Monday, February 23, 2009

It's All In the Formula

Every story has a formula or structure. Like a recipe there are certain ingredients that are needed and are placed in a specific order. The prominent newspaper named after one of America's famous street developed a template known as The Wall Street Journal formula. 

The structure of the story includes the following:
-anecdotal or descriptive lead
-the nut graf 
-the body of the story
-the ending (the close of the story usually reverts to the subject that was in the anecdotal/descriptive lead)

As an example, a Baltimore Sun article titled Brushing up on dental care demonstrates the WSJ structure.

The story begins with an anecdotal lead about a dental student who asked a kindergarten class how many times a day should they brush their teeth. The children respond to the question by stating two to three times a day.

The nut graf is presented in the third paragraph as it describes that most children know that answer including those children who come from low income homes and never see a dentist. Furthermore, the Cohn gives a brief description of a 12-year-old who tragically died from infected tooth that was not treated. It expands to the next couple paragraphs as it describes the growing problem of children not seeing a dentist.

The body of the story elaborates on the issues with dental care among children. It discusses the development of the Dental Action Committee, which is striving to get dentists to treat more impoverished children. In addition, it discusses the committee's  accomplishments.

The story finally comes to a close by discussing that the committees seeks funding for an education campaign and then the story reverts back to the death of the 12-year-old boy and then it provides further statistics of dental services among children.


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