Working in the media 3: Getting your message acrossBMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/sbmj.0407284 (Published 01 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:0407284
- Graham Easton, assistant editor1
- 1Career Focus, BMJ
You are staring at a blank computer screen with the deadline for your article ticking away. Or maybe you are talking to yourself in the bathroom mirror, practising your answers for the radio or television interview which you are about to give. Your pulse is racing, your palms are sweating, and your mouth feels like sandpaper. That is all normal; the key is to channel the adrenaline into something useful.
By the time you sit down to write the article, you should already have a clear idea of who your audience is, what your message is, and what angle you are going to take. You should be able to summarise the story in two or three sentences. Your editor may have given you specific guidelines on what he or she wants--a certain interviewee, some key facts, or a particular argument.
I think it helps to know roughly where you are going. Spend a little time on a structure--at least a basic beginning, middle, and end. Some people jot down five or six key points or scenes and then shuffle them in to some kind of logical order. News stories tend to have a particular structure which is consistent across most media. One senior journalist explained this to me using a diagram (figure). The news pyramid is all about getting to the point; give the reader a good reason for reading on. For doctors, note that the structure of a news story (and most other types of writing) is almost the exact opposite of a science research article, which starts with the background and ends with the important conclusions.
Although the beginning of an article …