I’m old enough to admit that I wrote a lot of self-serving articles as a high school journalist, articles that served my interests but that didn’t necessarily have broader interest. The fact is, not all story ideas are good ones.
How can you tell the difference then? It helps to understand the seven elements that make a topic newsworthy. Here are a few to get you started:
Timeliness: If it’s happening now, recently or soon, it might be news. But it does not have to be tied to an event on a calendar (think: a current fashion trend). Timeliness, however, can be redefined by publications depending on their publishing capabilities but should not be skewed so significantly that you’re just not reporting on something that happened or was topical four months ago, especially because it’s very likely that the internet has already acknowledged and flushed it out of consciousness.
Proximity: Is it happening in your coverage area? Your readers want to hear about what’s going on in your school or community and aren’t inherently interested in reading about something that’s going on in a neighboring city or state, for example.
Rarity: Readers are interested in things that are different, that aren’t seen, heard or happening often, like a family of 10 kids, a zoo animal that’s loose in your town, or your city opening a long-buried time capsule.
Get to know the other four elements of newsworthiness and do an activity for practice by accessing our SNO Curriculum.