Two Questions You Must Answer to Make News

by Rusty Cawley

When considering whether to write a story, a journalist always begins with two questions:

  1. What's new?
  2. Who cares?

The first point is obvious. If something isn't new, then it can't be news. Most folks understand this instinctively.

It is the second point that most people have trouble understanding. It isn't enough for your item to be new. To qualify as news, your story must appeal to a broad audience. It must have significance for other people, and lot of them.

For example, consider the Taliban, the former rulers of Afghanistan.

Before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, few news media paid any attention whatsoever to the Taliban. After Sept. 11 and through the fall of the Afghan regime, the media couldn't get enough stories about the Taliban.

What changed to make this happen? It wasn't the Taliban. What changed were the media's attitudes toward the Taliban:

  1. What's new? Terrorists have attacked the United States and they are being harbored by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  2. Who cares? Virtually everyone.

Those two questions pushed the Taliban to the forefront of every mainstream newspaper, magazine, TV news program, radio news program and Web news site in the world.

This is an extreme example, but it makes the point.

If you want a story in the mainstream media, your story idea must appeal to a well-defined audience. If you want your story to appear in a trade magazine for nanotech engineers, then your story idea must appeal to nanotech engineers. If you want your story to appear in a suburban weekly, then your idea must appeal to the geographical, provincial interests of that weekly's subscribers.

The PR Rainmaker knows: If you want the news media to write about you or your company, you must clearly and concisely answer the questions "What's new?" and "Who cares?"

Copyright 2003 by W.O. Cawley Jr.

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About the Author

Rusty Cawley is a 20-year veteran journalist who now coaches executives, entrepreneurs and professionals on using the news media to attract customers and to advance ideas. For your free copy of the hot new e-book "PR Rainmaker," please visit right now.

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