News reporters may be asked to occasionally write a human interest story. These “soft news” pieces feature stories about events or issues that get people’s interest in a general way. Such stories take a break from the harder, fact based news material to highlight something light or emotionally poignant. Writing a successful human interest piece requires planning and intentional language to manage the perception of the reader and to guide the emotional responses of the audience.
Part One of Four:
Preparing to Write Your Story Edit
Assemble the elements of your human interest story. A human interest story is different from more traditional news stories in a number of ways. While a traditional news story focuses on hard facts and data, a human interest story focuses on individual people or animals and the emotion tied to the circumstances they’re in. 
- A human interest story should have a focus, such as a person or even a companion animal, that has an experience that warrants telling their story.
- Identify the emotion the story incites. Is your story a motivational tale? Is it a recounting of someone’s personal tragedy?
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Determine the purpose of your piece. A human interest story can be used to garner support for a cause, change opinions on a topic or bring attention to an important topic that hasn’t received its fair share of press. Identify what you aim to accomplish through writing your story. 
- You may want to create sympathy for a person that has experienced a tragedy.
- You may want to bring attention to a subject of importance.
- There may be an organization that is viewed in an incorrect light and you hope to shift perceptions of it.
Be aware of the objections to human interest journalism. Human interest journalism is not without its detractors. Because of its emphasis on emotion instead of facts, many people believe that human interest stories are manipulative in nature. Identify common complaints about bad human interest journalism to avoid falling into the same mistakes. 
- Do not misrepresent the person you focus your story on or other people involved.
- Base your narrative on real events and the truth of what occurred, instead of what would make for a good story.
- While you may be creating your piece in support of a certain cause or organization, avoid language that depicts a clear bias.
Part Two of Four:
Conducting Research Edit
Begin with background information. The first part of quality research is gathering the necessary background information. Background information will provide you with important elements of your story such as who was involved and when it occurred. It can also provide a the broader scope of why your story matters. 
- If you are doing a story about a person who was afflicted with a disease or illness, important background information would include basic research about that illness as well as the effects of treatment if that may play a role in the story.
- Background information could also provide you with an understanding of important terminology or cultural elements you may not be aware of if you aren’t well versed in the area of your research.
Evaluate sources you find online for credibility. There is a breadth of quality information to be found online, but it’s important that you determine the legitimacy of the sources you use to ensure the information contained within each source is accurate and appropriate for inclusion in your piece. 
- Websites that end with .Org. Edu, or .Gov are often more credible than those that end with .Com or other common suffixes.
- Look at the author of the content when provided. Search that author or read the provided biographical information and make a judgement regarding their credibility based on the level of expertise they have indicated.
- Look for signs of a bias in the material you find online, as well as reasons to believe the content is not accurate or legitimate.
Interview possible sources. There are four traditional elements to conducting a successful journalistic interview. Each step is intended to help you gain important pieces of information from someone while treating them with respect and maintaining your journalistic integrity. Interviewing the person the article is about is usually a necessity, but consider interviewing others involved as well. 
- Prepare extensively before the interview by conducting all the necessary background research.
- Establish a rapport with the interviewee to put them at ease. Treat them with respect and try to find elements you have in common for the sake of conversation.
- Ask relevant questions and be direct. Your questions should provide an opportunity to elaborate, so avoid simply asking yes or no questions.
- Listen attentively. Pay attention to body language and record everything said. You may want to use an audio or video recording device to keep a record of the conversation, but ensure you are given permission first.
Remain objective. When conducting your research, it’s important that you not begin with conclusions already in mind. Although human interest pieces are often started with an idea for a story, you must not allow that idea to effect the way you conduct your research. Instead, conduct good research and let that inform how you write the piece. 
- If your sources provide information that is in opposition to your viewpoints when you started, you may need to reassess the nature of your piece.
- Let the research determine what is accurate and true, not your opinions or beliefs.
Analyze the data you collect. Once you have all of your research gathered, go back through all of it to put together a coherent account of the important events and people in your story. Check your research and interviews against one another to identify trends or inconsistencies that may need further research. 
- If some of your research contradicts other information, you may need to conduct further research to verify the accuracy of previous statements.
- You may need to make a judgement call at times. When research is contradictory, use the information that seems most reliable and accurate.
Part Three of Four:
Writing Your Story Edit
Utilize the appropriate framework. A human interest story can be broken up into three primary elements that each serve the purpose of drawing in and keeping the reader’s attention. Adhering to the appropriate framework will not only improve the reader’s experience, it may be required in order to have your story printed. 
- Make sure you have a catchy headline that concisely explains what the story is about and should transition smoothly into the lead of the article.
- The body of the piece is where the real story telling takes place. This will require all of the pertinent information as well as emotional elements that grab a reader’s attention.
- The conclusion should efficiently summarize the elements of your story and establish a link between them if it isn’t clear in the body. The conclusion often serves as the emotional punch, or as a culmination of the emotional story elements. An example could be a mother being reunited with her daughter after a story about her efforts to find her after a natural disaster.
Write a compelling lead. The lead of your story is what will compel readers to stick with your story. It should summarize your story briefly, giving the reader an idea of what to expect throughout the rest of the piece. 
- Consider starting with a brief story about the person you are focusing on, or a person involved in the event of organization.
- A lead not only provides a preview of what’s to come, it establishes why your story is important. An example may be starting with a story about a person who fights wildfires and the difficulty of the job in a human interest piece about the dangers of the drought in Southern California.
- Your lead should be no longer than two paragraphs in length.
Choose your words carefully. While your human interest piece may take place in a technical environment or a work culture that utilizes specific jargon, avoid using that language in your piece. Using words that are too specific to a group of people can alienate readers. 
- If you must use technical or workplace specific words or phrases, ensure you explain them clearly the first time you bring them up.
- A military story, for instance, may require the use of ranks, but some ranks may be difficult to understand and appreciate for readers. A “Hospital Man 1” in the Navy, for instance, is a senior rank to “Hospital Man 2” but that isn’t immediately obvious to those outside of the military.
- Try to relate difficult terms to everyday things. Instead of citing a “Hospital Man 1” as the head of a unit in the Navy, try using terms like “supervisor” if the main character in your story works below them.
Use descriptive language. A human interest piece is not about simply recounting facts in a dry manner. Instead, human interest stories can provide a journalist with an opportunity to utilize descriptive language that may not be common in their usual news reporting. 
- Instead of simply saying, “it occurred at night,” describe the night. Was visibility low? Depending on the location, night time can be extremely dark and foreboding, or it may be a well-lit city street.
- Descriptive language can transport a reader to the scene. Instead of saying, “the sun was setting,” try something like, “the setting sun painted the sky with red and orange hues.” This gives the reader a sense of what it looked like to be there, instead of simply an understanding of the time of day.
Create a mood. Because human interest stories are intended to convey feeling as much as information, they allow for terms that help establish the tone in the mind of the reader. While a traditional news story may simply state that a soldier defused a car bomb, a human interest piece may attribute characteristics to the solider such as brave or courageous. 
- Create a tone in your piece by building emotion throughout the lead and body that culminates in the conclusion.
- If you are writing the tragic story of a man who lost his wife in an accident, you may want to discuss them being happy together early on, then the events that separated them, and finally the emotional fallout he experienced after the loss.
Part Four of Four:
Preparing Your Story for Submission Edit
Assess how newsworthy your story is. A human interest story does not have to adhere to all of the traditional news story rules, but in order to be printed it still needs to be newsworthy in a general sense. While a traditional news story takes into account timing, significance, proximity and prominence to determine newsworthiness, a human interest story has a bit more leeway in each. 
- Timing and proximity usually means when something occurred and how close it was to the reader. Human interest stories do not need to be as recent or as close in order to be newsworthy, but these elements should still be considered.
- Prominence is usually a measure of how well known those involved are to the readers. This is less important to human interest stories as they often focus on normal individuals, but using prominent figures can still increase your likelihood of having your story printed.
- The significance of a human interest story is usually the emotion. A human interest story should make the reader feel something.
Maintain your journalistic integrity. It may be tempting to craft a human interest story by altering the way you recount events or facts in order to make the story more interesting or increase the emotional weight of what occurred. Doing so, however, will make you less credible as a journalist. 
- Writing your story in a misleading way not only does the reader a disservice, but it does the subjects involved in your story a disservice as well. As a journalist, your job is to recount what occurred, not embellish or mislead your audience.
- Human interest stories can be noble endeavors, wherein you draw attention to important topics or garner support for great causes, but doing so in a dishonest way is wrong and often not tolerated by journalistic organizations like newspapers and magazines.
Proofread and edit your writing. The final step to writing a good human interest story is proofreading and editing it before submission. Take some time away from your article and return to it with fresh eyes. Read it over looking for spelling or grammatical errors as well as the way the story makes you feel.
- The story should be free of errors before you submit it to ensure it is taken seriously as a professional piece of journalism.
- Pay attention to the tone and emotion of the story as you read it. Did you convey the story in the way you intended? You may need to revise it if the emotion becomes convoluted or you feel a different delivery could have an increased impact.
- Fact check your story to ensure you haven’t included incorrect information.