Feature samples

Here are some feature samples:

Historical feature, such as this one. The 50th anniversary of the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.

Adventure feature, an exciting or harrowing experience like this one about a boy lost in the waves. 

Seasonal features: tied to season or holiday like Mother’s Day

How to do it features, like a health story about how to breath properly.

Occupation or hobby stories. How about this story of a 17-year-old rock climber.

Behind-the-Scenes feature, like this one on staging a ballet production

Here is a trend story on Sriracha sauce0002446306109_500X500


A profile on author William ZinsserAutosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH




A feature on a newsworthy place, a kitchen for food start-ups.




Focus Words

When you construct a sentence, where you place certain words and phrases can add impact and help focus the story. It can also help naturally transition you into the next sentence.

Think about our in-class exercise on a feature, narrative lead. Here is the story.

The [steps] leading to Ted Drake’s Wesley Neighborhood apartment can be [treacherous]. Duct tape keeps the bannister in place and the wood step risers are warped or loose.

The [conditions inside] get even [worse].

His kitchen is infested with mice and roaches. The bathroom lacks electricity and Drake has to wash his face by candlelight over a stained sink.

“It’s a dump,” said Drake, a senior at Towson University majoring in architecture. “But it was the cheapest thing I could find.”

Drake’s story is becoming all too common. Each year, dozens of unsafe apartments in Wesley and nearby neighborhoods are being rented to area college students.

The words “steps” and “treacherous” are placed at the beginning and end of the sentence to add impact and reverberate in the head of the reader. Just by placing them there the reader WANTS to know just how treacherous these steps are and what specifically about them makes it so. The next sentence provides that and you don’t need an intervening sentence or phrase to transition you there. The transition is natural and invisible, the way good writing should be.

Likewise, the focus words “conditions’ “inside” and “worse” lead the reader to the next paragraph and set of details. In essence, they foreshadow what is to come. The reader is expecting you to take them inside and show how bad the conditions are in there. Again, no awkward transition needed, the copy just flows.

When you’re building a story, try to find the right focus words and placement for them to move the story forward and lead into details.


The Q&A

The Q&A feature is due Nov. 11. I want you to interview a newsworthy, or just interesting, person on your beat(s). Look for a news hook. Why this person, and why now? For example, you might interview the director of a theater group pegged to the opening of its season, or a faculty member who just won an award. Maybe an athlete who just won a competition. Or perhaps it’s timed to the season. For instance, a political science professor who could discuss the upcoming elections, or a pumpkin farmer. It’s always better to have a focus for your questions.

The format will be

• Headline (For example: A Q&A with political science professor Nick Reynolds)

• Photo of the person. (Try to capture their personality. This could be a tight shot, or include some background if you think it helps tell the story.)

• A short intro (A couple of paragraphs of information/background on the subject and the topic to lead into the Q&A. This gives perspective.)

• At least five questions and answers. Like I said in class, you might need to ask 8-15 questions during your in-person interview to get five good ones that make it to print. It’s standard to get some clunker answers. Try to ask open-ended, direct questions. Engage with your subject. Research the person beforehand to ask informed questions that show the subject you’ve done some homework. Here’s a sample of how to format the Q&A.

Q: What scares you?

A: Bats. I’ve always hated them. I have this irrational fear of them dive-bombing me and scratching at my head.

Here are some Q&As to get a sense of the format and see what works. There’s plenty more online, just start Googling:

Baltimore Sun Q&A with photographer Niger Barker

Washington Post Q&A with Rosetta Stone chief

Esquire Q&A with comic legend Frank Miller

NPR Q&A with writer Laura Wexler

NPR Q&A with photographer Harold Feinstein

The Oklahoman Q&A with AHL goalie Bryan Pitton

Not a Q&A, but listen to how the journalist elicits answers in this feature on NPR Music.