I have nothing against essays, but not every writing task requires an essay. I tell my students they will be more successful if they produce a narrative personal essay because it’s the right genre for the occasion, not because it’s the only genre they feel comfortable writing. This handout is my latest attempt to help them see important differences between writing essays and reporting the news.
When you write an essay for school, your reader is a teacher who will give you points for your vocabulary, for your thoughtful reactions to literary passages, and for your defense of your own opinions. Your teachers wants to see how well you, someone they already have personal relationship with, engage with ideas.
Journalists have a different audience. They write for a busy reader who just wants the news.
What matters when it comes to reporting the news is not generalities, transitions, a personal relationships between the writer and reader, or wordplay that shows off the writer’s technical skill. What matters is specific details. —Details Drive the News