Elements of News - JMSC Courses

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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.
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