News Feature Stories and Ideas That People Will Remember

A photo of a camerawoman recording video of a child playing a violin
Merten Snijders/Getty Images

These days, news feature stories sometimes take a backseat to breaking news. However, while most media outlets make breaking news coverage a priority, those that also strive to present compelling feature stories can carve out a special niche with viewers or readers. This can develop a loyal following.

Think of the late Charles Kuralt at CBS News or Jeanne Moos at CNN. They have such a knack for writing, interviewing and weaving video and sound throughout their stories that it becomes an art form.

While some people shy away from feature stories because they say they want to be known for hard-hitting reports, it's often fear that they can't match these storytelling abilities.

True, it's easier to report the facts of a news conference than to craft a feature. With a little work, though, most reporters can do a decent job of presenting the occasional feature.

Find a Great Subject

Feature stories can be funny. They can tug at the heartstrings. Or they can simply just be interesting, telling you something you didn't know or had never thought about.

If you can't find that 5-year-old math whiz or the athlete who overcame cancer to win a title, look around. Find unusual stories about everyday people. Like the school cafeteria worker who's been in the kitchen for 40 years. Or a class of young ballerina dancers. Maybe a person who trains dogs to compete in agility competitions.

These ideas won't come from news releases you get by email.

You'll find them through your own community involvement. It's up to you to meet people in your city and get to know them. Through these conversations, you should discover a plethora of story ideas.

Let Them Tell Their Story

What makes feature stories come alive is allowing the person you're interviewing to share their story in their own words.

Avoid rushing someone through the details of how they make wooden rocking chairs. Let the words flow naturally.

Reporters should ask the person questions like, "Why have you dedicated your life to making rocking chairs?" "Why not regular chairs?" "What does each chair say about you?" or other probing questions. Yes, you'll have to ask factual questions about how long it takes to make a chair and what kind of wood is used, but don't forget to try to reach for the emotional connection between the person and their love of what they're doing.

This conversation will likely not be completed in 15 minutes. So if you're used to blazing to a news scene, asking three questions and then flying back to the newsroom or to another assignment, you'll have to alter your own behavior to slow down and listen to what the person wants to say.

Stay Out of the Way of Your Writing

Then comes the time to put your feature story together. You also don't want to rush through this stage of the process.

A TV news reporter should let the person do most of the talking in the story, rather than writing a lot of narrative copy. A print reporter should include longer quotes or more of them. The reporter's writing should just be focused on connecting the person's soundbites or quotes together to form a cohesive report.

The writing you provide will allow your creative juices to flow. You aren't just retelling facts, but you are weaving a story together. Just don't let your writing to overshadow the person you're spotlighting.

Not every reporter has the skills to be good at features. If you can highlight interesting people and let the audience get to know them, you'll develop an ability that will serve you well throughout your career.