The Basic Requirements of News Writing (Part 1)

The main purpose of our writing news stories and other articles is to facilitate our carrying out the duties of Fa-rectification period Dafa practitioners. Of course, experience sharing among practitioners is also important. The success of our efforts can in some ways be measured by whether or not articles touch readers' hearts, how much of the articles they read, and what kind of impression the articles make on them. We don't necessarily have to restrict ourselves to professional journalistic requirements while writing, yet perhaps knowing the basic requirements of professional journalism is not only in line with ordinary people's ways, but also has the effect of validating Dafa. Not only do we write articles, we also want to achieve a considerable degree of positive effect with them.

1. Be Specific About Who the Readers Are and What Messages Are Conveyed

There are at least two basic requirements to meet when writing an article. One is the understanding of your readers. Another is to be specific in regards to your message.

One thing that may be overlooked by writers is a clear picture of potential readers. Practitioners are not the only readers. If an article is published on Minghui/Clearwisdom (This is a very well-known and very well-established Dafa website), for example, perhaps it should be targeting all people who might read these articles, either directly or indirectly. Minghui/Clearwisdom readership includes three main groups: practitioners, everyday people, and those who are persecuting Falun Gong. An article may need to address all three types of readers and appropriate wording should be considered to do this. Of course every article has a focal point. If an article is targeting non-practitioners, does it address the public in general or government officials who need to understand the truth?

If one does not seriously consider one's readership before writing an article, the article will reflect this, and as a result, the article might not be understandable to all readers. There might be some words for practitioners, some words targeting everyday people, and some targeting those misguided people who persecute us. Consequently, the article may not have the greatest effect because it doesn't focus on one type of reader. On the other hand, if one understands one's readers and their characteristics and knows what messages to convey, writing an article will definitely become a lot easier. It will also be easier for people to read and quickly understand your articles.

The message a writer needs to convey in news writing should be expressed in a concise, absolutely clear, and easy to understand manner through description of facts, interviewees' words and quotes from other sources.

2. Authenticity of News Writing

News writing is mostly about reporting on the facts of recent events, with the aim of letting people know what happens in society. News writing is different from writing prose or poetry, so it does not need the extra "artistic" effort. The facts are presented right up front in the main body of the article. The writer's subjective speculations, opinions and assumptions cannot be reported as fact.

The most basic requirements for news writing are authenticity, objectivity and clarity.
Dafa practitioners are cultivating "Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance." Therefore this article addresses the basic requirement of authenticity.

Authenticity generally refers to the six basic, essential elements of news writing such as people, time, place, event, cause and process/outcome. (Editor's Note: In English, this is often referred to as the Who, When, Where, What, Why and How). The news put together by these basic, essential elements should also enable readers to make a good judgment about an event.

For example, over the past four years, practitioners in Mainland China constantly face the topic of people being killed or tortured for practicing Falun Gong. To report this news, they need to present the basic news elements like people, time, places, incidents and so on, they also need to guarantee the authenticity of the information and the outcome. If a person practiced Falun Dafa but later gave it up under pressure and he or she eventually died because of the recurrence of illness, we can say that this person lost his or her life in the persecution, but we cannot mislead readers into thinking that somehow this person died because he or she was a Falun Gong practitioner.

Similarly, if in a complex environment a person deviated from the righteous path of cultivation and took a detour, and encountered tribulations and died, we should not describe him or her as a Dafa practitioner who steadfastly walked his or her cultivation path and died as a result of the persecution.

People who commit suicide should not be reported as Dafa practitioners who died because of the persecution. Otherwise, the news story will lose its authenticity. Moreover, it is disrespectful and unfair to genuine Dafa practitioners who have died because of the persecution. For example, in the past a monk in a temple violated the precept of not killing. Because of the serious nature of this crime, he was driven out of the temple and was no longer recognized as a disciple of the temple. In addition, when reporting incidents and people that bring great losses to Dafa and other practitioners due to having an everyday person's state of mind, we need to write with proper restraint and viewpoint. We cannot give his/her tribulation a favorable interpretation simply because he/she used to practice Falun Dafa, otherwise the whole article will lose subjectivity and authenticity.

For instance, when the Chinese government's media reported on Dafa practitioners' TV broadcasts to clarify the truth, they used the tactic of separating the relationship between the action and the fundamental cause of the action. Although the people, time, places and events all seemed to exist, they failed to mention the real reason for the broadcasts to be done. Their report totally lost its authenticity, which subsequently misled readers into an incorrect conclusion.

On the other hand, distorting the relationship between an incident and the fundamental cause of the incident can also make a news story inaccurate. For example, after a person started practicing Falun Gong, he greatly benefited from the practice. Later a large scale persecution occurred and there was a lot of pressure in his environment. During this time, he did not let go of his attachments to career, fame, wealth and other ordinary mentalities. While having such attachments he got himself imprisoned and many Dafa practitioners were persecuted and many real Dafa projects were damaged because of him. Therefore, if after reading our news report, our readers came to the conclusion that this person was sentenced for practicing Falun Gong or this person was sentenced for doing Falun Dafa work, then we have to say that our news report was misleading. This is because the news report left readers with an impression which contradicted the original, actual occurrence of the incident.

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