7 ways to decide what’s news

By · Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

not teaching,
still THINKING …

We probably could all agree that we often are on information overload. Journalists know this, and one of their roles is to develop a sense of news judgment.

News judgment determines whether:

Here’s a simple guide on how journalists can decide what’s important. Anyone — not only journalists — can use these tips to judge for themselves what’s news.

  1. Be methodical. Ask yourself what is the news, why the news is important and what is the best way to report it. Did the news just happen? Will the news affect people in some way?
  2. Be aware. Consider what people want to know. What questions might people still have that your story could address? Strive to provide not only the freshest details but also story angles that address what people might be confused about, what they need to know, or “what else” has not been reported.
  3. Be a listener. Take into consideration the opinions of colleagues. Each person looks at a story coming from a different background, having different values, possessing different ideas of what constitutes news. What is news to one person might be something another person knew last week. Or what seems minor news to one person might be something of major significance to another person.
  4. Be flexible. It is acceptable to change your mind after you make a news judgment. A breaking story might overtake another one. A colleague who joins the conversation might make a convincing point you had not heard previously. New details might develop that you decide should replace existing information in the story.
  5. Be a broad thinker. Think of your entire audience — the elderly, the young, the retired, the working class, the affluent, and people of all religions, races, genders. While no one story can appeal to all people, your decisions should be made after thoughtful consideration of everyone.
  6. Be a futurist. Think about the impact of the story today, tomorrow and beyond. Let the effect of the news guide your decisions as much as the news itself.
  7. Be a risk-taker. If you are inclined to make safe decisions about what’s news, be open to taking a risk. That does not mean being reckless. But be willing to make a decision that reflects a new approach. Sometimes the risk backfires. Other times the risk is a welcome change. With each risk, learn from the experience.

If we have confidence in our abilities to determine what’s news, we won’t be on information overload — we’ll be informed over and over.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

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