Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What makes news? Conflict

We're over the hump and gaining speed now when it comes to our list of items that make something newsworthy. And, wow, is this next one ever a doozy.
  • Timeliness
  • Proximity
  • Impact or Consequence
  • Novelty or Rarity
  • Conflict
  • Human interest
  • Prominence
Again, I have to come back to something that was told to my wife - the family's journalist - while she was back in college. The media's job, she was told, is to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted. 

This one should be an absolute no brainer...
Wow, that's deep stuff, but think of how many stories you see that just scream conflict. Where else does this story idea come to the fore better than the occasional story about a city clerk who insists that a child get a permit to open a lemonade stand on a hot day? You would think this would be media relations training 101 for every single code officer across the country, and yet stories still crop up.

Why does the media give them the time of day? I mean, it's not like a child has 500 employees and is an engine of the local economy. It's the David vs. Goliath story that tugs at the heart strings and makes the viewers want more.

This conflict is also what pushes the accelerator of investigative journalists to the floor. Conflict gets the juices flowing. It makes for tantalizing stories. It draws viewers. It makes you cheer for the little guys and jeer the jerks. And, when someone decides that he or she wants to attack the camera to stop the interview, well, it's video gold.

This conflict is why you will also see almost every story feature your organization, followed by someone who is baffled by what you are doing. I can remember once when all of the counties in west central Florida had to change their evacuation maps, which required an expansion of those who had to evacuate in the event of a hurricane warning.

Check those evacuation maps
The maps were redrawn with new ground imaging technology, discoveries after major storms such as hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and a better understanding of surge peculiarities. As you may have imagined, though, the reporters sought out interviews with residents who were previously in non-evacuation zones, but were now going to have to leave in the worst-case scenario.

But, hey, conflict makes a story good. Now, break out the popcorn and check out the conflict while you watch your next news story...

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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