Washington State University
What News Is
• What is Newsworthy?
• Some factors to consider:
– Who is your audience?
– Who is the publisher?
– What type of media are you writing for?
What is Newsworthy?
• Human Interest/Novelty
• Eminence and Prominence
• Consequence and Impact
• Visuals (TV)
• How close is the event to
– Example: Car accident in
Miami vs. Pullman
• How recently did (or will) the event
• Live event?
• The more time that passes, the less
newsworthy a story is
• What is the
of the story?
• If it is “interesting,”
then it may be
Eminence and Prominence
• How well known is the subject matter?
– Example: Sex scandal with a neighbor less
newsworthy than with a president or
– Who has a right to privacy?
– Celebrities and politicians are
“fair game” in today’s media
• Conflict and tension is more interesting
• Example: Two countries at war is more
newsworthy than two regions without
Consequence and Impact
• How does the event impact the
– Example: Change in WSU tuition may
be of great interest to you since it
impacts you directly
– Example: Pullman to Moscow road
closure effects our commute
• An exciting event
captured on video
– The same event
undocumented may not
even make the news
• “News holes”
• Influence from publishers/advertisers
The Role of the Journalist
• Questions to Consider:
– Do we serve the will of the audience?
• What if the audience doesn’t want to hear what we
have to report?
– What is truth, anyway?
• Who defines the standard of “truth”?
• Isn’t it subjective?
Civic vs. Traditional Journalism
• Civic Journalism:
– In a democratic society, reporting that seeks to
• Traditional Journalism:
– Remain neutral at any cost
• The placement of a specific issue on the public
– Numerous academic studies on how individuals
and media decide what is important
– Postulated by Maxwell McCombs and Donald
Shaw in the 1970s (based on earlier studies by
Walter Lippmann in 1922)
– May originate in many legitimate and illegitimate
• It predicts that if people are exposed to the same media, they
will place importance on the same issues.
• It has explanatory power because it explains why most people
prioritize the same issues as important.
• It has predictive power because it predicts that if people are
exposed to the same media, they will feel the same issues are
• The O.J. Simpson case
• The Clinton scandal
• The Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo.
– During these historic events, there was media placement of full page,
color articles and top stories on news programming
– While the public was deeply divided on both of these issues, the
media also played the role of communicating to the American public
that these events were important for an extended period of time.
• Can you think of any other recent examples?
– What if the media distorts what is worthy of front
– Why might they do that?
• The media serves as a gatekeeper that lets in
certain stories and keeps out others
• A very powerful position
• Internet is weakening the traditional mass
The Gold Standard
• A journalist aims to be fair and accurate
• We strive for “the best obtainable version of
• Absolute “truth” may be difficult (if not
impossible) to put into words
• What if there are no words in the English
language to explain a concept?
• What if there is a deadline that prevents you
from telling the whole story?
• What if a source refuses to talk?
• What if… What if… What if…
• One of the biggest challenges is telling a story
with the inherent limitations of time and
• How do you convey the complexity when you
are limited to a two-minute newscast or only
• How do you know that the piece won’t get
edited incorrectly after you file it?
• Use the Internet to examine several news sites.
• Compare and contrast the differences between “news
judgment” and style for three sites
• Things to consider:
– What type of stories get the most prominent placement?
– Do you think that the site adheres to the “Murrow standard” of being
“fair and balanced”?
– Who is the site’s primary audience?
– Which site would you read? Why?
Accuracy and Fairness
• Do the best you can to be:
• Spell names correctly
• Quote correctly
– Some debate about whether bad grammar should
– Most publications/broadcasts do not let the
subject review their quote before it goes public
– Never misrepresent the context of the quote
• You can change the meaning of a quote if you
use it incorrectly (or use only a portion of a
• Movie Ad: Seven
• (New Line Cinema, 1995)
• Ad copy: "A
masterpiece." -- Owen
• What Gleiberman really said: "The deadly sins
premise...is actually rather corny; it's like
something out of a Clive Barker potboiler....
The credits sequence, with its jumpy frames
and near-subliminal flashes of psycho-paraphernalia,
is a small masterpiece of
• An ideal that journalists strive for
• Presenting the observable factors without
biases from the source, writer or reader
• Is true objectivity achievable?
Hard News/Soft News
• Hard News
– Event that is important because it has impact for
– Example: World Trade Center destruction
• Soft News
– “Feature” news
– Enjoyable to know about, but not essential
Differences Among Media
• The medium is the message
• Each form of media offers different
opportunities for telling a story
• TV News
– Visually driven
– Soundbite heavy
– Often superficial by design
– “Emotions” emphasized
– Coverage subject to censorship of violence and
sexual content to meet TV broadcast standards
– Offers more detail than TV
– More room for coverage beyond the “30 minute
format” of TV News
– Slowest to deliver the news
• Internet News
– Readers can often post “comments” or feedback
on the stories for others to see
– Personalization technologies can change the
“front page” according to interests of readers
– No “gatekeepers” to prevent access to alternative-leaning
– Infinite amount of space to publish
Know Your Audience
• Who is the readership?
• Should that influence what you
publish or report?