Choosing Newsworthy

How to Write Newsworthy Content

Your content doesn’t have to be a tear-jerker or leave your audience in stitches. But it should address an issue that is important to people and convey a story with a point of view.

Journalists use the eight primary news values as guidelines when determining whether or not an event or piece of information is worth sharing: impact, timeliness, prominence, proximity, the bizarre, conflict and currency.

Bias

There are many types of biases that can affect newsworthiness. One of the most common is political bias, where a news outlet supports or attacks a certain political party, candidate or ideology. Other forms of bias include omission, the choice of which events to include or exclude; source selection and sharing information that supports a particular point of view; story selection and placement; slanting or framing; concision (the tendency to report views that can be summed up succinctly, crowding out more unconventional points of view); and socialization, or the influence of colleagues in the newsroom.

Newer research has expanded the range of factors that can be considered when evaluating newsworthiness, including routines such as meeting deadlines and competing for exclusives; external influences such as public relations professionals and “spin doctors”; the beliefs of journalists influenced by their workplace or by their peers (Bourdieu 1992); and the ways in which audiences select and disseminate stories (Phillips 2015). This has led to a blurring of the boundaries between journalistic practice and audience participation.

Relevance

Despite the growing dominance of digital media, people still read newspapers and watch TV. They also share news on social media. In a high-choice news culture, relevance is the paramount driver of news selection decisions. The most relevant news stories are those that affect people’s daily lives, their family and friends, their communities and the places where they work. They may have a societal impact or involve celebrities. In addition, they should be entertaining or interesting to readers.

To judge whether a news story is relevant, consider how close it is to you or your community and how much you know about the topic already. You should also consider the source of the news, as some sources provide factual information while others are attempting to change your opinion or sell you something (opinion pieces). Other factors include proximity, sociability and brand. News about a scandal, conflict or controversy can be especially interesting. These are known as “hot” stories and often get more attention than a simple weather report.

Impact

With news available to us throughout the day and seven days a week, we are constantly exposed to information that can affect our attitudes and behavior. Generally, the topics covered in the media have negative valence, such as natural disasters, crime, war, and the bad economy.

In this study, participants viewed narrative and nonnarrative news articles with and without visuals and were asked to report on their responses. Findings from this research showed that narrative news reports persuaded viewers through different mechanisms, namely transportation and sympathy. However, adding visuals did not increase these effects.

These findings suggest that the choice of a story may be as important as its news values, especially in an age when social media is influencing which stories are circulated and shared. While some people find hard news disturbing, others are more open to positive news stories if they mobilize or affirm their beliefs. For example, a news story about a ballet company that employs blind dancers can generate more clicks and shares than one about the death toll from a terrorist attack in Syria.

Reliability

Many respondents noted that while the internet has amplified countless information sources, it also hurt the reach and influence of traditional news organizations. They called for more, well-staffed, financially stable and independent news organizations that could provide objective, verified, reliable information undergirded by ethical standards.

Despite the many concerns about the reliability and validity of information on the internet, there are several methods available to filter the information you see. These methods include websites that identify and label fake news, wikis that allow users to verify information, and systems like PolitiFact and Snopes that check the accuracy of news stories.

The ability and motivation to find out what is happening in the world and why is the first step to becoming a good filter of news and information. Your librarian can be your partner in this effort; ask for help with finding the news, checking facts, corroborating evidence and more. A librarian can also point you to more information about a specific news organization, its leadership and mission.

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