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Planning A Typical Article

The process of gathering, evaluating, and organizing material may best be shown by a concrete example.

example. The publication in a New York paper of a news story to the effect that the first commencement exercises were about to be held in the only factory school ever conducted in the city, suggested to a special feature writer the possibility of preparing an article on the work of the school. To obtain the necessary material, he decided to attend the exercises and to interview both the principal of the school and the head of the factory. In thinking over the subject beforehand, he jotted down these points upon which to secure data: (1) the origin and the purpose of the school; (2) its relation to the work of the factory; (3) the methods of instruction; (4) the kind of pupils and the results accomplished for them; (5) the cost of the school; (6) its relation to the public school system. At the close of the graduation exercises, he secured the desired interviews with the teacher in charge and with the head of the firm, copied typical examples from the exhibition of the pupils' written work, and jotted down notes on the decoration and furnishing of the schoolroom. Since the commencement exercises had been reported in the newspapers, he decided to refer to them only incidentally in his story.

After considering the significance of the work of the school and what there was about it that would appeal to different classes of readers, he decided to write his story for the magazine section of the New York newspaper that he believed was most generally read by business men who operated factories similar to the one described. His purpose he formulated thus: "I intend to show how illiterate immigrant girls can be transformed quickly into intelligent, efficient American citizens by means of instruction in a factory school; this I wish to do by explaining what has been accomplished in this direction by one New York factory." He hoped that his article would lead readers to encourage the establishment of similar schools as a means of Americanizing alien girls. The expository type of article containing concrete examples, description, and interviews he concluded to adopt as the form best suited to his subject.

The average length of the special feature stories, in the magazine section of the paper to which he intended to submit the article, proved to be about 2000 words.

In order to accomplish his purpose in an article of this length, he selected five main topics to develop: (1) the reasons that led the firm to establish the school; (2) the results obtained; (3) the methods of instruction; (4) the cost of the school; (5) the schoolroom and its equipment.

"What part of my material will make the strongest appeal to the readers of this newspaper?" was the question he asked himself, in order to select the best point with which to begin his article. The feature that would attract the most attention, he believed, was the striking results obtained by the school in a comparatively short time.

In reviewing the several types of beginnings to determine which would best suit the presentation of these remarkable results, he found two possibilities: first, the summary lead with a striking statement for the first sentence; and second, a concrete example of the results as shown by one of the pupils. He found, however, that he did not have sufficient data concerning any one girl to enable him to tell the story of her transformation as an effective concrete case. He determined, therefore, to use a striking statement as the feature of a summary lead.

From his interview with the head of the firm, and from a formal statement of the purpose of the school printed on the commencement program, he obtained the reasons why the school had been established. These he decided to give verbatim in direct quotation form.

To show most interestingly the results of the teaching, he picked out four of the six written exercises that he had copied from those exhibited on the walls of the schoolroom. The first of these dealt with American history, the second with thrift and business methods, and the third with personal hygiene. For the fourth he selected the work of a woman of forty whose struggles to get into the school and to learn to write the teacher had described to him.

Figures on the cost of the school he had secured from the head of the firm according to his preliminary plan. These covered the expense both to the employers and to the city.

His description of the schoolroom he could base on his own observation, supplemented by the teacher's explanations.

For his conclusion he determined to summarize the results of this experiment in education as the firm stated them on the commencement program, and to give his own impression of the success of the school. Thus he sought to give final reinforcement to the favorable impression of the school that he wished his article to create, with the aim of leading readers to reach the conclusion that such schools should be encouraged as invaluable aids to the Americanization of alien girls.

Reference book: How To Write Special Feature Articles

Tags: writing, articles, magazine, Reading,

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