What makes news (and how can you hit the headlines)?

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3 minutes read

Aaaah, the pub test – that uniquely Australian measure of taste, tolerance and success.

Everyone from politicians and policymakers to stand-up comedians and singer-songwriters profess to test the waters in this most brutal and honest court of public opinion.

When it comes to deciding what makes a story newsworthy, nothing beats the pub test for immediate and honest feedback.

Before deciding whether to hit a journalist with your story pitch, ask yourself:

Would I share my news with a friend at the pub? Would they be interested and listen – or would they wander off to the bar for another round?

If stories are outdated, self-serving or simply not news, the media – much like your mate at the pub – won’t be interested.

While the pub test is a solid barometer of whether a story has audience appeal, journalists and editors have a slightly more refined system for deciding whether to publish or broadcast a story.

Behold the Seven News Values, the benchmark by which media gatekeepers will evaluate the newsworthiness of your story.

1. Timeliness

Is your story new, or is your angle fresh? No one wants to cover ‘old news’, so recent events and new developments are more likely to attract media interest. If your story idea is not technically new, try and find a timely angle by hitching your pitch to a current event, trend or occasion.

2. Impact

How many people will be affected? The more people impacted by your story, the more newsworthy it will be and the more media interest you will likely generate. Broader appeal = broader media reach.

3. Prominence

Celebrity sells – if it involves people, brands or organisations with high public profiles, it’s going to make news. The star-power of your famous faces and big names will influence the type of media you attract: local personalities will probably only receive local coverage but bona fide superstars can take your story global!

4. Proximity

Events and stories that hit close to home are considered more newsworthy than those that take place far away. Depending on the story’s magnitude and the media outlet’s reach, ‘home’ could be a suburb, a city, a state or even the country.

5. Conflict

Like a bunch of kids in the playground chanting “fight, fight, fight”, humans are inherently drawn to conflict. There’s no need for bloodshed or violence but if a story features the drama of strife, dispute or disagreement, it’s going to pique the media’s interest.

6. Currency

Trends may come and go but finding a hot-button issue and pushing it with a relevant story pitch is one way to grab a slice of the media spotlight. Find a human-interest angle to personalise a current topic; share an intriguing opinion on a popular debate or find fresh data and statistics to progress a trending issue.

7. Novelty

If it’s bizarre, baffling or downright bonkers, audiences are going to lap it up! Media outlets love stories with quirky and unusual elements: from obscure facts and findings to underdogs trumping champions to once-in-a-lifetime or record-breaking occurrences.

Ready to take your story pitch from the front bar to the front page? We’re here to hold your beer – and your hand – with our step-by-step Aruga Guide to Media Training, a self-paced, easy-to-follow eLearning course that will have you delivering perfect pitches, slick soundbites and polished media performances in no time.