News and news values

Many definitions of news and news value exist, but the answers to two simple questions will usually be sufficient for making preliminary decisions about what is most valuable.

The questions are as follows:

    1) Will this story interest my readers (and how much)?

    2) Is this story important to somebody besides those involved?


    1) Geography. Is the news story close at hand or does it affect, in some way my readers?

    2) Personal impact. Will it interest my readers personally for one reason or another? Is "human interest" present in this story?

    3) Prominence of people involved. Big names make big news of happenings that might not otherwise be news.

    4) Timeliness. Is it recent or has something occurred to make this timely now?

    5) Breadth of interest. How many people are interested in the event itself?


1) Use the active voice.

2) Put statements into positive form.

3) Keep one idea to a sentence.

4) Write with picture nouns and action verbs.

5) Use words that are exact in meaning.

6) Omit needless words, sentences and paragraphs.

7) Express coordinate ideas in similar form.

8) Keep related words close together.

9) Spell correctly.

10) Keep paragraphs short.

11) Place the words you want to emphasize at the end or at the beginning of your sentence.

12) Rethink, revise and rewrite because writing is never perfect.

13) Use short sentences primarily, but vary sentence length for added interest.

14) Write to express yourself, not to impress others.

    a. Use plain language and write as you talk.

    b. Prefer plain words to fancy words.

    c. Choose the familiar word instead of the unfamiliar.

    d. Never use a long word if a short one will do.

    e. Write in your own natural style and avoid imitating others.

NEWS WRITING MADE EASY (well, easier anyway)

There is a step-by-step formula for organizing a news story that any editor will be glad to publish -- if the subject matter is important enough, if you have answered the questions pertinent to the story and if you write with acceptable grammar and spellings.

What are the questions?

    1) Who is the story about?

    2) What are you trying to tell about?

    3) Where did it all happen?

    4) When did it occur?

    5) How did it happen?

    6) Why did it occur?

Your notes and information should answer the questions above. If they don't, then ask more questions to be fully prepared for writing your story. Use the following steps in the writing.

1) Go through your notes and number the most important facts in 1-2-3-4 order in the left-hand margins. Make the most important fact No. 1, second most important No. 2, etc. all the way through. What you are doing is actually outlining your story so that you can write it in the form called INVERTED PYRAMID, which is the basic organizational structure for most news writing.

2) Pick your main facts (No. 1 in importance) from which to write your opening paragraph or lead. Write your lead using the most striking and most descriptive words to express the main idea of the lead.

3) Write the rest of the story, paragraph by paragraph, in descending order of importance from the facts you have listed numerically.

4) Check your lead and all your facts, being doubly sure you have spelled all names correctly. Check sentence structure and grammar.

5) Consider carefully the entire story and whether your lead still accurately reflects your opinion about the most important element. If you no longer like your lead, rewrite it for more interest, greater clarity, or more accurate summation of the story.

When you have done this, you have written the story in an inverted pyramid format.

Why is it best for most news writing?

1. It facilitates reading because the climax is at the beginning.

2. It satisfies the curiosity of the reader immediately.

3. It makes make-up easier because you can cut off any part of the story and the remaining part will make sense.

4. It makes headline writing easier because you can write the headline from the first few paragraphs.

Two writing tips to paste on your computer and always remember.

1. Begin the story with the strongest news element you can find.

2. Keep one idea to a sentence, and keep each sentence as simple as you can.

Supplement this material with reading from "Telling the Story."

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Updated 2012; corrected Dec. 2013