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. Highlight the human element
    WHO will your research/project help? Show me their faces. Let me hear their voices.
  9. 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 $10,000 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.