University Communications

University Communications

What Makes News

What Makes News


1. Conflict is news

News in an adversarial system. Two sides equal a story. It is not a reporter's duty to evaluate the validity of either side.

Corollary: Consensus is not news.


2. Novelty is news

It's called "news" for a reason. Media chase the newest things.


3. Extremes are news

The biggest, the fastest, the most expensive, the oldest, the youngest - These are words to warm a reporter's heart. Second-best, one of 20, top-third - These phrases won't have the same effect.


4. Lists are news

Thank David Letterman. Anything that can be squeezed into a top-ten list is newsworthy. It has the appearance of precision and can be digested quickly.


5. Television moves

Print media can accommodate a wide array of stories. To be effective on television, things have to move, change color, transform. TV people hate "talking heads."


6. One third-party endorsement beats a dozen first-party endorsements

College-guide ratings, national rankings, recognition from outside are good fuel for the media fire.


7. Trends are news

Frame the issue. Is it part of or on the leading edge of a significant development having a wider effect?


8. Timeliness makes news

 Did something happen recently that your institution can add perspective on?


9. Wide impact

 How many people are affected? More people = news.


10. Proximity

Close to “home” = news. If something happened locally, or if local people are involved, it’s likely news. If there is an earthquake in China, it’s new in Maine if people from Maine are in China. 


11. Highlight the human element

WHO will your research/project help? Show me their faces. Let me hear their voices.


12. Think like "Joe Average"

Would your work, your message compel the average person who has no background in your area of expertise, may have only a passing interest in your field of endeavor…and who is NOT your mother? If it would, then it's probably news.


Dead on Arrival: Recognizing a Non-Story

"What a great teaching job we do!" This story suggestion is a common one. One jaded reporter said in response, "At $20,000 a year tuition, you'd better be damn good at teaching."

Variations include: "What a wonderful faculty we have." Or, "our graduates are very successful." It rarely works because everyone who's successful graduated from somewhere.