What creates a newsworthy story?
There are five specific areas that are best to consider when trying to share a story with news outlets:
Arguably the most important element of newsworthiness is whether or not the news item being communicated provides impact to the readership, listenership or viewership of the news outlet that you would like to see cover it. For example, it would not make sense to pitch a story to the Bellevue Leader if the story is made up of students from Council Bluffs.
The larger the range of impact, the higher likelihood of the story getting picked up locally. Additionally, the story may have a chance of getting picked up regionally or nationally if the people affected by the news item or event reach beyond Omaha and Nebraska into the rest of the word.
In addition to Impact, the proximity of the event and of the impact is equally important. More often than not, a local paper like the Omaha World-Herald will cover stories that will not appear in the Lincoln Journal Star or Council Bluffs Nonpareil. More often than not local papers will pick up local stories, but occasionally experts can help localize a larger national story that impacts more than just the city or state. In these cases, it is important to be on the look out for opportunities where subject matter experts can provide insight or where similar projects may be happening locally.
The next most important element of newsworthiness is timeliness. Very rarely will news outlets pick up stories if the event has already happened. This is because newspapers, radio, and television want to attract viewers and they can’t do that if the story being already covered is ‘old news.’
Timeliness is also important for stories that occur way into the future. While you may have the dates and times of an upcoming conference, unless it happens within a week or two week time frame from the time you share the information with a news station, most everyone has moved on and stopped caring. This is why it is important to get the information to the Media Relations Coordinator early, so they can appropriately time the release of information.
Human interest is another key factor in newsworthiness because even if the event or news items affects a large number of people and the information is sent out two weeks in advance, unless there is a reason for a wide range of people to be interested in your item or event, it will have a harder chance of being picked up for a story.
Human interest stories are the one type of story that do not rely as heavily on timeliness because they take longer to prepare for and write. If there is a project, partnership, research project, or something else where the completion will take several weeks to a year, but it has human interest and impact, there is a high likelihood of it getting used by the media outlet you send it to.
Novelty is the fifth and final concept of newsworthiness that can help influence whether or not a news outlet is likely to pick up a story. In this instance, novelty means that the event or news item that is hoping to be covered is unique to the audience it is being communicated to.
For example, it isn’t every day that a hot air balloon is launched from the UNO Pep Bowl and so on a day where that happens, there will be a higher likelihood that it will be covered even though there is little in the way of human interest or impact. Similarly, an even that occurs on a regular basis among multiple institutions, like a graduation, may be harder to get coverage on unless there is something different about a particular graduation.
Submitting Your Item/Event to University Communications
While this is not an exhaustive list, checking to see if your news item or event has these qualities first before submitting it to University Communications will help the Media Relations Coordinator determine the best way and best outlet to send the information to in order to make sure the story makes it into local, regional, or national media.
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