A common mistake in media writing is to simply throw out some information in the form of an article or blog, without first developing a compelling angle. A lot of people don’t really know what it means to have an angle, and if you are a blogger, it’s an important concept to understand. Having an angle will make your writing more focused and make your readers actually read what you write.
First, angle most certainly does not mean the same thing as bias. This is an all-too common misconception. Having a bias means skewing a story or omitting facts to push an agenda, whereas angle means the way a writer frames a story.
Having an angle is essential to any coherent narrative—it is what defines the direction the story will take, what questions are being asked and why the issue is important and newsworthy. Of course we will likely be taken as biased if we are writing on the behalf of a company that is trying to market a product or service, but we can still give legitimate and compelling information.
Many new reporters and bloggers make the mistake of simply trying to write on a subject without giving any hint of why that subject deserves to be written about. This may sound like a strange problem, but it is common. When it comes to covering events or writing features, it’s all too easy to write a 700-word description or history instead of writing a newsworthy story.
Finding an angle means going beyond the plain facts of the subject. It means figuring out what questions need to be asked to shed new light on an issue. You have to figure out what that issue is and how it relates to the subject, or vice-versa. The important part is to learn how these two can work together to build a focused narrative that makes the story both newsworthy and compelling.
Let’s say we are writing a story about Washington State’s new candy tax. What is the story going to be about? What should it say? What story needs to be told?
We could list when the tax was passed and what items are included. That’s good information, but anyone can look up that information online. It really doesn’t make for a very interesting or original story. We need to dig a little deeper. We realize that there is a small candy shop in town that has been around for decades, but will, for the first time, have to share part of its candy profits with the state. Now the reporter has a subject, the tax, and a timely issue, how it is affecting this local candy shop.
From there, we can find out how this candy shop, which has never before had to deal with sales tax, is adapting. How are customers reacting? What are some of the repercussions, and what does it mean for the future of the candy business? We can look through the candy shop’s lens to form an angle and build a story about this big issue.
The same principle can be applied to writing blogs. Try to tell your reader a story. Let the narrative drive what you are trying to get across, even when promoting a product. Give some real-world issues and realistic problems and present your product as one of the solutions. Being descriptive is important, but if you want your readers to listen, find a compelling angle and tell them a story.