How to Write for Newspapers

Some of the writing I come across in my  researches is quite outstanding. It is so different from the sort of writing  you see today in newspapers. In the 19th century there was more a  sense of narrative and this lay at the very heart of what they wrote.
When you read something like this in the South Wales Post under the headline The Drowned Aeronaut you forget very  quickly that it is a newspaper report.
It comes from 1896 and  is about a young girl called Mary Waggett…
…living in Wind Bow Cottage in the neighbourhood of  the Powder Houses overlooking the Usk waters, (who) was rambling along the Severn sea  embankment in the direction of the new Nash Lighthouse, when on coming to the  second bay-like indentation east of the mouth of the Usk, her youthful vision  descried a human body, floating in the fast-receding waves. A hasty glance to  make sure of the fact and the affrighted Mary ran back home as fast as her  sturdy young limbs could carry her. She had left the house of her parents with  meandering footsteps, wandering in and out with the twists and turns of the  sea-robbed embankment; she returned straight across the sedgy  moor, jumping waterless rillets and startling  thirsty cattle; and, frightened and excited the panting girl reported to her  mother what she had seen. It was a sailor, she declared, doubtless misled by  the nautical attire of the unfortunate parachutist.
And of course all this took place“within sound of the harsh death-song of the  clanging bell-buoy.”
Just wonderful.
Look at the length of the sentences. They  certainly treated their readers with respect. They expected not only that they  would want to read something like this, but also that they would be able to read  it.
Of course journalists even then were not  adverse to a little subterfuge to get some attention. The sub-heading to the  piece is Swansea Girl’s Sad End.
Well she never was from Swansea and the journalist knew that too. It  was known that she was from Bristol.  In fact, her origins don’t feature anywhere at all in the article. Just a little  to trick to attract a Swansea  audience I imagine. Why let the facts get in the way of a good story? It is  still something that rarely troubles a sub-editor.

This, by the way, is a very good story and it  is due to appear in Welsh Country  Magazine in July I think. So you will have to wait until then to learn the  rest of this sad little tale.

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