Journalism Tips: Newsworthy vs Snoozeworthy

20130829-140029.jpg“Dog bites man” is snoozeworthy because it happens all the time, but “man bites dog” is less common, so it is more newsworthy.

A Newsworthy Story

  • is uncommon (rather than common)
  • affects many people (rather than few) people
  • has significant impact (rather than trivial)
  • happens nearby (rather than far away)
  • involves prominent people (rather than ordinary people)

Most stories don’t meet all five of these criteria. One man’s intense grief or one woman’s intense joy may be newsworthy, if it is unusual and nearby. By definition, celebrity news would not be news if it was happening to ordinary people. In fact, some stories make the news because they meet just one criteria.

A plane crash with no fatalities gets less coverage than a plane crash with fatalities. A crash in another country gets less news coverage than a plane crash in your own country. Does this mean that the grief of a far-away stranger is less important than the grief of someone nearby? Philosophically speaking, of course not; however, in terms of newsworthiness, the closer the event, the more newsworthy.

Listen to this 9-minute podcast, “What is Newsworthy?