April 29, 2014
Prepare your story for print publication
Reporters and journalists work with a tool known as the “inverted pyramid” in mind; it is a mainstay of traditional mass media. For the general public, the inverted pyramid is also known as a funnel.
When looking at an inverted pyramid, or a funnel, the broadest section is at the top. This is where the most important information should go. Similar to the construction of a news release (see “The anatomy of a news release”), the headline, subhead and lead are at the top. Less important information is closer to the bottom.
The inverted pyramid made its debut when people communicated regularly using the telegraph, when a connection might drop at any moment. The person sending the telegraph would first include the essential information in the transmission if the additional information was not delivered to the receiver.
Today, if a reporter writes a story that doesn’t fit, an editor can cut from the bottom up to fit the publication's needs. With the inverted pyramid, editors know they can remove the less important information from the bottom of the story without changing the substance or ruining the flow.
Some people find the inverted pyramid to be uninteresting and unappealing, but the news isn’t meant to be a mystery novel; if a piece didn’t list the who of the story until the end and 15 words needed to be cut for it to fit, the reader would never know who the story was about. The beauty of the inverted pyramid is that it flows and reads well, and is universally utilized in print publications worldwide.
Most commonly, you will find the inverted pyramid in print publications. Online publications do not have to worry as much about length and size constraints, so those writers can write more stylistically than the inverted pyramid allows.
As public relations professionals, we at Axia Public Relations are mindful of what reporters and editors look for in stories, so we constantly strive to present the best product to the client and the media. It isn’t always an easy balance between client and media, but our jobs are a little easier with tools like the inverted pyramid.
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– Marjorie Comer is an Account Manager at Axia Public Relations. She graduated from Rockhurst University with a Bachelor of Arts in communication on a media track. Marjorie proudly supports her Kansas City sports teams. Her colleagues nicknamed her “The Hammer.” Follow her on Twitter @Marjorie_Comer.