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What is News?Faculty & Staff Resources

Faculty and staff are encouraged to keep the Office of Communications informed about events, incidents and developments in which there is current or potential public interest.

For anything to be newsworthy, it should be timely, fresh, current — something that is happening now or will soon begin. "Immediacy" is probably the most important of the elements that define news.

Others include:

Proximity: This element includes both location and personal interest: facts and occurrences that are important to you personally, and events that take place near your home or in your home town. When thinking about the news value of your activities, ask yourself how you can describe what you do that will make it relevant to, for example, the local newspaper’s readers.

Prominence: VIPs are, by definition, important people and, in most circumstances, something will be considered newsworthy by local media. If you have a visitor coming to campus, ask yourself, "If I weren’t a specialist in XXX discipline, would I know who this person is?"

Oddity: Oddity — the unexpected — is often news. In journalism, this is referred to as the "man bites dog" formula. Recently, Communications had great success with a report on a small study conducted by Russ Briggs, which demonstrated that, under normal seasonal use, natural Christmas trees do not pose fire hazards. This contradicted conventional wisdom and, hence, made news.

Conflict and Suspense: Although today’s news is rife with stories based on these elements, under most circumstances, these would not be elements of a college news story. However, a successful approach, if applicable to you situation, might be to cast your research as solving a scientific puzzle.

Emotions: These "human interest" stories prompt the reader toward sympathy, anger or other emotions in all their variety are commonly handled in feature-type stories. Organizations should be alert to the possibilities of "human interest" stories.

Consequence: The last element of news, consequence, is more difficult to explain, but generally for a story to have consequence it must be important to a great number of readers. It must have some impact for the reader. Such news will affect him or her in some personal way...the safety of the city's drinking water, the dumping of toxic wastes into a local river.

How might these elements translate into news for ESF? Here are some activities typically undertaken by college faculty and staff with potential news value:

  • Research findings
  • New or unique educational projects or ideas
  • Involvement in projects that fill a civic need
  • Student projects and activities
  • Timely or seasonal nature education topics
  • Extension or "how-to" articles
  • Research papers or presentations given at regional or national meetings (we prefer to have advance copies of the papers)
  • Unusual hobbies, activities or interests of faculty and staff
  • Other items that may make nice "news briefs" for hometown or local newspapers are:
  • Outstanding speakers coming to campus
  • Faculty, staff or student election to state and national professional and educational associations
  • Major academic or administrative promotions
  • Awards and honors to faculty, staff or students
  • Art or other campus exhibitions
  • Workshops, symposia, or conferences, targeted to specific audiences
  • Books or monographs written by faculty and staff

If you have any questions regarding your work, please contact the Communications staff. We would be most happy to work with you to try and get coverage of your activities.