If you’re trying to get your story told by a journalist, it helps to know what journalists look for in a good news story. Newsrooms receive hundreds of “pitches” from various groups, organizations and individuals every day. Yours will be more likely to grab a reporter’s attention if it meets at least two or three of the following criteria.
What Makes a Good News Story?
Timeliness – When I first got into broadcast journalism in the late 1980’s, we used to say, “If it ain’t new, it ain’t news.” That’s even more true these days, with the rise of the internet and social media. People want to know what’s happening right now! If you’re trying to pitch a story that happened last week, or even yesterday, you’re going to have a hard time getting anyone to pay attention.
Significance or Impact – How does this story affect people’s lives? Why should they care? The more people directly affected by a story, the more newsworthy it is.
Human Interest – Even if a story doesn’t directly affect the target audience, if they can relate to it – if it evokes some sort of emotion — you’ve got ‘em. Who doesn’t love a story about an unlikely set of circumstances that reunites two long lost brothers, or somebody overcoming enormous odds to realize their dreams.
Conflict – Let’s face it. We human beings are naturally drawn to conflict. If your story involves conflicting opinions, scandal, injustice or hypocrisy, it’s more likely to get noticed than an aw-isn’t-that-nice story.
Novelty or Rarity – The more innovative, odd or unusual the subject matter is, the more likely it is to get noticed. If it’s the first, last, best, worst, biggest, smallest or almost any other extreme, it’s likely to get noticed. At one time, someone running across the country or biking through all 50 states for a cause was original. While it’s probably still unusual (and ambitious) enough to get some attention, it’s no longer the grabber it once was.
A Twist – Not every story has one. And it’s not crucial. But a story that takes a surprise turn is like gold to reporters.
Location – Just as in real estate, location plays an important role in the perceived value of a news story. They closer the story is to the viewer/listener/reader’s back yard, the higher the interest.
Prominence – The more famous or well-known the person is, the more interested people are about him or her. Most drunk driving arrests go unreported. But if it’s a celebrity, politician or police officer involved, the chances increase exponentially that it will make the 6:00 news.