News writing covers the journalist’s basic craft: how to write compelling stories that grab the reader from start. Crafting the first sentence is the crucial skill: summarising the story as concisely and dramatically as possible. Peter has written plenty in his time as a domestic and international reporter, often under intense pressure, and he brings all his experience to bear. The course demonstrates how to structure stories, the use of great quotes and telling detail, and the importance of the famed six key questions reporters must deal with: what, why, when, how, where, and who – and Peter will argue that the most important of these is the “why?” This is a heavily practical day, using writing exercises to reinforce the key points. It is especially useful in showing specialist writers how to find strong stories in their chosen territory, and will help all delegates become confident in making news judgments.

The course runs at two levels, basic and advanced. For reporters already confident in their basic techniques, Peter will take delegates into the theory and practice of complex news structures, covering such topics as: stories with twin themes; event and significance (‘what’ and ‘real what’); look-ahead leads; the use of chronology, or keeping ‘when’ straight; background and context; how to handle running stories; and questions of jargon, accessibility, and reach. It discusses how to handle different kinds of evidence and how to use the key terms of attribution. It looks at the role of the news feature and how the genre is defined.

The advanced course is suitable for experienced reporters as well as for sub-editors and editors seeking to extend their skills in handling contributors’ stories. It draws on Peter Gillman’s experience of writing lead stories and news features for the Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday and others.