A Feature About Features

March 31, 2011
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You know you are a journalist if you, say, feel stupid when you can't come up with something as creative as your co-workers. A feature article is supposedly much more creative, but this article doesn’t have that creative touch. Instead this article is going to give you a story about feature articles themselves. Try to step into the world of journalism, don’t point out all of the grammatical errors, and realize how these stories came to be. And then realize how detailed the newspaper in your hand actually is.

What is the difference between a feature and a news article? Besides that one is a feature and the other is an article. And do not give the whole “feature has an ‘f’ while news has an ‘n’” type answer. A news article is stuff that is REALLY important. Or it should be. Features, however, can be whatever the writer wants. This is the process of wanting to write a feature, and in the process writing a feature. And if you haven’t realized by now, this feature takes a slightly different tone. The feature is about something that gets behind the scenes. It talks about human interest above all else.

Libya, Recession, Tsunami and Academy Awards, they are all things that compose a news article. Even “Friday” by Rebecca Black is a news article, sad enough that it already has 16 million views. Features are the inside news, what no one knows. Like Gaddafi’s fashion sense. Yes, the man wears pink robes and white jump suits. If I was to find a reporter that is living with the Japanese in a shelter, that is a feature. If a reporter does an interview with an actor winning an Oscar, and writes a story about that, it is a feature. If someone is unlucky enough to be sitting with Gaddafi, then that is kind of a feature.


But it is not like a feature just came out of nowhere, or did it? Phil Barber, of Historicpages, says that although we can’t track the beginning of a circulation of news on paper, the oldest recorded newspaper is the Acta Diurna of Rome, published in 59 AD. However it was the invention of the printing press by good old Johannes Gutenberg in 1440 that allowed the newspaper to be mass produced.

You probably think that all this is irrelevant when this feature is about features. Except when you are in the 14th century, there isn’t a lot of news that goes around. So the first feature ever… Count Dracula. Now features are supposed to be relevant to a recent topic, so how is that a recent topic? Well two minutes ago you picked up this feature and began reading it, so there… it is a feature. Well, a feature has to be about a real topic doesn’t it? In the 14th century, there was a man named Vlad II, son of the Count of Wallachia. Try saying Wallachia ten times fast. He inherited an army and a hatred for the Ottomans, and whenever he captured prisoners, he impaled them. His thirst for blood inspired the story of Dracula, which spread throughout the Holy Roman Empire. And it did spread. In Germany, the first feature story, that of Dracula was mass published.


Now jump to 17th century New York. The first newspaper in America, what an accomplishment! The Sun as it was called, became the first newspaper in the New World at the time; covering everything from colonization to the American Revolution. There were 400 printed copies every hour. For newspapers 400 years ago, this was an amazing feat. At the same time, we see Richard Locke, who was the first hired “feature” writer, according to Google Timeline.

However, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the most popular feature story was ever written. Guess what it is. A hint: it was written in 1963. You were probably wrong, it was the Beatles. It was the first time the term “Beatlemania” was ever used. It further launched this new hit into the limelight where they had articles upon articles of feature stories, getting the scoop on their ascent to stardom.

From then on, the feature became more popular. Within a few years, the first all feature magazines were created. Let alone news articles, they became places where trends and fashion were broadcasted, with the occasional serious new stories. So, from a pamphlet describing the conquering of the world, to a man that liked spearing people for fun, to one of the most famous musical groups, features really are something unlike other equally valid stories.

So, if you’ve spent long enough reading the story, congratulations! You know can at least attempt to write a feature. There you have it, if your paper is marked up with red lines, then you know you’re an editor. If you were like, “why didn’t I think of that?” Guess what you’re a journalist. If you are going to search for a random topic and then researching about it, you are a feature story writer. Have fun!





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