How to write a good reportage

In journalism, one distinguishes between different text genres. In this author tutorial, we will deal with the supreme discipline of journalism: reportage. We give you the most important tips for writing a good reportage.

What is a reportage??

Reportage is a mixture of narration of experiences and factual reportage. Reportage, like commentary and reporting, is an informative type of writing. You illuminate a particular topic intensively from all sides. Illustrate a fact by means of concrete examples, fates or persons.

The author describes facts from his or her perspective; however, he or she writes a reportage not as a report, but as a narrative. So he underlines data and facts with his impressions and observations- but not in a judgmental or commentary form. For a report to be authentic, the author describes details that make a situation characteristic and unique.

The special art of writing reportage is to present a content or an event in such a way that the readers get the feeling that they were there. In this type of text, the author is the eye of the reader. You are allowed to include subjective impressions in the reportage, but you have to leave enough space for the readers to make their own judgement.

The goal of a reportage is to inform the reader about a certain topic and to entertain him at the same time.

What is the content of a report?

Whether it’s the refugee crisis or early retirement, in principle any topic is suitable for a reportage. However, the be-all and end-all is always the intensive study of the respective topic. As the author, you will convey your own impressions as well as the collected data and facts as vividly and in as much detail as possible. Readers have the opportunity to see behind the scenes of an event and broaden their horizons. To make the content as authentic as possible, you should try to perceive the situation vicariously for your readers with all their senses.

How is the report structured in terms of content??

Basically, the reportage does not follow a strict Structure. However, there are some points you should consider as a writer. It’s important to have a recognizable thread that provides your readers with an ongoing arc of suspense. However, this does not mean that the order of what is described must be chronological. In order to inform the reader comprehensively, the author should address the seven W-questions in the text:

  • What (has happened)?
  • Who (is involved)?
  • Where (did it happen)?
  • When (did it happen)?
  • How (did it happen)?
  • Why (did it happen)?
  • What are the consequences (of what has happened)?

These questions do not all have to be answered at the same time. However, it is helpful if you answer the first three to four W-questions at the beginning to introduce the readers to the action and make them curious. To ensure that they get all the answers to these questions, it is important to have a well thought-out structure. Therefore, we would like to give you a few tips for the beginning, the course and the end of a reportage.

Writing a good report: the right introduction

The reader’s curiosity should be aroused by an exciting introduction. Here, for example, the author describes a pithy situation, puts forward a provocative thesis, or states the central message of the text. No matter how the introduction of the reportage is designed, it should be as scenic as possible. That is, you write as detailed and pictorial as possible. In this way, you bring the reader close to the action and try to create a picture in their minds. To help your readers identify with what you’re describing, it’s a good idea to introduce people, places, or situations right at the beginning.

Check out these two sample openings that authors use to introduce their reportage scenically:

The forest, which became the terror of a modern state, is lightless and almost impenetrable. Many people in Nigeria believe that if you get caught up in it, you’ll never get out again. It is said that a curse from the past lies on it. The Sambisa forest is the last of its kind.

Sweating and silently cursing her way up a steep hill, past brush and plastic garbage, Kadiatu Lansana runs after a plague she cannot stop.

Many authors also work with the so-called kitchen call when starting a reportage. It is a short and concise sentence that you could say to your partner in the kitchen to tell him something relevant.

The progression

In the main part of the report, you get to the heart of the story. It sets out the background and facts of an event or topic. To support your findings, use the background knowledge you’ve gathered, as well as facts and figures. Here you can also quote experts or people you have interviewed. Here it is a good idea to include answers to the W-questions "How??“, „Why?“ and "What consequences?“ to give.

In order to make the main part as versatile as possible, it is best to create variety in the selection of individual segments and scenes. You can do this, for example, by switching between different perspectives of the participants or locations to make the text more lively for your readers. Quotes make the events much more tangible to your readers in the process.

Cleverly used time jumps or opposing viewpoints of people can also create suspense in this section of the article. Limit yourself to a smaller number of storylines and be sure to address and resolve them all at the end.

The conclusion

A good conclusion stays in the reader’s mind. Therefore, the end of a reportage is crucial for the overall impression. Therefore, it should round off the whole story, for example by adding a punch line, or by the author revisiting the initial situation and looking at it from a new angle. The reportage can also be concluded with a conclusion by the author or a future outlook, z. B. through an expert, concluded. But what’s most important is that the ending makes an impact and leaves a lasting impression on your readers. The conclusion also offers you, as the author, the opportunity to draw a conclusion as long as you leave enough room for the reader to make their own judgment.

An example from the "Suddeutsche Zeitung"-Magazine for a conclusion, with which the author gives an outlook on the future of those involved:

Emma will still be carrying the mattress around campus until the end of her studies, which will be next May- or until Paul is expelled from the university or leaves voluntarily. Paul doesn’t want to do her this favor, though. »I have a right to this education", he says. The excitement is not over yet.

What style of language do I use in a good report??

Reportage thrives on its clear and pictorial language. Expressive verbs and adjectives make the text lively and exciting. It is detailed descriptions of the author’s impressions and observations that make a report unique. Here, it is important not only to mention details, but to paraphrase them precisely – so precisely that readers can see them in their minds before them. You should appeal to as many of your readers’ senses as possible. So don’t just share your visual impressions, but also what you feel, smell, hear or taste, depending on the topic.

Write instead: „Thick drops fall from the dark, cloudy sky.“

To make the event seem present, you usually write reportage in the Present tense. If it’s more about illuminating backgrounds in the course, the past tense is suitable, i.e. the Preterite or the Past perfect tense. However, the author’s own opinion has no place in the reportage. For readers to have the opportunity to form their own opinions about what happened, you should write the text as factually and value-free as possible.

Writing a good reportage: the most important tips at a glance

Writing a reportage is not an easy task and requires some practice. Unlike other genres of text, you as the writer are trying to engage the readers of the reportage in an event through the impressions and details presented. You want them to feel like they were there. That’s why it’s essential to describe what’s happening accurately and as pictorially as possible to make the reportage expressive and lively.

As the author of a reportage, you are looking through a camera lens on behalf of your readers the impressions you gather are thus brought very close to the reader. This gives them the opportunity to empathize and identify with the situations and people described.

It is also important that the author or his opinion is not in the foreground, but the topic and the story. The length of the text is not important: what counts is the quality of the facts and the impressions described. You only convey your impressions instead of naming them. This gives your readers the opportunity to feel and judge it for themselves.

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