Edward Jay Friedlander. 21st Century Communication: A Reference Handbook. Editor: William F Eadie. 2009. Sage Publication.
Magazine articles and newspaper feature stories in the newspaper feature story first appeared as a genre distinct from the breaking news story. The history of the relationship between the magazine article and newspaper feature story is extremely murky, but there is some evidence that magazine article writing in the United States began to be significantly influenced by newspaper feature writing style beginning in the late 1800s, and that the two related styles essentially merged in the late 1990s. The few differences existing now are largely explained by the differences between magazines and newspapers, as well as by their significantly dissimilar operational practices. As magazines and newspapers develop more extensive Web sites in the 21st century and gain more profit from those sites—at the expense of the traditional printed product—articles and feature stories appearing both online and in print in magazines and newspapers will become more important, more prevalent, and much more similar if not essentially identical.
Magazines historically have been storehouses of a variety of reading material and usually have been published infrequently enough to permit generous deadlines for their writers and—in the past 50 years—rigorous fact-checking for accuracy. In addition, in most magazines, article paragraphs are longer than are their newspaper counterparts, and stories, in fact, are much longer.
In the United States, general-circulation magazines coexisted with magazines with more narrow audiences from the 1800s until the middle of the 20th century, when general-circulation magazines such as Life and Look began to vanish. These large-circulation, general-audience magazines gradually were replaced after the 1950s by a tidal wave of specialty publications, ranging from magazines for cat owners to publications for airline travelers using a specific carrier to magazines for owners of specific types and brands of computers.
As a result, articles for U.S. magazines today typically are aimed at a carefully targeted readership rather than a large number of undifferentiated readers. Magazine publishers and editors usually know exactly who their readers are, including their gender, age, income, and lifestyle, and these editors insist on articles carefully targeted to those readers. At the same time, magazines, which historically have had small staffs compared with newspapers with similar circulation, and find their staffs shrinking even more, must rely more than ever on freelance writers and photojournalists to meet these article needs. The freelance process, by the way, begins with a written article proposal called a query. If an editor accepts the query, the article is written. When the article is accepted or published, the writer is paid.
Newspapers, too, have historically been storehouses of a variety of material, but those stories have been produced under a daily or weekly deadline for a broad audience, with modest fact-checking, if any at all. Paragraphs are short, and stories in print are short, too. In addition, newspaper feature stories are usually staff written, and only newspapers with large feature sections or Sunday publications purchase significant amounts of freelance material. Staff photographers usually provide the photographs.
By the late 1990s, as noted, magazine articles and newspaper features began to look similar, separated mostly by the magazine’s need for a highly targeted story and the newspaper’s desire for a story of interest to a more general readership. Magazine and newspaper online article and feature story versions often are quite similar if not identical in structure.
Comparison of Newspaper and Magazine Feature Forms
The 21st-century magazine article and newspaper feature story share a common overall structure, whether published online or in print.
Although there are many literary forms used to begin a feature, articles and features often begin with a number of descriptive sentences or paragraphs called a lead or lead block. Here is a typical descriptive lead block from a magazine story about a major earthquake destined to strike Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee by 2050. The “giant” in the lead paragraph is the New Madrid Fault and the resulting temblor.
The first people to feel the wrath of the giant are driving south from Blytheville, Arkansas, on Interstate 55.
Near the Burdette, Arkansas, interchange, about seven miles south of the city, the highway pavement begins to shake and roll. Drivers, already straining to see in the twilight of an early December afternoon, struggle to keep their cars on the heaving, buckling road.
At Arkansas Northeastern College, south of Blytheville’s main business district, students walking to class lose their balance and fall to the ground while glass shatters around them.
In the Blytheville business district, the shaking lasts for what seems like a full two minutes.
When the earth finally stops moving, downtown is burning rubble. The giant has turned multistory buildings into piles of masonry and wood. The giant has also wrenched and partially collapsed single-story buildings. Live wires dance across the torn, buckled pavement of Highway 61 south of downtown.
Throughout the city, fires fed by broken gas lines send flames 40 feet into the air. Water from smashed pipes spurts skyward, then cascades down the sides of broken buildings and across the city’s cracked streets.
In residential areas, the giant has torn many homes from foundations. Walls are cracked, ceiling fans are pitched to the floor, and bookcases and furniture are overturned.
In some parts of town, structures sink into the now-jellied earth, and the ground, in turn, forces some objects, including septic tanks, to the surface.
The giant, of course, is an earthquake, long awaited and long dreaded by area residents, and long predicted by geologists. The quake is of an intensity geologists would call “moderate,” measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale.
Unlike a newspaper news story, in which the lead is usually only a paragraph or two, the magazine article or newspaper feature story lead may be many paragraphs and as much as 10% of the entire story. That is, in a 5,000-word magazine story, the lead could be 500 words. The lead above is 275 words, or about 11% of a 2,500-word story. The final lead paragraph, of course, leads the reader into the middle and largest part of the article, which traces the history of earthquakes in the Mississippi River Valley, the geological causes, the probable destruction, and suggestions for the preservation of people and property.
Between the lead and the ending, the typical article or feature is usually highly descriptive and laden with direct, partial, and indirect quotations. Magazine articles and newspaper features also often have an easily discernable point of view, and for that reason, they are often described as subjective rather than objective.
An online or printed newspaper and magazine feature story is typically structured with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. The most common linking structure is chronological, although many articles and feature stories present a problem and then end with a solution. More rarely, articles and features will present a concept in the lead and then repeat it through the story until the end.
Finally, articles and features often end with descriptions or quotations that link readers back to the beginning of the story. This is sometimes called a tie-back or circle technique ending. On occasion, articles and features will simply summarize the essence of the story. This is in contrast to the traditional online or print breaking-news story that simply stops, having reached the least consequential part of the story.
Online versions of the same magazine article or newspaper feature story that are simultaneously or later published in a printed magazine or newspaper often appear to be a little shorter, but only because of embedded links that lead readers to small related chunks of the story called “sidebars” or to external Web sites that provide additional details.
There is no standard list of magazine article and newspaper feature story topics. Most newspaper feature and magazine article writers cannot even agree on what to call some common feature forms, and there are many variations in these forms. To be sure, however, there are at least 10 story topics:
- Anniversary stories, which recall persons or events
- Business stories
- Decalog stories, which depend on a 10-best or 10-worst list
- Explanatory stories, which show how processes such as earthquakes occur
- First-person stories written about events that happened to the writer
- Historical stories about people, places, or events
- Medical stories of afflicted people, disease processes, or pending cures
- Profiles of people, places, and events that are interview intensive
- Travel stories, which often incorporate other story types
- Unusual occupation stories, which focus on individuals with strange jobs.
Examples of Blended Forms
Both magazine and newspaper feature stories are often blended in several ways. A story written for a magazine may appear essentially unaltered in a newspaper, and a newspaper feature story may appear in a magazine, although perhaps with somewhat longer paragraphs. In addition, both magazine articles and newspaper features—while now almost indistinguishable—often incorporate blended elements such as leads, structure, endings, and topics.
For example, the leads may be blended. For example, here is the descriptive lead used in the earlier example blended with a quotation lead:
“I knew I was going to die,” John Clark says. Clark, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, was one of the first people to feel the wrath of the giant. He was driving south from Blytheville, Arkansas, on Interstate 55.
Near the Burdette, Arkansas, interchange, about seven miles south of the city, the highway pavement began to shake and roll. Clark and other drivers, already straining to see in the twilight of an early December afternoon, struggled to keep their cars moving down the heaving, buckling road.
In addition, the narrative structures may be blended, as when a chronological narrative is combined with a problem-and-solution structure.
Endings can be blended, as can story types. For example, a magazine travel story about Los Angeles may use decalog story characteristics in listing the 10 most interesting mammals at the Los Angeles zoo or the 10 most dangerous street corners in Los Angeles. If the story is aimed at amateur historians, the story type might be a blend of the decalog story type and the historical and travel story about the 10 most famous locations used in Hollywood motion pictures made in the 1930s.
Superb examples of the blending of the magazine article and newspaper feature forms—structure, including lead, structure and ending, and story type—are exemplified by the winners of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. The Pulitzer contest, which is for newspaper entries, is extremely prestigious; the competition is intense; and the judges’ actions are closely scrutinized. More important, unlike most Pulitzer contest categories, feature writing is judged more on the basis of literary quality than whether the subject was previously covered. The Pulitzer Prize board notes that the feature writing award is “for a distinguished example of feature writing giving prime consideration to quality of writing, originality and concision, in print or in print and online.”
The Pulitzer Prizes, created with money left by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and New York World publisher Joseph Pulitzer, were first awarded in 1917. Prizes are given for fiction, nonfiction, drama, history, biography or autobiography, poetry, music, and journalism. As of 2008, journalists competed in 14 categories, ranging from reporting to photojournalism to feature writing. Each journalism winner (except for the Public Service winner) gets $10,000.
Many biographies have been written about Joseph Pulitzer. Among the best known are Barrett (1941), Brian (2001), Granberg (1965), Juergens (1966), and Seitz (1924).
Books about the Pulitzer Prize award process and its history include Bates (1991) and several books by John Hohenberg (e.g., 1959, 1974, 1997).
A 25-year history of the Prize winners reveals distinctive magazine article and newspaper feature story forms in the 1970s, a slow turn toward blended forms in the 1980s, and examples of feature stories by newspapers after that in the mid-1980s that are almost indistinguishable from what would have been published in a magazine.
Beginning in 2007, the Pulitzer Prize feature story entries could and did include online components, which further muddled the differences. By the time the 2008 winner was announced, about one in five Pulitzer entries across all journalism categories had significant online components, and some included significant new material published only on the newspaper’s Web site. In fact, the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, a Washington Post magazine story about a world-class musician playing for pennies in the District of Columbia subway system, featured numerous online video segments and a musical segment that significantly contributed to the story’s impact. Structurally, the 2008 winning feature story entry also was a blend of the best qualities of a magazine article and a newspaper feature story.
For these reasons, an examination of the Pulitzer Prize winners in a writing-intensive category such as feature writing is particularly helpful in explaining the varieties of feature story leads, structures, endings, and topics available.
The Pulitzer Prize board created the feature-writing category of the Pulitzer Prize awards in 1978, and the first Pulitzer Prize for feature writing was awarded in 1979. David Garlock, in his 2003 book,Pulitzer Prize Feature Stories, wrote that Pulitzer Administrator Seymour Topping noted that there was no information in the board minutes regarding the reason for creating the new feature category. Many journalism categories were similarly created, merged, or modified over the history of the contest.
An examination of the Prize-winning feature stories between that year and 2003 reveals 45 separate stories over two decades, though there were a few anomalies. Some sources cite only 41 separate stories in 25 packages. This is because the Pulitzer Web site and other sources indicate that the 1980 winner, Madeleine Blais of The Miami Herald, won for a single story called “Zepp’s Last Stand” (1979), a profile of an elderly man who felt that he had been unfairly given a dishonorable discharge from the Army in World War I and who took a train from his home in Florida to Washington to plead his case. In undated 1986 correspondence to the author of this entry, however, Blais said that the Herald entered five stories in the contest:
The stories that won include an essay on friendship, a profile of Tennessee Williams, and two portraits of two families with peculiar afflictions as well as a story about an 83-year-old man who felt he had been unfairly dishonorably discharged from the army in World War One because he had been denied conscientious objector status and who took a train from Florida to the Pentagon to plead his case,
she wrote. Because the nomination package then was limited to as many as three long stories or five short stories, the Pulitzer Prize jury and/or the Pulitzer Prize board may have ignored Blais’s other stories. Blais, by the way, worked for The Boston Globe and The Trenton Times before writing for The Miami Herald.
Numerous books about the journalism winners cover decades of awards by each Pulitzer category or by news organizations. In addition, at least one book deals with winners who work from a specific region of the United States. For example, see Beasley and Harlow (1979). For biographical information about all Pulitzer winners, see Brennan and Clarage (1999). This book provides reliable, but not necessarily complete, information about all Pulitzer Prize winners from the first awards until 1998.
Although a writer at a weekly (Teresa Carpenter), a wire service (Saul Pett), and a newspaper magazine (Alice Steinbach) each won the feature Pulitzer, winning stories were typically produced at large-circulation newspapers, with 18 of the 23 awards won by dailies captured by The New York Times (4 awards); The Evening Sun or Sun in Baltimore and the Los Angeles Times (3 each); and The Philadelphia Inquirer, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch, the St. Petersburg Times, and The Wall Street Journal (2 each). Large-circulation newspapers produced many of the winners because most of the Pulitzer Prize–]winning stories—at least 18 of the 25 winners—were the result of long-term projects supported by publications with vast staff and financial resources. Of the 45 stories, however, 27 could easily have been published in a magazine instead of a newspaper, and all but a few of the stories written since 1990 were essentially magazine articles published in a newspaper.
It is instructive to look at the stories of the winners who weren’t from large-circulation newspapers, however. Teresa Carpenter was a writer with The Village Voice. Carpenter won for freelanced profilesabout the murders of a suburban New York housewife, a popular political activist, and a Playboy model. The best known of Carpenter’s three stories is the profile about the model, “Death of a Playmate” (1980), which was the basis for the motion picture Star 80. Carpenter had reported from Hawai’i for a Japanese business magazine and a New Jersey monthly before beginning her freelancing career. The freelancing encompassed The Village Voice, and she became a Voice staff writer just before she won the Pulitzer.
Saul Pett was an Associated Press (AP) special correspondent. In his 60s when he won the award, Pett won the Prize after a news career that began with a job as a copy boy for the New York Daily News, followed by a 6-year reporting stint for another wire service and more than four decades with the AP. Pett took nearly half a year to research and write his winning entry. His story is a 10,000-word explanatory story of the U.S. government called “The Bureaucracy: How Did It Get So Big?” (1981). Pett’s papers covering his career with the AP between 1940 and 1993 are housed in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division and include correspondence, interview notebooks, stories, and other materials.
Alice Steinbach was a Baltimore Sun feature writer. Steinbach’s profile, called “A Boy of Unusual Vision” (1984), is about a blind Baltimore boy who, she writes, “rides a bike, watches TV, plays video games and does just about everything other 10-year-old boys do.” Steinbach, like Blais and Carpenter, freelanced for newspapers and magazines before joining a newspaper staff.
In the first 25 years of awards, winning stories shared many common characteristics. Although 25 packages containing 45 separate stories (including many multipart series) were winners between 1979 and 2003, 35 of the 45 stories were profiles or variations of profiles. Leads varied significantly, but the most common profile structure was chronological, and the favorite type of ending was a summary, in which events or attitudes or reactions were summarized. Explanatory stories were the second most common type of winner. Multimedia versions of the stories, complete with extensive commentaries by the writers and interactive Internet electronic links with the story subjects, routinely appeared beginning with the 2007 winner.
A paper by Jeanie McAdams Moore and Chris Lamb in August 2003 to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication provides additional analysis of Prize-winning features. “Angels and Demons: A 20-Year Analysis of Pulitzer Prize–]Winning Feature Stories” identified several trends, including domination of the Pulitzer Prizes by writers working for large-circulation East Coast newspapers and numerous stories that followed subjects through problems or conflict. Stories with Christian references also were common, the authors concluded.
For example, the first Pulitzer for feature writing was awarded to Jon Franklin, a feature and science writer for The Evening Sun in Baltimore. Franklin, who specialized in explaining science and medicine, wrote about a woman named Edna Kelly, who had brain surgery to try to stop the growth of a tumor she called “the monster.” The two-part story, later known as “Mrs. Kelly’s Monster” (1978), is a blend of the explanatory and medical feature categories, and by structure, with extremely short sentences and paragraphs, it is clearly a traditional newspaper feature story.
On the other hand, J. R. Moehringer, the Los Angeles Times Atlanta bureau chief, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing with “Crossing Over” (1999), a 10-part, 9,600-word profile of a woman named Mary Lee Bendolph and her Alabama hometown of Gee’s Bend. Moehringer visited Gee’s Bend over a full year. Moehringer had a good deal of experience to help him report and write this story: He began his newspaper career as a news assistant at The New York Times. In 1990, he became a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then moved to the Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times 4 years later. Three years later, he became Atlanta bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times.
Through Bendolph’s eyes, Moehringer describes the possibilities of a proposed ferry for Bendolph’s isolated river community and its population. In a story stylistically similar to a magazine story, Moehringer effectively reduces the struggle for equal rights in the United States to the relationship between the people of a rural African American community and the residents of the nearby, predominately white community of Camden, Alabama.
The backgrounds of these writers varied more than their stories, by the way. Winning the feature Pulitzer typically was a midcareer accomplishment. Winners ranged in age from 27 to 64, with an average age of 40.5 years. Similarly, winners had full-time journalism experience ranging from 4 to 42 years, with an average of 17.3 years of experience. Most of the winning writers held journalism degrees. Twenty-two of the 25 winners had undergraduate college degrees, with 12 holding degrees in journalism and 10 with degrees in other areas, mostly English. Nine had master’s degrees, with seven of the winners holding graduate degrees in journalism. In all, 19 of the 22 winners with degrees had either undergraduate or graduate degrees in journalism. Many Pulitzer winners also freelanced articles to magazines before and after winning the prize, and most also wrote books after winning.
In all, the story of the Pulitzer Prize for newspaper feature writing since the 1980s also is the story of a profound blending of newspaper and magazine article forms as well as an adaptation to the needs of the Web.
Writing Newspaper Features and Magazine Articles
Developing a Newspaper Feature
Most newspaper feature stories are written and photographed by staff writers and staff photojournalists. Feature stories may be either assigned by editors or developed by writers as enterprise stories. Many stories, however, are written as a result of news stories. If, for example, a newspaper reported a minor earthquake on a Monday, an editor might assign a writer to report and write a short feature for Sunday publication about how readers could prepare their homes for a more serious quake.
Reporting a Newspaper Feature
Reporting precedes writing. Reporting is, of course, simply gathering information, and the feature writer reporting an earthquake preparedness story likely would interview disaster management experts in the community to determine the probability and severity of an impending earthquake. Based on that information, the writer would seek information and recommendations from local, state, and national sources regarding preparations for apartments and homes. The writer additionally would interview home improvement and specialized contractors to establish a range of costs for earthquake preparedness and also would contact state government insurance sources to determine how many readers within the circulation zone of the newspaper carry earthquake coverage, which is almost always an optional and ignored extra-cost item for renter’s and homeowner’s policies.
Writing a Newspaper Feature
With the story assigned on Monday and reporting requiring 2 days of telephone calls and interviews, it is safe to assume that writing would not begin until Thursday morning, with a Friday evening deadline looming for a Sunday print and online publication.
Depending on the publication, the writer might create a print version first and adapt it for online publication, or the writer might create an online version first and adapt it for print. In the early part of the 21st century, it is more likely that a long print version would be written first and that modification for online use would follow.
Writing techniques vary with the writer, of course, but there are two general approaches. The first approach is to complete the reporting and then write the story in one long sitting, without checking quotes, facts, punctuation, or even spelling. After the first draft, the writer would then verify the quotes and facts and perfect the punctuation and spelling. This type of writer usually takes the story through a third draft, which purges unnecessary language and tightens up the entire story. At this point, sometimes the writer also reorganizes the story for better effect. This rearranging is often done by printing the story, numbering the paragraphs, and then playing with the order on a bulletin board until an effective structure is achieved.
The second writing approach is to visualize the entire story and then write each sentence perfectly, with the expectation that there will be no revisions. A second draft, if necessary, may result in minor editing and rearrangement, but the clean draft writer rarely changes much of the story after it is written.
After the print version has been written, the writer tackles the online version. The main body of the online story is shorter, and parts that would appear in the main print body are set aside for linked sidebars or supplements. In addition, the writer will identify document links and key those to the story. If audio was recorded during the interviews, the writer would edit the audio for additional sidebar use. The photojournalist probably would prepare a gallery of pictures beyond those used in the print story and may provide video segments as well. Both the writer and the photojournalist would collaborate on additional gallery segments that would include both audio interviews and photographs in an online show.
The stories and photographs and other elements, of course, are then submitted to print and online editors, who check the material for accuracy, completeness, and balance and also further check the elements for spelling and grammar.
Publishing a Newspaper Feature
At some news organizations, the online story would be released before the printed version. At other organizations, the printed version would appear first and refer to unique online segments. At others, both versions would appear simultaneously and refer to one another.
In particular, the online version would include a reader feedback loop in which comments could be posted. The writer and photographer also might participate in a virtual discussion room for interested online readers.
Developing a Magazine Article
A freelance magazine writer working with the same topic of earthquake preparedness would approach the topic differently. There is little point in reporting and writing a magazine story if there is no market for it. (Magazines employ very few staff writers. Freelance writers provide most of the content for most magazines.) As a result, the freelance writer needs to research the market to find a magazine appropriate for the general topic of earthquake preparedness and then hone the topic to the particular magazine. For example, an insurance company magazine might be interested in a story on the topic, but the magazine writer would need to determine if the insurance company sold homeowner’s insurance and if the magazine circulated in areas with active earthquake fault zones. If the magazine readers were at risk for earthquakes, the writer might have to write several versions of the story for each edition of the magazine, and each version would be linked to an individual geologic fault zone.
Selling a Magazine Article
The magazine article sales process begins with a query letter—either mailed or sent by e-mail depending on editor preferences—to the magazine editor. The letter must be preceded by expert research about the magazine. Does the company offer earthquake coverage? If so, in what parts of the United States? What are the active fault zones in those parts of the country? What are the destructive expectations for these earthquakes? Minor damage? Devastation?
The writer’s query letter serves several purposes. It interests the editor by presenting enough of the story for the editor to learn whether the article might help his or her readers. The letter also gives the editor a taste of the writer’s style and provides the editor with information regarding the writer’s writing and educational credentials. The query letter is rarely more than one page, but the best ones are usually as well-written as the articles that follow.
Reporting a Magazine Article
If the editor agrees to buy the article, either as a direct assignment or on speculation, the writer begins work reporting and writing the article. A direct assignment means that the writer will be paid if the article meets the general terms outlined by the editor. A speculative assignment means only that the editor has expressed interest and will buy the article if it meets the magazine’s needs when it is submitted.
Reporting often takes weeks if not months. Writer and editors frequently exchange e-mail notes regarding progress.
Writing a Magazine Article
Writing the magazine article is somewhat like writing the newspaper feature story, but deadlines are usually both longer and more flexible. Great care must be given to matching the story writing style to the magazine writing style. Magazines often fact-check articles, and so the accuracy of the story—particularly a scientifically based story such as one about earthquakes—must be exceptional.
Depending on the agreement with the writer, several versions of the story may have to be written. In addition, if the magazine has an online site, an online version of the article with multimedia may have to be created.
Magazines often pay as much for photography as for the writer’s words, and so if the magazine writer is a photojournalist, it may be possible to double the freelance fee.
Publishing a Magazine Article
Magazine lead times are long, and the writer must understand that the article pitched in January may not appear for 18 months. That lead time requires avoiding contemporary references that might change in a year. In addition, some magazines pay on publication, which means that the check will not arrive until several months after the long-delayed publication. Magazines that pay on acceptance are preferred. Fees vary, of course.
Just as magazines and newspapers are becoming more similar by publishing for audiences on the first available platform—usually simultaneously in print and online for magazines and usually on their Web sites first for newspapers—magazine articles and newspaper feature stories have become more similar.
The model for the magazine article and newspaper feature story of the early 21st century likely will be an article written twice. The print version likely will be long and have a sidebar or two, and perhaps several printed links to the Web for readers interested enough to pursue the story to drill down into a database mentioned in the story. On the other hand, the Web story will be sliced into multiple parts with a few paragraphs per Web page. Within those paragraphs will be links to sidebars, and within those sidebars will be additional links to database and original sources, including the feature writer’s notes about how the story was reported, written, and edited. Beyond the source, links will be rich with multimedia journalism: video interviews with key sources, galleries of photographs that took up too much space for the print edition, portable document files (pdf) of source materials, and audio segments. Beyond the multimedia will be numerous Web enhancements, such as a chat room for readers and the writer and a place for readers’ comments.
In summary, U.S. magazines in the last decades of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century typically were weeklies and monthlies targeted at a narrow audience and written by a few staff writers and an army of freelance writers and photojournalists whose work was completed under generous deadlines and also was typically carefully fact-checked by editors. In contrast, the typical late-20th-century and early-21st-century newspaper was a daily publication aimed at a general-circulation readership. Its feature articles were written and photographed by staff writers and staff pho-tojournalists working on extremely tight deadlines. Because of this, newspaper feature articles often used fewer sources than their magazine counterparts did, and fact-checking was limited. Despite minor differences, the magazine article and newspaper feature story forms were rather similar between the late 1880s and the late 1990s, after which they became essentially identical except for the magazine world’s targeted audiences and more generous deadlines.
It can be argued that the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing exemplifies the best in the form and the most recent Pulitzer Prize winning feature stories are as much magazine articles as newspaper feature stories. The profile of a winning feature Pulitzer story is a nondeadline, multipart profile suitable either for a newspaper or for a magazine and that uses a chronological structure and ends with some sort of summary of events, attitudes, or reactions. Multimedia became a storytelling factor beginning in 2007. The typical winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in the first 25 years of the award’s existence was a 40-year-old journalist with 17 years of experience. The award-winning journalist held a journalism degree at either the undergraduate or the graduate level and worked for a daily newspaper with a circulation of more than 250,000 copies per day. Many also wrote for magazines as freelancers.
With feature stories for magazines and newspapers now essentially similar, the forms probably will completely merge in the early years of the 21st century, but with the added benefit of multimedia journalism. That will bring new forms, perhaps involving readers as citizen journalists. Done well, the 21st-century magazine article and newspaper feature story will provide a significantly richer experience online and in print for readers.