Journalism Tips: Newsworthy vs Snoozeworthy

“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 recent (rather than stale)
  • is rare (rather than common)
  • affects many (rather than few) people
  • has weighty (rather than trivial) impact
  • happens nearby (rather than far away)
  • involves prominent (rather than ordinary) people

Most stories don’t meet all 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. 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?


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