What Makes News: Considering What Readers Look For In News
News is an unpublished account of public action, which seeks to educate, inform, or entertain the reader. The first requirement of news, therefore, is that such an article must not have previously been published elsewhere. It must come directly to the public’s attention for the first time. As an example, a news report on a natural disaster in New Orleans would almost certainly gain much more exposure in the aftermath than a story on “dog training.”
Beyond the distribution channels, however, the quality and veracity of a news story is determined by its uniqueness. Unlike fiction, there are many different news values that may affect how readers react to a given event. While some news items tend to elicit mixed reactions, like a piece about a mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, others are sure to strike nerves with their accuracy and detail. Readers may react either to the depth of the information or to its objectivity-whether the news reporting is pro-gun, anti-gun, or pro-activist-but most likely will regard news based on facts as more legitimate than opinions and personal conjecture.
Another important factor in determining whether a story makes news is, whether it is written by a professional or not. Whether the writer has any experience in the field is not relevant, but instead the writer’s connection to a broad range of audiences, whether they are public or private. The ability to connect with readers is what separates a seasoned journalist who can sense when a story is important and needs to be written and an upstart with little to no experience whatsoever. A New York Times writer, Mark Leibovitz, for instance, has won awards from prestigious publishers for his stories. Because he understands the needs of his readers, he can speak to and influence their emotions and provide them with a much greater sense of understanding about a situation.