Which of these stories is more newsworthy –
1. Tiger Woods had an extramarital affair?
2. Michele Bachmann warns that “We will be economic slaves to this federal government,” and urges people to fight health care reform by calling Congress “every day, when you wake up in the morning and comb your hair and take your vitamins”?
3. A teacher in St. Paul asks for help for students who trudge through snow in subzero temperatures with bare feet inside their sneakers?
If you voted for Tiger Woods, you are in good company – the media was all over this celebrity gossip story, though it’s hard to see how it qualifies as news.
If you voted for Michele Bachmann – well, politicians are news, though this story is one more rerun of the same old rhetoric.
The kids with no socks? This may be an important story, but it’s just not as sexy as Tiger Woods or Michele Bachmann.
Ditto for several other important stories that we’ve run recently:
- a Citizen’s League report about Minnesota’s water pollution problem
- more senior citizens need Minnesota food shelves
- the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and a U of M grad student
- Bhutanese and Karen refugees arriving in Minnesota
These stories are important news, with implications for our community and future. Each of them has more real news value that Tiger Woods or Michele Bachmann, and none of them is as likely to draw readers.
Like other media, we publish a lot of stories about Michele Bachmann, because people like to read about her. Stories about Michele Bachmann drive traffic to websites, boost Nielsen ratings for broadcast news, and sell newspapers for the print media.
But attracting readers is only part of the news equation. Every news medium makes some kind of decision about how to use its resources and what kinds of news to report.
- The Forum, a citizen journalism website, was founded because no other media was covering their four-town area of New Hampshire. Sports news turns out to be big news for The Forum. School sports stories and photos are contributed by parents, coaches and students.
- The New Haven Independent, another new media website, reports that their crime log is the most-read part of the site.
Both The Forum and the New Haven Independent try to cover the “hard news” that affects their communities. The Forum founder Maureen Mann talks about the importance of covering local government and school board meetings. She says, “People are finally coming to understand that if they want to read the news, they have to report the news.” Melissa Bailey of the New Haven Independent said they look for foundation grants to support reporting on specific topics, such as health care.
Here at the TC Daily Planet, we try to put together each day’s front page to include:
- original articles and stories from community media partners
- arts and culture as well as “hard news”
- news from both Minneapolis and St. Paul
- hyperlocal news and stories with local connections to national/international news
- blog posts from a variety of authors, on a variety of topics
Our priorities include reporting on education, health, environment, immigration and housing, as well as extensive coverage of arts and culture.
Like the folks at The Forum, we’d like more people to get involved in reporting the news from and about our communities. We’ve updated the website to make it easier – just sign in and click to write an article or a blog post. If you know of a news story, but can’t report it yourself, email email@example.com. If you want to write, but need an idea about story topics, check out our Assignment Desk, where we post story ideas.
Finally, back to the big picture question: What is news? And what should we be reporting? We are interested in hearing your thoughtful responses. Click on the comment section to tell us what you think.