Five Criteria for a Good News Story


News is an umbrella term for the information that people pass on to one another. It is often about things that happen, such as crime and politics, but it can also be about more mundane things like what people are wearing or the weather.

Choosing which news stories to report is a critical job for journalists, and it depends on what they want to achieve with their coverage. There are five major criteria that news stories must meet in order to be considered relevant, and each of them is important for the success of a news article:

Newness: A story must be new to a large audience. For example, if a scientist finds an insect living on a plant that it did not previously inhabit, this is new and unusual but would not make much news. In a specialist publication it might be, but in a general newspaper or radio broadcast it would merit little more than a few words.

Unusual: A story must be something that is not usual in the society, or in the world, in which it is happening. For example, if a man wakes up and goes to work on a bus every day then this is not unusual.

Interesting: A story must be interesting to a large audience. For example, an earthquake in London is not going to be of any great interest to anyone who lives in the south of England, but it could be a very good story for someone living in New York.

Significant: A story must be significant in the sense of being a major event in the life of a large audience, or in the sense of being potentially influential with a large audience. For example, a coup d’etat in your country may be considered significant in your own culture, but not in your neighbour’s.

About people: A story must be about people, either directly or by implication. For example, a story about a war might be about the people who are fighting it, and a story about a disaster could be about the people who are suffering as a result of it.

Magnitude: A story must be perceived as being significantly significant in the numbers involved or in its potential impact, or involving a degree of extreme behaviour or occurrence. For example, if a man falls from a tower and kills himself then this is a very big story.

Surprise: A story must be unexpected. For example, if a man dies in a car accident and his death is announced to the public, it will be surprising.

Entertainment: A story must be entertaining to a large audience. For example, it must concern sex, show business, human interest or animals, or it may offer opportunities for humorous treatment or witty headlines.

Drama: A story must be a dramatic unfolding event, such as an escape, an accident, search, siege, rescue or battle. It can also be about an important court case or the power elite.