Reading feature stories|
News stories are essentially “something happened” stories. They generally begin with a short summary of the main facts in the headline and lead. Then the body tells the story in greater detail. Since news stories come to the main point so quickly, they seem to be in a hurry, written for readers who want to know what happened NOW!
If you turn to the Outlook section of the Bangkok Post, you will find another kind of story known as the feature. Feature stories tend to be longer than news
stories, and they go into their topics more deeply. They are also less hurried and they often deal with subjects that are not found on the news pages. Instead of explaining what happened, feature writers are more likely to tell us what an interesting person or place is like, why a certain fashion or activity has become popular, or how we can improve our health.
The difference in the style and content of news stories and features is obvious from a quick comparison. Look at the two stories below. You can tell the difference from the first few paragraphs.
Sugar farmers get help from banks
Commercial banks yesterday agreed to support sugar cane farmers for the current milling season by accepting cheques at the pre-harvest crop price.
The government asked local banks to assist farmers after the state-owned Bank of Agriculture Cooperatives backed down on the request.
The sugar fund would guarantee cheques issued by millers to farmers, who in turn could cash them in for a discount with local banks, said the industry minister.
Sagging sugar prices led banks to demand a guarantee from the sugar fund to cover credit risk.
The best of the bunch
Most of the housewives in Rajchasarn district of the eastern province of Chachoengsao are small-time farmers. But when they joined together to produce preserved bananas last year, their names became known far and wide.
Last September their kluay ob (baked banana) was served on Thai Airways International. The word was out and before they knew it people were going bananas for their nine products.
And in recent months they have even been approached by a Thai company interested in exporting their products to Hong Kong and Singapore. "It all started with 10 banana trees," said Chintana Tuncharoen, head of the Community Housewives of Rajchasarn district.
In May 1998, the villagers in Chachoengsao answered their governors' call to grow 10 banana trees per household to carry out His Majesty the King's advice on self-sufficiency. Soon each household found they were producing more bananas than they could possibly eat.
"The surplus was too little for the market but much too much to have them rot away," said Mrs Chintana.
The housewives of Rajchasarn district then formed a group in an effort to find a solution to the problem. Preservation was the key. But how when no artificial preservatives were to be used? It could not be on a day-to-day basis like frying or grilling as their farm work won't allow this. And other kinds of preserved bananas like kluay tak (dried banana) and kluay chab (dried banana slices coated with sugar), have been around for a long time. The women decided they needed something more innovative to catch the market's attention. The banana problem turned out to be a provincial one and the governor, Thirawat Kullavanijaya, and the Provincial Community Development Office came to their rescue.
The governor gave them two ovens which cost around 80,000 baht and enlisted the help of the Chulabhorn Research Institute. The aim was to work out a banana preservation programme for communities of housewives throughout the country.
Notice that you could stop reading the news story at almost any point and still have the main facts. The feature story, however, has only just begun. It is clearly written for readers who have the time to sit back and enjoy what they read. Even from the brief excerpt it is clear the
feature story is less formal and the writer is much more involved in the story. In news stories, you hardly notice the writer at all.
Tips for reading feature stories
1. Don’t give up too easily. Feature stories often seem difficult, but usually only the introduction is troublesome. There, the writer tries to catch our attention and some of the
methods used (humour, word-plays or idioms) can be difficult for non-native readers to understand. Once the main part of the feature begins, however — usually after three or four paragraphs — it may become much easier to read.
2. Take advantage of all the help the writer gives you. Pay special attention to the pictures and the captions beneath them. Often the editor provides an introduction as well. For example, in the banana story above, this is how the editor introduced the story.
Outlook features always have a headline that identifies the topic of the story. There is a deck as well. A deck is a sentence or short paragraph that suggests the theme of the story. It is set in large italic type before the story.
ENTERPRISE: A group of housewives have become real high-fliers since their preserved bananas found a place on the Thai Airways International menu. Now other groups want to learn their recipe for success
3. Take a quick look through the story to see how it is organised. Usually a feature will have several distinct parts. Once you see them, the feature becomes much easier to read — a series of short sections rather than one long story.
4. Try to find the writer’s focus. Good writers generally focus on one or two aspects of their subject. It may be a particular habit or characteristic of a famous person, for example, and the writer may give examples of it several times during the story — especially at the beginning or end.
Note: Post Tips, our lesson for teachers to use in their classrooms presented an excellent lesson on feature writing. Check it out here.
For practice in reading and learning vocabulary from up-to-date feature stories go to our weekly Feature Focus column.