Writing Assignment: Factual Reporting

by Randy Murray on April 30, 2010

If your goal is to become a better writer, you need to practice. Here’s your writing assignment for today: write a short report accurately describing an event.

I have never read a news report or story that I’ve had any connection with that fully and accurately conveyed the event. Why is that? Because writing about what others witnessed is at least one step removed. Very rarely does the writer actually witness the event and report what they have seen and heard themselves.

But when a writer is witness to events, the results can be incredible. I strongly recommend the excellent Eyewitness To History. Witnessing and reporting is different from journalism. Journalism trains writers to collect information and present a cogent picture of the event that is most often not directly witnessed. But every writer, not just reporters, should be able to produce an accurate description of an event they personally witnessed.

For today’s assignment, write a short piece describing an event that you directly witnessed. Describe the event as accurately and completely as possible. When you are satisfied with your work, give it to a reader and ask for their comments and responses.

Here’s my example:

On evening of April 1st, 1969, my parents loaded me along with my brother and sister into the car and we drove to the railway crossing north of where we lived. There were a few other cars there, but not many. I was almost eight years old and had only the vaguest idea of who Dwight Eisenhower was. I was much more interested in the moon landing that was scheduled for that summer. But we were going to see the funeral train of a president and that was mildly interesting.

The train passed slowly. I don’t recall having seen many passenger trains before outside of television, but this one was very short, just three engines and ten cars. The cars were draped in black bunting so we were sure it was the correct train.

I couldn’t tell which car carried the President’s coffin and neither could my parents. The train passed slowly, the gates lifted, and we crossed, turned the car around, and went home.

You may leave your completed assignment in the comments section below.

Click here to view and complete previous writing assignments.

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