Journalists, like detectives, are well aware of the five W’s: who, what, where, when and why. These are the basic questions a reporter must ask when gathering information for an article, whether it’s a lengthy feature or a news brief. The answers, often located in or near the first paragraph, create a framework by providing an article’s essential details.
Let’s take a look at how the five W’s were handled in the USA Today blurb pictured below.
Along the coast of California
She heard married people live longer and get tax breaks, and
she was facing pressure from family and friends. I kid! She was in love, of
Note that I listed the when
twice. I didn’t have to. Neither did USA
Forgive me for putting a Weird Al spin on an Elton John
lyric, but Saturday’s not all right
for writing — not twice in the same sentence, anyway. Take a day-in, day-out
approach. Keep one Saturday, but give
the other a rest. Invoke a Saturday
Page 1 of its “Life” section
Monday, Sept. 15, 2014
The writer included Saturday
twice in the same sentence.
Sometimes an H (how)
is added to the five W’s. The H in this instance remains unanswered. A few
theories, in order of likelihood: 1. The writer originally included a time
element only after family, but after
reviewing the sentence decided the when
would sound better at the end of the sentence. He inserted two words after California but forgot to delete the
original Saturday reference. 2. The
oversight was made in haste, minutes before a looming deadline. 3. An editor,
distracted by images of Lauren Conrad, relied on spell check and didn’t closely
examine the sentence.
How … unfortunate.