Occasionally we get emails asking if we can forward ‘writing opportunities’ to our journalism students. This week it was for student news site The Tab.
For those looking to take up the opportunity, there’s a handy guide for those asking the question ‘what is news?’
News is what people click on. If your friends are telling each other about something, if people are sharing something on Facebook, or getting angry, or laughing, or shocked, it’s a story.
They even offer a list of examples
If you see one of these things, it’s probably a story:
- A photo with more than 100 likes on Facebook
- A celebrity (make sure you take pictures and videos)
- A poster which people are offended by
- A crime being committed
- A lecturer doing something funny, shocking or fascinating
- Someone saying something offensive
- A new craze
- Someone getting in trouble, screwed over or mistreated
- A party getting seriously out of hand (get pics and videos)
- Someone eating/drinking a lot
- Strange or unusual people and local legends
- Incredible achievements
- Someone with a cool house or pet
- Anything you want to tell your friends about
Now, I have to admit, when I read that my heart sank. I’ll go a stage further and say (as I did on twitter) that a little bit of my soul died.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a snob. For me news is anything that is current and of interest to your target audience. So at one level I have no issue with this kind of statement of a “news” agenda. I do worry about the tone which, given that it’s aimed at University students, sounds more appropriate to explaining a particularly challenging part of Katie Morag to my 4 year old daughter.
But part of me recognizes that maybe I’m uncomfortable about this because it lifts the curtains on journalism news agendas. It’s the grubby truth behind the pomp of ‘journalistic values’. The stripped down basics. News with a catastrophic effects failure (like Bill Bailey’s excellent riff on U2 above)
Journalism is often quite bad at explaining its values system. Why we do what we do and what we think is news. Charlie Beckett has a nice take on that as he ponders why good news is considered, by some, to be no news at all.
So you could see The Tab’s what is news as a positive. It’s a statement of their news values. So I’m not having a go. The Tab are just as entitled to do what they do as anyone else. It’s just that I would have preferred it though if they had prefaced it if they had qualified it with ‘here is what it news for us’.
I don’t think it serves anyone to call this news. That’s not a value judgement; we are all in the content business.
We are in the business of putting the right content in front of the right people. If I’m going to sell writing for The Tab (or any other publication for that matter) as an opportunity I want to be able to sell it as a way to explore the full extent of what the industry is. That means different styles and definitions of audience. That’s what I teach – Journalism as a broad church. Make it easy for me to do that and I’ll help. Leave defining news to the academics (it’s an academic argument anyway) and just tell people why, what you are publishing.
So does more than 100 likes on Facebook make news? Who cares. If it’s compelling content for your audience, then that’s enough.