News Values

How do reporters and editors determine what is newsworthy?

Traditional criteria of news value are those journalists use to decide which sets of facts make up news stories and which stories are more newsworthy than others. In the current news media climate, many of these criteria have changed. The "news hole" for the San Antonio Express-News has shrunk and local television news doesn't quite fill the bill. If you watch local news, you know the situation.

Click here for State of the News Media in 2014.

No two are alike. So, you will need to consider the demographics and psychographics of your readers, listeners or viewers to determine interests.  San Antonio audience for either print or broadcast is a distinctive audience: Hispanic, Roman Catholic, military, retirees, military retirees, students, water issues, tourism, proximity to Mexico.
These considerations also must be made in the context of the day. The expression "a slow news day" has meaning. Or, if multiple important events occur on the same day, priorities must be set as to the coverage.
Numbers of people affected and how seriously it affects them.   Also called magnitude (numbers) and/or consequence (long-term impact). A major wreck on Loop 410 is newsworthy, but it becomes even more newsworthy if traffic is being affected. Ideally, radio news would be the quickest way to get information out, but unfortunately, radio news in San Antonio has disappeared — except for a couple of stations.
Nearness — usually the event is bigger if it happens locally than if it happened miles away. However, if a San Antonio or area resident was in a plane crash in Africa, it would be newsworthy.
   Today's news is stale tomorrow unless you update it with new information. Then, it has timeliness again. This is often an element to commemorate an anniversary of a newsworthy event such as the assassination of JFK, 9-11 or the recollections of D-Day.
   Jessica McClure married; that was a story. That's not news unless you know this: On Oct. 14, 1987, at age 18 months, Baby Jessica fell into a well in Midland, Texas, and was the central news story the world over as rescuers worked feverishly for three days before she was safely retrieved from the well.  She held the attention of the nation and the world as a toddler 17 years ago after she fell into an abandoned well. Crews struggled for 58 hours to rescue 18-month-old Jessica McClure from the eight-inch-wide pipe.  Her story renewed when she started school, when she graduated, when she was married and when she had her own baby.
Celebrities, politicians, important people. A president's children suddenly become newsworthy upon the election of their father.  Or, consider the Saving Pfc. Jessica Lynch story.
Novelty (Oddity or unusualness)
These are often short, snappy little stories that seemingly have no place in the news. They either cause people to smile or say, "Wow, I didn't know that" or "Gee, that's stupid." Consider these odd articles.
A break in the normal routine, usually. Dog bites man is not news; man bites dog is news.
Disaster / progress
   One person's progress may be another's disaster. For example, a new development over the Edwards Aquifer may be progress to developers but disaster for environmentalists.  
   The plane crash in the Hudson River was a world story and resulted in numerous followup angles. The pilot has become a national hero, attended the inauguration and his return to his California home was top of the news.
Human Interest or Pathos
Click here for help with human interest reporting.  This requires more work on the reporter's part. It requires digging, often. More often, children, animals, old people and people overcoming adversity are worthy of coverage as human interest. Often, human interest stems from a natural disaster such as a hurricane or an earthquake; the story will center on people performing heroic rescues or people suffering as a result of the disaster.

Other contributing factors might be exceptional quality, future impact, shock value or titillation component.   Click here for examples. . 

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