interest element in any hard news event. The PAOs
Cuban missile feature does this as it continues:
The Cuban Quarantine centers the
eye of the world on the Caribbean,
while the real events are charted far
away in Washington and Moscow. The
drama of confrontation is still very
much set in scenes of ships patrolling
the seas around Cuba. The lines of
battle are drawn by ships every bit as
powerful, many times as sophisticated,
and just as serious as the battleship
behemoths of former wars.
When the forces meet, as when the
destroyer leader USS Norfolk (DL 1)
detected the Russian merchantman
Leninisky Kosomol steaming out of the
south Cuban port of Casilda through
the receding clouds of a tropical
rainstorm, the surface action begins
with the flashing light of exchanging
Events followed rapidly as the
radio waves emanating from the two
ships pulsed messages reporting
contact and requesting instructions.
Agreements between governments
born at United Nations sessions began
to be implemented on the high seas. . . .
The successful and prolific feature writer develops
a keen, inquisitive faculty for observation. A
well-tended landscape is not just a pleasant view to the
feature writer. The journalist wonders who keeps it trim
and why, inquires into the benefits of conservation or
erosion control and the alternatives wildlife
sanctuaries or outdoor living. And chances are, the
writer can write the answers received into an interesting
The power of observation, the habit of accepting
nothing at face value, of digging into unanswered
questions below the surface of the event, are invaluable
to the feature writer.
A prime source of ideas is the daily newspaper.
News stories that appear in the newspapers record
national, state and local events as they happen. They
usually do not give background material or cover all
aspects of a story. Yet everyday, news stories appear that
open the way for a flood of feature articles.
The ability to take a bare fact from the news page
and give it meaning can produce a good article, but here,
as in wire service copy, the feature must reflect local
interest. For example, a news story mentions a change
in income tax regulations; the feature writer shows how
this change will affect the reader. Thus the writer
localizes the news story and gives it expanded meaning.
Military news, such as changes in regulations, pay,
mission or anything affecting military readers, could
also interest general readers. The alert and skillful writer
can turn these bare facts, and sometimes dull items, into
Writing About People
The typical military editor of a commercial daily
often feels handouts (standard news releases) are
hounding him to death. They choke his style. They keep
him tied to a computer doing rewrites. He would rather
be working on a feature angle or out working up an
enterprising story. He greets the daily handout pile as
the worst part of his job. Why? Not because handouts
do not contain legitimate news. Most of them do
buried somewhere behind, in or among fancy,
words and reams of promotions.
Reporters say the typical military handout fails most
often by the absence of names and addresses of those
persons around which the story, event or action is built.
They say infractions of several other basic rules of
journalism also frequently draw the handout to the
wastepaper basket, rather than to the printed page.
However complex and amazing a ship may be, a
story that is more iron rather than flesh-and-blood
sailors often sails right into the wastebasket along with
the larger part of the handouts of the day.
What most media want in the way of a Navy feature
20, of 2810 Prairie St., Landlock City performing his
duties to make the vessel an efficient ship. Names,
properly spelled and accompanied by ages and
addresses, keep wire services and newspapers in
business. Details of ships or stations are interesting to
people back home, especially if those facts relate to
sons, daughters, husbands or hometown acquaintances.
A sparkling story about a search and rescue, for
example, is a natural, both from hard news and feature
standpoints if those indispensable names, ages and
addresses are included.
is a particular individual Seaman John B. Boatwright,