Washington, D.C., broke the mold of heroic statuary–an infantryman with a rifle, a general on a horse– and enabled Americans to heal through their fingertips the wounds of a war that had torn the nation apart.

Her new monument was no less a tactile transaction between the fingers of the living and the names of the dead.

Maya Lin’s memorial has two components. The first is a nine-foot wall, on which are carved the words

. . . UNTIL JUSTICE ROLLS DOWN LIKE WATERS

AND RIGHTEOUSNESS LIKE A MIGHTY STREAM

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

… Water spills down the wall, over the words.

… (goes on to describe memorial)…

…Twenty of the entries denote landmark events of the movement. The rest record individual deaths, such as the bomb-explosion killing of four little girls in a Birmingham church and the murder of Emmett Till for whistling at a white woman.

A thin film of water rises slowly out of the center of the table and flows over its surface, barely covering the names.

Visitors to the memorial move slowly around the table, pausing to read and to touch the names under the water, often talking to each other. The monument moves to its own found rhythms.

At first, Maya Lin told me, she spent several months just thinking about the civil rights movement, “waiting for a form to show up” and wondering if it ever would.

“The discipline,” she said, “is to not jump too fast. If you jump to a form too quickly it won’t have the understood meaning you want for it.”

Finally the day came for her to fly to Montgomery to inspect the site, and it was on the plane, reading a book called Eyes on the Prize, that she came upon the phrase about justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

“The minute I hit that quote,” she said, “I knew that the whole piece had to be about water.”

But she didn’t anticipate the power that words combined with water would generate.

“At the dedication ceremony,” she told me, “Emmett Till’s mother was touching his name beneath the water and crying, and I realized that her tears were becoming part of the monument.”

William Zinsser, “Like a Mighty Stream,” in
The American Scholar, July 2010
http://www.theamericanscholar.org/like-a-mighty-stream/

  • More on features
    • For a great feature on rampaging elephants worldwide and what it means, be sure to read “An Elephant Crackup?”
      • Attacks by elephants on villages, people and other animals are on the rise. Some researchers are pointing to a species-wide trauma and the fraying of the fabric of pachyderm society.
  • http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/08/magazine/08elephant.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

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