Thursday, May 7, 2015

What makes news? Proximity

Continuing our investigation into what makes a news story worthy of garnering coverage, we turn our eyes a little closer to home.

  • Timeliness
  • Proximity
  • Impact or Consequence
  • Novelty or Rarity
  • Conflict
  • Human interest
  • Prominence

That's right - proximity, or how close a story is to your home town - is a major factor that determines whether or not a story will get covered. Believe me, if it affects the people who pay taxes in your jurisdiction, drive on your roads, get water service from you, you can bet that they are interested in what happens in your community.

A water main break is a very local story
This, as they say in the business, is a no-brainer. After all, it's a rare news organization these days that can support multiple national reporters or news bureaus in different cities. That's not to say that you won't have at least one reporter who will be stationed at the state capitol or in Washington D.C., but it's getting harder and harder to find those in times of decreasing newspaper circulations and TV news viewership.

This doesn't mean that far away stories won't have a local angle. In fact, there is a journalism practice called localization which is practiced on a routine basis, and it might bring a story from nearly anywhere around the world right into your backyard. 

The protests on the streets of Baltimore
Let's take the example of the unrest which took place in Baltimore last week. While the vast majority of activity during the event took place in Maryland, and a number of other protests took place in cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Ferguson, Missouri, the majority of other cities saw little if any activity related to the incident.

That didn't stop a number of other news organizations across the country from running stories asking if what happened in Baltimore could happen in your backyard.

Expect someone like this to be interviewed after a plane crash anywhere in the world
What if a plane crashes? You can bet that reporters will be in touch with your local airport authorities to ask about disaster plans. Large hazmat spill? Uh huh. Meteorite strike in Russia?  For sure.

So, just remember that no matter where the story takes place, you should expect that someone in the media will be looking to put their local spin on a story.

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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