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English and the News

"So anyway," the reporter continues, "you wanted to know how we make the news?"

The English section of the Undergraduate Readiness Assessment requires students to read and interpret journalistic writing, and in order to fully understand how to read newspapers, you figure you have to know at least a little bit about how to write newspapers.

She gestures to the commotion outside her office door. "Well, this is how we make the news. No one in this building has had a good night's sleep for weeks; we've all been busy interviewing sources, cross-checking documents, and putting together the best picture we can of what happened.

"Once we've all got our facts straight, we need to put them into print. Journalists like me often write articles in what's called an inverted pyramid structure. That means we put the most important information in the headline, and then the most important details in the first paragraph, and then slightly more background-type information in the second paragraph, and so on. Until eventually you get to the part at the end where we put things like, 'The mayor's husband declined to comment on the allegations.'"