What’s the primary reason a journalist decides to cover a story? Whether it’s “newsworthy.” Of course, most people think that their story is newsworthy (obviously). But whether it meets a journalist’s standards of newsworthiness is another question.
If you’re looking for press coverage, it’s essential to bear in mind that the newsworthiness of your story is always going to be the journalist’s call. You need to pitch a story that meets the journalist’s criteria, not your own.
So what makes something newsworthy to a journalist? Here’s the short version. Is your story interesting and relevant to the journalist’s audience? If so, then it’s probably newsworthy. For a little more detail, we’ve got a quick lesson in Journalism 101 for ya. Below, we outline the general criteria for “newsworthiness” that every journalist learns in J-school (followed by a few tips).
Once you know the 5 pillars of newsworthiness, we hope you’ll start using them to inform your story pitching strategy.
Timely story topics are ones that are new or current. While the story topic doesn’t have to be “breaking news,” it should offer something new or tie into a current event in order to be considered timely.
Significance is how and whether the story affects its audience. How is the story relevant or interesting? Does the story relay events or information that will impact its audience? Are there a large number of people who are affected by the story?
Proximity generally refers to geographical proximity but can also apply to social or cultural proximity. Events that occur locally or nearby will always have more significance. Similarly, stories that involve events that relate closely to us or are otherwise close to our hearts can also be newsworthy, for instance, coverage of involvement in overseas conflicts.
Famous people get regular news coverage simply by virtue of being well-known. This is why a major news network will cover Brangelina’s wedding on the evening news (whether they should or not). Readers and viewers are interested in celebrity, and because of this interest, famous people are newsworthy. This doesn’t mean a lack of prominence will preclude news coverage; it just means that unless you’re kind of a big deal, this isn’t the newsworthiness factor you should aim for.
Basically, human interest is the catchall criteria for all other stories that will be interesting to an audience. Stories that are unique, compelling, inspiring, amusing, or otherwise have emotional impact or appeal will meet the standard for human interest.
A Few More Tips to Consider:
-Keep in mind, all these factors must be considered in context to the media outlet’s specific audience. What’s significant, prominent and interesting to one audience will differ from another.
-Don’t have a breaking news story to share? No worries. Tie your story to a current or upcoming event to make it more timely.
-While timing can be challenging, it can also work to your advantage. A story of average interest can be boosted into the spotlight due to its relation to current events, so always be on the lookout for timing opportunities. For example, a product pitch may be more successful during the gift giving holidays, while a travel-focused story may have more leverage during a popular sporting event or vacation time.
-Shape your story idea around the people involved to make it a human interest piece. Consider the personal challenges and triumphs of the characters in your story. What was the universal lesson learned? The key is to find the part of your story that will have the most emotional impact, and focus on that.
-If you’re not sure where to start, find a relevant media outlet and check out the stories they’ve already written. What types of stories do they normally feature? Which of the newsworthy factors are most prominent in their stories? What kinds of stories are most popular with readers? This will give you a better understanding of what that particular media outlet finds newsworthy.
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