www.whyville.net Aug 1, 2010 Weekly Issue

Times Writer

The ABC's of Journalism

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I was sitting around trying to come up with an idea for an article the other day, and I was coming up totally blank. I started browing through old files on my computer and I found several pieces I wrote over the course of the year in my Journalism class.

It's pretty obvious that the Times is a natural breeding ground for writing talent. Many people who regularly submit (as well as those that are just trying to work up the courage to send your work in!) dream of one day making a living off of their work as a writer. Journalism is certainly a career that allows you to use those skills every single day.

A lot of people are probably thinking right now, "Ewww, who would want to write in a newspaper? I'm going to be the next J.K. Rowlings, BABAY!" A year ago, I thought the same thing - it was a drag that I got stuck in a journalism class instead of something more creative. This just proved that I didn't know the first thing about writing for a newspaper! Contrary to popular belief, journalism isn't just 'plug this in here, write this there.' It's full of subtle creativity and can, at times, be the most exciting job in the world.

If you're interested in journalism, however, there are a few preliminary things you need to understand.

Although writers don't generally get to choose what topic they cover, certain topics recieve way more coverage than others. Why are some stories "newsworthy" while others are ignored?

Seven words: Prominence, proximity, timeliness, human interest, conflict and consequence.


In journalism, names are news, and some names are bigger news than others. There are certain people that, for a variety of reasons Have you ever noticed that celebrities make the national news more often than pastry chefs? This is because of prominence. People want to see stories about people they love (or hate).


This element of newsworthiness is more prelavant in local news. Proximity is simply how close the event in question occured to the area that would read the article. Your homecoming win wouldn't be a big deal in another state, but it might make the paper for your town.


Journalism is about bringing people the latest news. If you're not first on the scene, someone else will be. People don't want to hear old news or news they've already heard about. When the event occured plays a big part in whether or not said event is newsworthy.

Human Interest

Human interest stories are the articles that speak to us as people. They may not be written emotionally (in fact, unless they are a column or editorial, that's how they should be). People relate to these stories in one way or another, whether it be a shared experience (an article about a woman who lost her mother to cancer) or a universal emotion (a baby fell in a well and everyone waits breathlessly to see if she'll be saved)


There are two sides to every story. Illustrating that makes for newsworthiness. Note, however, that all conflict is newsworthy. If two best friends get in a fight over a boy, it's not likely to show up in a newspaper unless one of them does something drastic.


People want to read news stories about something that will affect their lives. This may seem complicated, so here's a general rule of thumb: the event that affects the most number of people will get more coverage. If there's a grain shortage in the U.S., it affects the products everyone in the country can buy. This story would probably get covered. However, take the same story and place it in a relatively unknown country (let's say Myanmar) and it's not nearly such a big deal.

These things are all taken into consideration when stories are chosen and assigned. It's generally agreed upon that the more of the above a piece contains, the more successful the story is going to be.

Let's take a story from the main page of Yahoo! Buzz. This story, called "Hero Dog Reunited with Soldier he Saved" is about a dog that alerted a soldier to a bomber and kept them away as the bomb detonated.

This story was obviously printed, but does it display any of the elements?

Prominence: The war in the Middle East is a hot topic. While none of the names here are "household names", the general topic is. YES
Proximity: Unless you live in the same town as the soldier adoptin the dog, this really doesn't display this element. NO
Timeliness: The dog is being adopted out to the soldier he saved today, so this news is timely. YES
Human Interest: This is a story that would make people smile. It's very light and happy. YEA
Conflict: This is a win-win situation. There's not two sides to this. NO
Consequence: This really doesn't affect anyone's life except those directly involved. NO.

This story displays three of the six elements, which is generally enough.

Open a newspaper or flip through the news. Ask yourself if any of the stories you see displays any of the elements discussed in this article. Odds are, they'll show three or more.

This has been your first leson in the ABC's of Journalism.

Hope it wasn't too boring!

a.k.a sims2girl

Author's Note: Information on the elements of newsworthiness came from http://www.coolschool.k12.or.us/courses/190200/lessons/lesson4/newselements.html and also a year long class in journalism.


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