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Resources for the modern journalist. From Loose Wire

Chunks

Chunks are the building bricks of a story. They are made of sentences—sometimes one, sometimes more. Each one fulfils a specific purpose in the story. By breaking down a story into chunks we can compose a story more quickly and get its important parts onto the web.

Not every reader may notice where one chunk finishes and another begins, but you should, and your editor should be able to.

In a news story, the formula is (nearly) always the same (I’m assuming here that the editor writes the headline)

  • Chunk 1: Lead. One sentence. It sums up the most important information in your story. If it’s the only sentence your reader reads, it should be enough for them.
  • Chunk 2: Context. Two or three sentences of background and/or important detail that couldn’t be included in the lead.
  • Chunk 3: Quote. A quote that backs up the lead and preferably adds weight/information to Chunks 1 and 2.
  • Chunk 4: Flesh. Detail and more sources: Stuff that is vital to understanding the story, balance where necessary (government comment, other sides’ point of view, or more quotes from other sources to show you’ve not just got your information from one person.)  Each chunk should finish with a quote if possible.
  • Chunks 5 and on:  Nearly always more of Chunk 4. Each chunk follows the same formula: sentences conveying information, quote to hit the point home.

In a feature story or a profile, the lead may not be the first sentence. But it’s still there. All you’ve done is put an extra chunk before the lead chunk.

Here’s an example of chunks in action.

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