Home > Uncategorized > A.M. Class: What makes a good story?

A.M. Class: What makes a good story?

If you’re in the a.m. class, post your comments here.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Ross Benes
    August 31, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I believe unique and informative stories make for good news. For light-hearted stories, uniqueness and zaniness are most important in grabbing a reader’s attention. For more serious hard-news stories, being informative (educational) is the most important element of the story.

    The best news story I have recently read is, “Renegade Miami Football Booster Spells Out Illicit Benefits to Players” by Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports. The story was about Miami football players accepting illegal benefits from a booster. I remember the story because of how thoroughly reported it was. It was incredibly deep. The story was almost like a condensed book with a ton of information. Robinson used multimedia on the Yahoo! website to tell the story. There is a photo gallery to back up much of the story’s claims as well as video interviews that views can watch. Although not all of the content is on the same link as the original story, it is all only a few clicks away, and it all supports the story well.

    Robinson used powerful anecdotes in his interviews to make the story personal. While reading the story, it became clear that Robinson spent a great amount of time to go through thousands of documents before reporting this story. Although there is a lot of information from the documents, Robinson presents it in an interesting-to-read sort of way. Although it took Robinson a year to fully report the story before releasing it, I believe the story was still timely. Robinson beat the NCAA to the punch of discovering the atrocities of the Miami program, and then released the story at just the right time when college football was at the pinnacle of this decade’s decadence.

    I believe this is the biggest story in college football since the SMU scandal broke in 1987. The impact of this story is yet to be seen, as new allegations continue to come out, but I believe it will serve as a symbol of the corruption in elite college athletics. I appreciate the patience of Robinson in gathering facts and I love the way he laid it out at all once instead of releasing it as a series.

    This story had it all. It educated, was useful, controversial, had large impact, was prominent, timely and had a lot of emotion. The only thing it really wasn’t was unusual since every football program under the sun is being indicted these days.

  2. Michelle Durham
    September 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Personally, I believe that unique and educational information makes for a good news story. If a story is unique, it will stand out more making readers/viewers more interested in the story. It will give creditability to the reporter/writer of the story because most readers/viewers will want to stay in tune to what this reporter/writer has to say. Also, to give educational information in a story helps keep the readers/viewers up-to-date on what’s going on in their community; whether it’s “right next door,” or in another country.

    A story I read in the news recently was about the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline. “The U.S. $13 billion Keystone pipeline system will link Canadian crude oil with the largest refining markets in the United States” (1011now.com). This story affects Nebraska citizens because the pipeline will travel through Nebraska potentially affecting our underground water supply. The information given in this story help identify what could happen throughout the states if this pipeline would be created.

    This story sticks out to me because it’s something that could affect me in the future. Whether it will help decrease certain taxes on oil or even pollute our water, this story has an impact on anyone who lives in Nebraska. The different money figures also help put insight into what could happen if this pipeline passes through our state. I know I don’t want to get hurt in the long run if this passes. It might be good for the Texas marketplace, but how far is too far before we decided what is okay to damage to “benefit” the entire United States? Personally I think there should still be research done before anything happens with the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline

    Impact, Controversy, Emotion, Unusual, Timeliness, Usefulness, and Educational Value I believe are the most important factors when deciding what to cover. With Impact and emotion, there should be a way to connect with the reader and bring insight into what they are reading. They should be able to relate and understand what is going on in the story. Usefulness, Timeliness and Educational Value help to educate and help readers realize why the impact is greater in one story compared to another. Finally, the unusual and controversy help to bring entertainment into the story and keep the reader/viewer interested. Without interest, it’s would be impossible to maintain an audience for your piece/story.

  3. bethany schmidt
    September 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    The first things I read when I open a newspaper or website are the headlines. If a headline is not great, I assume the story is not either. A great headline is key to a great story. Once I begin reading, I need the story to hook me in with a great lead. I need my leads to be descriptive of the event that is happening; the writer needs to let me see the story. They must also use gripping words that keep my interest and help me paint the story’s picture in my head. Honestly, the rest of the information in a story can be really boring and mundane; but, if the lead is great, I will read the story the whole way through.

    I read a short story on a news website this week and the thing I remember most about it is the photo that ran with it: a dog sitting next to a coffin at a funeral. The story went on to explain that the dog belonged to the soldier inside the coffin, whose body had just returned from the Middle East. After seeing the photo, I began to read the story. It already had me hooked because of the photo, but the story did a great job of keeping my interest. It easily changed my mood to melancholy, at best. It was a fascinating, yet somber view on war and its devastating effects.

    The most important news values that an editor must focus on are impact and emotion. Editors control what people talk about and, essentially, what they think about. They are in charge of assigning value to the news. Editors must, first and foremost, develop and present stories that have the greatest impact on the reader. An editor must also introduce readers to the stories that will appeal most to his emotions.

  4. Brianna F.
    September 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    There are a number of elements that contribute to a good story. The way that a story is headlined in the news is often just as important as the content. In addition, writers must consider how their stories can appeal to the targeted audience. Among many others, I think that relevance, attention to detail, and novelty are very important.
    Relevance is a major aspect because the news should interest the audience. Stories should relate to the surrounding community or connect to readers in some way. Ultimately, this element draws readers in and makes stories more appealing. Attention to detail is very important because stories should be well-developed. The main purpose of news is to inform readers. For this reason, the information presented should be both factual and very specific. Readers can better connect to and understand the stories presented when the content is clear and detailed. Novelty is the third element that stands out to me. Stories that include some type of different or unique twist tend to keep readers interested. This can be a pleasant change from the plain news that is typically delivered.
    I recently read a story about a black leopard that was on the loose in Ohio. I remember this story because the topic was interesting and quite uncommon. It stands out in my mind because it contained all of the elements that I believe contribute to a good story. The story did not affect me in a major way because it is not in my state. However, it was still relevant because both the headline and the content interested me.
    After reading the information on news values, I think that all of the values presented are important in some way. However, impact, emotion, proximity, and timeliness stick out the most to me. Impact relates to relevance and how readers can connect to a story. Emotion is another way to engage readers. Proximity leads readers to become more interested because events are close to home. Lastly, timeliness is an effective way to quickly inform readers and deliver breaking news.

  5. Abby Schipporeit
    September 4, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    The elements I consider to be most important for news stories are the headline, lead and emotional connection. If the story has an interesting headline I will read the lead, and if the lead is properly done it will make me want to continue reading the rest of the story. I tend to read stories that have an emotional connection, it gives me the feeling that I want to know more.

    I recently read an article on a college football player from Frostburg State University who died due to severe brain trauma. Immediately I was drawn to the story by reading the headline, ‘College Football Player Dies; Brain Injury Suspected.’ With college football season starting up, this story sparked my interest. I was curious as to what school the player was from and also what caused the brain injury. The lead of the story was well done and had me wanting to continue reading the rest of the story. The brain injury was due to concussions, but this case was rare as the death was due to second impact syndrome. Not only was the story controversial, since concussions due to full sports is always a topic of discussion, but it was also educational. This wasn’t your typical concussion story; this was something new that I had never heard of. The story also included quotes from the player’s father and also a physician. These quotes created an emotional connection for me when I read the story. The fact that it was emotional is what made me remember it, along with the controversial and educational factor.

    The values I believe to be most important when deciding what to cover are impact, proximity, controversy, education and emotion. In my opinion these really boil down to understanding your audience. In order to run a story that will have the biggest impact and emotional connection with your readers, you need to know their demographics and psychographics. Knowing these aspects of your audience will then help you decide what is controversial and educational to them. Proximity is always important; individuals want to know what is going on around them. Keeping that element in the back of your head will help you make effective decisions also.

  6. Kayla Stauffer
    September 6, 2011 at 12:47 am

    I think that a good story should grab your attention more than any other article on the page. It needs to make you care about what you’re reading about…make you feel something. If I can’t make an emotional connection to the article, then odds are I will not finish it. Also, the last sentence needs to be powerful. No matter how good a story is, if it ends poorly, that’s what people will remember.
    I read a story in the Lincoln Journal Star today that was about a woman who became a comedian. She grew up in Lincoln and originally dreamt about becoming an actress. However she realized that she had a knack for making people laugh and started doing comedy, instead.
    This article in particular sticks out in my mind because it evoked an emotion: humor. The article made me laugh—and whenever a story can make you laugh, you’re probably going to remember it. I think I particularly enjoyed the quotes that were used within the article. They were lines from the woman’s comedy act, so of course they were witty and light-hearted remarks. This, of course, made the article more up-beat and enjoyable to read.
    I think that emotion, controversy, proximity, and the unusual are the most important news values when it comes to deciding what to run on the cover of the paper. If a story has at least one of those four news values, I think that it would make for a successful front-page story.

  7. Kelly O'Malley
    September 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    When I read an article, I base it entirely off the headline. The headline will decide for me if I will continue reading the article or not. I know I should not base my entire judgment off just the headline, but I do.

    In Tuesday’s Omaha World-Herald under the fold there was an article called, ‘U.S., Pakistanis team up to capture key al-Qaida figure’. I like this headline because you can describe what the story is about just based off the headline. The article went into detail on how the two countries caught a senior al-Qaida commander named Younis al-Mauritani. It talked about the partnership between the two countries and how important it is for Pakistan’s help to put the final blow on al-Qaida. This story affected me because even after the death of Bin Laden, the U.S. is still fully committed on putting an end to al-Qaida.

    I believe the most important values are impact, controversy, emotion and especially, educational value. When I read an article I would prefer being more knowledgeable rather than merely informed.

  8. Chloe Gibson
    September 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Headlines are definitely what readers look at first. I am a perfect example of that. I was skimming twitter earlier this afternonn and I follow Fow News. The tweet said, “Do your ears hang low? This Colorado dog’s ears sure do — at nearly two feet, you have to see it to believe it.” Obviously I thought what in the world is this? So I clicked on it. The headline on the article read, “Colorado Dog to be Honored with Longest Ears Title.”

    As it turns out a three-year-old coonhound does have the longest ears I’ve ever seen and at two feet each, he will be put in the Guinness Book of World Records. What made this stand out to me was the large picture Fox News had posted with the article. I even turned to my neighbor in class and showed her the picture and explained the article.

    An article like this, I feel, falls under the impact and currency elements of news. Impact because many people around the nation have dogs and might be very interested to know that a dog has broken a world record. Currency because even though it is a little unique and uncommon, that is exaclty people will read about it, because it is interesting. A headline and picture like what Fox News had made me stop and relate it back to the size of my dogs ears. Also, it is simple news. I feel like a simple, easy to read story is what almost everyone wants. I didnt have to break out my dictionary or thesaurus to read it.

  9. September 6, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Emotion, Impact, and Prominence seem to be the most important factors to consider when reporting the news. A story that pulls on emotion is similar to entertainment, and in this day and age entertainment sells.

    Today on CNN I read a story combining elements of 9/11 to unexpected deaths of teenaged athletes, sending the message to “hug your children, value them.” The story was the most popular on CNN.com’s “Newspulse.” The story did a good job combining timeliness–the upcoming 10 year 9/11 anniversary, with emotion–the sudden deaths of high school teens due to undiagnosed heart problems.

    The stories were also readable, full of simple and understandable language. The writer didn’t go into the medical terminology surrounding each heart condition and why it went unnoticed, for instance. Moreover, the story appealed to a majority of readers because the idea of spending time with your children, just in case something happens, is a popular one.

  10. Cristina Woodworth
    September 6, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    I think a good story is truthful, well-written, interesting, original and concise. I tend to have a short attention span, especially when reading a newspaper or magazine article, so I think a good story needs to get to the point right away. Grammatical errors or mispelled words are annoying and distracting to see in published articles. A good story should tell the truth too. Reporting something that is not completely factual is unethical and misleading. I think a really good story also needs to be original and interesting. Nobody wants to read a story in one magazine that seems exactly like another story in a different magazine. Writers should use their imaginations to come up with ideas to tell stories from a unique angle.
    When it comes to the actual writing of a story, I think the most significant factors in whether people will think it is a good story are the headline, lead, and picture or graphic. These three things are what readers will notice first and will influece whether they decide to continue reading the story or not.
    The best story I’ve read recently was in the Omaha World Herald. It was called “A Place to Connect” and was about the impending closings of all Borders bookstores. I remember the story mostly because it was discussing a topic that I was interested in and was somewhat emotionally attached to. I remember how disappointed I was when I learned that the Borders by my house was going out of business and the story really discussed how a lot of people are disappointed by the closings and talked about how the closings will afffect all the people who would go to Borders to relax, socialize with other bookworms, and purchase new reading material. Another reason I remember this story is because it was on the front page of the Living section and had a colored background and large graphic, both of which also made it more memorable.
    I think the most important news values are impact, emotion, educational value, and controversy. An article should always strive to make a reader feel something, understand something better, learn something new, or form an opinion.

  11. Connor Schuessler
    September 6, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Impact, prominence, educational value, and emotion are elements of a news story that I believe to be the most vital, however a couple of these values can be misinterpreted at times. Too often I have seen articles or news stories that try to evoke emotion when there is no emotion to evoke. Journalists become lazy and try to make an easy story into a Pulitzer Prize winning article when it really belongs either buried among other equally emotionally clawing stories found in high school newspapers or in the trash. Emotion is certainly important to a good story, but it should naturally come with the piece, not be forced down the public’s throat.
    While emotion may be overstated, educational value is entirely understated. Though a journalists’ main job is to report the news, we should always make sure we are educating the general public. People of all backgrounds, all classes, and all races care about the news and we should take full advantage of such devotion by not only informing the public but also educating them and enlightening them on subjects they normally wouldn’t care to learn about.
    One article that I really enjoyed reading, and evoked emotion in such a subtle way, was an article by Paula Lavigne, a writer for ESPN.com. The article addressed illegal gambling at youth football games in South Florida. The headline is what really drew me in, simply stated as, “League Seeks to End Gambling on Youth”. This headline is simple and gets you wondering.
    The article talks about how men in the area are going to these games and betting large amounts of money. They have been vidoetaped exchaning large wads of cash in the stand right in the middle of everything. There were reports of ten of thousands of dollars being bet on these games along with 10-year-old players being paid for making big plays. This article hits just about every emotion and it doesn’t even have to try. A story like this is nice to come by, however Lavigne still does an excellent job of laying out the situation in a concise and informative matter, letting emotion take its toll where it may. But, she continues to not just inform in the article, but to educate as well. It didn’t impact a whole lot of people, but enough people cared about what was being addressed to make it a genuinely interesting, thought-provoking, and relevant news story.

  12. A. Kumari
    September 6, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    In my opinion, a good story is only as good as the idea and the interview. Those two elements cover a lot of ground that contribute to a story that is captivating and well reported.

    Recently, I read a story in The New York Times that was part of a series on India and this one, specifically, was about how the country is working to assign all of its citizens a form of identification. I remember the story because of the way it was told. The words, description and overall story telling technique made it a story that I couldn’t forget because of the message and the people in the story. There was a man in the story that had never seen a computer and another that was homeless and despite these social barriers they saw the identification as a way to be heard by the government. The story combined both news and the heart of people in a way that told a story with facts as well as real life. I loved that I could read quotes from the everyday people in the country and I felt very connected to them and the excitement they were experiencing because of the identification initiative.

    I think the most important news values are proximity, usefulness and educational value. I chose proximity because an event or person could be extremely interesting but if the people in the newspaper’s circulation can’t relate because it doesn’t concern their immediate environment then the story will be lost in translation. Also, I think usefulness and educational value go hand in hand because they emphasize the purpose of journalism, which is to inform people of the truth and then let them decide what they’ll make of the information. If newspapers aren’t educating, in my opinion, they are not doing their jobs.

  13. Matt Palu
    September 7, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Not all stories are created equally. Likewise, not all good stories need to contain the same information, nor do they have to follow the same type of concrete, inflexible formula. However, if you come across a number of stories you truly enjoy, they will likely have some things in common.

    Originality and creativity are both paramount. In news or feature writing writers will typically have to do a story on the same topic or person as several other writers in his country, state, or even city. So while the idea being written about may not always be original, the approach must set it apart. Word choice and lead style is a good way for a writer to set their particular story apart. Every once and a while a writer will be fortunate enough to dig up or stumble upon a great story, which they are the only ones who cover. In cases such as this, the story itself is original or unique, but most of the time, one will have to insert their own uniqueness into a story. One of the best and most effective ways to set your story apart is by connecting with the reader on an emotional level. The best way to do so is through details – show someone a story instead of telling them a story. Descriptive anecdotal leads will connect with a reader much better than a catchy turn of phrase. Details are what separates a reader from reading a story on a newspaper from entering a story and being personally investing.

    The best story I’ve read recently forced the reader to be invested in the story by using a strong, descriptive, anecdotal lead. The story was about Dorial Green-Beckham who is considered the top high school football player in the country. The story begins by describing the practice field – nothing seemingly too special. However as the story progresses, the details put into setting the scene of the practice field are paralleled in other, more emotional settings. Some of the extreme hardships the player had gone through in his life were described detail by detail in the story. The story covers terrible tragedies he had to suffer through before eventually being adopted by his high school football coach.

    The best stories are personal. Whether a reader cared about a particular topic before reading a story on it is irrelevant. If that same reader puts the paper down now caring about said topic, the story was most-likely solid. And the best way to make the reader care is to put them in the shoes of the subject, and to tell them why they should care.

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