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English - Media & Non-Fiction Texts - Examining Newspapers

In your written exam in English (GCSE), you will need to answer a question that involves reading media texts.

The main kinds of media texts that you are likely to encounter are articles and reports from newspapers and/or magazines.

The primary purpose of newspapers is to report news but, they also contain a lot of other material:

world news


reviews, e.g. film ,tv, theatre

political news

local news

entertainment news

sports news

gossip columns

As well as presenting basic facts in news items, newspapers also:

comment on events

make judgements on ideas, issues and actions

give their opinions

When analysing a newspapers article, there are a number of features to take into account, all of which contribute to the effect of the piece.

Headlines: these are the first thing you notice and read when looking at an article.

Photographs or illustrations: if used, the reader’s eye, like the headlines, is drawn to these often before reading the content.

Captions: the words that explain the photographs or illustrations and/or, provide brief points from the article.

Content of the article: the main body of the information to be communicated to the reader.

Other useful terms to know when writing about newspapers:

Banner: the front-page headline that runs across the top of the page.

Column: the vertical section of the text.

Copy: the written material that reporters submit for publishing.

Editorial: a column in which the newspaper expresses its opinion(s) on a topic.

Exclusive: a story only covered by one newspaper.

Eyewitness report: where a reporter was actually at the scene.

Feature: a special, usually larger news story.

Filler: a short article used to fill space.

Hard news: news that focuses on factual detail.

Human-interest story: an article usually focused on one person, which relates an emotional event/story, such as tragedy, success, failure, achievement.

In-depth reporting: covers a topic or issue in detail.

Lead: the main story on the page.

Punch line: the main point of a story.

Soft news: a light news story.

Fact and opinion:

A lot of the information presented in newspapers is factual; sometimes newspaper reports give opinions as well as facts.

Comparing newspaper reports:

In your exam, you may be asked to compare newspaper articles.

The effect that a story has on its readers depends on the way the writer writes and presents the story.

Sometimes different newspapers treat the same story in quite different ways and therefore the resulting effect is also quite different.

Newspapers use various ways to influence the effects their stories create.

Features that you might look for when comparing newspaper articles or reports:

The language used to tell the story

the ideas chosen for inclusion

the way the facts are presented

the use of opinions and comments

the tone created in the writing

the way photographs and illustrations are used

the headlines and sub-headings used

Note: tone-created through the combined effects of the author’s rhythm and diction.

Key points to look for when examining a newspaper report:


photographs or illustrations



Checklist ~ Analysing a Newspaper Article

Headline: the first thing you see. Comment on its language and effect.

Sub-headings: (if used) what do they add? Why are they there?

Photographs and illustrations: (is used) why are they there? What effects do they have?

Captions: what do they add to the photograph or illustration?

Depth: examine the length and level of detail in the report.

Content: consider the use of fact and opinion.

Structure: of the article. Examine the order in which events are related/reported.

Language: look at individual words, phrases, linguistic/literary techniques, sentence structure, the level of sophistication of words and sentence length.

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