Here’s a guide on feature writing for press conferences:
Feature writing is the news written as a story in the third person. It is a piece that focuses on a specific place, time, event, person, or topic. It also tends to be longer than your typical news article or explainer.
Many might find this weird, especially in the age of TikTok, shortform, and microwriting, but it is the best way to tell the news through human eyes and displays the human emotion and condition in the most accurate and engaging way possible.
In the past, people would use the word “colorful” to describe feature writing. While this is still the case due to the prominent presence of the feature in magazines, longform publications, books, and other media, the correct term to describe features would be creative nonfiction (more on that in a moment).
There are a metric ton of ways to write a feature: The judge will, of course, define the approach that needs to be used in this context. You can use humor, statistics, interviews, quotes, observations, field research, general knowledge, and localization to supply and enrich the material for your story. Once again, make sure that the facts are right, or you will immediately go to the seventh layer of hell.
And since it is creative nonfiction, you are free to use the elements of fiction. In fact, this is what distinguishes feature pieces from all other types of journalistic writing: You tell a story, but with facts!
On the level of the writing itself, here is a format:
- Paragraph 1
- Quote 1
- Example 1
- Detail 1
- Paragraph 2
- Quote 2
- Example 2
- Detail 2
- Paragraph 3
- Quote 3
- Example 3
- Detail 3
- Finishing Context
DO NOT FOLLOW THIS FORMAT STRICTLY. THIS ONLY SERVES AS A VISUALIZATION. I am not kidding here. There are many ways to skin a cat!
The length of the feature is similar to the column: 500 words at the bare minimum, especially for Facebook-native publications. 750-850 words is the normal one for newspapers, while some feature articles can go up to 1,200 words AND BEYOND. The world’s best feature writers could really make up books out of a complicated technical feature (an example of such an author will be given down in the later paragraphs).
Now, do you want to write a feature? Read newspapers, magazines, books, websites, and any material that has feature pieces on it. Wait, there is a catch:
Remember the part when I said features are considered to be creative nonfiction? There is a lot of creative nonfiction out there, in Filipino, English, and local languages. You just have to google the term “creative nonfiction (insert year/place/language/author name here)” and you would be able to find a lot of examples. Alternatively, you can buy books from UP Press, Ateneo Press, UST Press, 8Letters, Fully Booked, and so on.
Let us begin where to read: While features and opinion pieces are not the same, Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Young Blood publishes a good amount of creative nonfiction. Then, once again: read the feature pages of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Manila Times, and Rappler to see how their writers compose their features. They even have their own branded pages such as Young Star, Philstar Life, Panorama, etc..
International? Read the New Yorker. Read the winners of the Pulitzer Prize. Read William Langewiesche – he is one of those people who could make a book out of a feature, make technical things simple and interesting, and really leave you hooked to the end. Read Patricia Evangelista (search her and her articles on Google) – she is Filipina, and she really shook the world with her features and storytelling. There are many others, but it is your part as student journalists to research further and not be spoonfed. Hahaha!
Facebook-native? Once again, Transit Dialog, but be careful as they also publish column/satire/poetry/fiction/hybrid pieces. The country’s literary journals (Likhaan, Tomas, Entrada, and many, many others) also have repositories of creative nonfiction. Maghanap na lang kayo!
You thought reading news items, copyediting using AP guidelines, practicing photography principles, and slogging reading on scientific material was hard? Try actually reading features (and taking critical notes on them + their storytelling styles) and you will see why features are among the hardest nuts to crack in a press conference.
Finally, buy books. No, seriously, buy the journalism and campus journalism books available in the Philippine and international market, especially ones that focus on features. Going one more step forward, buy creative nonfiction books. They will not just help your student publication, but also your school, your English department, and your other friends – the principles in them are also applicable to general nonfiction writing as well!
To summarize: A feature article is a creative nonfiction piece written in the third person, with you as an observer. It can be short, but it is typically as long as a column and can be the length of a book. It has to contain the elements of fiction (character, theme, conflict, etc.), and it should use both the “show” and “tell” techniques of writing. Finally, it should show your voice, your observations, your learnings, your context, and your perspective – as a story. If necessary, write simple, but strong.
Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor in the press conference! Let the games – este, writing begin! And don’t forget: If you practice and focus, writing features is just as easy as eating peanuts and drinking Mogu-Mogu!