Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Vocational/Journalism

General Conference
Skill Level 2
Year of Introduction: 1938

1. Describe the elements of a good lead paragraph and the use and importance of headlines.


Lead Paragraph


The beginning of a news or feature story is called "the lead." The lead is typically a single paragraph—occasionally a single sentence—that summarizes the most important information that the story will convey. In addition to quickly relaying information, a good lead grabs the reader's attention and convinces them to keep reading.

Occasionally, a story will not begin with the most important information it contains; such information may be relegated to the end of the first paragraph, or even to the second paragraph. This is called "burying the lead." A buried lead can be a powerful, dramatic technique to draw readers in—or a glaring signal to readers that the writer doesn't know what is important about the topic their story covers.

In addition to drawing the reader into the story, a lead—like all journalistic writing—must: be clearly written, be free of typographical errors, and use grammar and language appropriate for the venue and audience.



Text publications use headlines to grab readers' interest and convey the subject of a story, but they must do so even more succinctly than the lead: seldom is a headline more than a single line—and frequently no more than a handful of words.

While the writer of a story writes its lead, they don't usually provide the headline that gets published. Story writers often recommend a headline for their story, but these are largely only seen by the publication staff. Most sizeable publications employ staff specifically to generate headlines after reading the story. At smaller publications, the editor writes the headlines.

In his textbook on editing, journalist and journalism professor Tom Lieb says that all headlines fundamentally seek either to inform or grab attention.

Informative headlines quickly summarize news, allowing readers to receive facts while they determine which stories to read in detail. Generally, Lieb says, informative headlines should follow a subject-verb-object model. Lieb says such headlines should: be active, rather than passive; avoid most auxiliary/"helping" verbs and prepositions, because the reader can immediately figure these out on their own; and be written in present or future tense, to emphasize that the news either is current or addresses something that has not yet occurred.

Attention-grabbing headlines tend to be used for feature articles that are interesting but not of vital importance. They rely on a variety of literary and/or poetic techniques, such as rhyme, puns, and allusion. Unlike informative headlines, attention-grabbing headlines may not have a subject, Lieb says.

Regardless of the type of headline, they are specially formatted. Headlines are always in a different font than that of the story itself. Headlines were historically written in title case, or upstyle, where every word is capitalized except articles and short prepositions. Most publications today use sentence case, or downstyle, where only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.

2. Write a news article of at least three paragraphs, using a good lead paragraph about something interesting that has happened in your church, school, home, or Pathfinder Club.


Any of these topics should lend itself equally well to a news or feature story. Because requirement 6 is suited to a feature story, however, Pathfinders who want to get experience with a variety of journalistic writing styles should write a news story to fulfill this requirement.

3. What are the essentials of writing a good story?


A journalist must, first and foremost, understand the subject they write a story about. The journalist must also understand their audience so they can decide what information to convey to that audience throughout the course of their story. The story's lead should convince the audience to read the entire story. Each paragraph in the story should build on information that preceded it and should also convince the reader to continue reading. Once the story has conveyed all of the information of relevance, it should end. This method of organizing a story is called the Inverted Pyramid.

For news stories, the journalist should use the Inverted Pyramid so that readers who do not have time to read the entire story can stop at any point with the confidence that they received the most important of the information that the story contains. In the case of print journalism, the Inverted Pyramid also ensures that any part of the story, or copy, that the editors don't have room to include in the published version is the least important.

For feature stories, especially literary non-fiction, journalists have more latitude to use descriptive and colorful language for the purpose of leaving the reader with a vivid picture and to help maintain their interest in the story. Journalists must take care not to alter or misrepresent facts, however.

Regardless of the kind of story, a journalist must write the story using the correct and consistent style. Which style is 'correct' is determined by the publication the journalist writes the story for, and publications of any appreciable size will formally define their style. In North American news writing, the Associated Press, or AP, style is widely used and many newspapers either use it unchanged, or use it as the basis of their style. AP style is frequently updated and is published as the book The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. A publication that hires a journalist on a staff will provide the style guide. Journalists who contact a publication about submitting a freelance story should specifically inquire about the style guide.

A style guide addresses grammar, spelling, and word usage, particularly for cases that have confused their journalists in the past. The style guide should identify the publication's audience, as well, so that the journalist knows what kinds of information need to be included in the story and what does not. The AP manual also identifies reference resources that its writers are to rely in as sources of facts about particular kinds of information. For example, it says which dictionary to use for spelling, except for those cases where the AP style guide overrides that dictionary.

4. Know the difference between passive and active verbs, and give three comparative examples.


In grammar, the voice (also called gender or diathesis) of a verb describes the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object, etc.). When the subject is the agent or actor of the verb, the verb is in the active voice. When the subject is the patient, target or undergoer of the action, it is said to be in the passive voice.

For example, in the sentence:

The cat ate the mouse.

the verb "ate" is in the active voice, but in the sentence:

The mouse was eaten by the cat.

the verbal phrase "was eaten" is passive.

In a transformation from an active-voice clause to an equivalent passive-voice construction, the subject and the direct object switch grammatical roles. The direct object gets promoted to subject, and the subject demoted to an (optional) complement. In the examples above, the mouse serves as the direct object in the active-voice version, but becomes the subject in the passive version. The subject of the active-voice version, the cat, becomes part of a prepositional phrase in the passive version of the sentence, and could be left out entirely.

Active verbs are generally preferred to passive verbs. One clue for determining if a sentence is active or passive is the presence of a 'to-be verb (such as is, was, were, are, be). If one is found, the sentence is likely to be passive. To change a sentence from passive to active, figure out who or what is performing the action specified by the verb, and see if you can rearrange the sentence to make the "actor" the subject.



The Pathfinder is encouraged to come up with his own examples, but we provide a few for inspiration:

Passive Voice Active Voice
The Journalism honor was earned by Johnny. Johnny earned the Journalism honor.
Our campfire was built by the Companion class. The Companion class built our club's campfire.
The Explorers were taught Knot Tying by the Guides. The Guides taught Knot Tying to the Explorers.
Susan was rescued by the lifeguard. The lifeguard rescued Susan.

5. Write to a publisher, requesting story-writing guidelines.


Story writing guidelines are available free from the following Seventh-day Adventist publishers:

Pacific Press Publishing Association
1350 North Kings Road
Nampa, ID 83687
Phone: 208-465-2500
Fax: 208-465-2531
Review and Herald Publishing Association
55 West Oak Ridge Drive
Hagerstown, MD 21740

6. Write a story on one of the following

  • a. How your family first accepted Christ, whether it was you, your parents, your grandparents, etc.
  • b. Personal experiences of answered prayer or divine guidance.
  • c. An interesting pet that you have had.
  • d. An experience you have had while at summer camp or on a camping trip.
  • e. When God first became real to you as a friend and personal savior.
  • f. The most difficult thing about being a Christian today.
  • g. Any difficulties you have had in Christianity and how you overcame them

These ideas are almost exclusively suited for feature stories. Pathfinders who want to write a news story while obtaining this Honor should do so for requirement 3, instead.

7. Submit a story to a Seventh-day Adventist publication.


When a Pathfinder considers which publication to write a story for, he or she should keep in mind that Seventh-day Adventist publications exist at all levels within the global church, and for a variety of audiences—including non-Adventists. Seventh-day Adventist print publications tend to be printed in magazine format, even if they are actually bi-weekly or monthly newspapers.

Take North America, for example. The General Conference publishes the Adventist Review and Adventist World. Various North American Division unions publish magazines, e.g. Atlantic Union Conference's The Gleaner or Southern Union Conference's Southern Tidings. Individual Adventist institutions often produce their own publications as well. For example, several academies in the Columbia Union Conference write newsletters that cover major events at their school; while those schools frequently published and circulated these newsletters in the past, they are now included in the Union's publication, Visitor. Adventist academies and colleges generally have a student newspaper, and many churches also have newsletters, which contain information of interest to the local congregation. Some of these publications exist both online and in print, while others only get published in one medium.

Not all Seventh-day Adventist publications specifically target Seventh-day Adventists. The magazine Liberty, for instance, targets issues of religious freedom in the United States and is sent by the church to all members of Congress. Various healthcare organizations affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist church may generate publications for readers in their area. The magazine Listen encourages children and young adults to live a drug- and alcohol-free life; it regularly features stories about non-Adventists, and focuses on an Adventist message without limiting its audience to Adventists.

8. Know how to write a cover letter to the editor for submitting your story or article and write a cover letter to the editor to include with your story or article.


9. What education is helpful for getting into the career of journalism?


Those who want to pursue a career in the field of journalism from the time they enter the workforce are best served by studying the subject at the undergraduate level. Curricula for such college programs typically require that students take courses in mass media, communications theory, communications law, ethics, newswriting, feature writing, non-fiction writing, persuasive writing, desktop publishing, online publishing, statistics, computer-assisted reporting, and editing. Journalism degree requirements typically also include at least one practicum/internship. Schools that offer undergraduate degrees in the field of journalism frequently require the student to obtain a second major, e.g. a journalism student might also study business if they want to write for business media or religion if they want to write for religious media.

Within the Seventh-day Adventist educational system in North America, Andrews University, Pacific Union College, Southern Adventist University, Southwestern Adventist University, Union College (Lincoln, Nebr.), Walla Walla University and Washington Adventist University all offer an undergraduate degree either in journalism proper or in communications with a concentration/emphasis in journalism; most offer journalism as a minor area of study, as well. La Sierra University's Department of English and Communication offers some journalism courses—but neither a degree nor a concentration in the subject. A multitude of public and private universities in North America offer similar courses and degrees.

Graduate degrees in journalism exist, though almost exclusively outside the Seventh-day Adventist education system. Many professional journalists do study journalism at the graduate level, and degrees are offered both at the masters and doctoral level.

A Pathfinder need not wait until college to begin testing the waters of the pool that is journalism, however: many high schools—and some middle schools—sponsor a student newspaper published on a weekly to monthly basis. And while locally-owned newspapers are much less common than they were a generation ago, some accept adolescent-written stories and articles; and many newspapers even publish a for-youth-by-youth section once or twice a week.

10. What types of jobs are available for anyone who is interested in journalism?

  • beat writer/news writer
  • broadcaster
  • copyeditor/proofreader
  • editor
  • fact checker
  • freelance author
  • headline writer
  • layout
  • photojournalist
  • publisher


  • The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (Associated Press)
  • Editing for Clear Communication (Thom Lieb)