Reportage refers to day-by-day-even hour-by-hour-journalism. Some authorities insist that an account must be first-hand to qualify as genuine reportage; others deny that 'I was there' stipulation, arguing that the term can cover any news story based on eye-witness testimony. The purist in me makes me incline to the former view, largely because John Carey makes it the governing principle of his excellent The Faber Book Of Reportage. For the purposes of this brief chapter, however, I shall favour the looser or broader definition: a news story that incorporates eye-witness evidence (the writer's, others', or both), in-coming reports and background information.
Any newspaper story seeks to answer these six questions:
Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
It could sensibly be argued that all writing seeks to satisfy the reader's curiosity in a roughly similar way; what makes reportage distinctive, even unusual, is the way this is done.
Please read the following story, taken from the Birmingham Evening Mail of December 13, 1986. Does it provide answers to those six questions? If not, can you think of any reason why [discounting the possibility that the journalist was incompetent!]? And what do you notice about its structure?