Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What makes news? Impact

Continuing down our list of what makes something newsworthy, we have to see just how big an event can be to attract the attention of a reporter:

  • Timeliness
  • Proximity
  • Impact or Consequence
  • Novelty or Rarity
  • Conflict
  • Human interest
  • Prominence
A story with a large impact or consequence grab the attention of a reporter faster than just about anything. This is where PIOs - especially those who deal with weather-related phenomena - can be deeply involved.

Think about something as ubiquitous as the rain. I mean, everyone knows what rain is. Even kids in the deserts know about rain, And places such as Phoenix that don't get a lot - still understand what it is. So, when a light shower falls in even the driest places, it's no big deal.

A driver not heeding the warnings to stay away from flood waters in Phoenix
Now, amp up the amount of rain that falls to an amount that can exceed the ability of normal storm drainage to manage, and you have a major impact. Now, flash floods can sweep cars off of roads, making for extremely dangerous conditions. 

What's funny is that while two inches of rain in Phoenix might cause tremendous flash flooding, two inches of rain in Florida would barely make the news due to its more tropical nature. So, as you can see, what has the impact to make news in one place may not have the ability to do that in another. 

How about earthquakes? Some rule applies. Areas that are earthquake prone may make mention of a small temblor, while other areas that rarely see them will see a lot of coverage.

You can bet this type of event will get media coverage
Someone trying to clean their kitchen sink with a mix of bleach and ammonia might need to call 9-1-1 for medical treatment, but you can be sure that a derailed tanker truck full of anhydrous ammonia would be the top story.

This impact or consequence judgement leaks into even more aspects of the news than you think. Is your favorite baseball team trading away their third string catcher? Who cares. Your starting pitching ace... it's a big deal.

Depending on the size of the business, this may be a huge deal
A small mom-and-pop business closes down and three people lose their jobs, meh. A major company closes down operations in your neck of the woods, and everyone will be out to report on it. 

So, when you think about your event, always consider just how many people are going to be impacted. It will definitely have an impact on the type of coverage the story may garner. 

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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