How to write that winning article

Every second month the NPC runs a journalism competition for full time members. We asked Ntando Makhubu, news editor of the Pretoria News to give us some tips on how to write a winning article. These tips will also be useful for any journalist competing in the ever increasing freelancing market or just to revisit your journalistic principles. She also gives advice for journalists wanting to enter the monthly competition.

As a news editor – what would you say comprise a “perfect” or winning article?

A perfect winning article is one that addresses the full range of issues around a story: first and foremost answering the five pertinent questions each story must answer: the 5 W’s and an H. Then it must absolutely be topical, talk to the heart of an issue, the heart of a community and be one a wide range of the population understands.

It must be well researched, balanced and must never ever be from an era gone by.

What advice do you have for journalists wanting to enter the NPC Journalist of the Month competition?

I would advise them to be active members of the National Press Club because that helps them understand the value of networking for any journalist It will also give them an insight into who else could be entering. Knowing and understanding the competition always helps.

Do you have a motivational message for your journalists about the industry?

Journalism is a calling, more than a career choice. One has to have the passion to work with people, to work long hours and put in the hard extra work, to enjoy it. It must never be about glamour or something to fall back on, because it can be frustrating – both to the journo and the media house they work for.

And finally, can you still remember your first big news article as a young journo?

It was a story of babies dying in a state hospital, dying in their numbers from one common thing – lack of facilities. And by facilities I mean people, life-saving equipment and care from management and the department. It really only started off as a story of a young girl talking about how her pre-term baby had died when she suddenly rushed to hospital, to uncover a bigger issue: many mothers going there on referral, to find that their babies had no chance as staff worked overtime, was fatigued and equipment non-functional.