How to use news values

When considering your next newsworthy post or freelance article, it is important to consider the following news values: prominence, proximity, impact, conflict, timeliness, novelty/bizarre.

Prominence deals with the characters you include in your piece. If it is relevant, include the most well known people. Some folks shy away from picking up the phone and speaking to a prominent figure, be it a celebrity, politician, or CEO, but that wall is an obstacle you can overcome. Think how you would feel reading: “The response of many Catholics to Bill Maher’s ‘apology’ is disappointment,” according to Bill Jones a Catholic friend of mine.” or “according to President of the Catholic League Bill Donahue.” Prominence simply adds credibility. Not including a prominent figure when appropriate often reflects to the reader, laziness or lack of resourcefulness. If the prominent figure refuses to talk, you can always report he/she had no comment.

Proximity deals with the location of the event. In terms of physical location, the closer an event occurs to where it is reported increases its newsworthiness. If you were planning to submit an article to your local media about out-of-town visitors ignoring local traffic signals, using examples or anecdotes from a geographic area within the newspaper’s circulation area or television station’s footprint, would be better than finding statistics from further away. Timeliness reflects the length of time between when an activity occurred and when it is reported. The longer the time between the event occurring and when it is reported — the less newsworthy it is.

Impact considers how what you are saying is going to affect those who read it. If there is little impact, there is little newsworthiness. In journalism, articles without impact are often called so-what articles. It is better to be blatant than subtle when pointing out the impact. Readers want to know why your article makes a difference to them. Conflict deals with at least two parties at odds with one another. Readership surveys have shown that stories with conflict are valued by readers. Conflict includes crime, wars, fights, and protests.

A final news value to consider when gathering material for your article is the category novelty/bizarre. Novelty includes firsts, for example, the first person to swim the English Channel backstroke, or the first person to live to 150. Bizarre includes items like a two-headed calf or the woman with the most body piercings.

One news value is not necessarily more important than another. They simply serve as guides for you to consider when compiling your story. When dealing with news values, let your motto be: include it if it is relevant.


About robertstevenson

Dr. Robert Stevenson is a Professor of Journalism and Director of Student Publications for the Department of Mass Communications and Theater at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. He received the Distinguished Faculty of the Year award for 2007-'08, and the Lander University Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2005-06. Stevenson also serves as chair of the Lander University American Democracy Project. First and Formost I am a dad of two wonderful boys.
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5 Responses to How to use news values

  1. Jon says:

    Excellent advise Rob, I usually try – when possible – to start my articles with a topical hook.

  2. Ben Abba says:

    I really enjoyed your article Rob. Ironically, I am writing articles about people who already have lived 150 years or more; and I am in the process of writing a book about a living, breathing immortal whom I fully believe is nearly 2,800 years old.

    My intentions was to find out how these amazing people survive for so many years. I fully believed that if we could model the lifestyle of these supercentenarians, we too could live a much longer and healthier life style. I have summarized what I have found on my main blog: which I intent to publish starting with my first book: “Secrets of an Immortal – An Eyewitness Account of 2,800 Years of History”.

    Hopefully these topics have enough novelty with bizarre to be of great news value to many.

  3. Tiffany says:

    How do you think the Internet has impacted the relevance of proximity? For some, obviously, it’s not relevant at all, since purely online sources are often not geo-specific, but what about those that are? It seems that with audiences now accustomed to news from around the globe popping up in their readers and the front pages of news sites, the reader’s view of what is close enough to count has shifted a bit.

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