Film, Radio and TV - 35 - 2


  Updated: 07/01/2013


The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it and do nothing.

- Albert Einstein


Broadcast News


Part II


Twelve Factors in Newsworthiness

Those involved in broadcast news must understand 12 factors that constitute news value, or newsworthiness.

¤ timeliness
¤ proximity
¤ exceptional quality
¤ possible future impact
¤ prominence
¤ conflict
¤ the number of people involved or affected
¤ consequence
¤ human interest
¤ pathos
¤ shock value
¤ titillation component

1. Timeliness: News is what's new. An afternoon raid on a rock cocaine house may warrant a live ENG report during the 6 p.m. news. However, tomorrow, unless there are major new developments, the same story will probably not be important enough to mention.

2. Proximity: If 15 people are killed in your hometown, your local TV station will undoubtedly consider it news. But if 15 people are killed in Manzanillo, Montserrat, Moyobambaor, or some other distant place you've never heard of, it will probably pass without notice. But there are exceptions.

3. Exceptional quality: One exception centers on how the people died. If the people in earthquake.jpg Manzanillo were killed because of a bus or car accident, this would not be nearly as newsworthy as if they died from an earthquake or stings from "killer bees," feared insects that have now invaded the United States.

Exceptional quality refers to how uncommon an event is. A man getting a job as a music conductor is not news—unless that man is blind.

4. Possible future impact: The killer bee example illustrates another news element: possible future impact. The fact that the killer bees are now in the United States and may eventually be a threat to people watching the news makes the story much more newsworthy.

A mundane burglary of an office in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC, was hardly news until two reporters named Woodward and Bernstein saw the implications and the possible future impact. Eventually, the story behind this seemingly common burglary brought down a U.S. President.

5. Prominence: The 15 deaths in Manzanillo might also go by unnoticed by the local media unless someone prominent was on the bus—possibly a movie star or a well-known politician. If a U.S. Supreme Court Justice gets married, it's news; if John Smith, your next-door neighbor, gets married, it probably isn't.

6. Conflict: Conflict in its many forms has long held the interest of observers. violence.jpgThe conflict may be physical or emotional. It can be open, overt conflict, such as a civil uprising against police authority, or it may be ideological conflict between political candidates.

The conflict could be as simple as a person standing on his principles and spending a year fighting city hall over a parking citation. In addition to "people against people" conflict, there can be conflict with wild animals, nature, the environment, or even the frontier of space.

7. The number of people involved or affected: The more people involved in a news event, be it a demonstration or a tragic accident, the more newsworthy the story is. Likewise, the number of people affected by the event, whether it's a new health threat or a new tax ruling, the more newsworthy the story is.

8. Consequence: The fact that a car hit a utility pole isn't news, unless, as a consequence, power is lost throughout a city for several hours. The fact that a computer virus found its way into a computer system might not be news until it bankrupts a business, shuts down a telephone system, or endangers lives by destroying crucial medical data at a hospital.

9. Human interest: Human-interest stories are generally soft news. Examples would be a baby beauty contest, a person whose pet happens to be a nine-foot boa constrictor, or a man who makes a cart so that his two-legged dog can move around again.

On a slow news day even a story of fire fighters getting a cat out of a tree might make a suitable story. (Or, as shown here, a kid meeting a kid.) Human-interest angles can be found in most hard news stories. A flood will undoubtedly have many human-interest angles: a lost child reunited with its parents after two days, a boy who lost his dog, or families returning to their mud-filled homes.

10. Pathos: The fact that people like to hear about the misfortunes of others can't be denied. Seeing or hearing about such things commonly elicits feelings of pity, sorrow, sympathy, and compassion. Some call these stories "tear jerkers."

Examples are the child who is now all alone after his parents were killed in a car accident, the elderly woman who just lost her life savings to a con artist, or the blind man whose seeing-eye dog has been poisoned.

This category isn't just limited to people. How about horses that were found neglected and starving, or the dog that sits at the curb expectantly waiting for its master to return from work each day, even though the man was killed in an accident weeks ago.

11. Shock value: An explosion in a factory has less shock value if it was caused by gas leak than if it was caused by a terrorist. The story of a six year-old boy who shot his mother with a revolver found in a bedside drawer has more shock (and therefore news) value than if same woman died of a heart attack.

Both shock value and the titillation factor (below) are well known to the tabloid press. The lure of these two factors is also related to some stories getting inordinate attention, such as the sordid details of a politician's or evangelist's affair—which brings us to the final point.

12. Titillation component: This factor primarily involves sex and is commonly featured—some would say exploited—during rating periods.

This category includes everything from the new fashions in women's swim wear to an in-depth series on legal prostitution in the state of Nevada.


News Sources

Broadcast news comes from:

  • the local reporter's primary sources
  • news services such as the Associated Press
  • media outlets, such as newspapers, radio and TV stations
  • press releases provided by corporations, agencies, and special interest groups

The world's largest newsgathering association, the Associated Press (AP), operates bureaus in 120 U.S. cities and in more than 130 foreign countries, reaching one-third of the world's population. In addition to the AP, there are also a number of smaller wire services, including those operated by large newspapers.

However, as newspapers cut back because of the economic downturn in 2008, some turned from AP to CNN's wire service, which was much less expensive.


Internet Research

With billions of pages of information available, reporters now rely on the Internet for researching stories. Reporters routinely do background research on stories by doing computer searches through search engines such as Google and through newspaper archives (stored computer files of stories that were previously published in the newspaper).

Today, broadcast stations have computerized newsrooms and the steady stream of news from these services is electronically written onto a computer hard disk. Using a computer terminal a news editor can quickly scroll through an index of stories that have been electronically stored.

Some news editing programs, such as the one illustrated below, allow you to bring up wire stores from the newsroom computer (shown on the left) and rewrite it, or copy segments directly into the news script you are writing (shown on the right).

script writing software

Newsroom automation has reached the point that, in the words of one observer, "Computers have taken over the newsroom." Today, newsroom computer programs are basic to -

  • storing a steady stream of news copy from wire services

  • providing key word search capabilities for wire copy, Internet sources, and archived stories

  • facilitating the writing of stories (note illustration above)

  • calling up stillstore pages of graphics

  • creating and calling up CG (character generator) pages of text

  • programming the sequence of stories, video, and graphics (i.e., the complete newscast) on video servers

  • providing teleprompter outputs

  • instantly rearranging news stories and recalculating times to accommodate last minute changes - even while a TV newscast is on the air

Television stations affiliated with a network and O-and-O stations (those owned and operated by a network) receive daily afternoon and evening satellite news feeds provided by network reporters and affiliated TV stations. Since most of these stories are not used on the network's nightly news, they make good regional, national, and international segments for local newscasts.

Independent stations (those not affiliated with a network) have television news services they can ENG segmentsubscribe to -- the largest being the Cable News Network (CNN).

Whatever the source, the news feeds are recorded for review by the local TV news producer or editor. Stories selected for broadcast are normally saved to a video server or assembled on videotapes and "rolled into" the local news as needed.

Regional, national, or even international stories can often be developed from a local perspective.

As examples, a major event that takes place in a foreign country can elicit reactions from local people of the same nationality; a crime wave in an adjoining county may cause local people to react; or a shakeup in a New York company may impact employees or related businesses in the station's area.

Balance between local, regional, national, and international stories must be considered. Plus the TV news director must consider the important element of visual variety, which in this case involves a balance between ENG (electronic newsgathering on location video) segments) and stories that are simply read on-camera with supporting graphics.

Although the anchor point for most newscasts is a TV studio, TV audiences like the visual variety and authenticity associated with news segments done outside the studio. Newscasts are now routinely being anchored from foreign countries that dominate the night's news coverage.

Documentaries that

Changed Thinking

A moving documentary was recently aired showing the atrocities Taliban womanbeing committed on the people of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the radical religious group reportedly behind the 9/11 terrorists acts on the East Coast of the U.S.

Despite repeated denials by the Taliban that such things were going on in Afghanistan, Saira Shah used a hidden video camera to document widespread instances of torture, rape, amputations, and murder.

In a country where women were forced to beg for themselves and their children because they were prevented from working and even from going to school, this woman clearly risk her life to get the footage. As a result, she influenced world thinking about the Taliban. (A reader to the CyberCollege Forum has added - this example.)

If you are interested in being a foreign correspondent, you should rent the film, foreign correspondentWelcome to Sarajevo, starring Stephen Dillane and Woody Harrelson.

The highly rated film, which is based on a true story, makes use of actual news footage to very dramatically (Note: and very graphically) show what war correspondents face.

Finally, if you ever need some ideas for news stories or documentaries that can make a positive difference, consider - this.

It Takes Commitment and Courage

When we see news and documentary stories from hostile and dangerous locations, we seldom stop to think that in capturing the story a videographer took the same or greater personal risks than the reporter that you see on camera. Many of the stories have had a profound impact on viewers.

The images of bodies floating in rivers in the Philippines broadcast in a PBS documentary started a chain of events that eventually toppled the corrupt dictator of a country.  

In 2004, Andy Levine, penetrated high security areas and used a camera hidden in his eyeglasses to document forced prostitution for a moving and disturbing documentary entitled, The Day My God Died.

In each of these cases, and in many more like them, courageous videographers were willing to risk it all for what they saw as a greater good. 

In doing a TV documentary the writer had a personal experience in this area.  This is reported in the blog piece, "Murder And A Police Cover-Up." 

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