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Media evolution: Updated news values

Examine your news values

Ever heard this one: “They tried to cover the story, but the story covered them.”

It remains perplexing to find every major news network, or every TV news station within a city, broadcasting the very same news stories as its competitors most days. The same can be said for most major newspapers and even some online news sites.

The news ends up covering the media. Today’s headline: The same news is being forced upon us once again! It’s one reason so many in the news audience are fed up and distrustful of conventional news organizations. The populace recognizes it is receiving the same news as every other news outlet provides — a slow, boring drip from the same IV bag.

Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising; this has been happening ever since there was more than one news organization trying to cover news. The reporters and news managers are scrambling to make sure they don’t get scooped by the competition. I’ll assume the news leaders are more concerned with not missing a big story that everyone else is covering than they are with breaking a new story. In fact, it’s likely more resources are used to carry the same story than discovering a new one.

Yes, we can’t ignore the biggest story of the day, but COME ON!

Adopt updated news values

It’s way past time for more news organizations to adopt updated news values.

Let’s start by accepting the fact that most major news events, or the obvious stories, have already been covered by the broadcast and digital media by the time most of our audience has awakened each day. Don’t abandon those stories, but a look at reorganizing the order in which the stories are presented is a very good idea. Take a chance — introduce some different news.

There are normally three things that constitute news: 1. New news. A story that has not been reported before, or breaking news. 2. Important news. News that people need to know, especially for making decisions. 3. Interesting or unusual news. Interesting stories about events, places or people or even animals.

The funny thing is that a large amount of the news audience will prefer number 3 because of the amusement factor.

The new No. 1

Now, let’s add a new item: Useful news.

This is not a new concept, but let’s put this as the new number 1. Yes, news that people can use in their everyday lives should be a priority. This combines a little of number 2 and number 3.

Make this your advanced news model: Don’t judge news by how serious it is, judge news by how meaningful it is to your audience.

The tricky part is having the guts to make this a priority. It shouldn’t be that hard, right? But breaking the barrier of conventionality takes nerve. Not only do newsroom managers have a lot at stake, but convincing everyone in the room to accept new news concepts is a bit of a task.

Look at it this way: Providing meaningful news for your audience should be a natural priority. Besides, the “news you can use” concept is nothing new. With this in mind, here is a list that helps further define the concept and aid in the creation of story selection. This is a compilation of descriptions I gathered over the years from various articles, newsrooms and editors.

• First, recognize that the audience saw most of the conventional news on TV or online yesterday.

• Can they use the information in their lives today?

• Will the story engage them and/or help them act using the information?

• The stories should answer, “what’s coming next?” (Feature the future.)

• The content selection should connect them with others.

• The stories should give them something to talk about. (Ask yourself, “What will everyone be talking about tomorrow?”)

• Will the information in the story help the reader or viewer look smarter when they talk about it?

• The stories should be worthy of saving and sharing with others.

• Will the story surprise or amuse them?

• Will the story make them smile?

It really works!

I swear by this updated news concept because of a situation that was forced on me once. I was working for an offshoot of a large metro paper when we were suddenly informed that we would have to share stories with the bigger paper. By sharing, I mean we were forced to use their major news stories so that our reporters would not get in their way. To be more specific, my reporters were no longer allowed to cover crime, city council meetings, politics, accidents, anything considered the core news subjects. After a night of resentful grumbling, my staff returned the next day to engage in a new strategy for news coverage. I dug out the advanced news concepts and we applied them and enjoyed outstanding results. Our coverage reflected the unique aspects of our communities that otherwise might have been considered too unimportant to print. Our paper provided one-of-a-kind news our readers could not find anywhere else. Our coverage allowed readers to connect with their world like never before. It was one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed in the news business. I kid you not!

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