Elements of News Reporting and Writing Journalism and Media Studies Centre The University of Hong Kong Kevin Drew Elements of News Many journalists would say that an important or “good” story is simply one that people want to read or watch… or feel that they have to. Elements of News “Good” stories are often about terrible disasters and tragedies. But they can be about many things. They are good because they are important; they have value to readers and viewers. Elements of News The story that played out this year in Hong Kong about the selection of the chief executive had all the elements that journalists think of when they consider, “What makes news?” and “What makes a good story?” --Timeliness --Conflict --Importance --Prominence --Proximity --Unusualness And plenty of this one: Human Interest Elements of News What news elements do you see that tie in to the Hong Kong chief executive politics story? Elements of News This past August Japanese police detained a group of activists who sailed from Hong Kong and swam onto islands in dispute between Japan, China and Taiwan. Elements of News A separate sub-story from the islands dispute were pictures of the activists carrying flags, including one from Taiwan. Chinese media handled the photo in many ways. Elements of News Elements of News Journalists think of stories such as the Hong Kong politics story and the disputed islands story as neither positive nor negative. They just think of them as good stories. The stories are important and have value. Elements of News Basically, two types of good stories: Well-reported, well-written or produced accounts of things that happen. Well-reported, well-written or produced accounts of things the reporter develops in a unique way. Elements of News More on these two types of good stories: First type – stories that journalists react to: terrible tragedies, surprise resignations, court rulings. As journalists, all we can do is give readers and viewers the most accurate and vivid story we can through quality reporting and writing. Elements of News Second Stories type of good story: that journalists develop because of their curiosity and resourcefulness. Many follow-up stories in the hostage story came from journalists asking questions about the way things were handled. Such stories are the real value of a free press. Elements of News A few years ago, journalists in Hong Kong developed the stories that led to a debate that put 500,000 onto the streets in protest against proposed national security laws. The government dropped its proposals. Elements of News Also a few years ago, journalists in Hong Kong uncovered the news that the first SARS cases had been covered up on the mainland to avoid bad publicity on the eve of a big Communist Party meeting. The mainland began reporting its cases. Elements of News During the same SARS saga, journalists also told the story of a father and son stricken with SARS in the same Shenzhen hospital: the son left the hospital; the father never did. That was a good story that showed how dramatic and perilous the situation was. Elements of News During SARS, there were a lot more: --Hong Kong government missteps --Chinese U doctor’s press conference --large outbreak at one housing estate --heroic actions of front-line doctors All good stories; all newsworthy. Elements of News According to dictionaries, News is: • Something not existing before. • Something discovered recently. • Something seen for the first time. • That definition covers both our types. Elements of News Those dictionary definitions cover the types of stories we have been talking about: Things that happen. Things that reporters cause to be seen in fresh ways because of the questions they ask. Elements of News Let’s revisit our key elements: Timeliness. News is fresh and recent. Importance. News has impact and consequence. Proximity. News is relevant to us. Conflict. News is dramatic. Elements of News Prominence. News is people whose names we recognize. Unusualness. News is abnormal. Human Interest. News is life, and all of the emotions – joy, love, despair – that life’s events we humans can cause.