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

P.M. Class: What makes a good story?

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

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  1. Zach Tegler
    September 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    To me, good stories are the ones that explain a the details revolving around a certain theme through the perspective of a unique representative story. Facts are vital to every news story, but creative and appropriate perspective is what makes a story interesting and fun to read. For example, one story I recently read was on the front page of the Omaha World-Herald. The story was about the effect of this summer’s flooding on Interstates 680 and 29 along the Nebraska/Iowa border. Part of the reason the story stuck with me was the presentation; the photo that accompanied the story was captivating and unbelievable. But the story also did more than just present facts. It put the roads’ conditions into a terrifying perspective:

    “CRESCENT, Iowa — Interstate 680 between Omaha and this stretch of western Iowa is no longer a freeway.
    It is a crumpled, massive jigsaw puzzle of concrete and asphalt…”

    That kind of framing pulls me into a story. This take on the flooding, which has been a major local story for months, made me realize just how dire the situation along the Missouri River is. I believe this story captured one of the news values I believe is very important: impact. I like stories with a human element, ones that contain elements of impact, emotion and uniqueness.

  2. Paige Cornwell
    September 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    A good story covers the “who, what, when, where, why” of an event or topic and does so in a way that the reader finishes the story confident that they have been informed. The story must have an effective headline, a lede that draws the reader in and an order to the story that flows easily. If editors or reporters miss one of these aspects, readers will simply skip over the story or stop before the finishing the story.
    A story that encompasses all essential news values is the Lincoln Journal Star’s story on Big Ten universities that voted out the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from the Association of American Universities. After a months-long investigation, the Journal Star found that officials from Michigan and Wisconsin helped oust UNL from the association. Given the impact of the action, the story has impact, weigh and proximity t for Lincoln readers. The story emphasizes the new information while also giving background for readers who might not know details from when the vote first happened. The subject is controversial and the reporters included emotional quotes from prominent officials. Ultimately, readers finish the story more knowledgeable about the AAU voting process.
    When deciding what stories to cover, impact, proximity and currency are the most important news value. Readers care most about events or topics that affect them. Readers will also care about events or topics in their area that could affect them. Stories should also examine what is on the readers’ minds, because those are the stories they will want to examine.

  3. Jordan Kranse
    September 5, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    It takes a combination of informative reporting and creative storytelling to make a good story. A reporter could have the greatest, most current topic to write about, but if they do not present the information in an interesting, well-planned and understandable way or they fail to provide significant information, the public will find another source to get their news from. Good stories should not just be a presentation of facts, like a report on the stock market, nor should they be completely made up for entertainment’s sake, like gossip magazines or yellow journalism. They should present facts and information in a way that draws the reader in from the beginning and makes them want to keep reading to the end, while thoroughly informing them on the subject.
    The balance between informative reporting and creative storytelling has to be perfect for a story to be good. Information should never be omitted or altered in favor of telling a more interesting story. Integrity is still the key to good reporting. The best stories find a way to make the information interesting without having to change it and present it creatively.
    I’m from Colorado, so I generally check the Denver Post every day. One of the stories I read today that I thought was good was about a wide receiver that was injured last year and returned to the Bronco’s practice today. I don’t usually read sports articles, because I generally find them boring, but I was really drawn in by the lede on this one:
    “Small as the 53-man roster appeared on its first practice of the year at Dove Valley, the day was not about the missing but who was present.”
    I really like that this lede doesn’t give much information. The suspense draws the reader in and forces them to read the rest of the article to find out what happened. The article went on to give the details about the player that is returning and related his injury to some that have already happened on the team this year. I like the connection it makes, because it relates the injury to other injuries the team should be concerned about for this coming season and informs readers about what is going on with the team. I think that these are both great story-telling techniques that draw a reader in while adequately informing them on the subject and helps make the story good.

  4. Connor Stange
    September 6, 2011 at 12:10 am

    I think a good story needs lively quotes, a subject that people care about, a descriptive explanation of what happened and it needs to be free of errors. I believe that quotes are what make a story interesting and add depth to what is going on around the story. The subject must be something that people care about, because without that no one would read it. The most important aspect of a story is that it must descriptively explain what happens, because without this part, there is no story. Lastly, a story must be free of errors to be good.

    I read a New York Times story recently that was called “Some Travel Problems In Need of Solutions.” It was an opinion article written by Joe Sharkey that showed his disgust with the prices in hotels and flights, with the target audience being business travelers. I remember it because he used a lot of statistics to compare and contrast various prices, such as when he mentions that a nightly room rate when corporate managers are traveling, it costs $245 and when they leave it costs $144. This affects me because I traveled several times this summer and compared various prices online to see which one was the cheapest. Sharkey also talks about how expensive Internet in the hotel room is, adding that it is “remarkably sluggish.”

    This article could create some controversy if business travelers read it and realize that they are getting charged too much. It also has an aspect of usefulness in that it will help the audience solve problems in their lives. Finally, there is educational value for the business traveler that they may not have had before reading the article.

  5. Kyle Cummings
    September 6, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    A good story in my opinion has characteristics of at least a couple of the many traits that interest the audience. The most important aspects I would make sure to consider when writing a story would be proximity, relevance, conflict, and timeliness. Personally, I think proximity and relevance are the most important to think about when developing a story. For example, while many people around Nebraska are very interested in the Keystone Pipeline that is being considered to be built right through the Sand hills of Nebraska as well as the Ogallala aquifer. Someone in a state not being influenced by the pipeline may not be interested in the story as much compared to a person living right along the land projected to be constructed on. Relevance also tends to play a more important role in journalism. One of the major jobs as a journalist is to report what people need to know. Letting people know what is important to them is a major factor in writing a news story.

    The news story that stands out in my mind is an online piece done by Time magazine about how the U.S. Postal Service could close. Obviously even the topic is shocking and is sure to lure in many readers. I remember it because the problem the USPS is facing is extremely serious. Just as everyone else, if the USPS shut down it would be a major cause for concern for me. Even though I only tend to get bills and junk in the mail anyway, finding a way to adjust everything to electronic is bound to bring difficulties.

  6. Marc Zakrzewski
    September 6, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    A good story is one that readers can connect to. Not every story will connect with every reader. So I think the most important aspect to remember when writing a story is the audience you are trying to connect with. People in Nebraska will usually not care about budget cuts in Maryland. However, the majority of Nebraskans will connect with Husker football. This is why I think proximity is the biggest news value to focus on. You are more likely to focus on a story that is close to you, than the same story that happens in another place.

    I usually browse The Huffington Post’s website everyday. One story that caught my eye was a piece from Columbus. Normally, there isn’t a story from Nebraska on a big news site like Huffington Post. The story was actually a link to a Lincoln Journal Star story that I did not see. It was about a teen who was suing his school because of hazing in football. This story seems to happen every year lately. However, the reason I chose to read this one was because it was close to me.

  7. Michael Menish
    September 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    To me a good story is one that is informative and clear. When I read a story I want it to pertain to my life and have it connect to me. I like local news more than global news because I like to know what’s going on around me. The reporter should have a good clear message of what has happened and try to connect it to the people who will be reading the story.
    Recently in my home town, Norfolk was the anniversary of a major flood in our area that killed a man. There was a big story on the front page of an update on how is family is doing and how his wife’s lawsuit against his former employer was going. I liked this story because it gave information on what the community was doing to make sure flooding like that doesn’t happen again. It affected me personally, and the connection with the family made it memorable.
    In my opinion, educational value and impact are the most important news values. If a story can educate a reader, and cause a change in their life it has done its job. People want to know about the news that has the greatest effect on them. Readers don’t want to know about last week’s Canadian news report (unless they have special ties to Canada), they want today’s news and they want it to be about them.

  8. September 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    A complete story should includes the six elements of Who, What, When, Where, Why and How; however, I think a good story needs more focus on the “What” and makes the content more interesting. I think a good story will attract readers and let them become willing to read continuously. One news story I have read entitled “4 Die, Including Gunman, in Nevada IHOP Attack” stand out in my mind. Before I read this story, the restaurant name “IHOP” first caught my eyes, because I have ever eaten in there for many times. Then I want to continue to read this story. After read the first paragraph, I know that “a man armed with an AK-47 assault rifle opened fire Tuesday morning on a group of uniformed National Guard members as they ate breakfast at an IHOP restaurant in Carson City, Nev.” It makes me want to know more– who is the man, why he killed those Guard members, how many people were alive and how many people were died.

    So I believe the most two important judgments are impact and proximity. If a story could attract readers and have a great effect on them, it would be a good story.

  9. September 7, 2011 at 12:27 am

    A good news story first contains something that is new. It’s a trend, a profile on someone currently making waves, an event, a legislative bill passing, a speech. It’s not a scholarly evaluation of a broad social issue, although I’d like it to be sometimes. A good example of a news story is “ERs are becoming costly destinations for mentally disturbed patients,” published in the Los Angeles Times Sept. 5. In California, mental health staffs and psychiatric beds are in shorter supply, leaving some patients without a place to go in an emergency. I remember the story, because I’m interested mental health patients and this situation seems alarming. If these patients are making these calls, asking for help, they’re aware of their conditions and understand the consequences. Further, they understand the difficulties they face as compared to other people, who aren’t making those calls. How does the shortage of beds and decrease in staff make these patients feel about themselves or about the concern people have for them in society? How do they feel about their futures? This has such a human impact and an emotional one, which should be the focus of the story. What are these patients’ stories of treatment in this situation? Their families’ stories about their treatment? The hospital workers’ stories about trying to help so many people? I believe mental health patients or those who have mental health issues are an overlooked population. If journalism exists for any reason, it’s to not overlook things, including entire populations of people. The article did not quote any mental health patients or their families who have been specifically affected; I’m not sure if that’s due to confidentiality issues. But the article still draws out my concern for those people, attaching statistics to the issue and outlining what those patients need and why. Its lead details a specific, suspicious situation, giving an example of what a potential patient might be going through and how they spent 3 ½ days in the emergency room for lack of beds. Too often, people who need help don’t ask for it. These people are asking for it; they’re aware and they’re trying to help themselves and others, whom some of them might feel inclined to hurt if untreated, and they still can’t get that help. What a downer. Emotion is the key news value here, because this story is not the timeliest or unusual or controversial; but it is emotional, because people who are crying for help are not receiving it. The impact news value isn’t as obvious, but most of us should have someone we are close to who relies on psychiatric care. Most aren’t on the verge of harming others, but many are past the verge of harming themselves and need a hospital. Further, if the mental health patients are out of luck, what other patients are out of luck? Are there more cuts to come? Should hospitals be immune to cuts? The article succeeds in providing a wealth of information about the topic while also raising more questions, causing the reader to care. The best example of this:

    Wally Ghurabi, medical director of the emergency center at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, said he faces a dilemma: He can’t violate the law by keeping patients longer than 24 hours but he also can’t morally release dangerous patients back into the community. The mentally ill patients are a “burden on all ERs in L.A.,” Ghurabi said. They “occupy a bed that could be utilized by your mother or my sister when they have a heart attack.”

  10. September 7, 2011 at 1:27 am

    1. For me a good news story is short and snappy. I want to get most of my information in the first few paragraphs. Good quotes make the story more interesting, and will help lazy readers, like me, to continue to read. Timeliness, I think is an obvious element. What happened last year is not interesting and affects my life less. A good news story must have something in it that attracts readers in its community. Even if the story is international, it is important to put a local angle on it. It is also important that the story has a flow. It is not just information but actually contains a “story.” Finally, a good news story should contain something new and unusual. It should contain something that the reader will want to share with a friend or a family member.

    2. I read a short story in the Lincoln Journal Star about a divorced couple who went to court over Husker football tickets. I remember the story because it is very unusual. At least, I imagine it is unusual for people who are not Husker fans. It is not something that happens every day. It is interesting to me because I am from Nebraska, and I have always been a Husker fan. There’s conflict in it. It is just a good story to tell others. The story brought up memories of my family, and the crazy things they have done for Husker football.

    3. The news values that are most important are timeliness, proximity, impact and educational value. Timeliness is important because as time passes the story loses its impact. If it is late, then the news is just not as useful to know anymore. Readers need to know what is happening now because that is what affects their lives. If a tornado was coming, I would need to know immediately not next week. Proximity is important because people tend to be more interested in things that affect their community. It is just like I am more interested in what my sister is doing than I am in what an acquaintance is doing. Impact is important because a story carries more value to a reader if it directly or indirectly affects him. Finally, educational value is important because the role of a newspaper is to inform. A newspaper has the ability to educate its citizens about local issues and the government. Informed citizens will take a more active interest in their communities.

  11. Jacob Sorensen
    September 7, 2011 at 1:28 am

    A good story should have an interesting and informative lead that makes you want to read the story. Without this, it is tough to get people to actually read whatever masterpiece you thought you wrote. The actual story itself should answer the 5 ‘W’ questions and be in the proximity of where the news outlet is located, because once a story is too far away from its readership or viewership, the value of it decreases and it is less popular. Stories should contain some sort of a climax or problem, as well, and a fitting conclusion to tie it all together.

    For example, in the sports-crazed world that we live in, sports publications such as ESPN The Magazine, Sporting News Magazine and Sports Illustrated have thrived on feature stories on athletes, simply by interviewing an athlete and a few teammates and coaches to make a very interesting piece. National outlets like these don’t necessarily need proximity to matter to people; they’re well written enough and about athletes that people care about that anyone would read them, a reason why these publications do so well.

    The key thing is usually in the plot and climax of the story. Stories always tell you who, what, when, where, and why, but it is all about going in to further detail and expressing details vividly so that readers can visualize the story, not just read text on a page. Once a reader can feel like they are a part of the story, it can be called a good story.

  12. September 7, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Who, what, when, where, why and how are what help to make a good story. It’s not only those though. It’s great to answer those questions so all of the details are covered in the story. What can make or break a story is the lede. I started my answer off with the five W’s and the H because it was a change from, “What makes a good story…” A good story is also interesting to the reader. We talked about proximity and other news values in class.

    A recent story I read in the news was about a Nebraska wide receiver. It caught my attention because it was Nebraska and the lede was a little different than just saying the wide receiver was stepping up this year. It pointed out how he felt after the game from Saturday. It caught my attention with the lede and I was interested in how he felt about his performance after the game.

    I believe all of those news values are important. Newspapers don’t cover something just to cover it. Sometimes they might. Like the Omaha World-Herald; they had a front page story about a dog’s birthday above the fold. Maybe it wasn’t a big news day but I don’t necessarily care about that unless the dog is famous or special in some other way. A story almost needs to cause controversy or be questioned after it’s published to be good. If it’s just another story and no one talks about it then it isn’t very interesting.

  13. September 7, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I recently read a story in the news about a man who had lost his wallet containing $4,600. A woman found his wallet at returned it to the local police station. The man was so grateful, he left her a sum of that money. The woman felt the money that was left for her was unnecessary.
    I remembered this story, because it was a feel good story about someone who had a good enough heart to return such a large sum of money. The story stood out to me, because it made me realize there are still caring people out there in the world. I assumed that in today’s world, someone who was presented with a large sum of money would put it in his or her own pocket. This woman made a statement by returning the money, and she was rewarded with a payment. In this specific situation everyone was pleased with the outcome.
    This story affected me emotionally, because it made me think of the brighter side of life. Before I came to Nebraska I didn’t think there was good people left on this planet. I grew up in an unusual environment, where no one was ever happy. People wanted to get to the next place as fast as possible, and if that meant cutting you in line, that’s what happened. From my area the mindset was, who can screw over the next person faster, and make the largest profit. By reading about a person who has enough empathy to be a caring citizen stood out to me.
    I believe there are two news values that are the most important in deciding what to cover. Impact will immediately affect the target audience. The impact is the most important factor in deciding what is newsworthy, because if the news impacts the reader it will be more influential. Emotion is another important value, because the psychological aspect of reading a newspaper affects the reader directly. If an emotional appeal is made to the reader, the news will make a lasting impression on the reader.

  14. Frannie Sprouls
    September 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Various elements make up a story but there are a few that make a story into a good story. The story always has to keep the reader’s attention. One way to do this is to creatively tell the story. This can be done by using strong verbs. Another way is to make the story human. People don’t like reading a story full of facts unless they have to. By adding a human element to the story, people can find ways to relate the story in their own life.

    There was an article in this week’s Time Magazine about internships. While there are many interesting articles in Time, this one I paused to read the first time I saw the head line on the page. As a journalism student, internships are very important. This article focused mainly on how there are more and more un-paid internships because of the economy. This directly affects me if I want to get a paid internship.

    Out of the news values, I believe the most important values are controversy, emotion and timeliness. People are always going to be interested in controversy and it makes for an interesting story. Emotion is also important because people want to know about people: how was the grandma affected by the flooding? Timeliness is important as well. People are not going to want to read about how Tripoli fell to rebel forces today because it happened two months ago. With issues like that, editors and reporters alike have to find new angles to the story in order to make it more timely to their readers.

  15. Griffin Gale
    September 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    While the who, what, when, why and how of any given story is important the things that separate a good story from all of the miscellaneous news is timeliness and pertinence. Is a story new to the reader? Does the reader care about the topic being covered? One of the only stories that really sticks out in my mind recently is Charles Robinson’s Yahoo! report on the alleged impermissible benefits received by University of Miami athletes over the last 8 years. In a summer filled with college football scandals Robinson’s report on Miami was the biggest and most sordid. What really sticks out about this story was the almost comical nature of some of the allegations; money, hookers, yachts, hotels, and an abortion. It pretty well hit for the cycle on attention catching details. Records and source material backed up the allegations at every turn making it extremely credible.
    The news values that would top my list when deciding what to cover are Impact, Timeliness and Proximity. While all of the news values are important and have their place, these three seem to affect the all the values while remaining somewhat independent of the others.

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