Exploring Magazine Writing
Magazine writing is a form of journalism. According to Webster’s Online Dictionary, ‘journalism is the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media.” It’s characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation. It’s writing that’s designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest.
Journalism, except for editorials and reviews, is to be objective, meaning the writer’s opinion is left out and only the facts are presented. The writer does his/her best to present the facts from both and/or all sides of an issue, using the five “w’s” and “how.” The journalist asks, “Who, what, when, why, where, and how?”
Journalistic writing is condensed so you can get a great deal of information in a limited amount of space. Adjectives and adverbs are limited, generally using those that create “word pictures” in the reader’s mind. Also, the “to be” verbs such as ‘is,’ ‘are,’ ‘was,’ and ‘were’ are replaced with active verbs such as walks, rides, skates, lives, exists, eats, and so forth. Active verbs usually paint more of an image in the reader’s mind. Also, general nouns, such as dog, horse, man, woman, are replaced with specific terms like poodle, draft horse, father, mother, etc. Journalistic writing is at a level of readability so that the general public can read it (about 8th grade level). Jargon and special terminology are limited and those terms should be expressed in a manner that the public can understand.
Journalists use a writing method called “The Inverted Pyramid” whereby the most important facts of a story are presented first and any other related details or information is presented in the order of its importance. The Inverted Pyramid method allows a publisher or editor to leave out the bottom part of the story and not leave out the most important facts and information. This is particularly useful if the publisher or editor has too much written material and needs to shorten articles in order to fit them into the publication.
A newspaper is a paper that is printed and distributed usually daily or weekly. It contains news, articles of opinion, feature stories, advertising and possibly fillers like cartoons, crossword puzzles, etc. A newspaper’s main goal is to get the news out to its readers accurately and quickly. Generally newspapers don’t have nearly the number of photographs and colored pages as do magazines.
A magazine is a periodical containing a wider variety of articles, poems, stories, etc. and often those are illustrated with photographs and/or graphic designs. Magazines usually take on a book form but are also published online. Magazines focus on a wide variety of news and special interest topics (like sports, handicrafts, home and family issues, political and religious views, etc.).
Before writing articles for magazines, the writer needs to study those magazines that he/she would like to write and submit articles for publication. The writer also needs to check out the periodical’s ‘writer’s guidelines’ and see what type of stories the publishers want for their magazines. If a writer does not do his/her homework, the chance of receiving rejection slips increases because the writer’s story may not focus on the exact topic the magazine wants.
Magazine Exploration Activity:
For our activity, we are going to study a magazine to see what we can learn about it. What topics does it cover? Who is the magazines target audience? What do I like/dislike about it? Does it accept stories from freelance writers? Is this magazine one that we would want to submit articles too for publication?
When exploring a magazine and/or considering submitting articles to it, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the title of the magazine? Does it have a subtitle?
- What is the date of publication, the volume number, and the issue number? How many times a year is the magazine printed?
- What is the main subject/topic that the magazine focuses on? Is it a topic I would like to write about?
- Who is the magazines target audience? Is it for children, teens, adults? What level of reading comprehension is needed? Is it specialized or can it be easily read by the public?
- What demographic area does the magazine serve? Is it local, regional, national, world-wide? Do they have a web page?
- Who is the organization that publishes the magazine? What is their purpose for it? Who are the publisher, editor, writers, designers and contributors? What is their worldview?
- Is the magazine cover attractive? Does it clearly portray the purpose and appeal to the target audience? Does it entice the reader with photographs and alluring story titles?
- Is the table of contents clearly organized and presented or is it buried in advertisements? Is it easy to find the story you want to read?
- Are the news and feature stories informative, interesting and useful to the publication’s audience? What about the tips and information in the various departments?
- How do you think the magazine is supported? Does it rely on advertisements or donations? Does it offer subscriptions?
- Do you see any major design or organization issues? Are the stories easy to find and read or are they chopped up because of advertisements? Do the stories and features stand out more or do the advertisements overpower them? Is the design pleasing?
- What is your overall opinion of the magazine? Present some positives and negatives; conclude with your overall opinion. Do I want to read and write for this publication? Do I want to recommend it to one of my friends?