Having trouble getting your articles published? Make your pitches more successful with these News Values.
By LUCY PARSONSON
As a freelance writer starting out, it’s not always easy to get your stories out there. After all, polite (or not so polite) “no thank-yous” from the editor, or even worse, getting no response at all, can wear you down. But what if you knew what the editor was looking for?
Writers use their gut feeling
Experienced journalists often say they “just know” when an article is newsworthy. According to journalism experts, editors and writers operate on gut feelings to decide which of the hundreds of available stories each day will get published. Well, if editors make decisions based on vague intuition, how does that help us? Luckily, these journalistic instincts have a pattern.
In 1965, two Norwegian social scientists set out to understand the mostly unconscious and very much instinctual practice of journalistic gatekeeping. Their question: is there a guide for what events end up in the news? What they found, they called News Values – a set of rules that dictate the qualities of a newsworthy story.
The News Values are (in no particular order):
The power elite
Articles about influential people or organisations.
Stories about people already in the spotlight.
“Soft news” articles concerning people’s love lives, animals, or entertaining/lighthearted dramas.
Stories with an unexpected twist.
Articles featuring tragic events.
Stories featuring positive events.
Articles involving large numbers of people, or events with a large impact.
In this instance, stories featuring events that are especially relevant/important to the audience, e.g. stories with a local impact.
Articles that add more information to events already in the news.
In this case, articles that reinforce or align with the newspaper’s agenda, e.g., publishing news articles with a bias towards a particular political party.
Modern news values for journalists
Currently, the latest studies of successful news stories include these values:
Your article will have a better chance of being published if you’re the first (or only one) to get a hold of a news story.
Dramatic or sensational images or recordings are considered very newsworthy.
The potential to be widely shared on social media is a strong prerequisite for newsworthiness in modern journalism. In the words of former Guardian US editor Janine Gibson, “stuff that makes you laugh and stuff that makes you angry” performs best on social media.
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How News Values can improve your writing success
Give your next story the best chance of getting published by featuring News Values. Even on an unconscious level, editors skimming dozens of pitches a day will be looking for stories that show these aspects. At a minimum, a newsworthy piece should have at least one value, but a truly compelling story will feature at least three.
Ultimately, a successful pitch will be tailored to the style of the publication, and not be a repeat of other stories they have published.
Remember, if in doubt, make like the greatest journalists and go with your gut instinct!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lucy Parsonson is a freelance writer based in New Zealand. She has lived and worked in Argentina, Costa Rica, Spain and Australia.
She enjoys learning languages, writing about things that matter and trying to befriend as many cats as possible.