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Know What’s Newsworthy—A Former Journalist’s Guide

July 22, 2013 Bradford Group Administrator

overwhelmed personIn my previous life as a broadcast journalist, I’d wake up most mornings in a panic. The anxiety mounted as I pondered: Would I be able to find a story, coordinate the appropriate interviews, film the scene and edit my package all in time for my 5 o’clock live shot? (I’m getting anxious right now just thinking about it.)


It all hinged on finding the right story. If I could do that, everything else would fall into place and I could meet my deadline.


*Journalists are looking for stories. They want and need to hear about what you’re doing so they can inform the public.


I soon learned I could find great stories by developing relationships with great local sources. Every morning I’d call my trusty informants for ideas and interviewee recommendations. Their assistance made my job easier and my stories better.


My sources included community leaders, business owners and PR pros. Their stories would make the news because they knew what was newsworthy and what I liked to report about.


*Journalists want you to send them pertinent news about your revolutionary business or community service campaign. It helps them do their job.


Here’s how you can be a viable source:


Understand what’s “textbook” newsworthy. My college textbook listed seven contributing factors to newsworthiness. A winning story will combine at least two of these:

  1. Impact—How many people are affected by the story? The more the better.
  2. Timing—Does your news refer to last month’s holiday or last week’s big news? If so, too little, too late. Timing is everything.
  3. Proximity—Is the news close to home? Journalists want to tell stories their viewers or readers care about. Folks care most about what’s going on in their community or industry.
  4. Prominence—Is the mayor or Joe Schmo quitting his job? Big difference.  (Note: The mayor’s name is not Joe Schmo.) If you have the dish on a prominent figure, that’s news.
  5. Human interest—Will your story evoke emotion? Does it speak to the heart? Media outlets need a few of these gems to give their audience a break from all the hard negative news.
  6. Currency—Did a journalist recently cover a topic you have additional information about? He or she may be interested in a follow-up story with your material.
  7. Unusualness—Is there a huge beehive in your neighbor’s yard? That’s something viewers or readers might want to see. I was catching up with one of my former coworkers who was assigned this story today. The hive is the size of a car!


Understand what’s “newsroom” newsworthy. These are three considerations that weren’t listed in my college textbook, but matter greatly when media members are choosing stories:

  1. Engagement—Will your story illicit Facebook comments and website views? When I was in journalism, the entire news team would review which stories received the most digital interaction and plan follow-up stories on those. Pitch stories that foster digital discussion.
  2. Trends—Does your scoop demonstrate a national trend? This is pertinent to local news especially. Reporters need to relay national information to their viewers, but must find a way to localize it. If you have that spin, most journalists will be happy to hear about it.
  3. Conflict—Will your story initiate a polarizing debate? Journalists aren’t hoping to cause uproar, but news consumers favor stories with conflict over those without it. The media, like any business, aims to deliver a product their customers want. If you can weigh-in on a fiery debate, you may be the perfect interviewee.


Familiarize yourself with the journalist you’re reaching out to. Many journalists have beats, or areas they’re assigned to cover. All journalists have preferences, or areas they enjoy and frequently cover. The story you tell them about must be aligned with his or her beat and preference. The only way you can learn a journalist’s assignments and proclivities is by actually reading or watching the journalist’s work. You must consume news to pitch news.

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