What makes a good headline? What grabs the public’s attention? Why are certain news stories shown to us rather than others? These are some of the questions I’ve had in my mind before taking this elective. There are five points to consider when discussing the newsworthiness of a story:
Timing refers to the term ‘news‘; that which is new. Current topics or events are always newsworthy. Significance refers to the number of people affected by said news item. Proximity refers to my point below about deaths in foreign countries. Prominence refers to the lives of the rich and famous, à la all of the celebrity deaths in 2016. Finally, human interest refers to the more emotional stories, stories such as that which involve a 10-week old baby, in the example I have listed below. All of these points contribute to the potential newsworthiness of a story (Mediacollege.com, 2017).
A good example of significance and proximity: A single death in Africa; a country where death is common will not make Irish headlines. Conversely, a single death in Ireland will not be considered newsworthy to broadcast in America or France or any other country except Ireland. However, if an international flight were to crash and there were Irish citizens on board, it’s guaranteed that the story would make Irish headlines, and that’s a horrible thing to say…
Another factor into the newsworthiness of a story is shock value. How shocking a story is has a huge impact on its newsworthiness. For example, which relates to the human interest of a story, and an example that’s quite close to home: A 10-week old baby sustained very serious injuries during the week in my town (RTE, 2017). The very next day local newspapers, multiple Irish National Papers and the RTÉ news were highlighting the story, due to the horrible nature of its content. The fact that it was a baby of such a young age added to the shock value of the story and, without sounding horrible, would make the public more inclined to tune into the radio or television or buy a newspaper to read the story, which brings me to my next point.
The whole purpose behind having newsworthy stories is not to bring the news to us, rather it is to draw us in and consume the content, buy the paper, watch the advertisement. The bringers of news and most media outlets rely on ad revenue in order to remain viable as businesses themselves and turn a profit. Unfortunately, murders, blood and gruesome stories sell newspapers more than happy stories about puppies and kittens ever would. Alas, this is the world we live in.
Investigation after baby found with serious injuries. 2017. RTE.ie. Available from: https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2017/0315/860010-baby-injured-louth/ [Accessed March 17, 2017].
What Makes a Story Newsworthy?. 2017. Mediacollege.com. Available from: http://www.mediacollege.com/journalism/news/newsworthy.html [Accessed March 17, 2017].