News articles and press releases

A news article is a short text published on a communications channel such as a newspaper, magazine or online media. Sometimes called ‘hard news’, a news article presents the facts briefly and simply.

A press release, also called a media release, is a short text that an organisation provides to journalists and news organisations to announce news or an event. The news outlet may simply publish the release, or follow up and produce its own story based on the release. The organisation may also send the release to staff or stakeholders, or publish it on its website or social media.

News articles and press releases follow a similar structure and approach.

This section covers:

Typical structure of a news article or press release

This form of writing generally uses the opposite structure to reports or papers. Rather than starting with the premise, working through the discussion and coming to a conclusion, news articles and press releases usually start with the conclusion:

News articles

A news article has a standard structure. This is different from the structure of other types of media articles such as feature articles or editorials, whose structures depend on the news outlet and topic (see Media and communications for more information on other types of media writing).

The general structure of a news article is as follows:

  • Headline – a clear, descriptive title.
  • Lead (or lede) – the first sentence or paragraph, which will often try to answer the ‘5 Ws and 1 H’ (who, what, why, when, where, how)

Geoff Bloggs was rescued by emergency workers after falling over a loose guard rail at the Blue Mountains on Thursday.

Environment Minister Edward Ang will present the awards for research excellence at the national marine science conference being held at Questacon this week.

The Muscrag Valley bushfire, which has been burning in the Collaroy National Park for almost a month, has been downgraded to patrol status after days of heavy rain.

  • Main text – the rest of the text. This does not have a specific structure – it expands the lead, and information should be included in order of importance. In traditional print media writing, if articles needed to be shortened to fit in a particular space, they were cut from the bottom, so placing things in order of importance meant that the least important items were cut.

Did you know? The word for the beginning of an article or press release is variously spelled lead or lede.

The story goes that lede was used in newspaper rooms to avoid confusion with lead, meaning the metal strip separating lines of print. However, there is some debate about whether this is true, or just a romantic fiction.

Today, either use is correct. Lede is usually seen in the phrase bury the lede, which means failing to put the most important part of a story up front.

News articles are usually short (less than 1 page), but this depends on the topic and the style of the publication:

Local students plant natives to reduce town’s water usage

Students at Nungudga Primary School have been busy planting native gardens at the town’s roundabouts and garden boxes to reduce water usage during the drought.

Principal George Barambah said the students had become interested in native gardens during recent lessons on climate adaptation.

‘Many of our students come from farms that have been doing it tough during the drought, and even the town students have been affected by the regional water restrictions. So water use is very much on everyone’s mind’, said Principal Barambah.

‘In our lessons, we found that climate change means that we are likely to see less rainfall in the future. We talked about how using plants that were used to low water levels meant that we can still enjoy a garden, but use less water.

‘The students quickly figured out that natives are the answer.’

The students set up a project to install and maintain the town gardens, using plants supplied by Nungudga Town Council.

Students also plan to share detailed lists of the plants they are using to encourage Nungudga residents to reduce their water usage by also planting natives.

‘Emu bush, myoporum and westringia are all well suited to local conditions and are very low maintenance’, said Principal Barambah.

Mayor Connie Heggart said she was very grateful to the students.

‘It’s great to see our local students working out solutions to the challenges we face in climate change. Moving to low-water, low-maintenance gardens is an excellent step forward, and I look forward to seeing the gardens flourish’, Mayor Heggart said.

Press releases

The general structure of a press release is as follows:

  • Top of the release – includes the source of the release (your organisation’s name or logo), and the words Press release or Media release.
  • Embargo – the date and time that the story can be published. Only use an embargo if you want to give journalists time to research and prepare a story before publishing (eg if you want the story to be published at the same time as an announcement). If you do not have an embargo, you can leave this blank or say For immediate release.
  • Title – a brief and catchy heading that grabs readers’ attention.
  • Basic information – inclusion of the city, state or country (depending on whether the release is being sent overseas) and date of the release in bold at the start of the first paragraph is sometimes useful (eg Sydney, Australia, 13 April 2018 – Yoghurt might be the answer to Australia’s rabbit problem, says a recent ANU study.).
  • Hook – something interesting in the first paragraph to grab the reader and make them want to keep reading.

Tip. The main differences between news articles and press releases are the title and the hook. Press releases often try to grab attention by using a quirky or attention-grabbing heading or first paragraph. News articles are much more straightforward.

  • Main point of the story – event, discovery or announcement, and an explanation of why it is important.
  • Timeliness – what is happening to make this a story now (an event, an award, a publication).
  • History of the event or topic.
  • Who is involved – people or organisations. Include properly attributed quotes from the people involved, wherever possible.
  • Where to from here – the future of the project or event.
  • Contact details – phone details for someone the journalist can talk to about the story (eg For further information or to arrange an interview with Mr Chernov, contact 02 6123 7970).

Press releases are usually only 1 page long:

Wattle Lake Council


Bushwalkers bring a bag to tidy up the trails

Wattle Lake, 13 April 2020 – As you head out the door for a bushwalk, a few items are a given: a water bottle, a hat and comfortable shoes. But residents of Wattle Lake are asking walkers to consider tucking one more item into their pockets: a small disposable bag for picking up litter.

The residents are part of a growing local community group, Tidy Tracks, which is urging walkers to pick up litter either on their own walks or as part of the group’s organised outings.

Tidy Tracks members have pledged to leave bushland in a better state than they found it in, every time they take a walk, and hope others will do the same.

‘So many of us live in this area because we love nature’, said Sophie Barnes, the group’s social media coordinator. ‘But it’s sad to see how much rubbish people leave behind. Coffee cups and plastic wrappers belong in the bin, not on our bush tracks. We’ve made a simple pledge: that we’ll bring an empty bag with us on our walks, take rubbish home and dispose of it responsibly.’

The group has more than 500 members on Facebook, and organises walks in local bush areas.

Wattle Lake Councillor, Anika Khatri, recently joined the group and says it is encouraging to see how quickly the group is growing. ‘We are also keen to find people in other communities who might like to start their own affiliate groups’, says Ms Khatri.

Information about upcoming walks and resources to help other groups can be found on the council website (

‘We’d like to encourage members of our community to join us for one of our walks’, said Ms Khatri. ‘Or just go ahead and take a bag with you on your usual walk. It’s so satisfying to see it fill up and realise that you’ve taken all of that rubbish out of the natural environment.’

For more information or to organise an interview with Ms Barnes or Ms Khatri,
call Wattle Lake Council Media Officer: 0431 234 789

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Tips for writing a news article or press release

  • Think about
    • Why is it important? (Is it new or a first, for Australia or the world? Will it change our lives? Does it affect many people?)
    • Why is it interesting? (Is there a human angle? Is it visually interesting? Is it topical?)
  • Be thorough with research and sourcing. Make sure your information is sound, and the audience knows where it came from.
  • Write clearly. Use short or even single-sentence paragraphs to engage the reader’s attention.
  • Use as little jargon as possible.
  • If you are writing about a specific technical field, think of what is known outside the field and what you need to explain.
  • Where technical words are essential, translate them into concrete examples or analogies.
  • Do not oversell. It can be tempting to oversell a story to grab attention. Make sure your story is accurate and balanced (see Media and communications for more information on key challenges for this type of writing).
  • Use anecdotes and human interest stories.
  • Use colourful, ‘dinner party’ images (see Tips and tricks for writing for more information on this writing tip).

In a media release talking about fitting contact lenses in Japan, the researcher first wrote:
Japanese eyeballs flatten more slowly than Caucasian eyes, resulting in a steeper periphery.
The PR writer edited this to:
Japanese eyeballs are shaped like tennis balls, whereas Caucasian eyes are shaped more like footballs.

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