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What Makes a Story Newsworthy?

The News

News can be defined as "Newsworthy information about recent events or happenings, especially as reported by news media". But what makes news newsworthy?

There is a list of five factors, detailed below, which are considered when deciding if a story is newsworthy. When an editor needs to decide whether to run with a particular story, s/he will ask how well the story meets each of these criteria. Normally, a story should perform well in at least two areas.

Naturally, competition plays a part. If there are a lot of newsworthy stories on a particular day then some stories will be dropped. Although some stories can be delayed until a new slot becomes available, time-sensitive news will often be dropped permanently.


1. Timing

The word news means exactly that - things which are new. Topics which are current are good news. Consumers are used to receiving the latest updates, and there is so much news about that old news is quickly discarded.

A story with only average interest needs to be told quickly if it is to be told at all. If it happened today, it's news. If the same thing happened last week, it's no longer interesting.

2. Significance

The number of people affected by the story is important. A plane crash in which hundreds of people died is more significant than a crash killing a dozen.

3. Proximity

Stories which happen near to us have more significance. The closer the story to home, the more newsworthy it is. For someone living in France, a major plane crash in the USA has a similar news value to a small plane crash near Paris.

Note that proximity doesn't have to mean geographical distance. Stories from countries with which we have a particular bond or similarity have the same effect. For example, Australians would be expected to relate more to a story from a distant Western nation than a story from a much closer Asian country.

4. Prominence

Famous people get more coverage just because they are famous. If you break your arm it won't make the news, but if the Queen of England breaks her arm it's big news.

5. Human Interest

Human interest stories are a bit of a special case. They often disregard the main rules of newsworthiness; for example, they don't date as quickly, they need not affect a large number of people, and it may not matter where in the world the story takes place.

Human interest stories appeal to emotion. They aim to evoke responses such as amusement or sadness. Television news programs often place a humorous or quirky story at the end of the show to finish on a feel-good note. Newspapers often have a dedicated area for offbeat or interesting items.

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