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THE WORLD OF FEATURES

Features are fantastically flexible. They can be short or long, trivial or profound, sombre or light-hearted. Ideally, they are always fresh and display some flair.

1. NEWS FEATURE / BACKGROUNDER/ ANALYSIS Print medias Newsnight or Inside Out. Most common category. Examination/analysis of current issue or event deserving of further development: how something happened and why it matters. A crash course in a complex topic for readers in a hurry. Usually requires rapid research and hastily conducted interviews, most often with experts as well as people directly affected. Interpretative, explanatory and reactive. Can run on news pages as companion piece to straight, hard-news coverage.

Your feature must: be fresh and analytical/observational, bringing together background information and relevant research to provide more depth and context than standard news reports. incorporate quotes from case studies and others (eg. experts) whose perspectives on the issue count. These dont need to come from face-to-face interviews but can be obtained through telephone interviews or email exchanges. build in relevant background information which you can get from a variety of sources, including online archives. But it must be much more than just a cuttings job!

2. PROFILE Probably best-recognised form of feature and most popular, as people are fascinated by other people. Everyones got a story to tell, but some of us are more fascinating (or newsworthy) than others. Profiles often about public figures, seeking to reveal the private person behind the public mask, but can also be about unusual people, heroes or fools. A good profile reveals feelings, exposes attitudes, captures habits and mannerisms. In-depth profiles can take days, even weeks, to assemble. You need to trawl through archives and consult family, colleagues and friends (past as well as present). This can depend on access. Most crucial element is probably interview with the subject. Ideally, the writer wants to spend several hours with profile subjects, talking to them (on and off-the-record) and observe them in surroundings that contribute to their prominence, or private surroundings that offer insights into what theyre like off the public stage. Profiles can also offer a human microcosm of a larger issue or problem. 3. HUMAN-INTEREST A catch-all tag applied to almost any feature story with a strong human element. Can also be a slice of life story, showing how real people survive or thrive in a particular environment usually a situation thats tragic, amusing, odd or inspirational.

4. PERSONAL NARRATIVE / EYEWITNESS Writing in the first-personal singular is normally discouraged, but star writers (such as AA Gill of the London-based Sunday Times) are often encouraged to adopt this mode because the way they tell it is the main

selling point. This approach can be the best way to convey the drama if the subject has a gripping tale to tell. Such stories are often ghost-written.

5. COLOUR STORY Capturing the flavour of mood of an event a festival, a funeral, a strike, a disaster and conveying the scene by interviewing key participants and describing the sights, sounds and smells. These can appear in the news section but can also be a timeless, stand-alone feature.

6. LIFESTYLE Issues and trends that affect our bodies (fads in fashions and fitness) or our minds (goals, relationships, jobs, families). Feature writers tell us about the way we live now and swiftly spot changes in lifestyles, reflecting on everything from the degrees were studying for to the decor were favouring. Such features are often served up in in specialist supplements on health, education, science and technology etc. These are often accompanied by tips on how to get the most out of your life, your budget etc... Along with brief consumer guides, such features (or accompanying boxes) often supply ratings.

7. SEASONAL Hardy annuals or perennials, these features tap into the mood and concerns or readers are particular points in the year. Eg. Christmas, summertime, back to school etc... Once again, they often offer practical advice on how-to-do-it (eg. How to file a tax return).

8. FLASHBACK/HISTORICAL

Historical features (usually hooked on an anniversary) seek to put current events, individuals or circumstances into some sort of longer-term perspective. They remind a community or the entire world where it has been and where it might be going. Local newspapers are often approached by groups and individuals with yellowing newspaper clippings who wish to see a local volunteer group or whatever commemorated. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 next year well be swamped with stories recreating what precisely happened on the day, what has unfolded since, why it was important then and why it still matters.