Thursday, May 14, 2015

What makes news? Novelty or rarity

We are at the halfway point in our list of what make something newsworthy, and we come to one of the classic bits of journalism advice that has been floating around for decades:
  • Timeliness
  • Proximity
  • Impact or Consequence
  • Novelty or Rarity
  • Conflict
  • Human interest
  • Prominence
The novelty of a story idea can make or break whether it gets covered. While there are three potential sources of where the original quote came from - British newspaper pioneer Alfred Harmsworth, New York Sun editor John Bogart or Charles Anderson Dana - the message is quite clear:
When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.
No cartoon dogs were hurt in the writing of this post
This becomes critical when your bosses start asking you questions about why you can't get coverage about firefighters maintaining their equipment, police officers doing routine patrols or employees doing their jobs efficiently and effectively. That's what's supposed to happen. You pay them to do that, so there's nothing particularly newsworthy about that. 

It would be like doing a report that says, "Sun rises in the east," or "Water is found to be wet." It would only be a story if those things didn't happen.

So, when you are looking to pitch a story to reporters, you have to consider what makes it so novel. People donating food to soup kitchens during the holiday season wouldn't necessarily be a big draw for a news story, but someone who runs a year-long effort to collect food would be something that just might. 

This type of generosity in July might be something a reporter would be interested in
Rarity is also a huge factor in garnering coverage. Every so often, you may hear a story at a botanical garden about a plant known as a Corpse Flower. These plants bloom once every seven to ten years, and when they do bloom, they have the pungent smell of rotting flesh. Not something you want to snip and bring to a loved one.

Ewww... stinky but rare...
What makes stories such as those get so much coverage is that the botanists have to wait nearly a decade for the silly thing to bloom. So, when you do see coverage of one of these events, you now know why news stations use the time. 

I can tell you for a fact that since 2015 marks a decade since a hurricane of any intensity has struck the state of Florida, you can be sure that all hurricane coverage this year will point out just how rare this has been during the Atlantic Hurricane record. 

That's a novel idea...

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

No comments:

Post a Comment