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Feature Stories

A feature story is a lengthy piece - television, radio, or written - with human details. It is generally broader than a news story, which focuses only on the facts. Deciding what is worthy of a feature story is difficult. Nearly any story, in the hands of a good writer, can be a feature.

Like other journalists, feature writers cover what they hear about or stumble across - or what their editors tell them to write about. They are looking for good story ideas, and they want to hear from you, especially if your idea matches their interests.

Types of Stories to Pitch

Feature stories differ from breaking news, in that they do not have to be pegged to a specific event or news hook (although they can be). Features are a slice of life, a vehicle for telling the entire story. They should be personal, and touch on the bigger issue you want to get at through the story of one individual, one geographical area, one company or organization. Although they don't have to be timely, they do need to be new or news-worthy. Quirky or colorful stories work well. A feature story should lend itself to more detail, imagery and description than a breaking news story.

Television: Can be a feel-good local news story, or a longer, more serious news magazine piece. These take time.

Print: These can be very diverse, showing up in any section - even on the front page. It might be done as a series of articles or appear in a newspaper magazine.

Tips for Generating a Feature Story

At a newspaper, feature stories are written both by news reporters and by designated feature writers. You can pitch feature ideas to either, but don't pitch the same ideas to both reporters at the same outlet.

Develop contacts with feature writers. Just as with other media outreach, relationships help.

If your feature idea relates to an event, pitch it to feature reporters at least two weeks before the event takes place.

Have information or background video ready. In some cases, a short e-mail or letter followed by a phone call can be productive, as journalists can be difficult to contact on the phone.

As with other reporters, respect deadlines and time constraints when pitching feature writers or producers. Get straight to the point and be concise.

In some cases, you will want to work exclusively with one journalist on a feature story. Use common sense to decide when exclusivity is necessary.

Radio and TV outlets air fewer features than print outlets. But as news contains higher and higher entertainment value, broadcast news outlets air more features. With the right idea and the right visual punch, your feature might be useful for a TV news magazine, local TV news, or national news program.

When pitching feature stories, freelance writers are also a good outlet. You should collect names of freelance journalists who are interested in your subjects. Understand that after you convince a freelance writer to cover a story, they writer must then convince a newspaper or magazine to publish it. This can take time.

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