The Elements of an Effective News Story

Photo courtesy of by Newsflash

Ever wonder why a spate of deadly car crashes makes the front page (or leads-off the news hour) while announcements about a new social enterprise that employs people with mental illness tend to get buried? It’s all connected to how “newsworthy” a story is considered by the editorial/production staff. Each day, thousands of producers and editors around the country are forced to rank what’s worth paying attention to and what they can safely ignore.

Understanding what makes news isn’t just a helpful skill for reporters or communications flacks. With the proliferation of social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook, everyone is becoming a mini-broadcaster in their own special way. Knowing what is relevant and what is “interesting” to your audience is a hallmark of successful communication.

Day to day, it is useful to think about what is worthwhile to share on your networks. What will people inside (and outside) your organization find interesting? Whether it is through traditional media like newspapers, radio or TV, or via social media, the elements of what makes “good news” are always the same. Some (though not all) of the elements to consider include:

  • Timeliness – your news item is “news” now, not later. Make sure that you treat it like a hot potato and don’t sit on it. Share or promote as soon as possible.
  • Currency – things become particularly interesting when they happen again and again. As soon as something happens more than a couple times, you’re often looking at a trend. If you can demonstrate or predict a trend, it’ll often be of interest to people. Consider roping separate incidents or occurrences together to show how they mean much more together than apart.
  • Emotion – who does your story impact? What sort of emotion does hearing about it provoke? If your news is about a new product, consider how the product makes users feel. The more powerful the emotion, the more powerful the story.
  • Conflict – this is the life blood of most news. It’s what journalists constantly sniff for when interviewing for a story. Anytime you can find an instance where one person says one thing and another person says the opposite you have the components of a good story. Conflict is frequently the driving force in news about politics, crime and even business.
  • Impact – how many people will your story effect and how deeply? One of the reasons car crashes always get great play on the news is that not only are particular families directly impacted, but thousands of commuters trying to make their way to or from work will also feel the effects.
  • Money – anything that has a big financial figure attached to it can be molded into a news story. If you’re working for a public institution, watch out, because tax payers (and the media) feel an entitlement to the money paying for your salary and your projects. If they feel it is being misappropriated, you could be looking at headlines.
  • Fear – this sadly can be a driving force of stories and often successfully integrates emotion and conflict. Its success in attracting audiences is part of the reason for its proliferation in media down South with news organizations like Fox News.

The more of these factors you’re able to incorporate into your story, the more newsworthy it will be. Part of the reason the maxim, “it bleeds, it leads” still has resonance is these stories tend to incorporate a heady mix of fear, impact, conflict, emotion and timeliness. Ultimately, by integrating as many of these elements as you can into your news story, you’ll be able to ensure your news or stories will be particularly honed for maximum interest among your audience.

Header photo courtesy of ed100

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About Kurt Heinrich

Who are you? I work as a storyteller. In my spare time I like to volunteer on a variety of environmental and political initiatives as well as help coordinate a soccer team based in the Downtown Eastside. What do you do for fun? I like to cook, cycle, read, chillax, eat French and Japanese food, play with my friends, shoot the breeze with my mom, dad and sisters, explore new and interesting communities, sip the Bump and Grind's delicious Clover brew, and spend time with my lovely red headed partner Theo. What’s your favorite community and why? Right now my favorite community is the Drive. It's hip, happening and varied hosting people as diverse as a Deloitte consultant (you know who you are...) to a stick twirling, leather-homemade-clothes-wearing dude known as "Cloud Man".

2 thoughts on “The Elements of an Effective News Story

  1. Pingback: Pluck and Persistence Will Drive Your Story into the News - The Potentiality

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