Feature stories can be compared to news stories, but where the news exclusively talks about events that have recently occurred, features can often focus on specific people, places, or things that have happened in any timeline and go more in depth into their single chosen topic than a news article. They generally fall under the banner of human interest, being less sensational or dramatic than regular news. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke describes them as “Covering topics in depth, going further than mere hard news coverage by amplifying and explaining the most interesting and important elements of a situation or occurrence. “ Often the writers of features are given far more time to put together their research and arguments.
A good feature story answers much the same questions and requires the same research as harder news. They must still tell who, what, where, when, why, and how, yet can be more focused about their approach. The details in a feature can be delivered more in depth and with longer explanations than the news. Authors can be looser with their descriptions and have somewhat better control over what is told and how. As such, more in depth reasoning and information may be needed to make the most out of the allowed freedom.
An interview may be one of the better ways to get a good deal of insight on an event and is often the focus of a feature story. It adds a distinct human element to the piece by having it all fed through the eyes of another human being as opposed to being listed plainly. However, an interview will always contain a bias from the person being interviewed and there are certain steps involved in the process, such as informing the subject that they are talking to a reporter and that anything they say could appear in a public newspaper. A section of the New York Times Website ‘Student Voices’ recommends “Prepare for interviews. Come to any interview armed with a basic list of questions you hope to ask.” This will keep inquiries to the point and help insure that much of the information gained is relative to the article. The more there is to work with, the more creative the story can become.
That creativity can be where a feature truly stands out. The extra writing time can provide ample opportunity to show what is happening rather than dryly telling. Descriptions can be more extravagant and interesting than stating a room is mess or clean or that a person is surly or friendly. A feature story is allowed to flourish where a news story must be concise. Granted, page space is still a limited commodity and the feature will compete for it. The most must be made of the space, but the author will have more time to make it so.
A feature is not something that will appear on the front page unless the person writing it is very well known, but they often show up throughout and issue. They add a softer touch to the news that fills the pages and can provide more of a human element than traditional news stories can. They make the papers they appear in better even if they are not the reason papers are sold.