An article has the following parts to its structure:
The Lead which answers the questions who? what? when? where? and how? or why? For example, this lead is from a current article in the New York Times.
Congress is about to change the nature of U.S.-Chinese trade ties in a vote supporters say will add a critical element of stability to the tumultuous relations between the world's strongest power and the most-populous nation.
The next part provides explanatory information with a great deal of proof about the issue raised in the lead. In the same article from the New York Times, this would be part of the explanatory section. This change in relations with China is the result of the permanent normal trade relations bill. This section explains what that bill does:
The measure is aimed at opening up China's markets, bringing billions in new business to American companies and making China a more responsible and accountable member of the world community.
A great many other paragraphs develop the significance of this bill. A newspaper like the Times tends to seek a balance in its articles by presenting more than one point of view. Normally the explanatory section states many sides, not just one:
It is opposed by labor, human rights and conservative groups who say it is wrong to give up the annual review of China trade that since the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen student movement has given lawmakers a way to highlight China's weapons proliferation and persecution of its citizens.
If necessary, the next section of the news article provides background or historical information about the issue.
The legislation is a consequence of a trade agreement between the United States and China last fall that opened the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
The article may end with other, less important material that is only secondary to the main thrust of the article.
Despite those benefits, Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., said Monday that it was a "dangerous mistake" for Congress to give away its voice on trade relations when China's security threats and human rights abuses are getting worse.
Often articles have less important information at the end in case the editors need more article to fill space.
Source of the explanatory information was The New York Times on the Web. September 19, 2000. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-US-China-Trade.html. Link is currently active.
Another format for an article that might be useful to Vision is the Wall Street Journal structure:
"Anecdote--Begin with an example or illustration of the theme.
"Explicit statement of theme--The lead. It should be no lower than the sixth paragraph. Sometimes this paragraph is called the nut graph.
"Statement of the significance of the theme--Answers the reader's questions: Why should I be reading this?
"Details--Proof, elaboration of the theme.
"Answers to reader's questions--Why is this happening? What is being done about it?"
Source: Melvin Mencher. News Reporting and Writing. 5th edition. New York: Wm C. Browne, 1991. 101.
Try to find other articles on the web and see if you can identify the various parts of the article. The best way to get a handle on this type of writing is to examine samples from good sources.
Updated on 09/19/00 by Jack L. Carter